The Premier League season resumes this weekend and is set to continue uninterrupted for the next four months. This is the meaty part. The juicy part. The tender part, or the tough part, depending on how badly you've mismanaged it all. This is the part where championships are won and lost, relegation is averted or courted with, heroes are made, scapegoats are booed. There are games before and after this period, and they can sometimes decide fates as well -- our season certainly appears well doomed already -- but a lot of wrongs can be righted and a lot of rights can go wrong during the winter months.
For Chelsea, and this upcoming match specifically, we're back to the usual dilemma faced this season. Stick or twist? Old or young? Winners or unknown factors? Mourinho has tried many things already to arrest this negative momentum. He tried positive reinforcement and negative, public, scathing criticisms. He tried all-out-attack and rigid bus parking. He's played old and young, good and bad. He even tried it without a manager on the sidelines. In the 19 matches played this season, including the Community Shield, he's fielded 18 different starting lineups. (Dynamo Kiev and West Ham, both away, are the only ones that are the same.) Nothing's working.
Sure, it appears that the squad are playing better recently. Not getting better results, but they are producing better football, if that makes any sense. Eden Hazard looks awake finally. Nemanja Matic doesn't seem completely lost anymore. Pedro looks ready to contribute. Zouma's already a star, Baba will get there maybe, and Willian can go back to worrying about transitions and hard-work rather than being the creative fulcrum. Branislav Ivanovic is back and raring to go; Thibaut Courtois will be back soon as well. Things are looking up! Maybe.
Normally, there'd be little reason to worry about Norwich City coming to Stamford Bridge. This season, anything could happen. Maybe even a Chelsea win! And I think it'll be mostly the tried and true and trusted players that will get us there: Begovic in goal, our best back four, the usual midfield duo, a freely interchanging attacking band, and Diego Costa.
Begovic | Azpilicueta, Cahill, Zouma, Ivanovic | Matic, Fabregas | Hazard, Willian, Pedro | Costa
In the community voting, Cesar Azpilicueta is president with 98%+ of the vote. Here's the rest of your chosen starting lineup:
Begovic | Baba, Terry, Zouma, Azpilicueta | Matic, Fabregas | Hazard, Oscar, Willian | Costa