Premier League 2009/10 Review, Part One

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Afternoon everyone. I’m really, really, really enjoying my break down here in the West Country. The sun is shining, the weather is hot-ish… it’s the perfect way to recover from what was, after more ups and downs than [fill in something about John Terry and Vannessa Perroncel here], a great season for Chelsea Football Club and its fans.

Anyway, I took a couple of hours out of my holiday to put together part one of a review of Chelsea’s Premier League title-winning season in… well, reviews. The Chelsea FC Bloggers put a lot of effort into writing the reviews and it’s a good way to revisit what each of us had to say as the season progressed (lots of bipolarity guaranteed). I’ve selected a quote from each Chelsea FC Blog review plus one from a newspaper, listed the Chelsea FC Blog Man of the Match and included the state of the Premier League table after each game. I wanted to include goal videos too, but there were so many dead links that it wasn’t worth it.

I’ll post parts two, three and four in the coming week or so. Enjoy.

Chelsea 2-1 Hull – 15 August 2009

Chelsea FC Blog: For ten first half minutes after Hull had taken the lead nails were chewed, expletives uttered (mostly in the direction of a short Irishman) and doubts raised. Then Drogba eased the turmoil somewhat from a free kick that wasn’t a free kick and all was well for a bit. The anguish gradually built up again as the second half progressed only for Drogba to pop up for a second time in injury time and rescue me from an evening of doom and gloom. That’s why I put myself through the wringer every weekend I thought as I made my way home.

[Didier Drogba] wasn’t at his best – a Drogba in peak form would have taken several more of the many chances he created for himself – but that shouldn’t take away from what was a splendid all-round performance from a rejuvenated player. It didn’t look promising when he blasted a golden opportunity into the Matthew Harding stand after just 60 seconds – if that had gone in it would have been a rout, and I would still have some finger nails left. His free kick was Ronaldo-esque, and he was honest enough to admit that his second was meant as a cross. Not once did he feign injury, or fall to the ground as if shot – Bryan English didn’t know what to do with himself in the dugout. If only Drogba would behave as impeccably as he did today in every game. Let’s hope his knee holds out because we’re going to need him to play at his best in every game if we’re going to win anything this season.

Independent on Sunday: New boy that he is, Ancelotti could have copied the old Bill Shankly line, “same team as last season”. By the end of the game, however, he had been forced to give a run to substitutes Michael Ballack, Deco and Salomon Kalou, the first of them as early as the 46th minute. There is a tactical difference too in that he wants to use a diamond-shaped midfield and push Nicolas Anelka, last season’s Golden Boot winner, right up alongside Drogba. Having Frank Lampard just behind them ought to provide a potent attacking triangle, though the worry is that the influential Lampard will not find space to do his best work. That was the case yesterday.

Goals: 28′ Hunt 0-1; 37′ Drogba 1-1; 90+2′ Drogba 2-1

Man of the Match: Didier Drogba.

There’s only one contender: Didier Drogba. He wasn’t at his marauding, world-beating best but that didn’t prevent him from scoring two goals. I predict a big season for the big man if his knee holds out.

Premier League table:

Premier League Table 15-08-09

Sunderland 1-3 Chelsea – 18 August 2009

Chelsea FC Blog: We were great. We started and ended the game pushing for goals and despite Sunderland somehow snatching the lead with a carbon copy of Steven Hunt’s rebounded special, we looked a totally different side. There was no sloppy and slow start, something which has become somewhat of a trademark for this side and despite most headlines inevitably revolving around Chelsea having to come back from 1-0 down again, that really doesn’t tell the whole story of the match. For 92 of the 93 minutes it was attack versus defence as blue wave after blue wave bore down on Sunderland’s goal, determined to score the goals which we missed out on against Hull. The midfield was looking brilliantly fluid, with great movement and playing at an extremely high tempo with each man given somewhat of a free role when in support of Didier. On paper at least, both Essien and Ballack were told to dictate play from deep thus allowing Lamps, Deco and Kalou the space to inflict maximum damage on a suspect Sunderland backline. However, they weren’t rigid holding midfield players, barred from entering the opposition half as at times both Deco and Frank would be sitting deep when both Essien and Ballack were attacking or vice versa. Perhaps it’s just me, but without the pondering and slow play of Mikel our midfield looked awesome.

Daily Telegraph: A personal landmark and a rescue mission for Frank Lampard. The midfielder hauled Chelsea back into this encounter and also struck for the 132nd time – a goals tally that drew him level with Jimmy Greaves, the fifth highest scorer of all-time for Chelsea – after the kind of disjointed first-half that will have had Carlo Ancelotti looking a little uneasily over his shoulder. After all this is trigger-happy Chelsea.

