Premier League 2009/10 Review, Part Two

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Part two of our review of Chelsea’s Premier League title-winning season in match reviews. Part one.

Bolton Wanderers 0-4 Chelsea – 31 October 2009

Chelsea FC Blog: Bolton responded predictably to their 4-0 thrashing on Wednesday by sprinting around like headless chickens for the first ten minutes to show that they “meant business”. Personally I thought they looked clueless and were simply attempting to appease the few home fans who bothered to turn up by getting at ‘em as ‘Arry would say. But soon we settled down and took control of the game. Our midfield was full of movement, creativity and class. It’s a word I’ve used many times lately but I feel that it best describes our team at the moment. We’re a classy team who play beautiful football and today was no different. Anelka and Ivanovic were competing for the Man of the Match award after the first twenty minutes thanks to their brilliant movement, running and passing. Ivanovic was raiding down the right wing to great effect and Anelka was superbly playing the role of the support striker. His movement, pace and work-rate overwhelmed Bolton…

I make no apologies for saying that we look unstoppable at the moment. The title is surely ours if we can get past a tricky run up to Christmas and bring in some fresh talent to cover for the African Nations’ Cup and our summer transfer ban. Our build up play and movement are Barcelona-esque and the United game next Sunday should cement our position at the top of the league. I can’t wait.

The Observer: After two successive away league defeats, Chelsea can now boast two clean sheets and plenty of goals against Bolton, whose dead-ball repertoire can cause even the best defences problems, though the home side were handicapped by having to play with 10 men for the whole of the second half after Jlloyd Samuel’s dismissal.

Goals: 45′ Lampard (pen) 0-1; 61′ Deco 0-2; 82′ Knight (og) 0-3; 90′ Drogba 0-4

Man of the Match: Branislav Ivanovic.

It could have been anyone really but I’m going to give it to Ivanovic. Anelka, and Frank were brilliant but Ivanovic played the right-back role to perfection and after his first half volley was struck off his goal (yes he did score) his second half goal was enough to cap a lovely performance from our Serbian powerhouse.

Premier League table:

Premier League Table 31-10-09

Chelsea 1-0 Manchester United – 8 November 2009

Chelsea FC Blog: Being entirely honest, trying to conjure up any kind of flowing prose about a game like that is about as easy as reconstructing a life-size replica of the Bayeux tapestry with dried dog shit and pipecleaners. I’ve been to more exciting health and safety briefings.

United’s approach was a crowded but efficient midfield and a formation that looked fairly 4-6-0 at times, Cole and Ivanovic were kept in check whilst Rooney raced around with the energy of a man who hasn’t yet experienced the joyous and exhausting business of a new baby vomiting over you at some unholy hour of the night. It was neither pretty nor engaging and with only the odd half chance appearing in the gloom of a fairly dour midfield scrap, a stalemate looked likely.

But as David Haye will surely confirm once he emerges from a cloud of party poppers and champagne corks, if you’re faced with a wily old heavyweight bruiser it is wise to keep the dangerous stuff at arms’ length and know that when you are able to land a blow, you make sure it counts. Ancelotti and his side did just that today, leaving at least one Russian happy with the weekend’s results.

The Guardian: The only aspect of this fixture that lived up to expectation was the contentiousness. The Premier League leaders, Chelsea, moved five points clear of Manchester United with a goal of murky origins. Darren Fletcher wrongly had a foul awarded against him in the 76th minute and from Frank Lampard’s free-kick John Terry headed home, although Didier Drogba may also have got a touch.

Goals: 76′ Terry 1-0

Man of the Match: John Terry.

Premier League table:

Premier League Table 08-11-09

Chelsea 4-0 Wolverhampton Wanderers – 21 November 2009

Chelsea FC Blog: OK. My usual glass half empty demeanour meant that I’d predicted a dour 1-0 win against a team I had thought would come and park the charabanc. Seemingly everyone else had predicted, and subsequently put their money where their mouths were, a 3-0 win. This yet again proves the theory I have submitted for my PHD in Footie Guruism, that in general nobody knows anything about football. Nobody… fans, players, coaches, pundits, governing officials, refs, chairmen, chief execs, groundsmen, physios etc… NO-ONE KNOWS A THING ABOUT FOOTBALL. It’s all guesswork when all is said and done.

