Chelsea 4-1 Norwich City – In Flight

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Introduction

A tale of two birds coming into the weekend.

The omnipotent FA’s decision to adjudicate that which has already been settled in a court of civil law underlines the archaic and arbitrary nature of modern football’s agenda-driven governing bodies, who remain subject to no oversight and are utterly devoid of the burden of proof.

In a 63-page ruling by an “independent” regulatory commission, John Terry was condemned as a racist and Ashley Cole’s testimony declared unreliable. The FA needed to vindicate its decision to strip Terry of the captaincy simply because his not guilty verdict at the Magistrates’ Courts was a glaring embarrassment for England’s top football body.

Most notably, and perhaps even more damningly for the independent commission, Jose Mourinho and Carlo Ancelotti both came to their former captain’s defence immediately following the mockery of English law.

Understandably unimpressed by the FA’s draconian practices, Cole took to the digital street, brandishing the FA as a “#BUNCHOFTWATS” on Twitter. Bloody Twitter. The flightless passerine is now the symbol of arguably one of the most powerful – and incriminating – modern social institutions, which is capable of inspiring government-toppling revolution when used to its full mobilizing potential, forcing a professional footballer, accustomed to abuse by the thousands in away grounds, to abandon his account when used as a weapon and inspiring heated exchanges between well-known personalities when used by a Piers Morgan.

Clubs should maintain rigid policies regarding their players’ presence on such a pathogenic network.  Ashley has now been urged, and rightly so, to close his account.

However hilarious and audacious, it was indeed a damagingly impulsive move by Cole, and his apology will mean little. The predatory media are baying for blue blood.

“Are the players out of control?” asked one calculating reporter during Di Matteo’s latest press conference. The coordinated campaign by the football press corps to unnerve an ardent stoic is beginning and, for the first time, Robbie looked perplexed during a question and answer session, mangling his answers while attempting to ration his words and mitigate misinterpretation. Are the players out of control? Where does one get the testicular fortitude to manipulate a journalistic inquiry with question of such absurdity? #Bunchoftwats. Perhaps he was merely prophetic.

As the fallout from one periwinkle blue bird’s domain transpires, the songbirds of Norfolk signalled another test for the changing of the guard at Chelsea.

Team selection

First-team affairs seem to have taken a more consistent shape. The swirling trident of ‘Aza, Osca and Mata, are set to dictate the boundaries of Chelsea’s imagination. The defensive quartet, despite a few shortcomings, is never in question. Lampard and Mikel have consonant duopoly over midfield matters. One, however, does worry about Torres’ fatigue levels given that he is expected to start virtually every match this season.

The first 45

Reading’s confident gameplan of two months ago came to mind. The lower half of the Premier League has little to lose when arriving at title-contending grounds this early in the season.

But an assured passing game was clearly the order of the day. Chelsea’s play has an intrinsic left-sided bias about it given the presence of Hazard, Lampard and Cole, who completed triangular exchanges impressively. Their three-way understanding will be a defining aspect of Chelsea’s shape.

With the tempo quick, Chelsea lured Norwich higher up the pitch, allowing Frank to lob a textbook pass above the defence into Torres’ path. Through on goal with pace and on his right foot – the perfect situation to devastate the back of the net – Fernando exhibited a rather disturbing aspect of his recent final decision making. Similar to his action against the Danish champions in midweek, where he sought to round the ‘keeper and beat a defender despite bearing down on goal at a supremely favourable angle, the no. 9, for reasons he might not even know, cut back onto his left and conceded possession. Whatever the motivation lies behind his penchant to overdo it, leave it out.

The somewhat temeritous nature of our play was a concern as the team remained unaligned during Norwich’s counterattacks. And so it was. A momentary lapse and the unwillingness to close down an attack that has scored a mere two goals away from home this season led to a clean finish from Grant Holt. Lazy defending.

