It was Fabio Borini, who spent two years at Chelsea, who eased the title towards his parent club Liverpool. It was Gus Poyet, the scorer of that majestic scissor kick goal against Sunderland, who masterminded this sensational defeat, almost certainly kicking us out of the title race and kicking Jose Mourinho’s imperious home record of 77 unbeaten into the history books. Wonders never cease.
Ba deserves to keep his place
Before his monumental goal against Paris Saint-Germain in midweek, to fire Chelsea into the Champions League semi-finals, Ba was behind Torres and Eto’o in the centre-forward pecking order. Now, he has risen to the fore.
Before winning over Jose, Ba had impressed in substitute cameo appearances, scoring two against Tottenham last month and endearing himself to the Bridge faithful with his goal against PSG on Tuesday evening.
He started at the Liberty Stadium, troubling Williams and first Flores, before the Spaniard’s needless bookings, and then his replacement Amat. His goal, with 20 minutes remaining, was clinical and crucial, effectively put the game out of reach of Swansea. Deservedly awarded Man of the Match.
Courtois will have to fight for number one jersey
Courtois is an excellent goalkeeper, tipped to strip Cech of the number one jersey as he flourishes in a powerful Atletico Madrid team, Chelsea’s opponents in the Champions League semi-finals. Yet, it won’t be as easy as that.
The Czech Republic skipper saved excellently from Bony twice, one an amazing reaction stop, and a sweetly-struck effort from Routledge. He is a world-class keeper, unworthy of assuming the role of back-up keeper.
Matic a shrewd acquisition
Mourinho had noticed the problem in pre-season, acquiring Marco Van Ginkel in the summer as he searched for a mobile, leggy midfielder. In January, he was shrewd to beat off competition from the likes of Liverpool for Matic’s signature, and the £21m invested in the Serbia international is paying dividends.
Chelsea were criticized for letting him go in the first place as part of the deal to sign David Luiz from Benfica but Matic’s incredible development under Jorge Jesus was unexpected.
His propensity to keep moves ticking over, collect loose balls and stride forward whilst playing guard in front of the Blues’ solid defence, coupled with his excellent vision to pick out Ba for his goal is what Mourinho paid for. No losses, just gains.
Swansea are underachieving
For 30 minutes after Chico’s foolish sending-off, Swansea continued to employ their keep-possession playing style, leading the possession charts. After the interval as Chelsea emerged from the break with more vigour, intensity and urgency, the hosts finally crumbled under the pressure. Garry Monk’s side are only a few points away from safety, with Newcastle, Aston Villa, Southampton and Sunderland their remaining four games. Yet, they should not be struggling at the foot of the table.
With the quality in their starting line-up, a mid-table finish should have been the minimum expected. Vorm is a decent goalkeeper, with Britton and Shelvey effective in the holding role behind the attacking prowess of Dyer, Hernandez and Routledge, supporting Bony. Play like they did here and they should retain their Premier League status without much bother.
Salah is promising
The 21 year-old, dubbed the “Egyptian Messi” for his tendency to drift past opposition defenders, impressed on only his second league start, wreaking havoc in the Stoke back-line a week ago.
He frequently found himself in behind the Swansea defence with his wonderful turn of pace, deciding to supply the profligate Eto’o on two occasions, with the Cameroonian failing to profit from his menacing incursions. Give him time and he could really flourish.
It was hardly a contest, more of a mismatch. We controlled proceedings with ease and cruised to a crucial victory which restored the Blues to the Premier League summit. Petr Cech was deprived of a save to make for 90 minutes. Sterner challenges await, for Cech too, but it was still a gratifying victory, crowned with goals from Mohamed Salah, Frank Lampard and a beauty from Willian.
Crystal Palace against Chelsea is one of the rarer London derbies, mainly due to Palace’s propensity to drift between leagues while the Premier League has been our home since its foundation. But the signifigance it holds, and the adversities Palace will present, must not be underestimated.
This was the day the history books were mercilessly torn to shreds. Not only did Chelsea rain on Arsene Wenger’s parade, his thousandth game in charge of Arsenal, the Blues whipped up a typhoon to emphatically record their biggest victory under Jose Mourinho’s stewardship.