The kids got a game. The bench-warmers stood up to the plate. We buried yet another team at Stamford Bridge that the Scolari reign might have struggled to beat. The goal difference is now better than Arsenal’s. The detestable Liverpool drew and are now 13 points adrift of us. Arsenal lost unexpectedly. We’re top of the league. We’re top of the league. Top of the league. The league. The top. (Stops before a David Peace type affliction takes over.) I’ve got bacon, egg and sausage baguettes for breakfast tomorrow. I’ll be back on the bike and in the pool again this week. Like an injured player I’m now on the road to full match fitness and life feels a little bit good at the moment. I won’t get too carried away as 48 years on this fine ball of rock and water has taught me to expect an arse biting experience is only ever just around the next corner. But for now get the Cuban out of the humidor, pour the Rioja, sit back and enjoy this little slice of good fortune.

Sunday Telegraph: For most teams, losing the spine of your side through injuries to four international superstars might cause a problem or two. But Chelsea overcame the loss of Didier Drogba, Deco, Frank Lampard and Michael Ballack to rack up a comfortable win over Wolverhampton Wanderers, increasing their lead at the top of the Premiership and setting a new club record of 12 successive home victories.

Goals: 5′ Malouda 1-0; 12′ Essien 2-0; 22′ Essien 3-0; 56′ J. Cole 4-0

Man of the Match: Michael Essien

I love Anelka at the moment. But today belonged the man replacing Lampard at the tip of our iceberg lettuce formation thingy. Michael Essien didn’t quite get the hat-trick today but boy did he deserve one. I just can’t help wondering if we’re missing a trick using him as the holding midfielder when he can inflict this damage in a more forward role.

Premier League table:

Premier League Table 21-11-09

Arsenal 0-3 Chelsea – 29 November 2009

Chelsea FC Blog: Over the past few seasons we have been able to out-muscle Arsenal, and looking at the team sheet I think I could see Ancelotti had decided to play to that strength: Ballack and Deco had made way for the faster and younger pair of Mikel and Joe Cole. Lampard also made a welcome return, but apart from that the team was as expected, with Ivanovic keeping his place while Bosingwa is injured. Personally I think he has done enough to keep that spot even when Bosingwa is fit again, and looks strong defensively and going forward in the games he has played at right-back this season.

Chelsea were great, containing Arsenal, dominating the game and making the Gunners look poor. We played with quite a deep back four, which I guess isn’t unusual away, but it prevented Arsenal having any space to play their passing game except in front of us, and with them playing in our half we scored the first two goals because Ashley Cole had space to run into. Our defence was magnificent as well which it hasn’t always been this season, all the back four look solid. The defence relies on great concentration and positioning from the ‘diamond’ in front of them, and I noticed on two occasions when Arsenal had kicked off following a goal that within twenty seconds we’d won the ball back and gained a foul, allowing us to control the pace of the game and regain the initiative.

Independent on Sunday: Sitting on the bench at the end of the game, having wreaked havoc on Arsenal, Didier Drogba spent the last five minutes signing autographs for the home fans. And if you think that was humiliating for Arsenal, it was nothing compared to the game itself.

Goals: 41′ Drogba 0-1; 44′ Vermaelen 0-2; 86′ Drogba 0-3

Man of the Match: Didier Drogba

So good he makes Senderos cry, even when he’s on the bench. My Man of the Match – he was unplayable at times and Arsenal must hate the sight of him. Scored the first, pressured Vermaalen into an own goal, and wrapped it up with a peach of a free kick.

Premier League table:

Premier League Table 29-11-09

Manchester City 2-1 Chelsea – 5 December 2009

Chelsea FC Blog: Carlo decided to tinker with the team a bit and plumped for the same side that scraped past United a few weeks back. Including my least favourite player, the wasteful and lazy Deco. But to be fair, his recent appearances had offered very tiny glimpses of commitment and passion, so let’s give him a chance I thought. But I’m right. I may not know anything about football but I do know Deco is a rotten apple in the barrel.

So I was right. It was another Villa, except this time we can’t claim to have battered them as we did Villa. In fact, in all honesty the result was perfectly fair as far as I’m concerned. If we’re to be Champions then we need to be consistent, and this season if we allow a downgraded Manchester United when compared to last season to sneak the title then something is very wrong.

As Habs said in his immediate post match comments, we need one or two more players and to lose one or two of the less effective ones. Starting with Deco. I am also mystified why Carlo thought that starting with the same side as started against United was the right thing to do. Yes, we beat United but that was also one of the poorest displays of the season. The balance just looked wrong and Deco just doesn’t work enough for me.

I’ll try and get the glass half full and say it was a blip, but with less than half the season gone and three away defeats I still think our tentative grip on the title is still very fragile indeed. Wenger may have spouted some insane bollocks post match last week, but he got one thing right. We will drop points and this was a game we could and should have drawn, but for a lack of concentration and a drop off in performance. Another weekend with no Match of the Day then.

