I am looking forward to MM`s team selection for the Chelsea match on Saturday with a mixture curiosity and apprehension. The absence of Hunt and O`Hara through suspension and Stearman through injury, when coupled with MM`s avowed preferences and the pressure of an away fixture against a top side, makes for an intriguing party-game. But, of course, supporting WW at the moment is not a fun-filled activity.
The reserve match against Arsenal yesterday helped and it hindered. According to the reports, Zubar, the obvious replacement for Stearman, was his usual self, mixing poor passing with strong tackling and an obligatory injury. Zubes says he`s ready and I prefer him to Doherty because, rusty though he might be, he gives us an edge. I vividly remember watching at close quarters his gallop downfield against Chelsea last season, a run that directly led to our goal.
Regarding Doherty: apart from his wayward pass that almost led to a goal yesterday (what`s wrong with our players?), I also recall him being overwhelmed against MC. Apparently, George made a great tackle from CD: a note-worthy occurrence. I have already argued that George`s natural position is in the centre of defence. Even so, Johnson and Berra will the ones chugging around on Saturday. Oh, for a CD with pace!
Presumably, we will play a 4-5-1 formation but when selecting our midfielders we have to think in the round rather than merely replacing the barred players. I would therefore push Edwards further forward to occupy the spot vacated by O`Hara, while employing Milijas in a deeper-lying position to orchestrate the movement from defence to attack. From his vantage point, he should be able to fire the ball out to the wings or thread it through the inner channels.
Reportedly, Guedioura played a blinder (at least for 70 minutes) and was equally adept in breaking up Arsenal`s attacks and distributing the ball forward. He should be given another chance, though I am aware how badly he played against Wigan. Let's hope he has learnt his lesson. That leaves Jarvis or Hammill for the final slot. For me, Jarvis remains an enigma: he played well against Wigan but was almost anonymous in his cameo role last Saturday. Unfortunately, Hammill is equally as inconsistent. On balance, I would give Jarvis the nod. Moreover, with Guedioura and Henry as 'enforcers` he should be able to get forward a little more often.
Upfront, Fletcher`s performance yesterday gives him the edge over Doyle. I suspect that I - and probably many other WW fans- are still judging KD on his heroics as the lone striker in the second half of the 2009-10 season. He was brilliant ... but unfortunately he has not reached the same heights this season. Moreover, he does not possess Fletcher`s predatory instincts. Fletcher looked sharp yesterday and would worry Chelsea`s defence, with the creaking Terry in the middle, far more than Doyle would. And, he could poach a goal.
Commentators are divided in their assessment of the current Chelsea team, some arguing that they will react by making mincemeat out of us, while others suggesting that they will be rather flaky and tense. I tend to place myself in the latter camp. Remember, too, they have a Champions` League match this evening, less than three days before our fixture. On Saturday, they will either play a weakened team or a tired one. In either case, it`s a good time to play them.