This weekend West Ham fans will be travelling across to West London to play Chelsea, hoping that we can at least put on a half decent performance, at a ground where we have not had a lot of success in recent years. Ahead of the game I spoke to lifelong Chelsea fan Malcolm Walker from prison charity St Giles Trust to ask him his thoughts on the match and the season.
Hi Malcolm, the top of the table seems to be settling down as we near the midpoint of the season. Are you happy with where Chelsea find themselves?
Yes, delighted, Chelsea are playing some attractive football this year. Frank Lampard has changed the style so we are much more attacking.
It must be interesting having Frank Lampard Junior as your manager. How do you think he’s doing so far?
He was always the type of manager that would give opportunities to the younger players coming through but the transfer ban has forced his hand. As manager, Frank will be given more time by the Chelsea fans because of who he is and for what he has given the club on the pitch. Expectations this year weren’t high with a young inexperienced squad as the pre-season and early league games showed – attractive football but susceptible to mistakes both in front of goal and at the back. . Not helped by rumours of Abramovich wanting to sell the club, these rumours have died down a bit now and there is no sign this was actually the case.
Out of the new players who have recently started playing for Chelsea, (youth players and bought in) who have impressed you the most?
A few of the new players are really starting to shine, Mason Mount coming through from the youth squad and Pulisic who we bought last year and went out on loan. Reece James at right back has also had a great start to the season. A number of other young players are getting regular games now – Tammy Abraham is a good talent and has scored quite a few goals but the jury is still out on whether he can step up over time to become a top quality striker, at the moment it takes too many chances to score. Hudson-Odoi also has loads of talent but not sure if he has the right attitude yet, however he is still young and relatively inexperienced.
Any thoughts on how the rest of the squad are performing?
In midfield Kovacic and Jorginho have formed a great partnership this year controlling the midfield and giving us loads of possession. Last week against Man City I think it’s the lowest possession City have had in any game under Pep. We have been without Kante for a while but he is now back. Willian, as one of the more experienced players, is playing well and gives an outlet for the midfielders.
I expect you wish your old manager well in his new post down ‘the lane’? What’s the latest view on Jose Mourinho?
Mourinho as Spurs manager is a big surprise: he had 2 good spells at Chelsea and achieved a lot but is very defence focused. He often wants a large transfer budget to buy established talent which Levy has appeared reluctant to provide so far. I expect short-term results will be good but history shows Jose will fall out with the club’s hierarchy after a couple of seasons.
Who are your picks for the League title this year, and will Chelsea be joining them in the Champions League next season. Prediction for the top for places?
Liverpool are my pick for the title as they are looking strong this year. Man City second. Leicester are a real surprise so far, they have some great players and a good manager but not sure about the depth of their squad so they will need to avoid injuries like they did when they last won it. We will make up the other position. I hope!
Who are your picks for relegation?
Norwich, Southampton and Villa
How are Chelsea find to line up this weekend? Prediction for players/formation?
We’ve got a few injuries at present Rudiger is due back soon and that might help in defence, Loftus-Cheek is also is still out and Abraham is a doubt.
Possible team if Abraham is fit:
James, Zouma, Christiansen, Alonso
Kante Jorginho, Kovacic
Pedro, Abraham, Pusilic
The way both teams are playing you won’t be too worried about playing West Ham this week, prediction for the score?
Possession creates chances and I think the game will have goals but with the Blues’ defensive problems there will be some at both ends especially as I’m not convinced about Kepa in goal. A close game, as derbies often are, but I think the Blues will edge it.
Well many thanks to Malcolm for his time. I’m surprised he didn’t predict an out and out thrashing! I can’t bear to write down what I think the score will be, so no predictions from me today. I will however be following the game with everything crossed, praying to a God I don’t believe in, desperately hoping that the boys will put a bit of pride into their play, and I can come out of my post-match shell for the first time in what seems like months. COYI