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Chelsea 2-2 Tottenham Hotspur – Patent Place

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An Everyday Story of Football Folk and Their Intellectual Property

The Scene is Set

Here was the deal going into last night’s action:

Arsenal with two games left have 67 and can hope for a maximum of 73.

Spurs had three games left, 65 points and their maximum attainable total is 74.

Therefore Chelsea on 68, again with three games, can get to 77 but in truth would need no more than a maximum of six points from a possible nine as their goal difference is so far ahead of Spurs.

So Chelsea could, in theory, afford to lose this one and still be in the mix. A relaxing thought, non? I knew you’d agree. The way the season has gone, with disappointment heaped on humiliation all making for an unstable load on the wheelbarrow of expectation, why not can that proud record of not losing to Tottenham at the Bridge since back when Liverpool were winning titles? Just get it all out there. Lance the boil of pent up frustration. Or, if like many of the regulars you are lying prone and disinterested, like a dilettante opium addict, floating in a haze of fatigue and ennui, well you’ll barely notice another bitter disappointment.

The Actors Arrive

A selection that many now see as the A team: Cech behind Cahill and Ivanovic flanked by Azpi and Cole with Luiz and Ramires in central midfield backing the three amigos who looked to the masked man on point duty.

The absence of Terry was no surprise these days and with Frank having handed Sir Alex perhaps his final home defeat on Sunday it was to be expected he’d sit.

The visitors sporting a tonsorial mixture ranging from the 50s binman look of Bale and Parker to the Hendrix-like big hair of Huddlestone and Assou-Ekotto were missing Dembele. Other names like Kaboul, Gallas, Defoe, Sandro and Livermore weren’t in the lineup either. Due to a lack of time and general ignorance I’m not sure of their status.

But anyone doubting whether AVB had absorbed the history and culture of Chelsea during his brief tenure need only to see the presence of a tall, rangy man from the African continent playing up front in a London derby to know that he was in our heads, playing with our nightmares like David Lynch in Twin Peaks or Fire Walk With Me. Perhaps he should have thrown him on as a sub to make the parallels almost too excruciating.

The Action Unfolds

Now these games against the Hotspurs have in recent years been quite exciting affairs, particularly down at the Lane, the Bridge editions perhaps less so, although not without their controversies. Despite it being AVB’s return and first chance to take a tilt at his ex-employers on their patch, the high stakes mean it wasn’t unreasonable to expect a cagey, nervy, tight affair.

What the first half delivered was a brand of “Firewagon” (to borrow a phrase from another sport) football from both sides at which Chelsea proved the more adept. Taking the old adage “score early, score often” to heart, Chelsea scored early when after 10 minutes Oscar nipped in to head home point blank from a Cahill knockdown at a corner. In the general excitement they then forgot the “often” bit. With the majority of quality possession and plenty of attacking intent, they then did what they have done so regularly throughout the season and wasted a couple of decent chances to really floor Spurs. Mata yet again one of the culprits. Just how many goals could this man have scored?

Then a quick Spurs break from a Chelsea corner just beyond 25 minutes, saw our defence do again what they have done so often during the season; hesitate to go and close down the ball carrier. And so it came to pass that with Cech out on his six yard line, for reasons I’m not too sure about, other than he was anticipating a ball in behind his retreating back four, a tall, rangy bloke of Sub-Saharan aspect elected to drift the ball in from 30 yards.

The game was quite even then, until sharp combination play down the right, where Oscar, who was enjoying so much freedom against Assou-Ekotto due to Bale queuing up down the Patent Office and generally going missing for large parts of the evening, linked with Torres, who then played a sweet through ball into the right-hand side of the box where Ramires sped in to hit a one timer into the left-hand bottom corner. The less time he has to think about it the more effective he seems to be.

The half ended with Chelsea on top and they started the second just as strongly. They were pressing Tottenham high up the pitch, rushing the the man in possession in groups of two and three and Spurs were getting hemmed in and giving the ball away with heartening regularity. They didn’t even have time to use the option of hitting it long as their back four were pressured to move the ball quickly.