And finally back to the world of omens and curses. As I stated in a comment after the defeat to Blackburn, we lost in 2005 to Charlton in the same competition. At that point we had a five point lead over Manchester United and went on to win our second title by eight points. It was the year before an African Cup of Nations as is this year. In the previous season we lost our first game in the Mourinho regime to… Manchester City, and went on to win the league in style that year.

Coincidence?

A sign?

Or complete bollocks?

Of course it’s all bollocks, but on a dismal, rainy, miserable Saturday evening it’s the only straw to clutch at.

The Observer: City were good value for their victory, secured by goals from Emmanuel Adebayor and Carlos Tevez, but Mark Hughes and the record attendance must have feared the worst 10 minutes from the end, when Nedum Onuoha brought down Didier Drogba and Howard Webb pointed to the spot. Up stepped Frank Lampard, normally deadly from 12 yards, but this time he shot too close to Shay Given, who plunged low to his right to rescue his team’s winning position.

Goals: 8′ Adebayor (og) 0-1; 37′ Adebayor 1-1; 56′ Tevez 2-1

Man of the Match: Branislav Ivanovic

For the whole game it would be our old boy, SWP. But that’s against the blog rules. Our best today was the wonderfully reliable, hard tackling, poker faced wunder-defender Branislav Ivanovic. Well done Branners, you shouldn’t have finished on a losing side.

Premier League table:

Premier League Table 05-12-09

Chelsea 3-3 Everton – 12 December 2009

Chelsea FC Blog: Well, where do you begin with a game like this? Chelsea last conceded a Premier League goal at the Bridge on the opening day of the season, and now three come at once. This not only annoys me as a Chelsea fan but makes this review harder to write, as I can’t really ignore the elephant in the room (our shite defending) until the end of the post when I would normally add my interpretation as a biased and bi-polar fan. In fact this whole report today will probably be about as much of a shambles as Tiger’s marriage owing to a stinking hangover and a pretty stinking defensive performance. As bi-polarity kicks in though it should be mentioned I did meet a wise Scottish sage while out drinking last night who assured me Chelsea would win the league this season. A merry Scot down the pub may not be the best judge, but he assured me his judgement is always accurate (which was enough to convince me), and although we only drew Chelsea did have lots of positives in their play today.

I thought we were unlucky to draw today, even though you could understand an Everton fan who says he side deserved a point. They worked hard, but I thought we worked harder, something we forgot to do at Citeh. Ballack had one of his best games for quite a while, and although Lampard isn’t scoring under Ancelotti he still influences most games more than any other midfielder on the pitch. Drogba was rampant yet again and on another day would have completed his hat-trick, while Ivanovic tormented the Everton left flank so much that he was within a whisker of getting my Man of the Match award. We also had twenty five shots to the Toffees’ ten.

On the negative side is, of course, that defending. I picked on Carvalho earlier so I won’t do it again now, but I will get on a different high horse and defend Cech instead from some criticism that may get levelled at him. OK, he has played better in his career but he wasn’t really at fault today for the goals, two of them in particular were flukes that no-one could do much about. He is only 27 and has a long time left in football, and if he continues to gradually improve he may well regain his place as the best ‘keeper around.

The Observer: This was football, but not as Mourinho ever designed it here. The presence of one makeshift back four, and another that was neurotic and error-strewn, made for a contest that was far more open than it should have been. Once upon a time, the classy finishing of Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka would have been more than enough to ensure a comfortable three points. But the astonishing vulnerability of Chelsea’s rearguard presented Everton with gift after gift. Parking a bus? This was more like a clapped out old Mini Metro in front of the goal.

Goals: 12′ Cech (og) 0-1; 18′ Drogba 1-1; 23′ Anelka 2-1; 45′ Yakubu 2-2; 59′ Drogba 3-2; 63′ Saha 3-3

Man of the Match: Didier Drogba

Magnificent again, my Man of the Match for scoring two goals. The Drog must be annoyed with the defence for costing us three points as he did his fair share.

Premier League table:

Premier League Table 12-12-09

Chelsea 2-1 Portsmouth – 16 December 2009

Chelsea FC Blog: Personally, I thought we started the game brilliantly, which made a change from recent outings. We were playing with ‘intensity’ as Carlo loves to say but we were also displaying some lovely movement, pace and invention as we searched for that opening goal.

The second half was much of the same really. More Chelsea possession, more aimless final balls and more stupid free-kicks being conceded in our own half. In the end our stupidity was going to cost us and the inevitable arrived shortly after the restart.

