Pat Nevin: An exciting debut and a long-serving Blue’s best performance | News | Official Site

Pat Nevin was present to watch Chelsea’s first game of 2022/23 at Stamford Bridge against Tottenham Hotspur. Here he explains why our performance has filled him with so much optimism, particularly that of our two full-backs, one new to the club and one new to the role but in their best form yet.

Sometimes in football you have to think long-term, whether you want to or not. After the weekend’s breathless 96 minutes against Spurs, it was important to see the bigger picture. There were a number of Chelsea players who played at the top of their game, which to be honest wasn’t the case against Everton the week before. That tells us the outing at Goodison Park was just rust. Just a week later the squad is looking very good overall and that’s a huge relief.

It was great to see Reece James back at his unstoppable best. If ever there was a man who deserved to score the winning goal it was him and, but for some hair-raising If the officials had called, he would have celebrated the winner as well as his well-deserved Man of the Match award.

Marc Cucurella probably won’t like the ‘outrageous’ line above and I feel his pain. Well I would if I had enough hair these days. It was unbelievable that his attacker Cristian Romero didn’t receive a second yellow card for a rather nasty foul. It’s not necessarily the scathing antics of another player we all remember – and Branislav Ivanovic remembers all too well – Luis Suarez, but it’s the sort of transgression that’s very frowned upon in the game. That’s putting it mildly!

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However, our Spanish left-wing machine has had an exceptional first start for the Blues at the Bridge. He has already shown that he basically does everything and does it very well. He is an intelligent defender and a constant threat going forward as he will always run to the empty end or take on defenders to get to the touchline at every opportunity. When he made the comment with our own Jason Cundy, Jase called it heavy-handed. I could think about fortnight and not find a better word to sum up his playing style.

Add to that a quality of passing that rivals the best to have come through Barcelona’s fabulous La Masia youth system and you have to accept that we have a player who will be one of our favorites for many years to come. There were moments down the left flank, when he linked up with N’Golo Kante and maybe even more Mason Mount, that almost took his breath away. This looks to be a very exciting area of ​​the squad at the moment which should not thwart Ben Chilwell’s qualities if and when he is favoured.

I could rave about the left flank and I’m tempted to do that, but to be honest, although they were extremely good, they were slightly outshined even by our right flank. James and Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s work was nothing short of a triumph. They demolished Tottenham’s defense at will for just under three-quarters of the game with a display of skill and power, at times stunning. Whisper it, Spurs are a decent side but they’ve been designed to look very average over long periods of time, especially on that flank.

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If this wasn’t Ruben’s best game in a Chelsea shirt, I want someone to tell me which was better. There have been good performances before but this was a step up against top opponents as he used all his skill and physique and added a large dose of confidence. Most importantly, this time he looked just as fit and strong in the last quarter of the game as he did at the start.

For all of Mount and Cucurella’s brilliant understanding, the connections and danger created by Loftus-Cheek and James working together were constant and unstoppable. It helps when you’re playing right next to someone you’ve been playing with since you were a child, and it really showed. This partnership could be one of Thomas Tuchel’s great discoveries. There was a moment in the first half when Ruben drifted in at the back post and was inches away from heading the goal. Had he scored there, he might even have named the mighty Reece man of the match.

Tuchel must also have been delighted at how well the two worked together in a subtle visionary tactic that helped hamper the visitors for most of the game. Reece was reportedly the third centre-back, but when Son Heung-Min fell into the pocket, Reece was assigned to follow him in there. When it happened, the resulting gap was immediately filled by Ruben.

This is one of Spurs’ favorite tricks, but TT and the boys figured it out and wiped it out. In the end, Antonio Conte had to change his entire system and make a living from switching to a back four, which he doesn’t prefer. In the end it worked, but he was lucky. Chelsea were the better side and should have taken all three points, Antonio and any sane observer will know that.

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In the end though, for all the good performances, the odd decisions, the entertainment on and off the pitch and good football, and the generally brilliant, seething atmosphere (the new owners must have loved it – just get used to it folks, this is the Chelsea way) one thing in particular will be remembered.

Kalidou Koulibaly’s first goal of the game and the first of his Chelsea career is already a classic. 20 or 30 years from now we will still have this goal in mind and still love it. There have been difficult days in the past few weeks, months and years. Last weekend felt like finally getting out in the sun again.

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