Goals: 18′ Bent 1-0; 52′ Ballack 1-1; 61′ Lampard (pen) 1-2; 69′ Deco 1-3

Man of the Match: Deco.

It could only be Deco. A few more performances like that and there’ll be no more calls for Pato or Aguero. Enjoy it while it lasts but for tonight at least, he’s back to his very best.

Premier League table:

Premier League Table 18-08-09

Fulham 0-2 Chelsea – 23 August 2009

Chelsea FC Blog: What a splendid Sunday of sport. I began it with a round of golf, much of which I spent listening to updates from The Oval via my iPhone and Test Match Special (to the irritation of at least one of my fellow golfers). Then it was on to the pub to watch The Ashes and today’s game. I was pleasantly smashed by 4 p.m., and I had one eye on the television showing the cricket throughout the 90 minutes. Fortunately for me, the game turned out to be a stroll in the park compared to last weekend’s emotional rollercoaster at the Bridge, and I don’t think I missed a great deal. One thing’s for sure, I’m going to have a hangover tomorrow – I doubt it’ll be as bad as Freddie Flintoff’s though.

Another three points. Our eighth successive Premier League win, and it couldn’t have been more comfortable. We outclassed Roy Hodgson’s Fulham, who looked to be suffering the effects of Thursday’s Europa League qualifying match against Amkar Perm, from the second minute to the final whistle. Dempsey gave us a scare in the opening seconds when he escaped the attentions of Carvalho and fired over, but after that it was one way traffic. It wasn’t a very exciting game – surprisingly, the cricket had the monopoly on that particular emotion – but there are days when all you want is an easy, relaxed win and today was one of those – it allowed me to watch quite a lot of the action from The Oval, and it didn’t leave me feeling like I had been emotionally wrung out.

Daily Telegraph: It was a lovely Sunday afternoon for a Thames cruise and Chelsea certainly enjoyed themselves here. The sky was blue and so were most of the moves. Carlo Ancelotti’s players had loads of space to spread out and express themselves. Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka scored while John Terry and Ricardo Carvalho were so untroubled they could have got a barbecue going.

Goals: 39′ Drogba 0-1; 76′ Anelka 0-2

Man of the Match: Didier Drogba.

Again there’s only one contender: Didier Drogba. He won us the game.

Premier League table:

Premier League Table 23-08-09

Chelsea 3-0 Burnley – 29 August 2009

Chelsea FC Blog: Burnley is famous for Alistair Campbell. And hating Blackburn. But the town’s football team has made a sterling start to its Premiership career by seeing off the current champions and Everton thus far. And they did turf us out of the Carling Cup last season.

Given that Stephen Hawking would probably struggle to explain it, I have decided that it is now pointless to analyse, comment upon or dissect the workings of our interchangeable rotating diamond Christmas tree; trying to understand how and why it works – and boy, does it work – is like trying to understand why watching Arsene Wenger throwing his toys all over the technical area at Old Trafford is bloody funny. It just is, OK?

Truth is, whatever the system was, it ran rings around Burnley. Owen Coyle has a decent side with some good players, but they were outclassed from start to finish. Drogba is looking like an absolute monster again. Ashley Cole is in the form of his career – so many positives, so few negatives.

The Observer: Chelsea helped themselves to their fourth win in four games with this ruthless suppression of Burnley. Nicolas Anelka, Michael Ballack and Ashley Cole all struck telling blows and the margin of victory would have been even more emphatic but for valiant goalkeeping by Brian Jensen and wasteful finishing by the rampant home side.

Goals: 45′ Anelka 1-0; 47′ Ballack 2-0; 52′ A. Cole 3-0

Man of the Match: Ashley Cole.

Brian Jensen in the Burnley goal? For us – a tricky one as there were too many contenders; Drogba and the afore-mentioned quintet were exceptional (Ze German edging it for me), but Ashley Cole’s flank-running masterclass and superbly taken goal puts him on top of the pile today.

Premier League table:

Premier League Table 29-08-09

Stoke City 1-2 Chelsea – 12 September 2009

Chelsea FC Blog: Time was slipping away and our rhythm was being disrupted at every opportunity by Stoke’s systematic fouling, diving and time-wasting (more on that later) but our attacking dominance and ambition would be rewarded in the 93rd minute. Yet another goalmouth scramble led to a Belletti long-throw and as the ball fell to Essien he set-up Malouda to fire in the winner. It was a great ending and the final whistle brought back memories of that famous night in Blackburn in 2005 when the team started to believe that they could be Champions. As on that night our manager celebrated on the pitch as the players threw their shirts to the travelling fans. And after yet another win who can stop us?

