Sunderland 1-3 Chelsea – The Reset Switch

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Introduction

Memory’s a funny thing. They say the human mind has a penchant for forgoing a well-rounded perspective in favour of that which occurs most recently. One of the many reasons why the bad is never forgotten and the good is faintly remembered. Sometimes one needs a bit of a perspectival reset.

While I am in agreement that something at the club is indeed broken – the thick aura that plagued its inner workings has not been, as I had proclaimed before, eviscerated – because of hierarchical decisions stemming from the Manichean thinking demanded by our oligarch, veteran fans completing nearly half a century of uncompromising support are quick to remind me that there have been darker days at Chelsea Football Club. And there have indeed been worse situations than standing third in the table, seven points off the top with a Club World Cup – a competition revered by South American teams – to look forward to.

If someone had told you in February that we would win the Champions League at the cost of not qualifying from the group stages the following season, would you take such proposition? Of course you would. Anything for that night in Munich. Half a season in the Europa League is worth the triumph, especially because, given the fateful nature of European draws, Chelsea will undoubtedly have an opportunity to build upon relegating Tottenham to the second tier by knocking them out of it.

But had you been told that the ecstasy of Drogba’s last kick of a ball in Chelsea shirt would also mean Rafael Benitez ending up at the helm before Christmas, perhaps the pause before the answer would be far longer. Regarding the corpulent one, it would be in our favour to view his motivation and vantage point. Here is a man who is by no means of the same ilk as Avram Grant or Luiz Felipe Scolari. He understands English football, he understands European competition, and despite what many might think, he understands his old foe. We were effectively Benitez’s raison d’être for his entire tenure at Liverpool.

Two years out of work, it is in his very best interest to reaffirm his status as that fat, goatee-rubbing, tactically astute bastard who stifles the strongest of opposition. If he can lay the groundwork for whoever Abramovich chooses to lead the team successfully next season, he might leave to a reluctant round of applause by the fans and his reputation reset. I dread to think of the other side of the coin: Rafa failing abjectly and Chelsea pioneering a three-manager season.

The key difference between prior sackings and interim managers, however, has been the autopilot switch. When new managers with quack ideas threatened the success of the team, new faces usually hit the reset button, bringing in the uncompromising Mourinho-style back to the fore. Avram never really changed much, Hiddink got the boys playing the only way they knew how and Robbie re-empowered the players Jose made. Everything was reset to stem the tide of failure.  There is no longer an autopilot switch – which makes Benitez’s job that much more difficult.

Of Jose’s loyalists, Benitez’s confirmation in one of his first press conferences that Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole will depart the club at season’s end must surely be of major concern. Rumours abound that Lampard might, in fact, sign a new deal, but that is yet to be seen. Forget his qualities as a left full-back, who can let go of a serial-goal-line-clearance specialist like Ashley? The club’s utmost priority must to be to keep these two at the club at whatever cost.

In all this back-room malaise, we have all taken for granted that Eva Carneiro is still with us. The club’s decision to promote her to chief physio has inspired imitators. AC Milan has hired its very own Eva. If the club has paved the way for greater female leadership roles in the back-room staff of European teams, that would incrementally help mitigate the tarnished image Roman, Bruce and Eugene have cultivated. Not that anyone would notice. And having a club owned by the womanizing Silvio following suit is perhaps not the ideal imitator one could hope for.

Onto Sunderland. Away fixtures evoke a considerable degree of trepidation this season. We haven’t travelled particularly well. That’s being nice. We’ve virtually forfeited matches at times. Martin O’Neill has had Chelsea’s number on some occasions in the past and Sunderland’s 0-3 win under Steve Bruce at Stamford Bridge is a fixture etched into memory. Having said that, a Chelsea loss has not taken place at the Stadium of Light in 12 years. But given the streaks we’re breaking for all the wrong reasons thus far, it would be impossible to determine what performance awaited, regardless of any confidence that could’ve arisen from smashing one of the worst sides in Champions League history in midweek.

Team Selection

Defensive Quartet: A back-four of Ivanovic, Cahill, Luiz and Cole is increasingly becoming our best option with Terry sidelined. While Ivanovic might be better used in the center of defense, Azipilcueta, a prototypical attack-minded wing-back, should be used sparingly until all defensive cleavages are addressed and rectified.

Midfield Duopoly:  Little choice besides Ramires and Romeu. The club’s regret of its decision to indict Clattenburg has landed Mikel a substantial ban. The contract extension might very well be an apology as well as a reward for his marvellous role. But exactly what substance is being abused around the table which decisions are made?

Triumvirate:  Victor Moses has earned himself a starting place ahead of Oscar – an impressive feat. He deserves it fully and looks more and more like the perfect upgrade to Monsieur Kalou. Slotting anywhere in the attacking third, his decision making is clear cut and, like good old Salomon, he will bag quite a few important goals.

Lone Wolf:  The man who is due a Premier League goal. With Benitez in charge, the man also has nowhere left to hide.

