It’s a bit of a misnomer that title, in reality it was out with the old, well to some degree, and in with the old and young and new. Actually I suspect that as with the featured image, the new will not differ that much from the old. It might just be faster. Whatever, it is working and this game showed there’s life in our mixed age dogs yet. I read the comments, and love the passionate debate and the variety of opinions whether I agree or not. My stance on this game before the game was I’d have taken the draw such is the promise and potential of this Manchester City team, but accusations of hypocrisy to AVB because he’s changed his philosophy are wide of the mark. He has the backing of our beloved owner for this season at least and he does have the big task of changing us and our style of play for what we all hope is a bigger future. More of that later.
It’s 24 hours after the game and I’ve had time to reflect and watch Sky’s rubbish repeat, really rubbish. I mean Aguero’s attempt on 10 minutes they actually showed twice seamlessly spliced together to look like continuity. However, let’s briefly summarise – no surprises in team selection for us. Meireles has done enough recently to warrant keeping his place and as Mark so eloquently put it, Frank isn’t selected because on current form he isn’t one of the best three midfielders we have. But he is a class act and maybe this all about using him sparingly to extend his impact. I like thinking that way about it.
After 93 seconds utter seeming disaster occurred when a superb ball through to the moody but undeniably talented Balotelli led to a cool rounding of Ivanovic and Cech to slot home and give them an early lead. It felt like Old Trafford last season all over again. After 20 minutes of some of the most dazzling football I’ve seen live for some time, with City making mesmerising use of space off the ball, and supreme confidence on it I whispered to Chelsea Bob, ‘If it stays 1-0 I might be happy with that’. At this point I was reminded of a broken and beaten Sonny Liston retiring on his stool as the young Cassius Clay danced around knowing he had slain the old man and ended his career. But I was wrong. Because the Chelsea I’ve become so accustomed to reappeared and slowly but surely we climbed off that stool and started to put a stranglehold on the game. Yes, City dazzled but the end product was effectively neutered by superb defensive displays from our back four and the new Makelele in Oriol Romeu. Ivanovic shrugged off the early error for the goal to utterly boss the back line, helped by a slowing but determined Terry and even Bosingwa putting in a shft. Cole took a while to get into his stride but when he did he resembled the Cole of two years ago. I’d still have Ivan at right-back and the improving Luiz alongside JT, but credit where it’s due, heads soon rose again despite the silky City skills and with it came a bit of the old Chelsea doggedness and refusal to lie down.
By the time Sturridge had bamboozled Clichy and mugged him again to deliver the cross for Meireles to equalise, the feeling around the ground was that we were not out of it by any means. And on Sturridge… is there any doubt that if Rooney or any Arsenal/Man Utd or Liverpool player was delivering the level of performance he has that the media wouldn’t be hailing him the new English wunderkind? There’s under the radar and then there’s pure ignorance. I’m just saying…
Second half and the home team suddenly looked more like the home team. City still tiki-taka’d around the pitch but there was a relish from Romeu, JT, Ivan and Ramires at breaking this up. And with that the confidence grew. We started to believe we could take them on and it felt good. Sturridge tormented Clichy finally forcing a yellow card as he sped past him, forcing Clichy into pulling him down. I suspect Clichy was taking one for the team. But minutes later, after every Chelsea fan had spotted the prospect of Clichy’s desperation getting the better of him, Ramires went on yet another jinking run (yes Ramires now jinks like a Brazilian) and Clichy did what we hoped and Mark Clattenburg was left with no choice but to issue the second yellow and the consequent red card. Mancini rang the changes soon afterwards, replacing Aguero and Silva with Kolo Toure and De Jong. The message was there, hold onto the draw. And we suddenly found ourselves with all the cards. Yes, City were still hard to break down but we had genuine belief. Lampard had come on for Meireles and when Lescott decided to defend his handsome visage with his hands instead of letting Studge’s shot deliver a stinger, there was only one person to take the penalty. Cool, focussed and determined was the aura around Frank as he thundered home his driving penalty. Off came the roof. We were still alive and kicking. The last few minutes bar a City free kick were a master class in seeing a game out. Mikel Obi came on for Mata and we delivered our own defiant ‘hold on to this’ message. Drogba delighted in annoying City with his tactics in the corner to hold the ball.
