Bridge Banter: Will it be another November wobble for Chelsea?
Well, thank goodness that international break is behind us, and we can get on with the real thing: gritty games between proper teams.
They don’t come grittier than West Ham v Chelsea this weekend, with the Blues under pressure to not only get a result but also produce a flair-filled display.
It’s been a rather rubbishy couple of weeks for those on international duty.
England lost twice, despite contributions from Frank Lampard, Gary Cahill and Ashley Cole.
Spain lost to South Africa, despite Juan Mata’s appearance, and Belgium were beaten by Japan, making it a gloomy night for Eden Hazard, on-loan Romelu Lukaku and Kevin De Bruyne.
Confidence may have taken a bit of a knock, but Chelsea know deep down that they have the skills and passion to overcome the Hammers.
The problem is November nerves.
There’s no doubt that the fluency of some of the season’s early games has disappeared, replaced by hesitancy, a preference to keep passing rather than risk a shot, and a tendency to get caught on the break.
Irons boss Sam Allardyce will have been studying Chelsea’s recent form with interest.
Blues fans are well used to a November wobble, with the team usually picking up in December, stuttering again around Christmas, then hauling in any points deficit in the new year.
Nobody knows why, but it must be frustrating for a perfectionist such as Jose Mourinho.
Meanwhile, Big Sam is also keeping a close eye on Demba Ba, who did well when he was at Upton Park a few years ago. Sam plans to make a move for the striker during the January transfer window – either to buy or to borrow.
When Chelsea flopped against Newcastle, the early kick-off time was cited by some as a reason.
Saturday’s clash with West Ham is one of those curious 5.30pm kick-offs; neither afternoon nor evening.
Defeat for Chelsea is not an option.
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