Quality that wasn’t there when Chelsea won their Champions League title last season is here now, in the new faces of Eden Hazard and Oscar, who make life for Juan Mata that much easier, in return playing like the best player in the Premier League over the last few weeks.
It was the win at Arsenal that woke him up from a rather dormant start to the season, hiding a bit behind Eden Hazard when it came to media attention and credit for wins. Finally, the inclusion of Oscar in the lineup instead of Frank Lampard gives the final touch of class that transforms Chelsea’s front four into a joy to watch when they actually click, as Mata takes over the scoring role of the inexplicable Fernando Torres.
For Mata, it’s about his move into the middle while Hazard draws attention to the wing. Oscar roams here and there, but his passing and ability to hold up play, something no one in the Chelsea midfield can do (Lampard, Mikel, Ramires) makes for a nice change of pace and a bit of variety in a team that won early on despite it’s one-dimensional play. Now their striker is out of tune once again, but there’s plenty of football behind him to make up for it.
For now, Fernando Torres’ only help is with his presence. He draws attention, which makes at least one player, a Tottenham defender yesterday, busy by marking him. Other than that, his contribution to the 4-2 win at White Hart Lane, making it an London-away double for Chelsea over the last four weeks, was negligible. Not for the first time this season, his lazy approach to a one and one situation allowed a defending player to recover and poach the ball from behind. Roberto Di Matteo might not like Daniel Sturridge very much, but at this pace, he’s going to have to start him at some point.
The defense conceded two goals, but Chelsea with John Terry or without him aren’t the strongest unit you might find. Branislav Ivanovic isn’t a right back, no matter how much he plays at the position, while both David Luiz and Gary Cahill think about offense (as seen through Cahill’s fantastic goal) just as much as they do about marking, which leads to some blown covers, like the Jermain Defoe goal that gave Tottenham a momentary lead.
Still, without Gareth Bale and Moussa Dembele, the speed and power that give Tottenham a huge edge against anyone while counter attacking, with Bale in the first wave and Dembele in the second push forward, Chelsea had much less to worry about while they let their superior firepower do the job. Something that’s going to happen more and more as this team, and especially the fantastic trio of attacking midfielders, continue to come together, and actually look like a team worthy of a Premier League title, maybe even a European one, unlike the lucky group that achieved it last year.