Tim Sherwood column: Chelsea have found a more attacking rhythm with Cesc Fabregas in the side

That should be all the motivation Manchester City’s players need to start performing

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The Independent Online

It is the game of the weekend at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday and Chelsea have found their rhythm quicker than any of the other leading teams. But it might just be this match which wakes up Manchester City.

Against Bayern Munich on Wednesday I felt that at no point did City really go for it. That is difficult away to Bayern but City are set up to attack teams, whenever they play. They throw everything forward and it is very hard to stop.

City have a squad as good as any in Europe. They have assembled a group of big-game players. It is time for all of them to start performing. Usually with the really big names, it is this kind of game that prompts them into action, they don’t need motivating. Sometimes it can be harder for them to get motivated for the lower-profile games, as the defeat to Stoke showed.

Jose Mourinho knows as well as any manager in the Premier League the pitfalls of the less glamorous matches for title challengers. He knows that if you are not on your game, right from the word go, then you can be punished. In John Terry and, to a lesser extent, Cesc Fabregas, he has two players who understand that and know the league as well as anyone. That kind of experience is invaluable over a season.

 

When Chelsea beat City at the Etihad in February, it was regarded by many as a tactical masterclass by Mourinho, so you can only imagine he will do the same again on Sunday. It would mean Mourinho plays two in front of the back four as he did in February when it was Nemanja Matic and David Luiz’s job to protect the defence. Chelsea always have pace on the counter.

Their full-backs get forward too, and in February it was Branislav Ivanovic who scored the goal that won the game. They don’t go forward recklessly, they pick their moments and generally speaking when Chelsea have the ball on the right, Ivanovic is already getting down the touchline. Willian carries the ball forward. Eden Hazard provides that speed on the counter-attack. Now they have Diego Costa, who looks like he has been in the Premier League for years.

The one thing different this season about Chelsea is that they are conceding more goals, as well as scoring more. Last season they were more likely to score a goal and shut the game down. Now, with Fabregas in the side, they have a player who has played for two clubs previously for whom the philosophy was always to attack.

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Jose Mourinho oversees a Chelsea training session earlier in the week

 

You are never going to change the instincts of a player like Fabregas. He is always looking forward. He adds that little bit of magic to the side and he is great for the supporters to watch. In my view he has been the signing of the season.

Chelsea and City both play again in the Capital One Cup next week. For clubs at that level there is no reason not to try to win everything. They have the squads to do it. The trouble is, there are never enough trophies to go around for every club that believes it should be winning one.

Neil Adams has thrived by managing relegation well

Two of the three clubs relegated from the Premier League last season sacked their managers on Thursday and the last man standing from that trio is Neil Adams, whose Norwich City team are second in the Championship and going nicely. I am not sure he has got the full credit that he deserves for such a good start to the season when you compare it to those at Fulham and Cardiff City.

There were the usual concerns about his lack of experience when he took the job. Not every manager can offer experience. It is no guarantee of success. Even the best had to start somewhere. Adams has managed relegation well. He has kept many of his good players, like Nathan Redmond and Wes Hoolahan. Norwich have lost Leroy Fer and Robert Snodgrass but have coped with it. Adams has them playing with a bit of freedom.

When you take over a club that is struggling, you have to wipe the slate clean and give everyone a chance. In turn, Norwich have also shown faith in Adams and they have benefited from that.

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Felix Magath was sacked on Thursday

 

The Championship is a tough league and when you are in a slump it is hard to arrest it. Equally, when you are on a roll you can get up that league quickly. I joined Portsmouth halfway through 2002-03, when we finished top of the then First Division, and we won games easily. We had a good side, with Paul Merson, Steve Stone, Yakubu Aiyegbeni, Svetoslav Todorov and Matty Taylor. The team gained momentum over the season and finished with 98 points.

For teams relegated from the Premier League, one of the problems is that the fans think it will be easy in the Championship. But the matches come thick and fast, you’re quickly going from recovery and into match preparation and there is not that much time to think.

It is interesting that the three managers promoted from the Championship last season – Nigel Pearson, Sean Dyche and Harry Redknapp – were all English, so too the beaten play-off finalist, Steve McClaren. You do need to know that league to be a success in it. Like a lot of managers in work, and out of work, I spend as much of my time watching games in the Championship and League One and Two. You have to have that spectrum of knowledge.

At Fulham, they have thrown a lot of the kids in. No bad thing in itself but you need the experience alongside them, players like Scott Parker, to guide them through. The mistake is to throw them all in at once without enough help from senior players to get them through their first steps. Some managers do that to try to prove a point to their chairman that the academy kids are not good enough. It is not the way to introduce young players to first-team football.

For all the problems Fulham and Cardiff have had, in a 46-game season there are plenty of opportunities to turn things around. Their bad starts do not mean it is over in terms of promotion in May.

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