Bayer Leverkusen 2-1 Chelsea – Götterdämmerung (Twilight of the Gods)

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(or as Wotan says, “Valhalla may not be burning yet, but I wouldn’t light a ciggie in here.”)

Bayer Leverkusen v Chelsea – The Down to The Wire Edition

Leverkusen, Bayer Leverkusen. The name speaks to us of an industrial Germany, a modern Germany. Pharmaceuticals. Clean rooms, antiseptic surfaces, cool, calm research.

But we are in the north Rhineland and a darker, earthier more human story lurks below the shiny surfaces and the urban construct.

We are in the land of myth and legend; the great river Rhine, the primordial forests. It is a land of heroes, dragons, dwarves (the non-throwing kind), knights, nymphs and mystical interactions between Gods and humans. The setting for tales of Siegfried, Lohengrin and water sprites.

It was out of such stuff that Richard Wagner by blending in Norse legend produced his epic four opera cycle, Der Ring des Nibelungen (Ring of the Nibelung), one of the greatest works of art of the 19th or indeed any century.

(Although you might view it as just big birds with braided hair, armour and spears singing for hours against a general cacophony. Mind you that bit in Apocalypse Now with Robert Duval and the helicopters is a good tune.)

It is a portrayal of love, power, ambition and betrayal. As with all great art, the depth and layering allows every generation to re-interpret it in light of the prevailing mood and philosophical drift.

The cycle ends, of course with the immolation of Brunhilde (she of the braids and armour), the burning of Valhalla, home of the Gods, as the ring forged from gold stolen from the Rhinemaidens, is returned to the river and their possession. Does all ambition to construct art end in ultimate failure? Is the will to forge the artefact always thwarted by deeper, uncontrolled urges? (Well if you’re judging it by the quality of what I’m writing then Mr Wagner may have had a point.)

Wotan’s drive for power and control ends in destruction. Even the Gods are not immune from fate and cannot escape their doom. Loss and decay figure heavily in the grand scheme.

Now if you prefer your loss, decay, ambition and betrayal in a more modern context, in the urban rather than the pastoral: if you want to contemplate the twilight of a crumbling empire through a more contemporary lens, then look no further than the cinematography of a Leverkusen native, Uta Briesewitz, who worked on The Wire for some 29 episodes.

The mean streets of Baltimore from its drug infested projects to its corrupted municipal functions becomes a metaphor for the steady erosion of the human spirit by the endless lap of desire, hunger, greed, ambition and the consequences of choice on our doom.

And whether you’re an opera buff or a Wire fanatic, tonight was one of those occasions where life imitates art just a little too cleverly for my palate.

The Teams

Now it is here where I have to make a judgement. No-one’s going to be reading this without knowing the result and while sometimes a real-time stream of consciousness approach works well, I fear we may be in Silent Witness territory, with me as grim faced Amanda Burton, mulling over the latest corpse to hit the slab, and God knows they’re piling up.

So for Leverkusen it is worth pointing out that most of starters were German, and they would include the masked legend that is Michael Ballack. Playing in the hole behind the frontman he showed why he may have been worth another couple of years’ wonga, if we weren’t going to blood the kids. But then who was to know eh? (I saw Matic came on as a sub for Benfica last night – good for him.)

The Chelsea fan on the Leverkusen omnibus will have been surprised, perhaps, by the omission of Torres, with Drogba starting. Ashley Cole was also missing through injury and Bosingwa took his place. “Well that’ll be popular,” I thought to myself. I may be wrong but I believe it was a case of Mereiles and Ramires slightly withdrawn with Lampard flanked by Sturridge and Mata, with Drogba furthest forward.

The Game

I made a pile of notes in case I wanted to go into detail. And it may still come to that as I engage in fierce hand to hand combat with fellow bloggers. But I sense that a detailed, discursive ramble through the game will offer little to you dear reader.

So here is a distillation of my thoughts in the recent aftermath. I have avoided trawling through the online media so as to give you my immediate thoughts.

The debate can come later.

The First Half

“I’ll do what I can to help y’all. But, the game’s out there, and it’s play or get played. That simple.” –Omar, The Wire

If you were hoping for a crash, bang, wallop destruction of the opposition then you haven’t watched much European footie since Wagner was a lad. The first half was cagey, tentative football. A draw, you felt wouldn’t be too disastrous for either side and they both played that way.

After recent games, I was hoping for a calm, error-free (well catastrophic error-free) performance where they took their chances. All in all, while it wasn’t inspiring, apart from one or two sloppy passes in dangerous areas and Ballack heading against the bar, they kept Leverkusen at arm’s length without really showing a cutting edge themselves; although there were a couple of chances towards the end of the half, one in particular where Drogba should have done better when forced wide by the keeper.

Now it may be a growing paranoia, but I watch the game convinced that one ball from back to front will cut them open any second. That didn’t happen too readily in the first half, yet I still felt that, while Bayer closed Chelsea down and pressed the ball effectively, they were allowed too much time and room when in possession themselves. Well that might be fine if you are blocking up the final third, but there seemed to be space there as well. This isn’t hindsight. I noted this during the first half. There is just too much time for the ball player to pick the pass. As was noted after Liverpool, it isn’t a lack of effort, but somehow, the screening and pressing isn’t working.

And as often happens when a team is struggling for form, too many passes were misdirected or the ball carrier hesitated and the best option disappeared. At one point on the left, Mereiles passed to Lampard and moved for the return. Mata was available on the overlap, but Frank chose neither, took a couple of touches too many and turned infield. Mereiles looked frustrated. That was the story. Not enough zip and sharpness. At times it seems there are two styles clashing out there.

The highlight of the evening thus far, was when I earned my punditry badge by writing down the word “cagey” in my notes (see above) just before Roy Keane used the phrase on the telebox.

Half – The Second

“Who’s winning?”

“No-one wins, one side just loses more slowly.” – Prez, The Wire

A bright start and a goal on 48′. Now they were cooking. Except it was a high intensity episode of Masterchef and they were about to bollox the soufflé.

A good pass from Sturridge, and Drogba still had work to do but he finished well. Now could they build on it? As with Sunday, they then created a few more decent chances before gradually being pushed back. An overhead kick close to the hour from Ballack was then followed by an even better chance for the caped crusader, but Cech made a superb stop. A couple of good breakouts came and went through taking the wrong option or making a poor pass. Sturridge was using his speed well and posed a threat all the time but there was no clinical finish from him or his team mates.

An anonymous Mata was replaced just after the hour by Malouda, who went onto link well with Bosingwa several times to good effect. At 70 minutes or thereabouts a chap called Derdiyok came on. It was an attacking substitution. How attacking we saw a couple of minutes later, when another defensive breakdown saw the diagonal long ball catch the full-back not covering the wide player and the result was a goal by that very individual. Bosingwa’s mistake? No Ivanovic. No-one, it seems, is immune. Strangely Alex who had been on for all our shut-outs this season had just come on for Luiz. Omens.

In the legend Siegfried bathes in a slayed dragon’s blood so as to become invincible. But unseen by him, there is a small leaf on his back and like Achilles with his heel, this small vulnerability will be his downfall. Chelsea appear to have bathed in the leaves and missed out on the dragon’s blood.

Five minutes later a good move ended with Drogba downed in the area. Yes folks, it’s the obligatory stone certain, nailed on penalty denied. Nothing left to say.

A couple of more chances. Mikel replaced Mereiles. On the 85th minute Drogba was injured on the edge of the Bayer box. Inexplicably a free kick not given and he was a passenger from then on as all three substitutes had been used. Then on the 89th minute, Lampard had a great chance to pick out Sturridge but left it short. Leverkusen collected the ball and Bosingwa, who made some good defensive interventions in the second half, was forced to concede the corner.

Alex was beaten to the header by Friedrich and Cech strangely flapped at a ball he surely could have got fingers to.

Thor’s Hammer couldn’t have dealt a more crushing blow. In Valhalla we were starting to smell smoke.

Despite six substitutions and Drogba’s injury, barely two minutes of injury time were played.

The Aftermath

“Game’s the same, just got more fierce.” – Slim Charles, The Wire

Interviewed after the game Ballack was a gent.

AVB looked bereft and shell shocked.

It is worth taking a breath and noting that without a win, we were always going to have to beat Valencia. And to make the sense of doom more oppressive, they have some unfinished business, when it comes to late goals.

It’s really the psychological blow that is the worry. Confidence and belief is draining away, I’m sure.

I’m not going spend too much time assessing the players. Sturridge looked bright. Drogba, I thought, grew into the game. Despite the stick he gets I thought Malouda did well when he came on. Mata was very subdued, which is a worry. Lampard lacked fluency, more so than the others. Bosingwa did fine at left-back considering. Luiz needs to improve his decision making as he still got caught with the ball a couple of times when deep, but he seems more composed of late.

