Happy new year to all of you! On the new year day we couldn’t have asked for a better result than a 3-0 win against a good team on a day of terrible weather at an away stadium. A perfect start to the new year. Sometimes people get a bit sentimental about the day one of the new year and how that could be a precursor of the year to come. If you’re one of them, congratulations, you’re looking forward to an amazing year of Chelsea success.
Chelsea made a few changes. Mata, Schurrle & Hazard supporting Torres with Mikel-Ramires combo in midfield. Azpi on the right, Cole on the left and the English pair of centre backs. I tweeted that these days all Chelsea line-ups have started to look good probably for a couple of reasons – one, we are in a good run of games, two we are seeing more and more of all these players, also in various combinations.
The first half started brightly for Chelsea. We had some early chances which lulled some of us into the belief that we were going to steamroll Southampton on their patch. Soon, the home team also got into the groove as the first half turns into an exciting contest that still ended goalless.
Honours being even at the end of the first half is never a problem for Chelsea. We take time to get into the overall rhythm of the game and in the second half start asserting ourselves and show the edge in quality. That’s been the story of this season. Look at the number if goals scored in the second half this season and in particular the lady 10 minutes.
Despite this trend, the second half didn’t start bright enough for Chelsea. It was clear that we need to win possession back from Southampton in the midfield and we had to be more determined while on the ball. Schurrle was uncharacteristically poor yesterday and did nothing worthwhile that made me wonder if he was fit. Mata did all right but still wasn’t by any means inspiring. Hazard was our lone goal threat but he too lacked some support. It was getting to easy to quiet Hazard down by crowding him.
Most Chelsea fans wanted to have Schurrle and Mata replaced by Willian and Oscar early in the second half. And Jose Mourinho obliged. The mere announcement of the subbing in of this Brazilian duo breathed some life into the supporting Chelsea fans. And they did exactly what you’d expect them to do. It’s around the 60th min mark, most top teams start to pull away from their smaller opponent. When the legs and minds are tiring, when things cancel out physically, the mentality and the creativity start to kick in and start making a telling difference. And at this stage, if players like Oscar and Willian come in, it’s going to be too difficult for the opponents to stay in the game.
Oscar dived and rightly was yellow carded. I’d never know why he chose to do that which the goal was there to be taken. May be he was looking to get the goalie sent off and that’s why I’d not protest against that yellow. Such was Oscar’s brilliance that in 35 mins, he started with that dive and yellow but still did enough to not only offset that but also end up with a man of the match performance by scoring a goal and setting up the other two. Always a busy player. And a very complete player. Easy to see why Mourinho wants to build the team around Oscar.
Willian deserves all the plaudits that he’s started getting. He was as busy as Oscar – stopping attacks, creating our attacks and also being at zones where he can finish them. The goal he scored was brilliant. The way Oscar set up the goal and the powerful finish from was incredible. He’s scored into two premier league goals and both are outstanding strikes.
Both Oscar and Willian seem to clearly know what to do and be able to do it. That’s being very strong physically, mentally and technically. Of course, yesterday they were also benefitted by being on the pitch more fresh than the other players in the pitch. But credit to them in making that difference count. Yesterday, the output we got from Oscar and Willian was that of almost three players.
Sadly, in order to press for a result, we had to have Mata taken off. His reactions made some headlines. Of course he wasn’t happy and there was nothing for him to be happy about anyway. Oscar, Mata and Willian – all these players have started some games and also come in subs in few games. We should now clearly be able to see what Mourinho wants in Mata or what he’s not getting from Mata.
In the post match interview, Jose said Oscar and Willian understood very well what he wants of them, probably a sly reference to Mata who still doesn’t. The overall across-the-pitch contribution that Oscar offers is something Mata has not and you need to wonder whether he’s even open to give it a good shot. You do see Mata working hard but still his influence on the game when the opponents have the ball is far too limited when you compare him to Oscar. I think by now we have enough opportunities to be able to say this. Make no mistake – Oscar, Willian and Hazard is the first choice trio at Chelsea now and quite rightly so.
You have to say Mourinho has started working his magic on this team. It’s taken time but he’s getting there without really losing much on the title race. That’s why he’s quite special. We are still just two point off the top spot and we are also improving as a team every week. The team looks more solid all over the pitch. There’s more collective effort and determination that reminds you of his teams. Since mid-Nov, his Chelsea team has got 7 wins, 1 draw (against Arsenal at Emirates) and 1 defeat (at Stoke after leading 2-1). And since that defeat at Stoke, in 5 games, Chelsea have conceded only 2 goals in 5 matches. We are turning the tap off.
As soon as the transfer window opened, we have officially signed Bertrand Traore – a very young, impressive attacking player. Despite the fact that we had a Chelsea striker score in the last couple of games, the whole football fraternity seems to realise that this Chelsea team is a prolific striker away from winning the league. Jose said Chelsea will make a few key signings in the summer with which we will be a force next season. While the media keeps linking Chelsea with every striker under the sun, there aren’t any hints coming from Chelsea. The moment you read the news about Demba Ba going on loan or being sold, start getting excited for the news to follow.
There was a time I kept saying this Chelsea team hasn’t peaked or no where near peaking. I can now say, this team is settling down and will now start to peak slowly. Look out for Chelsea turning up the gear in March and April. For now, we are still in the league title race and let’s hope we do get that much needed January addition.