Chelsea 1-0 Stoke City – We Want Pots Or You’re ‘Kiln Fired

The image of the potter’s wheel is an iconic one. There’s something hypnotic about watching disembodied hands throw something as basic as a clod of humble clay onto the wheel and then gradually coax it into a light, symmetrical, spinning ceramic. There is magic in the transition from formless, brown lump to delicate, refined object ready to be kiln fired and fixed forever in its shape, which is then far more susceptible to damage and shattering than the formless agglomeration from which it came.

Well having watched Chelsea take on the Potters this afternoon, I’m not sure I saw much other than two shapeless lumps colliding. It was as though the potter was satisfied just to chuck it on the wheel and watch it fly off and hit the wall. Perhaps you could say that Chelsea were raised and shaped into a reasonable form only for the hands to lose control and the sides collapse to the centre and we were left watching a misshapen structure revolving until Andre Mariner pulled the plug and the wheel stopped spinning.

Not unlike this amorphous collapse that I keep trying to form into a beautiful contoured vase of reportage.

But it was all so uninspiring you see.

I was lucky enough to go to a school that had all the wherewithal to teach pottery as part of Art. So it was, that in my first few years (before I was “encouraged” to drop Art), I used to return home with the latest product from the kiln. Of course these receptacles of unknown purpose where formed by working the clay and not on a potter’s wheel. This explains why my hapless parents were confronted with samples of what looked like the petrified stools of a medium sized prehistoric mammal prized from the permafrost of the Siberian wastes.

Dutifully they were placed as decorations on the shelves and mantelpieces around the home. It was only some years later when I returned from college one holiday and was helping with the gardening that I realised they were no longer in pride of place but were forming part of a rockery.

And in the august canon of Chelsea victories, it won’t be long before this one is off the mantelpiece and into the rockery.

With Robert Di Matteo joining “Butch” Wilkins and Gus Hiddink in the “Pantheon of Temporary Chelsea Coaches Who Have a 100% Record in the FA Cup” during the week, it was now on the day of Chelsea’s 107th birthday his opportunity to start his Premier League caretakerage with a win.

We had all tried reading the runes on Tuesday when Essien, Lampard, Drogba and Cole had all not started in the Cup game, but were perhaps equally surprised to see Terry return to sit on the bench.

Well there were a few answers with the team picked against Stoke. Though not necessarily the ones we expected. Ryan Bertrand didn’t even make the squad as Cole returned. Luiz dropped to the bench, as Terry partnered Cahill and Lampard joined Mikel, Meireles and Ramires in midfield with Mata making way. Kalou was again preferred as a starter over Sturridge, with Drogba returning to replace Torres in the middle.

It very much had the look of functionality over form. And it may have been the aerial prowess and physicality of Stoke that was foremost in RDM’s mind. But while I didn’t want to pre-judge the selection I wondered where the creativity was going to come from.

As it transpired, Stoke came with little attacking intent. From the very start they were taking an age over dead ball situations and sitting deep. Well, you might have expected that for the first 20 minutes to half an hour and just when we were about to find out whether Stoke intended to push out having weathered the early pressure, Ricardo Fuller was sent off in the 25th minute for what seemed an inexplicable stamp on Ivanovic. I thought that the Chelsea man might be overreaching to get to a ball but he got good contact and my eye followed the ball. He may have caught Fuller while doing this. I didn’t see the incident but the linesman on the West Stand side was very definite in his flagging and there wasn’t a lot of protest from Stoke.

The die was cast and the pattern of the game wouldn’t now change. It was in fact Branners who had the best chances of the first half. He should have scored early in the game when he met a good cross on the six yard line only to head over. He also cracked a shot against the bar from the angle.

That he didn’t appear for the second half was down to injury I assume, as particularly after the sending off, he was the player finding the most joy against a hard working Stoke defence intent on not leaving any space behind the back four and content to let Chelsea play in front of them to little effect, something at which the boys in Blue excel. Only Kalou running in the channel on the left seemed to pose any other real threat.

Thus it was that shortly before half time Mata was introduced for Meireles, so as to provide some much needed creativity. It wasn’t until the second half when he slotted a pass to Drogba who was lurking around the penalty spot when Stoke were slow to push up, that this change finally yielded a reward. It was Drogba’s 100th Premier League goal and he is the first African player to achieve that feat. It wasn’t his best game but he got the much needed goal and worked hard even when he must have been frustrated by the errors he made.

The goal then ushered in a period where having penned Stoke in for most of the game, Chelsea conspired to give up a string of free kicks in reasonable positions and commit basic errors that allowed Stoke to get their first real foothold in the game. Part of this may have been down to Sturridge replacing Mikel just before the goal, which left Lampard and Ramires to anchor midfield behind four attacking players at a time when mentally the team were trying to consolidate rather than push on to finish the game.