We were excellent throughout. Our back four were solid as usual, with Michael Owen, on his live TV duties, highlighting Cesar Azpilicueta for distinguished praise as the Spaniard was deservedly nominated Man of the Match, an accolade in which many a player in blue would have advanced cases for.
The labelling of this historic fixture as monumental would not be an exaggeration. The stakes riding on this game are hugely significant. Vital points, bragging rights and Arsene Wenger’s 1000th game in charge of the Gunners – Chelsea versus Arsenal is never dull.
Manchester City revelled in our first defeat in 14 games. Liverpool and Arsenal celebrated. The outcome they craved finally arrived.
We had been beaten, with Chris Foy partially to thank for that. Our performance was itself not of the highest order, but Foy’s officiating certainly was horrendous.
The sensation after beating our north London rivals is one of gratification, further enhanced by the fact that we had given them hope in the first-half of securing their first victory at Stamford Bridge in 24 years, only for it to be cruelly obliterated in the short space of three second-half minutes. And for Spurs to be the masters of their epic downfall, it was an evening the Chelsea supporters will fondly recall.
SW6 derbies are typically not the most fiercely contested in England, but this one had to be, with both sides desperate for all three points for very different reasons. But one man clinically decided the destination of the points in just 16 second-half minutes.
Jose Mourinho has never lost a title race in which one of his teams has occupied top spot at the end of February. He has proven his expertise in the negotiation of the final straight, and our remaining 11 games will be an examination of his know-how as our “little horse” attempts to continue its charge to the title. Our 27th game of the season, however, turned out to be a close run thing.
Trips to West Brom have proved arduous for us in recent years. We had suffered defeat in our last two visits to the Hawthorns, and our fortunes did not improve on Tuesday night as the Blues were held to a 1-1 draw in an outcome that gifted Arsenal and Manchester City (on goal difference) the opportunity to leapfrog Jose’s men.
Following our gratifying victory over Newcastle on Saturday, we are once again in action just three days later as we travel to Birmingham to face a struggling West Brom side at the Hawthorns. This match presents us with an opportunity to extend our lead at the Premier League summit to four points for a minimum of twenty-four hours before Arsenal and Manchester City feature on Wednesday.
“A little horse that needs milk and to make a jump.” That “little horse” acquired its dairy liquid in the shape of the once-again incredible Eden Hazard to “make a jump” above rivals Arsenal and Manchester City following the Gunners’ demolition at Anfield earlier in the day while Manuel Pellegrini was left frustrated at Norwich. Subsequently, we moved a point clear of Arsene Wenger’s side and two ahead of City as we swept past a depleted Newcastle side at Stamford Bridge.
It was a fantastic performance from the Blues and Jose Mourinho. The Portuguese pragmatist got everything spot-on. The team, the strategy, the tempo, the mood. He knew the stakes, he knew how to win, he knew when to risk, when to gamble, when to hold. It was a masterclass in management, emphasising why he has uniquely mentored coaches who have gone on to become Premier League managers (Brendan Rodgers, Steve Clarke).
Our bore draw on Wednesday night, courtesy of West Ham’s “19th century” football, coupled with Manchester City’s 5-1 win over Tottenham, left us three points behind Manuel Pellegrini’s aesthetically pleasing side. Jose Mourinho may say we are not embroiled in a title race, but we inevitably are. To be three points off the leaders at this stage of the season leaves you in a position where a title tilt is in your reach. However, we face a daunting task to evict the Manchester club from top spot, and Monday night presents us with a game we simply cannot afford to lose as we prepare for our first of two games at the Etihad in the space of 15 days.
A little preamble
Time huh? Bloody hell. To paraphrase a rather well known purple-nosed old soak currently bothering young athletes in the halls of Old Trafford, shuffling around corridors yelling ‘D’ye know who I am?’*
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho says new £21m signing Nemanja Matic will not start against Manchester United today.
