We’re currently top of the league by four points, a tasty draw in the Champions League on the horizon with the Special One and we’ve just had seen a weekend when our rivals Liverpool and Man Utd got deservedly stuffed. It should be a time to put the feet up, relax and have a jolly old Christmas. Only the weekend wasn’t quite as perfect as we had hoped for with the Blues missing a proverbial sitter and not claiming the three points off Franco’s table-scrapping misfits. Now, what previously looked tricky, looks a very tough encounter on a freezing boxing day. Birmingham are sharp and we need to match them or risk having our wintry lead cut down before we’ve even had a chance to bask in it’s warm glow.
The way I see it is there’s three reasons for our increased anxiety running up to St Andrews. Firstly our form has hit, quite squarely, a blip and we need to add some bite into our play. We lost too many challenges against West Ham and really should have had more power for them to handle. We’re still creating quite a few chances but seem to lack the edge to tuck them away. It doesn’t help that everything that can go against us, (like taking a spot kick three times, random goals conceded off Cech’s head etc) has gone against us. What we need now is a string of four or five wins and to open up a moral sapping gap for our rivals to contemplate as our boys go off on their African Cup jaunt. That first win could really do with happening on Boxing Day.
Secondly, is of course, the African Nations Cup. Since the start of the season every journalist and rival fan has smugly pointed out the players we will be missing in January and how this will derail our season. It’s been a weight around our necks and the closer January gets the more nervously we tally up our points difference. It would be great to have the cushion of a gap heading into next month, there’s no two ways about it. However it’s also worth baring in mind we played without the Drog and Essien for much of last season and still did very well. Think of the players we have to step in – Ballack, Malouda, Joe Cole, Lamps, Deco, Zhirkov and Kakuta. It doesn’t look bad to me. Added to this, Anelka has been one of our finest players of the season so far and Sturridge’s impressive second half appearance was full of promise. We have the firepower to cope for four weeks, no question, now it’s time to prove it.
Thirdly, we have the Christmas Jitters mainly because we’ve been here before time and again. The last two years we’ve thrown more points during the holidays than Phil Taylor. The last couple of seasons our patchy Christmas form contributed to missing out on the title and that’s not easy to forget. If we got a win at an in-form Birmingham and it could really ignite the second half of our season. The reason I think we might do well over the Christmas period is Ancelotti’s excellent use of rotation so far this season. He has rested key players at times, he’s tried to give time to the youngsters when he can and everyone in the squad has been given minutes on the pitch. It means everyone feels involved and is willing to pull together to drive towards the title. Contrast that to Big Phil and even Guus, who often left players on the periphery. Carlo’s selection skills have been very impressive so far and his careful resting policy will hopefully reap benefits during the congested festive calendar.
Here’s hoping for a happy Christmas with Chelsea sitting comfortably at the top of the tree come the new year!