Ahead of this Saturday’s clash with West Brom, I spoke to AlbionTillWeDie.co.uk, outlining my predictions for the match and season ahead. Here are my thoughts:
It’s been an excellent start to the season results-wise for Chelsea, how have performances been?
Performances have been very promising as a whole, but some shaky performances early on in the season and, more recently at Newcastle, cast doubt over whether Mourinho can actually repeat his heroics of 2004 so instantly this time round. Oscar has excelled in his Number 10 role and the furore over Mata losing his position has largely quietened. Some defensive solidity has been restored with the pairing of Cahill-Terry, so the problem involving keeping Luiz happy has to be addressed. The initial worry the reasons as to why the strikers could not score looks to be disappearing with the resurgence of Torres and, more lately, Eto’o at Schalke.
Blues’ fans must have been happy to see the return of the ‘Special One’? will he be given the time previous managers weren’t?
For sure. The Chelsea hierarchy did remark that this was the most peaceful managerial appointment they’ve had for a long time. The anger over Benitez, the hasty arrival of Di Matteo, the optimistic appointment of AVB. Finally Chelsea returns to someone who needs no introduction and has, although he does not want to live off it, bought himself significant time given his successes first time round. Whilst Abramovich shall still be as ruthless as ever, there is a direction seen with Mourinho’s works, and that is why it may pay off for him. A philosophy is always present.
Who’s been the star of your season so far?
The star last season has to be Mata but with him being side-lined, then a new star must emerge and we are seeing it with Oscar. Too young? Too slight? Too Brazilian for the Premier League? The man is having none of it, displaying passing and maturity beyond his age. Much more is to be expected of Hazard whilst Torres has demonstrated very capable perseverance and heart wearing the Chelsea shirt than we have seen for many a long time.
Anyone been particularly disappointing?
Lampard worked so hard for his contract extension last year but, whilst it cannot be said he is sated by that, it must be said his game has to improve. For sure, he has had to sit deeper alongside Ramires, but he did that largely last season, and the choosing of Lampard over Mikel in that holding role is that Lampard offers more going forward. We have seen the one goal but more can come from a man who no doubt shall display his experience and know-how later on in the seasons and dig in deep when it matters.
Thoughts on Fernando Torres? To the neutral he seems nothing like the player he was at Anfield, what’s the general view of him amongst Chelsea fans?
The general feel must be one of continued optimism. The realisation that he can never repay the £50 million fee is very much correct, and nothing can really replace some pretty poor two and a half years. But better to repay as much of it as you can, and soon given age is not on his side. More performances of the heart and soul shown recently will endear himself to frustrated Chelsea fans, but the one thing craved most is goals, hence the enormous love for him with his winner against Manchester City. He must remain as Chelsea’s number one given Eto’o’s still in transition period and Ba is not cut for it, but whilst Torres can have very poor days also, the feel is one of optimism that, like Mourinho worked his magic on Benzema, so too can be rework Torres.
Your view on Romelu Lukaku, most Baggies’ fans were surprised he was allowed to leave on loan again and Everton are clearly reaping the rewards now, should he have been given more of a chance at Stamford Bridge?
I was probably the one fan thinking so but the loan was the right move for him. If anything, his move to Chelsea came too soon. This is a very capable man who can do wonders for Chelsea maybe as early as next year, but his age must not be forgotten. He had the opportunity to learn from Drogba and has put that into practice wonderfully as West Brom, and now at a step up in Everton. A continued good season shall no doubt convince Mourinho that Lukaku is the way forward, but for the decision made this summer, it was very correct in keeping the other three strikers happy and in furthering Lukaku’s overall game time and technical knowledge.
Any particular memories or highlights that stand out from previous Albion v Chelsea games?
A Chelsea versus West Brom always stirs up memories as a manager always seems to leave! Di Matteo, AVB, and whilst Mourinho shall not leave regardless of the result, the importance must not be underestimated. Clarke’s men play some admirable stuff and Mourinho must alter his tactics else Clarke, having worked so closely to the Mourinho method for so long, may suss the Portuguese out.
Prediction for Chelsea’s season? Can you achieve success in both the Premier League and Europe or will one become a distraction for the other?
The Premier League must be the key aim. It must be disappointing for Abramovich to have only won it three times in ten years when Chelsea is a side that can win it every other year, but the emergence of City and internal turbulence at Chelsea has seen United hold strong power still. Mourinho is very true in saying the best team always wins the Premier League. In the cup competitions, one unlucky moment, a controversial refereeing decision, a wrong penalty call, the timing of the match.. All these factors can work against you but in the 38-game League season, they even out and Mourinho will firmly enjoy calling himself a true winner after just one year back.
Prediction for Albion’s season?
I expected a lot of Anelka given I know what he can do after his Chelsea time but stints at Juventus and in China, together with unfortunate personal matters has meant he has suffered. The philosophies and management of Steve Clarke must be admired and as Mourinho said earlier today in his press conference, he was “more than an assistant coach”. Early season struggles should be quickly forgotten and West Brom and Steve Clarke will have enough to see out a top position.
Premier League Champions?
Chelsea! Not being so biased, but I feel we have the best squad and manager who has the experience to see the challenges of City and United out. Arsenal are going strong but I cannot see them not capitulating.
Crystal Palace, Hull, Norwich.
Prediction for Saturday’s game?
One must be optimistic and go for a Chelsea win, particularly knowing the Blues are at home.