Perhaps it’s a Manchester United thing.
Those of us who were at Anfield in early March 2011 will have noticed a stark resemblance between what happened to the Red Devils there and what occurred to them on Sunday at Stamford Bridge. The man in the dugout may have changed, but the damage inflicted to his defence was the same.
Almost three years ago, I and others saw Liverpool’s Dirk Kuyt score a hat-trick against United that wasn’t exactly like the one he’d have dreamed about as a young boy in Holland when that curly blond hair of his hit the pillow.
Kuyt’s first goal was tapped in from a matter of centimetres after Premier League new boy Luis Suarez – just weeks into his Anfield career and still controversy-free – went on a slaloming run through the visiting defence, his second was turned in from close range after a disastrous back header from Nani and then his third came after Edwin van der Sar had dropped a Suarez free-kick directly into his path. Combined, the distance of the goals was about as long as a six-yard box.
Which brings us to Stamford Bridge on Sunday.
In scoring three times via a heavy deflection off Michael Carrick, by exploiting a ridiculously static United defence and then by reacting quickest to Gary Cahill’s header goalwards, Eto’o put up a strong challenge to Kuyt for the Premier League’s most underwhelming hat-trick ever.
All goals count the same though, and Eto’o should know. He’s pretty much made a career out of such strikes.
Now 32, and with Chelsea having recently joined Real Madrid, Barcelona and Inter Milan on his CV, Eto’o doesn’t really have anything to prove to anyone. His move to Stamford Bridge in the summer may have come as a surprise to some, but his less than picturesque goals could prove to be the difference between his club’s success and failure this term.
Blues forwards have been the topic of plenty of discussions all season, and with Fernando Torres now out for a month and the lesser-spotted Demba Ba having disappeared from the public consciousness, Eto’o finds himself at front and centre of those conversations.
All season it has been the goalscoring prowess of the likes of Eden Hazard and Oscar which has driven Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea machine on, with the Portuguese apparently seeing fit to leave Juan Mata abandoned on the side of the road.
As the matches become more frequent and more important though, the Chelsea boss is going to be relying on the experience of Eto’o to lead the line upfront.
The Cameroonian – a two-time Champions League winner with Barca, scoring in both finals – has never hidden the fact that this spell in England is a brief one. He only signed a one-year contract last summer and has been linked both with a move to the MLS and back to former club Mallorca at the end of the season.
But his poacher’s hat-trick against United showcased that this could well be a golden year for him.
The addition of a genuine goalscorer sniffing out chances and capitalising on defensive errors will add a new dimension to this Chelsea side, one that have almost become used to functioning without a forward on the top of his game in recent years due to the struggles of Torres.
Like Kuyt, Eto’o might not be featuring in any Goal of the Month competitions any time soon, but his strikes for the Blues could be much more valuable than that mere award.
He is currently, and deservedly the man in possession of the centre-forward’s shirt at Stamford Bridge, and on his scruffy goals could rest the fate of his team.
Norwich know when to get it right
Is there a team in the Premier League who are better at winning a ‘big’ game than Norwich?
Just when manager Chris Hughton appears to be on the brink of the sack his players pull him out of the fire, with their latest win over Hull City on Saturday just the latest example.
After a wobbly start to the campaign they ground out a 1-0 win at Stoke in September, then after Manchester City hammered them 7-0 they responded by beating West Ham, and then their response to being Luis Suarez-ed yet again was a 2-0 win at West Brom in December.
That was their last victory before the Hull win and took them to the heady heights of 12th in the table, and so with winnable games on the horizon for them perhaps those “big” games can be less strung out?
Palace can royally dump out holders
We don’t usually dabble in the FA Cup around here but the price on the holders making a fourth round exit has to be highlighted.
Wigan needed a replay to beat the MK Dons in the last round, but their run in the competition should end when they host Tony Pulis’s improving Crystal Palace, whose price of 13/5 to win the game looks on the large side.