But that said they should have done better and this wilting perhaps indicated the lack of confidence that seems to run through the team. Kalou, who I thought had a decent game Tuesday and for most of this one too, was particularly prone to giving the ball away or being caught in possession for the last 10 minutes or so. He has lacked game time and that may have something to do with it. Lampard, who was relatively undistinguished for most of the game did get in some timely tackles and was certainly fighting hard to the end when the team effort started to get a bit shapeless.

A win is a win and I’m not going to worry too much about the fairly obvious inadequacies of the team today. The important thing is to get some points together, build some confidence and see where that leaves them. But the lack of movement is very noticeable. As is the fact that every player slows or stops the ball before moving it on. No-one adds pace to the ball so as to build tempo. This allied to static positioning makes the team predictable. Yes a team like Stoke closes the space but players rotating position combined with a quicker rhythm to their passing would surely help.

I don’t know if the new coach will address this or even can. The concentration will be on continuing to look a sight more solid than they have done in recent weeks and that is certainly already tangible. But long term they have to look at the playing style. It’s not just about Barcelona. As Athletic Bilbao demonstrated, other teams are exploring systems based on player movement and fast ball transfer. And the two Manchester clubs, Arsenal and Spurs all look to that in their playing styles.

Having played a Championship side lacking some of their regulars and a 10 man Premier League side who performed well below their potential, it is difficult to make any real judgement and so it remains to cling on and hope for the best.

One other point that nagged at me was how little they utilised Luiz in attack at right-back. Considering the right was where Ivanovic had prospered, it seemed curious that Luiz rarely saw the ball even when he was getting into acres of space. His body language seemed to suggest he wasn’t too happy with that as he struggled to get in the game.

To end on a happier note, it was good to see Bobby Tambling come onto the pitch at half-time after recent poor health. It was quite an emotional moment. The club and the fans still mean a lot to him it seems. And he of course will always be a Chelsea legend. A somewhat overused term these days, I know. But somehow apt that he should be there to witness Drogba set another goal scoring record.

And here is that famous sequence from the BBC Interlude. It may inspire you to take up pottery.

And don’t worry that you haven’t got a kiln, just take them to the training ground. I believe they do a lot of firing down at Cobham.

The press reports

The Observer, David Hytner: “This was not a performance to have the Napoli scouts trembling, ahead of the Champions League last 16 showdown here on Wednesday night, but for Roberto Di Matteo and everyone connected with Chelsea, the result was everything. After the angst of recent weeks, on and off the field, which culminated in the sacking of Andre Villas-Boas last Sunday, there was comfort to be located in a narrow victory.”

The Sunday Telegraph, Duncan White: “Didier Drogba has 10 Premier League games left as a Chelsea player under his current contract – here was a little message about what they would miss if he does not get a new one. In a frustrating, fractious game, Drogba made the decisive intervention with 20 minutes to go, finishing expertly for his 100th Premier League goal.”

The Independent on Sunday, Steve Tongue: “Requiring a three-goal victory to push Arsenal out of the top four, Chelsea should have managed it, given that their opponents had Ricardo Fuller sent off for a blatant stamp after only 25 minutes. Instead, Stoke held on – literally at times, as most set-pieces turned into wrestling matches in the penalty area – until three-quarters of the way through a poor game, when Didier Drogba scored his 100th Premier League goal.”

The Official Chelsea FC Website: “Didier Drogba’s 100th Premier League goal, scored midway through the second half, gave Roberto Di Matteo a solid win in his first home game in charge.”

The goal

68′ Drogba 1-0

(Image credit: York Museums Trust Blog.)

There are 57 comments

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  1. GrocerJack

    I commend this statement to the House. 

    Fine work indeed sir. 

    I disagree with the Kalou comments, I actually thought he was poor for large parts of the game and his body language hinted at disinterest for me. Maybe he feels the chances to play are too little too late. I’d still take him over Malouda though. 

    I sat in my normal seat that faces the touchline by the East Stand for the first half before moving to a postion in the MHU behind the goal thanks to the continuing absence of Big Dave. So called because his name is Dave and he’s errr…..a big old unit. The place I normally sit is always rather appreciative of Mikel, but the second place is full of Mikel nay-sayers. Frankly I thought he played rather well yesterday and anyone watching could see the myth of his alleged slow release of the ball. 

    If I had to pick a MotM for us, then it would be Cahill who seems to be getting more and more comfortable each game and has the advantage over a lot of central defenders of having a mighty shot behind him. 

