All going to the wire

Happy New Year to everyone, I hope you’ve had an enjoyable start to 2018.

It has been a busy period but I have managed to see all of the games since Christmas, either at the stadium or on TV.

I know coaches talk about the fatigue of the players and that’s understandable but Christmas is a huge part of the game and I love it. It can make or break a season. The Premier League is arguably the most competitive league in the world.  Because things are so competitive it’s tough to make up lost ground over the festive break. This time of the season often defines the final pecking order.

For us, it has been a strange couple of weeks. We are in a frustrating run of draws but are still 11 games unbeaten. All you can say is that teams do have dips during the season, and it’s a high-class problem if your dips mean you’re drawing games rather than losing them.

We all have to accept Manchester City are probably going to get across the line first, but everybody in the next four or five places is in a dogfight. A dodgy run can see you out of the Champions League places. This is probably going to be one of the closest-fought Premier League seasons for qualification. I’m sure it’ll go to the wire.

With that in mind, I am quite pleased we still have Man United and Man City away from home. Those are the games in which we have in the past risen to the occasion. We should have beaten Liverpool at Anfield and Arsenal at the Emirates. We were the better side in both those matches, and of course, we have already beaten Spurs at Wembley.

We hope to be back there at the end of February but first we have to overcome Arsenal in the second leg of the Carabao Cup semi-final.

They have started to turn it on against us after a long run of cataclysmic results against the Blues. They now seem to get it together when they play us - I’m thinking of the FA Cup final, the Community Shield and last season, the 3-0 which prompted Antonio Conte to change our shape, and the beginning of an extraordinary story for us.

However, Arsenal are inconsistent, and I still think we will beat them there next week. We should have beaten them there in the league on 3 January. I know many people - not all Blues fans - that think that game was one of the finest Premier League fixtures they’ve witnessed. 

I am hoping by the time the second leg comes around we could have Ross Barkley available to play. I am very pleased with his signing, he has a lot of ability and I think we can bring the best out of him at Chelsea. Barkley is still only 24, his peak is yet to come and he will only raise his game with the quality of players he has around him at Chelsea.

Finally, I would like to commend the club on its stance towards antisemitism and the campaign it has launched this week.

The concept of respect in sport is deep-set in me. I come from an Indian background, my grandfather was Indian and my mother was born in Delhi. Any racial overtones are unacceptable in any walk of life, but if you think of what sport stands for – free, fair, open competition and respect whether you win, lose or draw – there cannot be space for any racist sentiment. I am very happy to lend my support to the club’s work on this issue, and look forward to the weeks and months of action that are to come.