The nagging thought is that there are too many players not playing where they’re most comfortable. Mata and Sturridge, in particular. One is still making an impact, the other isn’t. And while I like Ivanovic, I don’t think he’s a natural right-back. Luiz looked more comfortable to me when he played on the left side a few games ago. I don’t think AVB has found the mix he really wants in midfield yet. To some extent that seemed to be an issue that dogged Ancelotti as well.

Villas-Boas has a real problem on his hands because as with last year, the team seems to have stopped getting the basics right. It’s all about poor execution. The difference is that players then came back from injury and the team started to roll again. But AVB has a full squad now. Questions are being asked about his man management, irrespective of whether it’s right to point the finger or not.

Torres seemed to be discovering some form, then got sent off and hasn’t really got back in. Kalou and Alex are on the fringe and now Anelka appears to be increasingly peripheral. Add to that the fact that as the pressure increases it becomes more unlikely we’ll see young players get a chance, just as happened last season. So Josh, Bertrand and others kick around with little game time.

On the other hand, not everyone can play and too much rotation means a team will never bed down. You can argue that after injury and illness Drogba needs the game time. How is the manager to assess his squad unless he tries different players and combinations? The peril of trying to establish a team and playing style while satisfying the high level of expectation is, as always at Chelsea, a huge problem.

But I don’t see them training, I’m not in the dressing room and therefore the dynamics of the group is a mystery to me. Is it the players, the manager, the coaches or a combination of all three?

Oh dear, like the team I’m running out of steam, worn down by the sadness of it all.

It’s time to sign off. I’m a simple soul at heart and the complexities of Wagner are too much at this juncture, indeed probably at any juncture. It’s the voice of Townes Van Zandt that will rock me to sleep. I can’t find my favourite version of this song from the 1972 album, The Late Great Townes Van Zandt, when his voice was mellow-sweet with a touch of Texan astringency. So this will have to do as it is the only version I can find for now.

“Far across the blue water lives an old German’s daughter
By the banks of the old river Rhine
Where I loved her and left her but I can’t forget her
I miss my pretty Fraulein”

Yes, I’ll drift away and dream of the Rhine. Or have a nightmare.

The Press Reports

The Guardian, Dominic Fifield: “Chelsea’s campaign continues to close in around them. For a while last night the Londoners flirted with qualification into the group stage, a rare away victory in Europe and a clean sheet to ease their recent defensive jitters. In the end, pegged back and then beaten in added time, their progress into the knock-out phase suddenly appears in jeopardy.”

The Daily Telegraph, Jason Burt: “The Wolves are coming and last night Chelsea, at the BayArena, could not keep the wolves at bay. There is a growing sense of bloodlust about them right now. Villas-Boas has talked of being bold and attacking and wanting to win every match but in doing so he is walking a tightrope without a safety net. He is too often sliding into defeat, too often facing what he has termed a “negative spiral”. Spiralling out of control right now.”

The Independent, Rory Smith: “And so the hangman tightens his noose. Andre Villas-Boas’s talk of execution before his side’s domestic nightmare infested their European dreams might have seemed premature, almost paranoid, testament to how the spectres of his predecessors, each of them destined to feel the breath hot on their neck and the dreaded touch on their shoulder, loom over the post of Chelsea manager. Now, for the Portuguese too, the shadows lengthen.”

The Official Chelsea FC Website: “With 90 minutes played, it looked as if Chelsea were to draw away 1-1 for the third time in this group stage but then the home team struck a sickening blow, scoring from a corner to leave just a point covering the top three sides going into the final games. A win or a 0-0 draw at home to Valencia in two weeks’ time is now imperative.”

The Goals

48′ Drogba 0-1; 73′ Derdiyok 1-1; 90′ Friedrich 2-1.

(Featured image courtesy of the Latvian National Opera: Götterdämmerung.)




There are 79 comments

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  1. Peterw

    A good post BB, touching on many of the relevant points with balance, intelligence and wit.

    So as a counterpoint…

    I am beginning to think that
    undermining Ancelotti and replacing him with the woefully inexperienced
    Villa-Boas could have been as big a mistake as undermining Mourinho and
    replacing him with the inexplicable heffalump Grant. Disaster after disaster, many self-inflicted. I wonder
    if anybody at the club will take responsibility for the monumental fuck-up this
    time?

    Though to be perfectly honest, given the fact that the club and some
    supporters treated Ancelotti with such disdain and disrespect, I can’t help but
    find the whole current charade fucking hilarious. 

     

    The team are demoralised and tactically a disaster. Yes, maybe the key players
    aren’t as good as they were but a) they aren’t THIS bad; b) one man picks them
    and tells them what to do. The performances are getting worse and
    worse and AVB’s selections and substitutions smack of a man who no longer has
    any confidence in what he is doing. He’s had it easy all his career, and now he’s
    way out of his depth. He reminds me of Ramos at Spurs or Hodgson at Liverpool. Rebuilding
    a squad of this calibre is a massive job, and in retrospect it was ridiculous to
    give it to a man with one year’s experience. I think Hiddink and Ancelotti
    would be doing much better with what is available. There are problems,
    but this is still an extremely strong squad – far better than the one
    that finished second last year – and his use of it has been
    really poor and surprisingly conservative (no
    Josh, no Romeu, no Bertrand). I’m fed up of
    all this crap about ‘old one-dimensional players’ –
    if he wanted to pick a team of thrusting young things, he
    has plenty to choose from.

     

    Player power is
    an interesting one. I do think we
    have a problem with it at the club. It is something that is evolved naturally
    in the power vacuum since Mourinho left and the closeness of the player has probably
    got us through many many sticky patches, so we shouldn’t speak to ill of it. It
    needs to be broken, but AVB’s management of this has been diabolical. It
    requires subtlety, and he is as subtle as herpes. I said at the time that his
    treatment of Kalou left a sour taste, and I bet the players feel the same way.
    He’s now doing the same to Alex, Anelka and maybe even Torres. Treat people like
    shit, and they won’t be motivated – and in this squad, nor will their
    team-mates – unless you are a genius who gets results, which AVB clearly isn’t.

     

    You can say the
    players shouldn’t react like this, but the fact is they do – so a smart manager
    has to deal with it. That’s how they earn their bread. That’s where experience
    comes in.

     

    Of course,
    I could be completely wrong and the club may have expected
    this – despite spending a fucking fortune on new players since
    January – and are therefore prepared to back AVB in what will become an
    increasingly bitter battle to replace the old players, but so
    far I see little evidence that he has what it takes – tactically or
    psychologically – to take us forward and seriously
    believe we could be deep in the shit by Christmas, sooner
    if we get any injuries (hard to believe he has an almost fully
    fit squad to choose from given the decisions
    and performances). I think he probably has five games to
    turn things round, and drastically.

     

    I have supported
    most of our managers under Roman and am a genuine believer in the ‘give them more
    time’ philosophy, but I can see this only ending one way. I hate the blame game
    and don’t think AVB is a bad manager, and he may one day turn out to be a very
    good one, but not here and not now. The trouble is, of course, there
    is nobody around who can replace him.

    • Anonymous

      Ancelloti could do better? Correct me, if I am wrong, but Ancellotti is the guy who was in the hot seat for two years, has he changed anything? He wasted two years, which we had to spend on rebuilding the squad. Now regarding the not so bad players, Alex coming on the pitch and makes two mistakes which lead to two goals, is it good or bad, Maulouda coming as sub and not chasing any balls, walks around at pedestrian speed and breaks all the game dynamics. Drogba, who even doesn’t pretend that he puts effort. John Terry who may be cares, but can not perform anymore and the same applies to Lampard. They all play Tevez, unfortunately, all these old primadonnas it is just they clever enough not to refuse to behave like Tevez openly, bunch of old millionaires who don’t give a flying fuck anymore. I am surprised he AVB picks them again and again.  

      • Ryan

        The players took us to the final. Any league manager would have done. His decision making in the final cost us and him. Do you think Drogba would have thought to get sent off acting the prick if Mourinho or Fergie were on the touchline? I doubt it. He brought Anelka on to take a penalty even though he didn’t want to. A better manager wouldn’t have done that. Personally I’d have backed Sheva to score a penalty in that situation.

        • Peterw

          Getting to a Champions League final was all well and good, but losing to Spurs in the League Cup final was unforgiveable. 

