Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Newcastle 2 Chelsea 1

Cesc Fabregas is the player the media and fans seem to have singled out as the most important midfield addition to our squad. They are wrong. Nemanja Matic is. Mikel is a decent squad player and a competent understudy to our lanky Serbian but is nowhere near in the same league.

The differences between the two players are simple. Matic is more attack-minded, more positive and a danger to the opposition when he roams outside their penalty area. His passes are clean, crisp, speedy and immaculate. The Nigerian’s are laboured and tired in comparison. If we wish to have “total football” then there is only one player you could pick between the two to start in your side. MotD pointed out Mikel’s weaknesses and his lack of positional awareness… but for us standing in the away end at Newcastle and without the benefit of television replays there were two occasions which summarised him best.

The first was during the second half where he ran up the right wing. With plenty of space ahead of him, he preferred to wait and pass the ball sideways rather than risk going forward – we have ample cover to help should the home side have countered. The second was the free header in front of goal that he missed.

If we really wish to be considered as the best side in Europe then we need to be far more ruthless. We dominated possession and had the bulk of the chances. We were extremely unlucky not to take the lead in teh first half. Newcastle had three one-on-one chances to score and took two of them. Manchester United had two shots on goal against Southampton yesterday and scored twice. This is what makes a team champions – winning the games you should win and fluking those where you have had an off day. We may well regret sitting back against Manchester United and Manchester City when we visited their grounds. And I will not celebrate the fact that Aguero is injured as I want our side to beat the best sides in our division.

We also need to calm down on the pitch. Some of the reactions of Ivanovic and Costa to refereeing decisions or opposition tactics to wind them up are beginning to get tiresome. If some bell-end is up to dirty tricks on the pitch then transfer your aggression to winning that next ball – hopefully by taking out whoever it is with a strong shoulder barge that the referee will not notice. We do not need silly suspensions at this stage of the season.

The game was a fantastic spectacle. When down to 10-men, the passion from the Chelsea fans to get behind the Blues was tremendous. The home fans were completely dead up until the second goal went in. Even then you felt they did not believe in their side. Every fan dreams of matches where you are 2-0 down with 10 minutes to go and then winning 3-2. If we had even equalised then the away end would gone ballistic. What a goal by Drogba and if only their ‘keeper had been looking the other way when Costa’s shot was brilliantly saved.

You have to be philosophical and Jose’s opinion is right. Each game must be taken as it comes and this was a match where the better side lost. It happens. We have seen Chelsea have a home match where we have had 10 chances to score throughout the whole game and scored 8. And our ball boys would have done exactly the same if we had been 2-0 up and were down to 10-men with only a few minutes of the match left!

Newcastle is one of the nicer aways. Three hours from London. A historic town which also has 23 pubs between the train station and the ground. We mingled with some Chelsea fans on the train back and reminisced about the old days. My granddad’s deli on the North End Road. Osgood. Harris. Greaves. We wondered why some of our best songs for individual players seemed to also be for the most mediocre individuals – from Kalou to Fleck. We sang the Brendan Rogers song that I now cannot get out of my head for love nor money. The icing on the cake for a great day out was to be able to give a quick V-sign to the Emirates as we arrived back to King’s Cross. This is what makes away trips special.

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