Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Porto 2 Chelsea 1

In Polish, Bolhao would mean "it hurt". This is the part of Porto where Chelsea fans had to pick up their match tickets from. A place nowhere near where the game was taking place. Another away match where despite new collection measures in place to combat the minority of idiots who taint our club's image - we were still treated like utter shit. A net obscuring the pitch (here's an idea... get fans to sit in their proper seats and then you can identify coin throwers!) Having spoken to local police though, it is Manchester Utd fans who they have the biggest gripe with.
Even more frustrating is to lose a match against such mediocre opposition. Mourinho did the right thing to drop Hazard and Matic - but why not Ivanovic too who was at fault for both the goals conceded? I would rather risk Kenedy in that position. 
We controlled the game completely and their goal was against the run of play. Fans were in good voice for all of the first half and Willian's brilliant goal was perfectly timed. But as a result of our errors, Jose was forced to make changes that he probably didn't want to after their second goal thus leaving our defence vulnerable in search of an equaliser.
For the second week in a row, Pedro squandered a one on one opportunity for us to take the lead. On the positive side, Costa looked back to his best and even a late spat that could have escalated was dealt with in a mature manner. Mikel again had a good game. It is Begovic I feel most sorry for who has done nothing wrong. Most frustrating was to have a blatant penalty turned down; Hazard deciding to shoot from an acute angle rather than win a penalty and then another one on one squandered with the last kick of the game.
After being kept in for the usual half an hour following the final whistle, fans had to leave the stadium by a certain exit towards the Metro. This did not suit as my hotel was a stone's throw away from the ground in a completely different direction. When I asked if they could let me through, the police said only Portuguese people could leave via a shortcut. That did it for me and I snapped. "Have you asked these fans if they are Portuguese?" He replied in the negative. But fans who were English and had been in corporate hospitality had no issues getting through. My argument won, they were forced to let me through. That small victory resulted in the biggest applause of the day... Even more than hearing Arsenal had lost against a tier IV side (which I am sure Wenger will successfully overturn when appealing to UEFA).

Saturday, 26 September 2015

Newcastle Utd 2 Chelsea 2

The most important aspect of this match was the way Chelsea battled back to rescue a point. Ramires' goal following a well chosen substitution by Jose of Oscar and Remy gave me flashbacks of last year's 2-1 loss. This time, with confidence resumed we finished fantastically despite some truly inexcusable ineptness in defence on a day when we should have cut the lead of 'Manchester' to six points instead of eight. Although we shall have to wait and see if Arsene "Tartuffe" Wenger can try to persuade the FA not to count the last 20 minutes of the match towards the final result.

You cannot blame the absence of Diego Costa for the two goals conceded today. Such abysmal marking is the stuff of relegation candidates rather than a team looking to fight back to win the league. Quite why Remy is seen as an adequate replacement for our angry Spaniard either is beyond me too. He plays like a winger who has been reluctantly thrust up front and when in promising positions to score makes terrible choices. The constant jeers towards him at St James's where there were sadly many empty seats seemed to affect him. Why not risk Falcao instead?

The marking for our first goal showed a clear lack of communication between Zouma and Ivanovic. The words they were looking for should have been either "I've lost it, you take control" or "let me take the ball". Then to have Fabregas so lazily not mark his man from a set piece must drive the manager and Begovic - who otherwise had an excellent game again - livid.

Porto is our next stop and after Barcelona is the away ground I have visited the most in Europe. Realistically, I do not believe that this season may be our last run in the European Cup for a while. Zouma is still learning so I can forgive the odd mistake. It is more the decision making of our more experienced players when defending that gives me the shivers which is why I am attempting to treat every away trip as a gift from heaven. And for once there is a story that will overshadow this embarrassing result and for this we must thank Sepp Blatter.

Monday, 21 September 2015

Chelsea 2 Arsenal 0

The humorous way with which Chelsea fans have dealt with our recent poor run would have certainly ended if we had lost at home on Saturday. Luckily, we beat the club of chai tea latte sippers and deservedly so. A game where Chelsea was back to its normal self was overshadowed by Arsenal moaning that yet again, things did not go their way. Of course, there was no close analysis of the Hazard foul that should have resulted in a penalty. Can someone please clear up the difference between a shoulder barge and obstruction? Why are so many fouls that would result in free-kicks anywhere else on the pitch not treated as such when committed in the penalty area?

