Chances are coming for more and more players at the Blues boss’s disposal, and Chelsea legend Pat Nevin is delighted with what he has been seeing from them when they have their minutes, as he details in this week’s column…
Just like everyone else, I was blown away by the performance against Norwich at the weekend. If I was blown away then think how the Canaries felt on their way home to Norfolk. When you add the similarly dominant performance against Malmo and a combined score of 15-1 over the last four games, it underlines the team can comfortably say they have reacted pretty well to the Man City and Juventus defeats prior to that.No season goes through without some difficult phases, but it is always about the reaction and the question of whether or not the confidence takes a hit. It is hard to imagine a more confident group of players right now and by that, I mean the entire squad. Once again Thomas Tuchel had to rummage around to see what was available and once again he came up with a good few peaches.It is difficult to pass by any player who scores three goals in a Premier League match and I have no intention of doing so, but Mason Mount was only one of any number of players who were well over 8/10 for the day.
He got the hat-trick, the match ball, the man of the match and even a little bit of luck with the penalty re-take going in his favour. He did however deserve that little help as his quality and attitude were bordering on perfection from start to finish.There was a moment just a few weeks back when we were playing a 3-5-2 that some people were asking incredulously, where is there a position for Mason in the Chelsea starting line-up? With wing-back not an option really with so many specialists at the club, the three in the middle being N’Golo Kante, Mateo Kovacic and Jorginho, that only left the two striking positions. A fit and firing Romelu Lukaku having one of them meant one slot was reserved for either Timo Werner, Kai Havertz, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Christian Pulisic, Hakim Ziyech or Mason Mount. Six into one doesn’t go very comfortably, but fortunately football isn’t science and it isn’t maths.
You have to take the chances when they present themselves and Mason along with Callum grabbed the opportunities as if their lives depended on them. Difficult though it may seem sometimes, football almost always gives you an opportunity at some point if you are a good enough player, but you have to be ready and you have to have precisely the right attitude when it happens. Lately, I have watched a few Premier League stars come on, believing they had been slighted by being left on the bench, only to show a less-than-perfect attitude.One player came on in a game and wouldn’t pass to his team-mates because he was so intent on scoring, even if they were in better positions. Unacceptable behaviour even if you are well ahead. It is hard to imagine any current Chelsea player coming on to the field and showing anything like that sort of attitude. First of all, I hope they aren’t the types, but secondly they know fine well the boss would notice and their chances of starting for the next few games would be seriously limited.It is not even personal with Thomas Tuchel, he just expects to see what he wants in terms of attitude and work-rate and if he doesn’t, there is someone else just as talented who will give him that. It all sounds so easy but if it was the case, every player would follow the right path at every club for every game. Maybe Callum is the best example after that sub on and sub off day down at St Mary’s. Thomas wasn’t angry, he just felt he needed the right thing done and for every player to know exactly what that was. Callum wasn’t frozen out or ‘called out’ in public because when he was considered ready again, the manager was delighted to have him back.
It has been the downfall of many a manager over the years when they have ostracised a player only for his services to be needed or for his mates to think, ‘I could get sent to Coventry too’. By that I mean given the silent treatment, not actually sent to the Sky Blues for a season!The fairness and honesty of the manager is why he has the respect of the group. He can leave some of the best footballers on the planet on the bench and they each come on with the right stuff, ready to make a difference. That is quality management, whatever your sport or business.It was a delight to see the Academy boys such as Callum, Mason, Trevoh Chalobah, Reece James and Ruben Loftus-Cheek all having such profound effects on the game, with goals and assists all over the place for them, as well as sparkling performances. The important thing is to continue to do it and tonight would be a great time to build on those performances. I do hope as many of them as possible get another chance to show their quality and have a little bit of a run of games.
It is hard for any player to play well every week, but it certainly helps when you get enough minutes to be able to feel some comfort in the team. Tonight’s game could be against a very strong Southampton side, as they may consider this their best chance of silverware, and remember they were playing well against us before they went down to 10 men a few weeks ago at the Bridge.They should however beware of Chelsea’s first goalscorer. In the last 12 games we have played and scored, the first Blues scorer has been ten different players. The boss will be pleased with that ability to score from anywhere, but I bet the bookies are even happier.