First 45

A bright start with the team looking thoroughly organized. The holding midfielders were not straying too far ahead, Mata was placed in a gravitational role around which players orbited seamlessly and the defensive line kept its shape.

Chelsea’s playmaker extraordinaire, perhaps one of the world’s best in the “quarterback” role, started proceedings with advanced heart surgery, unleashing a majestic pass through the aorta of the defensive. Eden Hazard, who will never receive a penalty again during his life in England it seems, was tugged back illegally as he controlled and cut inside perfectly. His smiles will turn into frustration – and bookings – sooner or later.

The goal on 12 minutes was a masterpiece in counter-attacking play. With the ball won by Mata near the touchline, it drifted into Romeu’s path, and despite looking seemingly surrounded by red and white shirts, the young Barcelona product slipped a cute pass through to Torres, who managed to use his strength and wit to leave his compatriot Cuellar dead in the centre of the park. Moses, using his natural energy and power drove through the middle and released Hazard. With far too much time afforded to the winger – not that I’m complaining – his return to industrious form was crystallized by a cross of absolutely perfect height into the path of a striker who, somehow, just somehow, had managed to time his run to perfection for the first time in ages.

An early lead. But we’ve been here before haven’t we? A Torres-inspired – and finished – goal to give us a supposedly vital lead away from home in a crucial fixture. In fact, we were just here last week. Optimism reserved, my expectations remained conformed to the brutality of current realities.

Oscar soon replaced an injured Romeu, a decision which raised an eyebrow. Surely Lampard would have been a more fitting substitution to fill a holding role, but obviously Oscar has displayed enough bite in training, and on match days, to warrant a deep-lying role.

While the length of its veracity remains unknown, the now-customary 16th minute chant for Di Matteo should not be interpret as a purveyor of instability, but rather as a defining statement for the powerful nature of Chelsea’s support. Much maligned for a variety of unfounded reasons, Chelsea fans are actually proving the doubters wrong with the passionate consistency of support. With constant upheaval, we have learned to dissect that which needs to be supported and remembered most, and have acted accordingly.

Sunderland retaliated, and we allowed them to do so to some degree by giving away unnecessary fouls and scuffing clearances. Poignantly, we absorbed the pressure astonishingly well and dealt with every ball that came to the box. David Luiz taking up an unfamiliar role of remaining discipline, which in turn revealed the titanic nature of his play. With the right guidance, he is capable of not mucking it up. Is Benitez to be credited with reigning in the erratic defender?

Then the unthinkable transpired: Chelsea were awarded a stonewall penalty away from home. And then, the unthinkable continued: Fernando Torres overruled David Luiz to take the kick. His first attempt at a competitive penalty in England. Despite being assured by his insistence and David Luiz’s lack of protestation, the thought of him pulling a Sergio Ramos and leaving a dent in the International Space Station was too vicious to bare.

But the contours of his face exhibited a blazing confidence I have not seen from the oft-sullen striker. The eyes revealed a steely fury as if to say: “I will not fail.” And just like that, it was Fernando Torres two, Sunderland nil. His celebration was not one of smiles, but again, one of fury. Perhaps he realizes with Benitez in charge he actually has nowhere to hide. But is this one of his short spurts of form before the inevitable relapse into logic-defying mediocrity or is Benitez proving to be the Torres-whisperer he is hyped to be? Four goals in two matches, albeit against rather underwhelming opposition, for a striker who risks having his legacy laid to waste. Has he set the reset button? Optimism reserved, let’s not get our hopes up.

Second 45

Simple play found Moses on the right who crossed well, finding a Sunderland defender in suicidal state of mind. The ball dropped to Torres, who, brimming with an unbridled confidence struck first time only for the crossbar to deny him his second hat-trick for Chelsea. Mata, of course, was having none of it and finished ruthlessly. It has been sometime since I can remember being three goals to the good away from home in the league. Were we actually playing well or was it a case of Sunderland’s flaws coming to bear? Chelsea were organized, lethal and shared an understanding from all corners of the pitch. We forced errors and exposed Sunderland. It was our day.

The decision to bring on Oscar over Lampard was justified as he showed his ability to play in deeper roles, getting stuck in when need be. This boy will have it all in a few seasons. Deep when the defensive alarms rang and in the attacking third on the break, Oscar’s mobility and fight allowed him to run the midfield alongside Ramires. Mata continued to dictate affairs because of the young Brazilian’s workrate.

Adam Johnson, a player who coulda, woulda, shoulda been a Chelsea player before losing out to City, scored one of the strikes of the season, leaving Cech flat-footed. Swerving outside and in, Sunderland deserved at least a goal for their pressure. Two free-kicks saw Cech in top form, saving one acrobatically and tipping the other to the crossbar. It could’ve so easily been 3-3 were it not for him.

Benitez’s decision to bring on Bertrand rather early to shore up the midfield signified his sense of preservation. He pinpointed that players have been overused and fatigue was already rearing its head. With two 12-hour flights and matches to be played in Japan, this squad, once considered sufficiently deep enough, needs to be rotated wisely to ensure that the likes of Hazard and Mata continued to dominate defenses. Mata was run into the ground last season and that cannot happen again.

