Five points on Chelsea - with Pat Nevin
18 August 2017|Tottenham Hotspur
Pat Nevin starred down the wing for Chelsea, Everton and Scotland in the 1980s and 1990s and is now a hugely-respected pundit for BBC Radio Five Live. He's also Chelsea through and through and writes columns for the Blues' website and programme - and he's a huge fan of Christian Eriksen...
- Won Scottish Second Division title with first club Clyde
- Played over 241 games for Chelsea 1983-88, won Second Division tite in 1984
- Played 151 times for Everton, FA Cup runner-up in 1989
- Played another 231 games for Tranmere 1992-97 and then spells at Kilmarnock and Motherwell
- Capped 28 times by Scotland, 1986-96
- Had a spell as chief executive at Motherwell
Where are Chelsea at the moment? Do you expect a reaction from the group against Spurs at Wembley?
Pat: “Chelsea are in a rebuild phase at the moment and most people are aware of that - a number of players have left the club. They also have injuries and suspensions right now. In many ways, it’s a good time to get Chelsea. Yes, there will be a reaction, but it will be difficult because of the limitations of the squad at the moment. If you look in midfield in-particular, it’s tough to decide who will play in there because they only have Kante available as a natural midfield player, no-one else is available from the more experienced group. That will be a big call. So yes, the players will be up for up it, but on the other hand now is definitely a good time to play Chelsea.”
Below: Antonio Conte
How do you think Chelsea will cope with so many absentees? How do you think Antonio Conte will set his team up on Sunday?
Pat: “I’ve been thinking about that. There are options. Conte has three centre-backs he could use - Azpilicueta, Rudiger and Christensen - and then move David Luiz into centre midfield. That looks quite good. The three centre-backs are fine, Luiz is a very good central midfielder. However, if you look at that back line, all three may be pretty good players, but they’ve not played together and that’s hard against Spurs, who are a group of players who know each other incredibly well. The other possibility is to put Azpilicueta alongside Kante and that leaves you with Luiz as centre-back and that might help because there is more cohesion, but Azpilicueta is not used to playing in there. You are mixing and matching and what most managers tend to agree with is that you make the fewest changes you can in defence. So what they will do? I’m not sure. Conte has been very good over the years at making big changes - you’ll remember when he changed it to three at the back after the defeat at Arsenal last season and it went well after that. The other possibility is Chelsea could go four at the back. That gives them more options. So there are options but none are perfect.”
Below: Alvaro Morata
What have you made of the new signings - Morata, Bakayoko, Rudiger?
Pat: “I think Morata is brilliant, top quality and I rate him up there with Harry Kane in terms of movement - his movement is hyper-intelligent, he’s very difficult to mark – and all parts of his game are good. He’s strong, a natural goalscorer, he won’t be a problem. Rudiger, so far, so good and Bakayoko will fit in where Matic played. The Chelsea team is fine - if they are all available. They are doing good things but we’re not quite there yet.”
Below: Christian Eriksen
You’ve spoken so highly of Christian Eriksen - what do you like about him?
Pat: “In my programme piece for Chelsea last season, I said how Chelsea had to be aware of Christian Eriksen breaking into certain areas and showed it in a graphic - and he scored from that precise area! When I played wide/midfield, anyone who has that vision, it’s not a case of if a pass is on, he may be able to deliver, because there are plenty of players around who may be able to, the thing is, Eriksen will. Newcastle was the perfect example for the first goal. They tried to close him down but once there was that little area if space, he made it. I was there and I didn’t think for one second that he woudn’t make that pass to Dele, and lay it on a plate. There are few players around like that. Fabregas is another. They are like quarter-backs in the NFL, if you leave them in the pocket with space, you are in massive trouble. He’s quite spectacular at that. He’s one of those players who could quite easily go under the radar with the likes of Dele and Harry Kane, but I’ve always been a massive fan and I’m sure Dele and Harry would say the same thing. His numbers are phenomenal, particularly goals made and chances created and that’s always the one for me, because I created plenty if chances when I played and they weren’t all scored - and it wasn’t my fault they weren’t all scored!”
Finally Pat, how important is this game so early in the season?
Pat: “I think it’s more important for Chelsea than Spurs, oddly enough. If you look at Chelsea’s run right now - they’ve Spurs, Arsenal, Manchester City and Everton all coming up very quickly and having to deal with it with a weakened squad. Having lost three points on the opening day, they won’t want to be stuck behind the Eight Ball this early. So for Chelsea, it’s massive, but big for both, obviously.”