Messy, very messy. We knew Rafa Benitez’s Newcastle side would be a tough task. And they were. 80% possession and yet our winner came with just ten minutes to spare but the bottom line was a win. Many clubs will go to St. James’s Park and drop points so let’s smile and move on. More specifically to Thursday. The dreaded Europa League, the hangover from the previous season’s poor results. This is not a competition we are used to participating in, in fact we have only played in it from the group stages twice since the turn of the millennium. So what to do? Take the Mourinho route, use it as a way to enter the Champions League through the back door? Or tank it on purpose, play the kids and keep the bench warmers happy. It will be interesting to see which option Sarri takes.
Option 1. I see this as a cop out. An admission that we do not have the squad to compete and finish in the top four. I think we do. So do most fans and judging on our perfect start we have what it takes. Sarri has a team that is slowly coming to grips with his style and as we proved at Newcastle, it can break down even the most stubborn defense. However, the style requires high pressing and fitness levels above and beyond the norm. We cannot play the same core of players twice a week and survive a sixty game season. Our squad is too shallow in defense and up front to compete in four competitions without the luxury of playing earlier in the week. The Europa League also drags teams to the furthest corners of the continent, playing against sides on inferior surfaces and in hostile stadiums. It’s a sapping task. It’s also a very risky gamble as the quality of teams jumps drastically when the third placed sides from the Champions League trickle down. The current champions are Atletico Madrid after all…
Option 2. Play the kids. What better proving ground than the Europa League? You want to play for Chelsea, start the big games that matter? Fine, go win against a Turkish club with an unpronounceable name in Istanbul with 50 000 angry fans then you can play in London. We have so much potential waiting in the wings, crying for opportunity. Give them a shot. How is this for a lineup: Cabellero, Zappacosta, Cahill, Ampadu, Emerson, Loftus-Cheek, Drinkwater, Fabregas, Moses, Abraham, Hudson-Odoi. That’s a proper side, capable of taking on Europe’s second division and a chance to prove they have what it takes to play week in, week out in the Premier League. This way everyone wins, the second string get to play regularly and if they succeed we get a shot at European glory. If not, the only ones to suffer will be the players who didn’t take an opportunity to prove a point.
We are back at the Bridge after the break as Bournemouth visit the capitol. Eddie Howe’s side have come out of the blocks flying with the win against West Ham particularly impressive. The Cherries have been prolific in front of goal and our defense will have to be sharp to keep them out. I expect whoever dominates the ball will come out on top as both sides crave possession. We have the better players and while I admire Eddie Howe’s side, I think we will come out on top by a comfortable margin. 3-1 Chelsea.