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Wednesday, 21 December 2011

The Assault Continues.

On the back of a rather misfortunate and, in my opinion, a rather unexpected defeat at the hands of Foy, err Stoke rather, many would've looked to Sunderland as a mere light obstacle on the path to jumping back into third. This was the sort of game last year that Gallas proclaimed the players "thought they'd won it before even kicking a ball," and as the minutes ticked down it looked increasingly likely to be one of those games.

Thankfully Super Pav found a way to shed a rare glimpse of light on himself and propel us back above Chelsea prior to tomorrow's meet.

Tomorrow's game is massive for Chelsea. Yes, for Chelsea. AVB hasn't, as yet, underlined his sides authority or dominance on the Premier League. The win over Manchester City in their last home game toned down the pressure and gave the Portuguese boss a rare opportunity to claim that his current Chelsea side can win the Premier League. To date, their results against sides competing for the Premier League title and top 4 positions aren't title-worthy:

Man Utd 3-1 Chelsea
3-5 Arsenal
Chelsea 1-2 Liverpool
Chelsea 2-1 Man. City.

So who are the boys that could cause us a bit of bovver tomorrow? For me, one of the key players who'd have to have an eye kept on him is Danny Sturridge. The young English forward has forced his way into the first team, and deservedly so, replacing a player that was once valued at £50 million. 50 million, bloody hell. I bet Roman still has nightmares about last January.

Often operating on the right side of a 4-3-3, Sturridge is almost given a free role in attack whilst given the freedom to come deep to pick up the ball and attack the full back. I expect 'Arry to tell Benny to stay deeper and to limit him going forward as much as he'd like. I'd also expect to see him shut down high up the pitch in the hope of limiting his influence in attack. Sturridge could've walked away with a hat trick and the match ball from Newcastle had his finishing been more clinical; Ryan Taylor guilty of giving him the freedom of the Sports Direct Stadium in which to play in.

Drogba is one other that can also cause problems in attack. On their day, I can't stand that phrase, King and Kaboul can have anyone in their pocket; just ask Suarez. It's fair to say they've had a fair few of those days this season; another one Thursday wouldn't go a miss. Chelsea like to play their football, Mata is fantastic with the ball at his feet and another real danger. Much like Sturridge, he's another that likes to pick up the ball early and attack inside, looking for key passes and getting involved as much as possible- much like Rafa but with pace.

On comparison with two fully fit sides, I'd fancy our chances. Although, football being as it is, this is not a priviledge we currently have at our disposal. With the expected absences of Bale, Lennon and Defoe I'd take a punt on an attacking 4-2-3-1.

An expected back four of: Walker, King, Kaboul, Benny
A Centre Midfield of: Scott and Sandro
A forward three of: Townsend, Modric, Vdv
And Adebayor up front.

Our best chance of winning this game is putting Chelsea on the back foot and playing our own game. By playing high up the pitch and keeping it tight, this restricts the opportunity for the likes of Mata and Sturridge to get on the ball and attack. Townsend would be a gamble, no doubt, but throwing a young English player into the deep end may motivate him to make sure he takes his chance with both hands. He's also a similar sort of player to Bale and looks confident with the ball at his feet, operating off of either flank. A Centre midfield partnership of Parker and Sandro frees up the likes of Luka and Rafa to operate in a free role just behind Adebayor without having to look over their shoulder every two minutes.

It's these sort of games that can really underpin our belief that the sky is the limit. Although I'd snap your hands off for fourth, there's no reason we can't form an assault on third or higher and Chelsea are one club that, at times, look there for the taking.

Considering the key players we could have missing for Thursday, I'd take a point. Had we been at full strength then I'd feel a win would've looked very promising. I'll go 1-1.

Our assault on the top 4 continues.


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