Chelsea turn tables on Arsenal as Mourinho bounces back
Morale-boosting win in Europe could give Chelsea the upper hand ahead of Arsenal clash on Saturday
At the start of the week it seemed that Arsene Wenger could be poised to exact the ultimate revenge on his old rival Jose Mourinho when his Arsenal side visit Stamford Bridge to face wounded Chelsea on Saturday. The Blues had endured a nightmare start to the season and with Arsenal on an unbeaten run the Frenchman could smell Portuguese blood.
But after Wednesday night's games Wenger's hopes of applying the stiletto to his nemesis appear rather more slender. On the same night that the Gunners slipped to an abject Champions League defeat in Zagreb, Chelsea enjoyed the tonic of a 4-0 win over Maccabi Tel Aviv to kick start their season.
The clash with Maccabi Tel Aviv did not start well for the Blues, as Eden Hazard shanked a penalty into the top tier of the stand after just six minutes, but a Chelsea team shorn of underperforming stars including John Terry, Branislav Ivanovic and Nemanja Matic soon took control against inferior opponents, and goals from Willian and Oscar gave them a 2-0 lead at half time.
In the second half established stars Diego Costa (on as a substitute) and Cesc Fabregas made it 4-0.
"The storm clouds that battered much of the capital yesterday finally cleared over Stamford Bridge in the evening, and Chelsea recorded the kind of straightforward win that they have craved all season," writes Matt Hughes of The Times.
"Whether Mourinho has finally turned Chelsea's ailing ship towards calmer waters, or merely enjoyed a brief lull before another storm, remains to be seen, although the victory will at least have raised confidence levels and bought them some breathing space."
Mourinho's decision to make six changes to the team that lost to Everton worked and the new-look Blues had a "different feel", says Amy Lawrence in The Guardian. "Freshened up, Chelsea gave themselves a reminder of what they do well. They found an urgent energy that had been so sorely missing."
Brazilians Oscar and Willian, English teenager Ruben Loftus-Cheek and striker Loic Remy all impressed, "but if Chelsea needed one sign that they are closer to getting over their blues, it arrived with the sight of Fabregas floating an assist towards Diego Costa for the striker to finish with a glorious swivelling volley," says Lawrence. "It's business as usual now, with some Stamford Bridge happiness back."
However, Chelsea's performance leaves Mourinho facing "even bigger decisions ahead of Saturday's Premier League clash against Arsenal", warns the Daily Telegraph. "His back four will cause him the biggest headache. Does he bring back captain John Terry and Branislav Ivanovic or stick with the new-look defence? Baba Rahman was not really tested on his debut, Cesar Azpilicueta looked comfortable at right-back and Gary Cahill captained the team for the night."
Whatever he decides it is likely that Mourinho will prefer such selection dilemmas to the ones he was facing earlier in the week.