Fortunately, falling behind was probably the best thing that could’ve happened. Focus was restored. Chelsea flooded forward and Lampard released Mata on his right. A delightful back-heel allowed Ivanovic to deliver an inviting cross of perfect height and power to be headed in – dare I say it – Drogba-esque fashion by Torres. That’s four goals in six Premier League matches.

Yet again, Ivanovic was involved and has clearly established himself as a vital cog in Chelsea’s attacking play. Commandant.

The commentators were still quick to jump on Torres’ back, claiming that “vintage Torres” has still not materialized. This tag, this desire of punditry to see the Scouse Fernando, is ridiculous. You will never see “vintage Torres”. Chelsea demands a different dimension from its strikers. Torres’ fight and work rate – tracking back and challenging in the air – are aspects of his game that he needs in order to survive and thrive as a lone wolf on the front lines for the league leaders. These are the immeasurable qualities that will redefine what he will be remembered for.

Not too long later, some one-touch passing in close quarters between Chelsea’s triumvirate of talent crafted a chance for Super Frank to score a signature strike. The tally stands at 129 goals for the finest English midfielder of his generation.

At the half hour mark, Chelsea’s ongoing transformation consolidated even further. Outfoxing his marker, Mata charged through the center of the park to paint what would be his masterpiece. Feigning an assessment of options to disguise his true intentions, the quintessential no. 10 manufactured a no-look through ball of penetrative artistry, as if the percussion, drumming and backing instruments had stopped to allow for the lead guitarist to demonstrate an ethereal brilliance during his solo break. The pass, coupled with Hazard’s finish, amounted to psychedelia.

Basking in London sunshine, the first half was Premier League football at its finest: open, competitive (initially), unpredictable and fearless.

The second 45

Supplied by the midfield engines of Lampard and Mikel, the surreptitious, seemingly simple play of the latter in particular remains instrumental to the grander scheme, the trilateral parlance behind Torres crafted chance after chance with Oscar, who thankfully hustles and harries as much as he jukes and feints, creating space for himself in the tightest of situations, while Hazard sought to return the favoor to his Spanish counterpart.

The cornerstone of Hazard’s attacking strategy, however, needs to adapt and evolve. The Belgian revealed his cards at too early of a stage, alerting referees to his most favoured method. Having won the most penalties out of any player in Europe last season and continuing the trend in the opening stages of the English season have all but sealed his reputation.

If he has any sense about him – which he does – he will know full well that, barring studs to kneecap, the likes of Webb and Clattenburg will never rule in his favoor in a crunch match, despite how obvious the infraction might be.

Sergio Aguero did also point out that foreigners are less likely to receive a decision in their favour by the referees. His contention is partially backed by a study conducted by the University of Birmingham. A marked man, indeed, Eden. The recent string of decisions against awarding the team a penalty are nothing new, but worrying nonetheless.

While it should’ve perhaps ended 6-1, Oscar’s whipped in ball from the left found Mata, who cushioned a delicate ball to the one man you can expect to be in the box at this late stage in the game – Ivanovic – who unleashed a masterful volley to make it 4-1. I defy anyone to name a better right-back on the continent. As far as attacking full-backs go, let’s put things into perspective. Cafu, arguably the defining example of a world-class right full-back, scored a total of 16 goals in 448 appearances during the entirety of his bombarding club career. Chelsea’s commandant has scored 15 in 181 games, a majority of which have come from a lethal swing of his right foot.

As the prophetic correspondent had queried in the press room, the players were now indeed out of control. The full repertoire was on show, and a few minutes of circus football can be therapeutic for the fans.

Unfortunately, Abramovich was not in attendance to witness a team that is now truly Di Matteo’s. Roman, are you not entertained?

Undefeated at the top of the league, but away trips to Ukraine and Spurs followed by a double header against Manchester United in the league and cup should truly illuminate the mental character of Di Matteo’s Chelsea.

An African-American proverb wisely reminds us that even the birds that fly highest have to come down to get a drink of water. One must hope that the dressing room, then, is one of insatiable hunger and not thirst.