The Script Seems Strangely Familiar

Reaching into the desk drawer of handy phrases, I find the term “gilt-edged” and this best describes the chances that Chelsea then spurned. Because spurning is what you do with gilt-edged chances. Unless you’re sensible enough to take them. Hazard wasn’t with his one in the six yard box. We were then treated to the first of a couple of bizarre instances of players losing their footing, when Ramires who only had to sidefoot in a ball from Mata as he gained the area at speed went over like he’d hit black ice. What was on the surface down towards the Matthew Harding that made it like glass? Oscar managed to fall over twice within 10 yards at one point.

As the hour ticked by AVB brought on Sigurdsson for a truly ineffectual Lennon, followed ten minutes later with Dempsey on for Holtby. This had the effect of encouraging Bale to leave the cares of intellectual property and start taking a few runs at the Chelsea back four. Adebayor also returned to the action from wherever he had been spectating since his goal. In between Hazard, who had been a threat all evening was subbed for Moses. Having been floored with a heavy challenge some minutes earlier, I have to think this was forced on Benitez. And a foul count of 16 to six with only two yellow cards to one, once again meant that direct strong running at the opposition was too often checked by a foul with no discernible deterrent until late in the game.

Football is best understood in cliche and the idea that you really should take your chances when on top started to take hold in the mind of more than one Chelsea fan, I’ll warrant. Spurs were heading into their best spell of the game; the changes meant they were now able to work the ball up through midfield and Chelsea’s response was one of politeness. After all it would have been churlish and ill-mannered of David Luiz to track Sigurdsson into the box as he received a ball from a briefly offside Adebayor. It was now two-all.

The arrival of Benayoun for the impressive Oscar shortly after the goal, was greeted with a chorus of boos. Were they aimed at Benitez or Benayoun or both? It can only help the opposition to know that they’ve unsettled the home crowd. Many would have wanted to see Lampard. And certainly his range of passing might have helped because Luiz seemed to drop right off his game in the last 20 minutes. Perhaps Ramires could have moved into Oscar’s role to accommodate Mr Lampard.

Well it’s done now. Yet again the team has not managed to win after scoring first while lacking that last layer of resilience. Yes Spurs hit a good spell for the last 20 but it would not have needed a miracle to see them off.

The Lights Go Up (and someone starts to vacuum up the spilled popcorn while you try and watch the credits)

We remain in UEFA limbo, a narrow curtained room with a heavy wooden door that leads we know not where. It is an ante-chamber to the heaven of Champions League or the purgatory of Thursday night Europa. But the wait is near its end and we can hear the heavy footfall of the doorman approaching on the other side. We try to call out, to know for where we are bound but our voices are distorted and deadened by the heavy curtains. There is no reply. The handle starts to turn…

Enough of that.

It is difficult to be heavily critical of the team as a whole. Oscar, Hazard, Ramires and Azpilicueta stood out for me. Torres did well for an hour but seemed to fade once Hazard and Oscar left the field. They just have got to start converting a higher proportion of their chances. They will always tend give the opposition a goal, I think. They have to outscore rather than get ahead and hold out. Oh for the days of 103 goals in 38 games. It seems like it was just a dream…

And who better than the recently deceased legend George Jones to offer us a valediction to the soon to depart Rafa Benitez. Singing along with Elvis Costello, who wrote it for him, I give you “Stranger in the House”.

No “this never was one of the great romances….”

Press Reports

The Guardian, Dominic Fifield: “Tottenham Hotspur would normally celebrate a performance like this to the rafters, not least in praise of their team’s powers of recovery after they twice trailed in an arena that has tended to choke their resolve. Yet, in only drawing across the capital at Chelsea, André Villas-Boas’s side have surrendered the initiative to Arsenal in the race for the top four. This was spirited and, as their manager stressed, ultimately impressive. It might also prove damaging.”

