Chelsea: The Little Horse isn’t So Little Anymore


Every time Chelsea have played a game this season, the commentator’s have mentioned Jose Mourinho’s now famous “Little Horses” comment. He said in the middle of last season that the title race was between two big horses, Liverpool and City, and one little horse, Chelsea, that still needed “milk, and work.” He ended the comment with a “next season, next season the horse will be…” and smiled knowingly.

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The little horse needed strong legs, that would drive it to glory; the heart and head were already there. In the first four games of the season of the season, it has become clear who those legs are: Diego Costa and Cesc Fabergas.

The two Spaniards (or Brazilian-Spaniard in Costa’s case) again were the engine of the team. Fabergas completed 74 of 79 passes, missing just one in the defensive and middle third. He ran the center of the field, and assisted on two of the goals. Cesc has quickly become the teams most important playmaker, taking the pressure off of Oscar, Hazard and others.

Cesc Fabergas ran the Chelsea attack, pulling the strings and making the passes.

Diego Costa was the man getting all the plaudits, though. His hattrick was a masterclass in attacking. The first goal, off a Cesc Fabergas corner just before halftime, was a beautiful header. Branislav Ivanovic and Jordi Amat were in the air, just in front of him, but Costa didn’t jump, letting the ball fall onto his head instead. It was a perfect header, and ended the half on a high note for the Blues.

Swansea had dominated the first 20 minutes, and John Terry’s own goal was showed just how incisive the Swans had been. Wayne Routledge and Neil Taylor were having field days down the right side, and Gylfi Sigurdsson and Ki Sung Yueng looked strong in the middle. Yueng set up Swansea’s first with a beautiful pass to Taylor, through the Chelsea back line. Taylor then hit the ball hard, just in front of goal, and Terry was forced to try to clear the ball out. The ball ended up in the back of the net, and Swansea was up.

But Swansea didn’t just sit back; they kept attacking, until Chelsea finally got their bearings back around the 25th minute. Garry Monk and his team weren’t afraid of losing, and showed it.

Chelsea went on to dominate the second half, and Costa scored two more. The second was the result of an amazing combination between Hazard and Fabergas. His third was a poachers goal. Ramires got the ball on the edge of the box, and took a shot. He scuffed the ball, and it rolled towards the goal. Costa took it as a pass, easily bursting past Amat and Ashley Williams, and one-timing the ball past Lukasz Fabianski.

Costa has now scored 7 goals in 4 games; that’s two more than what Fernando Torres, now on a two year loan at Roma, and Demba Ba could muster last season, and only two less than Samuel Eto’o’s goal tally. Mourinho really wasn’t that far off in bemoaning his lack of striking ability.

Jose Mourinho’s “little horse” comment drew much attention last season, and is drawing even more this season. Thanks to his amazing transfer window, Chelsea have grown into a big horse, and are ready to reclaim the Premier League title.

Costa and Fabergas were the best players, no doubt, but they weren’t the most important. While this may sound contradictory, Eden Hazard was the most pivotal part of the game. At one point, around the 20th minute, Mourinho called him to the side of the field, and gave him instructions. Then, a few minutes later, Hazard shifted to the right side, and Andre Schurrle, who was a liability on the left, moved to the right. Hazard then took over the game. He dominated the ball, when Chelsea had it, and played solid defense when they didn’t.

Hazard said this week that Fabergas and Cotsa take the pressure off him, allowing him to play more freely. Today, he was responsible for lighting Chelsea’s engine. Swansea wasn’t just attacking well, they were defending well too. Hazard, in a performance similar to the one against Russia at the World Cup, began to drift more centrally, and set up Oscar, Ivanovic and Cesar Azpilicueta on the wings more often.

When Hazard started to light up, the rest of the team responded by lifting their games to a higher level. Although Chelsea really turned the gas on in the second half, it was the Belgian’s inspiring display in the 20 minutes before half time that fueled that avalanche. This is where Hazard will be most important for Chelsea.

Last season, Eden lead the Blues in goals and assists. This season, with Costa and Fabergas at the Bridge, Hazard won’t have to do that. But, he will have to rally Chelsea when they are stalling. Costa can only score when he has the ball, and the same goes for Fabergas. It will be the Belgian’s job to do what he did today: fire the team up, and get the ball back to Cesc and Diego.

What made this win so important for Chelsea was not just that the legs did work, or that Hazard rallied the team: it was that the Blues weathered the storm. Last season, West Brom, Sunderland, Aston Villa, Norwich and others all rained on Chelsea for parts of their games, and the Blues never recovered.

But this season, Chelsea has held off all four teams they’ve played, including two newly promoted sides, for extended periods. Not only that, but the Blues have then gone on and buried the teams. This is a direct reversal of last season, where the losses to Sunderland, Norwich, Palace and Villa all ended Chelsea’s title hopes.

This year, the Blues have conquered those weaknesses. The wins over Leicester and Burnley especially showed that they could rise to the small, as well as big, occasion.

Mourinho’s little horse isn’t so little anymore: the horse got is milk and work, and legs, and is ready to challenge for the title. With Costa and Fabergas at their top level, that challenge is looking more and more like a victory.