Saturday, 31 October 2015

Chelsea 1 Liverpool 3

Facing a mediocre Liverpool side brought no fear out in me. The bigger worry was what kind of performance Chelsea would put in today individually and collectively - something that has been as consistently inconsistent as the treatment of our football club by the authorities and match officials for years. What would Mark "Boyband" Clattenburg do to us today? The usual game where he is too afraid to make big decisions, but be good at awarding throw-ins correctly (and that sort of thing) so that he can earn praise for "letting the game flow"?

Chelsea began the game at full speed and deservedly took the lead with a fantastic cross from Azpilicueta headed in by the impressive Ramires. Our passing in tight spaces was intricate and there was a good feeling on the pitch and in the stands.

Then the horror show began. Mikel lost the ball in front of his penalty area. And again. Heads dipped. Chelsea toned down their ambition in attack. Clattenburg did not yellow card Lucas for a series of fouls. Can was not booked either for a foul similar to one last week which led to Matic being sent off. Both these players were booked in the second half and the visitors should have been down to ten - if not nine men. Noone really wants to beat a team purely because they have had players sent off - you wish to annihilate them at full strength. But last Saturday we had Matic sent off for a tackle that this week went unpunished for a far worse offence. Matic's dismissal had a significant impact on the result of that game. These decisions worked against our confidence. I crossed my arms in resignation and did not unfold them until the final whistle when collecting my "With You Jose" banner.

To cap the first half off, the visitors equalised in the third minute of stoppage time when only two had been allocated. The goal initially came about as a result of a reckless clearance by Zouma who looked out of his depth at right-back and lacked the finesse required in that position. The amount of space granted to Coutinho for both of his goals was simply embarrassing as was the amount of space Liverpool were given on the wings.

The second half started as the first - Chelsea playing brightly. But again, mistake after mistake was made. And apart from Oscar's ambitious chip over the 'keeper, it was difficult to remember any clearcut chances for us. Passes went astray, poor choices were made with runs. Recycling of the ball has been too slow. It is more obvious than ever that the strength in depth is not there. It is making me so angry to see players who should be giving it their all not doing so. Hazard again gave the impression of a player who has been told by his agent to play poorly so that he can have a cut-price move from the Bridge this summer. He was deservedly subbed. Mikel too. Kenedy initially looked impressive with his pace but added little else - although I would like to see him take Hazard's place.

Jose Mourinho cannot squeeze anything more out of this poorly-performing team. We are breaking the point of elasticity that was holding this side together. Ironically, the only part of the jigsaw that does not make sense is the fact that Chelsea fans are still taking these continual losses in good heart. Renditions of "Jose Mourinho" and "Mourinho's right, the refs are shite" reverberated around the Bridge today and at the final whistle there was no booing. Simply an acceptance that this is how things are. Although I still believe in Jose - he is the only one who really fights for this club at senior level - I do not believe that he can change anything by this late a stage. If a large minority of players are not giving it their all because they have their own vested interests in mind then it will impact not just our football club but also their careers. Not only that, but without enough "class one" eggs in our squad one feels that some players are not being challenged enough.

Writing this only a few hours after the game, my instinct is to say that the best thing our manager can do is resign and seek challenges elsewhere. We do not deserve him. Neither does this league if it (even subconsciously) wishes to drive him out. Some of our players will face the backlash that they warrant and English football will lose its most exciting asset.

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Dynamo Kyiv 0 Chelsea 0

Don't go to the Ukraine was the warning. With two countries in the news for the wrong reasons in our Champions League group there was some apprehension before flying. Travel websites advised caution about scams carried out on tourists. Friends worried that Putin might shoot my plane down. But Kyiv is like any Eastern European city - one of the most beautiful I have ever visited.
The city is quaint and has more cathedrals than McDonald's restaurants. Having spent the bulk of it rambling about to get to know the city better including a visit to the Chernobyl Museum I turned back to football. The U19s played in Dynamo's normal home "Lobanovsky" stadium used for lesser matches rather than the National Olympic Stadium. And what a throwback to the traditional Eastern European stadia of old it was. No roof on any part of the ground despite the weather being damp and drizzly. The work rate and discipline of our youngsters impressed, but with the dreary weather I left at half-time knowing one more stadium was knocked off the list.
The organisation for the main event was woeful with stewards having no idea where fans should go. Chelsea were let in with home fans which did not seem a wise idea following news that some of our followers had been ambushed on Monday evening. The atmosphere was a strange one. Dynamo's ultras took one small corner of the ground. The majority of fans in our end were from the local Ukraine/Chelsea supporters club. Singing, "Blue Is The Colour" incessantly is cringeworthingly naive but quite sweet. Estimates were that of the 1,100 away tickets sold, less than half were those who had the guts to fly over from the UK.
We dominated the first 20 minutes and on another day would have scored at least three. Hazard looked on fire with his boots on turbo boost. Fabregas was having his best game of the season. I questioned my own sanity when he was brought down in the box and not awarded a penalty. Surely one of the most obvious fouls ever? How many more decisions that go against us do we have to swallow? Well done Jose for your "naive" comment which raised a smile amongst our fans. Matic made a brilliant run too that could have resulted in one of our best goals this season. 
Then attention turned to shenanigans in the home end. During his legendary commentaries on Capital Gold, Jonathan Pearce used to have a policy of not mentioning issues on the terraces as he felt that giving publicity to fighting morons  would exacerbate issues. But I cannot as this was uncomfortable to witness as home fans fought amongst themselves in violence I had not seen for years. Even worse was realising that there was nothing being done to stop them. Two stewards in a group of a few hundred is a waste of time. One fan was getting beaten with a crutch. The police stood at the back of the Chelsea end and did nothing. I left at half-time not wanting to take any risks. Others left way before full time. What a sour way of ending an otherwise fantastic trip. Yet again, attending the actual match when journeying abroad is the worst aspect of European aways.

