The Guardian, Kevin McCarra: "Chelsea wavered for an instant and their season swung drastically off course. Following Clint Dempsey’s second goal of the afternoon for Fulham, in the 89th minute, the visitors now lie three points behind the Premier League leaders Liverpool and their next fixture in this competition is at Old Trafford. They will feel all the more distressed because they failed marginally to come up with the type of gritty victory that would have smacked of the Mourinho period."
Daily Telegraph, Oliver Bown: "The late Charlton Heston once observed, in his capacity as head of America’s National Rifle Association, that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” But, as Eddie Izzard memorably retorted, “I think the gun helps”. Luiz Felipe Scolari betrayed, in his endearingly mangled English, some of Heston’s flawed thought process when asked why, after Clint Dempsey’s last-minute header had deprived Chelsea of two vital points in the title chose, he had chosen not to station a defender at the far post of Fulham’s goal. “Posts don’t score goals, players score goals,” he said. Yes, but the post helps."
The Times, Matt Hughes: "As a gentleman, Scolari had the good grace to wish the media a happy new year after he had rounded on his players’ poor defending in the postmatch press conference, but the Chelsea manager’s own outlook is far from rosy. A run of disappointing results has hardened from a blip to a trend, with his team collecting only ten points from the past 21 available, winning only two of seven matches."
Official Chelsea FC Website: "The Blues remain unbeaten away in the league in 2008 but there is huge disappointment as a win is allowed to slip from grasp late on."
I was struggling to justify two games in the space of as many days so I told my wife I’d booked a winter break in a luxurious Cottage with all mod cons. We had to leave my 15 year old daughter at home because I told her it wasn’t safe to venture on to any business premises owned by Al Fayed.
The fixture list computer hadn’t dealt us the toughest Christmas. Everton away, West Brom at home and today at Fulham should return nine points if all goes well and seven points as a minimum. Anything less would be failure.
Running Harrods Al Fayed clearly understands customer service. At Stamford Bridge we have to insert our own ticket into the automatic machine under the watchful eye of a supervisor. At Craven Cottage they take the service level up a notch and insert your ticket for you. Whoever has managed to sell these automated ticketing machines that require one assistant per device deserves to be awarded Salesperson of the Decade.
Craven Cottage has an unusual layout with the teams entering from the corner flag by the Cottage. The managers and their entourage have to walk from the corner across the pitch to the opposite side where the benches are located. As Scolari (not referred to as Big Phil or The So-So One because I don’t feel inclined to use a term of endearment) strode across the pitch, accompanied by his anonymous bald headed, mustachioed chimp, he received an ovation from the full bank of Chelsea supporters behind the goal. Scolari gave no acknowledgement; not a wave, salute, clap or even a wink.
All that was left before the game commenced was for the Fulham fans to rotate their free rattles.
Gutless, clueless and shambolic spring to mind. I for one was pleased to see Malouda start. Now before you groan and switch to Facebook I was pleased because I think it gives the team a better balance. If you’re making a cake you need butter, eggs, sugar and flour. If the flour is of poor quality you still won’t bake a better cake by replacing the flour with an extra egg, so likewise there’s no point in adding an extra midfielder just because Malouda is of poor quality. We need the extra width plus taking out a midfielder reduces congestion in the middle allowing Frank space to play.
However this formation didn’t last long as Malouda walked off with some mysterious injury. Due to the aforementioned layout of the Cottage he had to walk around the pitch and in front of the Chelsea supporters to get to the dressing room and received more jeers than applause.
I’ve seen interviews where players have lavished praise on Deco’s skills and been amazed by what he can do in training. We can only judge him by what he does on the pitch. It’s evident that during the last week he’s been busy perfecting his technique for hitting a short bloke on the head from a distance of 10 yards because none of his corners managed to clear Andy Johnson.
Fulham took the lead from a dubious free kick award. The ball floated into our box and since none of our defenders nor Cech seemed inclined to interfere with its path a Fulham player was obliged to tap it in.
