Chelsea 3-0 Valencia – Resurrection Man

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Resurrection Man can’t stay dead for long, though – and with each rebirth comes new and unexpected powers. But his many returns have not gone unnoticed, and forces are gathering to learn what’s so special about him”

Before

A complete Nervous Norvus prior to kick off, I was perched in the upper reaches of the East Stand, contemplating just how grim the season might get and gripped by a sense of foreboding that seemed to be eating into the very souls of the Chelsea faithful.

Talking of the faithful, a very large number of those around me did not appear to be regulars, indeed by the number of languages, a good few were just passing through although Chelsea fans none the less. This did mean that when the “Anthem” was sung (led by who?) there weren’t many who joined me in a lusty rendition of “Blue is the Colour”. Or perhaps my tuneless baying so overwhelmed them they were too shocked to even try.

I got the distinct impression that ticket sales did not reflect the crucial nature of the tie, with some regular fans having taken a decision to miss the Champions League group stages, little realising how tough it was going to be. That’s just an impression. But, it would be interesting to compare the crowd last night with that for City on Monday. To me the ground only just about filled and lacked the intensity of big European nights. And given recent form and the possibility of Europa League Thursdays, I thought this was a big European night. Down in the Matthew Harding Lower it might, of course, have sounded very different, from where I sat the atmosphere seemed less than intimidating.

You couldn’t say that about Drogba.

During

After three minutes he had the opener and went on to give the sort of display that reminded us all just what a fabulous player he has been for Chelsea. Perhaps the changes in the modern game have fractured the emotional bonds that place players like Osgood and Dixon so close to our hearts. The difference in wealth between player and fan may mean that we never quite believe in the legend any more, but mercurial and unpredictable as he can be, Drogba is a diamond.

It’s easy to forget the injuries and malaria that have beset him, but I think it’s no coincidence that with a run of games under his belt, with some condition returning, he was capable of turning in the powerhouse display we got from him last night. Of course he will go on to frustrate and annoy, age means his powers will wane, but I’m glad I was there, if only to see it one more time and to know it’s still in him. It wasn’t the memory playing tricks, or stories retold and embellished, we really have been privileged to watch one of the world’s great front men ply his trade.

And it wasn’t just Drogba emerging from the graveyard of reputation. It was like the Night of the Living Dead out there. Terry, calm, composed, Cole, steady if a little short of pace on occasion, Luiz focused and incisive, Ivanovic concentrated and Villas-Boas showing that he can change and adapt to the needs of the moment. Even Malouda, Mikel and Torres got on to put in their cameos.

The only lid that stayed firmly shut, the only box that didn’t creak open was Lampard’s. He remained entombed. But he’ll return.

Looking back, it all seems quite straightforward. The boys scored early, got the second before 25 minutes had passed and Valencia, though they did force some decent saves from Cech, never looked like they believed they could do it.

Based on previous heartbreak, I was of course convinced they could.

I can’t say that I wasn’t worried until the third goal went in, because I was and kept waiting for the axe to fall. Looking at my jottings I see that at halftime I was moved to write, “2-0, the worst lead in footie” (footie? I apologise unreservedly, but lack of shorthand and the pressure of the night is all I can offer in mitigation). Indeed, prior to the second half starting, “The Ref? Calamity? Or Joy?” seems to sum up just how little succour was offered by a two goal lead. Around the 70 minute mark when Drogba had battled his way into the box only to shoot wide, I see the words “Wide! That was the game, there!” almost scratched into the paper. It’s only three or four comments later that a relieved “Surely now!” as Drogba scored his second, intimates a more settled frame of mind.

I wanted them to press quickly around the ball, I didn’t want them sitting, I didn’t want Mata left to fend off the wide man on his own, I thought that the full-backs were tucking in too far, I was frustrated when we gave the ball away under pressure, I was desperate for Sturridge to put away one of those chances, it all looked like Barcelona under Hiddink, and how did that end?

But what do I know? They kept their shape, took enough of their chances and focused until the final whistle. It won’t be every game where we allow so much possession. Indeed I’d be curious as to whether that was more a function of scoring early than the overall game plan. Whatever. AVB and the team seemed to have a plan and it worked.

There were plenty of good performances, but I was particularly impressed with Romeu. A few months ago I expected to see him in the cup games and perhaps one or two Premiership games later on. There he was last night anchoring midfield in a crucial game. He made a few mistakes and his role demands that he knows where the ball will be in three passes time, something that comes with experience. Yet he made no major errors and grew into the game. Towards the end he put in a couple of bone jarring tackles, the kind you rarely see these days. Clean, ball winners. I think it shook the referee up a bit and he decided to book the second one. The only time I noticed the man in the middle all night, to give him his due.

Mikel for Ramires on 65 minutes. Now that got the heads shaking. And yet, if I look at my notes I can see that pressure was really building. A series of corners was conceded and the team was penned in. AVB had to act. And significantly it was after Mikel came on that Romeu started to move higher up the pitch, got in those tackles, and was more active in the game. Indeed he was involved in the build up to the goal. Luck or design? It was AVB’s night whichever way you look at it.

I’m sure the broad Chelsea church will quickly forget the performance and importance of the result and debate whether AVB has been forced to be more pragmatic, whether he’s been told to rein it in from on high or that the players have put their foot down. Lordy, he may even have made up his own mind.

But that’s three “first” team games on the trot where we’ve scored three and kept a clean sheet. Have we climbed the mountain or are we just breasting the brow of a foothill and the mountain waits beyond. Frankly I don’t care today. I’m just going to enjoy the win.