The highlight of the entire match was seeing Frank Lampard stride out onto the pitch. Oh how we’ve missed you Franky. Taking up his trademarked left-of-centre midfield position, to see the familiar technique of a Super Frank strike that tested Mignolet was heartwarming. How can he ever leave the club? His return will, and probably already has, transformed our fortunes.

We conceded only once, and that to a moment of magic, and displayed a ruthless efficiency throughout the pitch. Is the end of the bad memory that was November? Has it all been reset for the good?

Japan, and the first trophy of the season, awaits. Continue in this vein – organized, efficient, mindful with a sense of urgency – and we will be Club World Champions. Robbie deserved to at least lead the team to a competition in which he effectively ensured our role as contestants.

Benitez, with a right old smile from his first win in English football in about four years said it best in the post-match presser: “The fans have to be behind the team, behind the club, and today we had a lot of fans and when you go so far away [for the Club World Cup], it’s important to win for them too.” Call him what you want, at least he is not deluded of his reputation, role and expectation as the most loathed interim manager in the history of the modern game.

Has the reset begun?

Player Ratings

  • Petr Cech: 9.5 – He kept it at 1-3.
  • Ashley Cole: 7 – Played a great lob to Ramires, but was troubled by Johnson more than once.
  • David Luiz: 9.5 – Whoever this doppelganger is, keep him.
  • Gary Cahill: 7 – Solid.
  • Ivanovic: 6.5 – In fine commandant form as usual, delivering accurate crosses, but lost Johnson for the goal.
  • Romeu: N/A – Injured, but played well in his short appearance.
  • Ramires: 8 – Signs of his best form with long-legged strides and pace.
  • Juan Mata: 10 – He is the center of this team’s universe.
  • Victor Moses: 9 – Cementing his place, one match at a time.
  • Eden Hazard: 9 – His form dictates our attacking fortunes considerably. Outpaced his marker for fun.
  • Fernando Torres: 10 – Let’s hope he has reset his form rather than simply his “due a goal” timer.

Substitutes

  • Oscar: 9 – When he bulks up, he will be dominate the English and European game.
  • Ryan Bertrand: 7 – An excellent option to be able to shut up shop.

Hierarchy

  • Rafael Benitez: 9 – The team was organized as can be. Surely he had something to do with that.
  • The board and owner: 28 – The amount of grams in the ounce of whatever they are smoking.

Men of the Match

Fernando Torres for giving us a two-goal cushion, Juan Mata for his consistently cosmic contributions, David Luiz for standing firm and Petr Cech for ensuring it wasn’t 3-3.

Press Reports

The Sunday Telegraph, Luke Edwards: “With Chelsea stepping up their efforts to sign a new striker in the new year this was the timeliest reminder of what Fernando Torres can do. At long last. Four goals in two appearances in four days is an impressive return although it is a moot point as to which team he faced were worse: Danish champions FC Nordsjaelland in the Champions League or the ragbag of Sunderland who dropped into the bottom three with this defeat.”

The Observer, Louise Taylor: “Admittedly this could be described as a mixed 90 minutes from Torres but, quite apart from his first league goals since early October, there were definite purple patches replete with exhilarating movement, acceleration and shooting. With a little more luck, he could easily have completed a treble.”

The Independent on Sunday, Martin Hardy: “The theory has been that he needs to be isolated to play well, to have the freedom to play on the last defender, but that argument looked nonsense against Sunderland. Victor Moses was just about a right winger, Juan Mata his strike partner and Eden Hazard a left winger. Every single Sunderland defender was occupied from the first minute …”

The Official Chelsea FC Website: “The Blues secured a much-needed three points, our first league win since October, with a 3-1 win over Sunderland at the Stadium of Light, after two first-half Fernando Torres goals had put us firmly in the ascendancy.”

Goals

11′ Torres 0-1
45+3′ Torres (pen) 0-2
49′ Mata 0-3
66′ Johnson 1-3
Match of the Day highlights

Image credit: flickr/grimages




There are 76 comments

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  1. mark_25

    After being demoted from the Champions League to the Europa League, akin to being told you’re banned from Waitrose and forced to shop in Lidl, it was good to start winning again in the league.

    We played well in patches and deserved to win against Martin O’Neil’s team, who is probably the most overrated manager in the Premiership.

    Has Torres turned the corner? I once turned the corner several times but was still lost and directionless, although that was in the maze at Hampton Court.  If Torres played like that every week none of us would be complaining but I’ll wait several more matches before digging out the bunting.

    The fans performed their normal 16th minute acclaim to RDM but supplemented this with a consistent chorus of

    We don’t care about Rafa
    He don’t care about us
    We just care about Chelsea FC

    Personally I’m not in favour of this since I don’t believe it helps the team or the club.  Actually I’m finding the baying mob tedious and crass.

    In the strange world of Chelsea FC it wouldn’t surprise me if our interim manager outlasts our permanent managers.

