PAT NEVIN: FINE BALANCE

Posted on: Mon 24 Dec 2012

Pleased with the early Christmas feast the team served up on Sunday, columnist Pat Nevin discusses what he believes a highly-promising central combination…

It has been an incredible little run at the club, as usual - the Club World Cup, followed quickly by a right royal hammering of Leeds United, a tie that many thought was a likely banana skin for a tired group of players.

In actual fact that second 45 minutes at Elland Road may well be one of the most important halves of the season. I think I witnessed a growth in understanding between the group and the supreme confidence from the early part of the season seemed to seep back into the play.

I kept thinking just before the Aston Villa game, if we get a good start this could be very special because that confidence could grow exponentially. Well done Fernando Torres for giving us just that start and all of a sudden the recently resurgent Aston Villa looked like a very, very average side.

The balance of the team just looked perfect, with the combined power and ability of Frank Lampard and David Luiz in midfield being phenomenal and indeed they were the base of that entire controlled display. It is interesting to note that Rafa is the first man to play those two together in that area when many of us Chelsea fans having been screaming for it for a very long time.

I do not hide the fact that I have been the biggest and arguably longest serving proponent of David Luiz in midfield. On the TV last week I said I felt that our Brazilian could in time be the best player in that position in the world, I will admit it raised quite a few eyebrows when I pronounced it to the nation. Even in the studio afterwards a few suggested that it was a level of hyperbole unlike me, but I argued it wasn't exaggeration but truly how I feel, it is all there if he is given the opportunities and allowed to make some mistakes along the way.

A few Chelsea fans even had a bit of a dig at me when I put him in my team as one of the best 11 Chelsea players in the club's history right at the same time as he was being described as a bit of a clown by many pundits. It is however my honest opinion and I just hope that he and Frank can play together regularly in the side for the rest of the season to find out if I am right.

It would give the duo a chance to grow the understanding but also allow David Luiz to fully get to grips with a position he has only played a few times. Even if he is born for it in my opinion, pacing yourself and working with others in the right areas can be honed further, even if he was man of the match against both Monterey and Villa.

The elephant in the room with Chelsea at the moment is the relationship (or lack of) that many of the fans have with the current manager. I would be a liar if I wrote here that I was desperately keen to see Rafa given the job. What I would like to make clear right now is the initial reason for my reticence and I admit it may have been a bit biased. Where as many fans commented that statements made by Rafa in the past at Liverpool still hurt, they had little or no effect on me at all. For me that was just a manager backing his own club, I didn't like it but I knew why he said those things. My concern was from a player's point of view.

I watched Rafa as a coach and although I admired his success and was impressed by his ability, the absolute need to change his team continually made me worry it was being done more to highlight himself rather than the individual players or the team. As an ex player I may, as I say, have been biased, but it came across as a personality thing. Now some will say this is a bit of a cheek really considering I would allow Jose Mourinho any amount of self-aggrandisement, and that would be a fair point.

This week I watched a Chelsea side with Frank and David Luiz together and I find it incredible that this partnership will be ditched after its obvious success. Now different games do need different tactics and I accept that asking Frank to play all the games in such a compressed period would be nonsense, a certain amount of rotation is clearly needed. Mikel and Ramires will indeed be first choices at various times in front of the centre backs, but surely the balance and the class witnessed against Villa can't be ignored. I really hope that there is a stability found and there are two reasons for that.

First I think this is the best chance of success between now and the end of the current campaign and the second is that I truly believe it will help heal some of the rift between the manager and the fans. We love Frank and what he has done for the club and whereas the world thinks Rafa is here to get the best out of Fernando Torres alone, this is not the case. He is here to get the best out of everyone including our very own legendary midfield goal-scoring sensation.

Benitez, Lampard and Cole

Getting Fernando scoring every week is colossal, moving David Luiz into midfield may only be seeing something that was pretty damned obvious to many of us, but let's not forget no one else had done it before him.

If Rafa can continue this work and get Chelsea scoring 13 goals in three halves while utilising our favourites to the best of their abilities, many more will be willing to forgive, if not totally forget. Christmas let us remember is the time for good will to all men and as such I wish Rafa, the team, everyone at the club and of course you the fans my very best wishes.

Thanks also for the nice present of eight goals and a display of superb skill and magnificent entertainment, could I just ask that we keep trying to do roughly the same things with roughly the same guys for a little while, please.

Last week's quiz question was, Corinthians beat Chelsea but can you name a player who has played for both Chelsea and that other great Brazilian side Santos? The answer was Alex Rodrigo Dias da Costa‏, or Alex to you and me. The winner chosen at random is Wei JiaJun from Singapore.

To have a chance of winning the quiz this week and collecting a copy of the Kings of Europe book, signed by one of the players, could you tell me how many times have Chelsea scored seven or more goals in the Premier League era. Answers as ever to me at pat.nevin@chelseafc.com