Premier League 2009/10 Review, Part Four

The final part of our review of Chelsea’s Premier League title-winning season in match reviews. Parts one, two and three.

Squeaky bums and goals galore…

Portsmouth 0-5 Chelsea – 24 March 2010

The Guardian: Chelsea may have felt the fates had conspired against them in recent weeks, though it is Portsmouth who have truly monopolised the hard luck story this season. While the visitors hoisted themselves from their untimely lull and back to within a point of the summit with comfortable victory here, the locals were left to reflect upon the wreckage of a drubbing.

Daily Telegraph: Chelsea feel fortune has deserted them of late but, on Wednesday night, it ridiculed David James instead. The Portsmouth and England goalkeeper committed the sort of error that was not only freakish but will be replayed time and again, completely missing the ball as he attempted to clear, gifting the crucial opening goal. A Paul Robinson moment.

Goals: 32′ Drogba 0-1; 50′ Malouda 0-2; 60′ Malouda 0-3; 77′ Drogba 0-4; 90′ Lampard 0-5

Premier League table:

Premier League Table 24-03-10

Chelsea 7-1 Aston Villa – 27 March 2010

Chelsea FC Blog: So rumours that Roman promised the side some new turf in that unexpected, three hour lecture at the training ground last week appeared to be false as our dry, sandy and rather patchy pitch was definitely still in place. It may not have directly contributed to the rather scrappy start but both sides began the game sloppily with plenty of players guilty of giving the ball away…

Then the game suddenly exploded into life thanks to a typical Frank Lampard goal. A nice ball from Deco found Anelka on the end of one of his trademark intelligent runs into the channels and his cut back found Malouda whose first time cross-shot was converted at the far post by Frank. It was a nice goal albeit against the run of play and as soon as play restarted, we began to play with more confidence, at a higher tempo and with much more movement.

And if our goal was typical Frank Lampard then Villa’s was typical John Carew. A simple in-swinging cross from the left was tapped home at the far post by Carew as Zhirkov was taking a snooze.

Frustration and groans then swept around the Bridge as fans feared another repeat of that dismal Blackburn display. For a while, the fragility of this group of players was on show as all confidence appeared to drain out of them.

The second half began with both sides swapping roles; Villa dominated possession for the first few minutes and we were the ones scampering away on quick counter-attacks.

We were playing brilliantly and Joe was having his best game for bloody ages as he cut out the ridiculous step-overs and pointless tricks and concentrated on old fashioned wing play. He may have tired after 70 minutes but up to that point he was bright and busy and somewhat unlucky to be upstaged by Malouda, Nico and Frank.

And just to round it off, yet another Malouda run and cross found Lamps 12 yards out who easily swept the ball home for his fourth of the game and 151st in a Chelsea shirt. These were unbelievable scenes as we watched a legend make it to third in the all-time goal scoring charts and the whole side batter a team gunning for Champions League qualification by scoring 7! Yep, seven bloody goals. The fact that I reported on the last time we scored seven this season meant its full impact may not have been truly felt but still, seven goals against Villa when virtually everyone else was writing us off was absolutely incredible.

It shouldn’t hide the fact that this side still needs dismantling but for now we could all look forward to the match at Old Trafford with much more hope than would have been possible this time last week.

Our football today was stunning at times and it gave us all the opportunity to watch Football First and Match of the Day again after a couple of dismal performances, which was nice. We can still end up as Champions and Carlo can come out of this year as a hero but now I and I suspect a few of you are stuck in a rather strange position of what to hope for. The leaks coming from the club are that whatever happens, the FA Cup Final will signify the end of this side. It will be broken up and new talent will definitely be brought in. So, with that on the horizon I can cheer on the side, hoping that they go out on a high. But some part of me fears that Roman may be seduced into thinking that a League title or FA Cup win will be enough to scrap those plans and continue on with this tired and stale team. Carlo needs the money and time to shape his own side and even though we scored 7 today, this team definitely still has some fundamental problems which need to be fixed. We all know what they are and now is not the time to go into them as that would be a depressingly pathetic way to celebrate a 7-1 win. We were brilliant today and it was indeed great to just see this side play at their best for a whole game but ahead of our trip to Old Trafford, perhaps it’s time we withheld judgement and waited for the outcome of next week’s huge match. A win there and then I believe we’ll be Champions but anything else and it is surely Fergie’s. It really is that close. If that scares you then all I can tell you is: “Man up, you girl.” Next week, we will see the Champions at Old Trafford and after today, I have a sneaking suspicion that it will be us.

