Saturday, 5 June 2010

And now the end is near....

It is time for me to give up the season ticket at Chelsea for a while. It has been a hard decision to take but so far not as difficult as I thought it would be, especially with press reports that we may be signing Benayoun.

A culmination of things have made me give up... the main reason is that weekends have become precious to me with a new young child so spending 40+ days of the year away from the family and hardly seeing them midweek is tough. I have also become quite unenamoured with Chelsea Football Club - don't get me wrong, I will always love Chelsea but have never been able to forgive the club for getting rid of Mourinho. The upside is that Ancelotti has proved that you can win the League (and didn't we win the FA Cup too?) even with a "nice guy" in charge although our rivals have slipped down in terms of quality this year.

There are some other grievances I have too... the club did not want to move my season ticket seat so that I could sit next to friends and generally I do not enjoy going to home games as much as I used to. Playing the likes of Wigan and Blackburn who generally bring dozens rather than hundreds of fans to the Bridge means that the atmosphere has dived the last few seasons... oh to have the likes of Leeds United back up. I sat in the Shed Upper for the past three seasons as I missed some of the atmosphere when I was in the West Upper - but chanting "Zigger Zagger" 10 times a game is not my idea of spontaneity and when that nauseous "AAAAnceelotti" song to the tune of "La Bamba" is sung then it really hits home that many of our fans are pretty clueless!

The general hypocrisy of football these days and Chelsea's lack of balls to stand up and defend itself has irked me too... how dare UEFA and FIFA have the balls to criticise the likes of Chelsea for not having the revenue of traditionally successful clubs like Real Madrid and Barcelona who squeeze all the rivals in their league for every penny in order to stay at the top. It was not long ago that Chelsea were criticised for essentially being too good - well how can the top two in Spain finish on points in the high 90s and UEFA deem that fair?

How is it permissible to take away JT's captaincy for playing nookie and replace him first with a player who was caught on camera punching someone in a bar and then with a player who received a drugs ban? You could not make it up but when it comes to Chelsea there is no limit to conspiracy theories.

The press coverage our club receives is also diabolical and I do not know why we bend over for the media who are only too happy to see us fail - oh to have Ken Bates back and fight for our club on these matters... it is quite amazing to see the difference in coverage of Chelsea on the continent compared to the UK - over there they respect us as a team. This side could be one of the greatest that ever existed and you would never really know if you only listened to what the majority of the UK media reports!

I will still endeavour to make the odd match and will probably join that herd of Japanese fans who will only go to big games - for me Blackpool away next year is a must and any dodgy away draw in Europe or in the domestic cups will be met with glee.

So well done to the side - much to the angst of the UK media we won the league (I can imagine Martin Tyler repeatedly screaming, "OOOHHH NOOO" as he did when we scored a last minute winner against Wigan only a few seasons back).

On many levels this season has been fantastic... not just for Chelsea current but Chelsea past too. Mourinho won the Champions' League much to the chagrin of many and old boys such as Robben had fantastic seasons. Our youth team is really improving and with Stoch playing virtually every game in a FC Twente side that won their league even with Steve McLaren in charge really bodes well for the future. I would like Chelsea to give these youngsters a chance in the first team (even if we don't win any trophies we can at least use the "moral victory" approach of Arsenal although I can imagine the media would not give us so much leeway). Most delightful of all was Liverpool not qualifying for the Champions League and Benitez bemoaning how little money he had to spend... just £200 mio in the last four seasons compared to less than £100 mio that Chelsea has spent!

The only dilemma now - who can buy me some match badges for next season?

