Valencia 1-1 Chelsea – Stuck in the Gates of History

The newspaper reports

The Guardian, Kevin McCarra: “Valencia merited a 1-1 draw that diminished the significance of the night for Chelsea and, in particular, for one senior figure. Frank Lampard had scored the opener, as if to prove his value despite the advancing years. Another old hand, the substitute Nicolas Anelka, might have restored Chelsea’s advantage but was denied by a block from Diego Alves. It had been a tense occasion, with Ashley Cole cautioned for an incident that followed the full-time whistle.”

The Daily Telegraph, Jason Burt: “Andre Villas-Boas had lauded Frank Lampard’s worth, his magnificence even, having not used him from the start of three of Chelsea’s last four matches but there was a rich dividend on Wednesday night for the manager and for the player. Lampard scored his 20th Champions League goal in his 78th appearance in the competition that has become a Holy Grail for him and for Chelsea.”

The Independent, Glenn Moore: “Twenty-four hours after one footballer reacted to being dropped by refusing to play, another provided the perfect response to his recent omission. Frank Lampard, whose future had become as big and as sensitive an issue at Stamford Bridge as Fernando Torres’s finishing, marked his return to the starting XI with a typically well-taken goal. His 56th-minute strike looked to have earned Chelsea a second successive Champions League group stage win, but there was a twist in the tale which soured the night for Andre Villas-Boas.”

The Official Chelsea FC Website: “A Valencia penalty in the dying minutes of the game denied Chelsea a third win out of three visits to the Mestalla. Frank Lampard, with his 20th Champions League goal, had given the Blues a second-half lead deserved on chances created. After a tight first half of few opportunities created, both keepers put in star performances in the second half, Valencia’s Diego Alves in particular with a strong claim to be man of the match. Fernando Torres was denied with one special stop and after the home team had levelled, Nicolas Anelka could have won it for the Blues but for the keeper’s good form.”

The goals

56′ Lampard 0-1
87′ Soldado (pen) 1-1

The venue

Valencia is the background to one of Hollywood’s most memorable portrayals of the power of illusion.

Don Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar is mortally wounded by an arrow, the morale of his army has been sapped and the besieged city is on the brink of defeat. But morning sees the corpse of Charlton Heston, (for it is he) strapped rigid in the saddle apparently leading his joyous troops out of through the city walls to engage once more the Moorish army of Ben Yusuf of the Almoravides. Believing they are now confronted by a ghost, terror spreads through the enemy ranks as the narrator intones the immortal lines:

“And thus the Cid rode out of the gates of history into legend.”

And today on this blog Valencia will once again figure at the heart of another great illusion, as I pretend to have been alive in the Mestalla Stadium, while in truth I watched the match prone and corpse-like on my sofa. You dear reader, will recoil Yusuf-like in terror at the prospect of another of my idiosyncratic meanderings.

But as in the original film, there is at least the fragrant Sophia Loren to lift the spirits (she’s the one without the beard).

The opposition

Playing Valencia in European competition is proper football. They first came to my notice as a teenager back in 1978-79 when they beat Arsenal on penalties in the Cup Winners’ Cup. Mario Kempes, a man who defined big hair at a time when big hair could be very big, was their star player, though he did miss in the shoot-out. He was part of that iconic Argentinian World Cup winning team from which Ardiles and Ricky Villa came to Spurs and were managed by Cesar Menotti, a man who redefined chain smoking when a lot of people thought they knew what chain smoking was. None of them came to Chelsea. It was the end of the 70s. I think we all understand what I mean and can move on.

Our recent encounters back in 2007 were exciting, tight games with Essien’s last minute winner being the pick of the four. We were the first English team to beat them on home soil. By then they were old hands in the matter of Champions League heartbreak. I well remember the disappointment they suffered with the two defeats in successive finals, one of those on penalties. The crew-cut hair and tortured look of manager Hector Cuper, the haunted eyes of the Basque, Mendieta, the quality of the Pelligrini/Ayala defensive partnership are among my memories of a great team. (And they beat Leeds, which is never a bad thing.) Unfortunately these relatively successful years went hand in hand with massive debt and it all unwound badly for them. But not before a little tubby bespectacled fellow did a decent stint in the dugout, including a league title or two.

But despite the financial pressures they have continued to produce good teams built on young, exciting players. David Villa, David Silva and now our own Juan Mata, who returns only months after leaving, being among those they’ve sold on to stay afloat.

This season, Valencia have won three of their first five league games and shared a two-all draw with Barcelona. By all accounts they really should have taken all three points against Genk in the first group game. So there could be no illusion about the task awaiting Chelsea.

And with such a potentially exciting game in prospect it was irritating from a Chelsea fan’s point of view that the lead up to the game was coloured by the decision of the tabloid rat pack to get hold of the new boy, shove his head down the bog and flush it, just to show who’s boss and because they perceive him to be an easy wind up.

I don’t doubt that Lampard is not best pleased at being benched. But he’s a bright fellow. I’m sure he recognises that he has yet to regain his old form and is probably working on how best to remodel his game if he feels that it is necessary. AVB is no mug and he’s not going to discard someone of Lampard’s qualities with a season of potentially fifty plus games ahead.

Ultimately it’s a story that will unfold of itself and the negative agenda-setting we’ve seen this week is just self serving nonsense from a group who seem to wallow in endless self-congratulation at what they perceive to be their mastery of the mind-fuck.

