Somewhere in a parallel universe, Michael Fish was sitting on the Soccer Sunday sofa, chuckling at the tweet he’d just read.
“There’s a gentleman from SW6 who has heard that the fabled ‘El Nino’ phenomenon has been gathering strength in recent weeks and is due to arrive in London on Sunday afternoon. Well, sir, I can assure you that it’s really nothing to worry about…”
Some introductory space-filling nonsense
Two of the most successful football managers of the last decade locking horns again is always going to be interesting, but the very nature of UEFA’s curtain-raising contest – a bit of a jolly for Platini and his pals, if we’re honest – leaves it some way short of Rumble in the Jungle type status.
In 1971, the late, great Peter Osgood was handed an eight week ban and a £160 fine by the Football Association for collecting three yellow cards in a season (this apparently incorporated a suspended ban for collecting five bookings in the previous season). Yellow cards were trickier to come by back then, of course; you’d certainly need to do a bit more than craftily waft your elbow at an opponent’s face or stamp on a gravitationally challenged Uruguayan…
In this week’s episode of the Podding Shed we will be focussing on the Champions League final.
We want to know how you’re getting there – over land and sea… where you’re watching if you’re going to Munich and don’t have a ticket, where you’re watching if you’re not going, how you’ll prepare for the game (what will you watch, what music will you listen to?), favourite Chelsea European memories, predictions – whatever you’re doing that’s Chelsea related between now and kickoff on Saturday, we want to hear about it.
It’s the night before Barcelona.
God, I detest the Champions League. It’s a vile, overblown, self-important and elitist clique that makes the Bullingdon Club look welcoming and all-inclusive. That awful, angelic opening anthem brings the bile racing to the back of my throat like Monday’s school dinner of Spam, cold beetroot and greying lumpy mashed spud used to some thirty (OK, thirty plus plus) years ago.
Football – a subject guaranteed to turn normally rational men and women of science, evidence and cold hard fact into superstitious, God-fearing folk who fear that upsetting the Chelsea space-time continuum and those most fickle of deities, the footballing gods will lead to relegation, bankruptcy and Kanu type disasters.
The picture above is a memorial in Flanders to the legendary (if somewhat disputed) ‘No Man’s Land’ football match that apparently took place between Allied and German troops on Christmas Day, 1914.
A brief look at a quiet week
Amidst the fallout of the Battle of Loftus Road, credit must go to those who turned up at Stamford Bridge on Thursday to vote on the club’s proposal to purchase the freehold of the ground with a view to, well, possibly moving but not too far away until after 2020, when the world outside West London may well be their lobster.
The newspaper reports
The Independent, Sam Wallace: “If there was one consolation for Andre Villas-Boas yesterday it was that, unlike many young managers’ first defeat at Old Trafford, he need not remember it as a humiliating experience. Eventually, he might even see it the way the rest of us did: as one of those football matches with the drama and unpredictability to make you shake your head in disbelief. In terms of its ebb and flow, it did not feel like a 3-1 win for Manchester United, but then it did not feel like any game in recent memory. There were two offside goals and one miss from Fernando Torres that defied explanation, although Wayne Rooney’s shanked penalty was not too far behind. There was the brilliant and there was the sheer erratic. It was football-eh-bloody-hell and it is only halfway through September.”
The Guardian, Kevin McCarra: “The title is Manchester United’s in all but name. Arithmetic states that another point is required, away to Blackburn Rovers or at home to Blackpool, but the matter, in effect, was settled here. Chelsea, the reigning Premier League champions, were forced to confront their own inferiority at Old Trafford. The narrow score misrepresented the authority of Sir Alex Ferguson’s players, who had scored after 37 seconds.”
The Independent, Sam Wallace: “This was the standout performance against top opposition that Ferguson had been looking for ever since Chelsea began their late-season revival with that victory over United at Old Trafford. Given what Carlo Ancelotti’s team have been through in their mid-season slump, it was extraordinary that they should be in the title race with three games left but they were never truly in yesterday’s match.”
Daily Telegraph, Henry Winter: “Chelsea will panic in the summer, probably dismissing Carlo Ancelotti when the very obvious lesson preached at Old Trafford is the importance of stability. Ferguson’s respect for Ancelotti was evident in the way he embraced the Italian at the final whistle, consoling him, along with his comment that Ancelotti doesn’t deserve “to have his future queried”. Sadly, it will be.”
Official Chelsea FC Website: “A poor first half cost Chelsea dear at Old Trafford as Manchester United moved six points clear at the top of the Barclays Premier League.”
A question worth pondering; if something is indeed rotten behind the scenes at Chelsea as most of us believe to be the case, irrespective of whether one is pro or anti Carlo, then maybe that’s where we should start?
It happened in Ranieri’s last season. And Mourinho’s. Underhand briefings to the press, behind the scenes manouvering by all and sundry, sackings and/or appointments made above the head of the manager (or first team coach as is probably a more appropriate title) and so forth.
Hey, we all know the drill by now. And the rumours about who is being targeted as Carlo’s replacement have already started.
In the past, the finger of blame has been pointed at Kenyon, at Arnesen and obviously Grant or whoever else was the hate figure at the time. But the very simple fact is that there is one constant in all of this.
Premier League: Chelsea 0-1 Liverpool
The Chelsea Blog (very) Amateur Dramatic Society is proud to present its own interpretation of:
(A work of pantomime and prose very loosely based upon the above-mentioned work in as many parts as I can string a fairly weak plot with a load of half-arsed Chelsea related puns and poor gags out for.)
All characters appearing in this work are real folk viewed through the eyes of an author with manflu who has consumed too much strong cheddar after 8pm. Any resemblance to a work of vague sense and coherence is purely accidental. Proceeds from the box office to the Rafa Benitez Early Retirement Fund. No running, jumping, blocking the aisles, petting or feeding the cast members.
Premier League: Chelsea 0-3 Sunderland
The Guardian, Kevin McCarra: “If the breath is leaving Arsenal’s bid for the title so early, the cause of death will be registered as suffocation by stereotype. It is hard to avoid the focus on losers who put so much into the match for no return whatever. Nonetheless it would be implausible to suggest that they had been unfortunate. A sequence of five consecutive defeats by Chelsea in all competitions is no statistical freak.”
Daily Telegraph, Jeremy Wilson: “A sense both of déjà vu and awe pervaded Stamford Bridge on the final whistle as Chelsea eased to an ultimately emphatic 2-0 victory. The reason for the feeling of déjà-vu was obvious. Arsenal again stood accused of playing pretty football for no end product and they have now failed to win any of their past 10 matches against Chelsea or Manchester United. They have also lost their last five encounters against Chelsea and, in that sequence, are on the wrong end of an aggregate 13-2 scoreline.”
The Observer, Conrad Leach: “When Chelsea have got over the shock and shame of not winning 6-0 – as they had done in their first two games of this season – they will realise the value of this rather more subdued scoreline. As they have already proved this campaign, creating chances is not a problem for Carlo Ancelotti’s side, but sometimes the putts don’t drop. If they had, then they might even have equalled the 7-0 thrashing they doled out to Stoke City on this ground in April. After all, when Ashley Cole could have scored twice, you know there are goals to be had.”
Sunday Telegraph, Jonathan Liew: “Just the two for Chelsea this week, then, but to a home contingent reared on gourmet cuisine, this win was nothing more than a good square meal. It is fair to say that three games in, the champions are yet to be truly tested. An industrious but guileless Stoke City were ill-equipped for the job, and Chelsea were even able to afford a missed penalty on their way to victory.”