The Guardian, Dominic Fifield: “Lost amid the tub-thumping rallying cry delivered by John Terry on the eve of this contest had been Carlo Ancelotti’s reminder that Chelsea had “not died”. This first-leg saunter in Denmark was nothing more than confirmation that the Champions League may yet breathe new life into the club’s season. The Londoners have their respite.”
Daily Telegraph, Henry Winter: “Chelsea emerged from the Big Chill at Ice Station Parken, guided to within touching distance of the quarter-finals of the Champions League by the outstanding Nicolas Anelka. Crisis?”
The Independent, Sam Wallace: “Carlo Ancelotti left the pitch with a fist raised in salute to the Chelsea fans who sung his name in the away end of the Parken Stadium and when he looks back on last night, the Italian will reflect it has been a while since that has happened. It has been a while since his Chelsea team have been quite so good as they were last night.”
Official Chelsea FC Website: “Nicolas Anelka netted twice in Copenhagen as the Blues secured a comfortable lead to take into the second leg of the first knock-out round in Europe. Fernando Torres looked sharp inside a freezing Parken Stadium and the Blues dominated the Danish side from start to finish, with Anelka scoring in both halves.”
“This is the end
This is the end
My only friend, the end
Of our elaborate plans, the end
Of everything that stands, the end
Lost in a Roman… wilderness of pain
And all the children are insane
All the children are insane
Waiting for the summer rain, yeah”
(The Doors – The End)
Well that kind of sums everything up at the moment so I bid you adieu and will now return to my bed for a cry as I reflect further on this car crash of a season…
…still crying here…
…hey, none of that sniggering in the back, I can still see you…
…Ok I’m back and in the words of JT, “it’s time to fucking man up!” Well I think that’s what he said as that was the message being portrayed on the news yesterday and well, it kind of fits this introduction so I’m happy to use it.
And man up I have. Well sort of, but I’ve had enough of the pathetic sniping at Roman from some sections of the press (the bullshit I’ve read this week about Roman wanting to meddle in the team with “his signings” or that he’s fallen out of love with the club or that he hasn’t shown Carlo enough patience or that he even wants to become the de facto coach of the side, really has been exasperating) and beyond that, enough of the pathetic, white flag raising, Bosingwa-patented, “I don’t give a shit” attitude of some of our players and staff. JT’s rallying cry was a start as when you’re facing a crisis – and after four months of frankly embarrassing results this is most definitely a crisis – what the fans expect is some fight, some commitment and some fucking passion. The results and sad crumbling of this Jose constructed empire have depressed us all but what has angered me the most is the pitiful acceptance that everything is lost.
As well it being the time to “man up” though, I feel it’s also time that we all grew up and discussed the issues at hand in a more mature and intelligent manner. I know that we have some followers in the crowd who are of, well, how do I put this, a more experienced, calm and learned persuasion (phew, I got away with that didn’t I? It’s not as if I called you all old… damn) and the arguments made on the blog this week were rational, well laid out and extremely logical as you all called for calm in the face of yet another reactionary and hyperbolic media campaign to almost force Carlo to resign or preferably, Roman to sack him. However, this maturity seems to have deserted some parts of the media, the Chelsea support and crucially the playing squad.
Honestly though, and it pains me to admit this, when I had just finished watching that debacle against Everton and proceeded to read the endless column inches of mocking, self-congratulatory, “I told you so” themed match reports out of morbid curiosity, I too was in the mood for blood. I didn’t care that we had actually created a fair few chances in the match or that the lottery of a penalty shoot-out had tossed us out of the Cup and was instead on the lookout for a scapegoat. Torres had already been proclaimed as a flop after 130 whole minutes of action but he was cup-tied so I couldn’t really blame him! The media therefore focused their crosshairs, inevitably, on Carlo. “He’s lost the dressing room!” “He can’t handle the Chelsea egos!” “Carlo’s on the brink!” And honestly, a small part of me, whilst in my weekly venting phase thought: “Good, enough is enough and it’s time for a change.” Looking back now, that stance seems so pathetic that all I can do is laugh but in a strange way that reaction seemed natural and somehow justified. At the time and interestingly, again last night in the build up to the match, I hate to admit it, but a part of me wanted him out. I sat there, listening to Jose talk in his intense and brooding way about the Real-Barca rivalry and his continued love at Chelsea and well, I began to long for him.
