Chelsea make hard work of it, but get the job done
Well, as we head into the final international break of the season, it is Chelsea who sit atop the Premier League. Now, there are plenty of qualifiers to that statement. We’ve only had seven matchweeks in the Premier League so far this season. It’s only the start of October and the season doesn’t finish until May. Liverpool haven’t lost a game in the league so far this season. Manchester City have already beaten Chelsea this season, and arguably should have beaten Liverpool on Sunday, regardless of Mo Salah’s brilliance.
Chelsea needed a win on Saturday. The previous week was the biggest stumble we have seen from Chelsea since Thomas Tuchel took over last January. Two losses on the trot in the space of a week had thrown a spanner in the works of a machine that was running very smoothly. The Blues had maintained their early season form, advanced to the next round of the League Cup and won their opening Champions League fixture. All in all, a good start. Plenty to build on and look forward to. But the back-to-back losses to Manchester City and Juventus had cast some doubt over Chelsea’s ability to maintain a season long challenge for a title that has been monopolised by Liverpool and Manchester City for the last four or five seasons. But sometimes you have these periods as a football team. It then becomes about how you react in the next match. And Chelsea did react well against Southampton. It was by no means an easy victory, despite the fact that they were playing a team who haven’t won a game so far this season. Chelsea started very strongly and dominated the first half. If not for VAR disallowing two goals, The Blues would have had the game sown up by half-time.
The second half was much more difficult, but Chelsea showed that most important of title-winning characteristics; they kept fighting to get over the line and win the game. Even if the third was scored in bizarre fashion, with yet more technological intervention, it put the seal on a win that Chelsea deserved and needed. After two sub-par performances, it was the players brought into the starting line-up that made the difference. Ruben Loftus-Cheek seems to be getting back to his best, something Blues fans have been crying out for ever since his Achilles injury stalled his career. Callum Hudson-Odoi played very well in a more advanced role than we’ve seen him occupy in recent times. Even Ross Barkley played a part coming off the bench. And that can give Chelsea a lot of confidence that the rest of the squad will be able to step up when the regular starters are unavailable.
It was also great to see Timo Werner not only put in another good performance, but score the goal that set Chelsea on their way to winning the game. The combination of Werner and Lukaku really does look like it could be the way forward. The return of Mason Mount is another big bonus for Tuchel as he looks to keep Chelsea towards the top of the table for the rest of the season.
It wasn’t the prettiest win that Chelsea will ever achieve, but it was a very welcome one. And it may be the victory that starts a run to help Chelsea achieve their goals this season.
Hamilton and Russell could be a very potent combination
It’s been a couple of weeks now since the worst kept secret in Formula One was confirmed, that George Russell would be moving on to the Mercedes team for the 2022 season and beyond. No one was surprised by that news at all. For one thing, George Russell has had Mercedes backing for most of his career. That backing was what helped him throughout his junior career and into the Williams seat that he’s been in for three years now. This was always the move that Mercedes were likely to make. They have spent years working with Russell, helping him through his career thus far, even having him sub in when Lewis Hamilton missed a race last year due to COVID, rather than their reserve driver, who’s job it is to replace a driver if they have to withdraw. We’ve seen that occur this season when Robert Kubica stepped in at Alfa Romeo when Kimi Raikkonen returned a positive COVID test. Instead, Mercedes decided to give their young up-and-comer a go. And he would have won the race if not for an inexplicably bad pitstop and a puncture.
The results we have seen since the announcement show that next season could be a very exciting one for Mercedes. Lewis Hamilton has finished on the podium in two of the three races since Russell’s move was announced, winning in Russia to retake the championship lead. Russell meanwhile has finished in the points in two of the three races and took 3rd in qualifying at Sochi, in a car that is nowhere near being among the fastest on the grid. If Mercedes can adapt to the new regulations coming in next year and deliver another car capable of winning the championship, George Russell will be in hot contention to win races. But so will Lewis Hamilton.
Lewis Hamilton will be 37 years old when the next season starts in March 2022. He will be the second oldest driver on the grid. But he continues to win races (the victory in Sochi was his 100th in F1). He leads this year’s championship as we head into the final seven races. Even though this is the closest fight Hamilton has had for a long time, he leads the way again. That is no guarantee that he will win the title this year, but he is in a very strong position to do it.
The one thing that Mercedes will be looking to avoid will be a return to the drama we saw play out between Hamilton and Nico Rosberg in their three seasons as teammates. They pushed each other to be better, and then would push each other too far. And Russell will not want to play second fiddle to Hamilton. Both have said publicly that is not what either would want; Hamilton would want to both beat and teach Russell in an equal setting and Russell would want the same machinery as Hamilton, to see how he truly measures up. If they can avoid pushing each other over the edge, the Mercedes domination of F1 may well continue.