After

And so inevitably with the modern game, we come to the post match phase. I haven’t seen AVB’s interview yet. I’ve read what he said. They seem like strong words, but context and tone are everything. The press corps will not like it. They don’t like to be presented with their, sometimes almost unconscious, prejudices. They want to rip you to bits and then say it’s just business. You’re supposed to take it. They can make it personal, you mustn’t. Unless of course you’re Alex Ferguson who got their number years ago and goes his own sweet way.

Well, to some extent young Andre has crossed the rubicon, intentionally or not. Should he have kept quiet? Perhaps. But we were reminiscing about Drogba last night after the game (lotion in hand it must be said) and there was an agreement that after the Barca fiasco, someone had to say something and Drogs gave it to ‘em straight. Right down the lens. The lens that continued to follow him around while they all fell back in shock and mock horror. Sometimes plain speaking is what is required.

They want it both ways. The pretence that they just report, that they are a neutral medium by which we follow the game is utter cobblers. They won’t like AVB tearing down the curtain and making his displeasure at them as individuals clear. He’s pointed to them as the agenda setters, the constructors of the narrative. They’ll be looking for payback.

It all started back in the summer when he upset the scribblers by not giving them a separate briefing to the tellytypes. It has rumbled on and they took full opportunity during his recent travails. Prior to this week, the last sods of earth were shovelled on, they had all downed tools and were wandering out the cemetery gates, wreathed in self congratulation at a job well done. But back in the graveyard the earth was stirring.

The Resurrection Man.

Postscript

I mentioned Nervous Norvus at the beginning of the piece. On a night when the team seemed infused and the players came back to life, it is appropriate to revisit ol’ Norvus’ 1956 classic, “Transfusion”.

“Pour the crimson in me, Jim son.”

The press reports

The Guardian, Kevin McCarra: “This may be the night that constituted the true start of Andre Villas-Boas’s reign as manager. By the close, there was surely no Chelsea fan could who could even recall the unease they had felt before kick-off. The jubilation is all the more intense since the side have vaulted over Bayer Leverkusen to enter the last 16 of the Champions League as group winners. That status, valuable as it is, will not be recalled for many seasons to come, unlike the forward who did so much to deliver it. Age, on this showing, is simply honing Didier Drogba. If he is conserving energy it makes him all the more lethal in the penalty area and here the Ivorian claimed two of the three goals against Valencia.”

The Daily Telegraph, Henry Winter: “All [Villas-Boas’s] decisions were vindicated, from omitting Frank Lampard, to starting Didier Drogba, who scored twice and made the other for Ramires. With Genk holding Bayer Leverkusen, Chelsea enjoyed a double delight on the night. The headlines will scream about “AVB Teaching An Old Drog New Tricks” but others deserve equal mention in the inky and digital dispatches.”

The Independent, Sam Wallace: “There are some occasions upon which only a vintage performance from Didier Drogba will do, and fortunately for Andre Villas-Boas last night, in his hour of direst need, Chelsea’s young manager got one from his battle-scarred centre-forward. This was, in the end, a return to the sledgehammer Drogba of his golden years, the sledgehammer with the gossamer touch, who can take defences on single-handedly and make opponents shrink with self-doubt. His first goal after three minutes calmed Stamford Bridge’s mood, his second – Chelsea’s third – put the game beyond doubt, and in between he led the line alone as only he can.”

The Official Chelsea FC Website: “What was all the fuss about? Chelsea are through to the last 16 of the Champions League after a brilliant home win, with goals courtesy of a Didier Drogba pair and Ramires. It had all looked so dangerous before the game, with victory needed to absolutely guarantee qualification, but nerves were quickly settled when after two minutes Drogba had put us in front when he danced around a defender inside the box and smashed low into the bottom corner. The same player turned creator for the second when he sent Ramires through, though the goal owed as much to the midfielder’s persistence in chasing a speculative through ball as it did the slide-rule pass in behind the defence. It was not all plain sailing though, as in between Valencia struck a post and Petr Cech pulled off a save of world-class proportions to deny David Albelda an equaliser, but Chelsea rarely looked threatened afterwards. Drogba rolled in a third 15 minutes from time to make three huge points safe, and the Stamford Bridge party could begin.”

The goals

3′ Drogba 1-0
22′ Ramires 2-0
76′ Drogba 3-0

The manager’s reaction

“Finishing top is fantastic and nobody would have put a bet on us doing that.

“It was very gratifying for the team who were excellent. It was a win of team spirit, solidarity, responsibility, strength of character, ability to take criticism and resilience and this is a great win for Chelsea players.

“The players deserve respect they don’t get and we have been continuously chased by different kinds of people and different kinds of pressure. Maybe today we gave everybody a slap in the face.

“There is continuous persecution of Chelsea, continuous aggressiveness for one club. We have become a target and we have to accept that but tomorrow they have to report on a brilliant win with Chelsea qualifying first.

“We made changes to the way we played.

“We tried it at Newcastle the other day. We kept our [defensive] block a little bit lower down the pitch – a medium/low compact block with not a lot of space between the lines. It worked quite well.

“We gave Valencia the initiative and their possession was tremendous. Nobody has given us praise for keeping possession before but football is driven by results. Today we have had an excellent result and the initiative was on Valencia’s side, but they couldn’t find the correct spaces and they left us the gap to come around in transition and exploit those spaces.

“It was different in Valencia when we played very high up, their goalkeeper was crucial to the result and nobody hailed our style of play. Today we closed together our lines but that doesn’t mean we are going to do the same in the future.

“In the way we set out our philosophy, there are human values that you cannot forget, and today they showed themselves to an unbelievable amount. It was a different strategy but the same philosophy when it came to human values.”