The Daily Telegraph, Jeremy Wilson: “It was a high-quality match played at a breathless pace but, in the final analysis, a 2-2 draw did not really suit either club. Chelsea need another win to ensure a top-four finish so cannot completely switch their focus to next Wednesday’s Europa League final against Benfica.”

The Independent, Sam Wallace: “Two games from the end of the season and after the tumult of another mad nine months, Rafa Benitez is within reach of delivering them to the promised land of Champions League football. If it falls nicely for them this summer Jose Mourinho will breeze back in for another crack at the big time and he might even bring Wayne Rooney with him.”

The Official Chelsea FC Website: “A Brazilian brace was not enough to secure victory in a ferocious London derby that leaves us waiting to secure Champions League football.”

Goals

10′ Oscar 1-0
26′ Adebayor 1-1
39′ Ramires 2-1
80′ Sigurdsson 2-2

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  • http://www.facebook.com/daniel.shevlin1 Danny Shevlin

    What a load of old poop!

    • GrocerJack

      Your mum and me have finished now. She’s just getting dressed. She says get home now, your teas ready.

  • http://greatwenlondon.wordpress.com/ PeteW

    An odd game. We were so superior to them for so much of the contest it’s hard to be sure whether their two goals and late resurgence was a result of our misfortune or their fortitude. Either way, the game should have been out of sight after 60 mins. I always felt we needed that two goal cushion.

    I’ve not been to the Bridge that much this season and it’s really only in the flesh that you can appreciate the majesty of Hazard, Mata and Oscar – they are extraordinary. Ramires fits in so well too, yes he has faults, but his energy is so valuable. It’s only really that slot next to him that’s still a problem, at least when Mikel is absent. Luiz was dreadful. The game just went right past him. He looked like he was rather playing within himself, perhaps a reaction to the kicking he got after Sunday.

    In defence, I am never comfortable with Ivan-Cahill who are probably our third and fourth back CBs. Cahill made some great blocks but why did he run away from Adeboyer for the first goal (flashback to Terry v Ray Parlour in the 2002 Cup final)?

    Bale was well tucked up. I’ve never been that impressed when I’ve seen him in the flesh and here he was just as anonymous as normal, only with a little more self importance. Then again, Ronaldo never played well against us and there’s no doubt he’s a decent unit. Yesterday though, Hazard looked so much the better player it was untrue and we never really recovered from his substitution. And what strange substitutions they were. Why on earth was Torres playing 90? I don;t think ABV did much of interest, but he did at least try and seize the initiative – Rafa was once again was left reacting, and reacting badly. The players missed chances, yes, but he nearly threw it all away.

    • GrocerJack

      I thought Cahill had a great game, and him and Luiz have teamed well in the past (Munich for example). Luiz is a good fill in for DM, but Mikel is calmer and more thoughtful and would always be my first choice. I hate the quick free kick obsession we have, and Luiz and Mata are equally guilty of doing this, getting the ball forward but with no-one there to support. We’re still spooked by Terry Henry all those years ago and we need to stop the quick kick obsession. My first choice DM would always be Mikel who thinks about the game and is learning very quickly the Maka/Ballack skill of knowing when to slow things down and take the sting from the periods when we’re under pressure. On the Bale front, I was surprised at how he’s filled out, but yes he was well caged last night with his main contribution being the free kick at the end (for which I turned away unable to watch). We do seem to do our homework well on the Hollywood players like Bale and Ronaldo, but less so on the constant nemesis of the ‘ez’ brothers, Tevez, Suarez, Hernandez. We do seem to be a 75 minute team at best and that trend is worrying be it the last or first 15 where we don’t spark. In truth I thought we were fantastic last night in the first half and barely a team I can think of would have got near us, but the drop moff from 70 monwards was very alarming. One more thing on the Cahill front, yes he did sit back from Adebayor, but I honestly think he, like everyone else in the ground, Spuds fans and players included really didn’t think Adebayor had that ability in him. What I nliked was our reaction to the equaliser when we went at them even harder. Similar to a team I once remember……. It was good to meet you at half time, sorry I had to dash but my seat neighbours insisted on buying me a pint before JD asked me to join him!

