With a costly loss at Stamford Bridge, our challenge for the Premier League title took a turn for the nearly impossible (a significant downgrade from the previous "highly unlikely" path) If there is a silver lining, I can't find it. Our forward play was for the most part uninspiring, although our defense deserves accolades for looking impenetrable. There is certainly hope for the future of our defensive line, for Sagna, Toure and Clichy had outstanding performances - directed by a very effective Wiliam Gallas. It is only after Eboue dropped at right back in Sagna's place (what a great performance; his injury was most untimely - and costly) that Blues were able to create real danger in our defensive third.
It's most unfortunate to see such a great title run come to this. The squad looked tired (and did so for a few weeks now, our thin numbers looking pushed past its limits) and devoid of ideas and ability to play their trademark beautiful game. In all honesty, the performance today was a scrap at best, yet another example of "too little" - and the result is unfortunately fair, as we did not deserve anything from this game.
As far as the remainder of the season goes, there is the Champions League quarterfinal against Liverpool to look forward to - and we are not looking in "pole position" any longer. Not by a long shot. The Milan game is now officially an anomaly in a string of poor performances and results that (nothing new here) have exposed the mental frailty required by a sustained challenge for the EPL title.
...The (very brief) ratings:
Almunia - 9. A superb performance, agile and commanding.
Sagna - 8. Very solid - his defense was superlative, his goal perfectly executed.
Gallas - 7. He was in charge and assuredly so. Drogba was his assignment - and one he minded very effectively for most of the game.
Toure - 7. Almost back at his best, alert in the air and always there to clear the lines.
Clichy - 8. To his credit, you will have to go back and check the team sheet to make sure whether Joe Cole really played today.
Hleb, Fabregas, Flamini, Eboue - 4. Our midfield was flat, produced service of no quality and was unable to combine with any kind of consistency. A collective poor effort.
Adebayor - 5. It's official - you can not rely on one true striker (no matter how effective he may be during particular stretches of the season) to carry the team to a Premiership title. It just can't be done.
van Persie - 4. His contribution was once again disappointing - his ability to spark the team renaissance during the last few weeks of the season was greatly overestimated, since he is just not the player who started the season so promisingly.