So, it turns out the third year of my degree is much harder and much busier much that the second year – an endless amount of essays and exams that leaves time for blogging in the evenings virtually non-existent. But in the interest of keeping the content flowing on this page, I’m going to start writing hopefully more, but shorter articles, outlining some interesting areas for discussion. Hopefully it will see a bit of a spike in traffic and comments as well…
Saturday’s result against Sunderland might not have been the most frustrating game of the season, that distinction still goes to the draw against Man City, but it was for sure the first objectively negative result of our premier league campaign so far. There were important issues that the game highlighted but I think it’s fair to say they should all be regarded through the realisation that Sunderland played wonderfully well for the entire contest – in their organisation, their pressing and their determination to win every second ball, they were exceedingly good value for their point. But whilst we weren’t at our sharpest, there was no real feeling of having blown the game at the final whistle; I think we can feel relatively safe in the knowledge that most teams won’t be able to defend as well for 90 minutes against us as Gus Poyet’s side did this weekend.
But whilst there’s no need to try and allocate blame for this slip-up, as some strangely attempted to in way which I thought were unfair on Saturday evening, this does highlight the need for certain questions to be raised, questions that that were always going to be asked at some point or another. Are we getting tired? Are we not rotating the side enough? Are we becoming complacent? Are we already too predictable? The answers to which are: probably, clearly, probably not and sort of –leading us to the overall conclusion that things are need of a bit of a shake up
Fortunately, there are many ways which we can do this. Mourinho knows his strongest XI which is an advantage and is unlikely to change but having fielded his favoured side now for three straight games, it’s time he began to use his options more cleverly. Andre Schurrle is hopefully over the illness which has limited his ability to contribute for the last few weeks and can offer a more direct threat of attack from wide positions. Filipe Luis, as the only natural attacking full-back in the squad could help to offer the width which was sorely lacking this weekend. Both Loic Remy and Didier Drogba have looked good when they’ve started this season also and could be useful as a partner for Diego Costa, in games where he’s being so tightly man-marked. It might seem counter-intuitively regressive to start playing with two strikers and getting more crosses into the box, but against those stubborn deep defences, it might prove usefully effective.
To conclude, there are three key positives which I can see to take away from this game, the first being that this is probably a pretty useful time for a wake-up call and to force these questions to the forefront of Jose’s preparations as we begin the brutal Xmas period. Second, the scoreline meant that for the first time, Thibaut Courtois has kept three successive clean sheets for the club as he continues to consolidate his phenomenal start in English football. And finally there is absolutely no reason I can think of to suppose Tottenham will pose the same problems on Wednesday. They’re unlikely to take the same conservative approach in the first place but even so, there has been no consistency to their defensive selections this season as Kaboul, Vertonghen, Fazio and Chiriches have all looked poor at times this year, while the latter two are still short of PL experience. Most importantly they have no one to play the crucial role which Lee Cattermole performed on Saturday. Ryan Mason, Etienne Capoue and Nabil Bentaleb are all good players but none are likely to keep Oscar and Eden Hazard in check the way the Sunderland Captain did on Saturday – I think they’re unlikely to even try.
Mourinho has spoken with confidence about how bad moments will not turn into crises for Chelsea this year. A nice home win against the Spurs is first great chance to evidence that claim on Wednesday. Another 4-0 would be lovely.