But unlike the unfortunate Ben Yusuf and his cohorts, we have seen through the deception and will not buckle in the face of their illusory tripe.

The game

And in the end Lampard did play in this one.

The full team was Cech, Bosingwa, Luiz, Terry, Cole, Mikel, Mata, Ramires, Lampard, Malouda, Torres in what was a 4-1-4-1 formation if I read it right.

The subs were Turnbull, Ivanovic, Romeu, Drogba, Meireles, Kalou, Anelka.

We started well and had a very bright 10 minutes, taking advantage of a nervous Valencia. When Torres stole the ball in the middle of Valencia’s half and drove into the area after three minutes, Rami careened into him with a shoulder and why the referee didn’t point to the spot is a conundrum with which we are all too familiar.

Late on Rami’s defensive partner Ruiz clumsily charged into the back of Malouda and yet again nothing doing. Apart from a yellow for Malouda seconds later when a Valencia player made the most of an innocuous trip as our French wizard lay prone in the area. That decision allied to blowing the final whistle just as Chelsea were about to take a free-kick, which would have put the ball in Valencia’s box, probably contributed to some displays of bad temper from a few like Cole, Mata and Mikel as they left the field. Cole and Mata were booked.

A rather disappointing conclusion, from Mister Rizzoli, to a match he’d handled well.

So after a couple of early chances for the Blues, the Spanish side settled and the most of the first half was a cagey, but I thought quite compelling game. The team selection had suggested we might be conservative and so it proved. Going forward we didn’t commit numbers and rarely put men beyond Torres, who seemed frustrated by the constant manhandling of Valencia’s defenders.

For their part Valencia pressed high up the pitch and when in possession were adept at drifting into the space around Mikel and behind the midfield four.

Apparently, they had been very successful down the left against Barcelona and that was their strong point throughout this game. They constantly overloaded against Mata and Bosingwa who were left exposed when Ramires was either caught upfield or pressing the ball infield.

In the second half Malouda played on the right but the problem continued. I wondered whether that was a reason for withdrawing Ramires after 66 minutes. Possibly Merieles could sit more and help shore things up as well as use his passing ability to help ball retention and hit players upfield more accurately.

The second half began with a far greater determination from Chelsea. They were getting forward in numbers and created four excellent chances in the first five minutes. The goalkeeper Alves, who is not first choice, made two outstanding saves from Torres, one from Ramires and maybe the best from one of his own players.

But they were rocking and in the 53rd minute clever play down the right by Malouda gave him the space to cut the ball back across the box where Lampard finished calmly with a right footer into the left hand side of the net.

Understandably, we eased back somewhat and despite one or two chances for Los Che, it looked as though we could ride out the game. Anelka replaced Torres after 72 minutes, which was a like for like swap. The Spanish continued to press but didn’t carve out any really clear cut chances. However their movement out wide was stretching us, whereas when we funnelled them inside, we were able to break up the threat.

But here’s the thing. Gradually we started to get penned in. Valencia played a high press forcing Cech to clear long rather than distribute by hand. When we made interceptions or tackles in our third we kept giving the ball back under pressure. There was a 10 minute spell after the 70th minute where we didn’t really get out of our half. It wasn’t an all hands to the pumps situation but rather a gradual accretion of pressure, which with a 1-0 lead to protect is dangerous.

So when Kalou came on for Lampard after 83 minutes, it made sense to me. Kalou would play wide right, leaving Malouda to replace Lampard on the left side of the central two alongside Mereiles, with Mikel continuing to hold. Our right side was getting problematic and I can see how the thinking that Kalou’s fresh legs and ability to run with the ball would force Valencia back down their left side as well as give some impetus to the cover in front of Bosingwa.

I’ve never sat and discussed with a mouse what happens to his best laid plans, but I do know what happens to some of man’s.

Before Kalou could have any real effect, indeed he may have given the ball away once or twice, he had to face a corner after Cech made his only real save of the night, tipping a curling shot around his left hand post. Jumping with a Valencia player he led with his arm, didn’t seem to be watching the ball and was duly penalised as the ball brushed his hand before going over his head.

We give one of those away quite regularly in Europe. Ferreira against Barca and Belletti against Juve spring to mind. Sometimes a guy just can’t catch a break.

He did put Anelka through one on one a few minutes later and we could have nicked the game. But Salomon looked shaken and did very little but make mistakes for the final few minutes.

It was a decent point in the end. However we were up against a goal keeper who was in the zone. Ramires and Anelka had one on ones and you really have to put those away. Given that we were in the Valencia of El Cid, perhaps I should have expected that they would “ghost” in behind our central pairing. But it happened a few times and was somewhat unnerving. Combined with the ability of the Spanish to work the left, there is food for thought when we meet them in the return.

Quite frankly I’d rather this sort of examination now, than a cake walk to the next round. For starters it makes for a more enjoyable, if nerve wracking game. It gets the players on their mettle and gives the coaching staff a decent examination of their strategy and tactics.

It was a proper game of football and coming to Valencia, I expected no less.

The players

Cech did a good night’s work. I was pleased to see him covering the area in behind the back line and coming for the ball over the top. A good performance from Bosingwa. Some very good work going forward and didn’t crack under the pressure from the Valencia left side. Indeed I thought he was more effective than Cole who was decent but subdued. Luiz didn’t make any howlers but kept losing the ball in our half when bringing it out. Terry was steady but like an old telly had trouble with the ghosting.

