POSTED: 16 December 2011
MANCHESTER City swaggered as if they were already nearing to taste ultimate success in the Premier League this season. But that was 15 games ago.
Their fling with early glory were put to an end by Chelsea and with that bitter, first defeat this term, the race for the crown was thrown wide open.
Frank Lampard, much maligned for insinuations that he has seen better days, delivered the winning goal – a late penalty brace – that gave the Blues a vital 2-1 victory at Stamford Bridge last Monday.
With that, the Blues are back in the thick of the title fight, while City crashed back to earth, losing for the first time since May last season after previously rampaging through those consecutive league wins and looking every bit invincible with each 3 points nailed.
The Blues’ just secured passage to the knockout stages of the Champions League and that might have prodded them to play more heads-up than usual against City.
Just one crucial win over the leaders have suddenly transformed the Blues fortunes’ for the better as well as manager Andre Villas-Boas’ following testing weeks when his future as bench tactician was put into question. That win definitely revitalised the Blues’ outlook for the league.
Prior to that, Chelsea prevailed in only two of their last five duels with City, sandwiching the other three clashes which the latter ruled, one of them away. Luckily for the Blues, both of their victories in that stretch were tallied at home and that apparently was another reason that enabled them to find an extra gear.
City remained the leaders through a precarious two-point edge over defending champions Manchester United but Chelsea are now knocking hard on their doors, just five points adrift the lead.
Not only that, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur also got clearer paths towards the apex of the table exposing the reality that these season is not just confined to one, two or three teams to vie strongly for the coveted trophy. And yes, Liverpool are also just around the corner.
As a result, the coming games this weekend would be crucial. The Blues visit Wigan Athletic, United travel to Queens Park Rangers, the Hotspurs host Sunderland and City play Arsenal at the Etihad Stadium. The Reds, on the other hand, travel to Aston Villa.
Outcomes of these fixtures would play a major part in shaping up the standings and whoever strings up more wins at the end of this month would be in a better spot entering the second half of the season.
If the Blues want to build on their latest triumph, they should retain their best performance-wise.
There is no time to be letting their guards down especially when the league enters its make-or-break stage. This is now the time when the Blues should pounce on the opportunity.
And as bared in the game, they still need Lampard no matter how his form is sometimes scrutinised that he is being relegated to a substitute’s role instead of being in his customary spot as member of the Starting 11.
Andre Villas-Boas should not discount the fact that Lampard injects valuable inspiration to the team which has been made more prominent by his intention to play an even more vital part in the Blues’ future. He is also a true-blue icon as Chelsea faithful mobbed him with affection following his heroics.
The wily playmaker is already 33 years old but his focus for the squad to excel remains intact. His seventh league goal in the campaign should be long remembered as the one which made City crumble. He may have only 18 months left to play for Chelsea but he is still performing as if he were only starting off as a rookie. Ignoring this kind of commitment would be an illogical thing for Villas-Boas to do.
As for City, they should stop looking like cry babies after that mild melee at the tunnel dugout when Ashley Cole apparently angered the visiting players by allegedly hurling unsavoury comments towards them.
Same for City boss Roberto Mancini. He should not blame anyone, like the referee for not giving them a penalty in the first half, for the defeat.
Clichy’s dismissal also hinted of growing disciplinary problem within the outfit as the latter became the third City player to be sent off in six league fixtures. Mancini may have denied there’s such a problem but if that trend continues and if they tumble again, then he must resolve that issue while there is still time otherwise it will be too late before they’ll know what hit them.
Let that impediment not knock them off course for there are still coming games from which they can regain lost ground.
As the season goes deeper into the December tussles, the team who’ll show more consistency stand to gain a step ahead of the rest coming into the latter stages.
And it looks like Chelsea are in no mood to sing the blues right now following that essential win over City.
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