  2. SweetDairyAir

    I’m still not placing most of the blame on the manager like a lot of the fans are doing right now. We have a bright young manager and we have to stick with him. We can’t keep going back to old managers like Guus if we ever want to build anything long term. And AVB may pick the players, but he’s also trying to get them to play a new way, and they’re not coping very well. As has been said before we could probably play like we used to with power and strength, with little pace or precision, and just about be ok, but that won’t get us very far in the next few years. We need to change and it’s our players. 

    It was mostly these same players at this point last year when we imploded as well. The manager is different. The players are mostly the same. The players have to change. 

      • SweetDairyAir

        I’m not sure what you mean because pre-QPR we were playing different football. Our style was evolving. We were winning. Our newer players were having an impact. Then we lose and all confidence is shattered, with any progress being made apparently lost. Our players have reverted to the style we used to play and we aren’t winning games anymore. 

        AVB isn’t clueless. The players he has dropped you can all argue he was correct about. I mean he brings on Alex yesterday and he isn’t the steady ship everyone was saying he was. 

        After QPR and Arsenal etc, he brought back the old guard to try to eak out wins 1-0, as Man U are doing right now. In theory I can see he was trying to get back to winning ways then get back to evolving our football again, except the old guard haven’t been up to it. 

        I reckon he should go all in and play all the young guns, inexperienced players and whoever. Drop the old lot and see what happens. But I’m just a fan. He probably sees things in training that we don’t know. Maybe the young ones can’t cope with the pressure of turning this around. I have no idea. But from my no doubt ignorant point of view, drop them and bring in Romeu, McEachran etc. They can’t possibly do any worse.

        • Anonymous

          When I say like this, I mean the way we play now. You preach to converted mate he MUST drop old guard simply must!  However, because we have players who have power, or to whom club gives to much power he can’t do it. Regarding the power of players I believe you all remember the dark story about sucking TSO and John Terry’s involvement in it.

          • Andy

            Agreed with blue mike, the club has got itself into a situation unlike any other club, Dropping all the power players – drogba, lamps, malouda, anelka, terry, in one go,and replacing with the kids is suicide. Sure fergie can get rid of stam, beckham, van nistelrooy. But he never attempted that in the space of a month or two. It took him years.
            We just have to face facts this is going to be a painful season, and the club and players need to be un-Chelsea like and keep their heads down, ignore the press and back the manager.
            Luiz and mata need time and the other kids need the old senior players around them. The old senior players need to grow up and think about the club that has stuck by them for years. All the crap the club has put up with from Terry and drogba – to name two, I personally think needs repaying now.

  3. Peterw

    a) last year the manager didn’t have an alternative – there was an injury crisis and his bench had the likes of  Sala and Kakuta on the bench. This guy can pick Romeu, Luiz, Sturridge, Meireles, Lukaku, Josh, Mata and Torres, plus a more experience Ramires. So that excuse doesn’t wash in the slightest. he HAS the players and he’s taking them backwards.

    b) there are no signs that AVB is playing in a ‘new’ way, other than defensively catastrophically. The midfield is lethargic and the attack soporific. So if the players really aren’t doing it his way, he needs to use his squad better, but without the nasty sort of bullying he did with Kalou and the poor way he treated Alex and Anelka (he actually did a good job with Lampard). My view is that the players have shown an ability to adapt a number of times and AVB has far more to prove than they do. It was interesting to note that the only midfielder doing any actual pressing last night was Lampard. 

    • Anonymous

      Pete, I agree with a lot of what you say but Lampard? Pressing? he was an utter passenger last night contributing next to nothing. Meireles outshone him by a country mile. 

      But, both were utterly eclipsed by Ballack. Frank should watch the game again and compare his zero contribution to that of Ze German. 

      BTW, as an anti-Ancelotti person, yes he did suffer a weakened squad but the Mourinho untouchables he persevered with under their pressure failed last year as well. Personally I think AVB might be giving some of them enough rope to hang themselves with. Pre-QPR we looked superb, fluent and creative and yes, that has gone but for me it’s because players are reverting to type. Drogba got a goal yes, but he’s light years from where he was 2 years ago and even you have to suspect the twilight of a career here (his Theirry Henry last year syndrome) . Frank came back and proved us wrong BUT I maintain he needs LESS game time and needs to be ramped down like Fergie did with Scholes and Giggs, and is now doing with Rio. 

      BTW, on bad treatment, is AVB treating Kalou and Alex worse then SAF and Berbatov/Owen, or Wenger with Bendtner. All coaches do this, always have done and always will do. If you don’t fancy them, you don’t play them or plan a future involving them.

      I’m not advocating a fire sale either. I’d gladly see Drogba go, with thanks and our blessing. Maloudas….one or two good seasons (Guus and Carlo first year) do not a legend make. And is it really heresy to suggest that JT might be going a little lame like Desailly did? The difference being that Desailly recognised it and knew when the game was up. If JT loves the club so much then be active in supporting your replacement search and development. We’ll always have a role for the likes of him. 

      Ivan had a rare blip last night for the equaliser and Luiz is going to be the new Riccy (sorry BB thought he was our best player again last night) and I actually thought Bosingwa looked good last night. 

      We need to have faith in new personnel, and that includes AVB. Hiddink would be a bad move unless he is just replacing AVB as he did Scolari for a short term. He is no long term PL first team copach option. I am positive GH as a DoF buffering AVB from RA and the board would be a great move. he could design the strategy for AVB to implement. He could steer the academy to the types of players required. He could use his address book to vastly improve our scouting policy. In business terms, GH becomes the CEO and AVB the COO, the man responsible for delivering the success that GH, on behalf of the board, articulates to him. 

      One more thing Pete. If AV goes and we bring back Ancelotti/Hiddink/Mourinho/Thomas Cobley…..and they fail as well…then what? For me, keep AVB (but he needs to stop the mealy mouthed praising of underperforming players) and let him build what’s required to change the philosophy and ultimately the consistency, robustness and stability needed for success. 

  4. dannybrod

    BB, love the report. And PeteW, your comments. Critiquing the team’s current state invites the deeper reaches of artistic discourse, the mythological metaphors and allegories making more sense than prosaic description of tactical choices and player selection. But here’s a small offering to that side of the debate.

    Spine of the team last night:Czech, Terry, Lampard, Drogba. Same as in 2004/5 season and every season since.Man Utd’s spine in 2004/5 season:Tim Howard, Rio Ferdinand, Roy Keane, Ruud Van NistelroyLike it was from another era, with the then young Rio just about getting in the team now.AVB has resorted to the fallback spine to gain results and retrieve a season collapsing around him. It does not suggest he has any grasp of the fundamental problem. Last night they were hitting long balls to Drogba on a regular basis. It was the fallback position that this fallback spine invites. We all know the lack of continuity has meant no one has overseen a proper re-vitalising of the team over the past 7 seasons since our breakthrough conquest of the Premier League. Roman obviously thinks AVB has the potential to deliver what Gardiola delivers at Barcelona. But young Pep has a fully functioning club around him, finding and training players from a young age in a style that effortlessly feeds the first team. What we have is a disjointed squad of lumbering old pros who make up the core, and a peripheral group of younger players, signed for huge sums, who are in no position to dominate in style or spirit. Add to that, our group of even younger players getting no experience while the on-field results are so bad. So what to do? The season is already lost. There’ll be no title challenge. There’ll be no Champions League challenge. So why not go completely in the other direction. Chop the spine. Sell off the assets for what can be got: Drogs out on loan to see out the rest of his contract. Terry and Czech would fetch at least some money.Maybe leave Lamps in there as an impact sub. Then get to work on forging a new set of relations between the players, one that honours the commitments made by Torres, Luiz, Mata and Merieles etc in coming to the club. Build a team that honours the skills and ambition of Sturridge, Josh, Ramires, Romero and others. The fans would see a commitment to a future worth getting behind. As it is, its hard to get enthusiastic about a group of players that – to continue the artistic theme – resemble the Wild Bunch in that great Sam Peckinpah movie, saddling up for their last doomed adventure.

  5. Peterw

    Hi Tony

    Frank had a bad game – and definitely should not be starting twice a week – but he did at least look as if he was trying to press in midfield, which is a key part of AVB’s strategy. I have no quibble with the idea the old players should be phased out, I just very much doubt AVB is the man to do it based on what we’ve seen so far. He has had far more freedom to make changes than Carlo ever did, and he is either bottled it or ballsed it up. 

    We were better before QPR, but conceding far too many goals and were lucky to win on more than one occasion. At least, though, you had the sense he was trying to do something new – I don’t have that feeling at all now, I think he’s out-of-his-depth and struggling and making bad mistakes (his substitutions have been Ranieri-esque) and the players have already lost any respect they had for him. I don’t blame them either – everybody knows a bad boss when they see one.