The rest of the game was played out rather easily with only the introduction of the nippy Fabio Borini preventing one from nodding off. He certainly looked sharp and talented but is still rather raw and weak and was regularly brushed aside by the burly Pompey central defenders. I would bet on him having a good if not great future at the club and despite having a bit of the Michael Owen about him, his late miss told me that Carlo is wrong to believe that he is the answer to our African Nations Cup conundrum.

we got the win whilst not playing well and as we all know, that’s the sign of Champions! So let’s leave it at that.

Except we can’t. We have to remember that it was Chelsea versus Portsmouth, top versus bottom and a world-class side versus a shit one and we only scraped home thanks to a penalty. I know we’re in a blip and all Carlo’s claims that he won’t buy in January may simply be a tactic to keep the price of the likes of Ribery, Aguero and Pato reasonable but tonight showed us what happens when we have no Didier, no Essien and a below-par Lampard. Our possession was meaningless at times as we didn’t have the target man to finish it and with Anelka seemingly following Eidur’s lead in converting to a midfielder, I am desperate for Carlo to bring in a new striker, number 10, defensive midfielder and/or centre-back. It may seem drastic and for six months at least we will have a squad of 30 or so players but this squad needs a boost and without it, I fear that we’ll simply run out of ideas.

The Guardian: Some things never change. Avram Grant left Chelsea tonight with nothing other than sympathy to cling to and another Chelsea penalty to curse. The league leaders had re-established their advantage at the top here somewhat fortuitously at his Portsmouth side’s expense. At least the last time the Israeli was dismissed from these parts there had been the promise of a pay-off to sweeten his exit.

Goals: 23′ Anelka 1-0; 51′ Piquionne 1-1; 79′ Lampard (pen) 2-1

Man of the Match: Branislav Ivanovic.

Take your pick from Ivanovic or Ashley. They were both brilliant tonight but because of his role in winning the penalty, I’ll give it to the big Serbian.

Premier League table:

Premier League Table 16-12-09

West Ham 1-1 Chelsea – 20 December 2009

Chelsea FC Blog: Well the first shock was the absence of our best ball player, Anelka, apparently unavailable due to a hamstring injury which even prevented him being an option from the bench. Anelka has been, for me, a key player for us and his absence is like Essen’s, Lampard’s or Drogba’s. You could label him one of our ‘signature’ players if you like. Like many I sighed when I saw Kalou’s name as the replacement, but in the interests of fairness secretly hoped he would take this chance to really show his worth and justify his selection. But I was, as usual, wrong on that score. More on Kalou later. The second potential talking point might also be the further rather sordid revelations about our Captain’s apparently dodgy dealings, surrounding cash payments in leather folders, sullying his name as Chelsea leader and England Captain as well. Whatever his new agents are telling him is wrong and if he has any sense he’ll despatch them immediately and sign for someone who isn’t out to make him look like a shady money grabbing shyster.

An honourable draw to some, a missed chance for others and no doubt an unmitigated disaster for those with no real grip on the nuances of football. I’m somewhere in between but suffice it say this was NOT the sort of performance that wins Premierships. Despite Carlo’s attempts to change things early, it looks like a team that without Essien and Anelka will struggle to impose itself on purportedly weaker opposition. And that has to be a worry.

Well after the midweek struggle I half expected this. Is it a slump or a blip? Well come the evening of the 28th December after the Fulham game we’ll know, but if we are to have a decent Christmas then we’ll need to be a few orders of magnitude better than we’ve been since destroying Arsenal. Birmingham are on a very good run of form and are dogged in a fashion that reflects the granite jawed nature of Alex Mcleish. Fulham have shown their credentials with a great win in Basle and a veritable duffing up of Manchester United and will be eager not to wilt at Stamford Bridge. This isn’t anything Scolari like yet, but the sudden dip in confidence and energy in our game has to be setting alarm bells running. My concern is Ancelotti’s apparent apathy to this. I get the impression it’s all about the Champions League, which although important is still secondary in most fans’ hearts to the Premiership title. Someone in the club needs to ram this home to him and quick. Yes, we’re top and yes we’re looking a good bet, but when we lose Drogba, Essien and Mikel Obi then we look alarmingly blunt in attack. And Ancelotti looks decidedly uninspiring currently. Maybe it’s a demeanour thing, but he seems devoid of much charisma and presence. Maybe it’s just coolness but I don’t see much passion there either and I hope dearly we haven’t got another Benitez like automaton. I do want some fire on display. I want to see that he cares like I do.

So, a poor show, average at best results in an honourable draw against two favourite sons trying to make their way in the world. The damage done today is not catastrophic and I would like Zola and Clarkey to succeed and one day maybe be the main men at Stamford Bridge.