      • http://greatwenlondon.wordpress.com/ PeteW

        Likewise, good to say hi.

        I like Cahill and think he didn’t have a bad game, but thought he looked liked like a player desperately trying to get back to position, like he knew he had to be in square 2 from Rafa’s pre-match plan, rather than one reacting instinctively to a clear and present danger. That said, it was a fine shot.

        But I’d still put Terry and Luiz as my first choice partnership. If Terry really is over – and we’ve hardly seen enough of him this year to be sure in my view – we definitely need a top class CB because while Cahill and Ivan are fine, they’re just a little lacking.

        Very much agree on the quick free kick – Luiz did it twice, aimless.

        Think players like Bale and Ronaldo, who pick the ball up and like to run with it, are quite easy for our lot to deal with as they like to sit deep (they’re definitely deeper under Rafa than they were under AVB aren’t they?). It’s clever movement that foxes them – as it does most players, to be fair.

  • Blueboydave

    I too was very impressed by how much effective pressing deep in the Spuds’ half Torres, Hazard and Oscar in particular did and the amount of good backtracking the latter two did too, in between taking the Spuds defence apart regularly.

    Sadly, as BB says, it remained always a danger of us getting caught out when we didn’t convert more of the multitude of great chances we created.

    Worrying too how as so often recently our energy levels seemed to just fall through the floor around 75 minutes. One of our stats-obsessed transatlantic cousins over on WAGNH says that’s now 18 points we’ve dropped from winning positions this season.

    Now who was good at managing us closing out games again?

  • GrocerJack

    Lovely stuff as ever Dr. Never a huge George Jones man, but that ditty was rather pleasant – maybe I need to check more out. I thought the treatment dished to AVB was awful. the man didn’t fit with us, but he’s hardly gone out of the way to slag us off. Even yesterday he made some perfectly reasonable well argued observations about us which were twisted into “AVB says CFC have no style’ type headlines which in truth were utterly misleading. His post match comments were rather good.

    It seems Hazard was suffering a knock after a splendid display and a great moment when he nutmegged Huddlestone who looked furious.

    But I’ll stick to my desire for Rafa to go. He’s been Ok of late but last night he made two huge errors. Moses for Hazard was about the only choice to stay in the formation we’d started with. But if, as he says we were losing the battle down the right hand side, then why not replace Oscar or Ramires, bring on JT, stick Ivan at right back and get Dave to run the wing? Defence shored up, and Dave, who’s got pace and can cross could cause Spuds similar problems? Then he could have dropped out another and allowed Lamps to come on and take control in midfield? Either way, the useless and ineffective Benayoun came on and contributed zero of any worth in his short spell. Benayoun would struggle to get in a bottom 8 team, let alone a side like ours. Christ I’d rather see Malouda re-deployed than Benayoun.

    My last observation? I can’t help feel that the players hit the 75 minute barrier due to sheer fatigue. of all our recent games this was the most furious paced of them all (credit to Spurs for pushing hard) and it simply took its toll on the legs are the 365 games we’ve played this season (it is one a day right?)

    Hopefully Villa will feel safe-ish and it would be hard to take a team we thrashed 8-0 as being able to hurt us on Saturday. If we can replicate the first half and take more chances then we should be OK.

  • Gleb

    I feel the criticism Luiz gets is absolutely unjustified. He’s an amazing talent. We should be grateful for having him. The way he reads the game and anticipates is second to none, and that’s not something you can learn or get better at in training. You’re either born with it or not. Sure, he’s a flair player who has to play in positions where flair does more harm than good, but he’ll snap out of it soon. He’s a bright lad and a born leader as well. I just think we have far worse players who deserve more criticism. Luiz, for all his mistakes (and honestly, admit that he just gets way more stick than the rest because he’s perceived as “crazy”; the rest of our or someone else’s defense makes just as many errors, but because they’re boring fucks they get away with it), has already been a great player for us, contributing so much more than he “took away”.