Mikel was solid and unruffled, though he was prone to dwell once too often. But he did his job. Malouda was bright tonight. Got through some real work. He made the goal. Lampard was steady and took his chance well. He doesn’t dictate the game like he used to but as we saw against Fulham, he is prepared to get into the trenches. Ramires showed how important his pace is going forward, but I wish he’d put away the one on one. If he can improve his finishing then he could get 20 goals a season. Mata was quieter than I expected. Perhaps it was the occasion. But he didn’t hide and there were flashes from him particularly second half.

Torres should have had a goal. He was denied by great goalkeeping. He should also have had a penalty. While he seemed unhappy in the first half he came alive in the early part of the second half. I think he feels it’s coming back to him. I remember reading an interview he gave when at Liverpool, where he talked about what a great defender Carvalho was. He’s a thinker. He is articulate about the game. Efforts to portray him as a moody airhead are very wide of the mark.

Mereiles and Anelka did their bit. As for Salomon. Better now than when it’s all on the line.

The epilogue

So ends another trip to Spain.

When I was young Spain was being gradually opened up by the package tour industry. But I didn’t have the opportunity to go there and so while some experienced the country through sun, sand and sangria, I was still viewing it through the prism of Laurie Lee’s As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning* and Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia. It gave me an unreal, romanticised feel for a place that no longer exists, if indeed it ever did. Yet somehow, when ever I go there I can’t shake off a sense of the Spain that I only absorbed from books.

I don’t know if it was watching El Cid, or Monty Python and the Holy Grail or perhaps having to read Spenser’s The Faerie Queen at college. But at one time I was wrapped up in a pan European chivalry fest, reading Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur and The Song of Roland among others. There is a relic of those days that I noticed only yesterday on my bookshelf. It is a translation of the 15th century chivalric classic Tirant lo Blanc, written by the Valencian knight Joanot Martorell. The original was written in Valencian Catalan. It is mentioned in Don Quixote apparently. I’ve never got around to reading it. But I will leave it there to remind me that Valencia is about more than football and Hollywood.

*This week co-incidentally I learned through the good office of Rick Glanvill’s twitteridge that Laurie Lee was in fact a Chelsea fan.

There are 63 comments

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  1. Anonymous

    Tremendous stuff Doctor B. And a very astute summary of the game. The #cfc twitterverse was awash with people enraged by a mere draw away from home against a decent Spanish side. Considering the car crash of the Mancs (both) the previous evening and an expected home win for the Arse I’d say a 1-1 draw in a proper game of football was a positive result.

    Sadly I think Kalou may have just torched his last bridge. If he can’t be relied on asa sub then what use is he. A fervent #cfc tweeterperson actually commented as to whether there were any KFCs requiring table wipers sow low has Kalou’s stock fallen. After the Tevez-lite non celebration of the goal last season and the reaction of shrugged shoulders and apathy to last nights decision one has to conclude that a mutually agreed January departure may be the best result for him and us.  

  2. Cunningplan

    Excellent report BB, spot on in your observations.
    Valencia are a pretty good footballing side, so a draw is certainly no disgrace, but with the chances we had, and their keeper playing a blinder, we should really have edged it.

    Have to agree with Tony, and I don’t normally apportion blame on players generally, but Kalou, unless AVB can turn it round, seems to be a lost cause.

    And a note on the referee, had a good game until the end with his card waving, although how he didn’t award us two penalties remains a mystery. Then again, why should we be even remotely surprised when it comes to this competition.

  3. Nick

    Wonderful, wonderful post.

    I only managed to catch the second half, which I enjoyed very much. A proper 45 minutes of football.

    By doing everything he normally does in 90 minutes in 10 minutes (except score a goal), Kalou made himself look a lot worse than he actually is. I do think his confidence is shot though. Probably best for both player and club that he moves on come January. A shame.

    I’m off to Cornwall for a few days later today (I was supposed to go last night but booked the hire car for the wrong date – ho hum). I’m taking my copies of As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning and Cider with Rosie to re-read, thanks in part to this post and Rick Glanvill’s tweet about Laurie Lee. Knowing that Lee got pissed in the Chelsea Arts Club before attending Chelsea games will make them all the more enjoyable.

  4. Anonymous

    So far I’ve been impressed with AVB’s intelligence and decision making.  I’m hoping that bringing on Kalou, to see us over the line, was a mental aberration.

    Obviously the party line is “we’d have been satisfied with a point” but after having so many chances, and being in the lead until the 87th minute, it’s difficult not to feel a tad disappointed with the draw.

    We had so many chances.  I don’t think Torres could have struck/headed his two efforts in the second half any better, they were just amazing saves.  But Ramires or Anelka should have buried their one on ones.  Following on from United away is this seasons epitaph going to read “we should have won that!”

  5. Anonymous

    We really needed Saloman to ‘do a Tevez’ and refuse to come on, didn’t we?

    In Torres’ 3 match absence, we should have the personnel up top to ensure Kalou doesn’t need to be on the pitch. Where was Studge tonight? Big game for him on Sunday, back at Bolton. Bottom of the table. Will it be then that we convert our multitude of chances?

    Youre right though BB, better it happen now than in a match with something at stake. I’d have taken a point before the game so whilst I’m still disappointed in the manner we lost the lead, can’t be too despondent.

  6. Cunningplan

    With regard our one on ones, I’m sure that practice on the training ground can remedy the problem with our players. Besides at least we’re creating chances and ripping open defences, to get us into those positions, which has to be seen as a positive.