(Thanks to Blue Tinted Nick on Twitter for the inspiration behind the featured image.)




There are 80 comments

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  1. Anonymous

    The ‘slap in the face’ line had me in stitches.

    AVB could do with a bit of work on the PR front at times, but that was pure gold.

    I’ve spouted my nonsense on the arse-end of the Newcastle thread.

  2. Machchan

    Fantastic performance all things considered.
    AVB says “…We kept our [defensive] block a little bit lower down the pitch – a medium/low compact block with not a lot of space between the lines. It worked quite well.”  So some grudging acceptance perhaps of the tactical mistake that is his High Line obsession… but then we have this, “but that doesn’t mean we are going to do the same in the future.”  Oh well, we shall see.Drogs for MoM clearly.  Back to the old glory days for the not so young man.  Only criticism would be to stick to his role for the duration of the game and not to try to be a midfield playmaker like he tried for the latter part of the first half!

  3. Machchan

    Sorry, the above comments were written in three paras but on posting, they appear concatenated with CRLFs missing…

  4. NorthernVA

    Cheers to you AVB. Slowly but surely your pragmatic side has come to the fore. You really had me worried that you actually believed that Wengeresque nonsense you’ve be spouting for the last few months. 

    Philosophy and principle is for the birds chief. Here is a principle to live by wrapped up in one word and four syllables, realpolitik. Learn it, Live it, Love it. Al Davis (RIP) summed it up succinctly, “Just Win Baby! Win.” 

    As I watched the game I couldn’t help but think of a comment from a few weeks back which somewhat derisively compared the old man leading our line to Kenwye Jones. It finally struck me tongiht that while the old Drogs has achieved so much that one question mark will surely remain with many pundits and a few supporters alike. “Yeah he’s decent but can he do it on a cold, wet, Wednesday night in Stoke?”

    • Dylbo Baggins

      Fantasic display from the big man, for sure, but we need him to do it week in week out.

      If our senior players had of sorted themselves out earlier in the campaign then we wouldn’t have been in the situation we were in.

    • SweetDairyAir

      I don’t think any reasonable person could argue that Drogba was showing great form for the past few weeks. However he did play well today, and hats off to him. He did visibly start to tire after about an hour, so we still cannot rely on him week in week out. If AVB knows through watching him in training when to drop him into a match though, and he performs, then he’s a good asset to have. 

  5. Cunningplan

    And lets not forget, apart from the slight change of tactics with the defensive line etc.
    The win at Newcastle has given the lads much needed confidence, lets not underestimate the power of that for individuals, or the team.
    I still think the string of tough fixtures we have this month, might well be a good thing for us, two wins so far, lets hope we do Citeh (and no reason why we can’t) on Monday.

    As much as it might be fun to watch the two Manchester clubs being dumped out of the CL tonight. I don’t think it would be in ours, or the league’s interest if they are.

  6. Anonymous

    Last night was a great performance and the result should inject hope into both players and fans.

    I see Josh might go on loan to Bolton.

    http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/sport/football/3982393/Transfer-news-Chelsea-go-for-Gary-Cahill-with-Josh-McEachran-loan.html

    This sounds eminently feasible since Josh’s girlfriend lives up that way to work on Coronation Street.

    We definitely need a centre back.  For City next Monday, with Luiz suspended, the pairing of Alex and Terry will be just too slow to deal with the threat of their forwards.

  7. Anonymous

    As much as Drogba was dominant up front, so was David Luiz alongside JT at the back. Valencia attacked mostly down their left wing and his support of Brana Ivanovic around the box was also excellent. One disappointment for me was Daniel Sturridge. He has pace to burn and the best cut-in from the right wing since Arjen Robben. But his selfishness around the opposition penalty area wastes too many scoring chances for comfort. He seems to get white-line fever when he gets close to the touchline, where his instinct is to lash a shot at an impossible angle rather than simply pass the ball for another striker to tap it in. OK, he’s young and hungry to impress but that doesn’t only mean banging ’em in. Assists rate just as high, which is why Juan Mata is my MoM last night. On the upside, the sight of Studge and Luiz celebrating together as they left the pitch was to me the true spirit of the next Blue generation.          

  8. Anonymous

    Great game. I liked the way AVB optimized our tactics to our abilities, one has to compromise. With current “slow” defensive  personnel we simply can’t play high defensive line, so lowering the line down was the obvious thing to do. However, such defensive line requires one to play on counters and this is exactly what Chelsea were doing yesterday. Watching the game I had a reminiscent of the other game, the one against Barca in 2005, back then we played very similar style soaking the pressure from Barca and hitting them back on counter attacks. It just Barca had more quality then Valencia so they still managed to score (it actually took a lot of quality of certain Brazilian player to score a goal).     

  9. Anonymous

    I don’t usually want to comment on formations much but can’t remember ever seeing Chelsea at The Bridge play such an unchanging 4-5-1 formation for an entire 90 minutes [apart from a few bits where it became 4-6-0] with that middle line parked firmly in our own half.

    It was clearly adopted right from the kick-off and our success in counter-attacking to get such an early 2-0 lead made it easy to retain. I was hugely impressed, but if I wanted to be hyper-critical would say we did give the ball away too easily at times to create more pressure than necessary. Our possession percentage stats seldom got out of the 30s according to the big screen and I think ended around 32%.

    The obvious problem with playing this style at home is the restive element in the crowd, like the bloke a few rows behind me who was screeching after an hour when we were coasting at 2-0 up, “we’re at home, attack”.