Fellow midfielder Frank Lampard could return from a calf problem while Serbia defender Branislav Ivanovic remains sidelined with a niggly knee injury.
To be top of the Premier League, ignoring the duration of our stay, playing at third gear without a consistent goalscorer is testament to Jose Mourinho’s coaching artistry. Despite not producing our best football, we have found a way, the traditional Mourinho way, to grind out results and overwhelm our opponents in the latter stage of the game whilst keeping regular clean sheets, helping Petr Cech become the club’s clean-sheet record-holder ahead of club legend Peter Bonetti. Southampton on New Year’s Day and Derby in the FA Cup were perfect prototypes of the mentioned procedure. We went in 0-0 at half-time in both encounters, only to turn victor 0-3 and 0-2 respectively. Saturday, away to the top-flight’s surprise package, proved to be another exemplar of our consistent aptitude to not play reasonably well and pick up points in typical Mourinho fashion, with a few more milestones in the mix.
Hull defender Paul McShane will miss up to four weeks of action with an ankle while team-mates Sone Aluko (Achilles) and Matty Fryatt are also unavailable. However, the Tigers could welcome back key midfielder Robbie Brady for our visit.
Susceptible to set-pieces, employing anti-football strategies and lacking a prolific goalscorer. Chelsea have been on the end of strong criticism this season. Nonetheless, the Premier League table does not lie. Third and two points behind leaders Arsenal, maybe we are susceptible to set-pieces, employing anti-football tactics and lack a proven goalscorer.
In many ways, 2013 has been a mixed year for Chelsea Football Club and its supporters. From failing to reach the Champions League knockout phase, losing to Manchester City in arbitrary circumstances in the FA Cup semi-final and the Mikel-Clattenburg furore to the euphoria of lifting the Europa League and Jose Mourinho’s second coming, it has been a memorable 365 days. With its highs and lows, ups and downs, it won’t be a year I forget. And it was one that ended on a high note with a significant victory over Liverpool.
The Observer, David Hytner: “Chelsea did little to quicken the pulses and when they reflect upon a victory that was chiselled from Crystal Palace, their only real source of assurance will come from a glance at the Premier League table. It shows them sitting prettily in second place, two points off Arsenal’s pace. Their next league fixture is at the Emirates on 23 December. This was anything but pretty. Chelsea got what they needed yet it was not the antidote to their recent toils. So many of their big-name players were curiously off-key. It is rather stating the obvious but title-winning teams surely have to be better than this”
The Observer, Sachin Nakrani: “This was José Mourinho’s first experience of managing at this venue and it is one he will not look back on with even a hint of fondness. Standing inside his technical area as Stoke’s supporters wildly celebrated a late winner that was as stunning as it was unexpected, the Portuguese’s mood became as black as his coat. He scowled in silence, with the words that eventually followed only adding to the sense that this had been a dark day for Chelsea’s Special One. Mourinho spoke with a mix of fury and frustration as he reflected on how his side had failed to record a fourth league win in succession having taken the lead through André Schürrle’s neatly taken 10th-minute strike. They subsequently dominated possession and territory, with their attacking trio of Schürrle, Juan Mata and Eden Hazard causing havoc for the hosts with their clever movement behind lone striker Fernando Torres, but, as Mourinho said, failed to “kill the game”.”
Last night’s game against Sunderland in some ways defies description. Jose Mourinho was obviously so flummoxed that in his post match interviews he had to fall back on the succinct and forensic summary provided by one of the game’s finest analytic minds. This appeared on Twitter in the moments after the game and before TSO stood before the cameras:
“Why Should I Love My Sport So Well?” – Isaac Watts, 1715
Should occasion ever bring you to Abney Cemetery in Stoke Newington, which nestles in North London between the Emirates and White Hart Lane, you would see standing proudly a statue of the great Non Conformist hymn writer and thinker, Isaac Watts. He wrote over 700 hymns during his 74 year sojourn on this earth before departing in 1748. Some of these would be familiar even to non-church goers, particularly “Oh God, Our Help in Ages Past” and the carol “Joy to the World”. He is buried in Bunhill Fields in Islington but lived for a time in various parts of Stoke Newington, particularly with the Abney family, hence the memorial in the cemetery that carries their name. He was, however born in Southampton. So in honour of the visitors and as it was a Sunday game, I will pepper this report with the hymns of the great man.
