I have been trying to figure out what has been the most pleasing specific moment at Chelsea over the past week or so. It was a fine performance against Man City last Sunday and although not the result we wanted, Cesar Azpilicueta’s penalty into the top corner was fantastic. You officially cannot take a better penalty than that! So it was a great moment in itself but events overtook us on the day and as such it doesn’t get my vote.
By Wednesday there was another fine performance and this time against Spurs, so what was the best moment there? Pedro’s goal was huge and was rewarded with an incredible ear-splitting reaction inside the ground. Then again, what about Pedro’s tackle, then dribble and then step-over inside his own box when the game was poised at 1-0? It took just about every skill and effort in the book to pull that off and a huge dollop of bravery too. I could go on and mention quite a few more instances here but to be honest there was only one contender in this match. The precise moment when Kieran Trippier’s pass back eased passed the charging Hugo Lloris was a joy to behold.
It really was one of those special times when you actually have a few seconds to appreciate what is happening before it ends up over the line. Remember when Fernando Torres broke free at Barcelona and you just knew, long before it nestled in the net, that it was going to be a goal and we were going to win that tie. Some moments have to be savoured and now and again you get to savour them. When you knew that even if the ball slowed down, Willian was there to tap it in anyway, it is a moment that will live long in the memory.
Even so, none of these was my favourite moment of the week at Chelsea. When any player is being hounded in the press and from the stands, mostly by opposition fans, I just love to see him getting some pay back. So even though I could go on about Kepa at this point, I will not because I am thinking purely of Jorginho. Everything that he is supposedly incapable of doing for Chelsea he did against Fulham.
His Kante-like recovery of the ball in the lead-up to the goal was excellent obviously, but the finish itself was exquisite. Many a paragraph ended up heading for the trash icon at that point. Tackling and finishing in one move! His energy has been quite incredible this week and his substitution after 68 minutes was no surprise considering his high-octane offerings in the past eight days. It was actually quite funny that Kepa played a blinder as well and Jorginho scored the winner after so much pressure had been heaped on each of their shoulders. Maybe that is the answer, more pressure and immediately the strong characters will react to it!
There was also an important moment during the Spurs game for Jorginho. After scarcely losing possession for about four months there have definitely been a few more testing times for him of late. Before we scored the opener there was a period of play when seven or eight players needlessly gave away possession in the middle of the park in quick succession. It was so ridiculous that Jason, Ben and I on Chelsea TV just had to laugh at it, especially considering the much higher quality shown throughout the rest of the game. In the midst of it one player got a far bigger groan than the others for his misplaced pass, Jorginho.
As a player you will be aware of this reaction and I thought at that point, it was going to be a real test for him. Would he still be willing to take the ball in dangerous positions with players around him, which is pivotal to his playing style? Will he continue to be brave enough to get on the ball and make the right passes even in deep areas just as the manager wants him to do? Most would just turn and aimlessly hoof the next few balls into space behind that opposition defence and cop out of the hard questions. He absolutely did not do that and I was seriously impressed with him and his strength of character when the pressure was on.
What he will know is that the Chelsea fans will be ready and willing to back him totally, if and when he gets back on his ‘A’ game week in week out. He will also know that Mateo Kovacic is now a trusted understudy in that position. There are very few players who can control the tempo of a game from that deep-lying area and both of them can in the right circumstances.
It nicely sets up preparations for the Dynamo Kiev game knowing that we are back in the hunt for the top four and dare I say it, the top three! With Spurs managing only one point in the last nine, they certainly cannot be confident of that third spot anymore. With their next two league fixtures being away at Southampton and then away at Anfield, Harry and co. will be looking very nervously behind them.
Kiev will however be a tough nut, certainly the hardest tie of the Europa League campaign so far. For this one I would certainly have preferred to have the home tie second, just to be able to control who does and doesn’t need rest a little more. As it is, anything less than a two-goal cushion and we will have to ask all the big players to travel to the Ukraine and maybe slog it out for the entire 90 minutes.
So on Thursday it is really worth going for it this time and absolutely no resting on a single-goal victory. Remember Dynamo have a tough schedule right now as well. They play Chelsea twice with Arsenal squeezed in between and then they face their league champions Shakhtar Donetsk in the national cup quarter-final. Okay, I will admit it is only Arsenal Kiev, but it is a local derby nonetheless.
At this stage of the Europa League the final is actually visible, albeit in the distance. Thursday might sound a little downbeat in comparison to the week Chelsea have already had, but in many respects this could once again be one of the most crucial games of the season. The Europa League can lead to the Champions League of course and today I am in Paris for PSG v Manchester United, and it still hurts that we aren’t there. However much I have enjoyed the Europa League this time round, Chelsea belong in the Champions League.