Momentum is often a forgotten factor in predicting sports results. Bookies, analysts and fans typically focus on the overall quality of the teams at hand, the history of their successes, and the statistics, most of the time focusing around their star players. Yet while we often forget about momentum, the factor itself can decide matches and entire seasons.
If you want an example of this concept, look at Chelsea’s Champions League triumph in 2012. One must look no further for proof of momentum’s impact on football matches. Chelsea had no right winning that final. But graft, determination and a strong run of hard fought results told a different story.
This concept is what makes Chelsea’s match at the Boleyn Ground this weekend a large turning point for their entire season in all competitions.
The Blues come up against a good team in West Ham, who currently sit in 4th place in the Premier League. Players like Payet, Adrian and Enner Valencia are capable of brilliance, and will make the lives of Mourinho and company difficult if given the chance.
However, this fixture’s importance relies less on the quality of the team that the Blues are facing, and more on the run of matches they will have after the weekend.
Chelsea are coming off of two positive results, a win against Aston Villa and a hard-fought draw in Ukraine against Dynamo Kiev. This presents the beginning of a strong run of form for the West Londoners. It’s absolutely vital to their campaign in all competitions that they remain in good form, which requires a win at Upton Park, or at the very least, a resilient draw.
Following their weekend clash, Mourinho’s men are set to take on Stoke City in the Football League Cup. We all know that the Potters will give Chelsea a tough game, with their home advantage. Stoke is always a tough team to play against and a cup tournament is one they can excel in. Especially against a team like Chelsea, struggling for consistency. Mark Hughes’ men will feel that the Blues are there for the taking.
After Stoke, Chelsea will play a tough match at home against a revitalized Liverpool side, with Jurgen Klopp at the helm. While the Merseysiders drew their first match with the German in charge, they looked a new team, one that will cause Chelsea a lot of problems if not carefully dealt with.
Following that Premier League clash, the Blues will host Dynamo Kiev in what now feels like a must win game at home. If Chelsea are to advance in the group stage, they will need to take all three points against Kiev and Maccabi, and hope that they can create a similar environment to the Estádio do Dragão against FC Porto. Only wins or draws will do at this stage in that competition if the Blues seek to advance.
Therefore, with the Blues facing three imperative matches following their Upton Park trip, it is absolutely essential to Chelsea’s campaign that they keep their momentum going. Three points at West Ham, and all of a sudden they take a run of three strong results into their Capital One Cup match against Stoke. That’s much better than facing the Potters just three days after a disappointing result. Should the Blues win both, then playing Liverpool doesn’t seem as daunting of a task for Mourinho’s men. And if that goes well, Chelsea will have put together a run of games which will make fans like their odds in their Champions League match against Kiev.
When trying to rebuild confidence, there is nothing more important than positive, hardfought results. The Blues have two in a row right now. However, keep in mind that they had three in a row against Maccabi Tel-Aviv, Arsenal, and then Walsall. They followed that run of games up with a disappointing 2-2 draw against a (at the time) winless Newcastle and a 2-1 loss to FC Porto on the road.
If Chelsea are to have a positive campaign in any competition, then a strong run of results here are key. Furthermore, the next three matches after West Ham take place in 3 different competitions making it imperative for Chelsea to hit those games with momentum.
Therefore, with Chelsea on the brink of turning the corner, they cannot afford to lose at Upton Park on Saturday. A win or a hard fought draw are the only options for Mourinho and his side, a result they are more than capable of. Look for Chelsea to graft hard, show resilience defensively, and look to catch the Hammers on the counter attack. That’s the Chelsea that is most successful, and that style of play is the Blues best chance to rediscovering their form.
Overall, the side that turns up at Upton Park on Saturday will have a large impact on the rest of Chelsea’s season. It’ll be interesting to see which Chelsea comes to play.