For once, the arrival of yet another, season-disrupting, momentum killing, boredom inducing international break, isn’t exactly the end of the world. Though, to be fair, the September and October sojourns from the Premier League didn’t exactly prove detrimental to our conquest to cement first place – I think it would be safe to say our last seven matches constituted our worst period of the season so far (excellent win at Anfield, aside). So here are five reasons why now is probably a good time to take a short break from the club game.
1. A chance for Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas to recuperate – Finally, the Spanish national team seem to have seen sense and have left Costa out of their squad to play against Belarus and Germany. Fabregas also has been relieved of his duties this time around after picking up a slight hamstring injury. Sergio Ramos’ comments about the pair perhaps showing a lack of ‘commitment’, by withdrawing from the squad, I thought were a tad strange. If the Madrid player thinks ‘commitment’ means playing through pain until you are utterly incapable of performing, then I’d suggest his idea of dedication is somewhat distorted. Costa has proven all year he is prepared to play through injury whilst Cesc is an international veteran of 10 years and has won everything with his country – surely he is owed the benefit of the doubt? The whole club v country argument in football is a constant, it will always exist to some extent, but when it comes to Cesc and to Costa in particular, I think we have been more than reasonable for long enough.
2. A chance to marvel out our league position – It’s difficult to tell to what extent our lead at the top of the table is the result of our decision making and great work thus far, compared to the terrible form of pretty much everyone else. Already Man Utd, Arsenal and Liverpool are out of the running (if Liverpool were ever even in it?). Man City’s poor form is far less explainable though and also far less likely to last. Manuel Pellegrini’s side are simply in a rut, suffering from a lack of confidence and clearly missing their most important player in David Silva. They still might be too far behind to catch us but should we go through a similar period to the one they have just endured, you can bet that they’ll be close enough behind to capitalise – they’re certainly the only ones who can, at any rate.
3. A chance to marvel at our finances – This morning the club announced a profit of £18.4m and a record turnover of £319.8m. The sales of Juan Mata, David Luiz, Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku certainly helped things, but even so, there’s no denying, to the outside eye, we look an exceptionally well run club at the moment. With the growing influence of Marina Granovskaia only seeming to reap good things, and with Mourinho and Michael Emenalo enjoying as solid a relationship as the former has ever cultivated with a technical director, confidence in the skill and the harmony of the back room has possibly never been higher.
4. A chance to reassess and refocus – Scrappy wins against Shrewsbury (or strawberry if you ask Eden Hazard) and QPR, as well as a rubbish draw in Slovenia were useful reminders that even when (pretty much) at full strength, results and performances will elude us at times. Having established such a lead already means that our focus may now entirely rest upon ourselves; on not allowing concentration to fade or complacency to creep in. Having a combination of experienced winners in the dressing room, along with a group of phenomenal young talents looking for their first major trophy win in English football, and a manager for whom sloppy performances are intolerably offensive, I think stands us in good stead. Our next match at home to West Brom starts a run of 12 games in 40 days. We’ll need all of that experience, talent and focus to maintain the position of strength we enjoy right now.
5. A fresh start for those out of favour – If we’re being honest, this hasn’t been a productive three weeks for the careers of some players at the club. Andre Schurrle has been consistently dreadful when given the chance to play. Mohamed Salah can no longer even get on the bench. Gary Cahill has fallen below his typical standards, whilst Thibaut Courtois has failed to keep a single clean sheet since he last played for Belgium. Cesar Azpilicueta spent most of the period suspended after a stupid tackle at Crystal Palace also. It’s a testament to our strength as a unit as well as the depth of our 18 man squad that we’ve managed to pick up results in spite of all this; it’s also a nice reminder that things can, and hopefully will be, so much better than they have been for the last three weeks. There’s still so much clear room for improvement so as to completely demoralise the rest of the league, it they haven’t been already, that is.