Written by : Jonathan Lee

So after a run of 8 games in all competitions without a win, we defied the bookies’ odds (some were offering 9-1 on an away win) and came away with a victory at Stamford Bridge on Saturday – by all accounts a hard working performance from all involved.  But the key to the win will only be known by what follows in the upcoming games – was it a genuine change in approach and attitude from both the players and management, or was it a knee jerk reaction to being pinned in a corner and pilloried by fans and media alike that drew such a heart-warming performance? Picture the errant schoolboy in class given a huge ticking off – the next couple of days he’s good as gold but then back to his sad old bad old ways. That is what we have to avoid; the performance and personality at Chelsea has to be replicated. Although we don’t expect to win every time we play (in our lifetimes that’s only really happened in 1985/86), we do expect a hunger to compete and the whole squad to play for both the shirt, the fans, the team, and yes, the manager.  If they don’t want to be part of that they shouldn’t be playing football, let alone for our club.

Was it co-incidence that Saturday’s win saw a change in goal, a new focus up front in Antonio, and a new centre half partnership?  It’s hard to say categorically, but seemingly the changes gave the whole team a lift. However, one win in nine doesn’t in itself arrest the recent decline. Unlike the errant schoolboy we need to carry onwards and upwards into our next set of games with Wolves (A), Arsenal (H), Southampton (A) and Palace (A). One of the few things that BFS did well was to try and focus minds on the next set of matches, set targets and achieve moves up the table in set phases. Two games in five days, both away from home, would be a real test at any time and after such a decent win it will naturally be hard for the players to reach those levels again. They aren’t machines and their Chelsea efforts will have taken a toll, so many would see any positive result at Wolves as an achievement.

The next four games will again be an indication of whether a corner has been turned in East London or not, remembering of course that three are away games while the home game is a London derby – grab three points or less from these four matches and it’ll be disappointing; four or five points would be fair; six or seven points pretty good, and eight or more amazing!

Player wise they will all need to step up and maintain the efforts at the weekend otherwise that win will have been in vain. MP will need to make good calls on who has energy left in the tank to play again and who might be better served by sitting this one out and preparing for Arsenal. You might think the 30-somethings (Noble and Snodgrass) could struggle in that respect, while reports Antonio may be carrying a knock from the weekend could see him subbed and Haller starting.

Speaking of which it was nice to see Haller and others on the bench joining in the celebrations after the goal; it felt for the first time in many weeks like they all had each other’s backs.  Maybe it’s time for Arthur to get a start against Wolves and use his pace to help Cresswell combat Adam Traore down our right wing (as Fredericks can match him for pace should he play on the left), and maybe it’s time for Anderson to be introduced as an impact sub. Of all the players on Saturday it seems he was the one that perhaps did not live up to the hype of the overall performance. As touching as the occasion was for David Martin, and who couldn’t be moved by the images at the end, that debut is now gone and the hard yards start here. Never truly tested by Chelsea, he will have much bigger tests ahead of him until such time as Fab is ready to return (the choice for keeper at Gillingham will be interesting presuming a fit and firing Fab by then).

But fingers and everything else crossed we can push on from Saturday and produce a few decent performances in the run up to Xmas. This is a league where currently a couple of wins, or a couple of defeats, can bounce you up or down the table – and with only six points separating fifth from seventeenth, the opportunity is still very much there to turn our season around.