The next fortnight could probably decide which team will be celebrating winning The Premiership come next May. At the very least it will decide which team will NOT be celebrating winning The Premiership come May. This has happened in the past five seasons and I see no reason why this one should be any different. On one condition though, that one of the big three manages to string together a sequence of three wins over the holidays.
If recent form is anything to go by, ours looks ever so slightly the most favourable with two winnable away games and a home game to West Brom squeezed in between. If we cannot beat West Brom at home we might as well pack it in for the season. The Christmas programme looks like this for the three Premiership contenders:
West Brom home
After this round of fixtures is the FA Cup against Southend and then Man United away and two home games against Stoke and Boro.
I definitely see Liverpool dropping some points there and with United away in Japan taking on the might of the champions of Australia, Ecuador and Egypt in a bid to establish world domination, this could be the time to put some daylight between us and the rest. United’s current game in hand is against Fulham at home, a banker in recent years, not so much this time round.
Despite the gloom and doom of recent weeks as far as our home form is concerned, there is more than one silver lining on the horizon. Let us start with the 103 misguided souls who joined the Facebook group “Drogba – never to wear a Chelsea shirt again”. I am not a big fan of Didier myself but with him in the team he adds something no other team in the Premiership has – and that is muscle up front and an ability to find the back of the net on the big occasion. Yes he falls over if a fly so much rests on his shoulders, yes he takes ages to get off the floor once he goes down, yes he has to come off for treatment to imaginary ailments 50 times a game, but when he is standing on his two feet there is no centre forward like him in the world. DD has had a stop start season, more stop than start in fact, and come January hopefully he will be back to his devastating best.
Then there is the little matter of the return of Riccy Carvalho and Michael Essien . Who would argue that these two are not the best in their positions in the Premiership? In Essien’s case, who would argue that he is also not the best right around as he proved last year?
I also see Michael Ballack and Joe Cole returning to their best over the next few weeks. Again both have had stop/start seasons and can only get better with a few consecutive games in their locker.
I have been the first to criticize Scolari for not having a plan B, but often a look at the bench over the recent months reveal that there were no players there who could come on and change a game for him. Looking back to Jose’s days we variously used to have Eidur, Crespo, Joe Cole, Robben and Duff on the bench ready to come on and produce their magic. And nine times out of ten they did.
Having said all this I do believe that the team, especially when playing at home needs a couple of tweaks and I would seriously think of changing the full backs. Bosingwa is fine going forward but in defence I hark back for the good old days of Graham Wilkins. What’s wrong with giving Ferreira a proper run in the team? The same goes for Ashley Cole and Wayne Bridge. Bridgey delivers a mean cross which Ashley seems chronically incapable of, so come on Phil, give him a try.
As is usual for this time of the year there has been plenty of talk about comings and goings in the ranks. Given that it seems that no money is going to be made available, how about getting rid of Alex, who wants away anyway, and bring back Michael Mancienne from Wolves? Then use the money from the sale of Alex to get a decent winger. In all fairness not many spring to mind but then I’m not paid millions every year like Frank Arnesen to do exactly this type of job.
After the disappointment of last Sunday we have all been down in the dumps. Going into the Christmas programme sitting top of the league would have been handy. But we are just one point behind Liverpool and while our lot have proven over the years that they are capable of sustaining a championship challenge and winning it too, Benitez’s mob have failed to do so time and time again.
My current screen saver is that photo of Jose’ giving us all the chins up sign. We would do well to keep the gesture of The Special One in mind. And by the way, yes I do want him back.