    For example, look at the moment just before Hazard’s missed chance. David made 3(!) interceptions in less than a minute.

    I mean no offense to your opinions, of course, you all are the reason this blog stands apart, but I would so very much hate it if we lose Luiz (no pun intended) due to his being under-appreciated. He gets enough shit from the journos as it is. We should support the guy, because, if anything, he’s one of the few who really always give a fuck about the team. With careful coaching (I hope Jose is on his side…), he will blossom into a true star. I guess the whole “am I a centre back or an anchorman?” stuff isn’t helping him either. Jose would have to make a decision once and for all.

    • http://greatwenlondon.wordpress.com/ PeteW

      Luiz is a great player, but he was terrible yesterday and far better at centre-back.

  • mark_25

    If we could play continuously, week in week out, like the first 75 minutes I’d be happy to keep Benitez.

    With Benitez we know he’s leaving at the end of this season.

    There will be a similar situation if Jose returns, except we’ll have to be a bit more vague since he’ll be leaving at the end of this season, next season or possibly the one after that.

    • musumba

      Benitez got his tinkering /substitutions wrong and it cost us period

  • limetreebower

    Lovely piece of writing, Dr B, and a well-judged portrait of the game.

    I thought we were pretty unlucky not to win. Still, four points from United away and Spurs at home was always going to be a decent return, and the team looks full of confidence; it’s hard to believe that we’ll fail to beat Villa *and* Everton on current form.

    I think people should be less surprised by the all too obvious collapse of our energy levels around 65-70 minutes. The first half was played with proper derby intensity and at a relentlessly furious pace, egged on by the best atmosphere for a long time (credit to the Spuds fans too). A lot of the players we had out there have played a ridiculous number of games by now. In fact I was expecting the Spuds to come on a bit more strongly than they did — I think with Huddlestone and Parker they really lack a bit of penetration in midfield, and if it hadn’t been for the fact that Adebayor chose last night to have one of his vanishingly rare brilliant games they’d have given us very little bother.

    In fact I thought it was a highly encouraging performance all round. I don’t agree that Crazy David had a poor game. Yes, he’s certainly played better in that position, and no, he doesn’t control things the way Obi does, but he sprung the three in front of him quite a few times, and he wasn’t losing possession on a regular basis the way Ramires was. But anyway, wherever his best position is, he’s turning into one of the most reliably excellent players in the squad, and we’re lucky to have him. (I did wonder what was going on in the second half when he kept wandering over to have intimate chats with AVB, though.)

    As for Mata … Words are beginning to fail me. It’s not that he’s got that sort of fuck-off brilliance Hazard has; it’s that he’s so consistently very very good. Remember how José (rightly) said that Paolo Ferreira was a great player because he always gave you a 7 out of 10 in every single game? Mata’s like that, but with an extra point and a half.

    Congratulations by the way to Moyes. The chalice may be even more venomously poisoned than our own version, but if anyone’s deserved the chance to show what they can do with a big-league budget it’s him.

    • Cunningplan

      (I did wonder what was going on in the second half when he kept wandering over to have intimate chats with AVB, though.)

      He was listening in to the instructions that AVB was giving to the subs. I quite like the idea of a covert I mean overt spy in the camp!

  • Gleb

    Just wanted to throw a semi-random thing out there…

    A lot of them pundits, when discussing the decision of Moyes over Mourinho, said that one of the decisive factors was management style, namely Moyes = stability and long-term, while Jose = short-term, leaves his former teams in shambles, blah-blah-blah.

    This seems to be a very popular myth about Jose which isn’t true at all. Let’s analyze.

