Disillusionment and apathy abound. There is a distinct lack of vision, plan or grand scheme at the club. We are simply going through the motions, and we are no longer doing it in style. This draining feeling of jadedness is, of course, nothing new. We’ve been here before. But when disillusionment has reached critical mass – a breaking point – fortunes usually changed for the better. Sure, back to back victories have papered over the cracks and carefully disguised mafia-like inner workings, but we should be putting four past Wigan at home and dispatching Sparta Prague in the round of 32 of Europe’s Coca-Cola league with relative ease.
And, as a result, it’s becoming increasingly difficult not to side with the Benitez boo boys. He has somehow taken a team full of creative, frisky pups and turned them into sickly old St. Bernards. What’s on display is becoming ever more reminiscent of the sedative football served up when Rafa’s Liverpool met Jose’s Chelsea. To see Benitez make use of Benayoun in whatever creative capacity he might have left as a last throe to unlock the Torres riddle is truly disheartening. Watching our great club emulate a forgone Liverpool side bleeds our soul. Torres is no longer a liability because of his lack of ability, but because of the prioritized focus that has been placed on his success over that of the team’s. Everything has been done to accommodate him. He has cost the club three managers and he repays this faith by evading, rather than attacking, Eden Hazard’s low cross intended for him in Prague. His departure, along with a managerial change, will go a long way in liberating the club and the team’s psyches. Simply, he is malignant, and must be removed.
Perhaps the breaking point will lead to what we all want: the return of Jose Mourinho, who looks undeniably miserable at an unappreciative Santiago Bernabeu. He has admitted that his next job will be in England, and with only three clubs – United, City and Chelsea – really on the cards, this is the best chance of reinstating the only man who has all the answers. Journalist Duncan Castles, who reported widely on the sequence of faltering relations between Mourinho and Abramovich before and after Jose’s departure, recently wrote that the relationship between the two has been reset for some time now. All we can do is remain optimistic. Manuel Pelligrini’s name has also entered the fray, and while he would not be the worst choice, his shelf life would be questionable.
But enough gloom and doom, there is a League One side in need of a rollicking for having the audacity to nearly beat us. The FA Cup is, from time to time, our “break in case of emergency” trophy, and given Chelsea’s domination of this competition in the last decade, nothing but a convincing, large margin of victory would suffice.
Certainly no fucking about as Benitez fielded one of our strongest XI’s to avoid the giant-killing marketing that has defined the FA Cup.
Defensive Quartet: No words can describe the relief when our ghost manager, John Terry, resumes his position in the left of centre of defence. With two more natural centre-backs forming the back line, it’s probably the strongest defensive line we can hope for.
Midfield Duopoly: According to all traditional footballing formulas and tactical literature, having the likes of David Luiz and Frank Lampard in the center of the park should never fail. Lampard has a minder, allowing him to dictate play, but in this case the minder has an attacking instinct, a burst of creativity, and a keen eye of his own. Both are solid physical specimens to shield the defence as well. This is perhaps Benitez’s biggest contribution to the tactical side of things thus far.
Triumvirate: Congratulations to Victor Moses for his immensely key role in helping Nigeria lift the African Cup of Nations for the first time in quite some time. One wonders whether he’s fit, however, as we all saw the terrible error Neil Lennon made by playing his Nigerian centre-back against Juventus shortly after winning the trophy.
Lone Wolf: Adorning the finest Hannibal Lector costume, Demba Ba returns to the Chelsea side, and it’s a bloody relief to have him back. A separate op-ed is required to meticulously pinpoint how much more he brings to this side than Fernando Torres.
On a side note, Didier Drogba set up one goal and scored another to win his new side, Galatasaray, their match in his first start, while Nicolas Anelka still looks a clever signing for Juventus. Which one of you would not take either of the two back in a heartbeat?
Passing and movement in abundance but absolutely no penetration to make good on the build up play. As expected, Brentford remained organized, disciplined and parked the bus, hoping to hit us on the break – which, by all accounts this season, stands as eminently feasible for virtually any team. Our inability to complete a quick sequence of passes or to power through their defence illuminated the fact that this team are in some sort of footballing purgatory. We aren’t the physical masterclass of years prior nor are we consistent in any dynamic quick tempo play. Some absolutely gorgeous interplay between the triumvirate, however, released Oscar, but he was unlucky to hit the bar.
