Chelsea Aiming to Steer Clear of Unrest as Old Foes and a Familiar Face Come to SW6: Premier League; The Weekend That Will Be
‘Pressure? What pressure? Pressure is poor people in the world trying to feed their families. There is no pressure in football’. Those were the words on Jose Mourinho during his first reign as Chelsea manager, as he discarded any thought of being under pressure after his side suffered two losses in a row.
He’s no longer in the dugout in West London, but the man currently in that position is just about on the threshold of the supposed pressure that Mourinho said doesn’t exist in this game. Antonio Conte watched on the side-lines, as his Chelsea team were ripped to bits in the Champions League in Rome, in what was perhaps the Blues’ most abject performance under his stewardship. That loss makes it three defeats in six games, which probably shouldn’t feel like cause for such alarm at a club who won the title at such a canter six months ago, but factor in that their two wins in that time have been in the League Cup and an unconvincing- if fortuitous- win over Watford in the League, hence the malaise at Stamford Bridge.
The Blues defence has been in a state of chaos lately, just see the midweek showing against Roma for reference, but that might get a bit of alleviation considering who’s coming to town this weekend, or rather who’s bringing his charges to town this weekend. Upcoming visitors Manchester United’s gaffer Mourinho has always approached games away to the top six with caution, his team have only scored once in the last nine games at the home of his side’s direct rivals, and more than a few were quick to lambast his tactics against Liverpool last month (as if it’s a crime or it’s his first time doing it).
Another sit-back-and-wait-for-the-game-to-open-itself-up plan would be no surprise and is expected, which might not be the worst thing to happen to Chelsea. Deliver a convincing- or at least sustained- attacking display, even without finding the net, and it might just be met with plaudits on the squad’s resolve. But that could also lead the door open at the back, where Chelsea have- as aforementioned- been a tad generous, to sugar-coat it.
And as even the defensively-tight Spurs found out last weekend, one lapse in concentration is more than enough. One lapse might be enough to increase the heat on Conte.
Soft-centred, spineless, basically weak; those are some of the tags already outlined and ready to be splashed out at Arsenal once the final whistle goes in a Gunners game away to the top sides. A 4-0 loss to Liverpool earlier in the season saw them become subject to another scrutiny, but in truth, bar a late defeat at Watford a few weeks back, the Gunners have made steady- if unnoticed progress since that hiding at Anfield in August. They’ve won five of seven league games, and were even unlucky to leave the home of the champions Chelsea with just a point. So a trip to table-toppers and goal-churning Manchester City, might be the last or best place to go to at the moment. On one hand, a creditable result against Pep Guardiola’s side is seen as something of a statement of re-assertion, if not intent; on the other hand, losing by a single goal against City is considered a creditable result these days, and if Arsenal display the kind of laxity they showed at Liverpool, a morale-sapping defeat is not implausible.
It hasn’t particularly been the most eye-catching start to the season from Swansea, performance or results wise, only a leaky Everton backline prevents them from occupying the final relegation spot. So, a home game against Brighton is one in which the Swans faithful will be expectant, the Welsh club’s reading of one win, four defeats and four goals in five home league games is a bit below-par.
Since David Unsworth took temporary charge of Everton, the Toffees have had three away games, all three lost, with one goal scored and seven conceded. That places a fair bit of extra pressure on Saturday’s home clash against Watford; the Hornets have only lost once away from Vicarage Road this season- quite unluckily at champions Chelsea for that matter-, but will they short on confidence as they come into this game on the back of two straight defeats?
Chelsea v Manchester United
Tottenham v Crystal Palace
Huddersfield v West Brom
West Ham v Liverpool
Manchester City v Arsenal
Newcastle v Bournemouth
Everton v Watford
Southampton v Burnley
Swansea v Brighton
Stoke v Leicester