Wednesday 13 December 2017

Five things we learnt from Burnley v Chelsea

Andre Schurrle of Chelsea celebrates scoring their second goal with Branislav Ivanovic
Andre Schurrle of Chelsea celebrates scoring their second goal with Branislav Ivanovic

Cesc Fabregas proved why Arsene Wenger was mad to let him slip through his fingers when he became available this summer, and the Chelsea team of Jose Mourinho's first spell in charge is back.

Fabregas will be a force  in the Premier League

Later this week, Arsène Wenger will be asked why he did not exercise his option to buy back Cesc Fabregas when Barcelona decided he was surplus to their requirements.

As those who remember Robbie Fowler’s fleeting return to Anfield would affirm, second comings rarely work and Fabregas had faded in Catalonia. But on this evidence, Fabregas, starved of football and a central role at the Nou Camp, appears an ominous mixture of hunger and cold-eyed precision.

Turning down Fabregas may come to resemble Sean Connery’s decision to reject the role of Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings because “I didn’t fancy a year in New Zealand” – understandable at the time but inexplicable in retrospect.


Real football is back in Lancashire

For those who despair of identikit stadiums – the ones built for the World Cup all seemed to be variations on the Emirates – Turf Moor gladdens the heart.

There are “proper” floodlights with “proper” pies and “proper” fans. The views from the main stand, over the chimneys and churches of the Pennines, are among the most beautiful in football.

That they endured a proper towsing at the hands of a bunch of London-based foreigners who trade under the name of Chelsea will not be too hard to take. Scott Arfield, who scored Burnley’s opener and might have grabbed a second, had been released by Huddersfield last year. He, at least, will not forget his night.


Burnley cannot afford to let this defeat linger

If it is a universal law of football that newly promoted clubs are at their most dangerous in the early weeks of the season, then this will have been a sobering night at Burnley.

If you discount a final-day win over Tottenham when they were already relegated, Burnley won seven Premier League games in their last stab at top-flight football. Five of those came before 31 October. Their first two games at Turf Moor featured victories over Manchester United and Everton. That alone demonstrates the scale of the task facing Sean Dyche’s side.


The Mourinho formula is working once more

When Joe Cole began his brief, disastrous stint at Liverpool, he remarked that Jose Mourinho always regarded games against the bottom 10 as more important than those against the clubs around him.

“Beat them home and away and it is 60 points”, was his mantra. Last season the formula fell apart. Between 29 January and 4 May, Chelsea dropped 15 points to West Ham, West Bromwich, Aston Villa, Sunderland and Norwich. After 14 minutes, this seemed another stitch in the same pattern but the old Mourinho formula is back, albeit with rather more flare.


Chelsea will be contenders and they will be fun

Just as Manchester United’s victory over Real Madrid on a pre-season tour of the United States did not signal the resurgence of a club ready to seize the commanding heights of European football, this was a win over a side that cost 15 times less than Mourinho’s summer transfer budget.

Nevertheless, this was a hugely impressive beginning. And if Chelsea regain the title, they may do so with rather more flair and style than Mourinho’s teams usually display.

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