Player ratings

When you’re flying this high, it’s perhaps unfair to give down-to-earth ratings. As such, the compartments of the team will be rated by altitude.

No. 1: 37,000 feet and cruising. Back to his absolute best.

Defensive Quartet: Varies depending on navigation through turbulence.

Midfield Duopoly: Slightly above ground level. Air traffic control.

The Triumviri: 75 miles (just breaking the atmosphere). Soon to be of cosmic quality.

No. 9: 37,000 feet and climbing. The golden boot is a very real possibility.

Man of the Match

While Juan Mata, the lynchpin of Chelsea’s finest hour at the Bridge thus far, is the obvious choice, spare a thought for John Obi Mikel. Outstanding from beginning to end, his immense performance is easily glanced over by the untrained eye, but he did the Makelele role proud yesterday.

The press reports

The Observer, Paul Doyle: “At least Chelsea are getting things right on the pitch. A week in which the fallout from the John Terry race case contaminated the club even further concluded with a gleaming victory against a Norwich City side that took the lead before being blown away. The European champions’ style in other regards is questionable, but the increased panache with which they are playing is pleasing.”

The Sunday Telegraph, Gerry Cox: “At times, Chelsea have tried to defend the indefensible with Terry and Cole. On Saturday, in Norwich City, they faced a side whose defending was indefensible. Chelsea remain unconvincing themselves at the back – pushed and, at times, bullied by the bullish Grant Holt who opened the scoring – but going forward they are peerless even with the still-unconvincing Torres. Just how potent would they be with a more lethal striker?”

The Independent on Sunday, Nick Szczepanik: “So, back to the football, with both Chelsea and Norwich City relieved to switch attention to the pitch after off-field matters had made the headlines during the week. Well, Chelsea were, coming back from a goal down to extend their lead at the top of the Premier League to four points. The fact that neither Ashley Cole nor John Terry was involved in anything controversial will disappoint the headline writers, but Roberto Di Matteo, the Chelsea manager, was happy that his team had not been distracted, recording their fifth successive winand their sixth in seven league matches.”

The Official Chelsea FC Website: “Chelsea’s impressive start to the season continues after we came from behind to earn a convincing win against Norwich at Stamford Bridge on Saturday. The visitors went in front early through forward Grant Holt, but Fernando Torres quickly levelled with a fine header, and 10 minutes later we were ahead when Frank Lampard rattled home a superb half-volley. A swift counter-attack from Juan Mata allowed him to create a third for Eden Hazard, and Branislav Ivanovic smashed a fourth in the second half to maintain our unbeaten start to the campaign and move us four points clear at the top of the Barclays Premier League.”

The goals and highlights

11′ Holt 0-1
14′ Torres 1-1
22′ Lampard 2-1
31′ Hazard 3-1
76′ Ivanovic 4-1
Match of the Day highlights




There are 21 comments

Add yours
  1. Ryan

    Good stuff Vik. Really good read.

    At which point have CFC tried to defend the indefensible re: Cole & Terry Sunday Telegraph?

    On Cole I see no reason why he should close his twitter. FA have essentially called him a liar and convicted him of (de-facto) perjury because his statement was revised. FA ought to have revised their own statement before they started going on about Anton’s non-existent wife and a conversation that supposedly occurred between Cole, Terry & Ferdinand an hour after the game even though coach and players had left by then. No wonder the lower burden of proof is used. The FA’s lack of rigour is disgraceful especially considering the gravity of the case (not to mention the huge sum of money involved-not just the fine but legal representatives fees as well).

    No mention made by the FA (as far as I know) of the fact that the judge in the CPS case identified Cole as a reluctant witness. Why is that? If you wanted to lie to protect a friend why would you be a reluctant witness?

  2. Cunningplan

    It’s a crying shame that the media still want to talk about tweets twits and twats. Ash hasn’t helped himself with the outburst, but do you know what, most people would have reacted the same way, and I don’t blame him.
    The FA are not fit for purpose, and with the people who wanted JT to be found guilty, well they’ve got the validation of the FA to suit their agenda.