Saturday, 3 April 2010

The comeback is on

Due to moving house I missed my first trip to Old Trafford for several years. The last few visits had been fairly painful under the stewardship of Scolari and Grant so I was not optimistic until I saw the team sheet today. What an awful game to watch - not in terms of the way Chelsea played, but in terms of sheer stress. For the first time ever I had to walk out from where I was watching the match with fifteen minutes to go because my heart could not take it any more. I can't ever remember a run-in being so tight and with so much at stake. At the time the score was one nil and had I been there for the last few minutes when United pulled one back then I think I would be on a slab in the coroners'.
I never lost faith in the players - only the manager... but in recent weeks Carlo has suddenly realised that one up front with Cole on the right and Malouda on the left is the best system to play. His subsititutions when the team was tiring were spot on too, injecting pace up front and replacing tiring limbs at the right time. We made United look very ordinary and you wonder how far ahead in the league we would be by now if he had played this system earlier.
Chelsea were superb and dominated the first half. Ferreira had lots of space to attack, our midfield dominated them and Joe Cole scored a magnificent, cheeky goal. Paulo should have put the game beyond reach in the second half but misqueued under pressure.
Even though Drogba's second goal was offside there was no mention of the blatant penalty Chelsea should have been awarded in the first half when Anelka was taken out my Neville. Nor was there any comment on how Scholes was lucky not to be sent off (again!) Lot of mentions in the Sky commentary about Rooney being missed - but didn't Berbatov cost £30 mio? If Chelsea had such an expensive striker up front who failed to score we would have been ridiculed for weeks. In terms of pride this was a huge win and a big V-sign to all the supposed neutral Chelsea detractors in the media.
There are plenty of tough games ahead - esepcially away from home. A win at Spurs and Liverpool are tall orders but doable. Today's magnificent result and performance proves to me that not only do Chelsea possess the best players but the best team spirit in English football. To be top after all that has happened to them in terms of injuries, woeful refereeing decisions against them and off the field antics this season is simply astounding, and if Carlo continues to learn from his mistakes from earlier on this season then I will gladly eat humble pie and even maybe join in with the awful Ancelotti song they sing in the Shed Upper!

Saturday, 27 March 2010

Finally Ancelotti gets it - but is it too little too late?

Finally we play 4-5-1 in two successive games and the results speak for themselves. Maybe Carlo read this blog in recent weeks? With one up front, dropping Ballack for the more attack-minded Deco and actually playing Joe Cole on the right wing Chelsea flourished from midfield - this allowed the side to be settled, defend well and create clearcut chances deep within the box. Even with so many injuries it was a performance that brought tears of joy to the eye and was long overdue.
It was not an easy first half. Villa's equaliser was one of the best goals I have seen a visiting side score at The Bridge and we faced another tepid referee who missed many fouls against Chelsea and did not send off Dunne for a challenge that was exactly the same as the one that lead to Belletti being sent off against Man City. I wonder if the referee at Old Trafford next Saturday might try to score against us in the dying seconds to deny us a chance of winning the league?
With one up front Frank Lampard was allowed to dominate the midfield and became our 3rd highest goalscorer of all time in his seven-year spell with the Blues. With so much focus on the supposed brilliance of Villa's English contingent, it was Chelsea that looked like the world class side with Joe Cole, Frank Lampard and John Terry shining.
A special mention must go to the Villa fans. I have never quite understood the Brummy sense of humour - if you find Jasper Carrott funny then you must have special needs - but to sing "where were you when you were shit?" to us when you only fill half of your away allocation and have even half of those fans leave with 30 minutes to go must mean that either their supporters have the most amazing sense of irony or are the truly plastic jcl's that I often criticise Chelsea for attracting in recent years!
Unfortunately I still feel it is too little, too late. This formation at home against Man City would have reaped dividends and given us a slight cushion going into the game at Old Trafford. I expect (or pray) that the same side will be played next week - maybe with Drogba replacing Anelka. If Carlo has learned from previous mistakes then he will have more than tempted me to renew my season ticket because if we play like this with our supposed over-the-hill squad next season then we will win the league by Easter 2011. Come on the Blues!

