Chelsea FC: Avram, You've Got a Stay of Execution

Shaka AndersonCorrespondent IMarch 6, 2008

Two weeks ago, as I sat in my seat at Wembley behind the North goal, I felt the lowest I'd ever felt as a Chelsea fan. The team hadn't turned up, the fans were asleep, and we got beaten by a Spurs side that was inspired to win their first trophy in nine years. The team selection and formation was wrong, the subs were ineffective, and there was no heart in their performance.

Don't get me wrong, I accepted the fact that we got beaten with good grace because Spurs deserved to win the Carling Cup and therefore deserve all the credit and plaudits.

The reason I mention this is because up to this point of the season, although Avram Grant has only lost three matches out of 35 games (which, by the way, is a record any manager should be proud of), the problem was that the three losses were crunch games. You have to wonder whether Grant has the ability to mould this team to win the big games.

On Saturday against West Ham, I witnessed a performance from Chelsea that at least convinced me to give him a stay of execution. What I witnessed was a selection that was not Chelsea's best lineup, but a team performance that demonstrated that they can come back from adversity.

While it was only West Ham, I was expecting another boring, tight, woeful performance. Instead I witnessed Chelsea's best performance in at least four months. Don't get me wrong, I'm happy to win with boring play, but boring this was not.

One of the main reasons was the inclusion of Wembley refugees Michael Ballack and Joe Cole. Clearly they should have been in the team against Spurs.

Last night against Olympiacos I was again expecting a drab, boring, tight game when Chelsea shocked me again with style. This time there was no mass rotation, just two changes—Didier Drogba in for Nicolas Anelka and a forced change in goal of Carlo Cudicini for an injured Petr Cech. This continuity did the trick in my opinion.

So Grant has my backing at least for now because he has demonstrated that he can get Chelsea playing well and winning games. It's just hoping he can replicate this type of football for the big games.