    First of all, I can’t believe how blind everyone is to one simple fact: it’s fucking easy to be all “long-term and stable” at a club like Man United. They don’t come any bigger than that, more or less. So of course Sir Alex stayed there for so many years. Where else would he go? He was never sacked, obviously, so he never had to look for a job, but why would he have ever left voluntarily? Jose left Porto, OK. But Fergie left Aberdeen. We all know why.

    Next comes Chelsea. And I still firmly believe, especially if he does come back, that he wanted this to be a proper long-term, starting from scratch, project. That’s why he left Porto. To be THE man to build a new-era club. But we all know what happened then. He had to leave. He was effectively sacked, but because he’s brilliant, he managed to make it look bilateral, so no blemish on his CV. But then what? A whole YEAR off. Not exactly a glory hunting manager. And besides, he needed a job. So Inter came along. It took him, what, a couple of years to build an amazing team virtually out of nothing (Inter are a big club, of course, but one that couldn’t really compete with the rest in Europe). He won everything there was to be won and could have stayed, but left. Where, though? To Real Madrid. It’s every man and woman’s dream to be a part of this club. Well, not mine, but virtually everyone’s. And Italy sucks. So he left. Not because he’s immune to staying longer than 3 years, but because the circumstances were like that.

    And what is Real? It’s the Jose of football clubs, isn’t it? It’s a club where stability isn’t part of the vocabulary. It’s a club that’s definitely bigger than any one man. You can’t build anything at Real Madrid. You just sort of control a few things here and there, and that’s all one can hope for. And of course, that was the first time Jose was up against a strong club structure which didn’t care about who he was. He couldn’t control a lot of things he would have liked to control. So how could he, or anyone else for that matter (apart from a club legend, maybe), stay there for long? It’s not his fault. Man United IS Fergie. Fergie IS Man United. It’s not some ephemeral stability, it’s just a fact, as Rafa likes to put it. You can’t judge anything else by these standards. It’s a one-off. A bit like Wenger’s Arsenal. It’s not like Fergie or Wenger like to stay at one club for long, and Jose doesn’t, it’s just the way things worked out.

    And now, I hope, Jose is coming back. Not going to PSG to get a fucking French title, one of the few left that he lacks, but back to finish what he’d started. There’s not much left of that, though, but we’ll see.

    So yeah, just thought I’d share. I mean, it’s great he didn’t get the Man United job, but speaking objectively, it’s his CV and his reputation, isn’t it? If this myth about his lack of stability was the thing that prevented him from getting, admit it, an awesome job, that’s quite a sad thing, I have to say, because it isn’t true. Is this myth so strong that, to replace a living legend, they picked a man without a single trophy to his name over a two-time CL winner with bags of charisma to boot?

    P.S. I wish Moyes luck, though, he’s a really great guy, it seems.

    • GrocerJack

      One of the most common sense things I’ve seen written about Jose Mourinho in a long time. Well said.

  • limetreebower

    Phew!

    So, the final home game will be a celebration for everyone,** no matter what happens midweek.

    ** (except Rafa. Bye, Rafa!)

  • Blue_MikeL

    Top four, but Eden might be out of final :-( let’s hope it is nothing serious. Frank is really super Frank.

  • mark_25

    Watched the game in the Sheraton Hotel bar Schipol airport. Amazing win and superpleased for Super Frank. Shame about Hazard but we should still have enough for Wednesday.

    Now leave it to those losers from North London to fight over the scraps.

  • http://www.chelseafcblog.com/ Nick

    If anyone has the time and wants to review the match and/or scribe a few words about Frank and his achievement, drop me an email at chelseablog@gmail.com.

  • Ramone

    From super low to super high with super hero super Frank. You couldn’t make it up. Fantastic stuff. Congratulations to Frank for the amazing milestone, and well done to Frank and everyone else at the club for CL qualification. Thanks goodness for that. Now for Wednesday. I expect it won’t be straightforward.