Posts by Mark

Permanent Link to Chelsea 2-1 Everton - You've Never Had it So Good

Chelsea 2-1 Everton – You’ve Never Had it So Good

Some things can be measured absolutely where as others can only be measured relatively or subjectively.

A pint glass containing half a pint of beer is filled to 50% of its capacity. But is it half full or half empty? It’s a subjective judgement depending on your state of mind.

There are those (you know who you are, you know who you are…) who have considered this season to be half empty, desperate for it to end and put it behind us and start afresh, following the resurrection of the chosen Special One.

Personally I view Season 2012/13 as pretty close to the pint marker. Having followed Chelsea for the best part of 50 years I’ve seen plenty of ups and downs with more lean years than years of plenty. Therefore my subjective measurement is based on expectation levels set between 1963 and now.

On a cold day some folk think it’s evidence we’re entering another ice age. But I remember 1963. On a hot day folk get panicky about global warming. But I remember 1976. So instead of getting hysterical, like a Daily Mail headline writer, one or two losses don’t make me inclined to search www.nostradam.us for references to mad Rafa, the devil incarnate.

Looking at the season through my blue-tinted spectacles the glass filling achievements are:

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Permanent Link to Southampton 2-1 Chelsea - Awaiting the Return of the Messiah

Southampton 2-1 Chelsea – Awaiting the Return of the Messiah

The Easter Story So Far

The fervent disciples eagerly await the return of their Messiah. There have already been reported sightings and some predict more appearances during the next forty remaining days of the season. Others dispute he is the Messiah and rather the Devil incarnate and the enemy of football.

Team Selection/Priorities

The season is entering a cataclysmic week with four games in eight days spanning three competitions. Rafa decided to rest a few players today to enable a relatively fresh team to be selected for Manchester United on Monday. I’m happy with this decision. I want the team to be attempting to win trophies, not settling for just a top four finish. Ask an Arsenal fan “What are your best memories of the last eight years?”

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Di Matteo - 2012 FA Cup

Chelsea 1-0 West Bromwich Albion – A Fairly Typical Chelsea Performance

Rafa Reaction

All the focus was on the fans’ reaction to Rafa’s rant and the match was merely a sideshow. Actually I don’t think Rafa ranted; don’t you think it was more of a monologue?

The performance of the anti-Rafa brigade was a fairly typical Chelsea performance. Plenty of hype beforehand but when the time arrived to perform they took ages to get going, didn’t do much and meekly fizzled out. Pre-kick-off there was barely a murmur. On nine minutes some witty souls near me performed a minute’s appreciation of Peter Osgood and at 11 minutes the same for Peter Houseman.

On 16 minutes the Matthew Harding end kicked off the Di Matteo applause but in the West Lower they got boos and derision. To be honest I think the majority of fans are sick of the anti-Rafa brigade. There was surprisingly little anti-Rafa singing but he did get booed when he trapped the ball on the sidelines which amazingly he performed three times. That’s more controlled touches per match than Torres can manage. On occasion there were a few Mourinho songs and on 66 minutes one rendition of “Rafa Benitez, we’ll sing what we want”. Have you anti-Rafas now got it out of your system?

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Magpies

Newcastle United 3-2 Chelsea – Mauled by the Magpies

Team Selection

Rafa had a couple of selection problems for this match.

First whether to play Cech. Fortunately the medical team re-wrote the manual this week, post witnessing Turnbull in action a couple of times. Instead of stipulating that Cech should be rested if suffering a minor muscle strain the manual now states that unless Cech is undergoing open heart surgery Turnbull isn’t to be allowed anywhere near the first eleven.

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Danger! Eden Hazard

Swansea City 0-0 Chelsea (2-0 on aggregate) – Kick Ballboys Out of Football

Introduction

I’m writing this report on the 9:28 First Great Western return trip from Swansea. It was recently announced that a £350m investment in electrification of this line will shave 20 minutes off the three and a half hour journey. Is such a huge spend really worth it for a relatively small incremental improvement? Then again it’s possible to spend £70m on a new midfield to discover it runs 20 minutes slower.

