Stuttering to the top

September 26, 2006
By Trizia Fiorellino, Soccernet's Chelsea Correspondent
(Archive)

Chelsea must be infuriating the opposition even more than usual at the moment because not only are we winning, but we are winning without even playing particularly well.

GettyImages / PhilColePapa Bouba Diop deals with Andriy Shevchenko, who is yet to hit top form

I must admit to being worried when I saw that John Terry would not be playing against Fulham; mild panic ensued when I realised our centre back cover was also injured. And I admit I started hyperventilating when I saw that Jose had decided to put countryman Ferreira in the middle.

Jose is The Special One and we trust him, but Ferreira has looked a little lightweight when he's been played IN position, so I was understandably nervous. But he did well. Jose went as far as to name him his man of the match and jokingly warned John Terry to be worried about his place. He did what was necessary, but I don't think JT will be having any sleepless nights.

How Michael Brown managed not only to stay on the pitch, but not even to get a booking is beyond me. He had every right to go for the loose ball against Cech - but he went high and over the ball slamming his studs into the keeper's shoulder - then had the cheek to shout for a penalty. But he wasn't finished.

The tackle committed on Ashley Cole was little short of assault. This wasn't a one off mis-timed tackle; this boy has previous. The X-rated tackles on Giggs and Sean Davis tells you everything you need to know about this individual. It won't be too long before this guy cripples someone.

We didn't really start playing until the last twenty minutes of the game and there were some poor individual performances that contributed to that initial part of the game.

Ashley Cole seems to be struggling to find his game - I do have a nagging feeling that Arsenal have had the best of this player - I hope I'm wrong. His poor form is all the more noticeable because Wayne Bridge was playing so well before Cole's arrival. There is a sense of injustice on Bridge's behalf by the fans. We want Cole to do well of course, but his long association with one of our biggest rivals is making his acceptance a protracted affair - not helped by his form - it's the old chicken and egg dilemma.

Shevchenko too has failed to set the Premiership alight as of yet, but I think so much was expected of him, that the pressure has been huge. It must also be remembered that he has never played in the English league before and it is substantially faster and more physical than the Italian league and it will take him time to adapt.

Look at Essien - he looked more than an OK midfielder in his first season - this season he has become an absolute power-house - growing stronger, faster and more skilful with every game. It will come with Shevchenko - I hope it doesn't take an entire season, but if it does, so be it. Meanwhile his mere presence ensures that the resurgent Drogba is gifted more room.

Hopefully the win at Fulham will also finally see a turn in form for Lampard. He buried his penalty ghosts with that thumping spot-kick and then scored a typical Lampard goal from open play. Mourinho then lavished praise on him, leaving no doubt in anyone's mind that if Frank is fit, he is one of the first names on the team sheet.

I do admire Jose's total belief but I'm not sure I'd have stuck with Lampard through almost a whole year of bad form. The decision of Mourinho was obviously not that difficult as in that time we won more often than not. But I would have been interested to see what would have happened if that had not been the case.

The games are coming thick and fast and now we will see what our drastically trimmed squad is made of. John Terry is unlikely to recover in time to face Levski in Sofia, so we will be playing a make shift defence again. Ballack will be back in contention as his ban counts only for the domestic game.

Levski didn't equip themselves too well at the Nou Camp, being battered five goals to nil. But they will be at home, they will have been stung by their first result and I imagine Jose will gamble on fielding a partial second string having one eye on the Premiership clash with a rejuvenated Villa.

He shouldn't get too gung-ho though as the gossip mongers insist that Roman wants the Champions League trophy at Chelsea above anything else - I have to say, its not my primary concern, although I do enjoy the European jaunts.

I enjoyed Sofia when we played there about five years ago and with a pint of beer at a reputed 40p a pint, I'm sure it'll be a merry trip once again.


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