I didn’t care that wanting Jose to return was driven more by the heart than the head because as a fan I was allowed to have these moments of weakness, right? But how do you explain the incredibly reactionary and hyperbolic tone of the media? If we looked at the problems facing the club at the moment in a rational manner then it’s true that Carlo does deserve a fair share of criticism. His substitutions have at best been conservative and at worst been counter-productive. He clearly places too much importance on massaging the players’ egos and currently looks rather impotent in his inability to motivate the side. But many have failed to recognise that Carlo has made huge strides in recent weeks to change. We asked him to drop Didier and he has. We asked him to change the formation and he has, three times. We asked him to show more passion and he has, especially as he told every waiting journalists that “Chelsea aren’t dead yet!” So why haven’t these changes been acknowledged? It really shouldn’t surprise me that many in the media have decided to focus on the negatives in this troubled period but a more balanced and mature debate regarding our present predicament would have been greatly appreciated from fans of all persuasion and not just us Chelsea nuts.
It’s time then for a lot of us to grow up then. The fans should be able to move on from the extreme highs or lows of a Chelsea result but equally the media should know that the overly simplistic bullshit they spout every week of Chelsea “being in CRISIS” or on the other hand seeing the return of “the real Chelsea” on the back of one result just isn’t acceptable anymore. Everyone is waiting for more mature and insightful analysis of the situation we’re in at the moment and sadly, until that moment comes we’ll still be living in the bipolar, irrational and at times crazy world of Chelsea extremism we know, love and hate in equal measure.
So folks, knowing that rational thought and reasoned and balanced analysis are probably a couple of decades away, what kind of night was this going to be? It seemed strange to say but a Champions League tie against the 150-1 outsiders had turned into our make or break game of the season. It was so sad to see many talk of “coming home with an away goal, even in a defeat” as being a good result because it not only confirmed the depressing fall of this once great side but it was also a further example of the rather pathetic, defeatist attitude that had overtaken this club in recent weeks. A scoring defeat against frankly awful opposition would be unacceptable in my mind and I for one was hoping for one last hurrah from the old guard to show that Chelsea were indeed still alive.
Either that or some passes to a blue (black) shirt.
Cech, Bosingwa, Ivanovic, Terry, Cole, Ramires, Essien, Lampard, Malouda, Anelka, Torres.
Subs: Turnbull, Drogba, Mikel, Zhirkov, Ferreira, Kalou, McEachran.
So Carlo had the balls to drop Didier and switch to a flat 4-4-2. What more could you fucking ask for? Well a start for Josh would have been nice but baby steps will do for now.
It turned out to be highly entertaining and encouraging for those of a Chelsea persuasion. It was an extremely impressive, professional and at times attractive away performance as we dominated the ball for what seemed like 80 of the 95 minutes of play, created chances at will and showed signs of the real Chelsea returning. We’re not only still alive as Carlo told us but in my mind the real Chelsea were back! Ok, scrap that, but a couple more months with performances like these could see us somehow stumble on to a trip to Wembley come May.
Damn, the hope really does kill you doesn’t it?
But strangely the entertainment began even before kick-off. As Ray, in his now customary punditry position was spouting some banal bullshit about a lack of confidence and “Chelsea wanting a good result tonight here, Jeff” (when do we ever not want that?) he suddenly noticed that Didier hadn’t turned up for the warm up. Getting dropped is meant to provoke a positive reaction in a player, with Carlo hoping that Didier would fight back, wanting to show everyone that he still deserves a place in this side (he doesn’t but hey, we’ll come to that later). Instead he went off for a sulk and confirmed to me that his disgusting attitude and shit performances are no longer wanted at this football club.
Personally though, as soon as we kicked off, you could sense that something was different about us. I’m not sure if it was the shape, having more natural width plus a partner for Torres certainly proved to be a revelation, or if it was the high tempo we were playing at, but it looked like, as Alan Smith on commentary put it “that Chelsea mean business tonight.”
Torres and Nico were developing a promising partnership as they looked to feed each other at every opportunity in the early stages. Frank, the guy who can only play in a 4-3-3 according to some, was revelling in his central midfield role and Malouda was giving one of his most encouraging performances for months. It even included sustained periods of sprinting, tracking back and some impressive passing! Yep, something really was different.
Fernando was making a number of great runs as he pulled to the inside left channel, first crossing well for a Lampard volley, then taking on and beating the last man Tal Ben Haim style to earn the defender a yellow card and finally dropping deep to turn, beat his man and flight a delightful ball to Nico whose volley was deflected over. It was a very promising start from the £50m man and not even a wasteful touch in front of goal could dampen my joy at seeing Fernando getting close to his best again. The goals will come but in terms of his all round game, he started brilliantly.
At this stage Copenhagen hadn’t managed to get into our half let alone launch a meaningful attack and our dominance was rewarded with a stunning goal from Nico. Picking up on a delightfully weighted through ball from Jesper Gronkjaer, he raced forward, dropped a shoulder and fired home into the bottom corner. There was hardly a celebration from our players or Carlo as they all knew that this was just the start of any potential Chelsea comeback after four months of dire performances but hey, what a way to begin.