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Chelsea Christmas card

Chelsea 8-0 Aston Villa – Christmas Comes Early

I certainly wasn’t expecting such an early Christmas present: news that Daniel Sturridge is leaving us. I rang the club and offered to drive him to Euston and pay for a First Class one-way ticket, just in case there’s any last minute hitch.

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Swans, sea

Swansea City 1-1 Chelsea – The Two Amigos

Preamble

I wanted to take the liberty of going to this game but unfortunately on the morning the tickets became available I didn’t follow my normal routine. You know, getting on the PC at 6:55am to open three browser sessions, Firefox, Chrome and IE, to maximise the chances of escaping from the virtual waiting room. Instead I dithered until 7:45am when I suddenly remembered what I should be doing only to find to my shock and horror that all tickets were sold out.

Talking of tickets, following our success in the Capital One Cup and subsequent quarter-final draw, I asked my son if he fancied a trip to Leeds. Have we played them in a cup since 1970? Anyhow he said he’d check his work commitments and the following day told me he couldn’t make Leeds because he’d still be in Japan following Chelsea in the Club World Cup. My ageing brain took a while longer to process this answer than in years gone by but eventually I did respond: “If you’re in Japan watching Chelsea which team is turning up in Leeds?” The Club World Cup final is on Sunday 16th December, if we qualify, and Leeds is on Wednesday 19th and my son is tacking on a week of touring and returning on Friday 21st December.

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50 shades of grey

50 Shades of Racism

Listening to the radio and reading the press it’s clear that many hold the view that racism is racism, it’s either black or it’s white and you’re either a racist or you’re not. Extrapolating this argument John Terry, now found guilty by the FA of racism, should face the ultimate sentence to clearly broadcast the FA’s sincerity and conviction to stamp racism out of football once and for all. I’m not quite sure what this ultimate sentence should be but the noises the journalists and some players are making is that it should be longer than Saurez’s eight weeks and, according to Joey Barton, in excess of twelve weeks because calling Anton Ferdinand a black c*** is far worse than serial GBH.

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...ish

Queens Park Rangers 0-0 Chelsea – Sluggish Performance Fails to Punish QPR

The preamble

It’s been a long summer without club football since that memorable night in Munich. Yes, yes, I know we’ve played three league games already but that feels more like being served an amuse-bouche only to be told that the chef’s just popping out for three weeks holiday before he can prepare your starter.

There have been sporting activities attempting to fill the summer interregnum and I decided in advance to be a good Brit and support all our boys and girls, regardless of their country of origin and well before Sean Connery pissed on my parade by declaring that Andy Murray is Scottish not British.

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A Flock of Seagulls

Brighton and Hove Albion 3-1 Chelsea – Defeated by a Flock of Seagulls

Introduction

Even Hugh Grant was able to defeat a flock of seagulls, a little known fact revealed whilst being interviewed for a role in the “Battle of the 80s Has-beens”.

On the one hand, since this was a pre-season friendly, the match shouldn’t warrant a critical review because the players are still in warm up mode and results don’t matter. This was certainly true for our tour of the States where it was all about ensuring that each player played an equal number of minutes to get every squad member up to the same level of fitness. This makes sense from a sports science perspective. So who cares about drawing with Paris Saint-Germain and losing to MLS All-Stars and AC Milan, it’s all about fitness, team bonding, soaking up the atmosphere and making sure the players look great in their Dolce and Gabbana khakis.

On the other hand as the real event approaches performance and results do start to matter. I remember this well from my schooldays when I was receiving one to one French oral from Mademoiselle Fournier in advance of my O-Level. Personally I wasn’t too bothered that I thought “My aunt’s pen” was “Le prune de mon tarte”. It was all about getting the accent and pronunciation up to speed and worrying about the actual words a bit nearer the exam.

With this in mind, plus the fact it cost 30 quid per ticket which is no mean sum for a friendly, my review of the match is as if it were the real thing, not some meaningless training session.

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1936 Underground map

Northwood FC 0-0 Chelsea Reserves – Let’s Take a Ride, and Run with the Dogs Tonight, in Suburbia

With 1905 suburbs in the Greater London area it’s deeply flattering to me that Chelsea choose to play an annual pre-season friendly in my home suburb of Northwood. I mean fair’s fair, I travel all around the UK, and now Europe on Tuesdays and Wednesdays (Tottenham fans please note), following the Chels so occasionally the club has to make a bit of an effort and visit the fans.