    • Der_Kaiser

      Agree with that Mark; irrespective of our feelings towards the bloke it really is time to move on now.  The club don’t help themselves – I’ve not looked at my copy of the official magazine yet (rarely do, to be honest) but Robbie isn’t mentioned which is a bit churlish to say the least.

      I think it’s almost a guarantee that if RB gets the best out of Torres, they will both be here for far longer than any of us imagined.Either way, a couple of decent wins under our belts is good news; hopefully recently found confidence and form will have made it onto the plane to Japan.

      • Blueboydave

        The elimination of RDM from official publications is par for the course –  if you recall, Uncle Ray failed to get even a name-check in the following season’s Yearbook “Chelsea Goodbyes” section after his abrupt departure. Very classy.

        After those first two deadly 0-0 efforts we seem to me to have reverted to our early season approach, apart from the extra width that Moses offers, meaning we don’t need to have the full backs bombing on quite so much, leaving huge gaps behind them.

        Perhaps someone with a more acute eye for tactics than mine can tell me what Mad Rafa [and a Torres suddenly willing to talk to British TV/press] were banging on about with their “improved more direct style” comments.

        Or can I write this off as Shades of Uncle Avram bullshit?

        • Cunningplan

          MOTD highlighted the slightly different approach with regard the direct style with our midfield trio actually running ahead of Torres to occupy defenders rather than the attempting to pass the ball through the eye of the needle.
          Only time will tell if it is an Uncle Avram type of bullshit, but no denying four goals in two games seems to be bearing fruit from Rafa’s so called new approach, so credit where credit is due for the man.

  2. Gleb

    As usual, when we win after a run of bad form, suddenly no one bothers to write any comments (apart from those who did, obviously). Seems we secretly enjoy losing just to vent our anger, and winning is actually a nuisance preventing us from doing so. Our CL winning thread got fewer comments than any old regular defeat. That’s a very bad, unhealthy sign. Makes me think we deserve some of Roman’s decisions for ourthirst for controversy

  3. Gleb

    No offense intended, just a general observation of the fans’ psychology. The problem is that it always inevitably rubs off on the team, despite the fact that players earn ridiculous money and don’t seem to care. But they do feel the pressure. When huge criticism is always just around the corner, whilst praise is something elusive and rarely seen, it’s mighty hard for everyone involved. This blog is exceptional in that the criticism is always constructive and fair but the mood is still there. Not everyone bothers to write a comment when we win but everyone seems to abandon whatever it is they’re doing in order to write something when we lose, as if to say a collective “I told you so”.

    • Der_Kaiser

      Don’t think we differ that much from any forum where football fans – whoever they support – post comments on how their teams did at the weekend etc.  Saturday wasn’t terribly eventful or controversial and was only really notable for being Benitez’s first league win.

      I suppose the simple explanation is that we generally all enjoy bitching and moaning about the team and the game; there’s far less opportunity to do that when we win!

    • bluebayou

      Yes I think it’s just one of those things. Human nature if you will. If all is going well I think people feel there’s not much to say other than a bit of a general well done and hat’s off. When it’s all falling to bits we all have a different view of why and hence the rush to put it out there.

  4. PeteW

    Didn’t see the game or even the highlights, but am interested in what happens in Japan. Had previously considered this an unwelcome distraction just as the league/cup pace started to hot up, but now it could be rather handy in fine-tuning some of Rafa’s changes (such as they are). 

    We do seem to be doing pretty much exactly what we did before, but not sure if there’s all that much flexibility in the current squad anyway.

    I saw much of the Manchester derby – City were very poor. United didn’t have to do much to win. Mancini is a very average manager given all his success. I actually think Benitez might even be better.

    Still think we can get back amongst the Mancs before the season is over; we won’t win the title, but we can cause some problems. 

  5. limetreebower

    Fair point Gleb. My excuse is that [*adopts professorial French accent*] I did not see ze the game so I cannot comment.

    I’m afraid I reserve the right to boo Rafa as long as I want to. I think it’s perfectly reasonable for any fan to express their frustration at the managerial carousel, and it’s the only significant way of doing so. He’ s big boy, he knew what he was getting into and he can bloody well take it. I don’t believe it’ll worry the players at all. I know some of them probably aren’t very clever but I think they can figure out what the booing signifies.

  6. bluebayou

    I don’t know if it was Romeu’s injury and replacement by Oscar, Sunderland pushing back, Chelsea trying to protect a 1-0 lead, but after an impressive start the midfield looked far to easy to play through once again. This is a problem that goes back a season or two. I know there are other ways to defend other than pressing in midfield, but it isn’t working for us.

    I’m happy to take the tree points and it was good to see that they can still play with tempo and confidence at times, but I did find myself wondering what would happen with a better team than Sunderland. I’m not convinced we are ready to do battle with teams in the the top half of the division in the way we did earlier in the season.

    Benitez has a reputation for organizing a team defensively, it will be interesting to see what he can do. For my money they still seem to get caught ball watching, don’t seem to track runners or make sure they are handed on and allow far to much time before attempting to close players down.

    Torres’ form. Has he found it?