Not the best performance from us but strangely it probably strengthened my belief that we will be Champions the most out of all the games so far. A last minute win always pleases the fans but as the cliché goes, “that’s the stuff of Champions” and after five games I haven’t seen anyone capable of stopping us.

Independent on Sunday: If evidence were needed of Chelsea’s capacity to overcome the impact of Fifa’s transfer embargo and mount a sustainable title challenge, Florent Malouda’s injury-time winner provided it by continuing their 100 per cent winning start to the season. Demonstrating considerable resolve against a whole-hearted Stoke City, it was a victory which set down a marker to their Premier League rivals.

Goals: 32′ Diagne-Faye 1-0; 45′ Drogba 1-1; 90′ Malouda 1-2

Man of the Match: Didier Drogba.

There could only be one and if Didier can continue leading our charge at the top then his month’s break in January won’t harm our chances in the slightest as we should have a big enough lead by then.

Premier League table:

Premier League Table 12-09-09

Chelsea 3-0 Tottenham Hotspur – 20 September 2009

Chelsea FC Blog: Six wins from six is a rosy old start to the season in anyone’s book. It’s when you get to the off pitch matters at Chelsea that the black clouds appear overhead and cowpats from Satan’s own dairy herd are strewn across the path.

These are uncertain times we live in. Transfer bans, chief executives departing and the press alive with rumours of plots and subterfuge behind the scenes at Stamford Bridge. Frank Arnesen is apparently looking over his shoulder for the men in grey suits as I type.

““A nest of vipers,” said one hack on Sunday Supplement this morning. Even allowing for dead tree press exaggeration, it’s difficult to disagree with the sentiment.

Hell, we haven’t even beaten Spurs in about four games. If things carry on like this the next ‘Downfall’ bunker parody will probably be filmed in the boardroom at the Bridge.

Ah, beating Spurs. A wistful glance down memory lane (think Hovis music, sepia tones, grandchildren on knee and all that jazz) takes you back to almost two decades worth of domination over North London’s most Del Boy of clubs (this time next year, we’ll be Champions League…) I trust that you will use the comments section wisely to recall your favourites.

Overall, we didn’t really seem to shift out of third gear for most of the game, yet won reasonably comfortably in the end.

The Guardian: The fire and brimstone may have been reserved for a venue some 200 miles further north, but the Premier League leadership remains firmly in west London. Chelsea’s serene progress under Carlo Ancelotti was maintained here, a sixth consecutive victory restoring their three point advantage at the top while most eyes had been distracted by events at Old Trafford. The Italian’s perfect start almost feels as if it has slipped in under the radar.

Goals: 31′ A. Cole 1-0; 57′ Ballack 2-0; 62′ Drogba 3-0

Man of the Match: Didier Drogba.

“Didier Drogba. La la la la laaaa.”

Premier League table:

Premier League Table 20-09-09

Wigan Athletic 3-1 Chelsea – 26 September 2009

Chelsea FC Blog: The goals came from Titus Bramble in the 16th minute, who was left unmarked to nod home from a corner, before Didier Drogba equalized just after the break – it was his 100th goal for the Blues. Three minutes later Petr Cech was adjudged to have brought down Hugo Rodallega in the box (it’s hard to tell from the video, but there doesn’t appear to be much contact) and given a straight red card by referee Phil Dowd (Ashley Cole looked to have got back to be the last man). Rodallega got up and blasted the penalty past Henqique Hilario, who was brought on to replace Cech at the expense of Florent Malouda. Paul Scharner wrapped up the win for Wigan in stoppage time after good work down the left by Maynor Figueroa. Manchester United are now top of the table on goal difference.

The Observer: Chelsea’s 100% start to the season was always going to end somewhere, but it was expected to happen in more salubrious surroundings than the stadium that the shrinking violet Dave Whelan has named after himself. The league leaders arrived on the back of nine successive wins in all competitions, Wigan suffered a 4-0 drubbing at Arsenal last week, so this was billed as a no-brainer.

Goals: 16′ Bramble 1-0; 47′ Drogba 1-1; 50′ Rolladega 2-1; 90′ Scharner 3-1

Premier League table:

Premier League Table 26-09-09

Chelsea 2-0 Liverpool – 4 October 2009

Chelsea FC Blog: Intriguing affair, I thought. As expected, it was a fairly gritty, tactical midfield-ish sort of contest with occasional outbreaks of passing and chances not exactly appearing in abundance. Flair and the crowd pleasing stuff may have been in short supply, but after a couple of decidedly shonky performances against teams that should have presented little problem for us, today’s showing was just what the physician scrawled on the prescription.

