Back in December we were meant to take on Chelsea in the second of a series of games that were meant to decide our season. Having beaten Arsenal on the Monday we were set to take Chelsea on at the Bridge on the Sunday but a bit of snow (and poor form) saw them call the game off.
Well very little has changed since then, Chelsea have still looked poor whilst United are still top of the table and this time the Chelsea game is the first in a series of games set to define our season with Liverpool coming up on Sunday. Victories at the Bridge have been rare in recent times but Chelsea haven’t been in the best of form whilst we are chugging along.
I had a chat with Anthony Williams, editor of Chelsea site The Shed Ender ahead of the big game tomorrow.
The Busby Way: You had a good start to the season and many thought you were going to walk it, be honest were you amongst those that thought you had it wrapped up?
The Shed Ender: It all looked great at first, we began the new season as we had finished the last one and many were handing us the title early. But after letting a lot of players go in the summer without replacing them, the cracks began to show. Don’t get me wrong, we were enjoying it, especially as our rivals had stumbling starts, but I’m quite cynical and wasn’t one of the ones who thought we’d walk it. Did not expect us to be out of title contention this early though.
TBW: What do you think went wrong?
TSE: We have not had the squad depth that we used to and I think we let too many players go in the summer without replacing them. In the past, when we have had injuries and suspensions, the like of Michael Ballack, Deco, Joe Cole, Juliano Belletti and Ricardo Carvalho could step in or provide us with a different option. But after adding David Luiz and Fernando Torres to the squad, we have a bit more depth and Ramires has enjoyed a good spell of form now that he seems to have settled.
TBW: Many people have alluded to the sacking of Wilkins as a component do you agree?
TSE: I think our poor run of form since Wilkins’ departure is mostly coincidental, but it has not helped the squad’s morale and the timing was bizarre. It was a decision that hurt the supporters more than anyone as ‘Butch’ is well liked at Chelsea and his dismissal has led to some mistrust to some of those on the board, particularly towards our chief executive Ron Gourlay, who is thought to be Wilkins’ axe man.
TBW: Frank Arnesen is also leaving at the end of the season, what do you think of him and the legacy he will leave behind?
TSE: In many ways it is a shame that Frank Arnesen will be leaving the club at the end of the season as we finally seem to have developed a decent crop of able youngsters in Patrick van Aanholt, Daniel Sturridge, Gael Kakuta and Jeffrey Bruma. Hopefully some of these lads will make the grade and that will be the legacy that he leaves behind. The Dane is also the only ‘football man’ on the board, so if he leaves, Roman Abramovich is left with a Yank lawyer and an ex-biscuit saleman to advise him. He also played a part in bringing Jon Obi Mikel, Branislav Ivanovic and Salomon Kalou to Stamford Bridge and all of them are very much a part of the first team’s makeup. However, other fans will remember the part he played in the departure of back-to-back Premier League title winning manager Jose Mourinho, who resisted board interference and fell out with Arnesen.
TBW: Chelsea did big business in the transfer window what do you make of the two signings so far and how do you see them impacting your team on a whole?
TSE: I think they’re both great signings for the club, especially in the long-term. David Luiz has impressed already and Ancelotti believes that he gives Chelsea an extra dimension as the sort of footballing centre back that we have lacked since Carvalho left the club. As for Torres, it’s taking him a little longer to start firing, but his movement is world-class and he is getting better with each game. At the moment his touch is sometimes letting him down, but minutes on the pitch can only help him rectify this.
TBW: What role do you see Torres playing on Tuesday especially with his ‘history’ with Vidic?
TSE: It’s certainly an interesting sub-plot in the game. How many times has he been sent off against Torres now, wasn’t it three in-a-row?
The Serbian has been in great form this season and Torres is yet to show us his best, so people may not be expecting the Spaniard to give Vidic the sort of headache as the has supposed to have done in the past. Vidic is probably the best defender in the league, but Torres has the talent to worry him. We shall see.
TBW: Who do you think will be your danger player?
TSE: I’m hoping this is the game in which Torres announces himself to the Chelsea fans and scores his first goal for the club. He’s capable of doing that something special which can turn a game on its head, and I hope he does on Tuesday. I would say Anelka perhaps, but I’m unsure whether Carlo will leave Drogba out again, even though the Frenchman linked up well with Torres against Copenhagen and is arguably a more natural strike partner for him.
TBW: Who will you be watching out for from United’s team?
TSE: Nani has performed well for United this season (when that pesky sniper isn’t shooting him down at every opportunity…could it be Ashley Cole?) and has the pace to worry anyone bar Cole in the Chelsea back four. The Portuguese winger is leading the league with 14 assists and already has nine goals to his name, so he’s becoming a big player for the Red Devils, even if he can frustrate your fans at times with his antics… much like Drogba can do for us.
TBW: In the interest of fairness would it be impossible to have you on record as saying that last season A). Fletcher didn’t foul Cole in the build up to Terry’s winner at the Bridge and B). Drogba’s goal was offside at Old Trafford?
TSE: a) The decision was a debatable one and only became a talking point because it led to a goal. The referee also missed Jonny Evans’ assault on Didier Drogba, so it’s perhaps unsurprising that he got that one wrong too. b) Of course, Drogba was offside for his goal at Old Trafford, but considering either side should have had a penalty apiece and Macheda used his hand to score United’s goal, it’s all swings and roundabouts.
TBW: Finally can we get a result/score prediction?
TSE: I was going to predict a 1-1 draw, but I’m going to be optimistic and go for a 2-1 win to Chelsea.