Over the last few years, we have grown used to seeing West Brom give Chelsea a hard time, especially away from the Bridge, despite the gap in quality between the two sides and despite last season’s title-winning scenes at the Hawthorns. The addition of Tony Pulis certainly hasn’t helped the situation (though his reign of terror over the Baggies is now over).
And yet, on Saturday, Chelsea put in one of the most complete performances of the season, dominating the listless and deflated hosts from just about the first minute — or at least from Gareth Barry’s rather ill-advised foul on Hazard, which only served to make the Chelsea man angry — to the final whistle. Fans and pundits alike were impressed not just by Hazard’s response but the Blues’ overall play, which showed no signs of the terribleness that had at times crept into our play during October.
Club captain Gary Cahill was suitably impressed as well.
“I have to admit it was a superb performance from us, from every single player, and collectively we are very happy. I felt we played some good football, we kept the ball when we needed to and we scored goals. We saw a bit of everything from us, so performance-wise it was very, very good.”
“We were away from home so we expected to be under a bit of pressure, especially early on, and they did come out of the traps pretty quick. We had five or 10 minutes where we had to get hold of the game, but I thought we dealt with that very quickly and once we had control of the game, we went from strength to strength.”
“I’m sure they found it very difficult to play against us, we always seemed to have an option to get out of trouble and there was a lot of composure on the ball, which allowed us to keep it for long periods.”
“So it was a great team performance, one we have kind of been waiting for, and the scoreline we have been kind of waiting for, so we’re delighted.”
With Spurs once again Spursing it up and falling 2-0 to Arsenal at the Emirates, Chelsea move up to third behind the two Manchester sides. While United remain just a point ahead, City are showing no signs of slowing down, notching a 10th win in a row in the league with a 2-0 dismissal of Leicester City.
But just as others like Conte, Hazard, and Victor Moses have said recently, Cahill isn’t ready to crown Guardiola’s men just yet.
“[Manchester City] have started off full steam ahead and that’s great for them, but we’re not even at Christmas yet, so let’s just hold fire and see how they get on. They look fantastic at the moment and we have taken a fair bit of criticism at times this season, but we’ve had three clean sheets on the bounce in the league now, it was a great performance and we’ve got a long way still to go.”
-Gary Cahill; Source: Chelsea FC
That quest will continue on Saturday. For now, attentions turn to the Champions League, where an important opportunity awaits. A win on Wednesday puts Chelsea into the knockout rounds.