It seems an awfully long time ago when international breaks were these horribly long, boring, much unwanted disruptions to our league season. For once it was nice to have a fortnight off, as a well a chance to regroup and briefly halt the unravelling disaster that has been our campaign so far.
It was good to pick up three points yesterday (points being the only important thing right now) but aside from the victory, our performance was void of any other reasons for optimism. Needing a goalkeeping mistake and a lucky deflection to see off a languishing and uninspired Villa team doesn’t do much to allay fears of persisting dismal form. Mourinho managed to find the only other positive in his post match interview, as he explained we were able to find the necessary ingredient, needed to get results when your performances do nothing to warrant them. Though to be honest, it seems likely this result may have had slightly more to do with Villa’s lack of talent or cohesion, than our grit and determination.
Asmir Begovic – A simple outing for the Bosnian. Tim Sherwood’s decision to pack his midfield allowed his team to compete and keep possession well but it placed pretty much all the creative responsibility on Jack Grealish and Jordan Ayew on the wings, whose service to Rudy Gestede was poor. 5/10.
Cesar Azpilicueta – A solid performance from the Spaniard back on his preferred side of the defence. Of all the players who struggled at the start of the season, Cesar looks to have recovered the most form. The opposition’s constant targeting of young Baba Rahman on the left meant he didn’t have the most testing of afternoons. 5/10.
Kurt Zouma – Already the Frenchman looks a reliable member of the first team, as opposed to just a promising youngster. He always looked assured against a very physical opponent. 5/10.
John Terry – Standard stuff. 6/10.
Baba Rahman – The form of Branislav Ivanovic meant Mourinho’s trepidation about starting the Ghanaian in the Premier League was derided. Maybe next time the Portuguese suggests a young player needs time to adapt, people might acknowledge he probably knows what he’s talking about. 1/10.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek/Nemanja Matic – The 19 year old looked excellent for the first 25 minutes but badly faded in the first half. Matic improved the side when he came on, offering serious aerial competition for Gestede. In my opinion, I think Loftus-Cheek is more naturally suited to the Serb’s usual midfield role than playing as a #10. I hope they both start in midfield next time out. 5/10.
Ramires – The usual shortcomings in his passing game and habit of constant fouling were still obvious, but whilst his more talented teammates are offering nothing, his running, tackling and pressing in midfield is handy to rely on. Right now he probably deserves his starting position. 5/10.
Cesc Fabregas – Another dire demonstration. While Eden Hazard, Oscar and Matic pay the price for unacceptable contributions, the Spaniard still seems to be immune. His ball into Costa leading up to the Hutton own goal was his single positive involvement in an otherwise insipid performance. 1/10.
Pedro – The winger may have half the talent of Hazard, but right now, his pressing and his defensive work is more useful than the Belgian’s superior attacking abilities. While our star player continues to struggle for form (and fitness) it’s likely Pedro could even be the more regular starter. 4/10.
Willian – What would we do without Willian at the moment? What would we do without that wonderful, tireless, free-kick scoring, afro-wearing football god who is a Chelsea fan’s only source of real pleasure watching their side at the moment? Surely the first name on the team-sheet. 7/10.
Diego Costa – I’m not sure whether my favourite Costa moment of this game was when Micah Richards just bounced off him, trying to prevent his tap-in finish for the first goal, or whether it was when he refused for about 30 seconds to untangle himself from Ashley Westwood, until the Englishman snapped and tried to shove him, while he just sat there smiling. Either way, it’s nice to have the old bastard back in the team and back on the scoresheet. 6/10.
A run of three tricky, though winnable away fixtures could hopefully be just what we need to pick up some much needed momentum. Whether we can collectively return to form hinges on the improvement of our best players over the next few weeks, but positive results at West Ham and Stoke, as well as in Kiev on Tuesday, could help us get back into the habit of scraping hard earned victories. We can worry later about actually deserving to win games. One step at a time…