Fuck. There’s that hope again.

The Observer: So rapidly do football’s fortunes deal their cards, Carlo Ancelotti cannot afford to be over-confident. But the more football they have played since the crushing week in which Chelsea slipped out of the Champions League and dropped points at Blackburn, the more that looks like an aberration they are well and truly over. Twelve goals in their last two games puts paid to the notion that a European exit might dent their appetite for the domestic challenge.

Goals: 15′ Lampard 1-0; 29′ Carew 1-1; 44′ Lampard (pen) 2-1; 57′ Malouda 3-1; 62′ Lampard (pen) 4-1; 68′ Malouda 5-1; 83′ Kalou 6-1; 90′ Lampard 7-1

Man of the Match: Frank Lampard

Who do you think it’s going to be? He’s so fucking good I’m almost lost for words. When Messi put on another master class last week for Barcelona, the Catalan press were lost for words and simply put up a front page saying: Holy Shit! Messi in my opinion will go down as the greatest player of all time but for us, we can make do with Lamps – the greatest player in Chelsea history.

Premier League table:

Premier League Table 27-03-10

Manchester United 1-2 Chelsea – 3 April 2010

Chelsea FC Blog: It says something about the rather cranky nature of this Premiership season that with less than half a dozen games to go, a definitive result in a game between the top two teams in the table may or may not mean something in the grand scheme of things come May 8th. Arsenal’s late, late show against Wolves leaves a three point gap between the top three, all of who have some potentially tricky fixtures ahead in the next month. You could give Stephen Hawking a slide rule, an abacus and Deep Blue and he’d struggle to tell you how this particular title race is going to turn out.

Much now rests on Carlo’s shoulders. I’ve always liked the ‘lucky manager over a good manager’ adage, as much as it is a load of old bunkum. From here on in, it is about seizing your opportunities – Mourinho was (usually) a master at doing so, today’s beaten boss pretty much wrote the book and even Benitez has had his moments.

And opportunity is knocking loudly for Signor Ancelotti. Very loudly indeed. Somehow, we find ourselves two points clear with five games to go in a Premiership season which has seldom followed the script, not to mention that we’re also ninety minutes – against a team that we comprehensively ruined last week – from another FA Cup final.

Whether by luck or by judgement, the manager has found a system which brings the best out in the players available and, if he remains brave enough to keep Drogba on the bench, there is a very potent option which you’d stake all your Easter eggs on if a game needs changing.

Seven, maybe six wins between now and mid May and you’re virtually immortal, Carlo. As a man once said when things went ‘down to the wire’ some years ago – it’s up for grabs now.

The Observer: Who would have thought it? Chelsea were not fibbing about Didier Drogba being injured after all, and once the sharp end of the visitors’ attack joined the sharp end of Manchester United’s on the sidelines this so-called heavyweight showdown resembled a shadow-boxing version of a title fight until the big man arrived to score the goal that possibly tips the title balance.

Goals: 20′ J. Cole 0-1; 79′ Drogba 0-2; 81′ Macheda 1-2

Man of the Match: Florent Malouda

Muscular, defence torturing wide play at its very best.

Premier League table:

Premier League Table 03-04-10

Chelsea 1-0 Bolton Wanderers – 13 April 2010

Chelsea FC Blog: We started fairly brightly in the game, with our first good chance after just five minutes. Zhirkov did a lovely dribble on the left to put Bolton’s right-back off balance before cutting inside and then squaring the ball just as he entered the area. Lampard stepped over the pass to leave it to Drogba who put it a yard or two over the bar from a solid side footed shot

After the bright start our game didn’t really get into a higher gear as I’d hoped for, with Bolton having their share of possession without creating much as our defence held firm. We weren’t looking all that purposeful either.