Brentford did manage to conjure a few shots at goal and, were it not for the referee calling play back, they very well could’ve, should’ve been 1-0 up. We were incredibly lucky that advantage was not played. By the 40th minute mark, is it too much to ask to be a goal to the good against a League One side? Not anymore, I suppose.
Not the best of halves.
One would hope that John Terry, who evidently gave a piece of his mind to Benitez following the 3-2 defeat at Newcastle, did the same to his team mates. Given Ashley Cole’s deft crunching tackle in the opening exchanges of the second half, one would imagine the point came across. Apart from a mesmerizing run and an incisive pass by a guileful playmaker, few things are more alluring in this grand old sport than a decisive tackle by a full-back who then proceeds to carry the ball upfield.
We seemed to have an ample amount of set pieces this match, but have we gotten progressively worse at capitalizing on attacking dead balls under Rafa? For a manager whose CV is littered with brilliant examples of complex set piece situations – many of which were used in brutal effect against us – they have not materialized during his short reign here.
On the 53rd minute, it became ever more apparent why a striker in the mold of Demba Ba is so damn crucial to a grueling season. For all our attacking play, for all the interchanging of passes, for all the carnival football we are trying too hard to replicate, a direct, route one ball up the field from Petr Cech found our Senegalese frontman. With his back to goal, he used his bodyweight and height to perfection to draw in the defenders and knock down the ball for our prince to unleash a vicious drive into the bottom corner. Prince Juan Manuel Mata Garcia of Asturia, with 17 goals and 20 assists to his name this season, will forever have a seat at the table in the pantheon of Chelsea greats. It brought back the fondest of memories when Didier would set up Frank in all too similar fashion.
Indeed, no single player can ever replace Frank Lampard. But one has to wonder whether Juan Mata will be, and perhaps already is, Lampard’s spiritual replacement. A player with the fortitude to say enough is enough, grab the hairiest of games by the bollocks and guarantee us safe passage.
I will take a goal from a speculative punt up the field any day of the week if it guarantees a victory.
Despite going a goal up, precedents have been set this season that do not inspire confidence, and I half expected some sort of challenge from Brentford to equalize.
But, thankfully, nothing worthy came to fruition and it was game over for the visitors. Eden Hazard found Branislav Ivanovic’s overlapping run down the right and a low ball into Oscar produced a cheeky back heel flick to make it 2-0. The young Brazilian obviously fancies cup competitions a bit more than the league.
Juan Mata was at it again. Beating his man from the left, he charged into the box to cross for Super Frank, who, as per usual, is on course to completing another striker-esque season. Is there any doubt he could continue this in the same manner as Ryan Giggs? 199 goals for Chelsea. 26 goals in the FA Cup. Strangely, the numbers, albeit grand and somewhat unbelievable, still do not do justice to the player and the man Sir Frank Lampard is. He and his spiritual counterpart are carrying this team.
Perhaps the finest goal of the afternoon was the fourth. We made amends for wasting several set pieces during the match as Oscar’s cross to the back stick from a short corner was nothing short of perfect. John Terry rose like he’s never had a back injury in his life to find a small gap and head into goal. It’s always a good day when the captain scores. He seems to reserve his best for post-media scrutiny and post-injury outings. Given that the Sun had served up rumours of a bust up, he had all the ammunition he needed.
The only real blip on the match was David Luiz’s daft decision to forcefully check a Brentford player when there was absolutely no need to. This might endear him more to some fans, but it is asinine play and until he cuts out these irrational decisions, he will never be the player he is destined to be.
On the whole, it was a good day.
I’ve begun to remind myself that no matter how dark or dreary the season might seem to be, we should always, always be thankful for one thing: we are not Arsenal FC. In fact, just earlier today, Jack Wilshere said, “We need to come together as a team, Chelsea showed great character, we need to do that.” Perhaps we should heed his advice as well going into the final few months of this season.
