It’s Christmas, everyone is drinking too much and the paranoia and conspiracy theories are kicking in. In the Mourinho spirit, I was all ready to apologise to Paul Jewell after my criticism of him subbing Henri Camara at half time last week. More fool me eh? After a quick scoot around the Message Boards I am now convinced that he’s not injured at all.
No, one (barely) considered view is that Camara threw a strop at half time after Jewell took him off for playing like he didn’t give a toss. Of course he couldn’t. Don’t forget Todorov is only in the squad because Henri is off to Portsmouth in January.
New contract? Spiritual home? What are you on about? Oh, right, well that was obviously just a smoke screen wasn’t it?
Seriously though, Camara is sidelined for around six-weeks with a knee ligament strain, joining Paul Scharner (and there’s another similar set of rumours there) whose knee problem is likely to keep him out for just as long, but maybe longer. The upshot is that Jewell basically has little choice over his line up on Saturday and the only question is what formation he’s likely to play.
It would be nice to think that we’re going to see a return to the 4-4-2 that has served us so well throughout Jewell’s time as manager. However, if I’m right, the 4-5-1 which could be described as successful against Arsenal, was used against Sheffield Utd to keep continuity for the games against Chelsea and Man Utd.
If that’s the case, the changes will be in the front line, with Todorov taking the central berth, Coterill sitting on the right and Heskey on the left. Personally I’d flank Heskey with Johansson and Coterill, Heskey seems more of a natural for that ploughing the lone furrow role. Then again, what do I know?
The key to how successful any formation will be is, unsurprisingly, Chelsea’s own shape. The signing of Ballack and Shevchenko seems to have put doubt in Jose’s mind over the two wingers and a striker line up that won the Blues consecutive Championships. Injuries to Joe Cole and the revelation that Wright-Phillips probably wasn’t worth £23 million have restricted his options, but the resurgence in recent weeks of Arjan Robben means that messiah has more choices available to him.
As a total guess I think we’ll see a 4-4-2 for Saturday tea time. Hopefully Terry will still be missing, or have they been so worried about us that they’ve been saving him for this one? His replacement, Boularouz has been drawing rave reviews for his defending, but his uncertainty against Johnson last week gives room for hope.
Upfront it’s usually a case of perm any two from Shevchenko, Drogba and Robben. If I’ve got the formation wrong you could also throw Kalou into the mix. The midfield picks itself and Essien, Lampard, Ballack and Makalale is probably just enough to match anything that we can throw at them.
Chelsea have omitted some of their star players from the starting line up for each of the last few games and have relied on latish goals to get them wins, therein lies possibly Latics only chance to get something out of this game. If we can give them something to chase and then hold on for dear life then there’s a chance of a point.
Anything else and you can’t help but feel we’ll be asking for trouble.
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