Prior to the West ham game I read what I considered to be a ridiculous statement on the BBC website. According to the MOTD pundits Neville and Jenas, West ham would be lucky to get a kick against us. This is a London derby, when have they ever gone to form? Anything can happen in those type of games,both these guys played in the Premier league and one of them played in London derbies. There are very few games in the Premier League which are not fully contested, Arsenal away to any of the top 6 excepted. I didn’t know one Chelsea fan who thought like that or had any doubts this wouldn’t be a close game
I was interested to see how Conte was going to cope with the predicted aerial threat of the pony tailed one. Would the trusted back 5 be changed. I was anticipating the return of Matic for both height and strength for whatever bombardment was on its way. The League cup victory was being bigged up by Bilic, a manager I really like. He sees the bigger picture and tells it like it is. Much like when he was a player. Would that previous encounter be much of a barometer for what was to come.
I was surprised when I saw the team as there was no obvious plan to counter Carroll and thought the bulk of Matic would prevail but what do I know? The first 20 or so minutes were a bumpy ride but the performances of our defenders to anticipate and get in before the big man was evident. It’s hard to know how much heading the back of Victor Moses head affected Andy Carroll but truth is he never got the service. The training and preparation was spot on and things began to settle down. Our passing picked up its rhythm and the Kante twins were in full flow. Not surprisingly the little fouls were beginning to pile up from ‘Stam but the referee was being very congenial. The yellow card stayed in the pocket. Then on 25 minutes we scored yet another goal from the left back position. Not as with Burnley and Wolves a delicately constructed passing movement ending up with Pedro scoring but a brilliant counter attack with the Kante twins stealing the ball and a lightening quick interchange with Pedro and Hazard ending in Eden’s scorching finish. The Spaniard doing brilliantly as the one-two pass to him was slightly behind him. All this from a ‘Stam free kick in a relatively dangerous position. Pure joy apart from the bloke who obviously yearned for the days of the “Chicken Run” at Upton park. We’ll wait to see what ‘Stam hierarchy says or does.
We should have ended the game before half time. Another break and frankly a brilliant chance squandered by both Moses and Pedro. With Eden through on goal perhaps he should have been more greedy? We ended the half comfortably on top but having squandered one goal leads in our last two away games there was no relaxing.
The second half was barely 5 minutes old when we scored from a corner. A rare occurrence these days and Diego was Johnny on the spot. A rubbish goal to concede but the job was almost done. I have to say I am always impressed with Darren Randolph and the save he made from Costa following another sparkling interchange with Eden was superb. Again however if there is one small criticism of last night is our ability to kill teams off. There was a wonderful chance for Cesc to finish the game but he blasted over when it looked easier to score, certainly form my sofa it did.
Towards the end of the game we encountered some moments at the back and to be honest ‘Stam should’ve scored. I’m a huge fan of Thibault but I felt he could have helped his defence a bit more in that period. There were one or two moments where had he come for the ball he would have relieved the pressure. We then concede a really crap goal just before the end and bizarrely it felt a bit deflating. It shouldn’t have done the 3 points were all that mattered. Just as bug as the 3 points was the deflating effect it will have had on our opponents. The main challengers both won and there was immense pressure on us to perform which we did.
In terms of the game other highlights included a quite frankly bonkers chase to the bi line by the Kante twins, winning ball that 99% of his fellow professionals would have given up for dead. Not only that but then creating a chance from it. Then there was the glorious moment Eden played the ball off of his back. An outrageous bit of skill. He confirmed after the game that playing more centrally is helping his game and it certainly is looking that way. I wasn’t there last night but I have to say the noise made by are fans was impressive yet again.
So we are three points closer and it appears everyone else thinks we’ve won it. We all know until its mathematically possible it’s not over but more performances like that and the title should be ours. Watching us play when we defend like that pass like that and attack like that I think blimey we’re good. It was however interesting to see our manager post match interview. When asked about Eden, he said yes he should score more and when asked about the Kante twins he said yes we are working with him to improve his game. Got to love the attitude, no bitterness just honest assessment and always wanting more. He is pure class.
Author of “Palpable Discord. A Year of drama and dissent at Chelsea” Published by Gate 17