Have Chelsea got enough in reserve if their star men got injured? Bob Bradley’s strange word choices have been humorous and Tottenham are “officially strange”.
Is Chelsea’s winning formula robust enough?
They play in blue. They have a striker who can’t stop finding the net. They have a dazzling playmaker, who also scores lots of goals. And they’re winning games to nil. Oh, and then there’s N’Golo Kante in midfield. I could be talking about last year’s Champions Leicester. Instead, I’m referring to the current League leaders Chelsea.
It’s unlikely anyone at Stamford Bridge decided Leicester’s model for success should be copied but the similarities are obvious. The difference, of course, is that the Foxes drifted under the radar for so long. Way past Christmas, there was a strong feeling that the bubble would burst. It’s not the same with Chelsea, who are as short as 5/2 to win back the title they relinquished so meekly last year.
The Blues went top of the table with a win at Middlesbrough last week so they’re now the ones to be shot at. Can they keep it going against Spurs this weekend? And, as with Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez last year, could they cope if anything happened to Diego Costa or Eden Hazard?
Everything is going their way right now, but what have they got in reserve if things go awry?
Time to take a risk on Defoe?
The leading Englishman in the Premier League scoring charts is Jermain Defoe. And he’s managed to come up with those seven goals despite playing for one of the division’s worst teams, Sunderland. To show how important he is to the Black Cats, the striker has been involved in 21 of Sunderland’s 41 Premier League goals in 2016, scoring 18 and assisting three.
So why has he not featured in an England squad since 2013? And why don’t one of the bigger teams come in for him, even if he might not end up being a first-team regular? Could he really not be doing a better job at his former club Spurs than the underwhelming Vincent Janssen?
At 34, Defoe’s age counts against him but Aritz Aduriz is a year older and found the net again for Spain earlier this month and is still seen as a valuable commodity. Defoe, the 10th highest scorer in Premier League history, will hope to show off his finishing skills again at Liverpool on Saturday.
Would another goal give the manager of one of the Reds’ rivals a come-and-get-me nudge? And, if it doesn’t, why not?
Pick van Dijk
After a commanding performance in the 0-0 draw against Liverpool, Virgil van Dijk is being touted as the next man to make that now well-trodden path from St. Mary’s to Anfield. Anyone who can give Sadio Mane (another former Saint of course!) a head start and still get back to block the Senegal speedster’s goal-bound shot clearly has pace in abundance. And when combined with prowess in the air and tactical awareness, it’s easy to see why Liverpool and other big teams are sniffing.
Van Dijk helped Southampton keep five successive clean sheets earlier this season (something Liverpool and Manchester City can only dream about it seems) so he really does appear to be worth his weight in gold. Southampton paid Celtic £13m for the Dutchman in the summer but, as he now appears to be hot property, should they cash in during the January transfer window?
After all, knowing Southampton, their much-to-be-admired scouting team will probably already have someone else lined up!
How is it possible for the Premier League’s only unbeaten team to be so out of sorts? Yes, Tottenham are officially strange.
In their last 10 matches in all competitions, Mauricio Pochettino’s men have managed just one victory – and that came in a game in which they were 2-1 down heading into the 89th minute. The last-gasp 3-2 win over West Ham was quickly forgotten in midweek when they crashed out of the Champions League with a group game to spare after a deserved 2-1 loss in Monaco.
The last place they need to go on the back of that is Stamford Bridge as 17 of the 23 players Tottenham have used this team weren’t even born the last time they won at Chelsea (February 1990).
Is this current dip just Spurs being Spurs or, strange as it sounds given that they’ve not lost any of their opening 12 Premier League games, are the men from White Hart Lane simply not good enough for a top four finish this season?
A Brad move
As a fan of @usasoccerguy on Twitter, I enjoy Soccer Am’s ‘Brad Bobley Soccer Camp’ sketches. They’ve done it well, putting on the bald head-mask and revelling in the American use of strange word choices to replace our well-worn sporting phrases.
Forget “bending your run” to beat the offside trap, Bobley wants you to “curveate your approach after making a visuality connection”. And when corrected by one of his players after namechecking “Derek Bergkamp”, Brad is quick to lose the plot. “You wise-ass little….”.
Funny, and yet if I were a Swansea fan, director or owner, would I be thrilled that they’re taking the mick out of my manager? If you were a Swansea player watching this, would you really not start to see Bob Bradley as a figure of fun and secretly chuckle at his Americanisms?
Right now, he’s the 13/8 favourite to be the next Premier League manager to leave. If bottom-of-the-table Swansea lose to Crystal Palace this weekend, is it time to trigger a contract terminalisation?