    Bad treatment – ah, the Fergie analogy. Fergie, of course, has earned the right to do what the fuck he wants by virtue of results over a 30 year career. What player is seriously going to tell Fergie they know better than him? Now apply that to AVB. Half the squad have more medals than he does, are they really going to listen to him when he treats their mates badly? And hauling a player off after 20 minutes to make yourself like tough is treating people badly. It’s bullying, and the players would have noted it.

    Ivan? He has a lot of rare blips! I like him, but he’s not world class and makes far too many errors.

    Drogba like Frank shouldn’t be starting two games a week. The fact AVB picked them both yesterday and on Sunday is very troubling. I don’t see how you can’t see how badly this reflects on the manager.

    Terry was very good last season, but is being used badly this year and the racism thing is clearly getting to him. That in itself is a lot for any manager to deal with and he has my sympathy. 

    I don’t see any obvious replacement and have no desire to see us go back to any of the old managers, so I agree we appear to be stuck with this one. But I completely reject what seems to be the prevailing view he has inherited a weak squad – he has taken on a strong squad of experienced pros bolstered by younger, fresher talent and had the financial muscle of the club and the blessing of the support behind him, and he’s cocking it up. My argument is that if he’s doing this job so badly already, what the hell is he going to be like when there’s an injury crisis, or in April when the games are coming thick and fast? Are we really that confident he has what it takes given what we’ve seen so far?

    I like your closing argument but that’s because it seems familiar. That’s probably because I was saying much the same thing when everybody was slagging off Ancelotti. If the next one fails, what then? Well, the next one is failing…

    • Anonymous

      We really should have a few pints of something before or after a game next year, along with the good Lord Kaiser, QC. Debate such as this should be treasured….

      • Peterw

        Oh agreed – and am awaiting Kaiser’s view of last night with some interest, along with that of a few others. 

        • Der_Kaiser

          Christ, I’m still trying to compute it…!

          Afternoon all – will be interested to read through all this properly when I have a spare moment or three, but on initial reaction to our current predicament is that I am completely torn on AVB now.

          Yes, I desperately want him to succeed, primarily because my already very shaky faith in the club and what they are trying to build in the long term will be comprehensively shattered if we boot yet another manager out without giving him a fair shot, but ultimately you have to help yourself, and while I can understand and (almost) see what AVB is trying to do, he’s being incredibly naive in the way he is going about it.  I can accept that some of the sins of the past are now coming back to haunt him, but his handling of some of the players and approach to games given the resources at his disposal is just plain wrong.  He has a real balancing act to perform in terms of the transition from old to new, which I fear given his comparative inexperience may be beyond him, but either way I just don’t think it should be this painful.

          That said, there are certainly some of those (mostly senior) players who, to use an awful Tom Cruise Hollywood-ism, appear to have egos that are writing cheques their bodies are no longer able to cash (whether they should be asked to attempt to cash them twice a week is another matter altogether).  Individual errors happen, but our concentration as a collective is terrible at present; the players also have to take responsibility for that.

          I genuinely feel that the club is approaching a crossroads and, having got away with the managerial chopping and changing in recent years until now, I have a very real fear that the wrong path will chosen with potentially disastrous consequences. 

  6. Peterw

    Hi Blue_MikeL

    ‘I am surprised he AVB picks them again and again.’
    Well, duh! That’s half my point!

    on individuals – Alex, like Kalou, has been treated like shit so isn’t performing when asked, Malouda was no worse than Mata, and Drog was poor but scored and should have had a penalty – but who picked them? Who made the substitutions! And was Sturridge any better? Was Ramires? Was Mereiles? Are they ‘millionaires’ and ‘primmadonnas’. And where was Anelka? Why was Torres on the bench again? 

    I don’t deny we have some players that need replacing, but we are massively underperforming even when that is factored in.

    Why?

    Come on, think harder Mike.

  7. SweetDairyAir

    Alex Ferguson rarely badmouths his players in public either, so to expect different from AVB at a new club is crazy. It isn’t going to happen. But you can tell what he really thinks of players by the way he drops them. 

    Who is actually calling for Kalou to come back? Alex was not good yesterday. Anelka is not our future, and hasn’t scored in bloody ages. Drogba is on the wane. Malouda is just a slightly better version of Kalou. He puts in just enough good performances to stay, but overall if we are to come top of anything he isn’t the answer. There are worrying signs that Ashley Cole can’t play all these games every season at the top level anymore. Right back is a worry. 

    Players like McEachran, Meireles and Romeu are mentioned, but do you really think those will fix the problems of those players listed above? And Ancelotti had Luiz and Torres for half a year. He had those to call on, and we were still a pretty lame team towards the end of last year. 

    Sometimes I wish there was less player power and someone like AVB would pull a Fergie and sell the equivalent of Stam, Beckham or van Nistelrooy. Coming into a new club it probably isn’t going to happen, but I hope in the summer he can pull it off. I wouldn’t mind a clear out actually…Drogba, Anelka, Kalou, Malouda, Alex and possibly Bosingwa. People try to persuade themselves that they offer just enough to warrant staying, but we need to start over. The core of this team has stayed together roughly the same time, or possibly longer than the era of Beckham, Scholes, Butt, the Nevilles, Keane, Giggs etc. He overhauls his teams and we need to too. 

    And finally, I agree that we actually did show signs of playing a new style of football pre-QPR. But confidence is fragile, and that loss probably shattered it. These same players remember last year, and as soon as signs emerged that possibly things haven’t changed as much as they had thought at the beginning of the season, they freeze and revert back to type. 

  8. Peterw

    Hi SweetDairyAir

    The point isn’t to bring Kalou or Alex back so much as to question why they were treated so badly in the first place and ask whether this may have had something to do with the team morale. Just because all of our beloved fans hate Kalou does not mean his colleagues feel the same way…I rate Anelka higher than Torres and Drogba in terms of all-round contribution. As for the rest of your point, I have dealt with that elsewhere – AVB has been handed a great opportunity and is messing it up.

    • SweetDairyAir

      I’ve heard a few times that Alex is a terrible and lazy trainer, so it wouldn’t surprise me if that’s why he’s dropped most of the time. As for Kalou he hasn’t badmouthed him in public. He’s dropped him. His performances haven’t been good enough. There’s no point keeping him playing just to keep him happy. I doubt him being unhappy has led to low morale. It’s the losses, and Kalou probably wouldn’t have helped us win those matches anyway.

      (Also by the time I write and post these comments other people have sometimes covered the same points. Don’t want to repeat ad nauseum what other people are already saying)

      • Peterw

        once again, with feeling: hauling a player off after 25 minutes and then consigning him to the modern equivalent of the stiffs for the next few weeks to prove a point is shit behaviour by a boss that will only impress the rest of the squad if it gets results and if other people are treated the same way. Anything less looks like bullying. The players will note this and could easily have come to the conclusion (as I did) that AVB is a bit of a twat and possibly a coward.

        It’s not about playing people to keep them happy, it’s about public embarrassment and treating everybody equally. It’s also stupid to alienate individuals who you may later need (see Alex) and to act like a bully in front of a squad who have collectively been through such a lot together.

        Some of you seem to sometimes think that footballers should act like unthinking, emotionless robots. Try some empathy, put yourself in their footsteps…

        • SweetDairyAir

          SWP and Joe Cole didn’t react too badly to similar or worse bollockings from Jose. In fact I read a few days ago Joe Cole thinks he’s the best manager he’s worked for and this type of treatment brought the best out of him. We don’t know what Kalou is like behind closed doors and maybe this type of treatment will do him good in time. We have no idea. In fact bringing off Kalou in that particular match worked well and we went on to win it 2-1. Bringing him off on 34 minutes is the opposite of cowardly anyway. Possibly a bit twat-like but it worked. 

          And he hasn’t alienated Alex too badly. He brings him on. He plays a few games. Towards the end of last year Carlo wasn’t playing that much either. There must be something there about managers not liking him. We can’t just have two managers in a row who are being dicks to a player for no particular reason.

          Players need to be treated differently according to their personalities, not equally. Ronaldo at Real needs to be fawned over to get the best out of him, whereas someone like Joe Cole needed a kick up the backside. 

          • peterw

            As i said before, you can treat people like shit if you are a genius. JM was a genius. I don’t think AVB comes close.

            The reason it was cowardly is that he probably shouldn’t have picked Kaloi in the first place and then made a scapegoat of him. Some of the fans fell for it, but I doubt the players did. He hasn’t done it since and there have been far worse performances. It was a look at me gesture, acting the tough guy. I’ve had bosses they like; they don’t breed loyalty.

            To then not even pick Kalou for the bench, well it just looked nasty.

