Chelsea Are Top Of The Christmas Tree
Being top at Christmas doesn’t necessarily guarantee that you’ll win the Premier League – Liverpool were up there last season – but it does at least show that you’re heading in the right direction.
With the gauntlet thrown down to them by the strikerless Manchester City’s win over Crystal Palace at the beginning of the weekend, Chelsea responded with a clever, composed display which ensures that they’ll be the Christmas No. 1s.
They might well be the May ones too.
John Terry Will Always Be An Attacking Threat
Consistently one of the highest-scoring defenders in the Premier League, John Terry’s threat from set pieces can never really be overlooked but can often be understated.
Whether that’s because Terry is who he is is another matter, but there are very few defenders in modern European football who are as effective in both boxes as the erstwhile England man. His second minute goal here settled Chelsea into the game and was, he’ll be delighted to read, every inch a ‘captain’s goal.’
Stoke Were Never Allowed To Find Their Rhythm
Stoke remain the most difficult team to read in the Premier League. Obviously they can’t be judged too harshly for losing to Chelsea, but the defeat now sits alongside home losses to Burnley and Leicester, whilst they’ve beaten Arsenal at home and won at Tottenham and Manchester City.
When they are on their game they can be difficult to stop, but they never got anywhere near to finding their rhythm against a Chelsea side who specialise in shutting you down. Peter Crouch’s early substitution was a sign that Plan A wasn’t working, and there wasn’t really a Plan B.
Mourinho Is Still The Master Of Adapting
There was a famous game against a Mark Hughes-managed Blackburn Rovers in Jose Mourinho’s first title winning season in 2004/05. It started with an early Arjen Robben goal, featured a Petr Cech penalty save from Paul Dickov and ended with the Chelsea players throwing their shirts to their travelling supporters after grinding out an incredibly tough 1-0 win. Many saw it as a key result in their title challenge.
This wasn’t quite in that bracket (Chelsea went 11 points clear that night) but with the selection of John Obi Mikel in midfield alongside the again excellent Nemanja Matic, Mourinho was acknowledging that Chelsea were here to battle.
They did just that, and seemed to relish it too.
Phil Bardsley Wanted Christmas Day Off
Obviously the thought of a guilt-free Christmas dinner was uppermost in Phil Bardsley’s mind in the first half, and it was a preferable one to a Boxing Day trip to Everton.
Bardsley should have been sent off for his 20th minute hack on Eden Hazard, thereby earning a suspension for the visit to Merseyside, whilst after he was booked for the lunge he was the fortunate to escape with some shirt-pulling.
Better luck next year, Phil.
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