Northwood is on the London Underground Metropolitan line which was the first underground railway in the world, although by the time it reaches Northwood it’s overground.

Northwood is also home to Northwood Headquarters, the UK’s principal military HQ site which is home to four Operational HQs (Permanent Joint Headquarters (including the JFHQ), the Commander Naval Forces North (one of NATO’s three major Commanders) and Headquarters of Commander in Chief Fleet). Therefore in the event of any scraps between John Terry and opponents, military assistance is close at hand to quell any trouble.

Northwood is well located and within easy distance of the Central and Piccadilly lines to get to Stamford Bridge and the Metropolitan line is only seven stops from Wembley, our second home.

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The Flying Saucer

AVB is the Reason We Won the Champions League

On this blog there have been detractors of the Champions League competition but personally I’ve never been as affected and distracted by supporting Chelsea as I have since Wednesday 18th April 2012, Barcelona at home, right through to today. I’ve watched re-runs of the final endless times to the point that there must now be a groove cut into the relevant sectors of the hard disk in my Sky+ box. Even today the penalty shoot-out brings out the goose bumps as I panic that Drogba should take a longer run up and he might miss. And on YouTube I’ve seen countless videos from fans in the stadium, bars and, in the case of Omid Djalili, dressing room where for just a few seconds all Chelsea fans shared the same emotions of fear, uncertainty and doubt shortly followed by elation.

2011/12 may go down as the most memorable season in my lifetime and, now that the dust is settling, I’m trying to interpret our season of two halves and what caused the dramatic turnaround. My startling conclusion is that Andre Villas-Boas deserves the credit for us winning the Champions League.

In the latter half of season 2010/11 our old guard quartet were beginning to feel their age as our trophyless season petered out to the ultimate dismissal of Carlo. There were factions and cliques, the French foreign legion, the Brazilians, the kids, Torres and the Mourinho old guard. We weren’t a team.

Clearly it was time for a metamorphosis from the old spine to a new team of young, exciting players in the mould of Barcelona and so the term ‘transition’ entered our everyday vocabulary.

Herald the arrival of Andre Villas-Boas, one of a new breed of educated, articulate and professionally trained managers who developed their skills and strategies by osmosis, working shoulder to shoulder with footballing heavyweights, unlike the old school managers that had earned their stripes by playing the game.

Our gladiators were fed a diet of either sitting on the sidelines or being asked to play in a different style, pressing high up the pitch in the Iberian tiki-taka style of short passing and movement, working the ball through various channels, and maintaining possession.

Sometimes it worked and we played exciting stuff, such as Manchester United away, but our new style left massive openings at the back that resulted in the opposition driving their coach and horses straight through us so we conceded more than we scored.

AVB was not able to get the existing squad to adapt to his new style. Either they weren’t listening or simply not capable. AVB scanned every page of his coaching manuals to find possible solutions for motivating the squad. He implemented a carrot and stick approach; the carrot being the promise of providing an emotional stimulus and the stick the banishing of rebels from the first team car park.

Ronald Reagan once remarked during a discussion with Mikhail Gorbachev, “How easy his task and mine might be in these meetings that we held if suddenly there was a threat to this world from some other species from another planet outside in the universe. We’d forget all the little local differences that we have between our countries …”

There have been many instances when deadly adversaries, at one another’s throats for generations, put their differences aside to confront a still more urgent threat: the Greek city states against the Persians; the Russians and the Polovtsys against the Mongols and the Americans and the Soviets against the Nazis.

And so it was with our factions. Gladiators such as Lampard, Terry and Drogba could see their reputations and legacy being destroyed by the AVB regime as the media and Chelsea fans all wrote them off as has-beens. Time to put personal differences to one side. AVB had tried desperately to unite the team by getting them to believe in a common ideal but it’s generally accepted that group unity is forged stronger by shared negative attitudes. A common enemy!

So our Champions League triumph has nothing to do with the heavens, being written in the stars, destiny nor a blue angel sitting on the crossbar. Our triumph is due to Andre, who so desperately wanted to build team spirit and unwittingly succeeded by causing such anger and frustration that our players united to play with an unprecedented determination and spirit that overcame age, injury, suspension, tika-taka and finally the Germans.

