I thought we were fortunate that the incredible sense of occasion at Stamford Bridge yesterday was able to mask what was in truth, a very dull game of football. If anyone was bored during the game though, then they can take consolation in an understanding of how any tedium felt, was a result of how quickly and easily Chelsea were able to kill the game. It was for our opposition, as Yannick Sagbo so eloquently tweeted it, “a fucking hard game lost”.
On the face of things, the result and final 60 minutes of the game were so perfectly typical of the Chelsea side Mourinho left in 07, somebody just checking the scores/highlights could be excused for thinking it’s gonna be just more of the same. All that the fans and players will take from the game however are memories of the first 30 minutes, where the speed and quality and ingenuity of the attacking play surpassed anything we have seen over the last seven seasons, and according to the man himself, anything he saw his double league winning side produce either.
Graeme Souness’ (on Sky Sports) comparison to Barcelona seemed a tad histrionic, but you could see what he meant. The level of pressing and speed with which Chelsea regained and recycled possession was exceptional. Whilst the movement and interplay of the midfielders was of such a level that had the finishing been better, we could’ve easily been leading by four or five goals at half time. Without getting carried away, I think if this is what we’re seeing on the opening day of the season and after a midweek international break, the rest of the division should be very concerned indeed.
Petr Cech – Had literally almost nothing to do, with Hull’s best effort on goal a header aimed straight toward him in the second half. He can expect more of a test against the Villa on Wednesday. 5/10
Branislav Ivanovic – Back at right back after ending last season with a fixed spot at centre half, the Serb had a good game getting forward regularly and touching the ball in the opposition penalty area an impressive six times (five more than Torres). Was unfortunate not to get a goal after a great save by McGregor from a point blank header, he also should’ve won a penalty after a shove by Robbie Brady in the second half. 6/10
Gary Cahill & John Terry – Both our English centre halves had particularly easy games and will probably retain their places in midweek. Cahill did slightly more to help the midfield press higher up but involvement from each of them was minimal. 5/10
Ashley Cole – Showed his class and intelligence in helping string together some neat passing moves on the left flank but was a little off his game in defence being dispossessed and beaten too easily at times. I still wouldn’t swap Ash for any other left back in the league, but after 18 year old Luke Shaw’s (a professed Chelsea fan) performance for Southampton this weekend, if Cole can’t find some form this season then the club might start looking for a replacement sooner than he would’ve liked. 4/10
Ramires – His running and interceptions in the middle third of the pitch were essential to the team being able to press as high as they did. He’ll be a regular all season. 6/10
Frank Lampard – Now reunited with the manager who made him the England legend that he is, it’ll be interesting to see what role he plays this year. Certainly against the better teams, Chelsea looked worse for his inclusion last season and his partnership with Ramires has never looked like a solid one. His free-kick yesterday shows he still oozes quality and there are more goals to come from him yet. Yesterday he extended his own record of playing in 18 PL opening day fixtures. 6/10
Kevin De Bruyne – Of all the players bought/brought back to the club this summer, De Bruyne looks like he could be most important addition to the side. The combination of his talent and ambitious style makes him such an exciting prospect. His nutmeg through ball assist for the first goal was exquisite. 7/10.
Oscar – The MOTM for me. Worked so hard to make space for the other attacking players, he deserved his goal and took it excellently. 7/10
Eden Hazard – Went down in the first half after a hard tackle and I can’t help but wonder if he felt it for the rest of the game, with his movement not as fast or as sharp as usual. 5/10.
Fernando Torres – Hard to argue with his work rate and willingness drop deep and make room for other players, but really should’ve done more to make a chance for himself during our dominant opening third. 5/10
Aston Villa Preview
I noticed on social media a few people picking up on Steve Bruce’s rather odd attitude before and after the game yesterday, where he seemed overly negative and (as Oliver Holt put it) star struck by Mourinho, almost sycophantic in his praise of the Portuguese post-game. I know Hull never really had a chance, but when you’re a former league winning captain and coach of four different top division sides, I’d say your supporters are entitled to a little more competiveness than they would’ve seen from their manager yesterday.
Anyhow, we surely won’t be seeing anything of the sort on Wednesday as Paul Lamberts’ Aston Villa come to Bridge after an impressive away win against Arsenal and with an 8-0 thrashing to redeem. Regarding selection, the only change I anticipate us making is Lukaku to come in for Torres, although with the Spaniard having scored 4 in his last 5 against the Birmingham side, don’t be too surprised if he keeps his place for now.
Villa have got some good players, they’re well organised and obviously in some good early season form but with the momentum we’re enjoying at the moment on the back of Mourinho’s return I’m confident we’ll make it two wins from two. If Lukaku plays it’ll be interesting to see if he can outperform his rival for the Belgium NT centre forward position. I might be left in a minority but I still don’t particularly rate Benteke – he’s a great athlete and a good finisher but technically, I don’t think he’s the sort of talent who should really worry our defence. I predict another win and clean sheet.