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Goodnight Chelsea

Having suffered throughout the days of relegation, John Hollins and Slavisa Jokanovic there has rarely been such a feeling of emptiness being a Chelsea fan as there is at the moment. It is ironic that Roman is the man who helped give the club that little push from being a top four team in England to possible world dominators and yet is also the same person who has aided Chelsea's slide back into relative mediocrity since he decided he knew more about football than the manager who helped the Blues win the league with 95 points in his first season in England.
We have another stinkerman at the helm who still favours playing the likes of Kalou (who has never proved himself anything other than a useful substitute) and who when the team is in trouble like it was today brings on Deco!
Chelsea has of course had its share of hard luck - no Essien, Cech or Ashley Cole. Refereeing decisions this season have been abysmal both in the league and in Europe. Our recent run of results means that now some will point to the off the field antics of a few of our English contingent as derailing our season. Mathematically we can still win the league by winning all our remaining matches, but if we cannot beat Blackburn while having a manager who still thinks three strikers up front is the answer to all our ills then we are going to be also rans for many seasons to come. In this hour of despair all I can pray for is a miracle, and while within the walls of the stadium I will give Chelsea nothing but my most utmost support for the remaining matches that I will attend this season.
Of course there are those who say that we should be happy with what we have. Compared to where the club was even ten years ago another possible FA Cup win on the cards and a likely top three finish would not be sniffed at. The likes of Tottenham and West Ham would kill to be in our position. But I do not want to look backwards to where we were but forwards to where this team should be.
Unfortunately the side is now regressing tactically and in terms of quality - and who wants to finish behind the teacher's pet that is Arsenal and the kid who gets all the girls but fails his GCSEs that is Manchester United? That drive alone should be enough to stimulate the manager to start playing games to win and not seek these empty plaudits regarding our so-called new flair from individuals who secretly want our club to fail.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Jose 1 Roman 0

This was meant to be a memorable European night. It is not often that I look forward to a match so much that I am actually thinking about the game all day long. The walk across Wandsworth Bridge towards the ground swigging a beer on a warm, sunny early evening made me remember the first few Chelsea matches I attended with my father and it brought a tear to my eye.
It was certainly going to be an emotional occasion – a manager who should never have left Chelsea returning to his old stomping ground where he was so successful, and a win for Chelsea meant that with only Manchester United and Barcelona to fear in the coming rounds we would have a good chance of reaching the final in Madrid again.
The alarm bells rang as soon as the team was announced. Carlo played his “entertaining” formation of 4-3-3. Two strikers, no right wing and Zhirkov and Malouda the supposed dream combination in the left. The midfield was fairly defensive with Ballack and Mikel holding fort and Lampard stuck in the middle of nowhere.
As always we had the usual incompetent Champions’ League referee – making a big song and dance about booking players in the middle of the park but then missing crucial moments of the game such as what seemed an almost certain penalty or two in Chelsea’s favour. With no cover on the right wing my fear was that they would destroy us on that side of the pitch: in fact, Inter found most of their space down our left hand side where Zhirkov and Malouda were playing – how was this possible? Later in the game Joe Cole came on for Michael Ballack (who actually had a pretty decent game) and yet seemed to occupy a position in central midfield rather than on the right wing!
The stand-out player for Mourinho’s side was Snejder… he was simply immense and helped his side win the battle in central midfield. He set up the goal for Eto’o (a player who not too long ago was considering a big money move to play in Uzbekistan!) and was a massive pain in the posterior.
The bottom line is that Chelsea had little luck and created few clear cut chances on goal – I don’t recall their ‘keeper being very busy and our set pieces were a waste of time.
What have we learnt from this then? More importantly, what has Roman learnt? It is hard to be critical of an owner who has pumped so much money into the club but ridding the club of Mourinho looks like one of the biggest mistakes in Chelsea’s history. The club seems to be going backwards now, with an inept manager in charge who seems to want to pander to the so-called neutrals in the game instead of having that aggressive streak required to win trophies. It is quite demoralising to imagine what could have been if Mourinho had stayed but now we have to live with the consequences.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Lampard 4 Pikeys 1