    Well they found the Higgs Boson. But it cost an enormous amount of time, money, dedication and ingenuity.

    I await further results.

    On the injury to Romeu, apart from the blow to the individual himself, it does leave us exposed in defensive midfield I think. Ramires, Lampard, Oscar are all central midfielders but do not replace Mikel and Romeu in my view.

     

    • limetreebower

       On the defensive midfield issue, interesting to see Wee Pat on the club website suggesting that Crazy David not only has the attributes for that position but indeed might be, ahem, “safer” there.

  7. bluebayou

    Blimey, I was so busy gazing at the fluff in my own navel, I forgot to say well done Vik, entertaining as always.

  8. GrocerJack

    Great piece Vik as usual. I was locked away in deepest darket Wiltshire in the middle mof Longleat Centger Parcs this weekend. I was only able to find out the result by sitting in the bar during ten pin bowling and then in the Pancake House. I did have an EDGE signal but chose to leave both phones at the villa. It was bliss. I’ve not enjoyed a Chelsea match like that for ages. I couldn’t keep up to date so I simply didn’t. A most enjoyable experience.

    Like Mark I find the constant booing tiresome….and FFS…how long will the RDM on 16 minutes thing continue…until he dies? I think the appreciation side of the RDM reign is probably over now don’t you?.

    The thing is perhaps it’s time to critique this season under RDM. The PL slide had started way before Rafa, and we were all but out of the CL by the time NorthEllisLand came along (seems a decent way to get close to the pronunciation) our fate lay elsewhere. Like a few others I did believe SD might slay Juventus but on balance I suspected Juve would turn the screw in order to finish first in the table. I liked RDM but something was sliding and the recent run of form leading to his departure had echoes of AVB last year albeit with a new set of players. The club (aka Roman) acted way too quickly in my view but in retrospect it may have been the cruellest but kindest cut.

    I’ve seen the highlights and we looked quite robust – the idea that other teams wil never get chances is absurd. The Johnson goal was well taken and that could happen to any team. I’m heartily sick of the mantra that only clean sheets mean a solid defence, even the old Arsenal bacl 4 of Bould, Dixon, Winterburn and Adams were breached regulalrly. I actually think that Rafa is styarting to get ideas across about robust defending and posession play and that might take time but it will be good to see us stop giving away stupid posession in stupid areas.

    As for the Club World Cup, we really should just go there with the intent of utterly destroying the other teams.

    • Blueboydave

      Ah, TG, I’m surprised that you are now essentially buying into the club’s “off with his head” policy as soon as a manager hits one of those “bad moments”.

      Whatever happened to giving a bloke a reasonable chance to turn things around and backing him to get it sorted out? Yes, RDM messed up the CL games, but he’d lost 2 EPL games out of 12, including being royally fucked over by the ref v the Mancs.

      Someone [it might even have been you] pointed out recently either on here or on The Podding Shed that Ranieri had to put up with the best part of 2 years of calls for Vialli – and he only won us an FA Cup and Cup Winners’ Cup. 

      I’m with LTB and think those who want to, can give Mad Rafa stick for as long as they feel like it, if nothing else as a reminder to Roman they don’t wan’t him as manager any longer than necessary.

      • GrocerJack

        It’s not meant to be a harsh criticism of RDM as a coach. In fact I do think he deserved longer to make his mark. But that’s not Romans way and now we all know it. I note BBD that your comment is about letting Roman know what we want rather than telling Roman what we think of him perhaps or is he above criticism. This is the bit I find bewildering. Roman is fine apparently because he’s put so much into the club cash wise….and yet as if to spite us all he hires and fires at will apparebtly not giving a fuck about what the fans want and barely anyone raises an eyebrow of objection.

        This is what I find odd especially when a coach from another albeit adversarial side proffers a few mild slurs on the sensitive flowers that are the Chelsea fans collective and for that is utterly vilified. I know that puts me in a very small minority but I firmly believe that constant booing of the coach along with insults and abuse HAS to seep through to players who in all likelihood actually like the bloke.

        • Blueboydave

          I am in fact very critical of the way Roman and his suits have chosen to run the club in terms of the manager merry-go-round. 

          However, I remain grateful that he has at least invested shedloads of real money into the club, rather than just saddle it with millions of debt like the Glazers.I’m not sure how you expect fans at games to  register this mixture of criticism and gratitude clearly. Minor point too, those of us in the West Upper can’t even tell if he’s present at a game unless they put him on the big screen, which is hardly likely to happen when there is any display of criticism by the fans happening.

          BlueMikel – I didn’t read the article but I don’t recall a string of successful clubs sacking managers after 8 games, or even anything like as regularly as we’ve got away with so far.

          • Vik Sohonie

            Ah yes, of course. A silly question I must admit.  Eventually there will be no managers left and Avram Grant will be come perennial first team coach. 

      • Blue_MikeL

        I have put an article about manager chances in modern football on the previous thread. In the modern game honey moon is about 8 games if one cares about winning. RDM had his chance and his 8 games as a manager and not interim. Let’s be honest with our selves and we said it back in the summer he is not qualified to be our long standing manager. I don’t know if Rafa does, but I know for sure Roberto doesn’t.

