It was a drab 0-0. Scenes of tumbleweed rolling across the desert floor and paint drying on a fence were apt to describe a game most of us who watched 90 minutes should have turned off at half time.
But there was one positive to come out of it, from a Chelsea perspective at least. And that’s their resilience in the face of Spurs dominance.
That makes it three games without defeat for Chelsea. It’s come to this. We’re counting the number of games without defeat, even though none of those games really saw them play particularly well. That’s how far they’ve fallen.
It’s very hard to claim that Chelsea are ‘back’ after beating Norwich and Maccabi Tel-Aviv in unconvincing wins and then drawing 0-0 with a team who had to travel back from Azerbaijan only a few nights earlier. But progress is progress, however small. And Chelsea are thankful for small mercies these days.
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Which is why it seems so natural for Jose Mourinho to hail the performances of Eden Hazard recently. He hasn’t been very good. Just better than he was. It doesn’t take much, but it’s that small mercies thing again.
Tis the season to be thankful for such small mercies, after all. Chelsea go into the Christmas period in their best form of the season and that counts for something, however small. When the games come as thick and fast as the tequila shots on your work Christmas do, you want to make sure you’re on form. If Chelsea can manage to pick up a few points over Christmas maybe they can kick on and finish somewhere in the respectable end of the table this season. Who knows, a cup run may not be out of the question either.
Premier League form over Christmas is vital. If Chelsea can’t string a few more wins together, then things start to look very bleak indeed. The prevailing sentiment is still that Chelsea’s league position is a false one. They’re too good to go down, and they’ll turn it around soon. But if they come out of the Christmas period still only five points above the relegation zone, you’d expect they’ll be more than 12 points off a Champions League spot.
This is when your league position starts to solidify. If it’s a false one for Chelsea, then they’ll be moving up the table in the coming weeks. If it isn’t, then we’ll have to start talking about an actual relegation battle sooner rather than later.
But this still doesn’t feel like a team in a relegation battle. If their ‘relegation rivals’ had managed two wins and a draw in one week, with the draw coming at White Hart Lane, then it would be hailed as a success. But that’s because we still don’t see Chelsea as a ‘relegation-threatened’ team.
Chelsea’s small mercies are paradoxical. They’re worrying because of how close to the bottom of the barrel Mourinho has to scrape to find positives. But they’re encouraging because they’ve started to grind out results at the right time, and they’ve stopped hitting the headlines, at least over the past few weeks.
I haven’t heard Mourinho blaming everyone under the sun, or publicly admonishing players. Mourinho defended Diego Costa before benching him at the weekend. It’s another ‘small mercy’ to suggest that Chelsea are improving because their manager no longer sounds like he’s on the verge of a breakdown, and the club don’t seem to be airing their dirty laundry in public.
Be thankful for small mercies, Chelsea fans. Because only a few weeks ago your team was a basket case, the village idiot. Now they’re turning back into a respectable club that’s just not playing brilliantly. A run of form over Christmas and they’ll turn into a good team again.
Chelsea are hoping for some welcome Christmas gifts of points on the board. But like all good children, in order to get what you want, you can’t be on the naughty list. Sorting out the form and the off pitch antics is the first step to getting what they want over the Christmas period.