Why Chelsea's Able Deputy Loic Remy Is The New Solskjaer (Or The New Christopher Wreh)


It may have been an “easy goal”, as Jose Mourinho put it about Loic Remy’s latest match-winner against Stoke City, but the Chelsea manager was fully appreciative of the hard work that goes into making it look like that.

“When Eden [Hazard] recovered the ball, you could see immediately he sprinted to score what I call an easy goal, but I love strikers to score easy goals: the tap-in when the goalkeeper has an incomplete save, attack the ball in a low cross, rebounds - I love the easy goals from a striker.”

When Mourinho was asked whether that was down to instinct, he said it was something that “every striker has”, but the reality is that Remy this season also has something rather rare to all but a very particular brand of striker.

He has displayed an extraordinary capacity to retain optimum sharpness, and score some big goals, despite not playing all that much.

Hull City v Chelsea - Premier League : News Photo

Remy is likely to get many more minutes over the next few weeks in the absence of Diego Costa, but they still may not be as important as what he’s already done, given the lead the stand-in striker has helped create.

The goal against Stoke was his second successive match-winner and the third time in his last seven appearances that he has hit a key strike, starting with that first against Manchester City in the 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge.

Such an ability can genuinely be the difference between winning a title and not, as the history of the English league has proved.

After all, no matter how supreme your main striker is, there will always be a point when it’s just not happening for him or he’s not available. Having the right deputy is essential, and arguably of understated importance.

He’s got to have the type of mentality that ensures he’s patient about his chances of starting, but then the right physique to ensure he can seize such opportunities when they come, in every sense.

Added to all that, then, there’s that required ability to score at clutch moments.

It is a mix that’s hard to find, and can be even more difficult to recover.

31 Mar 1998:  Arsenal striker Christopher Wreh celebrates scoring the winning goal : News Photo

Relive the 8 Defining Matches in Arsenal's 1997/98 Double-Winning Season

Take one of the most unexpected such players in English league history. Christopher Wreh did very little before arriving at Arsenal ahead of the 1997-98 season, and even less after leaving, but for about a month towards the end of that campaign he was one of their key players.

With Nicolas Anelka missing and Arsene Wenger’s side still not at full steam as they trailed Manchester United, they badly needed a jolt during an awkward trip to Wimbledon.

Wreh provided it, hitting the only goal of the game after 21 minutes. That moment had an importance even beyond that match. The victory was the first of a 10-game winning streak that took Arsenal to the title, and provided a timely boost ahead of their next match: that famous visit to Old Trafford when Marc Overmars scored the only goal.

Wreh also perpetuated the run just when it seemed like flagging, again hitting the only goal of a game as they beat Bolton Wanderers away 1-0.

His role in that side’s success should not be under-estimated, nor should the importance of that type of role.

Many of the best champions over the past few decades have had that type of player. Wreh is part of a line that includes the likes of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (directly responsible for six points as back-up in 1998-99), Edin Dzeko (an amazing 16 in 2013-14), Ronnie Rosenthal (five in 1989-90) and now maybe Remy.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer of Manchester United : News Photo

Solskjaer used to be perfect for the manner he would intelligently size up a game from the bench, as he forensically picked out potential avenues of attack or weaknesses.

To further illustrate the importance of that, you only have to consider the runners-up that didn’t possess that type of striker.

Once the free-scoring Wayne Rooney got injured in 2009-10, Manchester United didn’t see enough of a pick-up from either Dimitar Berbatov or Michael Owen, and slipped away.

The English striker doing his ankle was arguably the key moment in the title race.

Many might have thought the same about Costa’s injury on Saturday, had it not been for Remy’s input in the previous game against Hull City - when he scored the winner there - and what he did next. He rendered the Premier League top scorer’s absence irrelevant, at least for the Stoke game.

“It’s the way he trains,” Mourinho said, when asked about how Remy retains that edge. “He trains fantastically well. He keeps himself in great condition to come to matches, even without many, many minutes to be ready for us… his contribution is already crucial.”

Chelsea need it to continue, but Remy has already shown something rather rare.

This title could come down to him as much as any of their stars.

 

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