Up the Chels.
Player Ratings (For All Involved)
First Half – For lacking the burning desire to put the game to bed early on: 6/10.
Second Half – For reacting to whoever lit the fire under their arse: 9/10.
Man of the Match
Spiritually: Juan Mata.
The Guardian, David Hytner: “Brentford were relentlessly game opponents but Chelsea’s class stretched them before breaking the visiting team, Juan Mata’s fizzing, long-range drive shortly after the interval serving as the prompt for a second-half glut. The scoreline was harsh on Brentford, who were left to lament how close they had come to knocking out the European champions at Griffin Park three weeks ago but Chelsea deserved the reward of a fifth-round trip to Middlesbrough. Their Cup defence is alive and kicking.”
The Daily Telegraph, Paul Kelso: “Four goals in 26 second-half minutes saw Chelsea ease into the fifth round of the FA Cup at the expense of Brentford. The holders will now face Middlesbrough at the Riverside Stadium on February 27 for a place in the sixth round.”
The Independent, Robin Scott-Elliot: “On a fleeting glance this presents a plot simple enough to fill the pages of one of Frank Lampard’s planned children’s novels. It reads something like this: FA Cup holders oust stubborn underdogs on sunny Sunday and, dear readers, I volley home the third goal with a sweet finish before my old pal JT also scores to show all is sweetness and light in the blue corner of west London. Roman Abramovich was even caught smiling.”
The Official Chelsea FC Website: “Chelsea are safely through to the fifth round of the FA Cup after a resounding win against our west London neighbours.”
54′ Mata 1-0
64′ Oscar 2-0
71′ Lampard 3-0
81′ Terry 4-0
Yes Vik, good stuff as ever
Rafa has indeed drained us dry and your comparison of us to his workmanlike dull and rather mediocre Liverpool sides is spot on.
“Which one of you would not take either of the two back in a heartbeat?”
I wouldn’t. For all the progress we (should) have made since Drogba left, having the man back would definitely be a step in the wrong direction and way too short sighted- even by Chelsea standards.
Certainly not suggesting that the big fella doesn’t have a lot to offer but we need to move forward. Didn’t Winnie C (churchill) say ‘when going through hell, don’t stop, keep going’? Must keep moving forward, no matter how slowly…
I respectfully disagree. I’d have Drogba back in a heart beat. The entire point of any competition is to win. Didier is a winner. Case in point we won the Champions League 9 months ago with him leading the line and we are now out of the competition all together.
I doubt that Churchill would substitute a Bren light machine gun (Drogba) for a dull tipped rapier (Chelsea’s #9). That’s not progress.
The Drog still has plenty left in that tank. Istanbul get Drogba while were stuck with Rafa….
no need to respectfully disagree… I didn’t realise it was a straight choice between having Torres or Drogba. Given that choice I would definitely go for Droggles.
I just think we need somebody (new) who is going to build a partnership over the next number of seasons with some of the amazing midfielders we have and I guess that is why I think Drogba would be a step backwards. As good as he is/was/will be, I can’t see him playing week in week out- especially when we have fixture congestion. I also can’t see a young, world class striker being too keen to share the limelight with the big man.
Anyway, point is, we need a striker to score goals with Ba…
That video is a little weird – after Drogba scores, it appears as thought the whole team is queuing up for a cuddle with him….not the “job well done” quick man-hug thing but a lingering “I think I love you” cuddle.
Mind you, if I met the man personally I don’t know if I would be able to resist.
Nice report Vik. Perhaps the breaking point will lead to what we all want: the return of Jose Mourinho maybe could be re-worded to what some of us want.
I’m undecided. Things haven’t gone too well in Spain for TFO.
But I wont organise protest marches if he gets re-appointed,
Difficult to muster up too much enthusiasm. Was thinking of going to Middlesbrough but now we know the reward is an away trip to United I’m questioning the point.
This is what he is good for
I’m impressed he could break the eggs.
but still can’t do an omelet 🙂
Spookily, the random[?] quote at the bottom of the blog earlier was one of Jose’s obscure ones about lemons.
