Updated with Fulham match reports and goal videos Monday, 9 April 2012 at 11:08 PM
Only recently have I realised that when players use the phrase “thick and fast” they’re not describing themselves but instead the frequency and importance of matches.
At this time of the season, what with Easter and the fact we’re the only English team left fighting on three fronts, planning, rotation and squad freshness are important factors. Strategy and tactics are also crucial. And so it was that yesterday in the ivory towers of Cobham that RDM and Eddie Newton, with their double espressos and biscotti, discussed the Wigan plan. Whilst fourth place in the league was of importance they were more concerned about the spies from Barcelona gaining insights into our structure and methods. How could we defeat Wigan and yet at the same time reveal nothing to Barcelona. RDM gazed out of the window, deep in thought wishing he’d bought the mock Tudor mansion, with six bedrooms and a built-in Nespresso machine, that could be seen in the distance behind the neatly trimmed hedge aside the juniors training pitch.
Eddie had a plan: “Why don’t we revert to playing like we did six weeks ago under AVB?”
“But how? All the tactical documents were burned in accordance with Roman’s instructions,” exclaimed Robbie.
“Not all.” Eddie put his hand underneath the desk to release the secret drawer. “Take a look at this, Robbie,” as he handed over the A4 folder.
Robbie lifted the cover and slid his finger down the tabbed index, pausing at ‘S’ and flicking open the page to reveal ‘Slow Ponderous Tactics’.
“That’s not drastic enough,” proclaimed Eddie. Robbie’s finger returned to the tabs and slid down to ‘U’.
“This’ll do it,” pronounced Robbie. “Barcelona will learn nothing from this, Tactic 16 – Ultra Slow Passing. Use with caution because it may make fans suicidal.”
I’m not able to report on this because:
a) Guardiola is known to frequent this blog.
b) If you think I’m going to re-live that experience by typing it up, think again.
- Cech – didn’t have too much to do. Only the Post Office has worse distribution.
- Ivanovic – a modern day David Webb. Can play in multiple positions, always committed, pops up with the goals when needed and has equally prominent buttocks. The fact I’ve even looked at Ivan’s buttocks and can remember Webbie’s from 40 years ago is slightly stressing me but I’m hoping my Barbara Streisand CD will straighten me out. How many more goals does he have to score to lose the moniker “Two goal Ivanovic”?
- David Luiz – a modern day Socrates and the gap between comedic error is widening.
- Cahill – OK performance and one great shot. He’s a bit one-footed and is a typical English centre-half – committed but ultimately lacks top level quality.
- Bertrand – excellent performance defending and going forward. Makes the decision to swap Bosingwa to left-back to cover for the injured Ashley Cole a while back all the more unbelievable.
- Essien – the only remnant of the player we signed seven years ago is the name “Essien” on the back of the shirt.
- Malouda – what with games coming thick and fast it’s important to fully utilise the squad and spread the workload. Malouda hasn’t played much recently so was an ideal candidate to inject freshness and energy to the team. How can I best describe his contribution? Close your eyes for a moment and try to visualise a typical Malouda performance over the last two years. Wake up! Yes, it was like that just five times worse. He was an utter disgrace and had to be taken off after 60 minutes, so instead of giving the A team players deserved R and R they had to be rushed back to the front line.
- Meireles – an OK game. Regardless he could have played a shocker but had enough brownie points from Wednesday to see him through.
- Mata – fairly anonymous and may have passed unnoticed had he not been wearing fluorescent adverts for Dyno Rod on each foot.
- Drogba – often alternates between Jekyll and Hyde performance. Normally switches personality between matches but today he was morphing every five minutes.
- Sturridge – lazy, selfish, gutless and sullen. Taken off and deservedly booed from all four corners of the ground. Winston Bogarde has finally climbed off the foot of the “Most uncommitted players of all time” table. If you hate the place and can’t wait to get away at least play so that you get another club interested in bidding for you.
- Mikel (sub) – played a decent last ten minutes.
- Torres (sub) – if he could stay on his feet and stop slipping over he’d be lethal. His fantastic strike from the edge of the box crashed against the post to bounce onto Mata to bundle home the winner. Having performed a similar act against Sunderland with his overhead kick thumping the bar to bounce back into the goal off Lampard, it’s a coincidence. If he does it again I guess it’s a deliberate tactic.
- Kalou (sub) – if you’d told me 12 months ago that I’d be relieved to see the appearance of Kalou I’d have sent for the men in white coats. Is this new found relief a measure of the status of Kalou or the fact I’d even be pleased to see Christopher Biggins dressed as Widow Twankey come on for Sturridge?
No one has made Wigan appear this good since George Orwell.
The press reports
The Observer, Paul Doyle: “The major riddle Roberto Di Matteo must resolve over the coming weeks is: how can Barcelona be beaten. The only help he got with answering that in this game was: not by playing like this. And, perhaps, by getting the sort of decisions from officials that contributed to this low-rent performance being rewarded with three valuable points.”
The Sunday Telegraph, Jonathan Liew: “Wigan’s howls of protest rang loudly into the west London dusk. But Chelsea were deaf to them. So too will be Uefa, should Saturday’s result prove decisive in the race for the Champions League. Most importantly, so was linesman Dave Bryan, who failed to disallow goals from Branislav Ivanovic and Juan Mata when both were in offside positions.”
The Independent on Sunday, Glenn Moore: “The Wigan manager called the performance of the referee’s assistant Dave Bryan “disgusting”, before intimating that he felt it was easier for officials to give decisions against “little clubs” like Wigan. That Bryan failed to raise his flag after Chelsea’s winning goal, an injury-time fluke by Juan Mata from a crowded goalmouth, was perhaps understandable. Even Martinez admitted it was a tight call. However, his failure to spot that Branislav Ivanovic was offside before scoring Chelsea’s 62nd-minute first was, said Martinez, “not a difficult decision”.”
The Official Chelsea FC Website: “Juan Mata inside stoppage time rescued the win for the Blues after Wigan substitute Mohamed Diame cancelled out Branislav Ivanovic’s opener. It was a dramatic ending to a game that had previously lacked major incident, a much-changed Chelsea side failing to find the net in the first half against the strugglers from the north-west. But then Ivanovic scored a controversial opener from an attack he had initiated, his fourth goal in his last six appearances, before Mata did similarly late on after substitute Fernando Torres struck woodwork.”
Fulham 1-1 Chelsea – Down and Out in Fulham and London
The match reports
The Guardian, Dominic Fifield: “Chelsea’s plod back into Champions league contention has stalled. This derby had entered its frantic final stages with the visitors ahead and contemplating joining the bottleneck beneath third place, behind Tottenham Hotspur only on a solitary goal scored, when their defence yielded to cast their challenge adrift. The equaliser shipped to Clint Dempsey seven minutes from time left Roberto Di Matteo’s team in sixth place, their momentum checked.”
The Daily Telegraph, Henry Winter: “When Lampard stroked in his 150th Premier League goal, a remarkable record for a midfielder, Chelsea threatened to go on and overtake Spurs but Fulham, their players and fans, refused to go quietly, and Dempsey brought them just reward.”
The Independent, Sam Wallace: “Not since Roman Abramovich bought the club in 2003 have Chelsea been out of the Champions League places at this stage of the season. And lest it be forgotten, it was the 2003 final between Milan and Juventus that inspired Abramovich to buy a football club. The modern Chelsea are not supposed to be, in the eyes of their owner, a Europa League team.”
The Official Chelsea FC Website: “In the end, it was a disappointing result given the fact we were in front with only 10 minutes remaining, particularly considering results from elsewhere earlier in the day.”