Three games without a win – our worst run since December 2012 – and next up is Chelsea, with City facing the prospect of falling eight points behind the early leaders after just five games. This feels like a big one.
Earlier this week, I caught up with Ramon Isaac, a Chelsea fan of author of the blog Mowing Meadows, to get his views on the game. I asked him about Chelsea’s transfer window, which, for me, they emerged from having done the best business, and what he thinks of Pellegrini. And this is what he said…
It seems pretty clear to me that Chelsea had the best transfer window by some distance. Is that how you see it?
I think that is a fair and popular assessment. Manchester United might have drawn a lot of attention with their dealings in the last few days of the transfer window but getting all your high priority targets sorted out early on, giving them time to bed in during pre-season seems to have worked wonders. You’ve just got to look at the impact Fabregas and Costa have had so far, they lead assists and goals respectively in the league. Courtois has already made a few important saves against Everton and Leicester and even though there’s that sentimental attachment towards Petr Cech it isn’t hard to see why Courtois has been given the nod. Remy and Luis add great quality in depth to positions that have been thin in recent seasons. Then you look at the players the club sold, getting £30m for Lukaku and £50m for Luiz is amazing, the club have shown clear intent to comply with FFP and still had our best transfer window since Abramovich’s initial “see player, buy player” approach.
What difference does Fabregas make to this side? I think he’s a wonderful player.
A lot. The club has changed its style of play in recent years and Fabregas was the missing piece to completing that transition. He’s just so smooth on the ball, it’s a pleasure to watch him play. We’ve got plenty of attacking options just behind the striker but we didn’t have anyone to get them the ball quickly and retain possession in midfield. Matic is a fantastic destroyer and Ramires has bundles of energy but both lacked an incisiveness to their passing, to be honest we haven’t had a midfielder like him during the Abramovich Era. You wonder how Barcelona thought it would be a good idea to let him go?
His positional rotation with Oscar has been a key feature in the games the two have played in and he’s immediately struck up a great relationship with both Hazard and Costa. There’s a greater fluidity to our attacking play and Fabregas is at the heart of that. That doesn’t mean there isn’t a downside, we are far more susceptible defensively but you’re left with the impression that no matter how much the opposition score we are now capable of scoring more. That’s an incredible turnaround from last season when everything seemingly depended on individual brilliance from Eden Hazard.
Obviously, we all understand the sentimentality in bringing Drogba back to the Bridge. How do you realistically see him being used?
I imagined it would be a change of pace when the team were struggling to break down the opposition and to provide a rest for Costa given his injury problems but having watched him play in the limited time he has been on the pitch, you can’t see him performing at the standard required. That being said, I thoroughly expect him to grab a few goals against Arsenal and in the FA Cup, both are just tradition for the man. His influence behind the scenes has already been noted with him leading a team talk before the Everton game, all the players respect him and he’s a great role model for the strikers at the club, so I can’t really see any downside as long as he doesn’t have to feature too often, I think old age is catching up to him and this will probably his last season before he confirms his full time move to a coaching role at the club.
Is Costa the man to finally replace Drogba?
Certainly looks that way. It hasn’t been since Anelka and Drogba fired the club to our last title when we broke the scoring record that our strike force has resembled that of a Premier League winning side. Since then we’ve got by thanks to our stingy defence and the midfield having to contribute a lot of help in terms of goals. I questioned whether Costa was the right player for us but it took all of 45mins to confirm that as stupidity on my part. He’s an absolute nuisance for defenders, constantly running into space, drawing centre backs away for players like Hazard and Oscar to run into. His hold up and link up play has surprised me as I didn’t think he’d have the technical ability to go with the physical presence but he does. Then you look at him off the ball, his work rate is tremendous and you can see it from his interviews in limited English or translated that he puts the team above all else. 7 goals in 4 games is outrageous and as Mourinho said it can’t continue but we as Chelsea fans hope it doesn’t stop. Oh, I can’t wait till he’s fully fit.
Will Chelsea win the league?
Yes. Mourinho said it last year and so it shall come to be.
What do you make of City’s squad this season?
Very strong, I still think it might be the strongest squad in the league in terms of depth but we have an edge when it comes to the starting XI. Adding players like Sagna and Fernando can never be bad for a team but you just wonder how much of an upgrade they are on what was already there. It seems the summer was spent adding insurance policies around the pitch and strengthening the side’s chances in their Champions League campaign. It was great to see Stevan Jovetic perform like he did in Italy and that’ll be a huge boost this season I feel with Negredo’s departure. A special mention though for Silva and Aguero, the club has two of the best players in the league and some might argue the two best.
Thoughts on Pellegrini since he arrived?
Aside from looking like a Chilean kingpin (which is a bonus in my book), you’d have to say he’s done a great job. He won the league in his first season which is no easy task and he joins managers like Ancelotti and Mourinho, so not a bad list to be on and serves as proof of how good he is. The team’s relentless attacking nature is, if nothing else, thoroughly entertaining and he’s the man behind all of it, I think he’ll be wiser to how each team sets up against City which is bound to help.
Combined City-Chelsea XI?
Zabaleta, Kompany, Terry, Azpilicueta
Hazard, Silva, Oscar
I’m taking a leaf out of Garth Crooks’ team of the week book and having no regard for the practicality of the formation or how they’d play. (I’d have picked Toure over Oscar and slotted him next to Fabregas but I love Oscar to pieces so someone had to be sacrificed)
An end to end 3-2 to Chelsea if we keep the same side that played against Swansea. A painful, undeserved but equally satisfying 1-0 win in controversial style if we sit back.
Interview by Rob Pollard