  9. Vik Sohonie

    What happens if Rafa pulls this team around, wins the CWC, the FA Cup and Premier League? Does he still get sacked? I’m no Rafa fan myself, but I’ll credit the man where its due, like this past league match.  I think he’s expecting the sack no matter what, but surely he’ll jump up a page in our books if we wins a major piece of silverware come season’s end?

    • Der_Kaiser

      If Rafa gets Torres working and picks up the odd pot (League Cup most likely), I think he’ll be around next season unless Roman persuades Pep to pitch his tent here which looks increasingly unlikely.

      I’m subscribing to Mark’s theory that our interim manager could well end up being one of the longest serving of the Roman era.

  10. bluebayou

    Consistency is what it’s all about.

    Consistency wins you titles.

    Roman is consistent in the manner in which he hires and fires. And while many believe he is a decisive man who knows his own mind, I’m coming around to thinking that he actually swings between different groups and factions who have his ear at different times. But whatever you think, he is is consistent in the alacrity of his action.

    And a certain percentage of Chelsea fans have disliked Benitez for a long time. He was unusual in criticising a club’s fans, something managers rarely do. Whether you see these as mild slurs or something more, football is tribal and employment precarious, which perhaps explains why managers are circumspect in what they say about a teams support as a whole.

    So these fans are being consistent, They didn’t like him then and they don’t like him now. “Fickle” is a pejorative term that is always thrown at football fans. You boo the other team’s star and a season later he is adored. Why? Because he is now wearing your shirt.  Every club is guilty of this. So for once some people, who no doubt said, “I don’t ever want to see Benitez at Chelsea” are remaining consistent when now faced with his unwanted presence.
     
    They at least deserve some credit for that. For being true to themselves.

    You may see them as over-reacting to something trivial, but say that about a fan’s reaction to anything in football and the Emperor is truly without clothes.

    It’s bad enough that fans have to deal with the tension between gratitude to Roman and frustration at the way he keeps dismissing popular managers, but to add in to the mix a man who is already deeply unpopular with a significant section of the fanbase and it is bound to create an unpleasant situation.

    And the protests are all that fans have. We did not have a choice. We did not take Roman’s money. He bought the club. Fan’s have cock all say in the club, really. And thus it has always been for the majority.

    But they are carefully targeted protests. If it all subsided in a few days, Chelsea fans would be accused of being passionless trophy hunters. And it’s also worth noting that part of the protest is in support of RDM who has received precious little public thanks from the club in its programme, club magazine or website.

    I would ignore the media and others who are being disingenuous when stating that they cannot understand the level of fan’s discontent and try to paint a simplistic picture that requires blind loyalty and uncritical support. The same people who were stating that any Chelsea fan who didn’t abandon the club
    in protest at their handling of the Terry case was a racist are now criticising the same fanbase for making their views known on the managerial situation. Say nothing and you’re prawn eating sheep. Protest and you’re Luddite ingrates. It is part of the ongoing characterisation of football fans as simpletons prone to drink and violence.There is no room for nuanced argument.

    Yes, some people on both sides, within the club’s support, are guilty of being deeply unpleasant to each other. But the discourse on social media seems to always result in a rush to the basement of self expression. As a confirmed fence sitter I can see the value in both side’s views. But I also believe that we are becoming a little jaded and cynical about the whole managerial roundabout to a point where the Benitez appointment has provided a focus for discontent outside of the dislike of the man himself.

    But we are not consumers, brand slaves. The emotional connection is deeper than that. Yes a few hearts are being broken. Yes a few journos are pontificating. But if these people want our money a spot of spleen venting is what they’ll have to put up with. Yes it is unpleasant. Yes it may end up bordering on the ridiculous. Yes it may impact on the team. But it is consistent.
     
    Playing for a club who are on their second interim manager in 2 seasons will be far more undermining for players than the howls of frustration and confusion coming from the crowd. Indeed it may mirror the way some of them view the situation.

     If you always liked Benitez then this situation is painful. Offering support for him is being true to yourself and consistent. If you always disliked him then taking the opposite view is equally true to yourself.

    For the rest of us, well we just have to put a brave face on it.

    And Benitez? Well he stated he would never manage Chelsea, (I think). Consistent?

    • mark_25

      Prawn eating sheep has been bothering me all afternoon.  Can sheep eat prawns?  Because they eat grass I assumed they are herbivores but a quick search and now I’m not so sure and wished I’d paid more attention in biology beyond the thirty minutes dedicated to reproduction. 

      In any event prawn eating sheep doesn’t sound kosher to me.

      • bluebayou

        Chelsea fans are many things but they are not literally sheep. So this was a rather workaday metaphor describing a predilection for following the general drift in an unthinking fashion.

        To refer to a fan as someone who eats prawns (usually between 2 slices of bread and known as a sandwich, that’s the combination of prawn and bread not the consumer thereof) is a relatively common insult referring to persons what goes to feetballs but have little or no emotional involvement and indeed are only there because someone has paid for them and entertains them.