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Frustration!

Arsenal 0-0 Chelsea – Frustration!

The night before

Went to the Bridge to watch the youth. Unlike the Barcelona match we were the smaller team with Blackburn proving that meat pies with gravy will make you a bulkier teen. First 20 minutes Blackburn dominated but we managed to score against the run of play. A final score of 4-0 should almost guarantee a second FA Youth Cup in three years. If we were taking a 4-0 lead to Barcelona we’d all be feeling a lot more relaxed.

Team selection

RDM picked the optimum team by changing every player except in positions where he had no choice, with Terry and Cahill having to play due to lack of cover at centre-back. It was good to see Romeu returning from exile. The team selection gave us a chance of beating Arsenal and keeping enough in reserve for this coming Tuesday.

The match

Playing Arselona is good preparation for Barcelona in that Arsenal are the nearest equivalent, in so far as drinking a glass of Pomagne is preparation for a night of Champagne.

We looked organised and confident and our passing game, that disappeared against Wigan and Fulham, was back in place. Arsenal hit the bar and made a couple of chances but we never really looked threatened. In fact it beggars belief that we trail Arsenal in the league but I guess this is due to idiots like me wanting to persevere with AVB.

We had a few attacks that looked really promising but the trio of Torres, Sturridge and Kalou always contrived to make catastrophic final passes.

The match ended 0-0 which in the context of playing Arsenal away, who have had maximum recovery time between games because they’re not challenging for anything, after a week of two tough semi-finals is a terrific result. Whether it’s enough to get us into fourth place remains to be seen but the ultimate scenario has to be either Arsenal or Spurs finishing fourth and we win the Champions League, resulting in the fourth spot qualification being removed.

Player mentions

John Terry is the ultimate leader and warrior and gives everything in every match. You won’t catch JT wearing pink boots. JT was ably supported by the increasingly confident Cahill, Bosingwa, who for once didn’t cause me any heart stopping moments and Ryan Bertrand. Ryan looks like a Premier League player and wouldn’t cause me to panic if he needs to step in for Ashley in any game.

I don’t know where Romeu has been but it was clear he was off pace and lacking match practice. Essien had a decent game and looked strong and survived the full 90 minutes. Even Malouda put in a decent shift and showed his commitment by carrying on after getting a gash on the head after a collision.

Whilst our defence and midfield held tight and stopped Arsenal from scoring our attack lacked any cutting edge. Torres was disappointing for a player that didn’t make the A team for Spurs or Barcelona and I thought he’d try and make more of an impression to give RDM something to think about. According to Ruud Gullit, who pleasingly was very pro Chelsea on Sky, RDM has had a long chat with Sturridge to outline his weaknesses and gave him some videos to study. I’ve no doubt Daniel watched the Trumpton DVD but it had no discernible effect on his performance. Completing the frontline was Kalou who does so much that is right only to tarnish it with a frustratingly poor final ball.

Post-match

Overall a decent performance and point, with no injuries, means we’re still capable of fighting on all fronts.

RDM gave great pre- and post-match interviews and presents himself in a most statesman like fashion. It was really pleasing to see him and Eddie Newton on our bench compared to the grey and dull Wenger/Rice combo who looked like a before shot in a Grecian 2000 advert.

Time for the players to relax. I don’t know if it’s a good idea for them to watch El Clasico.

The gods are on our side ensuring the woodwork and phantom goals keep our momentum flying. I hope they’re omnipresent and with us at Nou Camp.

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George Orwell

Chelsea 2-1 Wigan Athletic – The Road to Catalonia (via Fulham)

Updated with Fulham match reports and goal videos Monday, 9 April 2012 at 11:08 PM

Pre-match

Only recently have I realised that when players use the phrase “thick and fast” they’re not describing themselves but instead the frequency and importance of matches.

