Saturday’s 7-1 drubbing of Aston Villa may have told the Chelsea fans a lot of things. Firstly it was a sure sign that the team are ready to battle till the end for the Premier League title. Secondly, it has proven that Frank Lampard is good at penalties and appearing in the box and precisely the right time. However, it is the third point that is the most important, two goals on Saturday took Florent Malouda’s season tally to 14 and, when combined with the 12 assists the Frenchman has, must prove to Chelsea fans that he is finally settling in at the Bridge.
Malouda was signed with high hopes in 2007 by Jose Mourinho but the Portuguese manager was subsequently sacked soon after. Malouda persisted but only managed 3 goals in his first season. Hardly a convincing return for nearly £14million. In his second season he trebled his goal tally but, despite some important goals, he was still seen as a hit and miss player for the Blues. This season has surely changed that view. Malouda has arguably been Chelsea’s most consistent performer and has become ever-present under Carlo Ancelotti. The Frenchman has five in his last four games and is even on goals with Nicolas Anelka, with the winger creating five more goals than his fellow countryman.
While some fans bemoan a lack of width, Malouda has provided the perfect outlet on the left hand-side. The Blues may be without a top right winger but in the left-footed Frenchman they at least have one winger to boast about. Malouda is strong, quick and very good on the ball. The injury to Ashley Cole even saw him selected as a left-back and, although not overly-impressive, he still showed enough composure to merit praise. Saturday’s match at Old Trafford could decide where the Premier League trophy ends up this season. With Rooney seemingly out, a betting man would not look past Chelsea providing an upset. If the 7-1 victory at the weekend suggested anything then it would be that Chelsea are beginning to peak. While Villa were poor, Chelsea’s performance should not be underestimated and once again, Malouda was at the heart of it. Even the most loyal of United fans will be worried at seeing Malouda tearing down the wing with just Gary Neville trying to stop him. I’d expect to see Antonio Valencia or Park Ji Sung on the right hand side of United’s midfield. Sir Alex Ferguson is renowned for using Park in these crunch games but Valencia has shown an equally high work rate and either could be deployed to double up on Chelsea’s form man.
While the paper’s debate Rooney’s ankle and the eyes of the nation focus on Old Trafford, keep an eye out for the tricky Frenchman who could help Chelsea take the title back to London.