Also, while I was in the dentist waiting room this morning they had a re-run of “Come Dine With Me” showing on the TV.
I tell you cookery is taking over the world, it’s a giant horsemeat-inspired conspiracy – where’s my tinfoil hat……
It is indeed and Torres is leading it
Great minds and all that, Vik.
I was just thinking on Sunday morning as I contemplated Life, The Universe and Football that, as dreary as the trudge to Life after Rafa feels at the moment, we should at least all give thanks to our Deity of Choice/Fate that at least we are not Gooners.
I too was happy to see the tippy-tappy stuff leavened by a good speculative punt up field that, since the transfer window, now had Ba on the end of it to create enough mayhem and lead to the breakthrough goal, rather than the imaginary Drogba [or worse, Torres] as previously.
Without belabouring the Utter Cuntery of ITV’s commentary/punditry throughout too much, Andy Townshend surely qualifies for some award for his response when asked to name Man of the Match and launched into an endless list of half the Brentford side, before grudgingly admitting that given the score line he would have to pick a Chelsea player.
Returning to The Gooners, I know Mark speculated on the last Podding Shed on the delicious possibility of them “doing a Chelsea” by winning the CL and denying the Spuds a CL place for finishing 4th for the 2nd season in a row.
I’m wondering now if a more likely and almost as delightful possibility is that the Gooners get thrashed by Bayern Munich and then go on one of their legendary late spirals of EPL form that sees them finish 5th behind the Spuds and forced to face the delights of the early season endless trek round the more obscure parts of Central Europe in the European Coca-Cola League, having failed for once to get their “4th place trophy”.
At least Arsenal fans can now relax and have a stress free wind down till May, avoid costly European away trips and be able to put money aside for their season ticket renewals, obviously due for payment pre the Jack Wilshere sale announcement.
ITV pundits after the game looked like they have been eaten those eggs made by Nando.
The Sun newspaper today (Wednesday) published the following apology:
‘JOHN TERRY AND RAFA BENITEZ
An article in the Sun on Sunday 17 February “War: JT and Rafa in angry bust-up” carried a story about an alleged dressing room row between John Terry and Chelsea manager Rafa Benitez following the team’s 3-2 defeat at Newcastle. The article alleged that there was an “angry bust up” between the pair which left their relationship at “breaking point”. We now accept that no such row took place. We are happy to set the record straight and apologise for any embarrassment caused.’
embarrassment is the existence of this so called newspaper
Milan 2 barca 0 I was always saying that without referee help they are not such a big team.
The best result yesterday was Barca U19 0-2 Chelsea U19 (nextgen).
You should read the report as it might bring back some memories of the first team experience(s)!
We knocked them out and we wil know who we get in the next round (quarter finals) on Friday.
Great result, shows that their so called greatly developed youth is not that great as well.
In what world are Gerard Pique and Dani Alves two of the best four defenders in the world…UEFA lost the plot.
Pique is definitely great defender according to UEFA. He was even allowed to autograph the ball during the Chelsea vs. Barca game in his own goal area.
Despite the mutinous rumbles in the crowd that wasn’t a terrible performance (though a pretty feeble result). JT still looks miles off the pace and Cahill didn’t have his best game but otherwise we looked all right, with the obvious exception of Nando. The problem was more that it was all happening a bit too slowly and cautiously: Moses was the best player in the first half because of his willingness to inject energy in the game, and Hazard did the same in spades when he came on — he seemed to be playing at twice the speed of everyone else on the pitch. If he can keep that sort of form up we might scrape through the last few months of the season without losing 4th place.
Not too impressed by Sparta P. Aren’t European teams supposed to be technical? Their amazing inability to connect passes in the attacking third would have embarrassed Brentford.
Thought we were laboured, slow and made a sphere look like a big peanut. Cahill did little wrong and in fact one heroic block stopped a certain goal,. Nando was fucking dismal. It looked bright for him at the start and he got into good positions first half, but still fucked every chance up. Second half he was absolutely invisible. Oscar did OK but had a tendency to give the ball away second half, as did Rambo.
