The Observer, Amy Lawrence: “So rapidly do football’s fortunes deal their cards, Carlo Ancelotti cannot afford to be over-confident. But the more football they have played since the crushing week in which Chelsea slipped out of the Champions League and dropped points at Blackburn, the more that looks like an aberration they are well and truly over. Twelve goals in their last two games puts paid to the notion that a European exit might dent their appetite for the domestic challenge.”
Sunday Times, John Aizlewood: “Who would have thought it? Chelsea putting five past doomed Portsmouth is one thing. Trumping that against an Aston Villa side whose rise has been based on a defence which, before yesterday’s black comedy, was as stingy as it was parsimonious, is another entirely. However the dice come to rest in May, Chelsea’s second-half showing was a performance of champions.”
Independent on Sunday, Mark Fleming: “It had been a relatively quiet season for Frank Lampard, until yesterday. With Chelsea needing a win to maintain the pressure at the top of the Premier League, he hammered in four goals as Carlo Ancelotti’s side simply destroyed poor Villa.”
Official Chelsea FC Website: “Frank Lampard netted four goals and in doing so became the third highest scorer in Chelsea history on an afternoon of blistering attacking football at Stamford Bridge.”
Sometimes while sitting here, mindlessly flicking through the channels on Sky, transfixed by the brilliance of this Murdoch-box… ooh, it’s Total Wipeout – look, he went and fell in the water! Hahahahaha! He went and fell in the water again. Hahaha! Again, look, he went and fell in the water… this is just getting stupid now. What’s wrong with this fatty anyway? Just fucking stand-up straight and stop falling in the water you elephant. Although what’s more embarrassing; an obese oaf clambering around a glorified kids climbing frame or me, sitting here mouthing off about it whilst tucking into an Easter egg? (Please, don’t answer that. It’s embarrassing enough already.) Anyway, sometimes while sitting here, I wonder what football is all about. I mean, really, is it just a game with 22 idiots lumping a ball around a bit of turf towards a net being protected by a berk dressed up in brightly coloured pyjamas? Or is it more than that? The events of the past few weeks have made me question why we love this game so much and for the most part, I’m still wondering.
The reason why I’ve suddenly taken up this pontificatory if a little pretentious stance is thanks to some of the comments I’ve been reading on the blog after I took a nice little break to get over the Inter humiliation. Ranging from “CARLO OUT – the dull and emotionless twat does fuck all on the touchline,” to “Keep the faith. We can still win the double and getting knocked out by Jose is certainly no disgrace” and finally “Why hasn’t Roman spent any money, the stingy bastard,” (paraphrasing, but only slightly) the comments were all as expected: passionate, irrational and emotional. We are all stubbornly fanatical about Chelsea and sometimes this can stray into delusion but if some of us took a step back from this blue bubble, realised there were more important things in life (I think there are, or at least there should be), some of the hysterical rubbish we spout after a win or a defeat would embarrass us. So why do we care so much? Why do we orientate our week and in some cases our lives around Chelsea?
I think that the reason why we care so much can be traced back to a number of influences. Firstly, football and Chelsea is ingrained in all of us. Casual supporters can fuck right off as us fanatics were seemingly born with all those classic football clichés; blue blood, a Chelsea shirt already proudly adorning our chests as we came shooting out of the womb and a football nestling at the end of our cot instead of a teddy bear or sleeping blanket. We live and breathe Chelsea but the way this support has turned into fanaticism is frankly, ridiculous. Personally, every week revolves around the upcoming Chelsea game. Nights without Chelsea are just dull and a win or defeat tends to define my mood for a couple of days after the match. Important victories such as the title win at Bolton or the 4-1 demolition at Anfield in Jose’s second season (that’s still one of my favourite ever games) can leave me beaming for hours and even days whereas humbling or cruel defeats turn me into a depressed and angry bastard. The ‘ghost goal’ robbery in 2005 left me screaming in disgust at the TV, as did last season’s Ovrebo-debacle whereas the pain we all felt in Moscow brought a tear or two to my eye. Other times, such as against Inter, I’m just left speechless, smiling to myself in a strange dumbfounded state as I wonder why we’ve fallen so far since the glory days of old. But when you combine the dross we have to sit through some weeks, take last Sunday’s Blackburn trip for example, with a chastening defeat at the hands of a former God (replace with your own title of choice) then we turn into hysterical lunatics. Take the “CARLO OUT” claim. It’s typical Chelsea to call for the manager’s head as soon as we suffer ONE important defeat but crying for the best manager since Jose (trust me on this one, even considering Guus, Carlo is the second best manager we’ve had and in time and with money, he’ll show it) to go is ridiculous. If Guardiola or Jose were available then perhaps I’d consider agreeing with that sentiment but when the best we could hope for is a Van Basten or Rijkaard then we really should be getting behind Carlo.