          • Anonymous

            Without arguing the point of TSO talent I have to point out that task in front of AVB is much greater than the one Jose had. AVB coming to an old squad and have to change quite a lot of things, if not everything. I am not sure AVB will be given the same finances Jose had, simply because of this fair play rule. I will ask you to recall TSO’s arrival and the way he loaned all the old players and still had a fresh squad at his disposal. AVB simply hasn’t got this luxury!  

  9. Anonymous

    When I say like this, I mean the way we play now. You preach to converted mate he MUST drop old guard simply must!  However, because we have players who have power, or to whom club gives to much power he can’t do it. Regarding the power of players I believe you all remember the dark story about sucking TSO and John Terry’s involvement in it.

  10. Gene

    Peterw  – I don’t know how you know the racism thing is getting to JT, but I just think the high line is not his comfort zone.The Wayne Bridge debacle followed by Terry’s parents’ issues with Jonny Law probably weighed more on him than some speculative heat-of-the-moment racist remark.

    JT has lost yards of pace in the last few season and his reflexes are just not as sharp as they used to be to sense and cover explosive runs and sharp niggly forwards in the PL and in Europe. A more agile, athletic CB like Luiz is the future.

    Frankly, (and no pun intended) Lamps should probably be our captain due to his overall contribution, intelligence and character off the pitch.

    • Peterw

      I don’t think it’s too extreme to speculate that being subject to a police investigation may be playing on his mind a little. The fact the manager is also choosing to play defensive system that could be specifically designed to highlight his flaws also probably isn’t helping. Again, I have no problem with resting him, I just question how well he has been used. 

    • Cunningplan

      One thing sticks out for me, and that was the tactics and the way he organised the team against QPR with 9 men.
      I know we’re only talking QPR, but he showed he has something about him and how he reads the game, even fans on Utd, Poo and Arse blogs were passing comment on how impressive it was.

      As far as last night goes, the taking off of our two best players Meireles (especially) and Luiz surprised me to say the least. It was a bit like their manager taking off Ballack in the first game, and we then witnessed how disorganised they became, hindsight as we well know is a wonderful thing.

      Now if we get on the managerial merry go round, which is always a possibility with this insane club, then what happens on the 6th Dec might prove significant.

  11. Anonymous

    I don’t know about racist but no doubt JT will soon be in front of the homophobic police for calling one of their forwards an ‘effing Bender’.

  12. Anonymous

    A fine effort at a philosophical approach to events, BB, which combined with Giles Smith’s ever unique take on the weekend and last night on the official website today has left my mood a bit improved.

    I confess I was out till late last night and watched most of my recording of the game at double speed, even without knowing the result. Five minutes of the cagey stuff from both sides plus Andy Townsend’s “analysis” was all I could take at normal speed as getting to bed quickly seemed like an inviting option.

    I guess what depressed me most was that the equaliser was basically the same lousy defending by a full back plus non-tracking back midfielder/forward, on the opposite wing to Sunday. What made it worse was that we were relatively in control and ahead, so didn’t even have the excuse of taking risks at the back when trying to save the game this time.

    I’m searching for a word that’s weaker than fragile to describe the confidence of the side, but can’t come up with one yet.

    I don’t feel like getting into what has AVB done right or wrong so far in detail, but making only 2 changes, plus an injury enforced one, to the side that lost on Sunday felt like a significant one to me. However, I am firmly in the “Dear God, We Cannot Sack Another Fucking Manager Already” camp – and strangely I actually read in the hard copy Daily Wail on Tuesday in the hairdressers an article suggesting Roman and his cohorts are still firmly behind AVB. Stranger things have happened possibly?

    Still all is right with the world, as the sudden drop in temperature has brought the first early sighting, a mere 7 weeks before the next transfer window opens, of The Greater Spotted Kaka for Chelsea Rumour in one of today’s “cheaper papers”, as Giles Smith might put it.

  13. Harry

    Petr
    Check has said and I quote: blame the players not AVB”  unquote! Wow!? Surprise, surprise, surprise.

    Chelsea
    fans are not gullibaul, isn’t manager responsibility to distinguish among
    performers and non performers?

    Bottom
    line is buck stops at the manager. Chelsea fans want AVB out.

    I
    personally do not blame AVB. Those who have put him in charge are responsible.
    Chelsea board is at fault. Chelsea long term fans want AVB and the board out.

  14. Anonymous

    Good old Mick, a man who knows all about pressure from a different perspective.

    Premier League managers have offered their support to Villas-Boas, however, with Wolves boss Mick McCarthy – whose team face the Blues at Stamford Bridge on Saturday – commenting: “Anyone who has achieved what he has must have something about him. He’s had the confidence in his own ability to come to England.
    “I suppose no-one was talking about his age when he won what he did in Portugal.
    “He speaks wonderful English and has a great command of the language and he seems like a bright, clever bloke. He has come into a different team that is changing. If he is as good as everyone thinks he is, let him get on with it, but it takes time. 

    I’m more inclined to think like this than think AVB is a twat. 

    Oh and Battersea Power Station….how exciting! Good news management if that snippet was released today to deflect from the on pitch issues. 

    By the way, our own patronising rent-a-quote player, Petr Cech has been speaking tp the press here
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/15879982.stm

    • bluebayou

      Tony,

      Just curious but you seem a little peeved at Cech. “..patronising rent-a-quote”? What gave rise to those comments? Is it a longstanding opinion of him or something recent.

      With having to speak to the press all the time it’s difficult for them to avoid having to say something isn’t it?

      • Anonymous

        Not a longstanding opinion Dr BB, I just get rather tired of the media-speak bollocks that players and coaches speak these days.Hence my admiration for those like McCarthy, Ferguson, Holloway who have a tendency to tell it how it is. ‘Mea Culpa’ platitudes like we hear from Cech (who does seem to be the elected players mouthpiece), Malouda et al wear rather thin when constantly spouted but rarely acted on. 

        I guess I’m old school enough to want players to say it how it is and stop trying to half heartedly tell me it’s OK when it patently isn’t. 

        As fart as player soundbites go, my view is aligned with what Alison Krauss (and Ronan Keating) once sang. 

        ‘You say it best, when you say nothing at all’

  15. Marco

    Thought we played ok last night except for the last 15 minutes. We weren’t anywhere as good as we were under Jose and for about half a season under Carlo but we weren’t that bad. Except for yet another refereeing blunder over the penalty call and a bad miss by Drogba we might have won – which we hardly ever do away in the CL. 

    Several more pluses:

    Bosingwa played well out of position 
    Sturridge was tricky, clever and fast
    Drogba scored an excellent goal
    Ramires played well
    Meireles showed once again that he is our best player as holding midfielder
    Luiz had his best game for a long time – arguably we lost control of the game after we came off
    For long period of the match we were in control and Bayer seemed clueless (aside from Ballack)

    Those impressions don’t contradict what others – especially Pete – have said on here. There IS something wrong with the manager and the team and that was shown in the final 20 minutes when we simply fell apart.

    Ivan may have been at fault for the first goal (although he was wrong-footed by the fact that their forward fumbled the ball, recovered it by a fluke, and got round him). While Alex (yawn) was beaten to the corner kick for the second. But I don’t think that was the real problem. The real problem is that confidence, morale, focus, concentration, the will-to-win or whatever (you can call it the team’s mojo if you like) disappeared in that final phase – just as it did against Liverpool, Arsenal and even against Blackburn. Why?

    Well taking off Meireles and Luiz was one mistake although the Luiz substitution may have been forced on him by injury. But bringing on Mikel for Meireles makes no sense at all given Mikel’s recent piss-poor performances.

    Another decision that baffled me was not bringing off Drogba (instead of Meireles). Drogba was weak last night (although not as bad as some here are making out) and he didn’t do the most important job of holding the ball up when Bayer were pressing – which meant increasing pressure on our defence as the ball was played straight upfield again. The trouble was that Drogba’s only ‘replacement’ was Torres – who has more or less ben dropped recently – and who can’t do what Drogba does. So why was Torres in the squad at all if those were the tactics employed? Why not use Lukaku. Come to that, why not select Bertrand, Romeu and Lukaku for the squad to support those tactical decisions and fill in for currently non-performing players? (Especially if you were hired in the first place to build a new team for the future).

    As soon as Derdiyok (promising player that) came on and Meireles and Luiz came off and we started to panic there was only ever going to be one outcome: another defeat. Terry, Lampard and Drogba – all traditional leaders did nothing to halt the slide and by the 85th minute we looked as desperately poor as we did against Blackburn (who are probably as good as, if not better than Bayer were last night).

    To answer the question: the mojo has disappeared because the players aren’t playing with confidence in their manager, their tactics or their coaching. They simply don’t believe they can win any more. 