Before we begin to wax lyrical about Chelsea, let's get one thing straight: West Ham are a very poor side. They only mustered two shots on target throughout the whole game and the goal they scored came from a foul throw.
It is always nice to beat the Irons - I actually have no qualm against any of their players or manager but simply detest their fans who see no problems with aiming vitriol at Frank Lampard (even though they didn't want him at their club) but are then happy to show their support for Joe Cole - who is actually a Chelsea fan! I am guessing the IQ level at the Boleyn is even lower than that of the average Millwall fan and it won't be too long until those two clubs are battling it out in the lower echelons of the English leagues again.
The club is an oxymoron in itself with such a decent bloke as manager and yet also having a bunch of bitter and twisted fans who used to put the knife into our club because of our lack of success and now can only resort to the personal abuse of Chelsea players.
The scoreline did not flatter Chelsea - there was always only one team in it but at half time there was a big question again about Ancelotti's tactics. Carlo favoured a lop side 4-4-2 formation with no right wing... he obviously listened to me when I suggested he actually play a defender in the left back position rather than the excellent Malouda and maybe this time he can listen again and start Joe Cole on the right. Even when he is playing poorly he adds balance to the side - we don't need both Ballack and Mikel in defensive midfield roles if we need to provide supply to our strikers. Thank the Lord that Malouda had one of his best performances in a Chelsea shirt tormenting West Ham all afternoon.
Turnbull had a decent game - solid kicking, a good save towards the end but there was little he could do with Scott Parker's fluke effort in the first half. Ferreira was solid as per usual but why did it have to take a solo run from John Terry to set up our second goal? We should be thankful we have a player like him who has the footballing intelligence to know what to do when the side is struggling.
One of my big worries is now with our strikers. Anelka in particular looks exceedingly glum (not that he smiles much in any case) and will not be happy to play out wide into the run-in. Ancelotti seems to be a manager who does not like to drop big name players even if it is to the advantage of the team as a whole, so I have to give him credit for taking off Mr Glum and replacing him with Joe Cole. Our play immediately looked more attractive and we had more shape: Lampard could now roam free and was unlucky not to score.
So as West Ham look forward to playing the likes of Scunthorpe in the Championship next season, we now look forward to welcoming Inter. I watched "The Damned Utd" for the first time last night and it is amazing to see how many similarities there are between The Special One and Brian Clough. Both managers succeeded with unfancied teams, were quite outspoken and unpopular only with their own boardrooms and most of their rival managers. In an amazing game on Friday, Jose's side lost 3-1 to Catania after Muntari received two bookings having only been on the pitch for three minutes.
There is no doubt that the Italian league is not what it once was, but when it comes to the game on Tuesday it will all be a matter of tactics. Jose knows his side is not as strong as Chelsea's but he will also know that if he floods the midfield then Chelsea will struggle to create clear cut chances. Will Ancelotti have the guts to drop Anelka so that we have a more balanced 4-5-1 formation or will he pander to the view that games involving our club in Europe have to be pleasing on the eye to the neutral? It seems obvious to me that the focus is on the Champions League rather than the Premiership so let's see how our manager copes with Roman breathing down the back of his neck. Whatever he chooses, this is a game that Chelsea should win and I am extremely looking forward to having Jose back at the Bridge - and there is a part of me that wishes he was still here as we would not even be mentioning Arsenal as possible title contenders if he were in charge.

Monday, 8 March 2010

Another semi-final - well done Chelsea!

In a bizarre week where it was deemed acceptable to have as England captain a footballer who was seen assaulting a member of the public on cctv, I was expecting more strange decisions from our manager in the game against Stoke. Knowing now that it is unacceptable to cheat on my wife but fine to punch someone in the face, at least if the result didn't go our way I could resort to violence with the full backing of the England manager and the media.
Thankfully (and probably more due to suspensions and injuries) Carlo saw sense this week and played a balanced side. As suggested on this blog previously, Paulo Ferreira played at left back (who was easily man of the match and somehow seemed to cross better with his left foot than most of our left-footed players!) which meant that we could have an even midfield with Malouda on the left wing. Yes, we even looked good with Kalou on the pitch!
This is the kind of game plan we should have adopted in the match against Man City. Stoke have a pretty unoriginal tactic: hoof the ball up to the striker and try to spread the play, then try to score from set pieces anywhere within 50 yards of the opposition goal... and with Hilario looking extremely shaky in the opening moments it looked like it might work for the visitors.
Thankfully, with no Ballack in the side Lampard was left to roam freely and could have had a hat-trick with the chances presented to him.
It was extremely sweet to see JT score... although I am not sure why the Stoke fans were singing, "John Terry, are you my Dad?" Are they implying that their mothers are sluts? Note to Northerners: for a chant to be funny it has to have a punchline that makes sense!
What was interesting while driving home and listening to 606 with the resident cockney scouser Spoony (how is it possible for the BBC to grant credence to someone who comes from Hackney and yet supports Liverpool to have his own radio show?) who allowed a Stoke fan with a cockney accent ('cos there's loads of them isn't there!) to come on his show and moan about JT kissing his captain's armband... no wonder the country is against us when they allow such idiots on the radio!
Really not much to say - it doesn't get boring going to Wembley and if our league title chances falls apart most Chelsea fans would not complain if we "only" won the FA Cup... here's to a Chelsea vs Tottenham final!