  7. Anonymous

    Lovely post. For totally inexplicable reasons I have a line from El Poema del mio Cid by heart, though I know no Spanish whatsoever and have never read the thing in translation or indeed seen any of the movies.

    ‘Dios que alegre fue  el abbot Don Sancho!’

    which as far as I know means — ‘God! How happy was abbot Don Sancho!’

    which is probably not one of European literature’s most memorable lines.

    I only mention it because it perhaps gives me some sympathy with the bizarre state of senseless confusion that is the mind of Salomon Kalou. I’ve always backed the lad, and it’s always too tempting to pronounce a terminal sentence on the basis of on fuckup, but one can’t help feeling that he’s now well behind all our other options in that position.

    This new version of Chelsea (is this what AVB means by ‘vertical’? — one assumes he’s not about to go and buy Jan Koller and Nicola Zigic) is going to take some getting used to, but it’s certainly a lot of fun to watch in a relatively low-stakes game like that. The players all seem to have bought into it, though, and you have to be impressed by the difference between this and the West Brom home game: whatever this vertical business is all about they seem to be getting it pretty quickly.

    Incidentally, I didn’t really think that was a penalty in the early minutes, and in fact — weird comment perhaps — I don’t think I’ve ever seen a European game so well refereed. He spotted all the dives, let stuff go when he could, and generally seemed to do everything right. Wonder if his buildings look nice. Those Italian architects have some form.

  8. Der_Kaiser

    Lovely stuff, BB.  A decent result, with a hint of disappointment, but at this stage of the competition avoiding defeat to the next strongest side in the group is just fine.  Huge credit to Frank – an excellent performance to silence the hacks and the ‘sell him, he’s shot’ crowd, who seem to be much quieter this morning, but then again they’ve got Kalou to vent about instead.

    Sad but rather predictable to see the knives come out for young SK, and the glee with which they are being wielded is pretty unseemly to.  A stupid mistake, no doubt, but far greater players make them and best they do so in a game like this than elsewhere.  I don’t spend much time on other clubs’ blogs and message boards, but I don’t think that I’ve ever seen such spite and bile directed at a player by his own fans before.  Agree that the poor guy should just move on now – his quiet, unswerving loyalty and effort have never particularly appreciated here, which I think is far more to do with others than it is him.And so to Bolton – shall be heading off to la belle Francais around about KO time, so look forward to picking up the report on here later in the day.

  9. PeteW

     ‘I don’t think that I’ve ever seen such spite and bile directed at a player by his own fans before’
    It was horrible, nasty, bullying, ignorant scapegoating. Made me very sad. Most things in football don’t bother me, but attacking one of your own who always gives of his best – never mind that his best is not good enough – I find genuinely upsetting.

    Still, at least we’ve got Torres! His car crash, couldn’t be arsed, thirty minutes in the first half showed once again that his attitude is still nowhere near good enough for what we spent. 

    • Anonymous

      I sort of want to reply to this and Der Kaisers post.

      I’m sorry Torres…car crash? But for 2 world class saves he would have been lauded as the hero of the night. In the first half he was subdued at best…but pouting/sulking? No way. Just because he isn’t a marauding bullying striker like Drogba doesn’t mean he isn’t  trying his best. And when it comes to sulking and pouting or having car crash matches then our very own Didier has had more than his fair share for us (Moscow 2008 anyone?) 

      I’ve never liked Kalou much, never thought he was quite good enough. Always a bit of a Herol ‘Bomber’ Graham (was a boxer ever so ill nicknamed?) type of player. Soft spoken, well liked but missing the intelligence and decision making sharpness required to be a regular top striker.Being well liked by his team mates shouldn’t ever be a reason to keep a player on boiard i9f thyey simply aren’t of tghje required quality.  I don’t believe the bile being dished out is any worse than the Utd fans are dishing to Berbatov at the moment, or City fans (now) to Tevez. If you read arseblog I think you’ll find the same levels of disdain were levelled at Bendtner and Eboue as well in the past. 

      Fans aren’t stupid. We know what we can see, and what seems obvious is there is a sizeable majority who don’t like or rate Kalou. I think I may have termed the phrase Kalou-less a few years back and last night epitomised all that seems wrong with his capability, but maybe now we can add mental attitude and team spirit to the list of failings. It’s hard to deny

      a.) his piss poor contribution after coming on, losing possession, missing challenges
      b.) the sheer stupidity of the handball at a critical point in the game
      c.) the apathy of his reaction

      When c.) is combined with his goal protest last year then I think it’s clear both he and the club would benefit from a move. If he succeeds elsewhere then fair play, but something tells me that after 6 years of little improvement to the point where under his 5th coach at Chelsea he still isn’t anywhere near a first choice (and after last night is even further way I would guess) then perhaps it’s time to note that lots of fans and 5 coaches probably can’t be wrong.

      On the level of the bile, well people tweet, blog comment, yell at the TV in the heat of the moment and in retrospect the hatred has dropped off today, with a more circumspect ‘it’s time to go’ vibe going on

      On plus point, other than a very enjoyable game, was that another ‘marmite’ player in John Mikel Obi, Obi Mikel, Mikel John Obi or whatever his name is.seems to be doing exactly the opposite of Kalou and showing huge improvement in confidence and desire. He was great against Swansea and last night did a fantastic covering midfield job, complementing Luiz (who still seems to enjoy a wander bless him) with little fuss. It’s a shame more people can’t see his migration to a Makalele/Desaiily/Ballack hybrid instead of just endlessly quoting the same old ‘doesn’t move the ball forwards quickly enough’ bollocks. 

