Like I imagine a lot of people, given the circumstances, I was reasonably confident of Chelsea getting a win at Old Trafford yesterday afternoon. I then went through the process of diminishing my own expectations with the news that both Eden Hazard and Mikel were not playing, only to raise them once again when it was announced that De Gea, Ferdinand, Rooney and Carrick were all being rested by the new champions of the division.
Overall the game was arguably the most boring of our 65-match season – perhaps on a par with the 0-0 against Manchester City at Stamford Bridge. The home team looked like a side bereft of any motivation, whilst we were lacklustre and disappointingly uncreative, given we had control of the game from beginning to end. Oscar had one good attempt and Demba Ba picked up some good positions, but as the game wound down it became clear that a winning Chelsea-goal was only coming from one man…
It might not be saying much with regards to such a monotonous contest, but Juan Mata was the best player on the pitch yesterday by miles. The goal might have been given as a Phil Jones OG in the end, but it was the Spaniard who deserved it. Whilst the rest of the team, understandably, looked like players struggling towards the end of an obscenely long campaign (probably because that’s what they are) Mata looked typically liked he’d just had a summer off, moving around effortlessly and finding space to play brilliant pass after brilliant pass. 19 goals and 34 assists now for our player of the year who is starting to put together a fantastic case for being the best #10 in world football. He is just a delight to watch.
Most annoyingly however, Mata’s undeniable brilliance was not the topic being discussed by the pundits on Sky or by the public on Twitter in the hours following the final whistle; for reasons I can’t understand, everyone decided instead to spend time taking issue with David Luiz smiling after being kicked by Rafael!
To deal with the arguments that were made in order of bullshittiness: Firstly, Luiz’ apparent ‘elbowing’ of Rafael occurred literally no less than five metres away from the lineswoman, who would have signalled a foul had she seen anything illegal. Secondly the notion that Luiz got Rafael sent off by diving goes way beyond laughable; the player got himself sent off via an act of unforgivable petulance (disappointingly bringing to an end an impressive maturing year for the Brazilian).
Finally and most absurdly, these accusations of unsporting behaviour being made in reaction to Luiz laughing on the ground are stupid for two reasons (apologies in advance for being so platitudinous). 1) When somebody kicks another person, that person’s obligations to consider the rights of the kicker as a fellow sportsman, pretty much disintegrate. If somebody kicked you, would you stop to consider whether your instinctive reactions were moral or fair? If you would then I think you’re very strange. Secondly, in defence of Luiz’ grinning (I feel so stupid writing as though I’m actually defending a serious offence) the incident WAS actually quite funny – witnessing a grown man kicking out at the legs of another man like a 6 year old in a strop. Some situations are so bizarrely pathetic that ironically laughing them off is really the only thing you can do. That, or just sigh.
Even from a month away, it was always obvious that Wednesday’s game against Tottenham was going to be a hugely important. What yesterday’s result thankfully did was make it a far far bigger game for AVB’s side who have no other option but to win or face another year in the Europa League, and most likely the loss of Gareth Bale. (With our goal difference so much higher) A win would put us six points clear with two games left and therefore home and dry, whilst a draw would mean we could wrap up a top 4 place with success at Villa Park next Saturday. If Tottenham should win at Stamford Bridge however then qualification is still within our hands – regardless of the result on Wednesday, wins against Aston Villa and Everton would see us finish in third place.
Even though our 4-2 win at White Hart Lane was probably the most entertaining game of our season so far, I think Wednesday could end up being another boring game, not dissimilar to yesterday. With the squad exhausted, the emphasis on our play is now more to do with being solid and keeping the ball in midfield, rather than pressing high and counter attacking. Tottenham meanwhile are playing pretty averagely themselves, throwing away two points at Wigan and needing Bale to save them from doing the same against Southampton on Saturday. From what I’ve seen recently, the Welshman is the only thing that Chelsea have to fear – since he found this incredible form at the beginning of the year, our North London counter parts have regressed further and further into ‘one-man-team’ territory.
However, I think there could well be a danger of Chelsea suffering from the same problems that cost Man Utd yesterday. Specifically, the fact that this game now means everything to Spurs, whilst Chelsea will have other opportunities to achieve their targets; not to mention Villas-Boas will be looking for vindication and revenge on the club that dumped him last year and the fans that taunted him back in October. All things considered however, I think we’re obviously the better team and we’re in better form and keeping Bale in check should be all it takes to scrap another three points.
We’re almost there comrades – just one final push needed over the line…