Inside the Opposition: Chelsea vs Manchester City

The first installment of this week’s Inside the Opposition: Chelsea is with Sam, a Chelsea fan who writes for the Plains of Almeria site. This is Sam’s second time with us and we’re delighted he agreed to come back. I got his views on the wonderful Oscar, and the return of Jose Mourinho.

Hi Sam, nice to have you back. Glad Rafa’s gone?

I think you’d struggle to find many Chelsea supporters answering differently to ‘absolutely’ to this one. Ultimately Benitez guided us to a top-four finish and a Europa League win, so he obviously deserves some small credit for that, however the issue with him was never about winning, losing or drawing really. It was about his absolute disregard, bordering on contempt, of the Chelsea fanbase, and his petty bloodymindedness in not admitting past grudges and trying to move forwards from them.

Additionally, his management was shoddy. His complete inability to affect games with tactical or personnel changes contract enormously with Mourinho.

What are the major changes Mourinho’s made since his arrival?

I think he’s worked out he needs to get the players believing in themselves again, and believing they’re the best in the business. He’s enacted some tough love already with the likes of Hazard and Mata but he knows exactly what he’s doing and is playing the long game in order to get these guys mentally prepared to be the best they can be.

The summer signings were sensible – Schurrle looks very much a Mourinho player with his industrious work up and down the flanks additional to his technical abilities going forward, while Eto’o will certainly score goals for us this season.

However the biggest change has been in his philosophy as a manager. Of course he still wants to be a winner, that is ingrained in him and makes him the manager he is, but he seems content and even excited to do things differently this time around. I’m personally looking forward to seeing how he deals with the challenge of nurturing a group of very talented young players, and how he goes about integrating some of our very promising young players into the squad over the next 18-24 months.

Tell me about Oscar because, from where I’m standing, he looks like the best young attacking midfielder around.

I think you’re right. He’s a phenomenal player and we’re very lucky to have him at Chelsea. This guy has only just turned 22 and he’s already the No.10 for the Brazilian national team. His technique is fabulous and for us Chelsea fans to be able to go down and watch him do his stuff every week is a real joy. He works hard and battles, his off-the-ball game is very impressive for one so young and his control of the game in midfield is pretty remarkable. I think he could be one of the players of the season in England, and one everybody will be raving about come the World Cup in the summer.

What’s the situation between Mata and Mourinho? Seems awfully odd to anyone outside of Chelsea circles.

I think it has been slightly strange, but there’s always reasoning and logic behind everything Mourinho does, and the same applies here. Mata does need to work more on his off-the-ball game, his pressing of the ball high up the field, and this was the main criticism that was levelled at him by Mourinho. Undoubtedly he is a special player, but I think it was just a bit of tough love from the boss to try and keep him on his toes.

The issue is whether there’s enough room for Oscar, Mata and Hazard in the starting team every week. It would appear Mourinho believes not, so one of the trio has to miss out every game. I think in the big games that will be Mata, for a number of reasons, so expect him to start on the bench this Sunday.

Any rumours of potential January targets?

Naturally, there’s always tons of transfer rumours, even when the summer window has only just closed. I think Mourinho will be in the market for a deep midfield player in January, that ought to be the priority. The rumour mill has thrown up the likes of De Rossi or Ross Barkley, but it’s only October so we’ll enjoy the lull in transfer speculation while we can, eh!

Do you think the title race is between City and Chelsea? Or will United/Arsenal/Spurs be in the mix?

I think it’s going to be a very open race for the title this season, however I do still reckon Chelsea and City will be the frontrunners. Your squad and first XI are certainly the strongest in the league, you have the experience now of having won it and Pellegrini seems to be doing alright and settling in.

United were bound to have a few teething problems with the departure of Ferguson and arrival of Moyes, though I don’t think many thought it would be quite such a bumpy start as this. The fact of the matter for them is he has inherited a frankly quite average squad of players, coupled with the fact they failed to really strengthen in the right places over the summer. I’m sure things will improve for them as the season goes on but I do still reckon they’ll be some way off the top this year.

Arsenal have been impressive, it has to be said, but their thin squad will begin to crack and let them down over the next few months. Spurs will be the interesting one – they have assembled a very capable group of players there and I think might surprise a few people by how long they stay involved as the race goes on into February and March, though they’ll fade away when the going really gets tough in the spring.

The encouraging thing for us is that we’ve been quite average so far but we’re still only a couple of points off the top. Once we ‘click’, and I do believe we will sooner or later, then things could get very interesting indeed.

What were your thoughts on Mancini’s sacking?

As a Chelsea fan, it was hardly surprising! The remit at big clubs now is to win, win, win, or else somebody else will be given the chance. As much as it might pain supporters to watch at times, the results of such short-termism can often work out well. We’ve been through more managers in the last few years than many of us can count, yet we’ve won pretty much the entire collection, so perhaps there’s something to be said for the trigger-happy approach.

Mancini did a decent enough job but there were always doubts about him as a top, top manager for me, and his approach to games, especially with such a talented bunch of attacking players at his disposal, was often baffling.

Have you seen much of Negredo? We’re all very giddy here in Manchester.

The bits that I have seen of him have been very good, I must say. I was secretly a little happy when Tevez moved on in the summer, as he always seems to score and do well against us, however this lad has just settled into English football so comfortably. He’s a goalscorer and I think he gives you something different to Aguero and Dzeko, but technically he’s been excellent and he’s proving to be a bit of a snip of a signing already.

Who’s City’s best player, in your opinion?

There’s certainly a lot of choice – Kompany is such an important figure for you at the back, Silva is a pleasure to watch when he’s on his game and Nasri can be similarly so too, however I think Aguero is your main man. He’s a match-winner, and a very good one at that, and I think it’s players like him that can be the big difference in tight games like these. While the recent form of our strikers Torres and Eto’o has been more encouraging, I do think Aguero is in a different league to that pair and I’m still a little miffed at how we ended up losing out on him despite so many years of interest.

Match prediction?

If you are still without Kompany then I fancy Mourinho to go for it and us to snatch a win. However I do fear for us in midfield at the moment, especially with Ramires and Lampard in there as the deeper two, and that is often such an important battle area in the game. I think it’s probably our biggest test of the season so it’ll be interesting to see how we fare. I’m going for us to take it by the odd goal in three, 2-1 Chelsea.

Follow Sam on Twitter

Interview by Rob Pollard

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