The rehabilitation started under Hiddink has continued – there may be a few thirty-somethings in the team but they looked as fit and focused in the ninetieth minute as they did in the first. Good signs, plenty of quality on the bench and a great, clinical win against the team that broke our exceptional undefeated home record last season.

The Guardian: Predictability was a delight for Chelsea. The side must reduce their opponents to fatalism when they have this durability and efficiency about them. Liverpool, eager as they were in the hunt for revival in the Premier League, were well contained. Hilario, deputising for a suspended Petr Cech, did not have an outstanding save to make until dealing with a Steven Gerrard effort in the last few moments.

Goals: 59′ Anelka 1-0; 90′ Malouda 2-0

Man of the Match: Michael Essien.

Michael Essien. To go a bit Stuart Hall for a moment, he was a rampaging wildebeest of a man this afternoon, stampeding his way across the wide open plains of Stamford Bridge bucking and snorting at would-be predators wearing red shirts.

Premier League table:

Premier League Table 04-10-09

Aston Villa 2-1 Chelsea – 17 October 2009

Chelsea FC Blog: So two away defeats on the bounce, a reversal from last season which saw imperious away form and two costly home defeats and arguably even more costly home draws against teams we expected to roll through. It’s not time to hit the panic button, but for those who thought our undoubtedly ageing squad would last another two seasons I think you’re wrong. We are still in with a shout of winning this title, and like most I prize this above the Champions League, but who can doubt there are worrying signs of us slipping below the bar so famously raised by Mourinho. The assured swagger has gone, other teams know our vulnerabilities, but under Jose you always felt he had the knowledge, creativity and bravery to make changes during the game which more often than not had the desired effect. Hiddink had that same ability most of the time, but Carlo Ancelotti seems overly stubborn and intransigent in his desire to stick with the starting XI. I find that a worrying trait and although we were well on top after going behind we hadn’t scored and hence making subs with less than 10 minutes to go is a heavy gamble when you’re chasing the game.

The Observer: If Villa’s defending was the reason for their win, Chelsea’s defending was squarely to blame for their second defeat – a second successive away lapse. There were similarities with their unexpected collapse at Wigan and Carlo Ancelotti was not slow to point them out. “We played a good game on the pitch, but lost the match through set plays,” he said, reflecting on the fact Chelsea allowed both opposing centre-halves to score with headers from corners.

Goals: 15′ Drogba 0-1; 31′ Dunne 1-1; 51′ Collins 2-1

Man of the Match: Deco.

For Villa it would be Milner, and possibly overall for the game. How did Arnesen miss the opportunity to sign him from Toonland?

For us, the freshly cut bouquet goes to young Master Deco for the second good performance I’ve seen from him in two games.

Premier League table:

Premier League Table 17-10-09

Chelsea 5-0 Blackburn Rovers – 24 October 2009

Chelsea FC Blog: Don’t let the shine be diminished by the inevitable critics decrying the opposition as it is disingenuous to Chelsea, who went out to prove a point and did so with style. A great performance that showed if we get the consistency then few teams will live with us this year. It was good to see the cobwebs brushed away by the introduction of Bruma (sorry… couldn’t resist that one either) and Sturridge as well as seeing old faces Joey Cole and Ferreira back in the side. If we can keep all of them fit then this could be a very good season. I was able to watch Match of the Day with a smile tonight, will watch the ESPN HD repeat again tomorrow, fitting it in with Goals On Sunday and then watch with objective interest as Liverpool take on United… Rafa’s Last Stand maybe? An afternoon of West Ham and in-form Arsenal completes a weekend to sate the desires of all real football fans.

These days are rare folks and we should allow ourselves a wallow in the swamp of Blue smug self satisfaction.

Sunday Telegraph: Joe Cole was back –and back to his best – as Chelsea moved back to the top of the Premier League by destoying a weakened Blackburn Rovers side. Cole made his first league start since January and showed no adverse effects from the knee injury that had kept him out of action for so long. The England midfielder was full of inventiveness, always looking to play in team-mates with his trademark tricks and flicks, and fitted smoothly into a well-oiled Chelsea machine that got back to winning ways in the league after their defeat at Aston Villa last week.

Man of the Match: Joe Cole.

It could have been any from Lampard, Ballack, Anelka, Essien or Ivanovic. I was really struggling with these thoughts during the game, but then Ancelotti made my mind up for me. His hug for Joe Cole as he left the pitch was heart-warming and must have made Joe feel like a king. Deservedly so because today he played like one. Well done Joe, here’s the Chelsea Blog flowers and Champagne son. He’s here, he’s there, he’s every-fucking-where… Joey Cole… Joey Cole…

Premier League table:

Premier League Table 24-10-09

Part two coming soon…