Monday, February 10, 2014

Year of the (small) Horse?

Jose Mourinho's 'small horse' comment was met with much mirth in the media in the past week as he played down Chelsea's title hopes in classic Mourinho style with an unabashed glint in his eye.

Last week saw Chelsea enjoy a five point swing over Manchester City whilst Arsenal imploded - as only they can - away to Liverpool.

Points wise it is a very close race and with fixtures again this coming Tuesday and Wednesday things can change quickly. What is clear however is that Chelsea are beginning to click and are becoming more and more of a Mourinho team.

Eden Hazard has had many plaudits and rightly so. Whilst much of Hazard's improvement is down to his increasing maturity and experience, he is also becoming a different player under Mourinho's guidance.

It was tough to see Juan Mata leave for nearly every Chelsea fan but there seems little doubt that despite his many wonderful qualities, he would have struggled to match the physical intensity levels that Oscar, Willian and Hazard have shown in the past two matches.

In the past couple of months, Mourinho has taken a firm grip on the team marshaling the back four into a far more effective unit. He has addressed the issue of the deep lying holding midfielders and has even gone some way to remedying the much discussed problem at centre forward.

Samuel Eto'o left to a standing ovation on Saturday despite not getting on the scoresheet, why? Becuase Mourinho has pushed Eto'o's case to lead the line because of his work rate.

Eto'o may not be quite the predator of old but he is a wonderful foil for the potent attacking threat that lies just behind him. Mourinho also knows he is a wily old fox who has shown his worth also with a wonderfully poached recent hat trick. He remains a class act.

Chelsea fans should of not get carried away of course, City in particular remain a highly potent threat and their form will of course recover from this dreadful past week.

How the top teams handle the restart of the Champions League will also be crucial with important fixtures looming for everyone. How the managers rotate their players will be crucial as we approach the sharp end of the season.

Arsenal's result and performance against Liverpool was hopeless and was indicative of a team that lacks the leadership and mental strength to win a title.

Wenger again failed to strengthen his squad when they have their best chance of the title in years, it was shortsighted yet again and Arsenal may well now suffer the consequences.

For City, the challenge is to regroup and find their form again. City have been wonderful this season in games when they have clicked from the outset simply steamrollering opposition.

Performing in tight matches at this time of the season is a different skill and one they must grasp quickly, they need to learn to win 1-0 when things are not going all their way.

1991 saw a very small horse called Seagram win the world's most famous steeplechase - the Grand National. Could 2014 see another small horse win a big title? No Nonsense.