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Mount -Vesuvius in Eruption 1817 by William Turner

Napoli 3-1 Chelsea – AVB Couldn’t Light a Bonfire in a Volcano

The bay of Naples nestles beneath Mount Vesuvius, a volcano which hasn’t been truly explosive since burying Pompeii in AD 79. Likewise Chelsea’s explosive days are behind us and our fans are wondering whether AVB is currently stoking up the fire and we’re about to erupt into form or instead pouring water on the remaining embers and turning the players into petrified statues.

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Nothing to declare

Queens Park Rangers 0-1 Chelsea – Nothing to Declare

Do you ever have that feeling of guilt even though you know you’ve done nothing wrong?

You know the sort of thing. You’re walking through the ‘Nothing to Declare’ channel at the airport and, even though you’ve got nothing incriminating in your suitcase aside from dirty underwear, a Sooty hand puppet and a copy of Jimmy, the autobiography of Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, you can’t help looking furtive and making yourself a prime candidate for ‘Step this way, sir’. A guilty conscience is ingrained in our psyche I guess.

So even though I lay claim to not having a racist bone in my body and have for years lived and worked in harmony with a variety of creeds and cultures, I couldn’t help but feel on edge that today, of all days, I would suffer some mental aberration or seizure that would make me involuntarily utter some hideous racist outburst in the presence of police head-cams, TV cameras and thousands of fans who have been encouraged to spill the beans on their fellow man. Fortunately the day passed without incident and I remain a free man and in possession of my season ticket.

My last visit to Loftus Road was in 1970 when we won 4-2 on the route to Wembley. I was fortunate enough to go to every tie of that success, excluding the replays. Extrapolating forward my next visit to QPR is scheduled for 2054 and I’m hoping by then that a) the ground has been demolished because it was a dump 42 years ago and it’s got worse since and b) I’ve received a long service medal.

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The Angel of the North

Chelsea 1-0 Sunderland – The Guardian Angel Was On Our Side

The synopsis

Phew, that was a close shave. And I’m not talking about Andre’s face! The North East may have the Angel of the North but today the guardian angel was on our side.

Typical of recent performances 1-0 is a dangerous position for us. First half we were marginally better than of late and less soporific. Second half started OK but the whole ground knew that, if we didn’t quickly cement our lead, it would be a stressful last 20 minutes. For much of the game we’d conspired to make Bendtner look half decent but in the final moments he showed his true colours and missed a sitter.

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Snakes and ladders

Wigan Athletic 1-1 Chelsea – In the Blue

The preamble

Are you scared of snakes? I am. Even the small ones. When I’m out walking my dog and a grass snake, about the diameter of my little finger and a foot long, slithers out the long grass and across our path, it sends shivers down my spine.

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Holes in Blackburn

Blackburn Rovers 0-1 Chelsea – In the Parlance of Our Times

Football parlance has changed during the last few years, presumably due to the influx of educated foreign coaches, such as AVB, and the outflow of uneducated home-grown managers.

Objectives

Objective 1: Keep a clean sheet. I haven’t been this pleased since last Tuesday’s delivery from Sunlight Laundry.

Objective 2: Keep pace with the league pace setters, Newcastle.

Background Noise

Noise 1: A strange buzzing sound. I asked the pub landlord to check if the wine fridge was faulty. That was passed OK. I then ask if him to check the speaker system, specifically if the speaker cables were running too close to the beer pump. That was passed OK. Eventually we discovered the source was the single engine plane, hired at great expense by the Rovers supporters, flying overhead trailing a banner “Steve Keane OUT”. Puts our CPO protests to shame.

Noise 2: Our fans singing “We’ll sing what want, We’ll sing what want”. Is that OK? Anyone find that offensive?

Task 17

AVB’s time with us is a project. The season is a sub project. This match was task 17.

AVB has taken a lesson from Greece, management by consensus. The consensus view over the last couple of weeks is that we need to tighten the defence and replace Boswinga with Ivanovic at right-back. AVB obliged. Additionally the consensus view has been that Torres has been a passenger. AVB duly obliged by dropping Torres and playing Sturridge in his preferred position of main striker.

Activity 1

A brisk start with some good one-twos but lacked a decent final ball. Oops, sorry I slipped into old school speak. I meant we started brightly and played some good combinations but lacked efficiency in the final third.

