Jose Mourinho was completely correct last night to point to the spirit of his team and to commend the ease with which they won the game, even in the absence of their first choice front man and key attacking player. Whilst at Man City and Arsenal, the thought of losing Sergio Aguero or Alexis Sanchez to injury doesn’t bare thinking about, yesterday’s victory was compelling evidence of how Diego Costa’s occasional absence should be no problem at all for this Chelsea team, as both of his understudies helped the side to their latest comfortable home victory against Tottenham Hotspur, with hugely impressive goal scoring performances.
Loic Remy has looked excellent almost every time he’s featured so far this season and could end up becoming a long-term member of the squad; it’s the performances of Didier Drogba which I think have been the most impressive however. Even after all the Ivorian has achieved at the club, there cannot have been many who would’ve predicted just how consistently effective his contributions have been so far this season. Back in August I was sceptical and critical of the decision to sell Romelu Lukaku and to re-sign a 36 year old Drogba, though both decisions are looking rather inspired at this stage. Initially I worried the player’s return was merely a romantic, short-sighted gesture, now it looks like it could be, in hindsight, a hugely important, maybe even crucial addition to the team.
So far already this year, Drogba has scored in every competition, with goals in the routs against Maribor and Schalke in the Champions League, the winner on a frustrating evening at Shrewsbury Town in the League Cup and the opening goal in the league at Old Trafford too. Last night might have been his best performance so far however. Having been the second best side for the opening 15 minutes of the contest, he effectively sealed the win within five minutes with a goal and an assist for Eden Hazard in the first half – we never once looked like losing from that point onwards.
I think the form of Drogba is a particularly interesting topic at the moment as I look across the rest of the league and see many of the division’s veteran stars performing with varying levels of quality and consistency for their respective teams. Most impressive of all has to be Frank Lampard at Manchester City, whose goal at Southampton this weekend was his fifth in just 10 appearances. Watching Frank right now, I can’t help but think that City are using him the way Chelsea should have done for his last couple of seasons in West London, where he was overplayed to the point where his presence in the XI even became unwelcome news to many supporters. Used only occasionally and in the right position however, he still has the quality to make regular and crucial contributions. There’s no doubt City’s challenge to retain their title is stronger for having Frank in the side this year and they would do well to extend his loan for the entire season.
In comparison, when you consider the current form of Robin Van Persie and Steven Gerrard in particular, it’s clear that Man Utd and Liverpool perhaps might have something to learn from seeing how Lampard and Drogba are being used at the moment. With both players struggling to deal with and live up to the expectations placed on them by their managers, maybe it’s time that their roles within the team came under consideration. Neither might be the great players or on-field leaders which they once were, but as Drogba and Lampard are proving at the moment, class is permanent and when managed with intelligence, it can still win games and maybe even league titles. It seems clear that if Drogba is to pick up his fourth Premier League winners medal in May, he’ll have a played a substantial role in earning it. Even from his current reserve capacity, the man cannot help but score big goals for Chelsea.