Another weekend, another derby – Chelsea come to WHL on Sunday. In anticipation of this lunchtime feast I asked Merlin from Vital Chelsea a few questions to find out the mood amongst the Pensioners.
So, straight to the nitty gritty. It’s not been the best of starts to the season for you. My Chelsea supporting chums seem a bit nonplussed by it all, what’s your explanation for the team being so slow out of the blocks?
I think the writing may have been on the wall towards the end of last season. After a pulsating first two thirds of the season we didn’t exactly finish with a flourish, more like limp across the line. In pre-season we flattered to deceive and the rest, as the rest of the Premier League knows, we’ve hardly covered ourselves in glory this season. Now many suspect the pre-season build-up was all up the wall, fitness levels not what they should be etc. etc.
There’s also those who think the bust-up Jose had with the medic might be behind it and that, subsequently, some kind of dressing room revolt is behind our poor form, I’m not sure. Reckon several players have seen a massive dip in form and we’ve not been getting the breaks we might normally expect. Either way, there’s no denying we’ve been there for the taking.
How will it all pan out do you think? If you recover well then obviously Mourinho will stay but if things don’t go to plan will Abramovich stick with him?
I hope Jose is given time to turn things around, sacking the Special One would only see a return to hitting the panic button. If that was to be the action then who would come in to replace him? Would we be stuck with another caretaker boss? Perhaps the crux of the matter relates to qualification for the Champions League, a top four place is a necessity, although when we won it, back in 2012, we finished sixth, but I guess that part of our history remains a sore point for you guys!
And how about the fans, are they still behind Jose? Any resentment that Lukaku, De Bruyne and Mata are doing well elsewhere for instance?
Of course we’re behind Jose, he’s the most successful manager in our history, a legend and a maverick all rolled into one, he’s one of us, his body pumps blue blood. As for those mentioned above who left Stamford Bridge, doesn’t everybody sell players that, later on, they might have wished they’d have kept under different circumstances? Also, I can’t recall any resentful mutterings when the Premier League was being won last season and also the small matter of a Capital One Cup Final win against a certain club from N17. It’s strange how, when things aren’t quite going to plan people grasp at straws. Yes, Mata was our Player of the Year, two seasons running, but his work ethic didn’t suit Jose’s game-plan, De Bruyne wasn’t prepared to knuckle down and make a place his own whilst Lukaku was a little raw. Out of the three, perhaps I’d admit to not keeping Lukaku, with Diego Costa at war with the world and not firing on all cylinders, we could certainly do with another top-notch option.
But, perhaps another aspect of why the trio were sold could be down to the Financial Fair play Regulations we abide by, sometimes sales need to be made to stay within the boundaries.
Your defence seems more vulnerable than usual. What are the new players that have come in to the back four like – Zouma, Rahman and Kenedy?
Out of the three named, Zouma is the one that has made the biggest impact, you might recall he was a surprise starter in the Capital One Cup Final last season. He’s built like an ox, can play at the heart of the defence, or at right back or as a midfielder in front of the back four. Rahman, despite costing a fortune, is still to make an impact but his time will come. As for Kenedy, he could prove to be the jewel in the crown, primarily he’s a midfielder-cum-forward but his attributes allow him to fill in as a full-back.
As for our defence being more vulnerable than usual, that’s certainly been the case. Teams are opening us up almost as if the fear-factor has gone. We’ve also missed the young colossus between the posts that is Thibaut Courtois. But has the tide turned with two clean sheets in the last two games?
Perhaps through no fault of his own, Diego Costa seems to have developed quite a snarly and angry public image. Is this distracting him from the business of scoring goals do you think or will he come good anyway at some point?
Diego will come good, his poor goal return so far this season is the result of the supply line not being what it should be. He’s a warrior, he’s like an old fashioned centre-forward, not scared of getting involved. Yes he might cross the line at times but he gets as sinned against as he sins against others. Sometimes he’s a victim of his antics, Sky Sports launched a man-hunt after he’d sinned against Liverpool, Jamie Redknapp (wasn’t he once one of your lot?) was very vociferous in ensuring Diego was held accountable for his actions. Perhaps one of your defenders will rise to the bait, could we have another Graeme Le Saux v Mauricio Tarrico battle looming? I wonder how Ledley King and Diego Costa might have turned out!?
On a scale of fruit sizes where an olive is ‘You must be joking – I’ll be happy to finish out of the bottom three’ and a water melon is ‘Where’s the CL Final next year? I’ll see if I can get a cheap flight now’ – how confident are you that Chelsea will make the top four this season?
As far as the fruit challenge goes, I’d opt for a plum, I’d love to conclusively say we will finish top four, but I’m just not sure. Perhaps we’re heading for a scenario where we’ll win the Champions’ League again to qualify for another bash at the cash-cow next season.
Have you seen anything of Spurs recently and if so what are your impressions?
I’ve not seen a lot of Tottenham this season but I’m aware you are, unlike us, on a long unbeaten run. The advent of Sky Sports means I pick my games, earn brownie points from ‘er-indoors’ so that I can watch games not involving Chelsea, now whether that’s better than the days when Match of the Day ruled the roost, I’ll let you debate. Anyway, who does present Match of the Day these days?
Any players in particular you think may cause Chelsea problems?
Now let me see, that chap you keep serenading as ’one of your own’, he could cause a few problems given the chance and I hear Mousa Dembele is hitting the kind of form that he produced whilst at Fulham. But then again the scenario could be set for an unlikely hero, from either side, to arrive on the scene.
And finally, a prediction for the game please?
2-1 to Chelsea, Diego Costa to net the winner!
Many thanks Merlin; I hope your powers don’t extend to accurate soothsaying.
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