Sunday, 14 December 2014

Chelsea 2 Hull City 0

So what constitutes a dive? Officially, it is "an attempt by a player to gain an unfair advantage by diving to the ground and possibly feigning an injury, to appear as if a foul has been committed. Dives are often used to exaggerate the amount of contact present in a challenge." There were three incidents yesterday where the referee gave free-kicks to Hull against Chelsea when our players were accused of diving. Two resulted in bookings.

Two of the incidents, however were fouls. As laughable as Willian's fall was, by the letter of the law it should have lead to a free-kick for our side. There was also contact when Cahill fell in the visitor's penalty area. Costa fell anticipating a challenge from the Hull defender despite not being touched - he did get back to his feet straight away but was booked.

What do we need these days to win a free-kick? Do we need someone like Hazard to have his leg broken first before the referee reacts? We have an amazingly skilful set of players and the amount of times we see someone fouled with no action taken despite a nudge here or tackle there that puts a player off his stride or denies us an attacking opportunity is exceptionally frustrating. This is not a team that writhes around on the ground like the Ronaldos of this world when tackled before magically recovering. Referees need to adapt to a different type of football that we watch these days. This is not 4-4-2 with a big striker up front to nod it on any more (at Stamford Bridge at least - at Upton Park it is the 1980s all over again).

Luckily for our side, this issue that the media will concentrate on for the next few days (while probably ignoring more heinous crimes that will be committed by teams in red) means that there will be less focus on what was arguably our worst performance in a major competition this season. We dominated the opening stages of the game but when we scored it seemed that the team had thought the match was over and sat back. It was ironic too that the team's concentration seemed to fall just as the atmosphere was buzzing and our voices were building to a crescendo. We counted five times in a row where we lost the ball in key areas and against a better side would have paid the price for losing possession. We are giving the team support, Jose so I hope you fired a rocket up their posteriors at half-time because this was simply not good enough.

We began the match with a very odd formation - but one that I liked. It was fairly lop-sided with Ivanovic playing more right midfield than defence. 3-3-3-1? Luis attacked up the left. We played Cahill and Terry at centre-back with Matic and Mikel providing cover. It was also a strange match and on our return home we had look at replay after replay to really know what had happened. Cahill's challenge was clumsy and deserved no more tha a yellow card - Huddlestone was an idiot for carrying out a foul in no man's land. Mikel was back to his usual, inconsistent self and boy, did we miss Fabregas.

The goals were brilliant. We chuckled when we realised Hazard had actually scored with his head. There was some scintillating play in the lead up to Costa's goal. Even though the ball seemed to trickle into the back of the net it should bolster the confidence that he has lacked since returning from injury. This is the kind of game that teams in red would have been praised for in the past - not playing well but gaining three points. Perhaps this makes up for some of the bad luck that we suffered against Newcastle.

MotD concentrated on the dives. But no comment on the deliberate handball by the Hull City player during the first half for which he did not even receive a booking? What about the Hull player who chose to writhe around on the floor when tackled by Mikel during the build-up to our first goal but then was suddenly back up on his feet and seemingly fit enough to argue with the referee in time for the restart? Selective editing? Am I biased? Never...

Onto the Champions' League draw and the possible aways we might get. Juventus - done. Basil - done. PSG - done. Bayer Leverkusen - never done - yes please. Shakhtar Donetsk - never done - YES PLEASE.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Chelsea 3 Sporting Lisbon 1

On the way to the match yesterday a lady asked me to unscrew the cap of a bottle that she couldn’t open while on the tube. It was one of the strangest requests I have had considering she was middle-aged. The first thing that came into my mind was that this must be a Russian spy who was sent over to track me and somehow poison my body with some chemical hidden on the outside packaging due to my critical approach towards our side. Luckily, I am alive and well today.

Chelsea is my love. The articles that I write are exactly how I feel. Any negativity should not be interpreted as only wanting our team to be the best. In the old days, our team was so average that the opposite was true. You tried to focus on the odd player who really stood out amongst the mediocrity on show.

Yesterday there were tremendous positives. We brushed aside a team that had only lost once in its own league this season. We gave chances to some of our fringe players to shine and they pleased. Even Salah had a solid game. You can forgive his lack of confidence as some players need a run of matches to lend them positivity. The only player that worried was Costa. He is lacking match sharpness and one assumes that he played to help him get back to the form and fitness levels he had when he first started for us.

The game was a dead rubber for us but considering Sporting needed a point to qualify they seriously lacked attacking quality. Once we scored the second goal – well done Schurrle for a brilliant strike – the entertainment turned to the away fans. And you ask yourself – how is it that I sit in the West Upper and have the bottle top to my water confiscated in case I manage to lob it onto the pitch (which would require the strength of a javelin thrower) and yet no action is taken when visitors bring flares into our stadium? At Newcastle, despite being in the Upper Tier, I was not allowed to even hang my Chelsea Polska flag up as it would have covered some Sports Direct advertising hoardings that surrounded the ground!

I should have kept the Russian secret agent’s bottle top hidden in my pocket. Well done Chelsea. Well done Mikel. He scores when he wants!

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.