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Monday, November 07, 2005

The big questions for Chelsea and Man Utd

Yesterday, Chelsea saw their excellent 40 match unbeaten run end at Old Trafford which has historically been a happy hunting ground for them. This now raised several very interesting questions that only time and games can answer.

Firstly to the victors. Over the past month or so Utd have been getting lots of bad press regarding their performances and a few hacks have once again tried to suggest this could be the end of the Utd era. While there has certainly been cause to question Utd that did seem a little premature. Inept and soulless performances against Boro and Lille left even their own captain questioning the commitment and ability of members of the squad. This appeared to have the desired affect as against Chelsea the team played with more purpose than in any other game this season.

Ferguson, having clearly taken note of the suggestions from this board, dropped the 4-5-1 and went with the tried and trusted 4-4-2 and with great results in the first half where Utd deserved their fortuitous lead. The defence also answered a few critics as they defend as a team and held strong against wave after wave of Chelsea attacks in the second half.

The big question for Utd is can they now keep it going? It’s easy to raise your game for the visit of the Champions and big pressure cooker games but with the less glamorous games of Charlton and West Ham to come after the international break will the passion and desire clearly on display yesterday still be there? Will Ferguson stick with the 4-4-2 that worked so well yesterday?

As for Chelsea everyone has been waiting for them to lose a game to see how they will react. Much has been made of how Arsenal felt the loss of their unbeaten run at OT last year was a psychological blow that sent their form into a tail spin. Will the same now happen to Chelsea?

One thing in Chelsea’s favour is that there was not the emotional investment in the game that Arsenal had last year. The game ended and the players and management teams shook hands (although the Chelsea side of things looked understandably glum). Last year after Chelsea lost, again in Manchester, to City they went on a run of seven straight wins. Can they put in that sort of run again to get back on track?

I also think the international break can help. Usually teams claim they would like a match as soon as possible to set things right but I feel that with the (as yet only minor) wobble Chelsea have had a pause for reflection and to catch our breaths can be just what the doctor ordered.

The run of games up to Christmas will go a long way to answering both of the big questions. Are Utd back? And has Chelsea’s bubble finally burst?



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well the only reason why Arsenal fell into pieces after the defeat to Man Utd was because of the fact that they felt truly robbed by the penalty which was the result of the dive by Rooney.Also,Man Utd and Arsenal were already at loggerheads way before that game because of the van nistelrooy penalty miss and the brawling the year before.Add that and the fact that their 49th streak was put down by "a dubious penalty", and all the clashes of ego they've had way way before,it was quite unsurprising that Arsenal reacted so badly to that defeat.Jose and Ferguson are the scum of the same pot, and I wouldn't be surprised that they keep themselves in check when it comes to accusations and cries of foul, as both of them know what each other is capable of,in the psychological riff raff sense i mean.

11/08/2005 8:26 am

Blogger RedsMan said...

Surely Arsenal were psychologically strong enough to get over the 2-0 OT defeat? They went on to record 5 wins, 4 draws out of their following 10 games, and made 2nd place. If that's falling to pieces, the rest of the Premiership would like to suffer likewise.

Blindjak, it is possible for Chelsea to suddenly show a hint of concern in their form. They enjoyed a run from last season of win after win, with strong displays too, and the confidence must have been on an eruptive level. Having secured that strong form into this season, they now find that despite their strengths, they couldn't call those strengths to their fullest in the games leading to defeats. They considered they were strong enough to go undefeated, though Lampard had stated the side didn't believe they could (something I think was a smkescreen for their true beliefs).

But if Arsenal's form after their unbeaten run ended is to be compared with, then Chelsea will have little to no concerns. I suspect that Mourinho feels his side are far stronger than Arsenal were last year, it is approximately around the same time too, and is aiming to make the OT defeat the only one, just as Man City's defeat was last season. The questionable thing is in Mourinho's words, where it was stated (in reference to Sir Alex) in the press before the game, he said he would expect to be sacked after 3 defeats.

