So last week when everyone was in the doldrums, understandably, I underlined that whatever the headlines said, things actually weren’t looking that rosy for our nearest rivals Spurs and Arsenal. Since then Tottenham have had a week to forget, crashing out of both domestic cup competitions and leaving the Champions League as their only slight possibility of silverware. Arsenal, similarly, find themselves looking at the Europa league as the only chance left of glory following their capitulation to Manchester United on Friday.
It underlines just how important it is to keep cool even when times look bleak, as they always do when you lose to Arsenal or indeed Spurs. The rollercoaster will definitely keep on going as violently as ever and I suspect those keeping cool heads will emerge at the end in the best state.
The semi-final win against Spurs last week provided one of the best atmospheres at the Bridge for quite some time. It had just about everything in terms of action, but a winning penalty by David Luiz as the final moment of a passion-filled evening will be hard to beat any time soon. It will be interesting to see how they react to these hammer blows. Recent history suggests the reaction to serious pressure isn’t always dealt with effectively in north London.
In contrast, the game against Sheffield Wednesday was something of a procession borne out of total possession. It didn’t used to be like that when we played against Wednesday in my time at the club. It is hard to imagine now, but for a short time we probably had more antipathy towards them than we did towards Spurs or Arsenal. So a three-game epic League Cup tie back in ‘85 did make Saturday’s game look a bit prosaic, to be honest.
It did, however, have its moments; Willian’s goals, the second being an absolute cracker, VAR and of course CHO, that being Callum Hudson-Odoi. It would be unfair not to mention Willian and his performance first as everything seems to conspire to knock him out of the headlines, unfairly most of the time. It also underlines a point about CHO.
I have heard it being said that Callum should be promised a certain amount of game starts as a temptation to stay at Chelsea and, to be honest, I think that might be one of the daftest ideas I have ever heard. First of all, I don’t think it would even be legal in a contract as it would be a restriction of trade for the other players. Secondly, what if he had a terrible time, lost form after an injury or the simplest and most likely scenario, that Willian, Hazard, Pedro, Loftus Cheek, Pulisic or whoever, including the next youngster coming through, was simply playing better and deserved their chance?
This is not a negative towards Callum, I wouldn’t have given Frank Lampard, Gianfranco Zola, John Terry or Didier Drogba that sort of promise. It could destroy team morale in a millisecond.
Happily for Callum and Chelsea, he played fairly well yet again and scored an absolutely brilliant goal. He doesn’t seem to be demanding that sort of promise anyway and is only looking to do what is best for himself as he sees it. Like everyone else who watches the Blues, I would prefer him to sign a new contract with Chelsea and continue learning his trade here. Even if he feels he needs games every week I get that, that could easily be accommodated by a loan for a short period if necessary.
If, however, he does not re-sign I trust there will be limited if any condemnation of the club if they then, with a heavy heart, may eventually allow a transfer to Bayern Munich or whoever for a huge sum of money for such a young player. If the club keeps him on and lets his contract run down to one year it is a risk. If the contract was run down to the end in a year this summer it would be an incredible waste of money, money that could have been reinvested into the Academy that continues to produce fine young players.
The transfer window could bring things to a head but in some senses the club is still in a strong position. So the options are: 1. He signs a new contract, which is good for the club. 2. He is sold. The club loses a fine young player but profits financially. This is still a fairly good outcome for the club, if not perfect. 3. He stays until the summer and is then sold, good but risky (see 4), although he could change his mind in that time and sign up again. 4. He is kept on with no new contract, he keeps learning as the contract runs down until leaving for a pittance and another club benefits from all our work. This is definitely sub optimal for Chelsea!
In amongst all the chat, I just hope whatever happens with Callum, he makes the right choices for his long-term career. He does seem a very sensible, as well as talented, young guy and the thing is he might only know many years down the line if the choices he made were the right ones.
In the midst of that debate, a world-class goalscorer in Gonzalo Higuain started his first game for the club against Sheffield Wednesday. Here is one thing that is absolutely certain about his future at Chelsea. If you give him chances, or even half chances, he will definitely score goals for the club. His movement, his finishing and his hunger is at the very top level and it simply depends on the creativity of others and the speed we can get the ball to him those areas. I hope he gets a few chances against Bournemouth, because a striker with a quick start suddenly plays his football without even thinking about it.
It is another week to savour and if we can beat Bournemouth, which will be very tricky, I’d take a 1-0 right now, then the pressure really ramps up on Arsenal, Manchester United and even Spurs at the weekend who have tougher games on paper than our home tie against Huddersfield.
So, two games and a transfer window shutting in the next five days, as well as a cup final to look forward to after this week’s efforts. It’s a rollercoaster alright, but one we don’t want to get off anytime soon.
And I didn’t even get a chance to mention VAR, except to say I have wanted it for well over a decade and was very happy to have it at the Bridge on Sunday!