As we were leaving Craven Cottage on Sunday, I overheard one glum Fulham fan moan about how Chelsea looked as if they were taking part in a training session, and not a particularly arduous one at that.
I had expected more from Fulham but they rarely bothered us. Sunderland, despite them leading 1-0, was also a walk in the park.
Ancelotti seems to have settled in well, too, and his English is leagues ahead of where Scolari’s was at the same time. The players seem to be adapting to his style of play and, as I pointed out last week, he seems to know how and when to change a game. Even his rotation system seems to be working which is excellent news as we will be losing Drogba, Kalou, Mikel and Essien to the African Cup of Nations in a few months. So despite all this, why do I still feel uneasy? Even the media is comparing the composure with which we are playing to our first title winning side under Mourinho – after three games? It’s all too soon. Let’s see how we do with our controversial formation against one of the big boys. Sorry if all this seems a bit negative, I’m just trying to stop us all running away with ourselves. If we carry on playing like this, you will definitely see a more upbeat column. Round about May.!
By then, we will also have worked out whether the strike partnership of Drogba and Anelka will be a successful one. Ancelotti is convinced it will work – and I agree with him. I don’t really understand why any of his predecessors never gave this pairing a real go. Anelka is an unselfish striker while Drogba is the opposite.
Drogba’s strength coupled with Anelka’s guile was perfectly demonstrated at Craven Cottage and if they continue to be played together regularly, this kind of understanding can only improve. Prior to Hasselbaink and Gudjohnsen, the last time we had a free-scoring twosome was when (my hero) Kerry Dixon and David Speedie wore the royal blue.
I have noticed when Ancelotti speaks, he often uses the Champions League as his point of reference rather than the title, so we are in little doubt what remit Abramovich has given him. Personally I have not won the league enough times to hanker after the European Cup above all else, and it would take at least another three or four titles for me to get to that stage. Don’t get me wrong, it would be nice, but when the draw is made on Friday, I will be more concerned as to whether we have anywhere interesting or new to go to, rather than if we could guarantee safe passage through to the next stage.
My pick would be somewhere in Germany – good policing, excellent beer and like-minded supporters; somewhere in Italy – excellent food, beautiful country and decent shopping, and finally somewhere I have never heard of – just for the spirit of adventure. Knowing our luck we will at some point during the competition get Porto (the dullest place on earth), Barcelona (been there so often I think I must be entitled to citizenship), and obviously Liverpool...
Speaking of Liverpool, Rafa looks very harassed for so early in the season, don’t you think? There were rumours that he had quit last week and it wouldn’t surprise me if behind the scenes he was flexing his muscles again. He should be careful as I think he is in real danger of overplaying his hand and no one is indispensable – no matter how many European Cups you’ve won. Wenger on the other hand looks the most relaxed I have seen him for some years, helped no doubt by the good start Arsenal have made to the season. He is virtually unrecognisable from the man driven to the edge of madness by Mourinho and Ferguson. As for old Red Nose himself, he never gives much away. I imagine he will be eager to prove that United were not a one-man team and his talking up of Berbatov bears that out – trying to instil some confidence into a player who has not looked value for money yet.
All in all, it’s set up to be an interesting season what with Manchester City fulfilling the potential thanks to their extensive new signings, Tottenham putting together their best start to a season since the 60s and the same old faces also reaffirming their quality. This could be the most open title for years which will be a nice change – as long as we win it.