    It would seem there is life in AVB and the Drog still – felt like old times with the latter departing to a huge standing ovation from all sides of the ground.

    Good fun too on getting home to watch my recording of some of Sky’s pre-match coverage with Hoddle, The Ruud Boy and even Uncle Ray indulging in much doom and gloom about team selection – “he should have gone for the experience of Lampard, Malouda etc” and Hoddle declaring “I can’t see Chelsea failing to concede a goal, so they’ll have to score twice”.

    Much embarrassed backtracking at half time from that lot 😉

    • Anonymous

      I rarely argue about formations, but allow me this time. We didn’t play rigid 4-5-1, we played 4-5-1 without ball and 4-3-3 with ball and this is why we were able to counter. Our movement of Sturridge, Mata and  at times Ramires upfront, when we were in possession clearly shows it. 
      Now regarding not playing 4-5-1 I actually think this was the most preferred formation by the certain Special One.    

      • Anonymous

        And that’s why I don’t usually comment on formations, because no doubt someone will be here in a minute to declaim that when Mikel came on we were “clearly” playing 4-2-3-1 or some other variation 😉

        I just pray we haven’t provoked an outbreak of baffling Grauniad chalkboards – could we declare this a chalkboard-free zone, Nick?

  10. Peterw

    It was like watching Hiddink’s team, and I have no higher praise. 

    As I’ve said all along, we have a great squad – far better than United and Spurs – if they are used properly. The last two games are a step in the right direction.

  11. Gleb

    Irrespective of whether we all adore or despise the dreaded “philosophy” bullshit, this way of playing – whilst very much effective – is, in the end, just running away from our problems. We can’t cheat our way out of this forever, though. We’re gonna have to adapt, one way or another, to playing this much-maligned “attacking free-flowing football”. Good thing AVB was under so much pressure that he had to adjust our way of playing, for now. Yet with the benefit of hindsight, most of us clearly understand that there’s no way we’ll ever see this “boring boring” Chelsea regularly again, as much as I personally want to. Unfortunately, that does seem the one thing Roman really wants from his expensive toy (in addition to the CL title, of course). And with the players we have been bringing in recently, they’re all pacey and technical, so we’ll never be physical enough to bully our way through week in, week out. So whilst the results against Newcastle and Valencia were more than welcome, it’s too early to draw conclusions because the time of transition will be back to bite us in the ass, perhaps on more than one occasion.

    Speaking of which, have you seen Porto in this year’s CL? Last year I remember everyone drowning in their own saliva at the prospect of seeing that Porto side (with THAT manager ;-)) in the Champions League. A couple of months later, they’re as toothless as ever. Plenty of passing about, coupled with this high line business (that worked yesterday – 10 offsides or something, though Zenit were far from threatening anyway) – and no goals. No clear cut chances, actually. Consequently, they’re out, beaten by the ugly cattenacio (Zenit’s manager is none other than Luciano Spaletti).  What’s more, at home Zenit demolished them 3:1.
    Which made me think… Do we need that? If we lack the quality of Barcelona, do we want this pointless passing about only to get knocked out by a bold, stupid, defensive side? Mind you, I imagine AVB and Falcao would have disposed of any side thrown at them in the group stages, but still – his assistant couldn’t have ruined everything so quickly.

  12. Anonymous

    Fine stuff indeed Dr B. Some observations from the sick bed of The Grocer, confined as I was by that most debilitating and cruel illnesses, the man-cold. 

    1.) “Looking at my jottings I see that at halftime I was moved to write, “2-0, the worst lead in footie” ” – this is a proven fact and now sits in the pantheon of Universal Laws as shown by the great Professor Daniel Baker esq, of Broadcast Boulevard. As he has written, to prove this just stand up in the middle of any crowd when you’re team is 2-0 in front with more than 30 minutes to go and declare “NOTHING can go wrong now!”. You will either incur the wrath of those mercurial footballing spirits who will conspire to land the evil angel of Captain CockUp within the mind of everyone of your players, fans and coaching staff, or the fans you proclaim this to will set upon you like starving dingo’s leaving just the tatters of your best Matalan outerwear as evidence of your existence. 

    2.) “It’s only three or four comments later that a relieved “Surely now!” as Drogba scored his second, intimates a more settled frame of mind.” – to quote the late but great William Shankly Esq, it was he I believe who said ” If you go a goal up, then go for a second, if you get the second then go for the third, if you get the third then shut the shop’ . This is somewhat true as a mantra to relax by , except for occasions such as games versus Bolton when we were 4-0 up at home only to run out 4-3 victors. That was sphincter clenching stuff. Personally I tend to start relaxing after a few more. In our famous title clinching games versus Wigan I realised we’d win the title when the 6th goal went in, and since then that’s pretty much set the bar of where the ‘totally relaxed about the result of the game’ level is for me. 

    3.) Ah, the scribes of the 4th estate are upset are they? The natives are revolting and all that. Following, as I do, several of these within the Twitterversesphereweb, I have to say I was surprised at the level of precious indignation from them because someone other than Sir Ferg of Salford Quays had decided to ‘tell it how it is’. But then I looked and saw such journalistic muppets as Neil Ashton, Sam Wallace and Ian McGarry (@garbosj) were all involved and seemingly the most upset. And lo, it came to me. Fuck ’em. They dish it, they have dished it. They have written the death certificate without checking the pulse. They have booked the wake and written their eulogies without visiting the chapel of rest. They have sat and  sniped and piled the pressure on. They have used the inductive reasoning method to falsely create an impression of impending doom. Roman Abramovich has sacked all previously unsuccessful Champions league coaches, therefore he will sack AVB if we fail to qualify. As any fule kno, you only need one example of the conclusion being false even with true premises to destroy that line of argument. Today’s doom mongering hacks are so ingrained in the culture of negativity and their own misguided view of their importance that they have forgotten the difference between reporting the news and trying to create it through tissues of lies and hearsay. Henry Winter, Martin Samuel and Patrick Barclay are about the only ones I view with any honour or integrity, perhaps with Andy Dunn close behind. 
      