Just as I’m wondering how much some of the players (Drogba and Zhirkov aside) really want to win this game we break quickly, and a dangerous looking cross along the floor from Anelka is blocked on the edge of the six-yard box and goes for a throw in. Bolton clear the initial ball but it comes straight to a blue shirt still in Bolton’s half, and our midfield knocks it about a few times, probing for an opening, before it goes out to the left. A peach of a Drogba cross leaves Anelka the simplest of nods home from deep in the box. I knew I was right to doubt them starting together…

With a quarter of an hour left we’re still going for that second without hitting top gear, though the game isn’t really flowing so it’s difficult for us to build up a lot of pressure.

There are a few minutes of injury time which allow a good little cameo from JC as he slaloms past a few defenders, keeping the ball as he dribbles across the final third, and then a last Bolton throw-in which drops to Matty Taylor who thankfully drags his shot well wide, but then it’s the final whistle and a lot of relief from me. We should never have only won by a single goal but at this stage of the season I don’t really give a shit. Four points clear!

After losing to Milan we’ve thrashed Portsmouth and Villa, beaten Utd to go top, and won an FA Cup semi-final. It must be hard to motivate yourselves for Bolton at home after that lot, so I’m keeping the performance in perspective and trying to just stay happy with the three points.

Daily Telegraph: Chelsea seemed plagued by final-lap nerves, although they were simply not allowed to settle by Owen Coyle’s energetic, well-organised Bolton side. Kevin Davies and Jack Wilshere troubled Chelsea’s defence and when the final whistle blew, the roar around the Bridge could have been heard in a certain Wilmslow household.

Goals: 43′ Anelka 1-0

Man of the Match: Yuri Zhirkov

I thought he tormented the Bolton right-back. He may not be able to defend as well as Ashley but he isn’t too far from him on the attacking side of things. Less of a gobby shite too.

Premier League table:

Premier League Table 13-04-10

Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 Chelsea – 18 April 2010

Chelsea FC Blog: So how about that then? The title race isn’t just on but I feel we’ve blown it. Before you all start trying to calm me down, just ask yourself this simple question: do you believe we WILL win the title?

I’m not interested in if it’s possible for us to win the title, or if we can or whether it’s likely. All I want to know is if you believe we will win the league. Personally, I believe that we won’t and frankly I don’t think we deserve to. This is the third time that we’ve blown a lead of four points or more and that just isn’t worthy of any recent title winning side. Utd may have a terrible squad but what does that say about ours that we’re only one point ahead of them with a trip to Anfield still to come?

This side is finished and in a few weeks time we can finally say goodbye to it. It’s time to move on and let Jose’s team retire gracefully. There’s plenty of available, young talent out there (Di Maria, Pato, Rodwell, Bale…) and Roman appears willing to back Carlo so why not see this summer as an opportunity to rejuvenate this club? We looked tired, old and frankly past it today and the fact we couldn’t even put in the effort to compete with a talented but entirely beatable Spurs side says it all. Well done to Spurs and Harry and hopefully they’ll do us a favour next week but I believe that we’ll be heading to Anfield with only a one point lead and by the time our kit is launched on the final day against Wigan, we’ll be two points behind and the title would have gone. We don’t fucking deserve to win this league and if we do, then it’ll be by default as we’re only slightly less bad than Utd. Some of you may still look for the positives in that we’re still top of the league and our destiny is still in our hands and I agree that if you offered me the opportunity at the start of the season to win three consecutive games to win the title then I would have grabbed it in a second but the momentum has been lost and in my heart of hearts I really feel that we’ve thrown it away.

Daily Telegraph: This thoroughly deserved victory, earned by an early penalty from Jermain Defoe and a second goal in four days from Gareth Bale at the end of the first half, not only denied Chelsea the chance to re-open the gap to four points but, deliciously, opens the title race to a third party again. Arsenal, having thrown the towel in here on Wednesday, can move to within three points of leaders United with a win at Wigan on Sunday.

Goals: 15′ Defoe (pen) 1-0; 44′ Bale 2-0; 90′ Lampard 2-1

Man of the Match: Petr Cech

Lamps has got too many of these recently so it’s got to be Petr. Without him, this would have been horrific.