The difference was Hazard who gets my player of the season vote (Mata a close second). I cant remember seeing someone so good on the ball, so hard to get off the ball. If he loses it he takes umbrage and fights to get it back. He’s a bloody good striker of the ball – Torres eat your heart out, thats how you finish mate. Good to see Mikel back calming the midfield.
Benitez got very very lucky again tonight.
1) You need to start doing some more match reports.
2) Hazard’s goal was brilliant but Mata still is the POY. He sealed that by making a fool of Walker at WHL.
3) I think you hit the nail on the head with Mikel. I personally think he is vital to our team and is the most criminally underrated player in the PL. He completely nullified Yaya Toure in the ANC.
LTB you are the yoof expert having seen many of the them play up close. I know Feruz is only 17 but do you think he may be ready for a call up at some point this season? Why not give him a bit of European football experience?
I haven’t been to any yoof games this year (I only start going once they start playing dahn the Bridge) so I’ve only seen Feruz a couple of times at the end of last season, but he’s still very much a kid. He’s very quick and has good feet but he’s tiny — Marko Marin is LeBron James by comparison — and proper grown-up defenders would eat him alive.
I have a feeling it takes a pretty long time for even talented kids to get used to the physical intensity of professional football. Josh has been saying something along those lines about his current loan spell at Middlesborough; playing every day is making him realise how little time you get on the ball and how hard you have to work for even those few metres of space.
On that subject, incidentally, I thought Bertrand looked pretty good last night.
On the basis of news reports etc. I suspect the next kid who’s going to get a chance in the first team will be Chalobah, currently playing under Franco at Watford and apparently doing well. He’s certainly got the physique and fitness for it, and he’s been playing two or three years over his age group since he was 12 or something.
Tony — wasn’t Cahill at fault for the goal? I haven’t seen replays but it seemed to me he got himself in a complete tangle. Not his fault, maybe. He’s got excellent close control for a centre-back but in the second half it looked to me as if he was in the wrong place more often than usual.
But then I’ve been reading a lot of internet chatter about Moses having a terrible game and I thought he was excellent, so there you go.
Totally agreed about Obi though. As usual there was some moron sitting next to me who stood up and yelled about how farking useless he is on the rare occasions when his passes didn’t go directly to the intended recipient’s correct foot. This myth that he’s not a good player really confuses me. He has iffy patches like everyone else — in our rosy post-Drogs glow we all tend to forget that the big fella had some really pretty dreadful weeks for Chelsea — but the security and efficienct he adds to the base of midfield seems blindingly apparent.
And, Nando, exactly the same as usual: starts fairly brightly, gets a chance or two, doesn’t take them, gradually disappears from game over the course of first 45 and is completely invisible in second half. (Apart from that quite brilliant turn and surge where he ended up trying to chip the keeper, and, natch, not scoring.)
Thanks for that prospective. The Marin/Lebron/Feruz comparison said it all really. Unfortunately for us it appears that Dr. Fuentes seem to have shut up shop for the foreseeable future.
That is really unfortunate that Obi still has some vocal detractors in the crowd. Obviously these people know more than Jose, Guus, and Carlo.
He was arguably the man of the match in Munich. I tend to use Obi as Rorschach test these days. It’s an easy way to thin the herd.
Funny thing is I just turned on ESPN SportsCenter and one of the lead stories was about this kid who is in fifth grade playing on a varsity basketball team in Florida.
Actually I thought we played ok last night. But when you create chances and have a centre forward who can’t convert inevitably the pressure mounts. Instead of being two or three goals clear the tie remains on a knife edge.
Torres is now being publicly humiliated. For his own mental welfare someone should do the decent thing and end it.
at some pint I have lost the count of the amount of clear cut chances he forked out yesterday.
Well you shouldn’t drink so much. It’s still affecting your typing 15 hours later.
We are 90 minutes away from another Fabregas flameout in Europe. Long may he, the North London apostle, continue to spread the teachings of the Gallic oracle throughout greater Catalonia.
those are my tears I can ‘t see well …
Sweet baby Jesus – it is a terrible sight to see a man lose his already frail mind, but today we just witnessed Rafa lose the plot and every literary device possible. The man has no future in football.