Sturridge had a couple of half opportunities. To be honest I thought we were playing well in absolute terms but in the context of the last three results, and having the hindsight of our fragility, I felt we would be caught on the counter attack at any time. And so it transpired when Yakuba broke through with a one-on-one with Cech and in the resulting melee Cole head butted Cech on the nose causing a seven minute break in play. Everyone’s immediate concern was for Cech’s head, which fortunately was OK, but he had a nasty gash on the nose and had to play the remainder of the half with wads of tissue wedged up each nostril.

Activity 2

Torres replaced Malouda, not for tactical reasons but because Malouda had taken a knock towards the end of activity 1.

Some more decent interplay ensued and finally we got our breakthrough. A ball out to Ivanovic on the right wing who then cut a fine cross using the outside of his right boot, a technique that is becoming his trademark. Lampard met the ball with his head about one foot above the penalty spot to power the ball firmly to Robinson’s left into the corner of the net. A great goal.

During the remainder we tried to kill time by lots of inter passing but Rovers looked dangerous on the break and had two or three decent chances to score.

Alex looked solid, but more in the way that Susan Boyle looks solid, rather than providing the reassurance we all crave at the back. We managed to survive several onslaughts including one powerful header from Ivanovic which thumped our own crossbar.

In the final minutes Torres could have relieved all the tension. He broke on goal with Sturridge completely clear to his left. A perfectly weighted ball to Sturridge would have set him up perfectly but unfortunately Torres over hit the ball to send Sturridge scurrying off towards the corner flag. Sturridge recovered the situation and played a perfect cross to Torres with only the keeper to beat. From only six yards Torres lifted the ball well over the bar!

Task Summary

A positive outcome. This is a results business.

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Brave New World

Chelsea 0-0 Fulham (aet, 4-3 on penalties) – Brave New World

The newspaper reports

The Independent, Jack Pitt-Brooke: “For all of Andre Villas-Boas’s insistence that he wants to impose a new philosophy at Chelsea, it was the strength of the old virtues which carried them past Fulham in the Carling Cup third round last night. Despite playing for 73 minutes with 10 men, their resilience and athleticism – an effort described by Villas-Boas as “super-human” – allowed them to have the better of two hours of goalless football, before their ruthlessness rewarded them with a penalty shoot-out success.”

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Dead canary

Chelsea 3-1 Norwich City – Heart of the Mata

The newspaper reports

The Sunday Telegraph, Duncan White: “What with Juan Mata scoring on his debut and Chelsea briefly going top of the table, this should have been a day of unalloyed positives for Andre Villas-Boas and his team but with Didier Drogba rushed to hospital with suspected concussion and another stuttering performance against a defiant Norwich City, celebrations were subdued.”

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Aerial bombardment

Stoke City 0-0 Chelsea – Press Reaction, Match Report, Player Ratings

The newspaper reports

The Guardian, Kevin McCarra: “Encountering Stoke City is a repetitive experience, but few learn from it. Chelsea drew at the Britannia Stadium as they did last season, although there was not even a goal apiece in André Villas-Boas’s first competitive fixture. Much of the interest aroused by the appointment of the Portuguese remains because this hard-fought contest told us little about how his side will fare in the more considered matches.”

The Independent, Sam Wallace: “In Villas-Boas’ defence, without Romelu Lukaku yet and no other major new signings, he is still trying to reinvigorate the same group of players who fell short last season. Yesterday he picked Fernando Torres ahead of Didier Drogba and was rewarded with what was arguably the best Chelsea performance on the day. Yet by the end of the game he had reverted to an approach that has been tried before: Torres, Drogba and Nicolas Anelka on the pitch together.”

The Daily Telegraph, Jonathan Liew: “It is the dancing feet of Torres rather than the imposing presence of Drogba that Villas-Boas appears to believe are best equipped to carry out his intricate, give-and-go attacking strategy, and if the Spaniard can stay fit, he could make himself an automatic first choice before autumn is out. One sumptuous piece of Torres skill lit up an earnest first half, a twisting, mesmerising run into the Stoke area thwarted only by Ryan Shawcross’s desperate heel. The longer he continues to play with this kind of gay abandon, the more inclined we may be to believe Villas-Boas when he insists that his two-year-long trough was the result of dwindling confidence rather than physical decline.”