As for Man Utd, they at least know how to maintain a victory. Their question is how they can maintain a run. Why did they come out the stronger in the first half and then recoiled in the second? OK, they were playing Chelsea, but they face Charlton in two weeks at The Valley. Sides like Charlton, West Ham, Wigan, Bolton, Spurs, are positioned well to challenge, and they too could seek to hit a Man Utd side, or any side, who come at them and then stay back to absorb attacks. That is something Sir Alex is not content to display from his side. He will appeal for a lot more Alan Smith performances from most, if not all, game by game from now on.


11/08/2005 9:57 am

Blogger BlindJak said...

Your right that Arsenal ‘poor form’ of 5 wins and 4 draws and 1 loss in the 10 games after the Utd loss last season is by most standards pretty decent. But it’s not championship form, by current standards, and allowed Chelsea to go from 5 points behind to 5 points ahead in very short order.

Chelsea should show concern for their recent form but there is no need to panic. After all on most other days our second half display would have secured a draw. If we do panic then it will only lead to more points dropped. This is why I reckon the international break will help us as it gives us time to calm down and asses our form calmly. All the tools are there to go on another extended unbeaten run but they need to remember how to use them.

And Jose knows full well he could lose 4-5 games on the spin and not be sacked. Jose is well known for using the press to attempt to gain psychological advantage or to deflect pressure from his players. The quote was aimed at Fergusson to put the pressure on him and remove it from Chelsea. Which worked as the press concentrated on his various comments and little on the actual game itself.

11/08/2005 11:31 am

Blogger T said...

Big questions indeed BlindJak: I don't think the OT match will be a major turning point for Chelsea who played well and could have no complaints with the result; but I think Man Utd may be buoyed by the win and the clutch of players soon to return from injury. Good results in European qualification match against Villareal and Benfica may further help Man Utd revive.

I agree with your point about emotional investment flowing from the respective OT games for Chelsea and Arsenal.

Following on from anon, Arsenal left the pitch knowing they were cheated out of a wonderful record-breaking run by a blatant dive, dirty tactics, and incredulous refereeing. This hurt, ran deep, and affected the teams' zest for the game for the next couple of months.

Chelsea left the pitch on Sunday knowing they were beaten fair and square. No feeling of injustice, no complaints, no negative emotional burden to hamper zest for the game.

Redsman excellently points out that the Arsenal record following the defeat was not that bad, which lazy spourts journalists'and pundit's (Hansen again- he is so overrated and does not research his points!!) typically fail to recall- instead reframing history as if we hopelessly collapsed into a run of defeats. Our main problem was that Chelsea raced by us with a run of wins that BJ refers too- as we drew games that we should have won.

Mourinho is right to point out that no one is threatening Chelsea with a similar run to over-take them this season round.

11/08/2005 11:59 am

Blogger T said...

Would like to add my admiration for Chelsea's unbeaten run of 40 matches. I definitely didn't want them to overtake the Arsenal 49ers, but respected their remarkable consistency and would have had no complaints if they had ecplised us to reach 50 not out.

11/08/2005 12:28 pm

Blogger RedsMan said...

Ditto those compliments, T, congratulations to Chelsea, and I think that makes them third highest in all European leagues behind Arsenal. AC Milan went 58 games, Arsenal 49, Chelsea 40, Real Sociedad 38, Hamburg 36, Nantes 32.

I wish to add to the Hansen bewilderment - he said on MOTD the three strikers at Liverpool are worringly inconsistent, missing chances against Villa. Missed they certainly were, I would have expected better efforts even if they failed to score, but inconsistent? Didn't Morientes and Cisse finish off in style in the week? But this wasn't focused on.

Clearly Liverpool need to bring more from their current European performances into the Premiership, but the plus side is the amount of chances they make. Soon they will begin to count and I said before I feel sorry for that team when they do. Well, to be honest, no, I wont!


11/08/2005 12:56 pm

Blogger BlindJak said...

Reds, don't forget Forrest with 42 above us.

11/08/2005 1:18 pm

Blogger RedsMan said...

Thanks for the correction, BJ.


11/08/2005 11:01 pm


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