Mou' gon' Mou'
And Mou' he did, all the way up until the very last second when his well earnt 3 points were snatched away from him. After giving Moyes' United team too much respect last year and taking the 0-0, this time Mourinho gave a cursory nod towards winning and his team did nearly everything he would have desired: pinch a goal, keep it tight and give up nothing. In the match I watched, United could have played until Christmas and they weren't going to score, so I can understand the emotion that was felt on the Chelsea bench as smart pragmatism dissolved into pained frustration. The game was littered with classic Mourinho cues: bookings aplenty for gifted midfielders, the Oscar for Obi Mikel swap, Drogba showing that 'target-man' is a position as ageless as keeper and Ivanovic being one part brilliant marauder, one part defensive wall and one part off the pitch just when it mattered.
Importantly, the point a-piece keeps Chelsea on this side of the horizon & having finally shown some vulnerability we can hope that they might regress towards the pack to some degree. Their numbers are good, but so are Southampton and Man City's & these three hold a distinct advantage over the rest of the league & the question is less how superior Chelsea and Man City are (they are) and more how long can Southampton keep this up? With the chasing pack now headed by West Ham and expected challengers stuttering, the seemingly formidable task of attacking the top 4 positions is not as unlikely as it might have seemed only weeks ago. As noted before, December will be their big test.
After the shot heavy antics of last week we have seen a far more sedate set of figures though this has been driven by a miniscule goals total and terrible shots on target figures. League conversion rate is a season low: about 9%, although the year-on-year rate is good, currently running at about 11.5% which is distinctly up.
Anyway here's a comparison, for interest, between both the best and worst team figures for goals per shot on target this season and last. Ideally, you'd like your team towards the top of these tables and interestingly, this is where we find West Sam. Last year, many models suggested that they were bad enough to have gone down and the fans were outraged: the Big Ham showed otherwise. This season, they appear to be better than the sum of their parts and are charging up the league. The Big Ham strikes again?
1. 'The Oxford English Dictionary today announced the words that defined the year and which will be added to their new dictionary for 2015/16...'
2. Someone will try a Rabona penalty.
All credit Alex Song for immediately supporting this new craze this weekend.
- This week Mile 'The Wall 'Jedinak conceded a crucial last minute penalty so as a mark of respect this section is suspended.
Obligatory Tottenham bit
About a year ago, Erik Lamela starred in Europa League tie before being dropped for a home match against Newcastle. That match against Newcastle was a bewilderingly one sided 0-1 defeat in which Tim Krul had one of the matches of his life in repelling Tottenham. Many fans wondered why Lamela had been omitted and the result hid the quality of the underlying performance.
Fast forward to now & we have a similar situation: Lamela lights up the Europa League but this time retains his place, and offers little in a hugely frustrating 1-2 defeat against Newcastle; a defeat that offered many of the hallmarks of that indefinable term, 'Spursy'. The quality of the underlying performance, in contrast to last year, can't very well be praised.
In a match played at a decent tempo, Newcastle didn't turn up until literally the first kick after half time and Tottenham will find it hard to understand how they managed to lose. Earlier in the season, Sunderland forced a 2-2 draw despite having only one shot on target, here Newcastle were efficient, and not before time given their paucity for fortune this year, and scored 2 from 2. And lo, Harry Kane came to pass but nay, he couldn't create an opening and Spurs sit in a miserably deserved 11th place.
Deserved? Sadly it is. Tottenham aren't decent in any of the metrics i'm tracking and rank between 8th and 14th for the majority. All the shot numbers i'm using peg them as damned average and we're worrying close to the precipice named 'crisis'. In a season where only Chelsea, City & Southampton can be content with their early season play, it remains frustrating to have to lump Tottenham in with Liverpool, Everton, Arsenal and Man Utd as 'teams that should be doing much better' & arguably they are towards the bottom of that group. Of course the coach needs time but the major problem of instilling grit & mental toughness into a group of players who are lacking general fortitude is not easily solved and many more defeats could offer us that rare beast: an open January chequebook.
Thanks for reading!