Manchester United might have deserved the English Premier League title that they won in so dominating and convincing a fashion last season but it would be hard to deny that they weren’t aided by the misfortunes that Chelsea had to suffer in terms of regularly losing key players to injuries. No, this is not to suggest that Chelsea would have won the title again but they certainly couldn’t cope with the injury woes that lapped over them.
This season though there has been an alteration to the proceedings. Chelsea haven’t been rocked to an unmanageable degree by the injury lightning so far this season. Chelsea do have enlarged their squad somewhat this season and even their manager Avram Grant says that even when some injuries have cropped up and even when Chelsea lose first team players to the injury devil, they have enough reserve players to carry on the baton. And indeed this is true. Chelsea’s bench does have a number of players who would easily stomp their way into the first XI of any side (even their illustrious rivals Liverpool and Arsenal).
This season the Chelsea bench has come to the rescue. In games where Cech has been unavailable, Italian goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini has deputized him well and in the absence of Didier Drogba, Andriy Shevchenko has come up with good contributions. Even the likes of second choice midfielders such as Steve Sidwell have played a decent role in the team when called up in an emergency.
Grant says that it is this capability of his Chelsea side that will stand them good in the long run. He points out this weekend’s defeats suffered by Liverpool and Arsenal. Arsenal didn’t have Alexandre Hleb and Cecs Fabregas for their trip to Middlesbrough and duly lost 2-1; Liverpool too suffered a 3-1 away defeat to Reading at the weekend. Arsene Wenger relies mainly on the first team players and it is really hard to find one single player at Arsenal who would be able to fill Fabregas’ shoes should he somehow get himself injured and stays away from the game for a long period.
Manchester United haven’t been the same team in style and vigor without midfielder Paul Scholes although it must be admitted that Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney have yet to come up with their best this season for Manchester United.
So will Chelsea’s expensive and large bench strength take them to another Premiership title victory? Or will they again succumb to the curse of the Injury God?