Young promise, a passionate manager and ridiculous fan chants. A few reasons why Chelsea fans can feel fairly happy this Christmas despite inconsistency.
What’s going right?
We’re still in it. As the title of this article suggests – we’re only just getting towards halfway in the season and in the Premier League we are nine points of the top spot. Last season we trailed Man United by 12 points at a much later stage but somehow the table swung so that suddenly we could travel to Old Trafford and return to the top of league with a win. Granted we lost that game - but it proves that things can change across the course of the season. The biggest criticism of Chelsea at the start was our aging squad – if Lampard keeps scoring then it’s not one that I’m phased by. Granted our defence hasn’t been the best but John Terry and particularly Ashley Cole continue to put in great shifts – showing that despite age the senior players are still up to scratch. Also, our younger players have shown what they have to offer - some great attacking prowess (Mata), finishing ability (Sturridge) and ahem – enthusiasm (Luiz) – so the aging squad condemnation isn’t one that can be regurgitated forever. I also can’t deny a certain amount of luck has gone right for us in the most recent part of the season. Bayer Leverkusen failing to win against Genk on the same night that we enjoyed a confident win over Valencia in the Champions League, helped us to top our group and avoid tournament favourites Barcelona in the second round draw.
Consistency. Breaking Man City’s unbeaten run in the early part of the week only to follow it up by dropping two points against relegation contenders Wigan shows that Chelsea probably lack the no nonsense professionalism to get near winning this league. Everything that comes through Juan Mata looks good in attack but we don’t have an on-form leading man to capitalise on these chances. Drogba seems to only be interested in the Champions League and the big games. He was back to his defence-bullying best against Valencia and looked hungry against City but these performances were bookended by anonymous appearances against Newcastle and Wigan. We’ll come to the inevitable subject of the £50 million man in a moment but if Chelsea are seriously going to compete for anything we will need a central striker with a run of form as good as Van Persie’s of late. Perhaps find a replacement for Sturridge on the right and let him play in his preferred position.
Inconsistency is also the best descriptor of our defending. There used to be a time when I thought if Chelsea could nab the first goal we could win any game – this just isn’t the case any more. I hate to jump on the extremely predictable bandwagon but I think the high line has to go for good.
Got the right manager?
Andre Villas-Boas. Or AVB as we’re obliged to call him in much the same way as the tabloid press drop the ‘H’ from ‘Arry Redknapp. Eyebrows were raised everywhere in the lead up to our game against Newcastle due to Abramovich’s disposable manager policy. But I think wins over the Magpies, Valencia in the Champions League and of course league leaders Man City have secured him at least a season of employment in West London. I personally quite like him. He shows untamed passion on the sidelines and is obviously very dedicated. Perhaps a little more defensive than he has to be with the press but I guess it spares us the template answers that usually pop up in generic post-match interviews.
Everything that comes through Juan Mata looks good in attack but we don’t have an on-form leading man to capitalise on these chances.
Juan Mata. Daniel Sturridge is a close second (he scored with his right foot on Saturday!) but Mata has been the key man all season for me. Our most penetrative opportunities come from him and he’s exciting to watch on the ball. A great signing.
Who would you like to sell in January?
Oriol Romeu has looked good in the defensive midfield role and Mikel has never stamped his authority on it completely. With Essien returning from injury (hopefully) next year Mikel is surplus to requirements. I would also love to see the back Kalou.
Who do you want to sign?
A defender. I’m not particularly happy with the departure of Alex as he’s good solid cover at the back so new a defender is a must. John Terry isn’t going to last forever so a young centre back would probably be best to build a long-term relationship with either Ivanovic or Luiz - if he can be tamed to stay in position that is. Gary Cahill seems to be the most popular name in the rumour mill.
Best chant so far?
Who let the Drog out? Who-who-who-who! Following his early goal against Valencia earlier this month.
Best opposition player/team you’ve seen?
I think David Silva is arguably the best player in the Premier League but for a performance against Chelsea it has to be Robin Van Persie. Scoring a hat-trick against us was a humiliation and it was hard not to acknowledge the quality of the Dutchman whilst he is actually fit.
Biggest **** of the season so far?
I’m going to insert the word ‘miss’ in answer to this one rather than anything more abusive. Fernando Torres scored the coolest of goals early in the second half of Chelsea’s visit to Old Trafford back in September. I’ll be honest – my hopes started to rise. We pushed and pushed and suddenly Torres had managed to round David de Gea. I was thinking “this is it” – get the second one on the board and he’s going to go on and get a hat-trick here to snatch a point! This is it – Torres’ confidence is finally going to come! My next reaction was not one of anger or sadness but simply confusion. It took me a minute or so to work out why the net hadn’t rippled. That miss probably sums up Torres’ Chelsea career so far. You can’t put it down to settling in any more – we’ve had him nearly a year now and it’s hardly like we can use the overused “it takes a year to get used to Premier League” excuse. Something has simply happened to this man and do not know what – it’s inexplicable. Villas-Boas has left him on the bench in our last couple of fixtures, Malouda, Lampard and even Salomon Kalou have got the nod ahead of Torres for attacking substitutions against Man City and Wigan. One would assume he will get another chance during Drogba’s absence at the Africa Cup of Nations in January.
End of season prediction?
Champions League qualification is probably the best scenario. It will be good to be in the mix for the title but a Manchester club will almost certainly win it. I reckon quarterfinals of the Champions League but watch out for us in the FA cup.
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