Chelsea kept pace with the Premiership front-runners following an emphatic away victory at St. Marys. The Blues made light work of what looked like a tricky fixture on paper, albeit against a Southampton side which looks a shadow of the team that charmed us a month ago.
Yet again it took some Mourinho Magic to turn the game, a double substitution on 50 minutes was today’s bunny pulled from the hat. Chelsea have enjoyed a fantastic holiday season but it appears to have come at some cost. The look on Juan Mata’s face when his number was up with almost half the game to go told the story. He was visibly upset and the cameras caught his grimace in perfect HD.
The argument against his selection is also apparent. Willian’s pace is something to behold and with Ramires sitting in behind him this Brazilian duo can cover box to box before Clark Kent has had a chance to pull his Y fronts over the top of his trousers. As much as I have loved to watch our little Matador over the last few seasons and wish we could fit him in, I am starting to feel it would be in his best interests to move on. He is far too talented a footballer and a nice chap to boot to be wasting away on an icy bench. The window is now open and today’s scene post his substitution will have the sharks circling. Man. Utd, Arsenal or any number of big European clubs will be queuing up……maybe a loan spell to Spain ahead of the World Cup to boost his selection chances is the fairest thing to do for our player of the year!
Jose sent out a new look side as the Christmas fixture pile up required some significant rotation. Both Mata and Schürrle joined a returning post suspension Ramires in the first 11. Torres led the line. The Back 4 saw Cole and Aspilicuerta on the ends with Ivanovich still suffering from the groin strain he picked up against the Pool. Super Frank not fit to make the bench either.
Chelsea showed no signs of a New Year’s Day hangover. The torrential rains that have plagued the UK for the last couple of weeks continued, meaning another slippery surface. There was no respite in the conditions during the game. Visiting Blues fans told the story of the Ark pulling into Southampton Docks at halftime, with Noah offering free rides back to Fulham Broadway.
Chelsea had the best chance of the first half when ‘Nando broke free, turning 2 defenders inside out and yet failing to finish from 10 yards with just the keeper to beat. Torres who works extremely hard, & successfully off the ball to pressure the back lines still cuts a sad figure when in front of goal…… Although he did score later in the game, more ball to head than headed ball, we need to feel more certain that our striker’s conversion rate is more than 50/50 in one on one situations. Ramires also came close but for a perfectly timed tackle from the Southampton keeper Davis as he charged out of his area.
The Chelsea defence seems to be getting stronger by the match. It is no coincidence that a returning Ashley Cole has seen us only concede 1 goal in the Christmas period. Bah Humbug! The Chelsea back line seems to block gold-bound efforts with life risking acrobatics. Every game, the opposition must deal with the Flying TerryCahill Brothers before even getting a chance to challenge Petr Cech’s velcro gloves.
The 5oth Minute changed everything. Oscar and Willian replaced the disgruntled Mata and slightly disappointing Schürrle.
A couple of minutes later Oscar’s first involvement should have resulted in a goal. But for some reason the boyish Brazilian showed his inexperience and decided to fake a foul from keeper Davis rather than go round him a tap the ball in the net. It would have been a sending off for the Southampton Keeper if he had actually committed the foul. It was bad form all around from Oscar and Referee Howard Webb produced the appropriate Yellow Card. It will not go amiss that only a few days ago Jose made a big stink , accusing Suarez of doing exactly this!……. I think that the punishment should be raised to more than a Yellow card, with the club giving additional fines to any players guilty of this type of bad sportsmanship.
Torres bought and end to an amazing running statistic in the 60th minute. It was the first time a Chelsea striker had scored away from home since December 2012!!! …. He instinctively positioned himself in the poacher position as Oscar’s effort cannoned off the far post and hit the Spaniard flush in the face and across the goal-line.
Ten minutes later Willian put the game beyond the hosts with a superb strike from the edge of the box. He is now the heir apparent to Super Frank, he gives the team the shooting boots from outside the area that Lampard has provided for the last 10 years. It should also mean that the centre forwards will have more scraps to feed on as opposition Keepers spill the beans.
Oscar piled on the misery and helped improve our goal difference with a third on 82 minutes. A fine strike to the Keepers right after breaking through the middle of the park.
Chelsea needed this 3 points to stay in touch with an in form City. Arsenal are still to convince me that they have the depth of squad to avoid a goal drought before season’s end. Our early February visit to the Ethiad is beginning to feel like a 6 pointer already…..