The Blues trounced a hapless Newcastle with the type of performance that is fitting for a side holding the title of Premier League Champions.
Putting lesser sides to the sword at Stamford Bridge has been an increasingly rare occurrence of late, so let’s not underestimate this achievement. The confidence and swagger that we saw in the first half of LAST season is returning at a rate of knots, just in time to whet fan’s appetites ahead of the Champions League knockout resumption next week.
There is no longer idiotic talk of Chelsea being in a relegation scrap, in fact we are nearly back in the top half of the table. Today was the first time we looked to have put the Jose Mourinho saga fully behind us.
Some pundits are still dwelling on the fact that it’s the same group of players and therefore they must be to blame, having let down the shirt/ club/fans when not putting in a proper shift for Jose. Well that’s a load of rubbish. If anything it dispels theories of how the likes of Costa, Matic, Courtois, Fabregas etc…. may have been one season wonders! It also tells us how Mourinho must have made their lives so miserable and untenable. I think Roman made the right decision and for one won’t be cheering Jose when he returns to the Bridge with Giggsy sitting next to him!….. I’d still like Roman to rehire Eva just for good measure.
The players were enjoying themselves out there today. Unshackled against a Newcastle side that looks to have spent a huge amount of money on a team that could be playing Brentford in a few months. Although I actually think they will be fine. Shelvey is a very underrated player and Townsend showed his goalscoring ability with a smart consolation goal. The just need to plug a few holes at the back. For starters, Collocini should have a “Samsonesque” hair cut which may give him the extra yard into the wind he needs to win a foot race.
I liked the fact that Gus Hiddink gambled on the statistics by resting Obi Mikel today, so he’d be fresh trying to prevent any Musketeers from breaking our ranks on Tuesday. During his two tenure’s at the club, Our Dutch manager has not lost a game when the Nigerian stopper has been included in his side, and up and till now Obi has been the first name on the team sheet. That showed renewed confidence and after all we were at home playing a lower half club.
We put the game out of sight within 10 minutes as Costa poached a beauty and Pedro (Yes Pedro) scored with an early struck well taken effort.
Everyone had a ball. Matic, maybe not coincidently being de-masked, was back playing his role as “The Cleaner”. Nothing got thru and he won every 50/50 ball. Fabregas has got his peripheral vision back. He played 3 or 4 inch perfect through balls which always resulted in an opportunity on goal. Costa, by now behaving in a sportsmanlike manner, has the God’s back on his side. Pedro got a brace, somebody finally pointed out to him that you are meant to play towards the goal, not try passing every time to the manager in his technical area.
There is still one piece of the puzzle that is not quite fixed. A much improved Eden Hazard was on display today, but he is still far from his best. He still frustrates me by slowing the pace down when receiving the ball in the final third. I found myself willing him to take on the last man by turning on the afterburners, but was generally left disappointed as he continued to take the easier option of passing the ball or on a number of occasions trying an odds-against “back flick” that rarely worked. Maybe his renaissance will be perfectly timed for the Champions League.
The only negative to come out of this game was losing JT to a strained groin muscle following a wrestling match with Mitrovic.
Mind you, seeing Baba Raman come on, means we have a lot more pace down the flanks, probably needed to combat PSG’s athleticism come Tuesday. The Cahill / Ivanovic pairing certainly has enough experience to guide the back 4, in JT’s possible absence.
So our season begins now. It will certainly be one for the ages if we manage to haul off the trophy in Milan come May. Highly unlikely but at least just in time we are looking like a proper team again.