Three points in the bag and no goals conceded. For Jose Mourinho and Chelsea who used to take that reality for granted, it was pleasing to walk off the pitch against Aston Villa having restored some measure of their self confidence and esteem. The win- only Chelsea’s third of the season, was achieved through a combination of managerial tweaks, old fashioned hard work and an indulgent Aston Villa side. Mourinho chopped and changed, left Hazard, Matic and Cahill on the bench and he got results, the question now is if he will continue with his modified line up and continue to bench his senior players. Essentially, the manager’s job is to fix the team, not the self-esteem of players who may be dropped but he must know the inherent risks in having unhappy senior players in the dressing room.
One of those could be Eden Hazard- Chelsea’s best player in last year’s title winning campaign. Mourinho’s comments after the game, at first, suggested that Hazard was dropped because Pedro and Willian provided more defensive cover in wide positions but then he veered off to suggest that Hazard is not doing things ‘in the team’s direction’. Only Hazard will know how Hazard feels but it is easy to think that the out-of-form star man will hate being hung out to dry in this manner. Is Mourinho looking to provoke the Belgian into getting back in form? Or are these genuine team concerns- if so, how concerned was he last year when Hazard was in Player of the Year form?
The manager reserves the right to do what he wants with his team and players but what he owes those players is consistency. Hazard has had a terrible start to the season but there is someone else in Chelsea’s team who, many will agree, has suffered worse form and been at fault for a number of conceded goals. His name? Branislav Ivanovic. When asked if he would drop Ivanovic, Mourinho firmly threw his weight behind the defender in terrible form. Compare his handling of Ivanovic’s loss of form with Eden Hazard then put yourself in Hazard’s shoes. It is one thing to be dropped, it is quite another to be thrown under the bus and to the dogs- especially when only months ago, you practically handed the club a Premier League title.
For the first time ever, the Premier League saw Jurgen Klopp on the touch line but as far as results and goals go, it was an anti-climax. No goals were scored but there was one key number that suggested Klopp was already leaving his mark on the team.
116 kilometeres. That was the distance covered by the entire Liverpool team- four more kilometres than they had covered in any other game this season. It was not just that they outran themselves, it was also that they outran Tottenham Hotspurs- the first team to do so this season. Klopp’s signature from Germany is his pressing and hard-running game and it appears that while the goals are not flowing yet, the tactics are already being understood. He has not been helped by injuries as he has already lost Danny Ings and Joe Gomez to season-ending anterior cruciate ligament injuries but it will take a while before this team becomes ‘his team’. How much time? Two to three transfer windows.
Big game for Big Sam
Big Sam came back into the league and was duly handed a defeat by West Brom and Tony Pulis. Sunderland were not as poor as they have usually been but losing the first game has been the norm for the last three Sunderland managers. Winning the second- in all three cases- against Newcastle in a fierce derby has also been usual. Allardyce lost his first game to keep up tradition, his next game? Sunderland v Newcastle.
New record for Bayern Munich
After years of ruling the roost in Germany, you would think that Bayern Munich have broken all kinds of records. But this weekend, they became the first team to win all of their opening nine Bundesliga games. Sitting proudly on top of the table, it is hard to begrudge the Bavarians of their success. Borussia Dortmund threatened a title challenge for a few weeks but were emphatically swatted aside by Guardiola and co, and another title procession might well be underway as Bayern Munich try to create another new record: the first team to win four straight Bundesliga title.
Dear Inter, hard work is not good enough.
After four games in Italy, Inter Milan had a 100% record and seemed like they could launch a title winning campaign. The thing however, was that each of those wins were hard-fought, without any brilliance. The party line was that the brillaint play will eventually come and that Inter needed solidity first. It is logical to think that but few games down the line, Inter are longer with the 100% record and are no longer on top of the table. The team who are, Fiorentina, have been brilliant all season playing the kind of football that has the city daring to dream.
Inter Milan are not so far behind but they will not always be able to grind out victories and Mancini must infuse some flair into his team’s play. This season, Stevan Jovetic is the only player who looks like he can bring some magic to the table – but he can hardly so with others playing like clowns in a circus.
Cristiano the Great.
Like Bayern Munich, you can be forgiven if you think Cristiano Ronaldo has broken all records in his sight but this weekend, against Levante, in front of a packed Bernabeu, he set a new record. One which, you suspect, will last an age and ensure that the young boy who grew up in Madeira with improbable dreams of becoming one of the greats of football finally achieved that dream. Ronaldo is now Real Madrid’s top scorer of all time. They say Real Madrid is the world’s greatest club. Being the guy who has scored the most goals (324) for them is a pretty cool thing to add to any CV.
In today’s episode of The Fella Has Still Got It, ladies and gentlemen, meet Dirk Kuyt. 35 years old and still doing it. This weekend, he bagged a hat-trick to break Marco Van Basten’s Eredivisie goals record. If you break any kind of goals record held by Van Basten, you certainly deserve all the credit you get.
And finally, this week’s recommended football read: New Napoli manager Sarri was not always a football manager. Read about how he quit his banking job for coaching, rose through the ranks from Italy’s fifth tier and now deploys drones in training
Follow Yomi Kazeem on Twitter: @TheYomiKazeem