    We live in a sad fucking state when the FA are seen as the moral and legal caretakers of the law in this country.

    Yes lets take JT and Ash to some quiet back street, blindfold and tie them up, and put a couple of 44 Magnum rounds into their kneecaps, or perhaps extradite them to the US to a state which has the death penalty.

    FUCKING RANT OVER!

    Very good and comfortable performance yesterday.

  3. Radicalevan

    Nice review. Perfect picture as well.

    Anyone else get the feeling that this New Torres plays a bit like a more central Anelka (or less wide left, anyway) but he just doesn’t do it quite as well? 

  4. Beermoth

    I’m seriously thinking of not reading the “papers” anymore and just reading blogs.

    and what happened to the Podding Shed?

    • bluebayou

      Beermoth

      We had to abandon a couple of recent recording dates due to a key member of the team being struck down with an illness that rendered him unable to talk properly.

      Yes, I know that your immediate thought will be, “But how would I tell?”.

      However we have set ourselves certain standards with respect to the Podding Shed and see no reason to try and achieve them now, when we haven’t before.

      Apologies for denying you your weekly listening pleasure but there should be one out at the end of this week to sustain you through the desert that is the international break.

  5. Chelsea Australia

    Surely the lads now that whatever they do is going to be in the public eye at the moment why couldnt Ash just keep it quiet! You know the FA will throw the book at him!

     Torres is finally looking so much better – really is a differrent player than last year!

  6. mark_25

    Yes the papers are completely over the top but that’s their job I guess.

    As for Ashley, if I’m honest, his tweet is immature and the behaviour of a fourteen year old.

    Does he realise the meaning of the word ‘twat’?

    http://www.thefreedictionary.com/twat

    Bearing in mind the three words uttered by JT it would have been better not to call the FA twats and just keep his mouth shut.

    Also I’m not sure bunch is the correct collective noun for twats.  I think ‘a quiver of twats’ or a ‘bed of twats’ is more likely.  I’ll email Stephen Fry for his opinion.

  7. bluebayou

    Enjoyed the report Vik, good work.

    The Hazard goal stood out for me. It was the sort of accurate fast break football that Chelsea sometimes struggle to put together. Mata’s through ball and Hazard’s finish together were a thing of beauty.

    The fact that Norwich look a shadow of last year’s team shouldn’t detract from a lot of the positive aspects of the performance, though I still have concerns at some of the chances we allow, a similarity with Tuesday’s game in that respect.

    I’m glad Torres got his goal and that it was an important one. However a lot of attacking moves broke down when going through him. His control and choice of pass worry me a bit, but I’ll remain optimistic that he can get to higher plane.

    Oscar looks to be settling in and getting to the nitty gritty of EPL football. It will be interesting to see how he maintains his form over the long season. But the early signs are good, particularly his football “intelligence”. Looking back at the past week, including Arsenal, he seems capable of adapting his role, depending on the game. Given his build, he is deceptive in his ability to take on the more physical aspects of the game.

    I like Chris Houghton and have a soft spot for Norwich but on the evidence of Saturday and the shellacking they took from Liverpool, it may be a tough season for them.

    The old adage that you’ve got to give a league season a dozen games before you can really get a feel for who might do what is one I abide by, but it was important to get a good start, given that we are Champions of Europe and in the process of rebuilding the team.

    Now people make the point that we have had an easy run of games, these obviously being different people to the people who say that there are no easy games at this level or perhaps the same people who can somehow hold diametrically opposite views about the same thing in football depending on which team they are talking about.

    Well if we have had an easy run then to garner 19 out of a possible 21, score 15 and concede only 4 shows that the club is very much in harmony with the ancient rhythms of nature that have sustained man through the ages and that can be no bad thing. Hence it having been the harvest season, one has to make hay while the sun shines.

