PAT NEVIN: TAKING SHAPE
As he points out in this week's column, there is little time to sit and analyse how the season is shaping up before the next intriguing game or event, but former star player Pat Nevin tries his best…
As ever at this time of the year there is plenty to think about at any football club. The games are coming think and fast and happily they are passing by in a very positive way at the moment. I thought the Stoke performance at times was very special - total domination, slick and fast passing and on any other day a final score line of 3-0 or 4-0 would have been more likely on the balance of play.
Hardly a breath was taken before finding out that there would be the small matter of a trip to The Etihad to deal with in the next round. Although an incredibly difficult task, it is one I think every Chelsea fan will have more belief in now than we would have had four or five months ago. The team method looks so much more solid most of the time these days and I think we are all fairly aware of the main reason for that. This is now a tie that can be faced with relish instead of trepidation.
Hardly another breath can be taken and the visit of the Hammers has to be prepared for. It immediately made me think about their old boy Frank Lampard and how much he would like to be in the starting line up for that one; however badly the visiting fans treat him. I thought Frank looked incredibly sharp and lively in the Stoke game, so while I am sure he hates sitting out any fixture, managing his legs correctly could well get us another couple of years out of him, at least.
Of course you can only take care of your own games, but it is hard not have a little look at your oppositions' fixtures. Arsenal have a very tricky tie away at Southampton on Tuesday, while Man City are up in Tottenham on Wednesday as we entertain West Ham. I am not sure all three teams at the top of the table will take all three points in each game, but the advantage is with the Blues in this round for sure.
There is still no time to take stock before we have to consider the transfer movements over the past week. Nemanja Matic arrived/returned, then played 90 minutes and immediately looked totally at home in the middle of the field. To me his signing underlines that the manager has a very specific vision and plan for this club, and it is already way ahead of the schedule he probably set himself.If we ever have to get an away draw in Europe the boss could decide to field a 4-3-2-1 formation. Jose has used this already with us this season. If the three defensive midfielders were Matic, David Luiz and either Mikel or Lampard, then I don't care how talented you are on the ball, how intricate your passing, all I would say is good luck getting by that lot! I think Matic is and will be a genuinely brilliant buy for this club.
It would however be slightly ridiculous not to take a moment to consider one man who has left the club this week, the much loved Juan Mata. To be honest and it sounds odd, however much I admired the man and the player I actually secretly wanted him to leave the club in this window. Shocking as this may sound; I just felt that football in its widest sense deserves to see Juan Mata on a field entertaining us every week. I think Jose Mourinho has been extraordinarily honest about the situation and the game against Stoke was the perfect example of why it was always going to end up this way.
Watching Oscar, Schurrle and Hazard, then Ramires and Willian, and even noticeably Frank Lampard closing down players so quickly so high up the field, so often it underlined that this is a style not ideally suited to Juan. He has such incredible qualities but a physique and natural ability to do that at the level that Oscar does really isn't among them.
That is not to say he can't do it or that he wasn't clearly trying to do it to the very best of his ability, he clearly was, but some things you quite simply just aren't built for. When I was playing I was fairly quick, but I could work on my speed every single day all day and I would never be the top sprinter at any club I was at. The correct physique wasn't there for that precise speciality. Therein lies the dilemma and I was beginning to see Juan looking like a caged bird on that bench and in the stands, and eventually the caged bird sings of freedom.
If this all sounds a bit heartfelt it is because I had such an intimate understanding of his position. When I left Chelsea after five years, the fans having been brilliantly supportive of me throughout, giving me two Player of the Year awards just like Juan, I absolutely did not want to leave the club. I was sold to Everton, but no attempt was made to offer me a new contract. The club needed the money to help rebuild the team (£925,000 was a lot of money then, the British transfer record fee was only around double that figure at the time), the direction was changing and I wasn't being asked along for the journey.
I admit I felt hurt at the time, even if I did get a great move to Everton but even so I would never have said a negative word about the club to the media at the time. There was too much affection between me and the supporters for me to go crying to the papers moaning about leaving, or feeling forced out. I figured it out fairly quickly, the club carries on, these things happen in football, the club is trying to do what it thinks is best and there is no reason why it should darken the memories of great times. Juan Mata will still be one of my favourite footballers in the modern game, even if he is wearing a Manchester United top and I suspect most Chelsea fans feel exactly the same. When asked the other day if I thought Chelsea fans would abuse him when he finally turned up at the Bridge again I said no, it didn't happen to me…even when I scored against us at the Shed End. Good luck Juan and thanks you for everything you did for the club and the entertainment you provided.
Last week's question was maybe a little confusing I grant you, hence there were quite a few different answers suggested by you all.I asked 'Could you tell me the Chelsea player (including former Chelsea players) who most recently won a World Cup winners' medal?' I'll be honest I was looking for the answer to be Juan Mata or Fernando Torres, but that question wasn't very clearly put I agree. So Frank Leboeuf or Marcel Desailly for France could also be read as reasonable answers. How about Claudio Pizarro, who won a FIFA Club World Cup winner's medal with Bayern Munich in December? Actually I did write World Cup not Club World Cup.
I believe the correct answer - and hands up here I didn't realise - is actually Yuki Ogimi, from the Chelsea Ladies' team, who won the 2011 WC with Japan. So well done to those who got that right from the bucket loads of entries and they were Jon Wills, Ntamack Alix, Fran Murtagh, Suhail Abbaas,Tom Charnock, Jingna Tang, Liam Kelly, Stephen Osborne, Vaughan Harrett, Alison Davies, Andy North, Terry Lynch,Simon Torrington, Keiron O'Donoughue and Allison Fradgley.
Only one winner allowed and randomly chosen it was Simon Torrington from Hove in East Sussex. Well done, the prize will be sent out soon.
This week to have a chance of winning a prize signed by one of the players, could you tell me with Chelsea having a good relationship with Vitesse currently, who was the first player to play for both clubs? Boy these questions are getting tougher! Answers as ever to me at firstname.lastname@example.org