Chelsea will not mind if their football is not the most attractive, as they try to climb their way towards the top of the Premier League table.
After their impressively focused 0-0 draw at Arsenal on Monday night, they host Swansea City today and Liverpool on Sunday, confident that two wins should leave them either top or very close to it when they travel to Southampton on New Year’s Day.
It is a new position for Chelsea to be in, having not mounted a serious title challenge since Carlo Ancelotti won the league in 2009-10.
There are many players in their first or second season at Stamford Bridge and Jose Mourinho knows that they need to learn how to compete for the league. It will certainly be harder than his first two Chelsea titles.
“I enjoyed it more in 2005 and 2006 when we were winning it easily,” Mourinho joked. “I enjoyed that more.
“But for me it is fantastic. The pressure is there. I have told the players they have, some of them, to learn how to cope with this situation. Because they have to learn.”
Competing for the league is a special pressure, one that Chelsea players will have to live with. “For me it is not a problem,” added Mourinho. “For some of the guys it is not a problem. But for them, now, they have to learn how to express themselves on the pitch in this situation.”
On Monday night it looked as if Chelsea were learning how to take crucial points, as they had the better of a tight 0-0 draw at the Emirates Stadium. It was not pretty but goalkeeper Petr Cech, who has won three Premier League titles at Chelsea, knows that does not matter.
“In the end you count the titles,” Cech said, when asked about Arsenal fans calling Chelsea “boring”. “If you have figure skating – where you are judged by how nicely your routine is – then obviously that is one point, but football is about points and goals and you need to get points to win trophies.”
Arsenal are second to Liverpool on just goal difference so can go top for at least a few hours if they win at West Ham United this afternoon. The Gunners have not won in four games in all competitions but goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny insisted that confidence was still high among the first-team squad players.
“I’m very positive,” said Szczesny. “The mood around the club is much better than it was at the start of the season. People maybe didn’t believe in this team as much as they do know. Our confidence is still quite high and we believe that we can go and do it this year. We’re looking forward to proving that.”
It was a physical battle against Chelsea on Monday, and may be similar at West Ham today, but Szczesny believes Arsenal can now manage that.
“Two or three years ago we’d have lost that game [against Chelsea]. Sometimes if you can’t win it, you have to settle for a clean sheet and a point. There’s a little bit more experience in the team now and we’re a bit more physical, more direct. Maybe that has made the difference.”