The Observer, David Hytner: “For José Mourinho and Chelsea, there was beauty in this East End stroll. Needing victory after the loss at Newcastle United and the fortunate home draw against West Bromwich Albion, they found opponents only too happy to oblige. West Ham United were a shambles in the first half. Sam Allardyce persisted with his 4-6-0 formation and the manager watched his players offer nothing and, seemingly, look to do little more than cling on. So bad were his tactics and his team that he made two substitutions in the 40th minute, with one of the new faces being a striker, Modibo Maïga. Joe Cole was furious to be withdrawn and he stormed straight off to the dressing room. The damage was done by then. Chelsea took advantage of West Ham’s lack of ambition and, also, defensive slackness; the opening goal, thrashed home from the penalty spot by Frank Lampard against his old club, followed a faintly ludicrous lapse. Oscar got the goal that his man-of-the-match performance deserved after the half-hour and that was pretty much that.”
A little preamble
A sad day for our little band of travellers from the Deep South of England into the great metropolis for our occasional delectation of Blue-tinted delights. Our much loved, slightly ramshackle, but always warm and friendly café, The Broadway Grill closed its doors Saturday after 37 years of providing the best proper pre-match fayre on earth. Proper wholesome football food, the sort of stuff that’s a naughty treat, not organic wholesome healthy tasteless expensive shite, but kebabs, burgers, breakfasts, mixed grills, all with chips, bread and butter, pitta bread, chilli sauce and so on. The owners have retired and sold it on and with heavy hearts our next home game will involve a no doubt painful search for something similar, that isn’t Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese, gourmet or fucking sushi. To Mum and the family, enjoy your retirement, we’ll miss our Chelsea FC café and all the fellow fans we’ve got to know by face if not name.
A little preamble
So, you’re sat at home, satisfied that as The Dear Leader of the blog and Generalissimo of the Podcast, the Alan Parsons… the Nile Rogers… the Quincy Jones of all Podding Sheds that everything is just tickety-boo under Jose v2.0. Who do you reach for when a potential banana skin fixture scheduled for the atmosphere graveyard of Saturday lunchtime hoves into view… why not that Tony Glover chap, after all he has possibly the best track record of covering potential tricky games (a euphemism for games we’re likely to bollocks up).
Somewhere in a parallel universe, Michael Fish was sitting on the Soccer Sunday sofa, chuckling at the tweet he’d just read.
“There’s a gentleman from SW6 who has heard that the fabled ‘El Nino’ phenomenon has been gathering strength in recent weeks and is due to arrive in London on Sunday afternoon. Well, sir, I can assure you that it’s really nothing to worry about…”
The Sunday Telegraph, Ben Findon: “Chelsea overcame a defensive mix-up to cash in on a controversial goalkeeping incident and a fine display of finishing, eventually subduing Cardiff City to move into second place. Perhaps it was all too much for Jose Mourinho, sent to the stands by referee Anthony Taylor for dissent after stepping beyond his technical area to harangue the official who had appeared to warn Branislav Ivanovic for time-wasting. Mourinho could, at least, admire his side’s newly-acquired predatory instincts alongside some delighted fans in the East Stand as Oscar and Eden Hazard applied a blue sheen to the score.”
A little preamble
The headline for this article? You can blame our beloved Jonny Dyer (@KaiserJonny) for that. He cracked a similar ‘pun’ after a very good strike by our £32m steal from the loathsome Spurs which lit up a turgid second half today.
It was approaching the middle of a typical, sixties black and white, social-realist sort of a Saturday afternoon, when the sound of a key scrabbling for the lock, brought the dapper figure of Mike into the neat, compact hallway of the small terraced house. Dressed in flannel shirt, cable stitched, knitted, sleeveless jumper and corduroy trousers, his tartan slippers squeaked uneasily on the worn, linoleum floor as he watched the door open.