PAT NEVIN: BRING IT ON
After a summer of sport, it is back to the bread and butter of Premier League football for the TV pundit and former Chelsea winger, who sees an exciting new talent in the ranks...
There was a great support up at Villa Park for the Community Shield game v Man City and the fans certainly got plenty of incidents for their troubles. As ever not much should be taken from this tie, even though it was competitive bordering on antagonistic, it is still a glorified friendly when it comes down to it.
What could be learned from it in the end? Well the fighting spirit hasn't deserted the team that is for sure. At 3-1 down my radio commentary for the BBC had us down and out, but somehow even with 10 men against an extremely powerful City side there was sufficient pride to get another goal and push to the death.
Things were however a bit ragged, most noticeably in a few late or mistimed challenges that resulted in cards, both red and yellow. This isn't really particularly unusual in pre-season, as players are almost always a little ring rusty.
Of more concern for some might be the way Man City dominated the midfield. Now without getting involved in a tactical and technical seminar, City got the tactics right in playing three centre-backs and no full-backs, the 3-5-2 system effectively giving them an extra man in the engine room. City will not be able to do that all season, and if they try it without Vincent Kompany I predict disaster, but what it meant was that Juan Mata and Eden Hazard struggled to shine because they were denied any space. John Mikel Obi was closed down and harried continually as well and he found it difficult to impose himself to any degree. Still it is a long way from panic time; this is still the phoney war even if there was a medal to be won.
City fans had a particular rant at Hazard, mainly due to what they perceived was a dive early on. If he did go down too easily I suspect fans and referees will be quick to tell him that the culture is a little different in England to some of the continental leagues. It isn't however the only cultural problem he will have and do not be surprised if he doesn't hit the heights every game, every week for the entire 90 minutes early on this season, as there is a lot to learn for the youngster.
Coming in to the Premier League as a defender is slightly easier, all you have to do is destroy and learn the system your other defenders are using. Creative sorts have to learn the new culture, the style of the game, the strengths and weaknesses of the opposition they do not yet know. They also have to fully understand the strengths and weaknesses of their own team-mates. Simple things such as letting them know how and where you prefer to receive possession.
This may sound silly but don't bother thumping the ball over the full-back's head for Eden to chase as he isn't Theo Walcott. As far as I can see our new boy actually seems almost to run faster with, rather than without, the ball. He needs it to feet every time, then when his confidence is up and he understands the dynamics of the English game a bit better, we should see some special things.
The City fans were also quick to abuse him when he tripped as he tried a dummy, but certainly any knowledgeable football fan will know that he needs time before any real judgement can be made, he may well have the last laugh against the current league champions. One thing is for sure, the kid can play. I am very confident that by the end of the season he will be a firm favourite with the Stamford Bridge crowd.
I talked last week about the importance of creativity in midfield for the sake of Fernando Torres. Give him the chances and he will score, well this time he got one chance and surprise, surprise it was in the net before City could react. Give him three or four each week this season and I suspect the joint top scorer in the Euros will not be far off top scorer in the Premier League.
If Fernando had a good summer winning three fairly important gold medals in quick succession, he was only mirroring what the Brits were going to do at the Olympic Games.
The country and specifically London showed itself in the very best of lights over the past few weeks. The city can be rightly proud of what it gave to the world in what was a magical sporting occasion. Seb Coe (a real Chelsea fan) led us in the Olympics and how must he have felt after his beloved Blues gave the capital such a great start to the summer by becoming European champions over in Munich. Maybe he can justly claim to be the most satisfied Chelsea fan right now.
There is an incredible and understandable optimism in this country for its sport after the Games but some have been quick to abuse footballers in comparison to the exploits of the Olympians. Far from being perfect I am the first to accept, it is still worth remembering the end of last season in the beautiful game. The last seconds of the title race, the final kick in Munich, the celebrations after the FA Cup Final and some of those incredible high-scoring encounters throughout the season can't be ignored. The actual game of football and Chelsea in particular finished on a high; let's hope there are plenty more of them to come this time round.
So even though I was at the Euros and watched the Olympics until it was coming out of my ears, I have to say I've missed English football and I bet I am not the only one. So bring on Wigan at the weekend and bring on the joy, the despair, the elation and the anguish, because you can bet your bottom dollar Chelsea will provide it... once again.
PS - For all those who have asked, hopefully I will be able to get the quiz back up and running by next week.