      Anyway, here’s to Bolton, surely even we can’t louse that up such is the grim form they’re in.  

      • Der_Kaiser

        Reasonable points on Kalou; don’t agree with most of them, but there you go.  My point (and I believe Pete’s) is that he simply doesn’t deserve the stick he’s getting – he gives his best, which may not be world-beating but it’s more than some are putting in right now.

        I’m sure City fans are giving Tevez grief – but refusing to get off your arse and play is probably a far better reason for attracting stick than the ones being used to justify the crap that has been dished out to Kalou over the years.

        Wish him well when he moves on – perhaps if he had his time again, he should have refused to play, or screamed for more money like sometime ‘hero’ Joe Cole, or whined to the press when he wasn’t getting enough game time.  The attitude towards him (and to an extent Carlo) and the treatment they’ve received at the hands of the club and a sizeable section of its supporters has left a fairly sour taste in my mouth in the last season or two; we really can be utterly classless at times, frankly.

  10. Machchan

    Enjoyable read, thanks BB.  Have a couple of minor quibbles if I may:

    1.  The game didnt change my long-held opinion that Bosingwa is a dodgy defender.  You said he performed well and I’d agree as far as the few trips down the pitch he did make.  As a defender though he was repeatedly saved by someone covering for him e.g. Luiz who cut across to save his bacon a few times.  

    2.  Our dear young(ish) man Kalou.  You are too kind.  OK the vitriol he regularly gets is a tad excessive and yes his confidence is not great but it is apparent that he does not belong in this class.  Great skills in training and occasionally on the pitch cannot make up for the other 95% of cluelessness.  Jan is the time to let him go and find his level.

  11. Anonymous

    Taking GrocerJacks mention of Luiz, I can’t remember the last time a Chelsea player made me smile so much.

    He’s just utterly batshit mental, isn’t he? Dispossessed numerous opponents with amazing challenges, followed that up with all the grace of Brazilians of old to glide past another one or two opponents, before succumbing to a heavy touch, losing the ball then clattering the next available guy anywhere from the shun upwards.

    He’ll cost us goals, be missed through numerous suspensions but there’s something about his infectious willingness to do it all on his own that is fascinatingly endearing.

  12. PeteW

    Take your point on Torres, but he missed two chances in the second half that we paid £50m to have put away, and his performance in the first half was, for me, the epitome of lackadaisical.

    And he’s always whining to the press blaming other people, and then when he does hit some form he misses a sitter or goes and gets himself sent off.  If Kalou had produced EXACTLY those performances over the past three games, he’d have been coated.

    • Anonymous

      I’m with CP on this, Valencia had done their homework on Torres and were happy to be physical in their attempts to thwart him. The ref was fine until the last few minutes when he bizarrely ignored a stone cold penalty on Flo and then booked him because a player wasn’t watching where he was going and tripped over Malouda’s foot whilst Malouda was lying on the ground. My belief was that although fine he didn’t protect Torres and it’s easy to see why SAF gets upset when hernandez is chopped down all the time. As to what you say on Torres, well it’s subjective really. You don’t fancy him in the same way I don’t fancy Kalou. Horses for courses.

      But I do agree the bile and vitriol does go too far and I don’t think his ‘crimes’ are in the same league as Tevez, but he is similar to berbatov and Bendtner in nthe sense that we know thwey can be superb but they all seem to lack the consistency that a Drogba, Henry, Shearer, Owen (in his heyday) or a Klinsmann had. It’s the difference between being in the top 10 or sitting down in the 30’s or 40s. Berbatov, Bendtner and Kalou are in the latter I suspect, although Kalou and Bendtner in general don’t show the utter apathy that summarises Berbatov. 

      Ultimately Kalou’s display detracted from some great performances from others like Luiz, Mikel, Lampard and Bosingwa (who’d have thought) and although the treatment is unfair, the verdict seems very fair to me and many others.

      • Der_Kaiser

        Difference is that Bendtner has spent most of his career telling the world either moaning about his limited role with Arsenal and that he will be the greatest striker ever ever ever and, well, he isn’t – had he kept his counsel and gone about his business quietly, he may not have attracted some of the stick he’s had.

        In terms of being up there with the ‘greats’, in the days of squads you’ll never get anyone that good to spend large chunks of the season warming the bench.  Listen, if it’s not Kalou, it’ll be someone else who probably isn’t quite top-notch that will be frustrating to watch; we need bit-part players – let’s see if the next one is any better or more consistent and doesn’t go bitching to his agent and the hacks when he doesn’t get the game time.  

        • Anonymous

          But that’s part of the point. Everyone seems to be touting Kalou’s silent loyalty which is frankly bollocks. Either he or his agent went to the press last year very publicly about Kalou’s unhappiness within the club about being passed over again. Ancelotti appeased him to some degree but still it wasn’t enough to prevent him from very publicly not celebrating the goal. He may not have been mimicking Bendtners idiotic claims BUT to try and portray him as some sort of devoutly silent loyal martyr is just plain wrong.  

          I suspect that maybe last night signalled a parting of the ways and with Lukaku and Sturridge in the wings plus the odd potential new purchase it may be the best thing for Kalou to go elsewhere and prove the fans and 5 coaches wrong.  

          • Der_Kaiser

            I think in context what basically amounts to a reasonably justifiable grumble – Mark feckin’ Nicholls could have felt fairly aggrieved at being overlooked for Torres given his truly awful form at the time – over the course of 5 years or so hardly makes him some kind of mouthy rebel.

