Columnist

Pat Nevin: Fast forward

In this week’s column and on the back of Sunday’s win, Pat Nevin spots the ball moving quickly up the field and praises the impact made by players who are giving the squad strength in depth…


There was a whole bunch of narratives from the weekend’s game with Crystal Palace. Certainly the goals by Alvaro Morata became a major story and his hit-rate at the moment is exactly what a centre-forward would want. His confidence is growing and although there have been a few missed chances, classically this is not a bad thing for a striker because he is still getting into the right areas.

Both goals by the Spaniard had a real striker’s instinct, especially with the first touch on both occasions. The finishes then showed a composure that is always there beside self-belief with the best players.
 

There was also a good story with Eden Hazard coming on and immediately drawing a foul before taking the free-kick that led to the breakthrough goal. Clearly he is our talisman and you could feel the uncertainty, and indeed some panic, in the Palace defence when he entered the fray. Most importantly it was great to see him back looking very fit after the back problem that had everyone concerned.

David Luiz amongst others had another fine game but it was something more subtle that jumped out at me. Eden came on and everything changed, but was it all down to him? I personally felt the impact of Mateo Kovacic was at least as important to how we played and vitally, where we played the game.

The discussions and indeed the answers around the Ross Barkley, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Kovacic conundrum are not simple or indeed obvious. It has been a joy to watch the two Englishmen have such a marked impact over the past few weeks. They have scored goals and created a few too, maybe even more than Kovacic, but that should not hide the effect he has on the team.
 

When he came on along with Eden the play seemed to quicken up markedly. The understanding and the impact he has when he is alongside Jorginho is quite incredible, without always being ‘hit you in the face’ obvious. Jorginho seems to grow as well and Sarri-ball becomes slicker and more inventive. It also seems to move the ball quicker up the field much to the concern of opponents.

The two of them weren’t on the field together for that long but in that period we scored two goals and utterly dominated possession. We also looked more likely to create further chances than we had before. It is not a negative comment on Ruben, Ross or indeed Cesc Fabregas when he came on, but the specific game that Sarri wants and we are all beginning to understand just looks that bit more unstoppable when those two are together and on form.

It is however a conundrum because Ruben and Ross have been scoring and remember, Cesc hit the winner last week against Derby County. If only coaching and team selection was easy or indeed an exact science or could be decided on the simplest of statistics then we could all do it.

The game against BATE Borisov on Thursday probably will not give us any real clues as to who Maurizio will choose come the weekend’s vital Premier League game against Everton, but already I am intrigued to see who gets the nod to play alongside N’Golo Kante and Jorginho in that midfield area. In simple terms, it is good to have the options of different styles of player who can ask different questions as the games develop. There actually may be no precise right or wrong call any given week as each player is on good form. As such it is complicated.

I am writing this en route to Belgrade to cover Red Star v Liverpool. What is noticeable is that with Xherdan Shaqiri not travelling, suddenly Liverpool look to have a much more sparse squad than I had thought. If you consider how many changes they can afford to make in their European tie compared with how many Chelsea will make in a couple of days it really is an eye-opener. Of course the circumstances and the competition will have an effect, but the size and quality of our squad is the envy of everyone right now, other than Manchester City of course.

It means that so far even though the manager isn’t rotating that much in the Premier League there is no real concern about burn out yet. This is a problem for others, particularly in a post-World Cup season. Recently I watched Luka Modric and tonight I will once again view Roberto Firmino and you can see they are affected with the games they have played. The likes of Eden, though injured last week, still looks fresh because we have been able to rest him quite a few times already.

So the fantastic unbeaten run continues and the quality of the play is still high along with the style. Now that Alvaro has started banging them in again, it is pretty hard to see any major problems. Let’s hope that lasts.
 

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