After months of crisis and palpable discord at Chelsea, since just about the turn of the year, the Blues seem to have finally found their rhythm again. After yesterday’s 1-0 win over Champions League finalists and media darlings Liverpool, Chelsea have now won five games in a row.
Of those five wins, club captain Gary Cahill has started in the middle of the back-three four times. The only one he didn’t was Chelsea’s 3-2 comeback win over Southampton at St. Mary’s, our shakiest showing of the winning streak. In the other four wins, with Cahill playing through the center, Chelsea have kept three clean sheets and conceded only one goal.
Cahill has been talking recently about finding his own form again after a season that saw him dropped to the bench more often than ever before in his Chelsea career. Sunday’s performance was further validation of his well-times resurgence, which as been key to the Blues fining defensive solidity with the trio of Apilicueta, Rudiger, and Cahill.
“I feel I’m playing well, back at the levels I expect of myself. I’m happy that I’m back in the team, I’m happy we’re getting results and I’m enjoying my football. I feel fitter and sharper, and with two games to go and an FA Cup final, there’s still plenty to play for.”
Indeed, there is still plenty left to play for, in the form of FA Cup final against Mourinho’s Manchester United and the fight for Champions League qualification. The final is still a fortnight away but the win over Liverpool wasn’t just one for the bragging rights.
It helped us close the gap on Spurs and Liverpool to just two and three points respectively, thereby putting Chelsea in great position to take advantage of any mishaps that may happen in the final week of this Premier League season.
“It keeps the hope alive. We need to just keep winning the games and to see where that takes us and see what happens at the end of the season. The first is against Huddersfield, who did brilliantly at Manchester City, not many teams have gone there and got a point this season, so they will be in high spirits from that vital point for them. I’m sure they will come here on Wednesday and try to do the same.’
“We’re disappointed because if you look at the games where we’ve slipped up this season, you can’t afford to do that, hence why we are where we are. We’re disappointed with that, but of late we’ve shown the right attitude, we’ve shown the right work ethic to get back to the level we should be at and the momentum is building now, we’re getting results.”
Right attitude. Right work ethic. Right result.
In our bad run of form, Chelsea have either played badly against big teams (for instance, the Manchester City game) or played well but have been extremely unlucky (for instance, the games against Barcelona). Thus, a performance against a big team which wasn’t just great but it also led to the desired result, should do wonders for the confidence of the squad.
“It was a game plan that worked well. We knew it was going to be difficult, they’ve been in fantastic form of late, so we knew it was going to be tough, but we needed a win badly and we got it, so we’re obviously very pleased.
“We’ve worked hard this week on our plan, physically we’ve worked hard as well. We’re always prepared for the game and I think that showed against Liverpool, but we had to defend very well at times, especially late on. Naturally, 1-0 down, they were going to push and gamble a bit more.’
“I thought we did very well against a front three who’ve been absolutely fantastic. You look at the amount of goals they’ve scored between them this season, it’s phenomenal, so we’re especially pleased to come away with a clean sheet. I felt we defended fantastically well as a team and to get a clean sheet against those three, who are top players and can hurt you time and again, was great.”
-Gary Cahill; Source: Chelsea FC
Keeping a clean sheet against a team who have scored 80 goals in the league, have the highest scoring trio in the Champions League and include a 42-goal Mohamed Salah, is no easy feet. In fact, it was the first time ever under Jurgen Klopp that Liverpool failed to score in two consecutive Premier League games.
Cahill himself had a pretty neat game as he made 9 clearances, 1 interception, committed 0 fouls and won 5 aerial duels as Chelsea limited Liverpool to just 5 shots on target (Chelsea had 4) even after the Reds enjoyed nearly 69% of the possession.
The hard work isn’t over yet though. We have to keep grinding out results and keep putting in these kind of performances, as even a single misstep could prove to be fatal.
Next up, Huddersfield on Wednesday. FORZA, CHELSEA!