After playing an involuntary Rugby match at the weekend, Chelsea finally kick off the footballing season by welcoming a resilient Baggies side to the Bridge. With both sides feeling understandably aggrieved by the manner of their opening results, AVB and Hodgson will be looking for strong performances.
Although noticeably frustrated by the tackling, scrums and line-outs of Stoke City, AVB will surely look to the positives of a game that we probably would have edged if a certain Croatian trequartista had been pulling on a blue shirt for the first time. Apart from Kalou once again reinforcing his ‘super sub’ status by showing he cannot properly function unless he comes off the bench after the 75th minute, the team looked decisive and fluid. As AVB returns to the home dugout after a four year absence, a repeat performance with a sharpened home edge is surely what he is looking for. On a wider pitch with home support, our usual dominance of possession, opposition who aren’t looking to re-concuss our (hopefully) reborn Spaniard and blue tinted glasses firmly on, it’s hard not to see our attacks ending with Torres celebrating his first of many this season. If the attacking cohesion can be coupled with another dominant defensive performance then surely AVB should be strolling down the tunnel with his first Premier League win under his belt.
However, WBA are not to be underestimated. Hodgson clearly has the innate ability to instil the confidence needed for tough games in his players, the United game was proof of this. WBA’s work ethic under Hodgson last season was outstanding and a main factor in their late table climb. The momentum seems to have carried and if it wasn’t for a late double deflection they would have been rewarded with a well deserved point in their opening game. Away from home , the start of season gusto seen against United will probably be more reserved as Albion will look to line up with a 4-5-1, saturating the midfield and leaving the tireless Shane Long to harass the Chelsea back four. Hopefully AVB’s work on our transition phases and movement means that we can work our way into dangerous positions before WBA get men behind the ball. Too many times last season we were stagnant in attack, passages of play would be to slow in the final third and we would resort to desperate passes that simply were not there. After losing possession we would find ourselves over committed, short at the back and desperately defending a counter attack that should have never arose. It’s a situation that needs to be watched closely as WBA will look to counter quickly with players like Tchoyi, Dorrans and Brunt all supporting the attack, at no point this season do we want repeat of Sunderland last year.
Being his first at the Bridge no doubt all eyes will be fixed on AVB to see if the sparks of promise shown against Stoke can ignite into his free-flowing football ideals. Although, there’s a chance that our side is still adapting to a new style and we won’t finish the game with the desired result but either way, full support in this new era is a must.
My Prediction: 2-0
On a final note that really puts football in perspective, John Obi Mikel’s father is still missing. Despite this he put in a great performance at the weekend and showed real maturity and strength, our thoughts go out to him in these hard times.