(Also posted on TalkChelsea.net)
Nine wins in a row; just let that sink in. Of course, it’s still way too early to predict the league winner or to allow our excitement to overwhelm reality, but things couldn’t have gone better for Chelsea in the last two months. But whenever a solid set of results like our last nine go our way, it comes with a slight anxiety of wondering when it will end: which team will snatch three points from us again?
No Chelsea fan assumed that because Conte has found a system that worked, said system would not be exploited. It is clear that Chelsea’s dominant pace has slowed down since clubs have started to figure out the 3-4-3, evident from the Tottenham game up to West Bromwich Albion. And yet, Chelsea has used these opposition tactics as another way to show their resilience.
I don’t need to tell you that we still got all nine points from our last three games even though they were trickier than previous ones – particularly against Manchester City and West Brom our front three showed that all they need is one opportunity to do damage. If anything, the difficulty of our last few games has been an asset to Conte and his team in seeing where their weak spots are and making necessary changes.
Speaking of necessary changes, Fabregas has surely re-proven his worth in this Chelsea side. The West Brom game was crying out for his brilliant passes and when he got his chance, he took it with finesse. Credit to Conte; he has given Fabregas fair chances to try and re-establish his place and I think Conte has the vision to realise that he will be needed, particularly when our FA Cup fixtures begin and squad rotation will be vital to keep the team strong.
For now, the Christmas period will be a telling time, as it always is. On paper, our set of fixtures from now until New Years should allow us to pick up the pace again, and also give us room to make up for any lost points along the way. Come January, a much clearer picture will emerge for league favourites. If Chelsea keeps up the winning momentum until then, there is no doubt they could be those favourites. Chelsea has to stay focused and accept the fact that the road to the title would not be an easy one, but it is still a huge possibility.
What is clear from the past nine games is that any opponent can slow us down, but in response Chelsea have shown that it will be a very difficult task for anyone to stop them in their tracks. Of course, a loss will come at some point, but what matters is not how we are beaten, but how we learn from it as Conte clearly did after the abysmal losses to Arsenal and Liverpool. As our rivals drop points, we have to take every fixture with this same winning attitude and what will be will be. Learning from mistakes is one thing this Chelsea side seem adamant on doing and this focus will pay off.
The boys in blue are loving this spirit and thriving off the passion: players like Costa, Matic and Cahill are as strong as they’ve ever been (but to name a few). They don’t want anyone to crash the party, and this drive alone could spur us on all the way.