But that’s what being a Chelsea fan is all about and we wouldn’t have it any other way, would we? We appear to be on a permanent roller-coaster as we stumble from Ken Bates and his periods of mediocrity, Cup success and incredible Champions League adventure to Roman, Jose, league titles and European heartache. Take last week when a terrible trip up north saw our title hopes go up in smoke and then a routine win at Pompey saw banners of “We are the Champions” being readied. It typified the highs and lows of not only our season but our Chelsea supporting lives and even though we know we’re bi-polar, the emotional impact that a silly club in South West London has on all of us really is remarkable.
And for all you keeping up, the second reason why we’re so obsessed with Chelsea: well, there’s fuck all else to do, right?
(I apologise for the rather strange tone of the intro but I’ve been in a somewhat contemplative mood of late and have perhaps begun to accept that it really is just a game.)
Three changes from Pompey as Alex, Joe and Nico all came in. Didier was given a rest according to our translator, Ray and will be back for the trip to Old Trafford.
And for all you tactics fans – I know you’re out there – Carlo has slightly tweaked the shape of the side with our 4-3-3 changing to a 4-2-3-1 with Lamps given a freer role behind Nico and Deco supporting Mikel as a deep lying playmaker.
Cech; Ferreira, Alex, Terry, Zhirkov; Deco, Mikel, Lampard, Joe Cole, Anelka, Malouda.
Subs: Turnbull, Drogba, Ballack, Kalou, Sturridge, Bruma, Van Aanholt.
So rumours that Roman promised the side some new turf in that unexpected, three hour lecture at the training ground last week appeared to be false as our dry, sandy and rather patchy pitch was definitely still in place. It may not have directly contributed to the rather scrappy start but both sides began the game sloppily with plenty of players guilty of giving the ball away; a suicidal, early Mikel square ball comes to mind. However, Villa were the ones to settle earliest as their speed on the wings and rotation in midfield began to trouble our defence. Martin O’Neill may have gone in with a defensive and rather defeatist 4-5-1 with Agbonlahor giving his best Anelka impression as a lost soul on the right-wing, but Milner and Ashley Young in particular were providing the cutting edge which we were lacking. Anelka, Frank and Malouda may have been providing plenty of movement and some nice interplay but there was little incision to our play and no early chances to speak of. A few early corners apart, not much happened in the opening stages.
Then the game suddenly exploded into life thanks to a typical Frank Lampard goal. A nice ball from Deco found Anelka on the end of one of his trademark intelligent runs into the channels and his cut back found Malouda whose first time cross-shot was converted at the far post by Frank. It was a nice goal albeit against the run of play and as soon as play restarted, we began to play with more confidence, at a higher tempo and with much more movement. Joe and Malouda were offering plenty of width, Nico was his usual effervescent self and Lamps was beginning to take hold of the midfield. But something still wasn’t quite right. I don’t know if it was nerves, Didier’s absence or a lack of direction from the touchline but the side appeared unsure of what to do next. Should they go for the second goal and kill the game there and then or sit back and hope to grind out the win with 75 minutes still to play? The answer appears obvious to us lot but the players don’t appear to have learnt from the dropping of 16 points from winning positions and predictably we let Villa right back into the game.
