If you were expecting something like an eight-nil win over Norwich at Carrow Road you’d have been disappointed. The Villa high surely put a spring in our boots, I mean in fans’ boot, not in the players’ boots. After scoring 13 goals in the space of few days, it’s only fair to expect that we’d continue that run. Personally, I’m happier that we are continuing our winning run more than the goal scoring run.
To use a cliche, this was a Mourinhoesque performance. Jose Mourinho has gone a long way in establishing how differently his teams can play. But still when he wants a win and quite badly, his teams are set out to play like this. All that they do is control the game, have a stranglehold on the game but not madly attack the opponent. At least, attacking the opponent gives them a chance to hit back. But just controlling the game tightly wears out the opponents quite soon, especially if they are not equally skilful.
The Chelsea that turned up for this game was surely a different one than the one that destroyed Villa. Chelsea were very measured and cautious in approach. Understandable when you see that Man Utd, Man City and Arsenal have lost here.
Rafa Benitez, quite unsurprisingly, didn’t start the winning team. Mikel came out of suspension and walked straight into the team. That could also have been because Ramires took a knock and Lampard is not quite a starter these days (and quite rightly so). Rafa could have gone for Oscar and Luiz in the midfield but for an away game like this, he’d have wanted more steel than silk in the midfield. Thanks to hindsight, it feels this is probably the kind of game where you can start Lampard. He’s an old war horse and he knows a thing or two about dealing with such difficult away premier league games. AW
Good to see David Luiz becoming a more permanent fixture in our midfield. He definitely adds a new dimension to our midfield. Even as a defender, he’s always had a good passing range and ability. David Luiz as a midfielder is working out quite well. I still haven’t seen him play like an orthodox defensive midfielder and I’m not sure how well he would do there. Can he mark Scholes or Xavi or Alonso out of the game?
The one thing that still concerns me about David Luiz is how he wants to play too cute at times. That makes him a look a bit careless while he’s actually lot more reliable these days. Yesterday, the pitch wasn’t great the ball wasn’t really rolling as it should. Clearly, our ballers should know that this was not a pitch for one touch, quick passing. They tried and failed several times.
The first half was boring and by the half hour mark, I was getting worried. Chelsea didn’t create too many chances and even worse, didn’t look to create too many chances. We were terribly slow in moving the ball as we tried to play on the grass on such a pitch. Actually, what was evident was that we didn’t have a plan B. This is a game where we could have crossed more than usual or shot from distance more than usual. It’s also probably down to the set of players we have now. If Ballack and Drogba had come in as subs, we could have won handsomely.
As we were getting closer to the end of the first half, I was wondering where our goal could come from. I was certain that it was not going to come from within the box. Norwich were defending well and we weren’t fluid enough in front of the goal. It had to come from a very special moment from a very special player. When Oscar passed the ball, Juan Mata still had an awful lot to do to before the ball could hit the net. Firstly, he was outside the box. Secondly, there were so many bodies between him and the goal. Thirdly, he got a rare couple of seconds on the ball and he was going to be closed down. Mata made a quick decision with the ball with a beautiful shot to make it 1-0.
There is this criticism on Mata disappearing in some tough and tight games. It’s clear that our ballers excel in certain types of games and look out of sorts in other certain other types of games. I was quite pleased to see Juan Mata a telling contribution in an away game that’s as grim as this.
With Norwich hardly threatening but defending strongly, Chelsea appeared to be content with a 1-0 lead. I must say we looked solid in defending. And that made this a reasonable approach. But this was a game where all our hard work could have been undone by one corner or one goal mouth scramble. That’s why we need some luck in such games and we did get it late in the second half.
Having got a win at Carrow Road at this juncture of the season, I can only be happy and I am. This turns out to be one of our better ‘Decembers’ in recent times, despite our loss in the Club World Cup final. This good run of games makes the West Ham defeat feel like a long time back.
If we can get a win against Everton at Goodison park this Sunday, I’d say we are well and truly back in the title race. Man Utd and Man City will drop points. There are more difficult games this season than last season, if that makes sense.
Has Rafa Benitez won the Chelsea fans over? Oh that’s a discussion for another day!