    4.) Like many I had written Drogba off and I’m glad that last night he showed me up for the footballing fuckwit I am. But one swallow does not a Linda Lovelace make. Until Saturday he hadn’t shown me anywhere near enough to think he could put the odd shift in. I believe we must start building for the future and this inevitably means less games consecutively for players like JT, Lamps and Drogba. I would hope they’d accept it gracefully, and yes I’ll mention again like Scholes and Giggs have done, and to a degree Gary Neville did, as Michael owen appears to be doing and Rio as well. Maybe Lord Ferg of Manchestershire has the right touch in keeping players onside whilst winding them down gently to lucre laden retirement.  If the seniors don’t like it then fuck them as well and let them go. The clubs progress cannot be hindered by unwitting or witting intransigence and egotistical sulking players, no matter how good they once were. 

    5.) Interesting comments overall here and in the press and twitterversesphereweb about the lack of possession. Maybe it is the ghost of Special Ones past in AVB that I see from last night, but cast your mind back 2 years to a champions league game between Inter Milan (eventual winners) and Barcelona (perennially annoying arrogant tiki taka merchants with a penchant for double pikes when tackled) at the Camp Nou with Inter holding a 3-1 first leg lead and look at the stats. Possession 76%-24% to the Catalan synchronised swimmers. Inter Milan down to 10 men with an hour to play, away from home. Barcelona 7 shots on target, 9 off target. Inter Milan 0 attempts on or off target, yes ZERO, NIL, ARSE ALL, DIDDLY FUCKING SQUAT, ZILCH, NADA. result was 1-0 to Barca and and exit at the hands of the Inter coach, one Jose Mourinho. To this day I rate this as one of the best examples of digging in never say die football I’ve ever seen. It’s the Rourkes Drift of football. 

    And that’s it. lets not join in the press game of finding reasons to criticise when we have no real reason to but maybe a little moment of quite dignified celebration is what’s called for. 

  13. Anonymous

    Another perfectly measured account, Dr B. Throughout most of the second half I found myself playing that horrible game with myself: “I won’t check the clock again until this attack’s over … I won’t check the clock until the next time Chelsea have three passes in a row …”

    Which is stupid really because Valencia largely fannied around to no purpose at all. Still, it’s nerve-wracking when your team is happy to spend so much time without the ball.

    I’m very much in favour of AVB’s Mourinho moment. He does it without the obvious theatre and exaggeration of The Master, but in his own way he’s very effective: everything he says at least *sounds* perfectly reasoned and calm, which is a different way of making people believe you. The key thing is that the players and fans will all have loved it — unlike when Mad Rafa tried to do it and just ended up sounding like a moron, or when Arsene tries to do it and comes off as a paranoid lunatic.

    Of course the spin will now be that AVB has “betrayed” his “commitment to attacking football”. Nonsense. Needless to say we won’t play like that against Citeh — unless we go 3-0 up.

    • Der_Kaiser

      I think with Mourinho it was often a little more calculated, rather than cathartic as AVB’s little outburst appeared to be last night.  Not sure if it’s the right way to go for him – will be a scab that the press will keep picking at if he isn’t careful.

  14. Cunningplan

    Having watched the interview, there was a smile from AVB and laughter from both sides at the end of it, so perhaps a bit of a non story, who knows.

  15. Anonymous

    Thanks Blue Bayou.

    I’m surprised about your comment that not many near you were up to singing.  I though singing was banned in the East Upper because it distracted the regulars who need to concentrate on replying to emails on their Blackberries?

    Like you I noticed that many regulars were missing and seats were filled with football tourists. In my row there was a group of 4 that had filled the path with bags of shopping which they steadfastly refused to remove to ease getting in and out.  And just beyond was an oriental girl who watched the whole game via her iPad camera; she literally held the iPad between herself and the pitch so she could watch it on the screen!

    • Anonymous

      Ah football tourists, don’t you love ’em.

      At a recent game I spent several minutes of my life I won’t get back watching one in front of me struggle to get his huge rucksack through the turnstile.

      When he’d finally managed that and I’d followed him through his girlfriend was avidly taking a pic on her mobile phone of the Singha beer advert poster at the bottom of the stairwell for reasons which still escape me now.

      I was surrounded largely by non-regulars last night too, but that’s the case at most CL and domestic cup games.

  16. Ryan

    Xherdan Shaqiri looks a pretty good player (Basle 1-0 United). Good physique, good technique. Could be a wise investment for someone in the summer. Only twenty years old. Maybe under contract until 2014.

    • Gleb

      Right, but he’s a twat second to none. I mean, when and if he becomes OUR bastard, it might not be a bad thing anymore, but until then: a total jerk, to use some high-school lingo.

        • Gleb

          Nah, nothing criminal, as far as I know, he’s just a very dirty player. Tends to get sent off a lot. I dunno, his attitude kinda stinks at times, that’s all. Obviously talented. Good enough for the EPL? I’m not sure. ManU can’t seem to handle him at the moment, though.

          Apologies if my words sounded a bit out of hand, calling the lad names and all. It’s just my personal opinion, since I’m still fond of my rose-tinted glasses where footballers are supposed to be at least decent(ish) men, so when I see young talented lads act like Balotelli, I get annoyed easily.