          • Anonymous

            I think I’ll agree to disagree with you M’lud over Kalou. 

            One things for sure, we’re changing and it all looks rather thrilling.

  13. Cunningplan

    Can’t agree with your views on Torres Pete, for the first 30 mins he was constantly fouled, and blocked off the ball by Valencia players, with very little protection from the ref. I know LTB didn’t think we had a genuine penalty shout when he was through on goal, but outside the box that was a stonewall freekick everyday of the week.
    I agree it’s certainly very sad when Chelsea fans  spout  bile at any of our players, but we’re not the only set of fans that do it. As a matter of fact Poo fans are now directing some crap at Caroll, and are now seeing that £35 million might not be so well spent.

    • Der_Kaiser

      I think that’s the point I’m trying to make; other club’s fans do, but mostly where there is reason (and we are talking Scousers in your example, so rational thought is maybe not to be expected).  Relatively early days, but Carroll looks like a nightclub doorman, not a 35m striker.  Kalou cost the best part of bugger all, has served without complaint for 5-6 years and given his best – he’s not brilliant, but the amount of crap he gets is massively disproportionate given consideration to his contribution and his failings.

  14. SimonT

    It seems many Chelsea fans just take Lampard for granted? Hardly a praise for Supa Frank. His goal is like a guided missile, and the goalkeeper didn’t even know where the hell the ball had gone to. What a beauty! 

  15. Anonymous

    I haven’t seen any bile on this blog towards Kalou but rather frustration.  Kalou’s frustrating performance(s) can’t be considered comparable to the Tevez situation, so if the pair are getting equal levels of opprobrium that’s wholly unjust.

    It’s been pointed out that Kalou is a pleasant chap, clean cut, polite, avoids trouble and a decent human being.  I’m sure all of this is true and I’d be far happier if my daughter came home for Sunday tea with him as opposed to Andy Carol or Craig Bellamy.  However none of this should be taken into account in this blog where we should be assessing footballing skills and contribution.

  16. Anonymous

    It’s also worth mentioning the Lampard kerfuffle. Currently being headlined as Lampard demands more playing time, Lampard unhappy on the bench etc. It all seems taken from his post match interview in which he of course stated that as a player he’d like to start all the time, but that he understands the requirements of the team and the club, and the fans (of whom he was most complimentary) and also went on to declare how much he loved the club. The rest of the interview was intelligent, thoughtful and generally very upbeat. Context, so it seems , doesn’t exist in Fleet Street. 

  17. PeteW

    Think people could be in for some disappointment if think think Sturridge is a massive step-up from Kalou, think the difference between them is more about age and confidence (and the two are related). Kalou’s confidence at the moment looks absolutely shot, and I do think AVB has mismanaged him. I don’t like seeing any talent wasted by bad management. 

    Mulling over writing a piece on Chelsea scapegoats through the ages. Don’t think it will make attractive reading. 

    • Der_Kaiser

      True, but it is more than likely that Sturridge will have a heap of excuses made for him if that turns out to be the case, rather than being the scapegoat as Kalou usually is.  He’s already been deemed a better player on the basis of a loan spell at a club where there is far less pressure to deliver – will be interesting to see how far the excuses go if he doesn’t turn out to be the messiah that he’s predicted to be. 

    • Anonymous

      Oh, I think it will make very attractive reading. After all, we’re the most bi-polar set of fans on the planet and almost typically British in that like most other aspects of society we like nothing more than a moan and some navel gazing even when things are good. . 

      And do you mean scapegoats whilst in  game for Chelsea, or Chelsea players in general? Drogba is heavily hated and scapegoated by some for the sending off in Moscow. But for me, being of a certain age, the biggest ever Chelsea scapegoat was my hero Peter Bonetti, roundly blamed for England’s 1970 WC quarter final exit at the hands of the then West Germany. A 2 goal lead frittered away at the hands of Der Bomber (who gave hope to all short chunky blokes everywhere that we could be footballers)  was all laid at Bonetti’s door and is to this day, despite Sir Alf making a questionable substitution in taking off Charlton for Bell and Peters for Norman Hunter. It also wasn’t helped by the fact that Bonetti hadn’t been used in any capacity leading to the finals and was only told at the last minute he was playing when Banks conformed his illness.

      Go on then, find a bigger Chelsea scapegoat than Bonetti!  

      • Anonymous

        Ah well, now those of us from the Frozen North rather enjoyed the Great England 1970 WC disaster at the time, though didn’t at least Big Mal on the ITV Panel spread the stick around the rest of the defence as well as Bonetti?

        Coming back to Kalou I understand the frustration of many at some [most?] of his performances, but return to his scoring record of 55 goals, almost on a par with Anelka from roughly the same number of starts.

        Also, just as we may now think Wayne Bridge is a bit of a whinging arsehole though we still have that goal against the Gooners as a counterweight, we equally will always have that “goal” of Kalou’s commemorated in song as it was:

        Happy memories!


  18. bluebayou

    Thanks all for the compliments and comments. There’s been some really heartfelt debate on here I can see.

    Given that my view of the substitution runs counter to a lot of what’s been said it is probably worth pointing out that when I wrote the report I wanted to set it down as I had seen it without it being influenced by other views (the ITV stuff excepted of course) and did so before reading the press, twitter etc. I also put it together from notes during the game as I wanted to reflect what I thought as it unfolded.