Official Chelsea FC Website: “Nobody said it was going to be easy. A much livelier Chelsea in the second half than the first took the game to the home side but with three penalty shouts turned down and two good saves by Stoke keeper Amir Begovic, the breakthrough proved elusive.”

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Stoke City 1-1 Chelsea – Newspaper Reports, Goal Videos, Match Report, Player Ratings

Newspaper reports

The Observer, Paul Wilson: “Chelsea went down to an early goal, recovered, and sent on all their available attackers in search of the three points to keep their title hopes alive. There the similarity with Manchester United ended, however, and after accepting his side could not afford to drop any more points and retain a realistic chance of overhauling the leaders Carlo Ancelotti will now be able to concentrate on the Champions League.”

Sunday Telegraph, Rory Smith: “Within eight minutes of kick-off, Chelsea were behind to Jon Walters’s strike; they fought back admirably to earn a frenetic point, but it will not be enough. Their chances of silverware now rest solely on the Champions League. The spectre of United haunts them there, too. Against Sir Alex Ferguson’s champions-elect, they have 180 minutes to save their season.”

Independent on Sunday, Tim Rich: “By the time Chelsea began the warm-up, the electronic screen behind them was showing images, 10 feet high, of Wayne Rooney dragging the title ever closer to Old Trafford. And when the final whistle went and the screen relayed pictures of Stoke’s manager, Tony Pulis, embracing his backroom staff it confirmed what most, deep down, at Stamford Bridge, already knew.”

Official Chelsea FC Website: “Didier Drogba’s first Chelsea goal since late January levelled the scores after Stoke netted early on but two points were dropped in a lively encounter in the Potteries.”

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Fulham 0-0 Chelsea – Newspaper Reaction, Match Report, Team Analysis

Premier League: Fulham 0-0 Chelsea

Wolverhampton Wanderers 1-0 Chelsea – Newspaper Reaction, Goal Video, Match Report

Newspaper reports

The Guardian, Stuart James : “Carlo Ancelotti claimed he was “lucky” to still be in a job before this game but good fortune only lasts so long. The Chelsea manager will do well to hold on to his position after his side suffered a humiliating defeat that exposed the brittle confidence within their ranks and the alarming depths to which the champions have fallen. Nine points behind Manchester United having played a game more, their title challenge looks to be over.”

Daily Telegraph, Jason Burt: “Against the Wolves Gold, Chelsea were the Fool’s Gold and club owner Roman Abramovich will not want to view much more of this, his millions invested in a team that appears paralysed in a disbelieving torpor unable to rouse itself and offering little but a poverty of ideas.”

Official Chelsea FC Website: “The nightmare run continues after another away defeat, this time against the league’s bottom side.”

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Birmingham City 1-0 Chelsea – Newspaper Reaction, Goal Video, Royal Report

Premier League: Birmingham City 1-0 Chelsea

Chelsea 3-4 Newcastle United – Newspaper Reaction, Goal Videos, School Report

Newspaper reports

The Guardian, Jamie Jackson: “Newcastle arrived in west London with a team showing 10 changes from the one that defeated Everton at the weekend, with Fabricio Coloccini the only survivor and Sol Campbell finally making his debut for the club four days after his 36th birthday. Carlo Ancelotti switched nine of the side from Sunday’s 4-0 rout of Blackpool and welcomed back John Terry in an experimental side that featured Ross Turnbull for regular keeper Petr Cech, Patrick van Aanholt and Jeffrey Bruma, the young Dutch defenders, plus the forwards Gaël Kakuta and Daniel Sturridge.”

Daily Telegraph, Henry Winter: “Unbelievable. This was one of the great Cup ties, a game that will shape the dreams of Newcastle United fans and stalk the sleep of Chelsea supporters. This was an epic match finally settled when Shola Ameobi rose high in injury time to knock Chelsea out of the Carling Cup, giving Newcastle United their first success here in 23 attempts. Unforgettable. This will hurt Chelsea deeply because they fought like lions to claw back a 3-1 deficit, playing for most of the second half with 10 men after Salomon Kalou and Yossi Benayoun departed injured.”