  17. Ryan

    Ah well anyway. The words “professional footballer” and “twat” aren’t exactly uneasy bedfellows. Cristiano Ronaldo… obviously a first-class twat but if he was scoring 50-odd goals a season for us I reckon I could turn a blind eye.

  18. Ryan

    Nah fair enough. Plenty of footballers who are that age (and old enough to know better) are idiots but so are plenty of people generally. Is he good enough for the EPL? Bit hard to judge considering Jose thought Torres wasn’t up to the EPL standard and a “big” club’s (probably us) chief scout reckoned the same about Suarez.

    Looking at Shaqiri I rather thought the EPL would suit him but bloody hell what do I know?

  19. Ososdeoro

    My goodness. After inflicting a minor head wound on Smalling early in the match (that removed Smalling from the play and led to a Basel goal), Vidic seems to have seriously hurt his own knee while fouling a Basel player. So remind me again why Vidic is so awesome and Luiz is a crazed maniac who has no idea how to defend?

  20. Harry

    Drogba after the match said & I quote: current
    defensive display deserves great credit. unquote. Drogba remarks vindicate all
    along with what many Chelsea fans have been pointing out. AVB should know that Chelsea
    current crop of players are not suitable to the way AVB thinks football should
    be played. There is a difference between a pie in the sky and reality.

  21. Ryan

    I know it might not be the done thing to say this but the mighty United and City in the Europa League… Ha ha fucking ha. Bosnia on a Thursday night anyone?

    I wonder if all the same journos that had AVB “under pressure” last week will be writing the same obituaries for Mancini and Fergie? Are United and City now officially in crisis? Unthinkable? Really?

    • Gleb

      Exactly, mate! Wanted to write the same thing. So it’s London, as always, to defend England’s pride in Europe. How sweet. Them mancs might concentrate on the league now, though…

      P.S. CSKA are through as well, having beaten Inter 2:1!!! Two Russian clubs in the knockout stages, first time ever, as far as I know. It’s off topic but pretty sweet nonetheless (and Roman is affiliated with CSKA). I’m a Spartak fan, though, and we’re out of all the European competitions, so I’ll have to endure endless taunting from the fans of the the two clubs. 

  22. Anonymous

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

    Ahh schadenfreude. It’s not big, it’s not clever, but it’s still absolutely delicious.

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

    Congratulations to the Russian teams. Nicely eccentric tinge to the last 16 this year, with APOEL and Basle and all.

    Harry: how does the quote “our defensive display deserves great credit” come to equal “AVB cannot manage this club”?

    Think about it for a sec. And then, please, give it a rest.

    • Cunningplan

      You shouldn’t be laughing at Utd, as a matter of fact, they should be congratulated in qualifying for the Europa League at the expense of Baselona.

      I also gather Utd players will be buying the WAGS for Xmas, Channel No 5
      I’m on my way to the cloakroom.

      On a more serious note, was anyone else suspicious withe regard Lyon’s 7 goal victory last night?… Just the right ammount of goals for them to go through.

      • Anonymous

        You’re not suggesting that everything about the “greatest club competition in the world” isn’t always entirely above board and beyond suspicion surely? How could you have formed such an opinion?

        What price we draw AC Milan, the Gooners get Napoli and the EPL has no teams left in the quarter finals?

        Much as I enjoyed the demise of both sets of Mancs a bit of me kept thinking what does that do to England’s co-efficient in deciding which countries get 4 teams in the qualifying round, a facility we may have some need for ourselves?

        • Der_Kaiser

          Read a ridiculously complex article about the UEFA co-efficients quite recently – much of it too tedious for words, but the interesting (and surprising) key point was that if a nation loses a team at the CL group phase and said team moves through the next two KO rounds in the Europa, the effect on the co-efficient is the same as making it through one KO round of the CL.

          So it might actually improve our rankings etc. if both of the Mancs make some progress against Europe’s second tier.  Shall try and dig the article out, but you wouldn’t be awake by the end of it.

        • Cunningplan

          I have nothing but the highest regard for Uefa and Fifa, for all the talk and suggestions that they might be corrupt, no one yet has come up with any proof to suggest otherwise.

          I will add I still believe in, the Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus and most importantly…. Moffat is not a Troll!

  23. Anonymous

    So is that now Man City, Man Utd, Spurs, Fulham, Stoke and Birmingham all vying for either ITV4 or Channel 5 billing on a Thursday?

    Wowzers.

  24. Gleb

    APOEL = The Greece National Team circa 2004 (European Champions). Same style, same efficiency. So don’t write them off just yet.

    But I have to agree, this is one hell of a Champions Leagues. Still fancy Jose to pick up his third.

    Also, check out the Lyon match. They needed, like, a shitload of goals and guess what… 

    • Anonymous

      Yes, I’m slightly hoping we don’t draw Lyon.

      No really major powers among the group runners-up, though, except Milan (that said, I’ve no idea how good they are this year).

      What price a Manchester derby for the final of the Europa Thingy? How priceless would that be? They wouldn’t want to lose to each other but they’d both be embarrassed to win that trophy.

      Ahhhh bliss bliss bliss.

      Citeh to be fair looked pretty impressive, and I don’t expect us to get a result against them on Monday. But the vile Mancs of United … oh joy. Joy to the world.