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Chelsea 2 Aston Villa 0

Well thank the lord the District Line was working so badly so that I missed the opening few minutes of this match. The three points were welcome but boy - were we lucky. As against West Brom, we were blessed more by the visitors' ineptitude than our prowess. Up until we scored we looked vulnerable in defence even without Ivanovic spoiling things. At one stage during the first half with Villa on the attack, we had no midfield between the back four of our defence on the edge of our area and the half way line (having decided to play with no defensive midfielders).

Then came the half-time announcements. Our peers who bought during the summer (and I was one who derided them for overspending) were thrashing opponents that they should be thrashing. Even Sterling had scored a hat-trick. In contrast, our new signing, Baba Rahman looked like he had never played left-back before in his life. Yes, yes... let's give players a chance *yawn*, but there have been plenty of his predecessors who have impressed off the bat. This £15-£20 mio bracket of signings is nothing more than squad players. This lack of competition and ambition is taking its toll. Yes Jose, the reason you won't get fired is because the cost of sacking you is more than we can afford to spend on transfers.

An article in the newspaper that day noted Joe Cole was on a 35-day loan deal at Coventry City. Is Hazard going down the same route? Dropped to the bench and with his first touch when coming on as sub mis-cued the ball. The last twenty minutes were a pain to witness with the only entertainment being the banter between the home and away fans.

Kiev next. Tickets under £4. We have a string of games coming up which we need to win by hook or by crook to get the confidence back which we lack so much at the moment. Thanks for the three points, but how drab this was.

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Chelsea 1 So'ton 3

We played brightly for the first half hour. It looked effortless. Willian scored a brilliant free kick despite Falcao deciding he would try his best to have it overruled by being 5 yards offside. Then the warning signs began. Ivanovic exploited at the back again. So'ton began to win free kicks and corners. They suddenly realised, "hang on - there are only 3 players in this side above 5 foot 2" and killed us on dead balls. We looked vulnerable from every attack. 

The last time Jose lost his job at Chelsea he had complained of the lack of quality eggs his squad contained. It was notable that he kept schtum about no decent signings this season. We are now struggling badly when missing any 1st XI first choice footballer and the initial guffawing we made of the Manchesters overpaying for certain players shows in fact that it is ultimately worth investing. We have begun plans for a new ground at too late a stage - when our side is in obvious decline. Falcao makes Robert Fleck look a bargain. And Falcao was a freebie. There is no motivation for the team to perform. 

The biggest disappointment is regarding our manager. He really needs to drop players who are letting the side down. The tactics are becoming stranger by the hour. Ramires, Oscar and Fabregas intertwining is fine in attack. But they are useless at defending. Mikel or Matic should have started or at least been put on as subs after we went 1-0 up just to lock-in a victory. Then starting JT. Why? How will that help? What is Pedro adding to the party/funeral? What the hell is Hazard doing? What did Willian do to deserve being subbed? 

As for our fans... Well, thank the Lord so many can take this spell - the worst in years - in relatively good spirit. When the visitors sang "you're effing sh*t", the MHL joined in! Sure, about 20% of the stadium left after the third goal was conceded (down to Hazard's error btw) but how long can this goodwill last? Chelsea's relationship with its real fans has never been fantastic as they try to purify our crowd. 

Jose is right about one thing. Decisions have not gone our way for a very, very long time. But his expertise at deflecting the real issues are now far too well known... Even more than opposing sides knowing how weak we are at right-back. We were already struggling by the time Falcao fell in the penalty area and received some very generous decisions from the referee up until that point. It is the first time I am looking over my shoulder at the sides below us rather than having any realistic expectations of even qualifying for Europe.

As a fan, our eggs too are often reliant on the chicken being of good quality. In this case we are a cock in a pen with no hens. And now our egg chasers are out of the World Cup. What a terrible sporting day.