And if our goal was typical Frank Lampard then Villa’s was typical John Carew. A simple in-swinging cross from the left was tapped home at the far post by Carew as Zhirkov was taking a snooze. It’s not as if Carew is easy to miss, he is a big lump after all, but Yuri clearly didn’t spot him as he inexplicably left the ball instead of clearing it and then reacted with all the movement of a Babushka doll. As he later showed, our £18m Russian is an extremely effective left winger but in terms of defending, he is the Glen Johnson of the left-back world.
Frustration and groans then swept around the Bridge as fans feared another repeat of that dismal Blackburn display. For a while, the fragility of this group of players was on show as all confidence appeared to drain out of them. The tempo plummeted to Hollyoaks IQ levels and we began to pass the ball around aimlessly. Carlo had a big, perhaps Chelsea career defining team talk coming up but luckily Zhirkov and Lamps saved him from tackling that problem. Yuri strode forward on the eve of half-time, a bit like a less dynamic version of Ashley Cole and after latching onto a perfectly weighted Malouda back-heel, he powered past James Collins and with echoes of Robert Pires’ beautiful “winning” of a penalty against Pompey, fell to the ground. Fortunately for us, the inept and bloody elderly Peter Walton spotted this foul and Lamps did the rest from 12 yards. It was the perfect way to end the half and despite our lack of fluency, we were relatively good value for the lead thanks to the artistry of Frank and Malouda.
The second half began with both sides swapping roles; Villa dominated possession for the first few minutes and we were the ones scampering away on quick counter-attacks. One of which saw Paulo pick out Joe on the right wing who showed surprising pace to beat two defenders and fire over a cross which Nico narrowly nodded wide. It was a promising start and as the half continued, Mikel and Deco began to show their class on the ball as they controlled the midfield. Frank may have grabbed the headlines and goals but these two were crucial in holding the fort and giving Lamps as well as Malouda as much of the ball as possible with intelligent and mature midfield displays. After 55 minutes, the vision of our Portuguese maestro then wrapped up the game as he shimmied inside Milner’s challenge, swept the ball with the outside of his right foot to Zhirkov whose first time cutback found Malouda lurking around the penalty spot. His expert volleyed finish typified the confidence and skill he is playing with at present. The game was safe now but with half an hour still left to play and with a 5-0 thumping of Pompey propelling us forward, we decided to go for the jugular and threw more and more men forward.
Just five minutes later, a beautiful one-touch move carved Villa open once more and gave Lamps his hat-trick. The ball was moved from Mikel to Yuri to Lamps to Nico and then back to the rampant Zhirkov who nudged the ball past the decidedly chunky Dunne and then fell to the ground thanks to a cynical trip from the former City alcoholic. Frank easily converted for his 20th goal of the season and 150th in a Chelsea shirt. His record breaking 151st would take a while to come along but getting to 20 for a sixth consecutive season and 150 in total was absolutely incredible. He is beyond compare as a goal scoring midfielder and all those who thought he was over the hill, well you can fuck off.
We were playing brilliantly and Joe was having his best game for bloody ages as he cut out the ridiculous step-overs and pointless tricks and concentrated on old fashioned wing play. He may have tired after 70 minutes but up to that point he was bright and busy and somewhat unlucky to be upstaged by Malouda, Nico and Frank. Nico was also putting in a great shift despite the lack of goals and his unstoppable movement set up the fifth. He cleverly reversed the ball back to Paulo who had raided in behind the sleeping Warnock and his cut back found Lamps 18 yards out who decided against going for his fourth of the day and instead fed Malouda who curled the ball beautifully into the top corner of the net. My fears that a line-up without Didier would fail to properly test the Villa back line had blown up in my ugly mug and Nico then decided to confirm my folly by brilliantly setting up Kalou, who had replaced the exhausted Joe, for the sixth. Lamps had fired the ball into Nico’s feet and despite being surrounded by three defenders his touch and quick feet enabled him to twist and turn away from all of them, roll in Kalou and then watch as our erratic number 21 sublimely slid the ball into the corner. I was as surprised as the rest of you that he managed to finish with such aplomb but I guess he’s finally learnt how to finish.
