View on the Opposition - Chelsea

The Daily Mirror's Neil McLeman lifts the lid on Saturday's visitors Chelsea
Daily Mirror sports writer Neil McLeman lifts the lid on today’s visitors Chelsea

It’s been a difficult few weeks for Chelsea, what have you made of events in west London?

“It’s been a bizarre start to the season and I don’t think anyone could have predicted what’s gone on at Chelsea. It is very strange how quickly things have spiralled and they look like a team without confidence. There is now a belief that there hasn’t been in previous Jose Mourinho teams that you can get at them, they’ve lost their aura of invincibility.  

“For Chelsea, playing away on Saturday might actually benefit them, to get away from Stamford Bridge they’ll be under much less pressure. We’ve seen a lot of teams fare batter away from home – none more obviously than West Ham.”

What do you think has changed from last season to this; clearly they are still the same quality players that won the league?

“I think there are a number of reasons. The best time to buy is from a position of strength and I don’t think they did well enough in the transfer market. They bought Pedro from Barcelona but not much else. Also losing Petr Cech was a bigger blow then they realised.

“Another factor is that Mourinho works his players very hard, last season he didn’t rotate too much so there are signs of burnout already. Added to that, the off field situations with Eva Carneiro and other behind the scenes stuff haven’t helped either.”

What with the World Cup and Copa America, they are a team full of internationals who have played a lot of football over the last few seasons, they also played on Tuesday evening. How important is that?

“Exactly, and it does take its toll. There’s a lot of travel involved which people don’t consider. If you look at Cesc Fabregas for instance, he’s is a very old 28-year-old having been a regular since he was 17. He was sensational last season and hasn’t been the same, neither has Eden Hazard.

“I think top four will be a struggle. Manchester City, Manchester United, Arsenal are looking good, then Tottenham are chasing. It’s too early to write them off but a couple more defeats and it’ll be very difficult.”   
On the other hand, West Ham have made a great start to the season, it seems like the West Ham Way is back?

“Certainly, they’re playing good football and the players they’ve brought in have really strengthened the squad. Dimitri Payet especially is clearly a very special player, the fact he doesn’t get in to the French squad shows you how many good players they have.”

You mentioned Dimitri Payet, he’s a real enigmatic character isn’t he?

“The first thing to say is that France have got great players in Morgan Schneiderlin, Blaise Matuidi and Paul Pogba among others, he outspoken past may count against him slightly. France aren’t short of those maverick type of players, if they did pick him I think they would have to pick the team around him.”

Having watched him excel Ligue Un, you’re probably not surprised at how well he’s done for West Ham so far?

“Whenever foreign players come in to the Premier League, they have to adapt to the physical nature. I think it’s helped that Ligue Un is probably closer to the Premier League than Serie A or La Liga, it’s a very high tempo, physical league. So that has definitely helped.

“He’s also been helped by the fact that he wasn’t a name that many people knew about so there wasn’t a great expectation on him. He’s had a month or two under the radar to settle in and now he’s showing everyone what he can do.”