It’s been long rumoured that top of Big Phil’s Christmas list is a striker for the second act of the season. (Remember kids, a striker is for life, not just for Christmas.) But before he goes and sees Santa it looks as though Christmas might have come early. The hustle and muscle shown by Drogba against Cluj the other night must have warmed the Brazilian. He has rarely had the opportunity to play the big man since he joined Chelsea and we’re all hopeful we can reap the benefits of a fully fit Drog in the side. However it made need some juggling in the line up to get it right.
Tuesday night also saw the return of Joe Cole and it was his superb pass that set up the winning goal. Scolari will be glad to have his work rate and trickery back in the fold. Carvalho is pencilled in for a Chrimbo return and Essien should hopefully be back in the New Year meaning Phil will soon have the luxury of a fully fit squad to pick from.
How the jigsaw of players comes together on the pitch will be a welcome headache. With Ballack returning to fitness and form, Deco’s vision and link up play; Mikel’s superb reading of the game and Lampard’s invaluableness it’s difficult to know who loses out. The big question is, of course, the front two, Anelka and Drogba, and whether they can link up and run defences ragged.
It seems obvious that the two can play together. The robust skill and bulk of Drogba should compliment Anelka’s pace and potent finishing. However with wide forwards the likes of Deco, Cole, Malouda and Kalou would all work back and cover a lot more ground than a front two would. Would it mean a compromise with one striker asked to track wide more and then losing their cutting edge in attack? Would a midfield four be too narrow and easily stifled?
There are a lot of unanswered questions about the formation tweak and I have a feeling we won’t necessarily find out the answers this month. With Christmas comes the glut of games and the management should be looking to shuffle the team and keep players fresh where and when they can. It could be that, rather than risk the formula that’s worked well so far, the same system is used and the players are rotated over the next few games. It’s fair to say that they must be working hard on things in training and when Scolari’s seen enough to warrant it, he’ll start the two big guns together.
More pressing should be our inconsistent form of late. What was meant to be a season defining week slowly turned sour. Throwing the lead away against Arsenal followed a frustrating sloppy goal conceded late in Bordeaux. It was all to do this week then and the team dug deep and produced the results. However the lack of coherence after Arsenal scored and similarly the shoddy passing and movement in the first half against Cluj and Bordeaux needs to be addressed.
There’s a good few days of solid training ahead to iron out the problems that have blighted our home record and resulted in patchy play in Europe. If the teams gets things right over Christmas, as we’ve seen before, it could put us in the driving seat for the title come New Year. I’d be first to raise a drink to that.