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Hull City 1-1 Chelsea – Newspaper Reaction, Goal Videos, Match Report

Newspaper reports

The Guardian, Kevin McCarra: “All Chelsea could take from this draw was a reminder that the return of the Premier League title will only be achieved with difficulty. Against opponents from the relegation zone, they needed a Didier Drogba equaliser merely to increase their lead over Manchester United to two points at the head of the table.”

Daily Telegraph, Henry Winter: “Hull were well worth their point, exploiting more unease in Chelsea’s defence at a set-piece with Steven Mouyokolo’s header from Stephen Hunt’s corner. Chelsea equalised through Didier Drogba’s free-kick but never looked a cohesive, consistently threatening unit.”

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Chelsea 1-0 Queens Park Rangers – Newspaper Reaction, Goal Video, Match Report

Match reports

The Guardian, David Hytner: “Joe Cole had dreamed of this moment for eight long months. From time to time during the arduous rehabilitation from his cruciate knee ligament injury, the Chelsea midfielder closed his eyes and heard the roar of the Stamford Bridge crowd and imagined the thrill of a return to first-team football. When the long overdue feelings returned, he could also celebrate his part in what proved to be the winning goal.”

Daily Telegraph, Jason Burt: “The Chelsea supporters sang about celery, Joe Cole had talked about playing in the sausage roll but Queens Park Rangers were, ultimately, unable to provide much food for thought for Carlo Ancelotti – a gourmet himself of course – as his team eased into the next round of the Carling Cup. It’s eight wins from eight for the Italian and 23 matches unbeaten – equalling the club record – for Chelsea.”

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Arsenal 1-4 Chelsea – Newspaper Reaction, Goal Videos, Match Report, Player Ratings

Match reports

The Guardian, Dominic Fifield: “There were pockets of chorused defiance at the end from those who remained amid swathes of empty seats, but Arsenal’s fans must be growing weary of brutal reminders that their team are so painfully off the pace. Arsène Wenger suffered his heaviest home league defeat as this club’s manager here yesterday. What made it all the more humiliating was that Chelsea hardly had to break into a sweat to inflict it.”

Daily Telegraph, Henry Winter: “The three teams above Arsenal in the Premier League all possess a better balance between defence and attack. In thumping Arsenal, Chelsea rubbed in the importance of power and resolve, bouncing back from their Champions League distress against Barcelona with real character.”

The Times, Matt Hughes: “Such is Arsène Wenger’s endless optimism that he sees the heaviest of grey skies as a dark shade of blue, but after this second humiliating home defeat in five days even the Arsenal manager must sense the storm clouds gathering over the club. If not, then the loud booing that rang around the half-empty Emirates Stadium after the final whistle will surely have altered even his sunny disposition.”

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Watford 1-3 Chelsea – Newspaper Reaction, Goal Videos, Match Report, Player Ratings

Match reports

The Observer, Paul Wilson: "There was no St Valentine’s Day massacre, either of Watford’s Cup hopes or of Chelsea’s attempts to reinvent themselves under the gaze of a new manager, though there was a Sapphic proposal of marriage at half time: To Linda from Jackie. Far more interesting than anything that happened in the game, but the manager sent from Russia with love will get used to that."

Sunday Telegraph, Duncan White: "It’s going to be a tough week at Chelsea’ Cobham training ground and Hiddink must draw deep on his well of football wisdom if he is to turn this Chelsea side into a team capable of securing silverware. Nicolas Anelka scored twice within a minute to save Chelsea an embarrassing elimination in front of their new coach."

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Chelsea 3-1 Ipswich Town – Newspaper Reaction, Match Report

Match reports

Sunday Telegraph, Jonathan Wilson: "Perhaps in the Cup all that matters is progress, and Chelsea did achieve that, but if they were hoping mid-table Championship opponents would give them an opportunity to rediscover their swagger, they were disappointed. Home is still an uncomfortable place for Chelsea."

Sunday Times, Brian Glanville: "Amidst all these swirling rumours about Chelsea’s corporate future, the team stuttered then succeeded against a resolute Ipswich Town. For a while when Ipswich had equalised it had looked as though the 3-0 thrashing at Old Trafford and the humiliating home draw in the previous FA Cup round against Southend would have a sad sequel."

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