Saturday, 27 February 2010

The Title Slips Away

It has been a tough couple of weeks to be a Chelsea fan. Not only have we had to deal with the stupid off the field shenanigans of players who should know better, but we have also had the misfortune to lose some of our best performers to injury and be lumbered with a manager who as weeks go by appears to be slowly losing the plot.
After games like today I despair at where this club is going and how it is now paying for the wrong choices it has made in the past. The owner has to take some blame for this. It has also crossed my mind to not renew my season ticket but for every game like the one against Man City today I have the great pleasure to follow my beloved club to the likes of the San Siro so it is a very difficult decision to undertake.
It is easy to be critical of the side and there is many an argument that we should be happy with what we have - a club that (statistically at least) is consistently among the top 4 sides in European football... and solvent compared to poor Portsmouth - but I am not happy. I am selfish because I want us to annihilate all our bastard rivals and  be winning the league every season whether the style of football is pleasing to the eye or not. Where has acquiescing to the anti-Chelsea media lead us? I am sure today was a spectacular match for the neutral but as a Chelsea fan I don't care what non-Chelsea fans think about us as long as we are increasing our haul of trophies.
For a club like Chelsea with the wealth of talent it has to have already lost five games in the league this season is simply unacceptable. How far ahead in the league would we be if Jose Mourinho was in charge of this team?
Manchester City is not a bad side - but we conceded four goals against a team that didn't even play with a striker. Now, Carlo Ancelloti cannot be put to the sword for all our ills. He must be wondering who set fire to his lucky rabbit's foot when not only Ashley Cole, but his understudy Zhirkov suffered injury. This in addition to Essien being out and then losing Cech in the Champions' League! Not only that but we had 27 attempts on/off goal in the game and yet only scored twice. But then I have to ask why he does not want to play Ferreira who has been very successful in the left back slot? Then he could play his beloved 4-4-2 formation with players actually sitting in the positions they favour most... Cole (who was excellent today and incomprehensibly substituted) on the right, Malouda on the left... etc. Maybe this solution is too simple for Carlo? Mikel, having looked like a doppelganger for Gullit in midweek (apart from the scoring goals part!) against Inter made two errors in the game today that lead to both City's first goals. He was unlucky that he was caught against Bellamy (the bane of my life!) in a one-on-one situation as another Chelsea attack fell apart. Up until that point the visitors had only mustered one shot on goal! Hilario was simply woeful and Anelka looked nowhere near as confident as he did a month ago when he was lone striker. Drogba could not hit a barn door. But then Carlo came into his element - he put four strikers on the pitch! Who exactly was he expecting to supply these players with chances to score? With no wingers he left Chelsea horribly exposed at the back as Ivanovic and Malouda were forced to maraud upfield and suddenly Man City looked like the side who were looking to win the league!
I yearn for the days of Mourinho when we would have won a match against the likes of City 2-0, shut up shop and had a balanced side. The irony is that many sides have adopted Mourinho's tactics... the formation we play allows teams to suck Chelsea in and then kill them on the counter attack.
We have ten games left now and if we do win the league it will only be down to the failings of our rivals. I am not now confident of us even finishing in the top two... where did it all go wrong?

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Shock! Chelsea undone by another poor ref's decision in the Champions' League...