    But yes, after the goal we transpired to make 10 look like 12, and even watching the generous highlights hasn’t convinced me whether it was a Mourinho-esque ploy to hold the game and win (dangerously executed by giving them free kicks in dangerous places) or a nervous collective responsibility headless chicken hope for the best passage of play. 

    And Stoke’s time wasting, whilst clever by Pulis was frustrating and did disrupt any real flow the game had. I thought they tried it from the kick off for the whole game and rampred it up after Fuller’s stamp (for which the FA surely must look at extending the ban). To rub salt in the very minor scratch of a bedraggled 15 minutes finish, we had the sight of Huth remonstrating with Marriner in the final minutes about us equalising the policy of timewasting. Pots/Kettles immediately spring to mind. 

    Ceramic pots obviously.

  2. Blue_MikeL

    good win, important three points. this is pretty much all that worries me from now on,till the end of this crazy season.

  3. Blueboydave

    ” I’m not sure I saw much other than two shapeless lumps colliding” – that about sums it up, BB, though you might want to add “and clinging on to each other sporadically” for all the penalty area wrestling bouts.

    Trying to think positive thoughts : it’s our first consecutive wins since mid-January and consecutive clean sheets too, though against inferior opposition and 10 men; the Drog got his 100th EPL goal; the Spuds and Liverpool both lost their third league game in a row.

    The result might be all that matters, but it left me somewhat sad to see us toiling against 10 men at home for over an hour and trying hard to let them back into the game after we scored by our feeble efforts to close the game down rather than look for a 2nd goal.

    Pathetic fallacy time – it seemed entirely appropriate that the lovely warm, sunny Spring afternoon that greeted me as I walked to The Bridge before the game had become a dull, overcast early evening when I was going home feeling almost as down as if we’d lost.

  4. Cunningplan

    An interesting weekend of football so far, Spuds and Citeh feeling the heat, and hopefully Arsenal to follow soon.
    I’ll take 1-0 wins and bland performances until the end of the season thank you very much.

  5. Fat Nakago

    I was very underwhelmed by our performance and by the win. Yes. Scoreboard. Hooray! But….

    We don’t look at all like an elite team. We looked just as mid-table as Stoke.

  6. GrocerJack

    We have just finished recording The Podding Shed episode 6. Available tomorrow from all fine iTunes accounts free of charge, and of course available natively right from the best Chelsea blog around (that’s this one you numpties!) 

  7. Der_Kaiser

    No dramas, no injuries and two wins in a week.  Napoli unlikely to be quaking in their boots, but think we might (and it’s a bit might) just nick a result on Wednesday.

    We’re doomed, in other words…

  8. Cunningplan

    Very good podding shed by the way.

  9. bluebayou

    “How many open source PBXs can offer the equivalent of all forty-nine DPNSS features?”

    Clive, I don’t have the answer to this and therefore didn’t cover it in my report.

    I could ask a tech head in the office here but life’s too short quite frankly

    Might be the sort of thing Mr Glover could give us a view on. Or the boy Benfield?

        • Cunningplan

          Do I detect a little sarcasm in that reply? my remark above was not intended to cause any offence, hence the wink.

          • bluebayou

            Sarcastic? Moi?

            No offence was taken or given. Think proud boy scout on bob-a-job week, glad to be of service.

          • Cunningplan

            Glad to hear it, I appreciate it’s diffcult to gauge sentiment through typed messages on occasions.

          • bluebayou

            I’d rather hoped the quality of my prose would have made my sentiment clear. Now I feel crushed (or do I?) 😉

            (Disclaimer: Please note use of wink. Any replies or comments relating to this post will be understood to have sensed the humorous content thereof. No punch-ups will be engaged in. No attempts at legal redress will be countenanced. Failure to abide by this notice will result in a punch in the bracket.)

            Clive, feel free to use the short disclaimer in future postings. I renounce any copyright claims. Until it makes someone loads of money.

          • Cunningplan

            I now blame JD for this thread!, if he hadn’t said “we’re doomed” then I wouldn’t have gone looking for a picture of Private Frazer to post.
            I will accept some liability in that I should have searched harder and found just the picture and text, and not the article that accompanied it.

  10. Agh57

    Didn’t catch any of the game (not even highlights!) but liked the report and just finished listening to this week’s Podding Shed.

    I enjoyed the pottery analogy, I too went to a school where this type of thing was sort of encouraged. I have to admit that techincally I wasn’t that good at it. Within minutes of the wheel being turned on, most of the aforesaid clay had deposited itself on my trousers. If the technology had existed at the time to “fire” those trousers they wouldn’t have looked out of place on a Chinese Terracotta Warrior.

