Sunday, 27 January 2013

Brentford 2 Chelsea 2

It has not been easy being a Chelsea fan this season. From such highs to such lows. The truth is that football in general just does not feel as fun as it used to be and not just because of so many failings we have on the pitch. Off it, we yet again appear to be the brunt of hatred and are inconsistent with our battles against it. The vitriol against our manager (although sometimes justified - why did we replace one right back with another when behind today?) is not helping the side. While our fans remain so unenamoured with Rafa it is hard to see us going forward as a club and I fear for our long-term future.

It is maybe because I have such high expectations of my football club that draws against Brentford and losses against the likes of Swansea and QPR hurt the most. Sandwiched in between all this was a win against Arsenal which although just about deserved could easily have ended up as a stalemate.

It was a beautiful winter's day today with the sun shining and a light breeze welcoming me into Brentford. It was almost a rugby-like atmosphere with pubs on every corner of the stadium, no petty chants from the home fans (unlike some of our peers in West London who act like schoolchildren) and to top it all - terracing! I only stood for the first half as the away end in Brentford provides one of the many reasons why so many despise standing - awful views, no facilities and a feeling of dread should an emergency evacuation be required. The seats in the upper tier would only have suited a quadriplegic and the hamburgers tasted like they contained not just horse but dog meat.

The first half performance was fairly woeful. I can forgive a side sometimes not being able to play flowing football due to a poor lower division pitch but there were other reasons to feel ire. The backpass that Turnbull picked up was simply embarrassing. Foul throws here and there. And a tendency for the side to want to pass the ball back and forth in our own half near the front of our penalty area where the pitch was at its worst.

I have rarely sat with such an air of resignation as I have done under Benitez. At least Di Matteo had the benefit of my doubt but when such basic footballing formalities cannot be completed then to me it reflects a more general problem. The two goals we scored were quite sublime but were overshadowed by such negative feeling from Chelsea fans that the chant, "Things are so bad, we miss Avram Grant" even had a following. At least the good old Chelsea humour was there with, "I would rather be a wasp than a Bee" making rounds as a song.

You do feel quite helpless. You wonder if Hazard's reaction to the ballboy time wasting earlier on in the week reflected something deeper - or is it too difficult to read so much into football these days? Sad times.

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Chelsea 0 QPR 1

Alarm bells rang yesterday morning when a newspaper article wrote of squad rotation at Chelsea and interviewed our manager. Benitez was quite open to the idea and stated that sometimes players needed to be rested. Five key players did not start (admittedly Cech was absent through injury). To leave Cole, Mata, Hazard and Ramires on the bench was quite baffling. If key players need to rest then they should not be in the squad at all. Peripheral participants should not start in an important league match and instead they should show their worth during forthcoming fixtures in the FA and League Cup.

To be fair we do have a light squad – no Mikel and Romeu does not help and up front Torres has no player to complement or pressure him. Although many lament the boos he receives from some of the crowd it was hardly his fault that Chelsea lost last night. Commentators will however argue that he should have done better when his only one-on-one was blasted straight at the ‘keeper.

We have dropped five points against QPR this season and it is simply not good enough. There were excuses at the away game with politics dominating, but at home last night the first half was one of the worst I have ever witnessed. Some of the shots from outside the box were simply embarrassing with Ivanovic one of the worst offenders.

The feng shui that we had under di Matteo is missing and the way Chelsea appear to be procrastinating on contract negotiations with arguably our greatest ever midfielder in Frank Lampard makes me feel uncomfortable. The Ba signing is baffling when we have Lukaku in reserve although I will not miss Sturridge and his general arrogance. Moses works hard but produces little.

It was a big victory for our rivals who mention our name in almost every song they sing – but Chelsea fans did not rise to the occasion with the atmosphere muted and return banter lacking. It is after games like yesterday that you question what difference Benitez will make compared to di Matteo over the course of the season. Odd player selections, players visibly angry on the pitch (Lampard in particular when substituted) and Marin lucky not to have received a red card in the opening minutes as the QPR player he fouled stood up sportingly and did not roll over five times as our rivals in the World Club Championship Final did.

It is absolutely vital that this club finishes in a Champions League position at the end of the season. Our priority should be the league but last night was the first time where the Spaniard’s experiments truly failed. Something is not right in the heart of the club at the moment and compared to our Manchester peers (who we still have to play away from home this season) we appear much weaker. Even worse, the defeat was mostly met by a passionless shrug of the shoulders and a slow shuffle home.