Chelsea: Man United So Bad They Made Eto'o Look Good & Matic Is Luiz Upgrade
"When a giant is sleeping, the giant is never sleeping. Be careful." Mourinho’s warning in the build up to Sunday’s blockbuster clash with Manchester United was an instant classic. In true Mourinho style it allowed for self deprecation in the case of a loss and the added gloss if his side manage to bring the giant down.
The Times on Saturday reported brilliantly in the build up to this clash in terms of drawing out the plot line of rejection which Jose is obviously so keen to play down. I feel we will never know how much Mourinho coveted David Moyes’ current role, but I believe he still holds a torch for Old Trafford, making it all the better when he gets one over United.
For all the subplots and build up the game ended up being pretty routine for Chelsea. It was an amalgamation of everything Mourinho is trying to do with the squad alongside the final realisation that this Manchester United team is in quite serious trouble. Any side that makes a 32-year old Samuel Eto’o look this good are in dire straits.
Chelsea started the far worse side, but without Rooney and RvP their deficiencies were on full show. There was no cutting edge from the away side, especially from Danny Welbeck who really does lack the composure to be a Manchester United frontman. Javier Hernandez always scares me, so to not see him on the pitch until Chelsea were three up was a relief.
What you can normally rely on when playing against the champions is a scrap, but United were flaccid at the back. The defending for Eto’o’s second was woeful, and Phil Jones was jinked out of his boots for the first. The ghost that was assigned to mark Gary Cahill for the free header which led to the third will most likely be looking for a new club in the summer.
A few eyebrows were raised amongst a yet to be convinced home crowd when Eto’o was picked to start, but he justified his selection completely, a great poachers hat-trick his reward for a tireless display. Chelsea have so often looked a striker short when it comes down to it. If Mourinho can get this recent production out of Eto’o and Torres their title credentials only get stronger.
This was a complete performance from Chelsea in the end though. Expectations were high but the commitment and energy levels for 90 minutes was title worthy. This United side may be poor, and they certainly looked it on Sunday, but Chelsea played them perfectly and made it all look really easy. If this really was the David v Goliath clash Mourinho alluded to, someone may have to check the giant’s pulse.
January: a month for compromise
This has been the overarching theme of the January transfer window for Chelsea football club. The promising Kevin de Bruyne has been allowed to leave to facilitate a move for Nemanja Matic. A move which is in itself an admission of fault. Chelsea let the big Serbian midfielder go as part of the David Luiz deal, the irony of which is that Matic is likely to take Luiz’s holding midfield berth from now on. To be fair to Luiz he may have trod a fine line for much of the game against United but he was often the man on the spot when danger loomed. Few players read the game as well as the Brazilian.
I don’t want to dwell on the move too much but what I do like is the way Chelsea have admitted fault in letting Matic go and atoned for it. The move is also a compromise as the club let a really talented attacking midfielder go in favour of filling a problem position in central midfield, the management aware that they are blessed with an embarrassment of riches in the attacking third already.
As pointed out by Allan Jiang for The Bleacher Report the transfer is strange for a number of reasons though. The most striking for me is that Benfica let the reigning Portuguese Primeira Liga Player of the Year (Luiz also won the award in 2009/10, six months before going to Chelsea) go for around £15m below his release clause. That’s like Tottenham selling Bale for £65m instead of £80m last summer, or Arsenal selling RVP to Manchester United for £5m.
I think you will see the aftershock of this transfer for a few years yet, with a steady stream of promising players heading to Benfica, with the on-form Lucas Piazon as exhibit A. Whatever it does cost Chelsea I can only see Matic as an upgrade in one of the two holding midfield roles, and a final admission that John Obi Mikel simply isn’t good enough.