      • Ryan

        Yeah but worth remembering Bayern had nothing to play for and rested plenty of big names tonight. Monday could be either the best or worse time to play City. I’d love to see a defensive display like last night. Remember this City team isn’t so very different to the side we beat 2-0 at the end of last season. They aren’t unbeatable. Bayern and Napoli proved that. Of course if you just let them have the ball for 86 mins like Norwich did you haven’t got much chance. Attack them and find out just how solid their defence is. Lescott has lost his nerve in big games before. Let’s see.

  25. Ryan

    Oh well. That fat cunt Durham and Gareth “Average player, worse manager” Southgate have given the League to Utd or City. But apparently Spurs might have something to say about that. Amazing we’re still in crisis according to this lot but City would be one of the favourites for the CL… If they hadn’t just been dumped out at the group stage. Agenda? What agenda AVB? City obsessed media? Don’t know what you’re talking about Andre.

  26. Ryan

    I know, it’s tempting to knock everyone from the gaffer to the ball boys when things are going wrong but most of us have seen worse (much worse). Having never been privileged to see Osgood, Charlie Cooke et al. I genuinely believed Zola, Gudjohnsen etc. would be as good as it would ever get for us. Even when Paul Furlong scored in the Cup Winners Cup I thought “bloody hell, it doesn’t get any better than this!”.

    What we’re seeing now from Chelsea is basically miraculous! I never thought I’d see us come within a post of the CL. We should be enjoying it not hoping we’re going to change managers twice a season.

    Harry… If Villas-Boas was a player we’d be saying “give him time to adapt to a new league” ” can’t judge him till he’s had a year” all the old cliches. You don’t really want him sacked before we’ve even found out if he really is as good as they say do you? Madness.

  27. Gleb

    And since we’re onto the wider world of football, everyone please take note of Napoli and their manager. They’re playing a very interesting 3-4-3, in quite a fruitful manner, their front three one of the most exciting in Europe. I mean, haven’t seen so many special and properly exciting teams in the CL for a long time. It’s usually them moneybags and them regulars. Gutted for Borussia, as they were quite interesting as well (Gotze is a beast we should be saving money for).

  28. Anonymous

    Like limetreebower I enjoyed a moments schadenfreude but actually we’ve got too many issues ourselves for us to gloat for too long.

  29. Cunningplan

    Something I just spotted on the main CFC site which I wasn’t aware of, admittedly academic now, but we might have been celebrating prematurely had it been 0-0
    I’ve cut and pasted the article…

    NO-SCORE-DRAW RESULT CLARIFICATION
    Posted on: Tue 06 Dec 2011
    The regulations have been clarified regarding how qualification from Group E will be settled tonight should three teams in the group finish on the same points. If Genk win their home match against Bayer Leverkusen then a 0-0 draw in the match at Stamford Bridge would send Valencia rather than Chelsea into the knockout stage. This is because Bayer Leverkusen, Chelsea and Valencia would all have nine points and in a comparison of all the results between the three teams (without the games against Genk included), Bayer Leverkusen would have more points and Valencia would have scored more goals than Chelsea. If Genk fail to beat Bayer Leverkusen then a 0-0 draw remains sufficient for Chelsea to progress.

  30. NorthernVA

    BB that was an absolutely excellent match report. One of the most eloquent valedictions of our greatly underappreciated number 11. As a massive DD apologist I just want to say….thanks. One of the byproducts of the week is that all of those boast from Liverpool and United fans proclaiming the superlative footballing ability of Torres and Rooney over Drogba can finally be put to rest. He won’t be easily replaced as we have learned since January but none of the true greats are. 

    Secondly I hear that AVB has taken another swipe at Gary Neville today. I just don’t understand it to be honest. Neville was as fair as any announcer I have seen cover CFC in recent times. Even with possession at 32% he was praising AVB and our players profusely. If Neville got him worked up on Tuesday than I really hope he never tunes in to Adrian Durham’s show, ffs!

  31. Ryan

    I actually don’t think Gary Neville is a bad pundit either. His experience at the top level in recent times gives him a greater insight than a lot of other supposed experts. However I guess AVB is still sore about the Luiz comment which was what he was referring to specifically and I think he is right in this case. Far too many “experts” lazily want to jump on certain bandwagon. De Gea is another. I’ve seen him keep Utd in several games this season with world-class saves. Wednesday night however he was made the scapegoat for a bad team performance. Rooney missed an absolute sitter from two yards (imagine if it was Torres!?) and the 10 year old controlling Chris Smalling must have fallen asleep for the Basel second goal.

    I am yet to hear anyone single either out as having cost Utd the chance to go through to the CL last 16. De Gea though is a popular target for the media. It’s lazy journalism and punditry with plenty of “insight” being a lot of old pros and know nothings (Durham) jumping on an obvious bandwagon.

    So I see why AVB gets the hump. Fergie’s done the same for years when his players have been victimized in the media. A team whose manager goes in to bat for them, whatever the situation and whatever the damage to his own media image, is a team that will grow to love and respect their manager. And that is what we need at the minute. Everyone pulling in the same direction. What a motivation. Beat City on Monday night and shove it right up the press pack and AVB will have gone a long way to ensuring his future at Chelsea.

  32. Ryan

    Today’s transfer news…

    Firstly (and most importantly) AVB has confirmed Oriol Romeu is our player. Barcelona have no buy-back clause as such. They only have first refusal IF Chelsea wish to sell.

    Could Robinho be returning to the PL? According to The People the Brazilian could be making the switch to Chelsea if AC sign Tevez. Seriously doubt whether there is any truth whatsoever in this story. Personally I think if we could get him at a good price he could be a great signing. Those suggesting he flopped at City would do well to remember he never wanted to sign for City. He never looked happy, motivated or part of the team. He wanted to come to Chelsea and if he still wants to come he could be a PL star.