Premier League table:

Premier League Table 18-04-10

Chelsea 7-0 Stoke City – 25 April 2010

Chelsea FC Blog: The sun shone down as we kicked off, Stoke fans strangely muted considering their reputation and their showing last season. In fact this year I reckon they had half the fans in attendance today from the brick shitting equivalent fixture of last year. From the start it looked bright by Chelsea. In the first 10 minutes we showed more guile, craft and skill than in the whole sorry affair against the loathsome Spurs. Chances were carved out, mostly squandered by Drogba’s rather wild finishing but the important fact was that he was getting the chances and creating them, and all with a smile on his face.

Stoke like a lot of teams huffed and puffed but could only create the odd half chance. 99.99% of us probably thought we had scored when Drogba latched onto a Ferreira cross only to be thwarted by a brilliant save from Sorenson. A screaming shot from Lampard was parried by Sorenson who followed up with another great stop from Ashley Cole’s attempt on the rebound. Sorenson has been one of those hero keepers at Stamford Bridge and today was starting to look eerily familiar. But when you’re in the ascendency sometimes it’s about patience and the goal finally arrived. A cross field pass to Drogba, showing a great touch to flick the ball down was instantly crossed into the danger area for, of all people, Salomon Kalou to stoop with a diving header and put us a goal up.

A lovely piece of build up play saw Drogba lay a perfect ball to Lampard for another belter again parried by Sorenson, only this time Salomon Kalou was on the loose ball like a flash to slide in number two. Now we were in business.

As the half drew to its summation Kalou came in from the left with a mazy run whilst Huth nibbled away. Kalou showed remarkable guile by staying on his feet at the nibbles until inside the box and Steve Bennet had to give the penalty. No-one from Stoke complained and up stepped Frank Lampard to slot it home and send the luscious Miss Bleakley into squeals of delight.

As the second half started it looked like Stoke had had the hairdryer treatment and they were into us like terriers. Now we could have been shell-shocked by this or more likely the half time sleep and glass of hot milk administered by the Chelsea nurse had not quite worn off. For 20 minutes or so Stoke chased us and we gave the ball away a little too easily but such was the gulf in ability it really didn’t seem much of a worry. It looked like we were happy to snooze the game out and collect the three points. Then we unleashed hell. Frank Lampard picked the ball up and played Kalou in. The on fire Kalou swooped in on goal and saw his initial shot saved by Begovic but pounce on the rebound to collect his first hat-trick. And yes, it was fully deserved. He’s a frustrating player but today he showed exactly what he’s capable of.

Then came the stand out moment of the game. A fine cross from one of our kids, Sam Hutchinson, was met by Lampard who with a deft flick of breathtaking audacity and skill made it 5-0.

But there was more. Drogba played a stunning through ball to Sturridge who despite a seemingly heavy first touch then scored his first Premier League goal for us with a stunning finish that showed real coolness. Slightly odd celebration dance mind. So, what else did the cake need… oh yes a big bright cherry on the top and that came from Florent Malouda with a relatively easy tap in after Joe Cole played in a super first time volleyed cross. An emphatic and joyous win which may well have sent a message out that we do actually want this title after all.

The Guardian: The title race was suspended. This result certainly had its ramifications, with Chelsea now enjoying a lead of eight over Manchester United in goal difference and also putting themselves in front once more by a point, but there was no sense of grand issues at stake. If anything, this was a therapeutic afternoon for Carlo Ancelotti’s squad and Salamon Kalou claimed a first hat-trick at the club. This, too, was Chelsea’s biggest victory in top-flight League football.

Goals: Kalou 1-0; Kalou 2-0; Lampard 3-0; Kalou 4-0; Lampard 5-0; Sturridge 6-0; Malouda 7-0

Man of the Match: Michael Ballack

Salomon Kalou deserves this for a hat-trick and Frank Lampard for a wonder goal. Michael Ballack was head and shoulders above every player on the pitch today. Those three get to fight it out for the award, man against man. My money’s on Ze German.