    And as Sir Frankworth of Lampost demonstrated post game, the squad are not only skilled in the management of silage, but are across the basics of poultry husbandry too. No chickens are being counted until hatching is underway.

    Finally, can I just correct a couple of points you make in your intro Vik. The Terry case wasn’t settled in a civil court, (unless you are distinguishing it from a military one) but in a criminal court. The distinction is important as the criminal court required a higher burden of proof than would a civil court or the FA.

    And in their somewhat curious 63 page written reasons they are careful to point out that they are not finding Terry to be a racist. Now that distinction has been lost very quickly in the media outpouring but needs to be kept in mind. Whether you believe that using such language as an insult makes you a racist is another argument altogether.

     

  8. bluebayou

    Oh yeah, forgot a minor whinge. I know I shouldn’t waste my time, but I am once more irked by MOTD. And not the ankle breaking, headkicking, “do me and I’ll refuse to play for England” Shearer.

    After the Stoke game, MOTD did a job on Chelsea in support of Pulis claiming there was an excess of simulation. The only real case they had was against Ivanovic.

    Now given the BBC’s much vaunted crusade for “balance”, where was the analysis of 2 clear penalties and one decent shout not being given? In fact they didn’t show all of them. Where was the analysis of at least 2 incidents close to the box where Hazard and Torres stayed on their feet after hefty shoves in the back?

    Now I accept that some weeks you get ’em and some you don’t. In the final analysis, it will be more useful to get one in a tight game rather than Saturday’s.

    But given they were so anxious to highlight simulation, where was the counterbalancing piece questioning why Hazard in particular can now be fouled in the box with impunity, after having been awarded a number of clear penalties in the early weeks of the season?

    On the balance of probability (hey we can all play that game) the lack of penalty awards was a co-incidence, despite coming so soon after their expose and Pulis’ very public whinge. However it highlights the danger of choosing one game and targetting one team to suggest a trend.

    Because if the Stoke game points to Chelsea as a team of simulators, regularly conning referees, what does Saturday illustrate?

    I have been advised by Health and Safety experts and a team of Heart and Lung specialists that I shouldn’t hold my breath waiting for an answer.

    • Blueboydave

      I think it illustrates that we should expect to see only selective evidence which bolsters whatever the flavour of the month issue currently being peddled to death is – at the moment it seems to be “let’s ban opponents who upset us”.

      Therefore, today the sports page of the BBC website has headline items giving Pulis another chance to have a go at someone who’s annoyed him and Alan Pardew is jumping on the bandwagon too about an incident in his latest game. 

      Going back to the FA Tribunal, I keep reading this over 99% conviction rate figure [ not likely to reduce now that they’ve abandoned a sliding scale of proof for more serious charges] and wonder who were the 2 miracle cases that actually managed to get a not guilty verdict out of this entirely independent body?

      I think we should be told?

      • bluebayou

        Was one of those cases the Chelsea groundstaff accused by Man Utd of racist remarks a few years back. Or does that come under a separate heading and the 99% relate to players?

  9. limetreebower

    Presumably one of those cases must have involved Mitt Romney? Since as all we members of the 99% know, he is the 1% …

    Regular readers who have the patience to get through my blithering paragraphs (now there’s a tiny minority for you) will have noticed that I have very little sympathy indeed with JT when it comes to the current brouhaha. But even I feel the reaction in the media has been slightly distastefully gleeful, and the concerted effort to get him removed as club captain — smugly citing Chelsea’s “zero tolerance” policy on racism — really is playing to the worst aspects of the whole business.

    Robbie seems to be handling it fairly well so far, and with luck he has enough clout around the dressing room to get some kind of desperately overdue apology out of JT. But it does no favours to anyone to constantly confuse the (inexcusable) use of racist language in insults, which is a cultural issue, with the moral issue of whether someone “is” a racist. The culture needs to change, which is one of the reasons why it’s important that JT and the club make some kind of public apology; but the idea that JT has exposed himself as morally unfit is silly.