        So it was a rather forced conjunction of two insults whose strange disharmony is meant to engender the uneasy collision of feelings that many of us are currently experiencing.

        It was meant to bother, indeed has bothered and so to that extent has succeeded.

        The fact it bothered you but did not lead you to that conclusion means I failed as a writer, which combined with my failure in so many other ways leaves me more troubled than ever..

        I cannot comment as to the “kosher” nature of either sheep, prawns or any combination of the two. I was brought up in one of the Abrahamic religions but not the one where matters of “kosher” are germane to daily life.

    • Cunningplan

      Yes the entertaining moments for me was Robbie Savage and his stupidity.
      He was banging on about that he wasn’t having any of this jet lag nonsense as Chelsea fly first class so shouldn’t be affected.
      I wasn’t aware that flying in first class was now the miraculous new preventative measure and cure from something that affects most humans when flying across time zones.

      • mark_25

        I didn’t get jet lag when I flew to Newcastle Business Class last weekend so maybe there’s some truth in his theory.

  11. Blue_MikeL

    Great game watched it from the beginning to the end. I have rarely seen us playing such a high pressing game. 
    Luis really impressed in midfield, from this position he can go around for his crazy runs 🙂 and still have time to come back if needed. Great game!  

  12. bluebayou

    I missed that particular example of Savage’s knobbery, but got fed up with him endlessly repeating that he didn’t know what Mikel did, eventually suggesting that Lampard could fulfill the role.

    How does he get the work?

      • Ryan

        Missed the game but understand that we beat some more pretty average opposition. Luiz in midfield could be interesting. Wonder if 3 at the back has been considered? With Luiz playing the sweeper role and Azpi & Cole pushed-on as wing-backs. Hasn’t really worked for City I know but I don’t particularly rate two of the three who normally get the nod for them.

        Anyway I got the impression we could’ve played DL upfront with Petr Cech and stuck Mata on Hazards shoulders in goal and still got a result against a team I can honestly say I had no idea existed until recently. So not sure how good a test of Luiz’s suitability to the role today was.

        I don’t care if Torres scores 20 goals between now and Xmas we still need another striker. I’m still in favour of Lewandowski. Terrible fear that he’ll go to Utd for £15million and score bags of goals and we’ll be wishing we’d got him instead of whoever. I’m guessing Studge is going to Liverpool. So it’ll be all change either now or in the summer. I’m guessing Falcao will go to Real Madrid. They’re still smarting from not going for Aguero from Atletico and we know what they’re like. If they want it, they get it. Usually. I don’t fancy Cavani/Remy much and really like Lewandowski so now you know.

        Apologies for lack of comments recently (wins & losses 😉 ). Unfortunately work/knowledge studies preventing me from conversing with you all more and end up tweeting instead. I will make more effort to bore you all again soon.

        Excellent as always Vik. Very much appreciate the work of Nick & all the boys. Always a good read even if I don’t get chance to comment. Don’t forget to use the amazon link for any Xmas shopping to help cover some of Nick’s costs.

  13. PeteW

    Re: Savage. A friend of mine listened to 606 the other day and asked, ‘Are the people who call in always this stupid?’

    Just ask yourself, I replied, how thick would I have to be to want to share my opinion with Alan Green or Robbie Savage?

  14. bluebayou

     Careful now!

    As Jacques Mallet Du Pan may have famously observed or perhaps someone else, “A l’exemple de Saturne, la rafalution dévore ses enfants”. And there are a lot of youngsters in that team.

  15. Cunningplan

    Just realised after watching the trailer for  SPOTY on the BBC. Various clips of our Olympians and of teams like City winning the Premiership, Wales winning the six nations but unless I missed it, not even one snippet of us winning the FA cup or CL.

    Don’t they like us or what? JT should have been on the list of twelve, or the Beeb could have created a new category for him most hated SPOTY 😉

    • GrocerJack

      There was one very small picture of Didier on screen. Sadly in a year like this our feat will be dwarfed by the Team GB achievements, of which theres likely to few detractors in truth. An outside shot for the team award might be the Ryder cup team for their frankly miraculous comeback to win outright, surely the greatest comeback of all time. Bradley Wiggins should win overall in my view because the TDF has never been won by a Brit before and whilst Murray did well he simply isn’t in the same league in terms of achievement – lest we forget Wiggos gold as well which left the (German?) chap in second place needing paramedic attention whilst Wiggos nonchalantly cycled off to celebrate with friends and family. Didier should be a shoe in for the Overseas SPOTY but again and sadly I think Usain Bolt will win that which would be most unjust

      • Cunningplan

        Agree with you on Bradley Wiggins he’d be my choice as well, no doubting team GB will get the bulk of votes, but I also wouldn’t mind Ben Ainslie being in with a shout as well.
        The Ryder Cup team should be in the running purely on the basis of that comeback especially from an inspired Ian Poulter!  Drogba would be a nice choice as overseas personality, but I think it should go to Usain Bolt just because behind all the showmanship and bravado he does back it up with a supreme and freakish talent.
        I must admit I stopped watching SPOTY after 2009 when Ryan (I’ve nailed my brothers wife) Giggs won it, it lost all credibility for me, as I thought Jenson Button was a certainty.