It was over. We’d delivered the best team in the Premiership a full on bloody nose. We’d come off the ropes and fought back. Reports of our demise have not only been greatly exaggerated but turned out to be fuckwittery of the highest order.
- Ramires. Machine-like and no matter how high he’s kicked he just gets up and on with it.
- Sturridge. He’s not even the full article yet, and that should scare the crap out of everyone.
- Ivanovic. Better than Vidic. Better than most in the world and undervalued and underrated.
- Romeu. Will be better than Makelele.
- All of the rest of our team.
- Silva, Aguero, Balotelli… hell they haven’t got a duff one in there. Manchester City, still my tip for the league this year.
- Really? OK Toure’s sly kick and slap on Mata. Not punished by Clattenburg. Now had that been Drogba…
- The weather.
- That genuinely is it.
Nope I can’t think of anything that worthy of being in here. This was a game for celebration by any football lover, barring City’s fans I suppose.
Gold stars and trebles all round.
9/10 – He’s had some harsh criticism, some tied up in post Ancelotti bitterness I suspect. But if he’s U-turned or wound his philosophy back then that means he’s flexible and can adapt. Qualities every truly great leader needs. Those abilities come from intelligence and the ability to recognise your own shortcomings and improve.
Overall team performance
9/10 – A lesson in not being beaten after the first setback.
Man of the Match
What? How the hell do I? OK then, I’ll call it. Ramires. But it could have gone to Romeu or Studge or Ivan or Mata. Choice is good.
This game is the exact reason I suspect we keep coming back for more. Nerve racking and thrilling, despairing and joyous. Life summarised.
So, I have a friend. He’s a long-standing season ticket holder, retired early through illness. The pension is running a bit thin and like many he cuts his cloth accordingly. Nowadays he sells his ticket on game by game. He is very close personal friends with Gus Poyet and gets lots of nice tickets at Brighton. He plays golf with Zola, Vialli, Gullitt. He dines with Dennis Wise. He has friends in and out of the club and one of his best friends, close and personal friends is inside the club now. Very very close to the coaching team indeed. This is what I was told, I hold no claim to the truth or closeness to the truth.
After the Liverpool Carling Cup game or debacle, call it what you will, AVB called a group of players in to see him. These players were Drogs, Lamps, JT, Flo, Nico, Alex, Cech and Ashley. The following discussion became heated and AVB finally delivered what one might call his true thoughts. He tore into them as a group telling them that they were great BUT that none were performing and that he saw hunger only in the others. That he would pick the team on form and form alone. That his word was final but that he would always grant a player the chance to see him alone. Then it was made known to them all that the message from AVB had the full backing and agreement of the owner. That was the realisation that the balance of power had shifted. Alex and Anelka handed in their requests. Anelka after a one-to-one with AVB where he agreed that the future wasn’t him, professional to the last. Alex followed suit for different reasons – it would appear there’s some truth in the rumours about a poor training ethos, but maybe like any demotivated team member who isn’t fancied that isn’t unusual. Unlike many of our cherished commenters I am employed and I do see this reaction regularly. Good man management takes many forms, but cliques aren’t broken effectively with bombs but by slow methodical demolition. Weaken the clique, reduce the power base and suddenly your rebels become a bit more compliant, and some even become advocates. It’s the way of life.
The message was powerful and ended with AVB simply stating that anyone not with him would be marginalised and if necessary sold. All backed up by the owner. The backing wasn’t given by AVB but by a route that was incontrovertible. Since then we’ve seen a resurgent Drogba, a more focussed JT, Cole back to his old form and Lamps being misquoted but remaining loyal. I saw the Sky post match interview and everything Lamps said was bang on the money. Whatever the relationship between him and AVB, one thing is for sure. He won’t tell the press first.
Times are changing and AVB seems to have learnt that the pace of change needs slowing and that keeping some of the seniors on board will benefit him, but the message needed to be delivered hard and cold. I’m not alone in thinking Ancelotti might have wished the same but didn’t get that backing.
Now, let’s keep it going and beat Wigan and at least try not to be beaten by the loathsome Spurs.
Keep the Blue Flag Flying High!