Well we are off and running!!! …….. According to the bookies, The Blues will still be the team to beat if you want to be Champions of England this season. Nothing that I saw on Saturday leads me to go against the odds-makers.
It was certainly a lively start to the 2015/16 Premier League campaign. In the end I think every Chelsea fan saw enough in the first half to be very encouraged. Same players but the tempo was quicker and the playmakers look to have a few new tricks up their sleeves. Pre-Season was rightly seen to be immediately irrelevant (as The Gooners found to the opposite !!).
When I saw the team sheet, I was very excited. This was without doubt our strongest side from last year’s campaign, when we sprinted off to a quick start that ultimately opened an unassailable gap between us and the also ran’s. It is still the best 11 in the Premiership……. Not even close.
It was only when Diego Costa’s fitness failed mid-season that Jose needed to “tinker” with this formation, resulting in a more defensive style that saw us limp over the line instead of setting a new EPL points record.
It is the Oscar/ Willian/ Hazard combination that hold the key………….. How Oscar didn’t appear in everyone’s “best team of the weekend” baffles me. Even though he was only on the pitch for 53 minutes , before being sacrificed following Courtois’s sending off , he was a man possessed and deserved MOTM. When I heard pre-season rumblings of his imminent departure I couldn’t believe it. He is the ultimate “Boy from Brazil” ,if Jose Mourinho could clone another 10 of him he would. Skillful, Strong defensively , dead ball specialist and young!!! …….. I predict he has many more years in a Blue shirt.
Willian, his compatriot, continues to prove a handful through the middle, his acceleration is second to none. When found in the center of the park, he soon turns defense to attack. He does need to add more goals to his repertoire but feels that will come over time. We are still 10 goals a season short of replacing Super Franks midfield haul.
Let’s address the Elephant in the room. There is no way that JT can repeat last campaign’s season long form. As we know he played every minute of every game and deserved to give Eden a closer run for Player of the Year. The need to have a replacement at the ready is wise preparation for the inevitable. Whether Stones or Zouma or A.N.Other , they will see some extensive action, I predict the next 6 months will see our Leader / Legend acknowledge his days are now numbered.
The implication of which is that we will probably keep less clean sheets than Jose would like…… and it won’t be for lack of Courtois doing his usual miracles. On that note the only slight concern from Saturday was the way Branislav Ivanovich was run ragged by Swansea’s new uber-winger Andre Ayew. I’m sure no one need to tell our Serb that he would feature in Monday’s training session at Cobbam. He will lead the sprinting practice. He probably enjoyed his break a little too much and needs to get rid of the Yokohama Tire he acquired under his shirt not across it!!
Although we didn’t plan it , at least Asmir Begovic got an early opportunity to put his poor pre-season behind him. He stepped in admirably for Courtois following the Belgian’s dismissal. I’m sure Petr Cech would have traded for his player rating!
It also appeared that the Oscar/ Hazard/Willian triumvirate had strict instructions to be “more adventurous” in its play……. The resulted in a few more “flicks & tricks” when trying to break through the oppositions defenses………. Jose in trying to unshackle them , in response to last season’s dull / defensive criticism and also Roman’s continued brand building desires. But as aforementioned , our defense will likely be a little more leaky than last year and we need to score more goals to balance this out.
We will need more luck this year , mainly concerning the squad’s fitness ……… JT & Diego being the main focus of this. Radamel Falcoa’s short back and sides is a sign that he means business , but truthfully we hope we don’t have to rely heavily on his improvement to win the title this year.
This season will be closer than last, we knew that before a ball was kicked, so dropping a couple of points at home to a good side while down to 10 men, should not be cause for concern.
Switching to “Stateside Dispatches” , I went to the BIG New York derby last night as Red Bulls Stadium , the home side, with Sean and Bradley Wright -Phillips taking on NYCFC , who had Pirlo , Lampard and David Villa as the spine of their team.
Unfortunately Frank looks very rusty& a little heavy ( More Pillow than Pirlo). But 25,000 fans would agree it was an entertaining match. A great sign for the future. Chelsea need to get their arse in gear and form an MLS partnership . Bournemouth being the latest to take that plunge with an alliance with Philadelphia Union.