    Modric is NOT coming to Chelsea according to AVB. Neither is Alvaro Perreira. Rumours still around regarding Moutinho and no denial from the boss on this one. So who knows?

    Cheick Tiote could be our new Michael Essien. If his “Witch Doctor” (according to Daily Mirror) can heal his knee injury! Must have been a quiet day on the sports desk.

    So there you have it. Any thoughts?

  33. Ryan

    Yeah I reckon. Lots of paper talk. Cahill might still be a goer. AVB didn’t exactly rule him out. Just said how good he was but that no approach had been made. Still think the deal will be done in January but Bolton will keep him until summer. Reckon if Chelsea offer this and Josh on loan Bolton’ll go for it. Maybe the promise of Lukaku on loan next season when he’s eligible.

  34. Ryan

    Anyone catch Chris Foy’s latest “performance” this afternoon. Surely they’ll demote him to the Championship soon. Obviously I wasn’t gutted to see Tottenham “Can they win the league?” Hotspur get turned over at the Brittania but he seemed to let the pressure get to him and the poor decisions just snowballed.

    Bit like QPR. Failed to award a free kick for Helguson’s push on Luiz only to give a penalty the other way for another push. Thereafter refused to show consistency on pushing and holding in the box and booked every Chelsea player he could lay eyes on to try to regain some control. Very poor refereeing. I know it’s a hard job and his linesman didn’t help him today but his reaction to his mistakes and a hostile crowd mark him out as a weak referee. Then again perhaps I’m just stilll sore about QPR.

  35. Der_Kaiser

    Maybe those pre-season tours to the Far East are actually just sales trips of sorts…

    Had to laugh at Avram’s comments about Anelka – never showed enough passion or gave his best for the team, apparently.  This coming from the man who was on record to anyone that would listen that he didn’t want Anelka and told the player this to his face when he arrived.  Can’t imagine why the guy wasn’t motivated to give his all for the cause.

    Odd that the same player ended up with the PL golden boot the following season.  

  36. Anonymous

    What a strange career Nic has had. I wish him all the best and on the whole I think we’ve had our money’s worth out of him, but his history suggests that he’s never quite turned out to be as good as he appears to be — good enough to play for a series of Europe’s top teams and yet always moving on. Culminating in the bizarre disaster of the 2010 World Cup and now twilight years (or months) in China.

    He seems like one of those characters who wasn’t perhaps at heart cut out to be a professional sportsman.

    I’m taking both the Limetreeshrubs dahn the Bridge tonight, for the first time. Gale and torrential rain forecast to arrive some time around the beginning of the second half. Much excitement in the household.

  37. bluebayou

    Like boarding school, that was character building! Without the bugggery of course.

    Straight out of the Chelsea playbook.

    Oh. It’s Wigan next. But that’s another day.

  38. Anonymous

    Quite right, Dr B. Very old school, and none the worse for that.

    The hacks will be seething. I’m sure they were desperate to turn the tables after the Friday press conference.

    Not quite sure how we won that game in the end — Citeh seemed to stop playing after 20 minutes and though we weren’t particularly penetrating (to say the least) I suppose we just tightened up and moved the pressure down their end. Romeu seemed to have a lot to do with it. Once he got to grips with their midfield everything seemed calmer.

    Great atmosphere too — best crowd noise of the season. Surprised by how few Citeh fans there were. There’s no heat between them and us either (never has been I suspect?).

  39. bluebayou

    What a great first game for the saucepans LTB! Did Mata eclipse Silva? Seemed that way on the box. Poor first twenty minutes then they blocked the middle and forced them wide

    • Anonymous

      Yes, a good one for the shrubs, and I think my canny long-term project to turn them from their rather half-hearted current allegiances to (ahem) other clubs may well be making progress.

      I wouldn’t say Mata eclipsed Silva. (Fave Citeh chant of the night, as Mata jogged away after flubbing a corner: “Cheap David Silva, Your’e just a cheap David Silva. Cheap David Siiiilva, you’re just ” etc.) Silva was quite brilliant for that 20 minutes when we were overrun, and always in space therefater even if we managed to close off his options. Mata was good and has his usual quota of lovely touches but he always looked hurried and under pressure by comparison.

      More of a team performance and perhaps a bit of luck than anything else, but my MotM would be Romeu. He seemed to be key to that plugging of the middle you rightly mention.

      • bluebayou

        Yes you’re probably right but I felt that Mata had to work harder for his possession and influence. Once we tightened up Silva was far less influential. I’m not decrying him as a player, he is lovely to watch, but maybe becuase he’s playing in a team that struggles a bit, Mata is having to get used to playing the hard yards more than Silva.

        Yes, like against Newcastle we took what lady luck offered, but as in  that game took full advantage.

  40. Ryan

    I thought we showed tonight that if you pressure City they’ll make mistakes like anyone else and that is compounded by their indiscipline when things aren’t going their own way and they’re not being allowed to completely boss the game.

    I’m not saying they’re just flat track bullies, they’re better than that. But when Norwich etc. just let them have the ball for 85 of the 90 minutes they’re just trying to keep the score respectable in the knowledge that getting beaten by City won’t really impact on their season.

  41. Ryan

    Yeah I see you’re point with Mata. But having watched Silva in his first season in the PL I can’t help but be impressed with Mata. Silva wasn’t exerting the same influence last year as he is this. To be honest when I saw Silva prior to this season I did question his ability to influence games in the PL (yeah I reckon I maybe got that one wrong). Point is he has had more time to adapt. It also helps that he is playing with Toure whose physicality allows Silva etc. to create.


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