    Strangley, despite decent arguments to the contrary and the benefit of hindsight, I still think it was a reasonable decision to play Kalou. My view throughout the game was that our right side was struggling to cope with the Valencia overload. Perhaps wrongly (only AVB or RM could probably tell me) I saw two of the three substitutions (not Anelka) as adjustments to try and combat this, while at the same time keeping an attacking threat.

    That’s why, taking your point on board Machchan, I think Bosingwa had a good game. I accept others still question his defensive abilities, but he was constantly dealing with 3 on 2’s and 2 on 1’s and with the odd exception did ok. Compared to the husk of a man we saw return last year, I think he’s been a different player this term. If AVB had felt that Bosingwa was doing poorly I think he would probably have subbed Ivanovic on. But to my mind his substitutions were made to maintain and improve our attacking options while trying to  cover our problem against the Valencia left side.

    I can’t remember the technical term but it’s worth drawing a triangle and putting “Above criticism at the top”,

    “Deserving of support but….” to the left corner and “Deserves all the stick he gets” on the right.

    Now take each player and plot a dot in the triangle based on how you would feel about him after half a dozen poor games.

    Now using a different coloured pen put a dot where you think the majority of Chelsea fans would put it for the same player.

    It would be interesting to see how we view the current squad and how we think everyone else views the same players. Not only will it perhaps expose your prejudices but also your prejudice against what you perceive as other people’s prejudices.

    Sitting on the tube just now (it was the District Line) I started to map this out in my head and have to say that it seems I feel a lot more negative about my fellow fans (or what I perceive to be their views) than I do about the players. I’m now working out what that says about my own prejudices about myself and indeed is that in itself a prejudice……..(the correspondent disappeared up his own anus at this point)

  19. #win singh

    A draw was a fair result in my opinion.  
    Valencia were constantly posing a threat down Chelsea’s right side thanks to Pablo and also the substitute Piatti.  AVB tried to solve this problem through first Meireles and then Kalou to bring both greater defensive awareness/ball retention (Meireles) and pace/keep them accountable down that side (Kalou).
    The other concern was that, more than any other game I have seen in the last few years, the backlline was constantly undone by simple chipped balls over the top.  The change in strategy and game plan (higher defensive line with fullbacks pushing on) is going to take some adjustment, and I’m not sure if JT has the pace/agility to cope right now.  Soldado was through for a one-on-one with Cech (who gambled and got it right) and there were several other clear opportunities from attackers making clever diagonal runs.
    So yes, you can blame Kalou, but I think the goal was always coming.

  20. Anonymous

    I don’t think it would be at all surprising if Kalou trotted out next time he’s called upon and gave a more typical performance: direct, interesting, unfocused and not reliable but always with a degree of threat to the other team. I strongly suspect AVerticalB has the squad he wants, more or less, and won’t change his attitude to it based on one game. That attitude being that Kalou will never be one of the starting front three except in minor competitions, but that he’s a very useful sub.

    Which is more or less what we all think about him too, if you average out the opinions.

    Which is to say: all this will blow over, just like the “Malouda Out”/”Lampard Out”/”Obi Out”/”Bosingwa Out”/”Drogba Out” [have to think back a few years for that one but remember when he himself made the donkey ears, such was his reputation?] stuff did.

    I can’t agree with Pete that Studge doesn’t have a bigger upside, though. He’s far more aggressive in his attitude to goalscoring, and he appears to be getting better season by season, which unfortunately hasn’t really happened for Kalou.

    I also don’t think it’s fair to describe Torres as having missed two chances. In any rational measurement of culpability/failure, the sum total of what Torres failed to do on those two occasions would surely be a microscopic fraction of either Ramires’s or Nic’s incompetence when they had the goalie 1-on-1.

    Re. Bolton: I notice Kakuta is barely playing, even though they’re doing so badly. Looks like we’ve loaned him to a manager who doesn’t want him or doesn’t trust him. Pat Van Aa appears to be Wigan’s regular left back.

  21. WorkingClassPost

    Given that AVB hasn’t quite got into double figures for competitive matches, we’re probably undervaluing the performance and result.

    Frank wasn’t the only one of the ‘doubtfuls’ to have a splendid game. Bosingwa, Luiz and Flo all vied for MOTM. And FT even had those TVTwits drooling and protesting his bad luck.

    As a team, and as individuals, we had spells of dominance and fluency that I found really encouraging and as a learning experience, it must rank with OT as a guide to what we do, and don’t, do well.

    Where we were probably too gung ho in Manchester, last night we stood back too much after scoring and let them play in our half, when seeking a second goal would’ve been the better option.

    But there’s something else that AVB has learnt about Chelsea – One goal is seldom enough!

  22. The Acton side of the Shed

    I was given this yesterday for my Birthday.
    I think it’s the match programme, or possibly a fanzine, but what’s special about it (for me anyway) is the date printed on it. 29th September 1994 – Which was my eighth Birthday. All I know is that the team is from the Czech Republic. I was just wondering if anyone remembers this game at all? What competition it was for and if it resulted in a Chelsea win. It’s a really thoughtful gift, and is going to be added to my ever growing Chelsea museum. 
    It would be really nice to get some knowledge on it, and I naturally felt that here would be the best place to start.  

    • Der_Kaiser

      Morning – this was one of our Cup Winners Cup games from that season; a 0-0 draw but we went through 4-2 on aggregate having won at the Bridge.  We went out in the semis to Real Zaragoza, who beat Arsenal in the final (the ‘Nayim from the halfway line’ game…)  Poyet was playing for Zaragoza at the time.