Despite it being 6-1 and the crowd taunting the dejected and rather stunned Villa manager with chants of “Martin, give us a wave. Martin, Martin, give us a wave…” we still weren’t finished. JT was doing his best Superman impression by flying in to challenges to block Young’s effort and then launching into a crunching tackle with Sidwell which drew a huge cheer from the crowd and the very impressive Van Aanholt who had been given his debut after 75 minutes was storming down the left wing to great effect. The camera then panned to Roman in the stands who was sitting there with a smirk on his face, overjoyed that his training ground rant had instigated this response. And just to round it off, yet another Malouda run and cross found Lamps 12 yards out who easily swept the ball home for his fourth of the game and 151st in a Chelsea shirt. These were unbelievable scenes as we watched a legend make it to third in the all-time goal scoring charts and the whole side batter a team gunning for Champions League qualification by scoring 7! Yep, 7 bloody goals. The fact that I reported on the last time we scored 7 this season meant its full impact may not have been truly felt but still, 7 goals against Villa when virtually everyone else was writing us off was absolutely incredible.
It shouldn’t hide the fact that this side still needs dismantling but for now we could all look forward to the match at Old Trafford with much more hope than would have been possible this time last week. Carlo for his part decided to leave the post-match stuff to Ray as he got pissed on red wine and apart from a couple of fist pumps and a cheeky glance up at the press box, as if asking if this was a good enough response to their recent crowing about our downfall after the sixth went in, this was a remarkably controlled 7-1 win. Us Chelsea fans have seen too many false dawns to go overboard about scoring seven and ultimately we have only ended up second in the table but injuries aside, we couldn’t be going into the United game in better shape. Who needs Didier then?
- 7 goals – 7 BLOODY GOALS! When was the last time a top 6 side got humiliated like that?
- Frank Lampard – 21 goals for the season. The sixth time he’s reached 20 for a season. 100 league goals in a Chelsea shirt. 151 Chelsea goals in total. Our third highest goal scorer of all time. So how do I sum him up? Well, the best player in Chelsea’s history. That’s how.
- The football – 4-3-3 without Didier? Never fear, we’ve got Anelka. Well, that may be going a bit far but today every single one of them was brilliant and many of the plaudits must go to our front man’s intelligent and inspired movement. He may be useless as a right winger and can’t seem to score even the easiest of chances but who cares when we’ve scored 25 goals in the handful of games when he’s picked ahead of Didier. But the movement and fluidity of our play overall was a joy to watch and frightening at times, especially when you consider that this side is missing Ashley Cole, Ivanovic, Essien and Drogba. At times our old stagers can still pull out a performance with echoes of the glory days of Jose and when we play like this, and crucially for me with two genuine wide men, we are unstoppable. Watch us fuck it up next week by picking Nico on the right wing instead of the impressive Joe Cole.
- Mikel and Deco – Many may have missed their impressive showings but these two were crucial in the slightly tweaked 4-2-3-1. Mikel is maturing with every game he plays but it was Deco’s vision and class which shone brightest and appears to have guaranteed him a start next week ahead of the shockingly fat and slow Ballack who looks to have enjoyed himself when out injured.
- Almunia – With 30 seconds left on the clock and only an innocuous, looping header between your side and three valuable points, the last thing you should do is palm the ball into your own net. It was some of the worst goalkeeping I’ve ever seen but are any of us surprised that Arsenal somehow found a way to screw it up?
- Peter Walton – So fucking old and slow that he just shouldn’t be a ref. And he’s got terrible hair.
- United – How do they do it? On paper their team is frankly, shit, yet they can still stroll up to Bolton and batter them without Rio and Rooney. Our best XI against their best XI is a no contest but with our injuries, I fear that we’ll only get a draw, which at this stage, isn’t quite enough.
- Our pitch – Abysmal.
- Cech – 8/10 – In complete control at every corner and free-kick. He could be crucial in a tight, big 4 contest against Utd.
- Paulo – 7/10 – He just never lets you down. Jose said that he’s always a 7/10 and thanks to some brilliant overlapping, he gets his 7.
- Alex – 7/10 – Calm and assured at the back. We didn’t miss Ricky one bit which is handy.