There was no sense of hypocrisy from a club that has never had its share of saints either. You only have to Google "Keown Van Nistelrooy" and see how Wenger celebrates the in-yer-face jumping of his defender by citing it as his most memorable moment of the rivalry between the two red sides. That, along with Cantona's kung-fu kick, Vieira and Keane's consistent red cards seem to be glorified in the media. No anti-heroes are allowed for any team that plays in blue and yet when Costa succeeds in winding up the opposition (having been yet again consistently fouled throughout the first half as defenders cannot cope with his speed or skill) it is easier to cite him as a villain.

This is the first time this season Chelsea has played anywhere close to how they were last year. Having not been Oscar's greatest fan in the past due to his minute frame, I have now realised how important he is not only with regards to deft touches helping our link up play - but also the amount of effort he puts in to track back and pressure attackers. This allows Fabregas to exploit more space. Hazard and Costa looked their most dangerous in months, and Zouma was simply magnificent. Conversely to Oscar, Zouma in the past struck me as a big lump - but how he shone in this game. One perfectly timed tackle in the first half has increased my confidence in him. Begovic looks an extremely good value second keeper. Even Ivanovic had a tremendous game.

The second half was a drab affair after Zouma's goal (thanks for playing him onside Arsenal). It was obvious that three points was all we wanted. Even Fabregas motioned to the ball boy not to be too hasty retrieving the ball. I understand the rationale behind this - so why did Costa then risk a second booking for a silly challenge on Oxlade-Chamberlain? This is inexcusable and he needs to know the time and place when to show his aggression. I cannot have a go at Arsenal's sordid past if I excuse Diego of every indiscretion without appearing hypocritical.

Wenger must be seething - but more strangely are the tactics he used. Walcott on his own up front? Thank you! Quite why he does not wish to risk Oxlade-Chamberlain on the right and have Giroud up front is beyond me. Thankfully their frugality worked in our favour and they never looked anywhere as dangerous as they did at Wembley. I did not even notice Sanchez was playing.

So back to playground spats between the two sides. Martinez found it amusing that Mourinho swore for not being allowed to talk to the press first so that the team could hurry back to Cobham - now, Jose passed the buck back to the media - he could not understand why Arsene was only a nice man when his team managed to actually win against Chelsea. The newswires will be happy though - something to write about apart from Liverpool's demise. Finally a win for Chelsea, and these last few days feel like a turning point in our season. And for all the decisions that have gone Arsenal's way in the past, it is time to end this piece in a very mature manner: Arsenal...

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Everton 3 Chelsea 1

Not often has one wished to have been put out of one's misery at a football match when only a goal behind and with still a quarter of the game to go. This Chelsea side is in free fall and has more correlation with the Shanghai stock market than rational footballing thought.

We began well and my initial fears subsided. That was until Everton scored with their first chance of the game. Chelsea's confidence and concentration immediately dropped. As against Manchester City, we could have conceded another three goals during the next ten minutes and were lucky to only be two-down before Matic's stunner. Gaps opened up all over the pitch. Players were caught out of position. We tried to walk the ball into the net. No pace. No power. No ambition.

Goodison Park means a lot to me. It was the first away ground I had visited as a child outside of London back in 1989 when Steve Clarke sent us top of the league for the first time in my lifetime before in typical Chelsea style, we went on a 6 league game winless streak. This included a string of defeats where we conceded 14 goals in 3 games and even lost 5-2 at home to Wimbledon. Chelsea finished 5th that season and even this seems an unlikely ambition this year.

The positive psychology that Mourinho normally instils is one that fans cherish: even when playing badly, we could somehow grind out a result. Even when the refereeing gods would ignore obvious decisions that would benefit our side, this would motivate the players to fight and win. Chelsea fans cannot see this fight this season. The blind confidence I have in our manager has waned to the lowest ebb ever. Players who have been so reliable in the past and carried the team are all underperforming. Ivanovic, Azpi, Fabs, Diego, Hazard are the main offenders. Costa continues to look a shadow of the player he was since he was injured last season. At least Pedro shows promise.

The drop in form is hard to explain. Are players not being challenged? Is there something going on behind the scenes that we do not know about? Is the fact that "Manchester" has spent so much on quality players compared to us make some wonder if they are at a club that lacks ambition? The timing of this set of results is ironically poor: we announce plans to build a new stadium and our manager has just signed a new contract.

There is a bittersweet upside though. The real fans have been through this before and can laugh it off. The JCLs can go back to supporting a team in red. Kids will find it more difficult as we have been trophy-laden since 1997. Games are less predictable as the erratic nature of our play also means I have no idea whether we will score or concede three. Just like 1989 then. Millwall fans jumped on the same train as us as we stopped at Crewe. Windows intact and with decent banter I arrived back at Euston exhausted but having perversely enjoyed the day out after a long week in the office. Please beat Arsenal. Please, Chelsea.