Ahead of the visit of Chelsea to Selhurst Park, TEB had a chat with Jenny Brown about the season so far for the Blues, thoughts on the match and much more.
Q. With the Premier League finding a way to get back playing again, were you for or against the return and regardless of your opinion, how do you think the powers that be have dealt with it?
I had mixed feelings on the return of the Premier League for a number of reasons – all horrifically selfish. In part, I had thought a null and void season wouldn’t be the worst thing as no matter which way they considered ending it and allotting European spots for next season, Chelsea were guaranteed a Champions League place. A restart was literally the only way they could lose that. And of course, the petty side of me was hoping a certain team would not be crowned champions. But after 100 days without the Premier League, I think we all needed it back. A great distraction from what’s going on in the world around us, and probably the fairest way to determine outcomes for next season. I think it’s been dealt with as best it could be. It was smart to wait and see how other European leagues handled the situation, and learning from them.
Q. What did you make of the game at Stamford Bridge earlier in the season?
The reverse fixture was the pinnacle of a surprise run from a very young Chelsea side. It was the final match in a run of six Premier League wins, sat second in the table and just off the back of that 4-4 game against Ajax. Christian Pulisic really stamped his authority on this one but left it late before he managed to get his goal. As expected, Palace’s defence were resolute and it was only a couple moments of magic in the second half that Chelsea managed to get the points.
Q. How has the season been for you so far and what are you expecting from the run in?
It was difficult to know what to expect from this season. Frank Lampard in only his second season of management, first in the Premier League. The infamous transfer ban knowing that Chelsea’s academy would definitely play their part. There’s been a lot of ups and downs as the players and management continue to grow. But by and large, Chelsea have exceeded my initial expectations. The run-in will be a challenge. Other top four challengers have found their form – especially Manchester United since they added Bruno Fernandes into the mix. And we probably have the most difficult opponents across the final five matches – feel free to do us a favour on Tuesday night.
Q. The big question is, can you seal a top four spot to secure Champions League football next season? If so, what will that mean for the club and the fans?
A Champions League place is in Chelsea’s hands. Win the final five and it’s guaranteed. Those wins however, not so much. They are still a young side and can be prone to mistakes, case in point, the West Ham game last week. I do think that Chelsea can secure that top four place but it won’t be anywhere close to easy. A nervy few weeks lies ahead. Champions League football means so much to a club from the extra income to the players you can attract – like Timo Werner. As match-going fans, back when that was a thing, there’s almost nothing better than following your team around Europe. It’s a special experience.
Q. Who is your player of the season for Chelsea?
There’s a few players who have made a recent case for themselves since the restart, but I would have to give it to Mason Mount. He has been key to what Frank Lampard has been trying to do with the team. They had the benefit of working together last season at Derby but he’s really come into his own this season. Mount adds a lot of energy to the side and ensures the team continue to press forward. It has also been interesting to see how he’s grown into the role throughout the season, learning from mistakes to improve from week to week. Although a few more goals would not go amiss.
Q. The club are already looking towards next season with the signings of Timo Werner and Hakim Ziyech which can only be good news for you, right? Where else does Frank Lampard need to look to strengthen?
Signings are almost always good news. And they’re fun. Who doesn’t like a little Football Manager in the summer – but in real life? You always feel a little left out of all the fun when your side doesn’t make a signing. More than anything, Frank Lampard needs to address the issue with set-pieces. Stating the obvious here with one of the worst records in the entire league. It’s clear he doesn’t trust the full-backs, so a left back will be on the shopping list. And potentially another centre-back. But it only ever makes sense to dip into the transfer market if you’re upgrading on what you have.
Q. Who will finish top four, which teams will be relegated and who would you like to see promoted?
Top four will be Liverpool, Manchester City, Chelsea and Manchester United. Leicester have for the most part struggled since the restart and are in serious danger of dropping out of the top four. But with City facing that Champions League ban, fifth could be enough for Champions League football anyways.
Norwich and Bournemouth will drop out. And I think Aston Villa could join them. Watford’s second-half performance at Stamford Bridge swayed me into thinking they could have just enough to stay and they have a slightly easier run-in than Villa.
As for promotion I’m going to go from the away day perspective and say Leeds (for atmosphere). And then both Brentford and Fulham for proximity.
Q. What have you made of Palace this season?
I think Palace need goals. Desperately. Hoping they don’t come on Tuesday night. You have some great creative attacking players, but no real end product. Roy Hodgson has done a great job in setting the team up to make it as difficult as humanly possible to break down. But overall, not the most fun to watch for the neutral. With a more ruthless forward, Palace would be a lot higher in the table.
Q. Name one player from each side that will be the ones to watch in this fixture?
The Palace player to watch I think is Vicente Guaita. Overall one of the most underrated goalkeepers in the Premier League. Of course, he has Gary Cahill in front of him, giving him a hand. His shot-stopping ability from close range is annoyingly impressive. For Chelsea, once again, the man to watch is Christian Pulisic. He’s probably been Chelsea’s best player since the restart, drawing comparisons with Eden Hazard. Between his speed and intelligent runs, he’s difficult for defenders to stop without fouling. But he’s not quite Eden Hazard, because, who is?!
Q. Your prediction?
2-1 Chelsea. Basing both on the weekend’s performances and sprinkling it with a little bit of hope for our top four chances.