Unfortunately there is no imminent game with which to put the events of Monaco quickly behind us. In this week’s column, Pat Nevin looks at Friday’s result the implications of the break in club fixtures…
The (not-so) Super Cup was a little bit of a let-down, but maybe some good can come out of the defeat to Atletico Madrid. The start of the season had been a walk in the park, excellent results, maximum points and rave reviews from those who love to watch the beautiful game played beautifully. Just maybe it felt all too easy as Manchester United, City, Arsenal and Liverpool all dropped early points with the Blues now sitting effortlessly atop the table with the maximum nine points.
Those who have been in the game long enough, and indeed anybody who has been watching it for a while, knows that things don’t always go quite so swimmingly. Already a few have started to say that the Manchester duopoly might have a bit more competition than they expected come next May, but realistically Chelsea should still be thought of as outsiders. Too much has changed over too short a period to expect a league title right away. I mean do not get me wrong, we can hope and the players can believe that with a fair wind they have a fighting chance, but I can’t help feeling that some in the media are building our new side up just to be knocked back down with the first league defeat.
I have quite enjoyed Chelsea being the outsiders and the underdogs over the past months; I reckon we should keep that attitude going as long as possible. It decreases the pressure and allows the new players an opportunity to settle in. The reality check that was Monaco should underline that it is still a work in progress, even if the foundations look pretty solid already.
Maybe the biggest disappointment right now is that the good league run was cut short by the fixturing. Missing out this week and then the international week on top of that means there will be 21 days between domestic league games for the Blues. You will often hear managers talking about momentum and there is no doubt that the team had built up a decent bit of that in the opening three games, but three whole weeks is a long time to try to keep that particular pot boiling. Having said that, a good first-half performance leading to a win against QPR and I am sure it will be back to cruise control. As ever though it is the usual fear this next week, will everyone come back from those internationals fit and healthy?
I suspect that this is the worst time for club bosses, they have no control over what their players will be doing, how hard they will work and in what kind of style they will be asked to play. It must be like having a fleet of Ferraris and Jaguars that you love and cherish, only for a group of folk to come along and say ‘we’ll have them for a week, we are going to hammer them into the ground and if they get damaged a bit while we are using them in whichever way we like then, well that’s just bad luck old boy.’
I know it is great to play for your country and no one was more prod than me when I slipped on my dark blue Scotland jersey, but from the manager’s point of view they must be sitting in darkened rooms surrounded by prayer books and scented candles. I bet they can’t even bear to watch most of the time.
It used to be worse than it is now however. There was a period when some nations played a high intensity and low skill style of game that was all about running at full pelt, hoofing the ball and then chasing it at 100mph again. Without mentioning any names, actually I will, under Jack Charlton the Republic of Ireland were not the most pleasing on the eye unless you happen to be a fan of Stoke City or the old Wimbledon FC.
Goodness knows how the club managers must have felt when their players jogged out of the club looking the picture of health only to return just shy of a wheelchair.
Actually I better stop this theme; I am beginning to worry myself about it now. Every one of the top clubs is in the same boat. We would be devastated if something happened to Hazard or Torres, but how would Manchester United feel if RVP was injured? Apparently he has had one or two periods on the treatment table before. Or indeed how would Man City react if Vincent Kompany was crocked?
For all the top players in the Premier League at the moment, most teams have still got one or two players who are irreplaceable, we all know who they are and we all want them to stay fit, well we do if they play for our club anyway.
The clubs do get financial compensation these days through an insurance scheme paid for by the national associations, but that is just for wages when they are unavailable, it doesn’t deal with you having to put a midfielder in at centre back and consequent dropping of valuable points. One manager once made the case to me that he felt he ultimately lost his job because a couple of his players got long-term injuries while on international duty. There was nothing he could have done.
So while you watch our lads play for their national teams and shout on your own country just remember there will be one or two who are suffering back home and privately wishing that the internationals weren’t happening at all!
Last week I asked who we last beat in the Super Cup. It was of course Real Madrid and it has to be said there were a huge number of you that got it right. In fact it was the biggest ever set of correct entries I have ever had for this quiz. Note to self, make the questions a wee bit tougher from now on. Only one winner can be chosen randomly and this week the lucky winner is Stephen Fitzjohn all the way down in New Zealand, though he assures me that he is a lifelong fan. Well done that man.
This week’s question is, by the time the Chelsea players come back from international duty next week, how many goals will they have scored in total in those games? Maybe Frank will score a hat trick and Eden will get a goal in both his games, that would mean a total of five. You get the idea. I am only counting full internationals, not Under-21s etc. and the player cannot be someone on-loan at another club.
I am guessing there will be far fewer correct answers this time round. Answers/guesses must be in by noon UK time Friday at the latest.
And those answers should be sent to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and the lucky winner chosen randomly from those who get it right will receive a copy of the Champions League DVD, signed by one of the players involved.
Remember as well, we might have lost to Atletico Madrid in a glorified friendly but we are still Champions of Europe and are currently top of the Premier League as well as holders of the FA Cup, I think we should still be smiling and mentioning it to friends who misguidedly support other clubs.