    I don’t know why that is and I am not going to speculate (wish I knew someone inside the club who knows about these things) but I predict that Villas-Boas will not last the season with us. Whatever the truth about the reasons why he has not taken control of the squad. Nor are his decisions, tactical decisions and his coaches working.

    He will be gone by May.

  16. Nick

    A fantastic post, BB.

    “I confess I was out till late last night and watched most of my recording of the game at double speed, even without knowing the result.”

    I too was out late last night but chose, for the sake of my mental health, not to record the match. I admire your dedication, BBD. I spent the evening partaking in a pub quiz and copious amounts of alcohol pausing only once (or twice) to check the score on my iPhone (it is frowned upon to be seen fiddling with an iPhone while partaking in an inter-pub pub quiz). At the time I checked the score we had just taken the lead, which no doubt brought the merest hint of a smile to my face, if only for the briefest of seconds before my alcohol-addled brain recalled our recent form and raised doubts about our ability to go on and win the match. I put the phone away and continued with the drinking and the losing of the quiz.

    It was no surprise to discover later that we had once again failed to hold on to the lead and had in fact lost. I was too inebriated at this point to care that much – I’m sure I uttered a hushed expletive or two, as is customary.

    As to what has gone wrong and what to do about it and whose fault it is and so on, I really don’t have anything to add to the usual well thought out and informative comments left here. A big part of me (my hungover brain) hopes that AVB is given time to get things right. Of course there are arguments that he should be doing much better with the squad he has, but I’m of the opinion that the squad he has – or elements of it anyway – are as much at fault for the current “crisis” as AVB is. Surely it’s insane to even be considering firing him after such a short amount of time in charge?

    Late last night, while still quite inebriated, I briefly considered leaving a comment here saying that if AVB is fired I would give up following Chelsea (so closely) and administering/running/editing (poorly) this blog and would instead find a local Sunday league team to support and blog about because standing in a muddy field on Sunday mornings while hungover watching 22 overweight hungover amateur players play the game would be much better for my mental health than supporting an increasingly mad and crazy Chelsea FC. I thought better of leaving said comment but my hungover brain is still thinking that that is what it and its host should do if AVB is sacked.

    (I played for a Sunday league team in the mid 90s (only one game though and only because approx. 17 better players/drunkards were unavailable for selection because of what was probably some kind of mass food or lager poisoning) and enjoyed it immensely. I also enjoyed watching games, although my one overriding memory is of a friend and workmate vomiting up his breakfast (or 4 am kebab or both) during practically every match because he (and no doubt the rest of the team) had a monumental hangover. He would always make for a corner flag (or what passed for a corner flag) to do this, which always made us laugh out loud. It’s this kind of entertainment that attracts me to Sunday league. If AVB is sacked then I may well consider finding a new Sunday league team to support.)

  17. Ryan

    I ve been thinking today about some of the criticism being levelled at AVB. I definitely think some of it is justified and quite a lot of it I can agree with.

    I like the horse racing. It’s less stressful than supporting this lot. When comparing horses some people look at linear form (a beats b and b beats c therefore a should beat c, all things being equal), others time figures, some follow trainers, jockeys whatever. I often find it helps to visualize the way a race will unfold. To do this it helps to watch horses in previous races and compare and contrast strengths, weaknesses, luck in running etc. to make a decision essentially about which horse is better (and therefore more likely to win). Ok I know this is a football forum so… I couldn’t help but wonder, if we take the situation that Mancini is in at City and apply it to our own manager how would he fare? City have outspent everyone and look great in the league. They’re also very close to being knocked out of the CL at the group stage. Would we find this acceptable from AVB? Would we be criticizing him for resting Aguero. Nobody in the press seems to have mentioned this. There is no pressure on Mancini. No executioner looming. City have a huge advantage this year. Teams haven’t had a chance to work this group of players out yet and are unsure how to play them. Much like Jose’s first year with us. There is no divine right to win games. We’ve been spoilt with success and too fearful of any change (except the change of manager obviously) and we’re paying for it now.

    The question of player power ends immediately the owner makes it clear that the manager is not getting sacked. If a player knows that if he doesn’t like the way things are it’s him who will be going. He has two choices. Stay and knuckle under or go to PSG, Anzi or LA Donkey Sanctuary. It can’t always be the manager’s fault. We’ll exhaust all options soon. Who can make a go of it for more than 2 years? I honestly can’t think of anyone. Make Fergie an audacious offer? Pep (and naturally insist he bring Messi and the entire Barca youth system monopoly)? What’s the answer? It might just be the one thing we haven’t tried yet. Faith. Accept that football teams lose games and build a strong foundation for the future.

    That said if we get beaten by Wolves I might be saying “fuck it it let’s give the pensioner Guus a go” but I hope not. I really hope not.

  18. Gleb

    Someone here reminded me of how well AVB did against QPR in the second half, and I instantly remembered why I wanted him and only him to manage Chelsea. Yesterday I wrote that my trust in AVB had started waning, but now I’ll have to take my words back because what sets a great manager apart from all the good ones (and there are plenty) is this instant match-winning ability, the ability to really influence the course of events. Any old man can assemble a reasonably strong squad given the resources, tell them to keep it simple (4-4-2 or something), apply some very basic psychology and go on with things (given the resources, obviously). In fact, that’s what Fergie has been doing all his life, albeit on an out-of-this-world, stellar level. But Jose, of course, was different, and whatever *you* call it – we all know why he was special. And to me AVB is still the only one who, potentially, has that same magic in him. To be the 12th player, if you will. There’s no one else out there like that. Not even Pep. Pep is damn smart but also pretty damn lucky to have what he has. Give him any ote

    So my point is this, to all of you: trust AVB. We all know something’s wrong. A lot, actually. And a great deal of the current situation has to do with AVB. And with many other things/people. But trust him and give him time. Don’t let Roman sack him (I mean, literally, if you have to: banners, demonstrations etc.). Chelsea is very very sick and it isn’t AVB’s fault. There’s just too much shit to wade through. But trust me, he’s the only one to bring us forward. It will be painful, very much so, and tedious, and heart-breaking, but in the end we’ll be better for it.

    I hope AVB himself has the mental robustness to cope with this.  

  19. Gleb

    To summarize: for the first time in my entire football-supporting life I’m asking everyone to get behind the manager, not the players, because AVB is our greatest player at the moment and, hopefully, for years to come. Just this once it is true. So we, as fans, and especially all of you in Britain, close to Chelsea, have to do our share of keeping the pressure off AVB, because we can’t let him go. Let the man do his job. Even if it takes a season or two to see the results. 

  20. Anonymous

    Firstly, just wanted to comment on, umm, other comments about their first goal. There have been a few mentions I’ve seen that try and lay some blame with Sturridge. He’s a forward FFS. We had 4 defenders AND 3 appointed midfielders closer to the ball than him. Yes, they got lucky and we switched off (again) at the back but to in any way try and involve Studge is clutching at the biggest straws ever.

    Onto more general selection things and, as with the 413 other managers (possibly a slight exaggeration) who’ve been in this crisis position in the last 4 years, it’s damned if you do; damned if you don’t.

    The leagues gone. But Roman won’t accept not finishing top 4, not if AVB wants to stay in the job. So he has to persevere with the experience to gain that league position. Conversely, we’re not going to see the exciting but untried players like Josh, Romeu, Lukaku et al. Too much risk involved.

    I’m not sure about AVB. It was (is still?) an exciting appointment. But he seems to have regressed in his philosophy recently. QPR was shit, but we had pride in the way 9 men battered them for 45 minutes. But since then, we’ve just been so chronically bad, it perfectly mirrors performance levels in the final days of most recent managers. Apparent despondency from players, disinterest, just an overall lack of professionalism. To be honest, it stinks. But it won’t change.
    Wholesale changes are neede to the playing staff. But they won’t be made. Nip and tuck here and there, glossing over the real fact that someone’s a but too scared to tell the class of 04/05 that their time’s up. And has been for a while.

    • Ryan

      Yep. As I said last night, no one can seriously tell me JT, Lamps, Malouda, Drogba are getting better. They just aren’t the players they were 4 years ago.

  21. Anonymous

    Fine post, Dr B. I’ve been a confirmed Wagnerian for decades so I took particular pleasure from this riff of yours.

    Sunday was grim, and losing in the final minutes as we did last night is always particularly soul-sucking, but even so I’m slightly surprised at the swiftness with which the story has become Disaster/Failure/Not Up To The Job/Ship Them All Out/Catastrophe/Meltdown.

    I’m as certain as I can be that AVB will be our manager next season. Whether we think that’s a good thing or not is a matter of opinion — this argument that he’s provably incompetent makes no sense to me at all, not even slightly — but there it is. He’s absolutely, certainly, obviously not going to be fired any time in the next few months, so I’m not sure why we’re even talking about it.