Towards the end of the half Carvalho started warming up. I thought we were about to witness Scolari’s first inspired substitution by replacing the hapless Deco and pushing Ivanovic further forward. Unfortunately this wasn’t the case and Alex followed Malouda’s example of leaving the field with a mysterious injury; but at least Alex received mostly cheers as he circumvented the pitch back to the Cottage.
Despite the fact we were poor we still had most of the game so Fulham aren’t much but this didn’t stop the home support singing “One team in Fulham, there’s only one team in Fulham…”
Second half up until we took the lead
Contrary to the first half we were gutsy and determined with attack after attack and totally dominated. After a bit of a melee in the Fulham box Frank knocked in the equaliser from close range.
Later we won a free kick about 25 yards out and our talisman Super Frank hit a powerful swerving free kick to make it 2-1.
It was out turn to sing “One team in Fulham, there’s only one team in Fulham…” interspersed with our most irritating song “Bouncy, bouncy, bouncy, bouncy…” which managed to cause the flimsy stand to oscillate like the Millennium Bridge in its prime.
From taking the lead until the end
Unlike Liverpool who went on to kill Newcastle we thought it better to abandon our total domination and see if we could cling on to a one goal lead against a hopeless Fulham. The more Scolari waved his arm gesturing for us to press further forward the more the players sat back and the inevitable happened.
The Harrods sale
- Petr Cech – 30% off – Premium product that used to worked faultlessly but is now liable to occasional failures.
- Jose Bosingwa – 10% off – Provides steady and reliable service.
- Branislav Ivanovic – 10% off – A real bargain that should provide years of reliable performance.
- Alex – 25% off – Slightly older and heavier design means it’s liable to malfunction with heavy usage. Best suited to light domestic use.
- Deco – FREE – Will even provide free delivery worldwide. This product is now obsolete, heavily shop soiled and missing its original packaging. Now fallen below Eboue in a recent customer satisfaction survey.
- John Obi Mikel – No discount, full RRP – This is a classy product and the price is going up in the new year.
- Frank Lampard – No discount, full RRP – Timeless classic that does exactly what it says on the tin.
- Joe Cole – 35% off – Packaging states “Creative, inventive attacking midfielder” but due to tighter EU legislation this is now deemed misleading labeling. Customers are sentimental about this product but scientific tests have shown that it is no longer effective and makes little contribution.
- Salomon Kalou – 40% off – Okay for occasional use but likely to be replaced by an alternative brand.
- Didier Drogba – 15% off – Excellent system but tricky to set up and achieve optimum performance. Also requires a lot of attention, polishing and tender loving care but gave a good performance in-store today.
- Florent Malouda – 40% off – Apart from cheese and wine we’re going to be dropping French products which are generally temperamental.
- Ashley Cole – 10% off – Fully functioning and recent reformulation has resolved problem of causing irritation on contact.
- Ricardo Carvalho (sub) – 5% off – Classy product which has recently been refurbished.
- Nicolas Anelka (sub) – 15% off – Difficult to live with but can provide surprising results. Manual clearly states it works in tandem with the Drogba system but most customers have found it difficult to connect the two components.
Walking down the Thames path back to Hammersmith I started to wonder if there are any teams in West London.
Last year Avram had his best spell when the squad was injury stricken and had no choices so the team picked itself. Interestingly as our squad returns to full fitness our performances are getting worse. When Kalou substituted Joe Cole the fans showed their feelings but I think this was less in defence of Cole but more their astonishment that Deco remained on the pitch. Even chants of “One Michael Ballack” didn’t get the Deco removal that was desperately required.
Scolari is only here to top up his pension and no matter what happens he has already achieved this objective. Some will argue that managers need to be given more time but if it’s obvious that someone is out of their depth it’s better for all concerned to quickly acknowledge the mistake and start again. Alan Sugar wouldn’t appoint a new sales director and accept that sales go down 10% while the appointee gets their feet under the table.
It’s time to act and for Scolari and his bald headed, mustachioed anonymous side-kick to be redeployed to supervise a fully automated turnstile.