Daily Telegraph: Upton Park saw more conversions than an estate agent yesterday. Dean had correctly given West Ham a first-half penalty, ably despatched by Alessandro Diamanti after Ashley Cole brought down Jack Collison. Yet shortly before the hour-mark, Dean wrongly penalised Matthew Upson for a legitimate challenge on Daniel Sturridge, presenting Lampard with his chance which had to be taken three times because of encroachment.

Goals: 45′ Diamanti (pen) 1-0; 61′ Lampard (pen) 1-1

Man of the Match: Frank Lampard.

For the game Scott Parker, but for us, it was the magnificent Frank Lampard. Good to have you back Frank.

Premier League table:

Premier League Table 20-12-09

Birmingham City 0-0 Chelsea – 26 December 2009

The Observer: It was Chelsea who were left with the blues after the battle thereof, dropping two more priceless points in a dangerous mid-season hiatus: they have only one win in their past seven matches in all competitions. The league leaders, who failed to score for the first time in 34 games, are increasingly vulnerable to Manchester United, whose trip to Hull today has the look of a gimme.

Sunday Telegraph: The roar that met the final whistle at St Andrews spoke volumes. Birmingham City have come a long way since the start of the season, but holding Chelsea, the league-leaders, to a draw is some achievement. And if anything, they were the victims of human error, Christian Benitez incorrectly ruled offside when he turned in a shot from Liam Ridgewell from less than a yard.

Premier League table:

Premier League Table 26-12-09

Chelsea 2-1 Fulham – 28 December 2009

Chelsea FC Blog: Was it good? No. Was it even promising? Not for 65 minutes or so. Does it matter? Ultimately no. The performance counts less than the result but the suggestion that this squad is good enough is beginning to sound like the rantings of a mad Spanish waiter currently mumbling his way around the North West. Raniercelotti insists we have enough but come on, Sturridge and Borini… stepping up to the plate with about two hours of first team football between them? As nice as it is to see the kids get a go, relying on them without giving them the requisite experience seems rather a gamble to me.

This was poor fayre yet again today and the team that so dominated Arsenal just four short weeks ago looks like it’s been seriously holed with the loss of Essien and now Anelka. Anyone still doubt what level of class and composure Anelka brings to the side? I seem to remember some commenters quoting on how he just runs from side to side and undermines the number 10’s/head of diamond role… well maybe he has to because no other player is remotely good enough to do it. Anelka has been a huge loss, both in composure, but also in the ability to hold and run with the ball, to draw defenders out and create space for others. We need him back and we need him back soon. And that’s the rub, that’s the player we need… not another Drogba, we have others who can score, but we need another ball playing artist like Anelka and perhaps that’s why the clamour for an Aguero type figure is so popular here and in other Chelsea quarters.

A win is a win though and it keeps us top of the league although it’s more than likely the gap will be reduced on Wednesday again. I still think MANCHESTER United will go on a run as they always do post Christmas, and Arsenal also don’t seem to be dropping off the pace. This is our best chance for some years but I fear Raniercelloti’s tinkering might be a hindrance than a help. I always worry when I sense a coach just doesn’t get ‘it’. Mourinho got ‘it’ – he swanned in and understood the club and the fans and the sense of constant disappointment and set about rectifying it. Grant blundered and bullshitted his way through the remainder of THAT season. Scolari never got ‘it’ either, treating fans with contempt. Hiddink though… he got ‘it’, as much as Mourinho he understood the fans and the desires of those fans. I am a very long way from believing that Carlo Ancelotti actually gets ‘it’.

Daily Telegraph: Jose Mourinho was back at the Bridge but it was a former Inter Milan manager, not the present one, who gave Chelsea greater cause for concern in this victory over Fulham. In the end it was only the cruellest of own goals by a 20-year-old, making his full Premier League debut, and who was playing non-league football for Maidstone United just 18 months ago, that allowed Carlo Ancelotti the victory that relieves the pressure which was inexorably beginning to mount around him.

Goals: 4′ Gera 0-1; 73′ Drogba 1-1; 75′ Smalling (og) 2-1

Man of the Match: Branislav Ivanovic and Yuri Zhirkov

Well, I want to say Ivanovic for changing everything and for setting up the equaliser. He also made a superb header to prevent a Fulham player getting a chance on goal from a cross. But he was only on for 30 minutes… can someone really be a Man of the Match for that short a period? Zhirkov was also in with a shout but to be honest he was merely the best of a pretty rank display. So, in fact I will award it to both players and they can fight naked in front of a roaring log fire a’ la Women in Love for the winner. My money would be on Branners though…

Premier League table:

Premier League Table 28-12-09

Part one. Part three coming soon.