    We could quite easily have won that game. We weren’t good, but we were ok, and no one watching it would have been at all surprised by a Chelsea win or a draw. (Ditto the Arsenal game.) The idea that some gravitational downward suck has taken hold seems very misplaced, despite the obvious vulnerabilities. Obviously we’re nowhere near a league- or CL-winning team, but equally obviously there are some encouraging signs from the newer players.

    One of the things I’m finding interesting about AVB is that he seems now to have a fairly clear idea of his best fourteen. He obviously doesn’t have much time for Kalou, Anelka, Alex, Paolo, or (at this stage) any of the kids except Romeu, though he says the right sort of things in public as he’s obliged to. You get the feeling that whatever he’s trying to get the team to do (and I think there have been games, not all of them victories, where it’s been easy to see what that is) he knows now which players he wants for it.

    It’s a rather different approach from Carlo’s, it seems to me. (And by the way I wanted Carlo to stay, and have rarely come as close to thinking seriously about going to watch Brentford at the weekends instead as I did when they binned him.) Carlo appeared to be interested in working with what he had: taking the Chelsea he inherited and trying to squeeze the best out of it.

    AVB seems to be imagining a *different* Chelsea, a team that’s *not* the one in front of him.

    Rather like Wagner, in fact, come to think of it. When Wagner started thinking seriously about opera he ended up trying to create not a better version of what could be made with the resources available to him, but something totally new instead (which is why he ended up building his own theatre, training his own singers, inventing new instruments etc.)

    It’s something we haven’t seen for a while. (Hoddle was similar, perhaps.) Uncle Claudio and José don’t count because they were both basically allowed to create the team from scratch, which won’t be an option again.

  22. Anonymous

    Great report BB.

    (Almost) all valid points raised in the following posts. I’m still in two minds now. I don’t think I want AVB to be sacked, but I’m not sure if that’s because of AVB or because I’m tired of this seemingly endless hiring and firing by the club.

    That said his team selections have been a bit inconsistent in recent weeks. I’m not sure what affect this has on players who seemingly can be dropped and/or selected irrespective of form. Earlier in the season he seemed to think quite highly of Anelka, but he hasn’t had a look in of late.

    The old guard Lampard/Drogba etc. are getting too old. We seemed to be better earlier in the season when AVB appeared to have given them a bit of a metaphorical kick up the arse. Since then we have gone back to them and this appears to be to the detriment of new signings and younger players. The old guard  players successful last year. I think it’s too much to assume they can recapture the form from a few years back again now.

    Hopefully AVB will turn it around. I’m not sure if he will be here by Christmas if the Wolves, City, Liverpool and Valencia results go against us.

    Let’s remember Roman courted Ancelotti for years before appointing him and didn’t think twice in getting rid of him.

  23. SweetDairyAir

    I agree with the last few people or so who have basically said that AVB should and hopefully will stay because there are signs (albeit small ones) that things are changing. There are signs he knows the players he likes for the future, players he is willing to work with until he can replace them, and the players he just doesn’t fancy anymore. 

    Much like Gleb I still have faith in him. I still think he was the outstanding candidate last year and there aren’t others to go for, so what’s the point of calling for his head anyway. He’s starting from a much weaker position than Jose did, with a poorer team, and players not anywhere near their prime. Of course we aren’t doing as well as 5 years ago. This is going to be a difficult time and it has to be done. Stay in the top 4 and we’ll be fine.

  24. Machchan

    Enjoyed your report BB.  Particularly liked this bit: “…a metaphor for the steady erosion of the human spirit by the endless lap of desire, hunger, greed, ambition and the consequences of choice on our doom.”  Were you talking about humanity generally or specifically about our dear club?!

    Some good discussion and debate above, very healthy.  As for my 2p-worth, here goes:

    1.  Bosingwa was great at LB.  OK, I am not his greatest fan but I was rubbing my eyes in disbelief at some of his play.  What impressed most was the way he saved passenger-Terry’s bacon many a time.  Given Cole’s non-performance this year, why not try Bosingwa a few more times at LB to see if one swallow can miraculously make a summer.

    2.  Luis had an excellent game.  It is clear that he can be very effective if he ratchets down the over-ambitious, over-risky, play-to-the-galleries stuff and sticks to the basics of defending.  Hoping for more of the same from the lad.

    3.  Sturridge was the best player on the park.  Ball skills, drive, threading of great through passes, great assist, tracking back, all fantastic.  Hope he keeps it up rather than turn prima donna.

    4. AVB: No doubt he is a proven tactician (c.f. 9 men against QPR) despite his predilection for tactically poor substitutions.  I would submit for discussion/debate that his Achilles heel is his poor man-management as exemplified by his treatment of Kalou, Alex and now even Torres, the kids etc. + his patronising pronouncements to the press over and over about his trust in the defence + his disappointing loss of the early courage he showed in “resting” the old overpaid and underwhelming primadonnas.  
    Maybe getting in a mature sage-like DoF in the shape of Hiddink might help AVB improve his man-management skills before he engineers himself a sack.

  25. Simon

    Wonderful photography to reflect the reality… Sunset on the electricity pylons (linking to Battersea power plant?)

  26. Anonymous

    Bosingwa doing good at LB is not surprising. He’s the same guy who kept Messi in his pockets at LB for 2 games in the CL semifinals 3 years ago.

  27. bluebayou

    I’ve enjoyed reading the comments on here and thanks for the compliments. Glad people enjoyed the piece.

    Well done Pete for channelling Beckett so effectively and lighting it up a bit, when perhaps my effort at balance wasn’t going to cut it.

    As someone who felt Carlo deserved more time it pains me to see his efforts are still dismissed so easily. The iconic Chelsea team of the late 70’s won an FA Cup and a Cup Winners cup and because I am of generation who were young when that happened they will always be special in my memory. They were different times, yes and players perhaps had a different relationship with the fans.

    But the Double winners of 2009/2010? The team that scored more goals than you could shake a stick at?

    They seem to be afforded nothing more than an insouciant shrug. But they played some blinding football. They also played some sh*te football. But no team is brilliant for a whole season, no matter what the media would have you believe.

    Perhaps only in 10 years time will todays youngsters look back and appreciate that achievement.

    I know that the club is aiming higher than in years gone by, but if we can’t cherish those moments and accord them more than a dismissive, so what?, Then I’m not sure what would make you happy.

    I’m not targetting anyone in particular it’s just a feeling I’ve had since last season that has left me falling out of love with some of my fellow fans.

    The debate over AVB has just stirred up those regrets once more. Particularly as some views seem to see the years since JM as one long desert of decline.

    Don’t forget that JM himself seemed to hit something of a wall towards the end of his reign. And the shame was he wasn’t given time to confront those problems. But I seem to remember, inflexibility, static formations, predictability, a lack of pace and speed of pass were evident at the end of the season and into the beginning of his last games with the club.

    It was as though he had built the power and strength team and then realised that it wasn’t really enough. The flexibility and attractiveness of his early combinations had gone. He wasn’t given the luxury of breaking it down and rebuilding.

    The story since has been efforts to graft a new playing style. Scolari tried, Grant promised but didn’t really do anything new, Hiddink adapted. Of all the false dawns, Ancelotti’s got to elevenses and then fell apart during the pause over tea and bicuits.

    And having so desperately wanted Carlo to stay, I have to afford AVB every chance to succeed. I think PeteW’s cold eyed assessment has to be kept in mind. Too much expectation has been loaded on here. He may not be as good as people expected him to be. But he’s the manager, they’re the players. Short of them going beyond the pale I always treat them with a dewey-eyed affection that really isn’t defensible in a man of my years and worldly wisdom

    But one has to soldier on. Blind faith is all I’ve got to offer at this point.

    But almost out of nowhere they turned it around to finish second last year.

    So let’s take as our text the old cliche “Form is temporary, class is permanent”

    And well done Nick for a superb and prescient photo. As Simon pointed out above, is that Battersea Power Station in the distance? (I’m sure there is an expert in pylons who will point out that it can’t be because they’re not the type of pylon we use in the UK)

    • Anonymous

      I agree with you entirely that the Double winning team of 09/10 played the most astonishing football I’ve ever seen from a Chelsea side and broke endless goal-scoring records.

      It is entirely symptomatic of The Alice in Wonderland approach that the club’s suits take to football that the manager of that side was a dead man walking within 6 months and his successor is already considered  seriously in danger of being sacked after a whole 19 games in charge.

      I thought long and hard before renewing my season ticket back in May and if AVB meets a similar fate between now and next May I  think I’ll be saving myself £1,250 and become an armchair fan – sorry Nick, Sunday league football doesn’t do it for me at all.

