Where to start? Saved penalty, Pedro’s dream debut, JT’s sending off — dull it was not.
Given everything that went on in the game it is easy to overlook Courtois’ penalty save which was hugely significant. After the indifferent start we’ve had, the fallout following the footballing lesson City gave us last week and the papers already talking about a “crisis” at the Bridge, it would have made for a very difficult afternoon had we gone a goal down so early in the game (especially as we’ve not done too well at the Hawthorns in recent years AND we wearing our “unlucky” black kit).
Instead Courtois made an impressive save and we tore into the Albion like a team possessed. We went 2-0 up and that looked like game over, but we do nothing the easy way anymore.
We were not helped by the fact that Mark Clattenburg was refereeing and our Serb duo were having another questionable game. Known as the meanest defence in the league previously, we now have conceded two or more goals in three consecutive games for the first time since 2006. In Jose’s first season we conceded just 15 league goals in the whole season — we have now conceded almost half that in just three games.
Why so? Well for a start John Terry was 10 years younger, and lining up next to him either Carvalho or Gallas and again, probably both at the height of their powers. And if that wasn’t sufficient, we had Makelele in front of them, diminutive in size but enormous in terms of difficulty to get past.
What we have now just doesn’t measure up. Ivanovic is creaking more and more with each game and Cahill is a capable centre-back but not in the same league as his illustrious predecessors, who at times seemed to have an almost psychic understanding with JT.
The second reason for us conceding more goals is that Jose seems to be trying to change our style of play. Whether this be of his own will or instead at the behest of the owner we just don’t know, but it’s quite a big change both for the manager and the team.
Changing to a more attacking type of play will not be easy but hopefully the capture of Pedro will ease the process. Of course the likes of Hazard, Willian, Oscar etc already give us that attacking flair but Pedro seemed immediately to take us up a level. He too had all the trickery but his approach seemed far more direct, somehow.
I imagine sitting on the bench for an inordinate amount of time will focus the mind somewhat.
He looked like a revitalised player — involved in everything, really pumped up and displayed good interaction with his team mates and with the Chelsea crowd, which is amazing when you think he’s been with us less than three days. His presence seemed to give the team an added dimension and Costa immediately looked more dangerous and more like the player we saw last season. Pedro’s vision will ensure that we will be more ruthless going forward and certainly create more chances. I bet there was some gnashing of teeth from a fair few United fans watching his flying debut — not that United really wanted him, apparently.
There is now a lot of talk about Pogba and who wouldn’t want such an amazing player but really now any transfer dealings do have to address defensive issues, and I’m talking more than just Stones. The current players have served us very well but we need to start integrating new blood.
But enough of that — we saw a glimpse of some pretty exciting times ahead hopefully. Hazard was more on his game, Costa was involved, looked dangerous and found the net. Pedro gave us more than any of us had a right to expect on his first game. So plenty to be cheerful about.
We left the Hawthorns buoyant, relieved and excited, all chanting how Chelsea were staying up.
The season starts here.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved