We had the real pleasure to speak with SB Nation Soccer lead editor and Chelsea blog 'We Ain't Got No History' writer Graham MacAree this week, and he shared his thoughts on a bunch of different things on what's been happening at Stamford Bridge this season.
RBM - It’s been quite a tumultuous half-season hasn’t it? Between Roberto Di Matteo, Champions League elimination, Rafa Benitez and the current upsurge seems like there’s been a lot going on. Tell us in a couple of lines how you feel about the season so far.
WAGNH - Chelsea are out of the Champions League and almost a dozen points off Manchester United at the top of the table. They’ve also contrived to lose two ‘cup finals’, even if I didn’t particularly mind about the Super Cup or the Club World Cup. Oh, and we lost a beloved Chelsea legend in favour of Rafa Benitez, a man that you understand not liking very much. So, it’s fair to say that the season so far’s been relatively disappointing. That said, there are plenty of bright spots, and if not for a horrendous November supporters would be feeling ok about things.
RBM - Benitez recently stated that he hasn’t given up on the title race as yet. With five wins in the last six games, are the fans finally warming up to him, and what will it take for fans to stop the ‘16th minute applause’ business?
WAGNH - No, we’re not warming up to him. Being annoyed at his appointment has very little to do with football and everything to do with the fact that we don’t like Rafa Benitez the human being very much. Since he continues to be Rafa Benitez, he continues to be annoying – even if I give him credit for the business of winning games I’m never going to like him. And the Robbie di Matteo applause seems to be starting to die down a bit, although any dropped points will see it come back with a vengeance.
RBM - Chelsea have some fantastic squad depth, one of the deepest teams in Europe I’d say. Benitez has been quite bold about giving youngsters like Lucas Piazon and Nathan Ake playing minutes. Does he have the ability to handle football successfully on four fronts?
WAGNH - Chelsea are very deep in certain spots, but incredibly weak elsewhere. Central midfield is a problem, especially with Oriol Romeu out for the season – we’ve had to play around with David Luiz there because we’re so light in the middle of the park. And when Daniel Sturridge leaves for Liverpool, we’ll have one senior centre forward on the squad. And a pretty mercurial one at that.
RBM - The winter transfer window is almost upon us. It seems like Chelsea has been linked with just about every player under the sun especially since money is no object. What are Chelsea’s needs? Who are the players that are realistic targets?
WAGNH - We probably need a central midfielder with John Obi Mikel heading to the Africa Cup of Nations in January. We definitely need a centre forward. With Roman Abramovich’s habit of splashing the cash, there’s not much that would surprise me, although I’d hope that Chelsea continue their focus on buying relatively young rather than going for established superstars.
RBM - Finally, a score prediction for Sunday’s game? What are you expecting from the two sides at Goodison? Who do you think will have standout performances?
WAGNH - Well Chelsea have a really irritating habit of dropping points at Goodison Park, so I’m not expecting all three (hoping is another thing, especially if Kevin Mirallas, Darron Gibson and Marouane Fellaini are all out of action), so I’ll call this one a 1-1 draw. Juan Mata will have a standout performance because he always does.