    • John D

      I believe that Dmitri Kharine saved a penalty in this 2nd leg that kept the tie from getting too hairy (If the pen was scored, we would have been 1 goal from going out). The atmosphere for the first leg at the Bridge was electric for our return to European football in the ‘Cup Losers Cup’.

      Re Chelsea Scapegoats – Darren Wood anybody? Keith Dublin? We always seemed to need to have one of our own players to pick on in the mid-1980s, rather unnecessarily I thought.

      I read once that Peter Bonetti was run over by a bus in Mexico in 1970. He was OK though, it went through his legs… 

  23. NorthernVA

    Pete I just want to second Tony’s opinion. I would love to read that piece on Chelsea scapegoats over the years. Great job BB you definitely set off the liveliest debate on here in quite some time and we haven’t even hit October

    For all of the criticism for Kalou last night I think people forget he nearly atoned for his mistake just minutes later. He put Anelka through on goal and if memory serves me correct Nico shot directly at the keeper when I believe the better option would have been squaring it back for Kalou for what would have been a tap in. Let’s give the kid a break his has done much more good than ill for the club.

  24. PeteW

    Regarding the programme:

    Chelsea played Victoria Zizkov in 1994 in  the European Cup Winners Cup first round, this was the second leg and finished 0-0. The first leg was at the Bridge and Chelsea won 4-2. I was there and recall we scored two goals in the first few minutes, then they came back to 2-2 (I think) before Rocky Rocastle scored a blinding goal from what seemed like the halfway line (it may have even been his only goal for us) and then Wise got, I think, a penalty making it pretty safe.
    This wasChelsea’s first European campaign since 1972.We qualified despite losing the FA Cup final because Man United had already won the league. This was a period when you were onlyallowed three ‘foreign’ (ie non-English) players, so Chelsea couldn’t play all their Scots and ended up fielding some very strange sides, including one featuring 40-year-old coach Graham Rix.

  25. PeteW

    regarding Torres, I actually think he was decent second half and was unfortunate with his chances, but my point is that people are very happy to make allowances for certain players after they produce pisspoor performances (and his first half was awful, such a heavy touch when he had that chance on goal in the opening five, and then he was anonymous; second half much better).

    Bizarrely, I think if Torres had been signed for £10m rather than £50m he would have been given a much harder time by fans, and that’s a bit strange when you think about it.

  26. bluebayou

    In those days with Dennis Wise, Gavin Peacock, John Spencer and Mark Stein (who didn’t feature in that game) we were possibly one of the most vertically challenged teams around. An interesting contrast with more recent outfits.

    Looking it up I see that Poborsky was playing. A good player in his day but in the twilight of his career then.

    Blimey it was all a big adventure, made all the more difficult with the 3 foreign player rule.

    • Der_Kaiser

      Always liked the Cup Winners Cup.  Appreciated that Europe probably had too many competitions at the time, but the straightforward 2 leg KO format left little room for error – none of your multiple group stages nonsense like the Europa League.

      • bluebayou

        One I believe was a football competition the other is a TV/Marketing/Advertising/fan scalping opportunity with footballers in it.

  27. bluebayou

    I was trying to think of a suitable poultry related headline but gave up:

    “The Carlos Tevez affair obscured another bizarre week at Ewood Park, where the failings of a wretched start were laid at the door of the assistant manager, John Jensen, who was sacked on Thursday. He is due to be replaced by the former Chelsea youth-team coach, Paul Clement.”

    (From the Guardian))

  28. Anonymous

    Apropos of absolutely fuck all, but thought the local boys deserved a mention for their display at OT. A result that equalled ours but was much better than the Gooners.

    A bit of luck going their way (where have we heard that before?) and the Canaries genuinely could be coming back with a point. Fingers crossed nothing outlandish hit us at the Reebok.

    Lambert and the yellows may well be ok this season after all……

  29. SimonT

    I can’t accept that Chelsea being lower than Newcastle at the 4th position; some while back when Chelsea went down below Aston Villa  to no.4 and the manager was sacked. AVB has got to be careful not slipping on Bolton. I say Lampard must play as he’s always so dependable.

  30. SimonT

    Sturridge, Drogba and Lampard are playing; if they wear Adidas boots then hopefully they all score at the Reebok. 

  31. Anonymous

    Josh not on the bench. Pity: second half will be a great chance for training exercise.

    [OK, yes I remember a few seasons ago when we were 4-0 up against Bolton and ended up nearly drawing]

    • Cunningplan

      Now you should know better not to post in game LTB 😉
      Comfortable victory in the end, without really getting out of second gear.
      And yes Lamps was immense today, hope he’s not picked for England (the uneducated English fans don’t deserve him) so he remains fresh for us.

  32. Anonymous

    For someone so unceremoniously finished by the media and so called ‘experts’ within the game, that Lampard bloke looks pretty handy. I genuinely hope Capello does leave him out.

    Odd that we’ve taken Ramires off, he was immense. Putting Mikel next to Mereiles just makes us sit deeper than ever. Would have thought Mata would have gone, the games sort of passed him by.

    • Anonymous

      Moffat, you haven’t been around for a while, even when Frank wasn’t doing well you didn’t show up here. However, when he performed, you showed up here to tell that he is not good. There is a name for this type of behaviour – trolling.  You are coming over here just to create controversy and not to talk about football.   

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