With many of the squad now away, Chelsea legend Pat Nevin considers international call-ups in his latest column, as well as how the team beat Fulham and how that was viewed…
I would like to start with a little rant, something annoyed me just a little bit the other day. Listening to an independent radio station in the UK on Saturday (let’s call it Radio Bloke), the description of Chelsea had me coming close to punching the speakers.
Describing the team’s first-half performance, the reporter snidely called it pathetic and useless, the words delivered with gusto, disdain and what seemed like a certain level of enjoyment mixed with spite. He did then deign to accept that the Blues were better in the second half, but the supercilious attitude was beyond infuriating.
Now Chelsea didn’t play that well in the first half. In fact Jose decided he didn’t want to talk to the lads at half-time; I think that was to elicit the correct response which worked. So not the best performance, but the rather recent dismissive attitude from a number of reporters, almost none of whom have ever got close to kicking a ball at a reasonable level, is winding me up. Now I do not want forelock-tugging reverence towards professional football folk, that is just as ridiculous, but I find myself wondering how many of those fearless facetious faces would be quite so brave in front of the individuals they so abuse?
I am a pretty mild-mannered soul generally, but I think it is time to get a little perspective. You might not play well, but the other team are actually trying quite hard to make sure you do not. This type of reporting is just an unwarranted smugness, an unearned condescension and it is catching in many areas of the media.
That feels better, and I didn’t even name any names. As for the game, it was always going to be tough actually. Fulham have a very tight ground, one of the pitches with the least space in the league so Chelsea were always going to find it hard in the early stages. Fulham were and are fighting for their Premier League lives, and they would give no ground while their energy levels were high. It is however very hard to keep that going for a full 90 minutes against a team with quality players, who are fit themselves and have a fair bit of imagination.
Andre Schurrle will be the first to admit he benefitted from the work done by Eden Hazard in particular, who threw off the shackles he has been wearing the last few games. As I say, there are opponents out there trying to stop you, in fact that is what they are professionally trained to do. The German was the principal beneficiary of the Belgian’s brilliance, but he still had to finish the moves off and he does look very good and extremely calm when he is one on one with a goalkeeper.
Plenty of others have a much lower strike rate in those positions and he doesn’t seem to lack self-belief at all when the pressure is on. A hat-trick is a special moment in any player’s career, especially those of us who didn’t get many!
Schurrle has also scored a hat trick for Germany in a 5-3 World Cup-qualifying win against Sweden and this goes some way to explaining why Jose played him up front on his own earlier this season away from home against Manchester United. It certainly is another option open to Chelsea when the situation demands it, and when he gets more used to the technical side of holding the ball up.
I felt sorry for Fernando Torres when he was left out of the Spanish squad to meet Italy this week. After scoring the vital goal away at Galatasaray in the Champions League he must have thought his bad fortune might be on the wane, but no. Each time he seems to get on a little scoring run, there is injury, sometimes suspension, or another setback, like Vicente del Bosque’s latest decision. That is not to say I am angry with the Spanish coach – Alvaro Negredo and Diego Costa are after all in very good form, but it is painful to be dropped so close to a World Cup.
I managed to be in the national squad just before three World Cup finals with Scotland (yes we did used to qualify), but was jettisoned before each of the 1986, 1990 and 1994 competitions, only to be reinstated right afterwards, every time!
It was a touch galling I have to tell you, but then we weren’t in with a great chance of winning the trophy. Spain are, so I hope it can turn around for Fernando and it would be remiss not to flag up the fact that Juan Mata is in precisely the same situation, with Cazorla, Xavi, Iniesta, Silva and Navas, among others, all ahead of him in the pecking order for his role now.
I suppose what that does do is underline just how impressive Azpilicueta has been to push himself into the group. Of course he plays in a different position, but Spain are strong there too, so well done Dave and I hope you get to Brazil.
So as Dave and much of the rest of the squad toodle off on international duties, hopefully it will not leave them exhausted or injured for the run in. With Arsenal in danger of falling at the final hurdle, Liverpool steaming up on the rails and Man City cruising along effortlessly just behind us, this is no time to incur handicaps….actually enough already with the horse analogies! Have a good week and I hope your national team is successful.
Last week I asked ‘What was Chelsea’s biggest win in a competitive match against a Turkish side?’ The answer was of course a 5-0 mauling of our current European Champions League opponents Galatasaray back in 1999. Most seemed to know that without even googling so there were loads of correct answers. As ever there can only be one winner and randomly chosen this week it is Mr Bobur Malikov from Tashkent, Uzbekistan.
Next week to have a chance of being the winner of a prize signed by one of the players, could you tell me who was the player to score a hat-trick in a Champions League game for Chelsea? Answers as ever to firstname.lastname@example.org
Just one bit of housekeeping, always send your name and where you are from with the competition answers, it always helps me!