        Perhaps the blog should have Chelsea player scapegoat of the year… no prizes or guessing who’d win that!

  16. Blue_MikeL

    Torres, Torres and Torres again for fuck sake who bought this rubbish?! He can’t pass, he can’t score, he can’t hold the ball. This is fucking ridiculous  every pass to him is like pass to opposition. He is fucking comical every time he touches the ground with his fucking useless arse!  He is the bloody caricature on a footballer!!! Stop making fuss about him.  He scores only to lesser teams, who allow him time on the ball, but as soon as it comes to a half decent team he is freaking useless! Please, Roman, Chelsea, Emenalo who ever is there sell this rubbish for whatever and buy a striker, normal striker!
    Somebody must pay the fucking price for buying all these so called strikers !!!

  17. Benjami

    Torres was terrible, today’s game clearly shows that he is completely finished. If anyone thought the last few games was showing him resurrecting himself as a top class striker, today proves that wrong.

    At the same time it was a very poor tactical / team selection by Rafa. If that had been TSO in charge I would have expected to see a substitution on the 20 mins mark. I expected it at half-time at least, and by the time he did it we were 1-nil down it was too late to affect the game. (Note: I felt this before the game, not just now that we have lost)

    Lamps is too direct for me in that position and his balls too ambitious, would like to back that subjective opinion up with some stats but there is nothing on whoscored.com so I could be completely wrong. But I felt he was giving the ball away too much.

    We were also getting completely owned in the middle of the park and losing 99% of the 2nd balls. How did we concede the goal? O not reacting to a 2nd ball ;/

    Love to see us return to 4-3-3 with a Brazilian 3 in the middle of the park, Oscar, Ramires, and Luiz. The drive forward from those 3 and the possession they would be able to keep would be awesome 🙂

    • ChelseaAfrica

      Agreed with you on Frank. Midfieders these days must have ability to dribble 1 or 2 opponents (when there is chance), not only the ability to pass.
      Apart from the miss from Mata, he was dull today. Actually, he should have been the player to be substituted after 1st half. Anyway, players have a day like this from many.
      Torres – no comment, RA – no comment.
      The defeat is painful. I could even see it in the eyes of our players, but what can we do, life must continue.
      KTBFFH!

  18. Vik Sohonie

    We weren’t great, but I do think it was a case of Corinthians wanting it more.  This trophy is revered by South American clubs, they tend to win it more often than not.  Benitez lost to Sao Paolo with his 2005 Liverpool side as well.  That last chance with Mata – he really shouldve just centered it.  Certain goal.  Onto Leeds!

  19. Guest

    So glad Lampard is back, we’ve desperately missed his leadership this season, the way he just bosses the midfield really lifts everyone’s performance. And it’s good to see Torres working so hard and making runs. I think he even won a corner?

  20. Gleb

    On a totally unrelated note, does AVB even try to impose his philosophy on Spurs or not? I think not. He learned his lesson. And it should have been the other way round. But no, he had to experiment on Chelsea and get it right with fucking Spurs.

    • Dylbo Baggins

      I’m a human being first and a Chelsea fan 2nd. The way our club treated AVB when he was clearly not right for the transition phase was, in my opinion, incredibly poor. I wish it wasn’t at Spuds but I genuinely hope he does very well and then sends his resume to RA with a little post it note attached saying F you.

      The best thing you can do is learn from shit situations and it looks like he has- we haven’t.  

      • Blueboydave

        Excellent news.

        Perhaps your collective brain cells can get their heads around the fact that though Mikel’s domestic ban did not apply to the World Club games, FIFA can justify insisting that Cahill’s red card in the final has to be applied to our next “official match” and beyond for “at least 2 games” according to Dan Levene’s ever-helpful info?

        • Cunningplan

          I think you might just have hit on an idea for our intrepid bloggers. If we know when they might be entering the shed we could e-mail in a few questions to Nick to put to the fab four.
          It could be a bit like question time but without the bickering.

          • Blueboydave

            Congrats to all the Shedders on another fine effort.
            After hearing the responses to a simple “What I Want for Xmas” and discussion on SPOTY awards I’m anticipating the New Year will bring “broadcasting gold” to rival the half-time “Ask Mike” spot on Channel 4’s Sunday Night NFL coverage which will have ended by then 😉

    • Cunningplan

      Just remember if it all goes tits up tonight, the Plusnet servers will crash, and those flat capped whippet loving rogues will be hounding us to within in an inch of our lives on this blog!

  21. mark_25

    They’re all a bit strange up here but very friendly. Chelsea fans in good voice tonight. The usual repertoire plus Jimmy Savile plus a Ken Bates tribute.

  22. GrocerJack

    Report filed with Dear Leader. I’ve not been very nice about Leeds. I just don’t like them very much. At all. Expect some trolls to come and abuse me/us.

    That will make my Christmas. 


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