Cech: Benitez's ideas 'working so far'
Petr Cech declared Chelsea were back to their bloody-minded best after they combined successive Barclays Premier League wins with clean sheets for the first time in more than a year.
The 1-0 victory at Norwich on St Stephen's Day made it six points from six over the Christmas period for the European champions, who have also yet to concede in that time.
Not since games against Wolves and Newcastle in November last year had Chelsea enjoyed back-to-back league wins and clean sheets at the same time, while they had been shipping goals at an alarming rate before Rafael Benitez’s arrival as interim manager.
That was simply unacceptable for goalkeeper Cech, who has spent most of his Stamford Bridge career playing behind one of the stingiest back fours around.
And having previously laid into his team-mates for gifting the opposition too many chances this season, the 30-year-old was quick to praise their rediscovered resilience.
“We were conceding too many goals, playing really open,” Cech said, hailing the recent shift as “a very good sign”.
“Suddenly, we are defending as a team much better – that is the key.
“Now we are back to our ways when we are difficult to score against.”
Part of Chelsea’s problem had been that their back four was being left exposed by the apparent unwillingness by their team-mates to track back.
Cech added: “I think we need the whole team to defend.
“We have really attacking-minded players. Sometimes, we were not making the right choices in terms of defensive transitions and that is what has improved. We are passing more and organising.”
Benitez’s methods have certainly won over Cech, even if they may never gain the acceptance of supporters who will forever see the former Liverpool boss as the enemy.
Cech said: “He came with slightly different ideas, it’s working so far, and hopefully it will continue.”
Benitez has achieved all this without the injured John Terry, who Chelsea appeared to miss so badly during the slump that cost Roberto Di Matteo his job as manager.
Their upturn in fortunes has coincided with David Luiz’s move from defence to midfield and Cech claimed it had added an extra layer of protection.
He said: “He’s very good on the ball and, as well, he is a central defender so you can see how well he defends the space and can be a shield at the back four and, when he gets the ball, he can be very creative.”
Chelsea’s reshaped team faces arguably its biggest test yet in Sunday’s trip to Everton.
The Blues have lost on their last three visits to Goodison Park in the league against a team who have become their bogey side.
Asked if Chelsea’s blip was over, Cech said: “We will see.
“Now we will go to Everton, which won’t be easy game to play.”
St Stephen's Day’s win moved Chelsea to within four points of second-placed Manchester City and kept them 11 behind Manchester United, with a game in hand on both, Cech said: “Obviously, we have closed the gap on City.
“This is another positive for us, to keep getting points to get as close as we can to Man United and City.”