Premier League table:

Premier League Table 25-04-10

Liverpool 0-2 Chelsea – 2 May 2010

Chelsea FC Blog: Somehow, our dysfunctional band of over-the-hill, out of form, overpaid, gutless mercenaries managed to pull themselves out of their cash-lined penthouses after capitulating meekly to Spurs and transformed themselves into a hungry, stylish and free-scoring monster in front of a bemused Bridge last weekend.

Never let it be said that the Blues aren’t in touch with their fanbase; we have a team almost as bipolar as its own supporters. If a week is a long time in politics, you could measure the same period in light years down in SW6; the seven days between White Hart Lane and the evisceration of Stoke was the kind of transformation that would have made even Nick Clegg a little envious.

We travelled to Anfield with no new injury worries; Ballack kept his place in the holding role, Terry returned from suspension shifting player of the season candidate Ivanovic to right-back.

Personally, whilst nerves were the order of the day, there was something comforting about seeing an attacking quintet of Lampard, Malouda, Kalou, Anelka and Drogba on the teamsheet. If we couldn’t beat a tired, depleted and dispirited Liverpool side with that lot on the pitch, we should happily doff our caps in the direction of the Stretford End and be done with it.

For twenty minutes or so, Liverpool looked far from a bunch of manic depressives dragged from beneath their duvets – some sharp, quick passing gave them the early initiative, Aquilani’s twenty yard bar-brushing piledriver being the pick of the early exchanges.

But the elephant in the room – and we’re talking one seriously huge pachyderm here – was the sheer lack of quality up front without Torres. And this elephant isn’t just in Rafa’s room anymore. It has made itself comfortable on the sofa, called some mates in Sri Lanka and ordered a pizza, helped itself to Rafa’s wine cellar and is currently whispering crude suggestions in the ear of a pliant and giggling Mrs. Benitez.

As the Blue faithful started to twitch a little, the old “big games need big players” (a theme that I shall return to later) adage slid into view in a slightly unexpected but nonetheless welcome manner.

One goal, one assist.

Good old Stevie Gerrard; a fine record he has for Chelsea – just as he cropped up with an equaliser in the 2005 Carling Cup Final when things were looking a tad bleak, his defence-splitting backpass found a very grateful Drogba (who had previously veered dangerously close to becoming his not-that-bothered alter-ego up until then) who rounded a stunned Pepe Reina and gave us the advantage.

The conspiracy theorists started typing furiously, some noting that Gerrard does (allegedly) have a lot on his mind at present, the details of which are available on other websites should you choose to have a surf.

From there on in, it became pretty much one-way traffic.

Daily Telegraph: So, it is down to the wire, down to the final weekend and down to Chelsea holding their nerve against Wigan Athletic. As Carlo Ancelotti and his strong-willed players moved ever closer to touching the Premier League trophy, Rafael Benítez’s dejected and disorganised Liverpool edged closer to touching the abyss.

Goals: 33′ Drogba 0-1; 54′ Lampard 0-2

Man of the Match: Salomon Kalou

For a moment of subjectivity, I’d call it between Alex, Ivanovic and Kalou. And just because I like an underdog, our much-abused but equally underrated Ivorian edges it for me. Frustrating? Yes. But probably the only player we have that actually runs at the opposition with a degree of pace and unpredictability. The end result may not always be there; he’s sort of a Gronkjaer for the Ancelotti era with a few added goals which makes him the perfect squad player. Long overdue cult hero status, in my opinion.

Premier League table:

Premier League Table 02-05-10

Chelsea 8-0 Wigan Athletic – 9 May 2010

Chelsea FC Blog: Humble pie time: I never thought Carlo would ever take us this far and to be fair there have been some terrible moments this season when most of us thought it was all over, along with some weird lapses in performance (most of those – including the Citeh, Everton and Blackburn debacles – with Drogs and Anelka playing in the same team, while Lamps is held back). But he has got the pair of them working well together again, as well as getting Lamps, Malouda and Kalou upfield and firing, so credit to him. He has proved far more able than I imagined. Well done that man!