    It’s like thirteen year-old boys using “gay” as a disparaging adjective. They shouldn’t, they should know why they shouldn’t, and it would be better for everyone if it stopped happening, but it surely doesn’t mean that they’re vile bigoted homophobes.

    Sorry to bang on about it. The game was fun except for those slightly unpleasant four minutes, and even then I was fairly confident that we’d be scoring at some stage. Agree with Dr B that Mata’s pass for Hazard’s goal was exquisite, the kind of thing that gets you off your feet before you know why you’re standing up. What form he (Mata) is in — almost Zola-like, though he doesn’t do things as instantly as Franco did: it’s still all a bit deliberate. If that front four start doing things instinctively, rather than watching each other and looking for the pass/run, they’re going to be unstoppable.

    Meanwhile we have Branners, who seems to come crunching through defences from his station out right as if he was actually Michael Essien circa 2007. Hard to see poor young Azpilicueta getting a game on current form.

  10. Ryan

    I’m starting to enjoy the media vilification of CFC. It just reminds me of the Mourinho years siege mentality. Manager, club and squad seem more together now than they ever have since Mourinho’s departure. RDM and Terry know how to foster a team spirit.

    It’s really no surprise the knives are out for us. Winning the CL really upset a lot of people but at least we could still be clobbered with some anti-football bollocks (Barcelona are anti-football anyway, they’re anti-being able to defend properly and anti-having a decent goalkeeper!).

    Now we’ve scored more and conceded less goals than any other PL team where is there left to go? Terry and Cole dragging CFC reputation through the mud? Do me a favour. Why is Cole being victimized for having to give evidence in court? Nothing to do with his general attitude to the media, I’m sure. The FA’s suggestion that he (essentially) lied in court borders on libelous yet newspapers are happy enough to write about it over and over again. Shame they weren’t so keen to print potentially libelous accusations surrounding Jimmy Savile over a thirty year period, rather they allowed his noncing to continue unabated. Media hang your heads you’re a lot of self-interested no-good bastards who delete dead childrens voicemail messages and propagate myths about football supporters murdered by an incompetent FA and police force being robbed by other supporters who were just trying to help them. Yet it’s Cole and JT that have shamed us. Yeah ok.

    Apologies for the rant. Top of the league. Top of our CL group. Champions of Europe. Fuck the media & the FA!

  11. Cunningplan

    Well there’s no doubting the FA are going to keep their conviction average of 99% with the charging of AC.
    It’s obviously not acceptable to call them twats, but elbowing and stamping on players is fine!

  12. Blueboydave

    While we’re in full-blown “world going to hell in a handcart” mood can I despair that the next generation of football fans may turn out to be stats and tactics uber-geeks.

    There was a young lad just along the row from me on Saturday who must have been all of ten years old, whose first comment to his dad at the point when it was 0-1 was: “too much passing”.

    Later on in the half his second comment was about “playing in the channels”. 

    Whatever happened to youthful enthusiasm for the splendour of the beautiful game?

    • Cunningplan

      Perhaps he meant that body of water that keeps Platini and Blatter far enough away from our shores.

    • mark_25

      Hang on a minute, maybe it’s a good way of getting young boys enthusiastic about maths.

      Instead of the old style question A market gardener sows 25000 tomato seeds. Given that 21500 produce seedlings, calculate the percentage which did not produce seedlings?

      We could instead have If Saurez enters the penalty box 10 times in a match what percentage of times will he fall over?

      • Cunningplan

        Suarez never falls over, all his penalty claims are legit, otherwise Sky and the BBC would be constantly mentioning the fact he’s a diver, just like all the divers in the Chelsea team.

  13. bluebayou

    Ashley Cole had to shake hands with the one and future king this morning.

    The nation has recoiled in horror.

    A ban for a game or two possibly, a fine yes perhaps, but it was generally agreed that the FA have overstepped the mark with that punishment.


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