Since being benched following consecutive defeats against Bournemouth and Watford, Gary Cahill has been in and out of Chelsea’s starting XI. His return in recent games has seen the fortunes of Antonio Conte’s side turn around.
Four wins in the last 4 Premier League games for the Blues will make for a very uncomfortable end to the season for serial chokers Tottenham. Of course, the north Londoners are very much in the box seat right now, but a win for Chelsea at Swansea on Saturday evening will put them just 2 points off fourth spot.
If Chelsea can get that crucial result, and it’s a big if, they’ll be just one win behind them. Tottenham fans will have a nervy wait until Monday’s home game against Watford, who slaughtered Chelsea 4-1 just 10 weeks ago.
Cahill’s reintroduction has shored up a defence that was starting to leak goals with Andreas Christensen at its focal point. It’s understandable that the Dane has begun to struggle in his first full season in the Premier League, the games come thick and fast. It’s a cliché, but there are no easy games in the EPL, it’s not La Liga.
After those two defeats, captain Cahill was given just 16 minutes of game time in the 3-0 win at home to West Brom. The next game, in the FA Cup against Hull City, he played the full 90 minutes, in the 4-0 win.
He was on the bench and didn’t play in the 1-1 home tie against Barcelona. Likewise up in Manchester at United and City, he played no part in the 2-1 and 1-0 defeats respectively.
His return to the fold at home to Crystal Palace resulted in a 2-1 win, he played the full 90 minutes. The return Champions League game in Barcelona saw Cahill benched and Chelsea lose 3-0.
It was back to the FA Cup next and another cameo of 19 minutes in that 2-1 extra-time win over Leicester City. There was then an international break. Gaz was not selected for the England squad.
When domestic football returned, Chelsea took on Tottenham at Stamford Bridge. Cahill was again bench-warming, Spurs took the win 3-1. Next was the visit of West Ham, Cahill played the full 90 minutes in a 1-1 draw, in a game that no Chelsea player ended with glory.
Cahill has been ever-present in the three games since. Two away league wins and an FA Cup semi-final victory has been the return.
When Cahill has started since the Watford loss.
⦁ Won 5
⦁ Drew 1
⦁ Lost 0
⦁ Conceded 5
When Cahill didn’t start
⦁ Won 2
⦁ Drew 1
⦁ Lost 4
⦁ Conceded 11
The debate will be that those defeats, when he didn’t start, included games against Barcelona, United, City and Tottenham. It’s a good argument to be fair. Signs are though, he’s coming back to his best. Chelsea really will have to win their four remaining League games to have any chance of catching Spurs.
We shall see. Whilst we visit Swansea, Newcastle United and have home fixtures against Liverpool and Huddersfield. Tottenham have 3 home games against Watford, Newcastle and Leicester, they play an away game at doomed West Brom.
On paper, it look like Spurs will sail home. Just maybe though, those 3 home games at Wembley in late April and May will have a cup final feel to them. That could be to Tottenham’s disadvantage. Chelsea need to keep the pressure on and hope the arrival of Liverpool will find them thinking about the bigger fish they have to fry in a Champions League final.