  28. Marco

    I want (and still want) AVB to succeed and stay on as manager.

    But he is showing little real evidence so far that he can manage a Top Four European side. Or rebuild a new one to take it’s place. We all want stability but not at the price of abject failure a la Scolari.

    If results continue as they are then we will end up 6th at best and out of the Group stage, relegated to the Europa League with all the problems that away games on Thursdays in Slovakia, etc bring along. 

    I know they are suits with a crap record of selecting and supporting managers but they still have to observe the financial realities. And will supporters want to persevere with a manager who keeps on playing past-it performers and unworkable formations while losing games against mediocre opposition? Without showing any sign that he is building a new side?

    Let’s hope the manager is learning quickly from the lessons of the past few weeks and will now put things right. Unfortunately, the games against Wolves and Liverpool juniors in the League Cup will prove little so the next big tests for him will be against Newcastle, Citeh and Valencia. 

    Would really like to see him try a 4-2-3-1 formation using two holding midfielders who can protect the defence and switch quickly to attack – something like this:

    Cech
    Ivan Luiz JT Cole
    Meireles Romeu
    Ramires Lamps Mata
    Sturridge

    Or any creative variation whatever, for his own sake as well as ours. I get the impression he is an intelligent guy but he needs to marry cleverness with ruthlessness, like Jose, or he will be end up like Wotan – viewing on helplessly as the Gotterdammerung descends (homage to BlueBayou).

    • Anonymous

      Interesting your (no doubt unwitting) disparaging view on the Europa league. Our revered ex-player, Pat Nevin was summarising on 5 Live the other night, post Manchester City’s European debacle I think. He commented on the arrogance of English teams and the view that they will always dominate the Champions League due to the riches bestowed upon us by the Premier league, whereas Bayern Munich and valencia for example really just had to rely on home grown talent and desire. Fair enough, perhaps the days of English dominance is ending as other clubs find their are other motivations and ways of building sides outside of chequebook management. 

      But his point was really around the sheer breathtaking arrogance of English clubs maligning the Europa League as unworthy and an inconvenience. As he so eloquently stated, it’s Europe’s second competition and Dutch, German, Italian, French, Belgian, Scottish and yes, even the Spanish teams all take it seriously no matter how they gained entry. Everyone really, except the English teams, who field kids, or reserve sides and then witter on about the hassle of travelling and playing at awkward times. Of course, a competition is only worthy if played on Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 19:45, with seeded teams and country protection. How silly of me. The Champions league has been key in undermining the FA and League cup competitions. I’m with PeteW on the whole nasty, grubby, morally and culturally corrupt competition. Yes, it’s just the arrogant English who are just too damn good to sully themselves playing in the Europa league.

      Of course, maybe it’s better to be a footballer who wins nothing but earns loads of cash and plays in a team that finishes top 4 every season but never wins the league A player that plays in a team that reaches the knockout stage every year but never wins it. A player who ends up with no medals to sell when the drink finally wins and who can never regale his grandchildren with stories of glory and how it feels to win something and hold a trophy that was hard earned. It’s like the golfers who are multi-millionaires bu virtue of sponsorship deals and top 10 finishes and winning orders of merit without an actual major or minor win. Fat, dumb and happy. Who needs the motivation of glory when cash will do just fine Mister? 

      Personally I’d take a couple of Europa League trophies, a Carling Cup and some FA Cups over the first option ANYTIME. If you’re in a competition then perhaps just try to win it. I’m sure Gianfanco Zola feels much the same way. And Ron Harris, Peter Bonetti, Dennis Wise et al. 

      And how sad is it that we, Chelsea fans, bought up on decades of paucity in terms of success, with just an FA Cup and European Cup Winners Cup (beating the mighty Real Madrid in the final no less) between 1971 and 1997, and then a diet of FA Cups, Carling Cups and another ECWC until the Abramovich era now feel so superior and smug that we openly slight and sneer at this competition. 

      How quickly we forget. 

      BTW, no dig at you personally Marco. Just a rant against the world in general.

      • Marco

        Wasn’t disparaging the Europa Cup, Tony. Given our current, disastrous, season I would be very happy indeed if we could pick up (or compete for) what is now the equivalent of the old Cup Winners Cup trophy.

        Just pointing out that if we were to go on to Thursday night matches that would add still more hurdles in the way of our EPL campaign. But if AVB concludes that we are not going to get a top four place then he could use the Europa League (as many Dutch, German, Portuguese managers do) as an opportunity to blood the new team he has in mind (if, indeed, he has one).

        Which, for me, is the fundamental point: is AVB, with the backing of the Board going to turn negatives into positives and start restructuring the squad now?

      • Cunningplan

        You make some valid points, Tony, with regard to the arrogance of the fans and clubs towards certain competitions. I suppose we’re all guilty of it to a certain degree, well I am to a point, and I know I shouldn’t be. I will add the Carling Cup is something the club have always taken more seriously than the other big clubs. I suppose it was difficult for us to field anything other than a decent side due to the squad qaulity.

        When the club evolves and becomes successful, the fans seem to evolve with it, it’s human nature, once you get a taste for the finer things, it’s hard to go back to anything less.
        I also thought to myself when we weren’t so good, it would be nice just to see us win the league title just once before I die, well I’ve been spoilt with three of them, like most of us have.

        I enjoy any victory or trophy that we win, hell, even the Full Members Cup final in 1990 got me excited. Of course our first title in 50 years under JM was special, as was the double under CA, but the one that will always be etched into my memory was the FA cup final against Leeds.

        I hope that we don’t ever turn into bitter fans like Liverpool’s, who live off past successes, or dare I say future Utd fans once Fergie moves aside, because I have a feeling they will behave the same way.

  29. bluebayou

    It has come to something when I’m looking forward to the chance to watch the Canadiens take on the Philadelphia Flyers at around 8.00pm tonight because there’s an early face-off (3 as opposed to 7) due to the Thanksgiving holiday more than the boys playing Wolves tomorrow. Even though there’s every chance they’ll get a hiding.

    It’s a chance to get away from the febrile atmosphere surrounding Chelsea at the moment to the quieter reaches of Montreal, where the fans are calling for the perennially unpopular coache’s head after a poor start to the season, hating on their most expensive signing ever who’s not delivered in several seasons, overcoming a chronic injury crisis that’s forced them to play a lot of young and untried players, craving new and expensive additions to the squad and praying for an end to a Stanley Cup drought going back to the early 90’s.

    Plus ca change?

    On second thoughts I may take up Macramé

  30. Anonymous

    … though that begs an even more fundamental point (mentioned by Pete among others):

    — if he isn’t, who is?

    Alan Pardew?

    faceoff.com reports the Habs leading Philadelphia by a goal to nothing after the second period. I am spiritually communing with Dr B.

    • bluebayou

      Like the other night it’s all going tits. They were 1 up after 1 and are now 1-3 down after 2. Shocking 20 minutes after starting well. Last goal 6 seconds from the end of the period.

      But I appreciate the sentiment.

    • Marco

      LTB – there seems to be some confusion here.

      I am not arguing for AVB to go – I think he should be given the chance to stay.

      My point is that he won’t be given that chance unless he makes changes quickly and turns results around. Fairly obvious point, I would have thought, given the Board’s record in recent years.

      If he does go the succession will be a nightmare. Probably another year or so of transient ‘managers’ window-dressing the current squad……

  31. NorthernVA

    Chelsea FC  Class of 2004-05: Drogba, Lampard, Terry Cech

    FC Barcelona Class of 2004-05 Barcalona: Iniesta, Xavi, Puyol,Valdes

    Some Chelsea FC Fans Circa 2011: Ingrates.

  32. Anonymous

    You’re probably right. I have this hilariously naive notion that the suits will finally put their mouths where their money is this time and give AVB at least a couple of years to do what they presumably asked him to do. But I’m probably dreaming.

    Still looking forward to hopping on my bike and pedalling dahn the Bridge in a few hours, despite everything.

    Selection could be intriguing too, with Tuesday evening in mind. Insofar as I can understand what Dalgleish is saying (no offence to any Glaswegians among us) he appears to have suggested that ‘Poo will play their reserves in the Fizzy Cup — does that mean we keep some of first team fresh for them, on the theory that it’s probably our most plausible shot at a trophy this year and we should take advantage of the iniquitous scheduling? Or do we stick with our kids on Tuesday night and put the CL team (though one imagines Nando will start) out today?

  33. bluebayou

    It’s 10 minutes to 4 and half time.

    A drawer opens in Ron Gourlay’s desk and a P45 is quietly slipped back in.

    But left on the top where it can be easily retreived.


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