A fantastic away trip blunted by the result of the match. The San Siro should be the eighth wonder of the world - a stadium that stands out like a giant alien robotic elephant... it was so large that I could not find an appropriate landmark with which to juxtapose its size!
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The city too has many beautiful attractions and having had the man flu I decided to visit as much as possible in the one day I was over there instead of getting obliterated on booze. The highlight for me was visiting the historic and ancient Duomo Cathedral. As I entered the square where nuns and tourists were roaming I could only hear Chelsea fans peacefully singing in the bar opposite this enormous building much to the chagrin of the locals - this is what makes away trips to Europe so great!
The whole experience shows how much better fans are treated on the continent than here. There must have been several dozen refreshment stands all selling booze in the vicinity of the stadium - and you were allowed to drink out of a bottle if you wanted! Not only that, but the standard of food for sale was embarrassingly good compared to the usual fayre of burgers made from the cock of a dog and the arsehole of a rat that are served up in and around Stamford Bridge. There was no trouble that I saw either although the police as usual herded experienced Chelsea fans to and from the stadium like cattle whether they wanted to go with them or not!
Partly due to injuries and perhaps also because of recent underperformance of certain players, Carlo Ancelotti turned to a 4-3-3 formation with some balance and flair in order to leave the San Siro with a positive result. Instead, Chelsea left with an undeserved loss after more shocking refereeing decisions and a distinct lack of clearcut chances on goal.
Sure, you can blind me with statistics but I do not remember many one-on-one situations and it seemed that despite playing the more attractive football Chelsea were generally restricted to chances outside the box... apart from when the generally excellent Kalou was tripped up when through on goal. Referee! If it is not a penalty then book Salomon for diving!
Inter are a poor side - slow and sloppy - but Mourinho was familiar with his choice of tactics: allow Chelsea the ball but in the very final fifth of the park defend, defend, defend. His side had three chances throughout the game but they were all by far the most dangerous moments of the match.
It is tough to be too critical when you outplay the opposition and come away with nothing... the home crowd was silenced on many occasions because of Chelsea's play and you felt the home fans were easily pleased as they applauded any spell their side had in possession. Many Chelsea players were outstanding - Malouda as makeshift left back, Ivanovic as an attacking right back and Mikel as the typical European defensive midfielder... in fact, the weakest players in the team were the English contingent who were not at the races at all and as for Ballack - Chelsea matches are not there for you to increase the amount of miles you have run all season without particularly producing much!
Overall you can't help but feel that if Mourinho was in charge of this Chelsea side then we would have come away with a boring, but useful 1-0 win that would have set us up comfortably for the next leg at the Bridge. As usual, he managed to wind up Carlo Ancelotti enough before the game but was good enough to admit they were fortunate with the win. I cannot wait for Jose to come back to the Bridge for the return leg and if we are defeated then I hope they win the whole competition - something that I doubt will happen because of our reckless leadership and because Inter are simply not that good a side!

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Drogba saves Chelsea again

With injuries and illnesses in the squad ahead of the Inter game Ancelotti was forced into some changes before the match at Molineux. Looking at the team selection on a friend's mobile in one of the best pubs I have been to on an away trip, The Great Western (the bar staff actually remember who is next in the queue!) it seemed quite an obvious excuse to get the old 4-4-2 formation out. Joe Cole was obviously going to play on the right, Malouda on the left, Anelka and Drogba up front and Ballack shoring up the midfield with Mikel.
How wrong I was!
Yet again, the Chelsea manager turned tinkerman and played Malouda in some kind of defensive left midfield position, but obviously must have told Joe Cole to play in that area too! The result was that the team played with a disjointed formation that did not allow the play to flow.
One thing that Ancelotti has had more of than many of his predecessors is fortune: he is lucky to have such a world class squad that has a striker in Drogba who can score with the side's only two shots on goal in a game; he is lucky to have the likes of Petr Cech keeping us a clean sheet; he was lucky to have a referee yesterday who made many decisions in Chelsea's favour (Joe Cole's cross was so poor yesterday in the first half that the officials awarded us a corner because they couldn't believe it could not have come off a Wolves player!) Maybe it is this luck that might win us the league as well as having rivals who are not as strong as they used to be and are slipping up too.
So off to Inter this week... having never seen a Chelsea match in Italy it is something that I am very much looking forward to. I still rue the day that Abramovich decided he knew better than Mourinho and rid us of our greatest ever manager. I still wish he was at the club but being a Chelsea fan I am not particularly surprised at how we shoot ourselves in the foot every so often. You can see how Jose has instilled that fighting spirit in a team which is on paper quite average; yesterday they were down to 9 men at half time and still managed to scrape a draw that leaves them eight points clear in Serie A.
So come on Carlo, stop playing these lop-sided team formations or you will just become another Ranieri!