And we only have to wait five minutes and Nic puts us 1-0 up! Drogs lines up the free kick, it goes into the wall, and while Wigan stare at him appealing for a handball, Ballack heads it forward to Flo, who chests it down for Nic to volley in from close range. Cue an anguished ‘analysis’ from the Sky team, who award Wigan an offside ‘decision’ and Man Utd a reprieve. Fortunately, the referee’s never heard of any of them.

A great switch-shot to the Theatre of Dreams of the Mancs fans listening to Stoke supporters singing ‘Chelsea, Chelsea!’ Luvverly!

Then, on 30 minutes, Lamps (who has been stifled and wayward up until now) is brought down in the box after Drogs puts him through. As soon as I see it, I know it is a penalty and the replays prove me right. What is a shock is that Caldwell is sent off too. Credit to Martin Atkinson; not many refs would have been brave enough to give that one with Sir Purple Nose waiting for them on the telephone.

Drogs then goes on to show us exactly why we love him and why he also drives us barmy. He’s actually arguing with Lamps, saying that it is his penalty to take! And then he goes into a sulk when Lamps slams it in! And he carries on sulking all the way up to half time! You crazy, beautiful, gifted, African nutter you!

2-0 up now against 10 men and still the pessimist is squawking in my ear: ‘let’s hope we don’t blow it now…’ Jeez – what it is to be a Chelsea supporter.

Looks like Carlo’s had a few words. First we get into a team huddle before the kick-off, then we start playing like a mean-machine: brisk, muscular, passing and moving forward with pace and guile. Once again, Kalou looks dangerous…

And he scores! It’s 53 minutes gone and that’s it and we are the fucking champions … Cue more camera shots of doleful faces at Old Trafford.

After that the goals go in so quick and fast that I don’t have time to keep a proper record and I go into shock. But I do notice that Frank is at the hub of almost every move forward. The record shows that we only have 10 shots on target but eight go in and we just can’t stop scoring.

The Guardian: Chelsea reclaimed the title after a four-year wait and the 8-0 rout flaunted the goal-scoring verve that has distinguished them. Didier Drogba’s hat-trick made him the Premier League’s top scorer and this was the club’s record margin of victory in the top flight. With 103 goals they have outdone the tally of 97 notched by Manchester United when taking the title 10 years ago.

Goals: Anelka 1-0; Lampard (pen) 2-0; Kalou 3-0; Anelka 4-0; Drogba 5-0; Drogba 6-0; Drogba 7-0; A. Cole 8-0

Man of the Match: Frank Lampard

Could go to Lamps or Drogs, with Kalou and Nic also in the running. Think I will give it to Super Frank though as Drogs has got his boot after all.

Premier League table:

Premier League Table 09-05-10

Premier League end of season stats

Man of the Match awards: Didier Drogba – 7; Branislav Ivanovic – 7 (one joint); Florent Malouda – 6 (two joint); Frank Lampard – 4 (one joint); Deco – 2; Yuri Zhirkov – 2 (one joint); Michael Essien – 2; Ashley Cole – 1; Joe Cole – 1; John Terry – 1; Salomon Kalou – 1; Michael Ballack – 1; Petr Cech – 1.

Goals: Didier Drogba – 29; Frank Lampard – 22; Florent Malouda – 12; Nicolas Anelka – 11; Salomon Kalou – 5; Michael Ballack – 4; Ashley Cole – 4; Michael Essien – 3; John Terry – 2; Joe Cole – 2; Deco – 2; Daniel Sturridge – 1; Alex – 1; Own goals – 5?.

Yellow cards: John Terry – 7; Didier Drogba – 7; Branislav Ivanovic – 6; Ashley Cole – 4; Ricardo Carvalho – 4; Yuri Zhirkov – 4; Deco – 4; Florent Malouda – 3; John Obi Mikel – 3; Michael Essien – 2; Joe Cole – 2; Michael Ballack – 2; Paulo Ferreira – 2; Salomon Kalou – 2; Alex – 2; Juliano Belletti – 1.

Red cards: Petr Cech – 1; Michael Ballack – 1; Florent Malouda – 1; John Terry – 1; Juliano Belletti – 1.

Premier League 2009/10: A Review in Reviews parts one, two and three.

Chelsea Football Club – Premier League Champions 2009/10.