- Terry – 8/10 – Slowly getting back to his best. His February may have been a horror show but his March has been much more promising and a small part of me wishes that we can win this league just so JT gets to lift the trophy and stick two fingers up to the press who tried to break him and ruin his career.
- Zhirkov – 8.5/10 – He’s not a left-back and that defending for Carew’s goal was horrendous but as a wing-back or left winger he’s verging on world-class. Two brilliant dives bumped his score up as well.
- Mikel – 8.5/10 – Suicidal square ball apart, he’s slowly turning into a brilliant holding midfielder. Where he fits in when Essien returns and Carlo buys a new central midfielder to replace Deco, Ballack and Belletti, I don’t know, but for now, he’s coming on nicely.
- Deco – 8/10 – His vision is unmatched in our squad and at times he can roll back the years and display flashes of genius which can turn a game (that pass for our third goal was stunning). It may be his final few weeks in a blue shirt but hopefully his creativity can get him the League winners’ medal to top off a brilliant career.
- Cole – 7.5/10 – A very encouraging comeback. He may have 7 games to save his Chelsea career and with 7 more displays of classic wing-play, he’ll get the pay rise he wants. When he cuts out the tricks and flicks he can still be a great asset to the side and perhaps he’s finally learnt what it takes to be a Chelsea player.
- Lampard – 10/10 – Perfect. He’s a legend and deserves to be rewarded as Giggs was last season. To surpass Osgood is remarkable and as I said earlier, he is simply the greatest player in this club’s history.
- Malouda – 9.5/10 – A very close second. He’s perfected that inside-left role and now that he’s added goals to his game it looks like we’ve found Duff’s successor. If only we could find Robben’s.
- Anelka – 9/10 – The lack of a goal knocks 0.5 off his score but his movement was unstoppable today. The same old problem arises though: if he doesn’t play as a central striker in a diamond formation then he has no position in this team. We play best in a 4-3-3 with two genuine wingers and if it’s a choice between Didier and Nico as a central striker then there is only one winner. I believe that we’ll keep him but only as a sub next year as we bring in some new talent on the wings.
- Kalou (sub) – 7/10 – A lovely goal. That’s all he did really.
- Van Aanholt (sub) – 7/10 – An encouraging debut and it’s just nice to see some of the kids.
- Ballack (sub) – 6/10 – Fat. Slow. But he’ll accept that one-year offer that is still on the table for some reason.
Man of the Match
Who do you think it’s going to be? He’s so fucking good I’m almost lost for words. When Messi put on another master class last week for Barcelona, the Catalan press were lost for words and simply put up a front page saying: Holy Shit! Messi in my opinion will go down as the greatest player of all time but for us, we can make do with Lamps – the greatest player in Chelsea history.
So who’s your money on now? Going out of the Champions League so early was unacceptable but it has given us a full week to prepare for Utd and with 12 goals in the past two games we have the momentum and confidence to get us the win we need. Our football today was stunning at times and it gave us all the opportunity to watch Football First and Match of the Day again after a couple of dismal performances, which was nice. We can still end up as Champions and Carlo can come out of this year as a hero but now I and I suspect a few of you are stuck in a rather strange position of what to hope for. The leaks coming from the club are that whatever happens, the FA Cup Final will signify the end of this side. It will be broken up and new talent will definitely be brought in. So, with that on the horizon I can cheer on the side, hoping that they go out on a high. But some part of me fears that Roman may be seduced into thinking that a League title or FA Cup win will be enough to scrap those plans and continue on with this tired and stale team. Carlo needs the money and time to shape his own side and even though we scored 7 today, this team definitely still has some fundamental problems which need to be fixed. We all know what they are and now is not the time to go into them as that would be a depressingly pathetic way to celebrate a 7-1 win. We were brilliant today and it was indeed great to just see this side play at their best for a whole game but ahead of our trip to Old Trafford, perhaps it’s time we withheld judgement and waited for the outcome of next week’s huge match. A win there and then I believe we’ll be Champions but anything else and it is surely Fergie’s. It really is that close. If that scares you then all I can tell you is: “Man up, you girl.” Next week, we will see the Champions at Old Trafford and after today, I have a sneaking suspicion that it will be us.
Fuck. There’s that hope again.