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Pat Nevin: Three signs things are going well

As the dust settles on the stellar second-half performance at Spurs, Chelsea legend Pat Nevin wishes he had been able to watch one of the stars of the show years ago, and wonders if anyone predicted the goalscorers…


The dust has just about settled after the stellar second 45 minutes against Spurs at the weekend. I have already heard it said a handful of times by the football cognoscenti that ‘people have to sit up and take notice of Chelsea this season’. Well if they sit up any more their craniums will be nestling against the ceiling.

It is hardly a secret now that the Blues look like the real deal with the players, system, tactics and management all appearing in prime mid-season form already.

Weaknesses are hard to spot at the moment, particularly the one Thomas Tuchel is constantly aware of - any propensity to relax, take the foot off the gas and drop the intensity. It is always on his mind and he regularly talks about the danger. With his personality and a subs’ bench that would embarrass most other starting line-ups in the division, that however is unlikely to happen any time soon.

Many things stood out this week but when even the areas that might at a push be considered something close to weaknesses suddenly start working, then it is doubly impressive. I am speaking specifically of goalscoring here.

Against Aston Villa, Mateo Kovacic scored with a neat finish after winning the ball back to douse the impressive spirit of Villa on the day. The fact that he doesn’t score enough from midfield was maybe the only minor grouch the fans have had against Kova of late, and now even he is getting in on the act.

With the slight danger of repeating myself almost word for word, there are very few parts of N’Golo Kante’s game that anyone would have the gall to suggest are weak, but yes it is true that his scoring ratio from midfield isn’t exactly Lampard-esque. Here again though, up pops N’Golo to score against Spurs after they kindly ushered him into acres of space to have a pop.

For goodness sake, he was even giving interviews on Match of The Day! I am never going to record over that, it is rarer than a 20-yarder from our genius number 7. The sight of one of his rare finishes is something that is impossible to watch without grinning at, even after the 14th replay.

Clearly Toni Rudiger decided it was time to get in on the act too. He has grown into something of a cult hero with the fans at the Bridge. I mean, how many players do the fans love to see having a shot from 35 yards, knowing there is every chance it will sail into the second tier of the Matthew Harding, but still absolutely want him to do it? And then applaud him, even when it soars majestically over the bar?

That is the level of love for the guy and for what he is giving to the club right now. So when he got on the scoresheet for his seventh league goal for the club at the Lane, his joy was only matched by that of the fans. There is a fair dispute about who gave the better dance routine, Toni himself or the massed ranks of Chelsea fans in the corner.

His mate at centre-back, Thiago Silva, is not a regular scorer either but he is always dangerous from corners and was desperately unlucky not to get a brace on the day. For anyone who had bet on 3-0, with those particular scorers, may I just say I hope you enjoy your well-earned retirement on your winnings.

The Brazilian himself gave what can only be considered a masterclass in the art of defending as a true footballer. There is a grace about his play at the moment that just oozes class. We have been fortunate to have had some of the greatest defenders in modern history at this club, but when you take everything into consideration, I suspect that at his peak there may have been few if any that scaled his heights. The fact he is playing with this quality at his age in the Premier League makes everyone watching think the same thing, ‘How good would it have been to watch him in the flesh over the last 10 or 15 years at Chelsea?’

As a player with a decent-ish scoring record, there was always something extra special when one of the players who rarely scores pops up with one. When he is particularly popular within the group it is extra special with bells on. Goal celebrations are always joyous, but there is something different that is hard to describe but easy to witness when you see that player being mobbed by the entire team, just as Toni and N’Golo were. There have been many glorious memories at Spurs in recent years, but these moments are right up there with any I can recall.

If you are thinking about goals it is impossible not to mention the passing of Jimmy Greaves this week. If you have the vaguest interest in football, even if you are very young and knew little about Greavsie before this week, you will understand now by the reaction just how incredible he was. Without doubt, one of the game’s great players and great people has left us and he is painfully missed by all, no matter who you support.

I suspect there will be just a few left in the stands at Stamford Bridge tomorrow who actually saw Jimmy in the flesh grace our pitch playing for the club. They were the fortunate ones and I hope his name is rung out one more time for his and their benefit.

The game itself should be interesting enough, whoever takes to the field. With this cup tie sandwiched between Spurs and Man City, with Juventus in the offing, it makes sense to shuffle the pack more than a concerned croupier in a casino. This doesn’t mean that Thomas Tuchel or anyone is disrespecting the Carabao Cup. This is why you have a squad, so it can be utilised and made ready for when it is needed. I certainly wouldn’t feel short-changed whoever the manager chooses. With the right spirit, that team will be good enough to progress in this competition.
 

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