The weekend results, great as they have been, have led every to believe that winning the double is now a forgone conclusion. Mine may be the voice in the desert right now but hold your horses lads.
It is true that our fate is now firmly in our hands, which is exactly the situation we want to be in with five games to go. But winning six finals, two of which are away games at Anfield and White Hart Lane, is no forgone conclusion. So here, in my opinion are five things we absolutely have to get right for us to be able to utter those two magical words.
- Thrash Bolton. The Bolton game is not just about the three points at stake. It is about showing that we are the form team at the moment. It is also about improving our goal difference. And it is also about keeping a free scoring run going. It is a given that the three points are the most important thing we have to get out of this game but an efficient, ruthless display is equally important. An added psychological blow to our rivals at this stage is just what the doctor would order.
- Malouda to keep his current form going. Who would have thought that Florent Malouda would end up as our player of the season just fifteen months ago? If ever there was a unanimous feeling amongst Chelsea fans it was that Malouda was rubbish and none of us could wait to see the back of him. But he started coming into his own under Hiddink and has blossomed under Ancelotti, especially when he is one of a front three. In a title race as close as this, one player is enough to tip the scales ever so slightly in our favour. And Flo has been the man this year. I have harped on ad nauseam about the importance of having a player who can beat his man and get to the byline, and to me relying just on the fullbacks is a dangerous ploy. I still rue Robben’s departure but Flo’s form has given us that something extra Robbie used to provide us with. His 14 goals this season make him our third highest scorer, ahead of Anelka who has played more games than him.
- Keep it tight at the back. For all the heroics produced in our title winning seasons by players all over the pitch, our defence was the bedrock on which our success was built. In 200/5 we kept 25 clean sheets, in 2005/6 it was 20 and this year just 14. If we do not concede in our last five games that would still leave us short of our 2005/6 total. Interestingly in 2004/5 we won 11 of our games, that more of a quarter for you mathematically challenged folk out there, by a 1 – 0 scoreline, something we seem genetically incapable of doing this year. We have had only one such result this year, at home to United. The signs are getting better with Alex really looking the part alongside JT.
- No new major injuries. For better or for worse, despite the myriad injuries we have had to contend with this year, we have kept on going. If we keep two out of three central defenders fit that’s the defence sorted out. Zhirkov has filled in well for Ashley Cole, Ferreira, we always knew, is an excellent right back and Anelka is ok when Drogba is missing. The midfield has suffered in Essien’s absence and the juggling around has certainly not helped. But one way or another we have coped. The one big issue is the goalie. Without Cech the alternatives are enough to send shivers down our collective spines. Hilario is a joke while Turnbull, who I have to say did nothing wrong in the few games he played, still does not inspire the confidence we require at this part of the season. To sum up we need at all costs for Malouda, Lamps, JT, Zhirkov (in Ashley’s absence) and Cech to stay fit. And pray god that Essien is back by the time we have to go to Anfield.
- A touch of luck. This certainly never does anyone any harm. It may be a refereeing decision, an opponent missing an open goal or a slip at a vital moment. The FA Cup semi finals encapsulated all this in two instances. Had Howard Webb given Villa a penalty against Mikel (which by the way was not as clear cut as everyone made it out to be) who knows how the game would have panned out. And would Portsmouth have beaten the Spuds had not Michael Dawson slipped for Pompey’s first goal. While we’re at it, just to rub salt into their wounds, Crouch’s disallowed goal looked perfectly ok to me. So there you have it. It’s Chelsea v Portsmouth but it could have easily been Spurs v Villa. On such moments is the fate of a season decided.