Usually going 1-0 up causes us to sit deep, get sloppy and then inevitably concede. But there was none of that in this first half. First Fernando skinned his marker with some fancy footwork before seeing his chipped finish get well saved and then some beautiful build up play between Ash, the increasingly impressive Malouda and Lamps resulted in a stunning reverse through ball from Frank into the path of Torres. His first touch on a bafflingly awful pitch was a little off and the toe poked finish was tame in the end. But everything apart from the finish was back in his game and to see him power past defenders with bursts of pace and even track back to attempt to win back the ball for the team was hugely encouraging. It confirmed to me at least that this is most certainly Didier’s final season with us.
So, we were doing well. The football was high paced and pleasing on the eye. The back five were putting in exemplary and solid performances and even Essien had found his passing boots as he minimised the sloppy passes to about one in five! But that wasn’t to say that everything was going perfectly. Complacency did creep into some of the players causing Carlo to scream at them to keep running and going forward when they had so much time and space on the ball (that kind of sums Chelsea up doesn’t it? Time, space and freedom to go and score goals but we’d rather lounge around in our own half). It got so bad that when Bosingwa did his usual trick of seeing 40 yards of free grass to run into, he slowed to a walk then actually stopped before doing… well, absolutely fuck all as he just stood there, admiring the view. It forced Frank to actually scream abuse at him to continue to fucking play and was a disappointing part of the half.
As well as that the 4-4-2 system was also troubling me. We looked great going forward as Malouda provided the width, Fernando and Nico roamed all over the place in free roles and Lamps got forward at every opportunity, allowing Ramires and Essien to sit back. However, I’ve always hated this shape as in the words of Jose “people can always play between the lines.” There were too many straight lines on the pitch when defending, despite the fluid attacking play of our front four, and Copenhagen regularly found space in their number 10 position. The fact that they didn’t know how to pass or shoot meant that we did get away with it but if we gave Messi that time and space, we’d be fucked. But the half ended with yet more waves of Chelsea pressure as Nico and Fernando continued to drive forward and the beaming smile and silly little fist pump I gave to myself confirmed that we’d been great thus far.
The second half started predictably. Copenhagen ran around like lunatics after a half time hairdryer from their crazy manager and we simply sat back, confidently repelling each of their pathetic attacks. Copenhagen’s approach play was pretty pitiful and after a few embarrassing long shots, we decided to wake from our slumber and score a stunner of a second goal. JT, Ash, Malouda and Essien all played some lovely one and two touch keep ball before some pace was injected into the attack. A clever ball around the corner was fired to Frank who immediately chipped a reverse pass to Nico in the inside right channel and despite going away from goal he expertly half volleyed the ball into the bottom corner. It was a beautiful goal full of fluid movement, incisive passing and with an expert finish to round it off. That was the match and tie over and now the only three remaining points of order were Fernando’s search for a goal, the continued gelling in a 4-4-2 and Didier’s introduction!
Strangely we then decided to go for the third goal. I say strangely because when have you ever seen Chelsea go for the jugular in recent weeks? Some nice interplay between Frank and Essien fed Fernando on the run about 25 yards from goal with two defenders to beat. He decided against the first time blast at goal and slowed the pace before a step over, shimmy and lovely, left footed, curling shot was brilliantly saved low down by Johan Wiland. He was getting closer and when Frank again played him in (a brilliant partnership is already developing there), this time in the inside left channel, Fernando decided to shrug off the defender – despite the clear shirt pull – burst into the box and from a narrow angle his toe poke was cleared off the line. I had seen enough by now to know that the real Fernando was very nearly back. The pace, power and class were all there and if he’s saving up his goal for Utd, then who am I to complain?
We then decided to fall asleep in classic Chelsea style just to make sure those of us watching at home were still paying attention. First the passing and tempo disappeared from our game as Malouda, Bosingwa and Branners all decided to compete for the prize of the worst passer over five yards award. Then our 4-4-2 was found out as Copenhagen pressed us higher up the park. When Lamps or Essien were isolated near the touchlines and JT and Branners were both marked, without an easy out ball, both of our midfielders were forced into suicidal square balls which were regularly cut out. Inevitably Copenhagen messed up those counter-attacking chances but again, if it was Barca, just think of the horrific scenes that would follow!
And finally we came to the biggest event of the night: Didier’s entrance. We know he loves to play the pantomime villain but after he came on for the superb Anelka, all he did was anger me, causing me to shout abuse at the screen thanks to his disgusting, lazy and careless performance. I was interested to see how he would react to getting dropped and his earlier sulk so I watched him carefully as soon as he came on. To say I was impressed would be, well, a fucking lie.
