Friday, August 19, 2022

Early days, goalkeeping stuff, and Ramsey from the right

Morning all, the cloak of victory hangs loose around our shoulders, protecting us from the madness and mayhem of not victory.

As amusing as all this Chelsea stuff is, and it is really, really amusing, it just shows how quickly things can change in football these days. Even after the opening day draw with Swansea, they were still most people’s favourites for the title. One defeat, and one hilarious half-time substitution later, and they’re in crisis, John Terry’s career is over and stories about Mourinho never doing more than 3 seasons at one club are all over the place.

Now, while I’d very much like them to continue in the same vein, I suspect some of the stories about their imminent demise are a touch premature. They won the league at a canter last season, and while there have been improvements in the teams around them, it’d be a foolish man who writes them off completely at this stage.

What I’m saying is: it’s ok to laugh at them and their miserable, bereft captain. In fact it’s to be encouraged because, well, it doesn’t happen that often that you can truly go full Nelson Muntz on them, but there’s a lot of football to be played yet, and a lot of points still available.

I illustrate this not simply to highlight their misery and the pounding they took on Sunday and how unhappy John Terry was because Mourinho hauled him off at half-time, but because we know fine well how it works. When you win you’re great, when you lose you’re awful, and sometimes even when you win you’re awful, so it’s hard to find the right perspective.

And it’s so, so early in the season that there’s time to make up the points that are dropped if you get going again quickly enough. Last season, for example, our stuttering start was in contrast to Chelsea’s whizz-bang opening. They won 11 of their first 14 games, we drew 5 of our first 10, then lost 2 of our next 4.

We’re only two games into the new season and people are making all kinds of definitive sounding claims. I remain highly suspicious. If I saw the apparent corpse of Chelsea lying on the ground I’d give it a serious poke with a pointy stick just to make sure it was actually dead. Before encasing it in concrete and burying it 200 feet below the earth. You can never be too careful, and despite Mourinho being permanently on the verge of some kind of meltdown, he’s getting a considerable return on his soul and I don’t think he’s got full value for it yet.

But still, John Terry’s face, heh.

Meanwhile, Per Mertesacker has talked up the qualities of Petr Cech, but I thought this was interesting:

The interaction between the goalkeeper and the back four has to be top to compete in the Premier League.

I wonder if that’s there yet. There does appear to be a good connection between Mertesacker and the former Chelsea keeper, but there are clearly differences for the new man to get used to. The shot that allowed Joel Ward to equalise on Sunday was one that probably would have been blocked at his old club, instead Laurent Koscielny was found wanting (and I do accept that there were other factors, like Alexis allowing Ward to saunter past him to take the shot in the first place).

It can take some time to build relationships on the pitch, as we know, and while the defending hasn’t done him any favours at all in the first two games, it’s been a slow start for Cech at his new club. The idea that he was going to come in and be a panacea for all our defensive problems was always fanciful, but he doesn’t yet look like a man who will save us 12-15 points as some suggested (just for reference, the man who can do that, or could do that for any football team, is pictured here).

Still, the players seem to be feeling better with him there:

You can feel that, he has lots of things to say in the dressing room he gives us a great lift. Even when we lose a game, he has some great ideas on and off the pitch. He is very important for us and a good addition.

Hopefully he can settle down, the defence can sort out the issues they’ve had in the first two games (handbrake off, please), and we’ll see the improvement over the course of the season. Hang on, wait, it’s two games in – that’s enough time to draw a conclusion. Bring back Guillaume Warmuz.

Elsewhere, some stuff from Aaron Ramsey about how he was asked to play on Sunday. Although selected on the right, he floated about the pitch and drifted into the box on regular occasions. Not because he felt like it, but because that’s what he was asked to do:

It was the manager’s decision. He told me to try and get in between the lines, not stay outside, to come inside and I thought I did that by getting into some dangerous positions.

It’s worth watching this week’s Breakdown with Adrian Clarke on the, as it highlights the space Ramsey had between the Palace midfield and back-four, and the number of times he found himself in good positions in their box. He probably should have scored, and if we’re praising Mesut Ozil for creating 5 chances during the game, we can’t overlook the fact that Ramsey was just behind him with 4.

I thought he could have been more efficient on the ball, but the majority of the passes that weren’t completed were in the final third where he was trying to make something happen. His deployment on the right is something that gets people talking, but even if it doesn’t always look like it, he is effective from there – especially when we’ve got Bellerin outside him to provide the overlap and the width.

Finally for today, if you haven’t had a chance to listen to this week’s Arsecast Extra, you can find it here. James and I chat about the win over Palace, individual performances, and loads more. It’s scientifically proven to be good for your ears too, so what are you waiting for?

Right, that’s that, more from me tomorrow.

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