See I told you I’m back! Probably I’m back at the right time. With December looking so busy for Chelsea, the blog’s gotta be equally busy. In our fight for the third place, there’s no bigger game than the one against Tottenham tomorrow. This is another one of those ‘must beat them’ games. Having beaten Man City earlier this month, a win against Spurs would put us right back in the mix. I think an opportunity to beat a surging rival is the best way to address the gap so this game is quite timely. A defeat against Spurs would put us 5 points off them while they would also have a game in hand. That’s effectively 8 points off the third placed team in the league. A defeat is unthinkable right?
I’m always nervous when we play Spurs. I’m quite okay about the matches against the Man Utd, Man City, Arsenal or Liverpool – but it is the game against Spurs that does something to my heart beat. Spurs have a very good squad and are a dangerous team. In fact, I do think they have been underachieving despite having a good squad/team. On paper, this Spurs team is better than Arsenal and Liverpool. There’s no way they can finish below those two teams. In fact, I get this feeling that this season’s top four would be exactly as it is now – hopefully not in the same order. I do see Arsenal and Liverpool dropping out of top four with Man City and Spurs replacing them.
The last Chelsea manager to win at White Hart Lane was Jose Mourinho. Now that must tell us something. It’s not an easy place to go and play your expansive style of football. Spurs are pretty quick and sharp and can hurt you if you mess around too much. Chelsea has been messing around too much indeed. In fact in the last few matches, I see some hints of pragmatism from Andre Villas Boas. He’s either learning from his experience or has proved a point to someone in terms of what this team is capable or not capable of. In any case, pragmatism is good. Especially in a must-win game in a difficult away ground.
Chelsea don’t have any problem of regulars missing or being doubtful except that David Luiz may still not be available. Depending on which side of the fence you’re, this can be a good or a bad news. Personally, I’m a fan of David Luiz and his brand of football. He is such a live wire that I’d love to play him every single game. Of course, he’s got something to learn but he’s got the raw talent and huge potential. Pretty much like Andre Villas Boas himself then. Some of your very unique and special players in football have at some point been very annoying and frustrating. That’s the maturing process. I know David Luiz is not some 16-year old but still he’s young enough for defenders in general.
I’m not in favour of David Luiz playing as a centre back though. He’s best suited to be a right back while Ivanovic can pair up with Terry in central defence. The interesting battle in this game would be Chelsea’s right vs Tottenham’s left. If David Luiz and Gareth Bale do start (both are still doubtful), it could be a great spectacle on that side of the pitch.
It’s becoming quite hard to predict AVB’s starting line-up these days. He’s taken some gambles – some have paid off and some have not. At least, he’s ready to take those gambles. Not that I’d agree with him with each one of those but respect that he takes risks on and off the pitch. In my opinion, Torres must start every single match. Drogba should be a super-sub. Sturridge and Mata are also sure starters. In the midfield, Romeu and Ramires pick themselves. The other slot is Meireles, Lampard and Mikel – in that order. In defence, Terry and Ivanovic in central defence. Ashley Cole and David Luiz as the full backs.
AVB has been relying on Drogba over Torres and the idea did work and paid off. Still I would like to see Torres starting more often. Why would you have our 27-year old proved premier league striker bought for £50m sitting in the bench and play 34-year old over-the-hill player to whom we may not offer a contract of his choice? The more Torres plays the better for us. He is the future for Chelsea, at least for the next few seasons. AVB has come out and said that Torres is not going anywhere and he’s firmly in his plans. So I don’t know why Torres is not getting his pitch time? See, there was a time this season where Torres was in fine form – scoring and creating goals and opportunities and then managed to get himself sent off.
I’ve said this a few times on Twitter – when Torres plays as the lone striker flanked by Mata and Sturridge, we play very good football. And when Drogba plays, we are more reliant on route one football, winning free kicks and the like. For the kind of ideas AVB has, Torres is surely the man. But if he finds Drogba more reliable than Torres then playing Drogba is understandable because AVB is also under pressure because of the recent results. If Torres starts against Spurs tomorrow, I’ll be pleasantly surprised.
The midfield problem is being addressed very well by AVB. He’s managed to pick players on merit. He’s been benching Lampard and Mikel quite regularly now. He’s brave enough to pick a 20-year old Spanish player over Lampard, though in different positions. This is not easy to achieve and this is exactly what Carlo struggled to do. So, it’s clear that AVB’s got the balls to take big decisions. He also seems to know exactly what kind of players he wants which is proved by his purchases of Mata and Romeu and also his decision to use/retain Sturridge in the first team.
So, we do have a good team to take to White Hart Lane on Thursday. Spurs too have a good line up. Adebayor has found his touch at Spurs after an unsatisfying time with City and an impressive stint with Real Madrid. van der Vaart was probably one of the best deals of the season in Europe. He was transferred for about £8m. Look at his contribution and value to the team. He’s the kind of guy that can sneak into our central defence. The hole that we’ve managed to put in our central defence is very famous now for these top players not to observe and plan for. Then there’s the organiser in Modric. You might know that I’m a big fan for Modric and I was hoping that he joins Chelsea. He can split our defence like David Silva does for Man City, despite playing deeper than him. Modric is still their best player even after falling out with the club administration during the transfer window. Then there’s the probability of Bale playing. And then, Scott Parker being himself in the centre of the park. It’s going to be one cracking match.
I expect Chelsea to play like they played against Man City. Cautious approach over the cavalier type. If Chelsea play on Thursday like how they played in September and October, they’d be playing into Spurs’ plan. Harry would love to see us defending up and committing all players in attacks so they can cut through us with searing pace and have a player or two sent off in the process. I’m sure they will let us have the ball and lull us into the feeling of a superior team only to rip us open in a few seconds. I really hope that we don’t play into their hands. Just play like we did against Man City, everything will be fine.
Ah wait! John Terry’s racial abuse allegation comes up to the courtroom in February. If the Suarez incident is anything to go by, it’s quite dangerous for us. These are not identical instances though. I still believe John Terry’s lawyers will establish that he said ‘blind’ and not ‘black’ (still doesn’t make it any noble in my eyes). If John Terry is found guilty, he would have to miss 8-10 matches in Feb, March and April – probably the most defining matches for this seaon. AVB would do well to get a central defender (Gary Cahill?) on loan or even better as a replacement for Alex. Anyway, that’s for later.
Some interesting games tonight with Arsenal, Man Utd and Liverpool playing away while Man City host impressive Stoke. If the Manchester teams drop points tonight that will be a great set up for our game tomorrow night. If things work in our favour, we could be only 6 points behind the table leader, which is not an awful thing given that we’re only in December and that we can only get better. Won’t make it to BC Shout but you can catch me live on Twitter @bluechampion.