His first four touches were all abysmal as easy passes to his chest or feet flew off towards an opponent. His fifth touch was a header to no-one. His sixth touch was a three yard square pass to Essien. His seventh was a nice chest control, followed by another abysmal pass. Then his ninth was a 45 yard shot, at an angle into the back boards. It was a pathetic, arrogant, diva-like performance and to see all the players turn away from him in disgust when he decided to shoot on that final occasion said it all really. This is the end for him and even if you leave aside his antics, his all-round team play was shocking. The reason why Nico and Fernando worked so well was because they both moved, rotated and played between the lines. One would drop off and then feed the other, who would be on the shoulder of the last defender. Didier however thought it was a better idea to walk around like some dinosaur. Didierplodacus would have been an apt name as he plodded around, not doing anything. These last few months of the season look like being a sad end to a great Chelsea career. He is a legend but now he just looks pathetic.
And that was about that. Kalou and Zhirkov got about 90 seconds between them as subs and Carlo and his silly hat trudged off the pitch knowing that the old dog isn’t quite dead yet.
- Attitude – More than anything in recent weeks, the players’ attitude has been the reason why we’ve dropped like a stone down the table. Being together for so long inevitably means that things become stale and that some players lose motivation and I don’t know if it was Roman’s meeting at Cobham, the shift to a 4-4-2 or some Carlo hairdryers but the tempo, commitment and passion were all back.
- Football – Fluent, mobile, full of rotation, movement, slick passing and dangerous attacking play. With more luck and training, the goals will come.
- Carlo – Finally, he’s decided to do it his way. If he’s going to go down and get the sack soon, he might as well go down fighting. Choosing 4-4-2 against weak opposition was inspired as it gave us the width as well as the two strikers we’ve been crying out for, especially as 4-3-3 is now dead in terms of effectiveness for us. But dropping Didier was the biggest plus. Didier’s usually gone off in a sulk when dropped – and he didn’t disappoint last night – but the performances of our front two completely vindicated your decision. I suspect that Didier’s late introduction may also have been designed to show some Chelsea fans the stark difference between a player hungry and willing to give his all for Chelsea and a 33 year-old diva who is tarnishing a legendary Chelsea career.
- Nico and Fernando – Full of selfless running, rotation and deadly finishing, this partnership looks like a gem.
- Cech – An exhibition in how to claim crosses.
- Spurs – They never let you down do they?
- Bosingwa – There’s a reason you haven’t got a new contract mate and your lazy attitude not only pissed off Carlo and Lamps on the pitch but also the fans at home. Embarrassing at times, which ruined a promising defensive performance.
- No Josh – Carlo’s comments that he just needs time and probably another pre-season before he can challenge for more starts are probably wise but sometimes you just feel that even if he isn’t getting starts, some 15 or 20 minute substitute appearances would be more helpful than falling asleep next to Emenalo.
- Didier – A sad end as I’ve said. His attitude, technique, team play, movement, passing and shooting were all verging on the embarrassing. I just hope he realises that this is not the way to bow out of Chelsea.
- Cech – 9/10 – Exemplary
- Bosingwa – 5/10 – Lazy
- Branners – 6/10 – Sloppy
- JT – 8/10 – Rock solid (moronic yellow card apart)
- Ash – 7/10 – Improving
- Ramires – 7/10 – Crucial (a guaranteed starter now whose energy and power now run this side at times)
- Essien – 7/10 – Impressive
- Lampard – 8/10 – Classy
- Malouda – 7/10 – Encouraging
- Nico – 9.5/10 – Superb
- Torres – 9/10 – So nearly back to his best. The fans already love him though judging by the constant singing of his name
- Didier (sub) – 0/10 – An embarrassment
- Zhirkov (sub) – 5/10 – Two touches
- Kalou (sub) – 5/10 – One touch
- Carlo – 10/10 – Masterminded a near perfect away performance. New formation, new team selection and new attitude. You’re determined to go out on a high Carlo and I love you for it.
Man of the Match
It has to be Nico. Utterly sublime. Fernando ran him close though.
So how about that then?
There were moments in the past week when I really thought that we were on the verge of imploding but Carlo’s words that “we’re not dead yet” were certainly proved right last night. The football was great, the passing was great but crucially the attitude was great. The players really wanted to put on a show and perhaps the pressure of these next few “Champions League or bust” months is about to bring about the best in them.
Carlo also told us that this could still be Chelsea’s best ever season and that his Champions League win in 2007 should tell everyone that he does know what he’s doing. But he ended that season 36 points, nope that is not a typo, 36 points behind Inter in the league and the strategy to go for broke in one knockout competition is at best risky and at worst suicidal. Ghost goals, dodgy referees, red cards or Jose could all still ruin it for us but this performance has made me strangely excited to find out how this ride will end. I asked at the start if it’s time to have a more mature and considered reaction to Chelsea performances but after seeing a win and such an encouraging one at that, forget that because as Carlo said “we’re still alive” and Chelsea are well and truly back!
Erm, I may be setting myself up for a fall soon…