Monday, 15 February 2010

Drogba leads the way but what of Joe Cole

Following my diatribe about how useless Carlo Ancelotti was picking his players it was no surprise that my choice for the right wing, Joe Cole had an incredibly awful game. His most basic passing was woeful and he looked more tired than I was climbing the stairs up to the West Upper following a heavy night on the tiles. Not only was my call bad, but then Kalou came on and had a really decent game scoring a fantastic header - maybe they did this all on purpose having read this blog?
Drogba was simply immense, leading by example - not only did he frighten the bejeezus out of a spirited Cardiff side but came back to tackle in the midfield when other players were left wanting.
It was important to see how Zhirkov did in the absence of Cole and by this showing he is going to have to play a few more games to get in the swing of things.
Annoyingly, the newspapers have got their knives out again... they will be salivating like rabid dogs should Chelsea meet Man City in the next round of the FA Cup although reading some articles today you would have forgotten that they have to play Stoke City away in a replay to get through to the next round first!
Not much else to say - we beat an average side but Wolves this Saturday will be another test. They have beaten Spurs home and away so it is not a game to be take lightly.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Carlo - stop playing two strikers up front away from home!

As has happened before this season, following a fantastic result (albeit not a completely convincing performance) against one of our rivals we lose our next Premier League game away from home.
Chelsea played poorly last night and made uncharacteristic defensive lapses that lead to a deserved win for Everton.
Even though the Toffees are a decent side (I wish we had managed to play them 3 months ago when half their squad was injured – timing, eh?) this is not a club we should be losing to at this stage of the season… and there is only one thing to say – Ancelotti has to stop playing this lop-sided 4-3-3 formation especially away from home. What is even more annoying is that the fluidity we had in the team for the last month or so seems more down to the fact that the manager's hand was forced because of Drogba's absence for the African Cup of Nations rather than from any real lessons learnt about this side.
Despite a good result against Arsenal on Sunday the team never quite looked right and if the Gooners had Drogba up front instead of some 12 year-old boy the result would have been different.
It’s after results like last night that I really begin to pine for Mourinho… under him I feel more certain that we would be more than 1 point clear of Manchester United – and looking at an albeit weak Serie A you can see how he has instilled that winning mentality in his side. All those saying it would be a return to boring football should have a look at how many goals we scored under his tenor… and how many games he lost in his spell in charge of Chelsea… and how many major trophies we won. At this stage we will be lucky to win the FA Cup but I hope I am proved wrong.
Of course it is hard to criticise Ancelotti without sounding fickle when Chelsea have been on such a good run recently… but looking at the teams we have lost to this season in the league certainly does not bear the mark of champions – to lose to the likes of Wigan is simply unacceptable. But Chelsea have arguably the best squad in Europe so why can’t Carlo utilise them properly? We are still top but with these players we should be well clear of the likes of Manchester United and Arsenal who generally have inferior players to ours in almost every position!
Anelka and Drogba together up front will not work in the long run… only one of those can play and even though Joe Cole has been tepid at best this season, he has tended to thrive when playing in his natural position on the right wing with Malouda on the left and a lone striker. Anelka looked dreadfully unhappy last night but to replace him with the useless Kalou beggars belief.
We will probably win our next few games in the league… we have Wolves at Molyneux, Man City at home, Portsmouth away and West ham at home… these are not the games I am worried about – looking at the tail end of the fixture list we will really struggle if we don’t start beating the teams we should beat – or at the very least, not lose to them!

Sunday, 31 January 2010

Burnley and those glasshouses

Burnley was my second trip to Lancashire in a week - the previous week's trip to Preston was delightful... decent fans, decent pubs, no intimidation and a fantastic visit to the museum ...  topped off by a £70 fine on a Virgin train for having the audacity to leave the city an hour earlier than I had booked! So just £140 return all in for that away trip then which makes it around £1,000 worth of fines in the last 12 months following Chelsea!
In contrast, this visit to Turf Moor which is barely 25 miles away was dark and depressing. There was an ominous police presence and the ridiculous kick-off time (did ESPN not know that there were no trains back to London if they scheduled a match at this hour?) meant that Chelsea attracted a polarised set of fans - a large minority of extreme right-wing thugs and the rest made up of the decent die-hard scarfers who watch the team through thick and thin.
Although it is always nice to be in a traditionally old stadium, the away end was a death trap in the making with only two exits for the 3,000+ fans to get out of. There was desperately little atmosphere from the home fans and at half-time the squeeze in the concourse to access the toilets was ridiculous and the facilities simply disgraceful.
Chelsea deserved to win and it pleased me much to see John Terry put in a performance that makes you forget his off the field misdemeanours. Ivanovic stood out in particular for me and must surely be just behind Anelka and Ashley Cole as one of the revelations of the season. As we left the ground into the darkness I was pulled back by a police officer for covering my mouth with my scarf even though it was bitterly cold. If only they were that quick to pull up the people who stole my wife's purse out of her handbag a few months ago!
The trip back to London was a pain too - it took 45 minutes to drive out of Burnley and speed restrictions on the M6 meant that in total the return journey took 5 hours. What made it more nauseating was listening to the Radio 5 phone-in after the game to hear to some of the criticism pointed at John Terry.
Now what he did was simply stupid and even worse it occurred behind the back of an England teammate... but when I hear Liverpool fans calling for his head when they are happy to sing Gerrard's praises as Liverpool captain having punched a man in the face in a bar brawl then you really have to ask if some fans understand the word "hypocrisy". Even more ridiculous was one Liverpool fan who in comparison reminded us all what a great professional Emlyn Hughes was... didn't he kill the career of a certain Peter Osgood by breaking his leg in a disgraceful tackle? I see as per usual the murderers have a selective memory and are more pious posturing about a player's love life than remembering how their fans got English clubs banned from Europe for five years.
The question is whether a player's private and professional life can be mutually exclusive. If you were to observe any high-profile job then look at how people in power are allowed to philander and still stay in office. Even if Terry was to lose his captaincy who would you replace him with - Rooney? He was caught shagging a granny in a brothel. Ferdinand? He received a nine-month ban for missing a drugs test and is currently serving a four-match ban. Gerrard? The only innocent Scouser in the world... The irony is that if Capello does strip him of the England captaincy then the most natural replacement would be... Frank Lampard!
It should be no surprise that another stupid footballer has done something stupid off the pitch, but if you were to look at that England team and ask who would you want to be leading and fighting in the field of battle then JT is the only choice.

Monday, 18 January 2010

4-5-1 as easy as 1-2-3

There is no coincidence that Chelsea’s midfield flourished when playing 4-5-1 with individuals finally in their most favoured roles. The team looked balanced and confident – something I have not seen for quite a while.
With Joe Cole on the right pinging crosses in and Malouda opening up space for Ashley Cole to attack on the left, Chelsea’s central midfield could push forward and destroy Sunderland. It was an exhibition match and we could have reached double figures. Having said all this, Chelsea have had more chances to score against other teams this season but not been aptly rewarded – only in this case I have rarely seen so many clear cut chances on goal.
A special mention must go to Ashley Cole who scored one of the greatest Chelsea goals I have ever seen. Considering the stick the player gets from opposition fans on the terraces (which shows me how much they are scared of him!) and press his contribution and consistency to this side makes him arguably the best left back I have seen since beginning to attend Chelsea matches.
The problem Ancelotti now faces is whether to keep this formation when the players return from the ANC – who will he play if he has a fit Drogba and Essien to pick from? Does he drop Joe Cole who flourished playing in his favoured position?
Preston this weekend. As usual a silly kick off time for ITV – at least it wasn’t an evening kick off as there would not have been any trains to get us home on time but at least I get to go to a new ground and finally visit the national football museum. Let’s hope they have some badges on display!