    Also everything that ultimately made it into the kiln for firing either blew up or came out looking extremely disappointing. (An analogy for this season if ever there was one).

    • bluebayou

      Thanks for that.

      They wouldn’t let us have a go on the potters wheel until the 3rd or 4th year ( in old money) and I had given it up by then. I have a feeling the result would have been the same for me.

      People always talk about having “feet of clay” to describe someone who while great in some ways is essentially flawed. “Trousers of clay” may now catch on to describe being just completely hopeless.

      Perhaps as a blog we could have the “Trousers of Clay” award for the worst performance of the week. 

      • GrocerJack

        Not specifically Chelsea related, but one memorable (for the wrong reasons) Trousers of Clay moment that stands out for me is the Gareth Barry/Ozil chase in the ill fated WC 2010 game versus our German friends. As I recall Barry had a 15 yard start on the goggle eyed german but bravely donned his clay trousers in the chase for the ball, which he lost and led to Germany’s 4th. I’m not convinced Barry has ever removed them since.

        • bluebayou

          “Gareth Barreeeeeey
          You’re wearing Trousers of Clay
          You’re wearing Trousers of Clay
          You’re wearing Trousers of Clay”

          Yes I can hear it now. Our away fans singing to general bewilderment at the Etihad.

  11. bluebayou

    Thinking about it, Ivanovic could have done with clay trousers to protect his unmentionables from Ricardo Fuller.

  12. WorkingClassPost

    Another live extravaganza missed by me, but it appears that BB’s report contains more amusement than did the 90 mins. Hard to tell from highlights, but 3 points, clean sheet etc.

    Next up, the Podding Shed for some proper entertainment!

  13. Blueboydave

    Oh God, Ron Gourlay’s been on another “building the brand”  exercise to entice the prawn sandwich brigade in :,,10268~2642857,00.html

    though if you’re brave enough to click through to the new website it appears to be strawberry cheesecake that is the main attraction!

    • Cunningplan

      Do you think though, that social services should be put on alert for the risk of child abuse later?

    • bluebayou

      One for the nature v nurture arguement.

      Although not sure whether it’s the childs nature to follow the path of righteousness despite the nurturing of the father or whether the father’s DNA would incline the child to Scouseland but solid nurturing by other family members and local societal and cultural experiences have successfully overcome that.

      There’s a novel in there. But I wont write it ’cause Pete Watts says there are too many rubbish writers writing rubbish novels and novels are generally rubbish. And I respect his opinion even though I secretly like novels and want to write one even though I wasn’t abused as a child and have never done anything interersting and have no imagination.

  14. Day Tripper

    Changing the subject completely, does anyone know why we were not able to hold on to Fabio Borini?

    • Ryan

      He signed a pre-contract agreement with Parma while on loan at Swansea. Probably a combination of him not wanting to spend any more time on our bench, in our reserves, or out on loan, him wanting to go back to Italy and us maybe not being that desperate to keep him I expect.

    • NorthernVA

      Breakdown in contract negotiations. He essentially frozen out of selection from the first team by someone up above, not the manager. Don’t worry I’m sure we will be back in for him with an astronomical offer in a few years.

      Seems a good kid. Heaped a lot of praise on Carlo and Didier for their help during his time at Chelsea. He stated, “He (Ancelotti) taught me so much; he took me into the first team at Chelsea. He helped me grow up and he game me advice.” He also said, “Drogba has taught me a lot. I stayed with him to learn all his tricks. When he sees a young man who wants to learn, he is available to teach.” 

      • Day Tripper

        Thanks for that guys. I was wondering because it was pointed out to me that he had scored 7 in 7 for Roma and had received a call-up for the Italian national team. You’re right, what’s the point of slowly bedding in a youngster by appearances in cup matches, then smaller league games etc, then the step up to starts in bigger games, when you can splash £50m on a mega star, whose cost + wages, probably exceeds the entire Cobham development. In a small way this is symbolic of everything that is dysfunctional about the current Chelsea

        • PeteW

          Staggering isn’t it? We refused to offer him a decent contract during last season’s ‘belt-tightening’ period (remember that?). I don’t think he had ridiculous demands, just wanted the same as other young pros (presumably Kakuta). When it became clear he wasn’t going to accept the deal, the hierarchy refused to let Ancelotti pick him despite the injury crisis we were suffering. Instead, they went out and spent £50m on Torres, and Borini went to Italy and has already been called up to the international squad.

          A particularly pathetic episode that should once again show people where the real problem lies at this club, should they care to pay attention.

          • GrocerJack

            Bruma as well.

            Are we sure Borini didn’t just want a new Datsun 120 Cherry *

            *Poor attempt to recreate Eddie Macreadie situation……

          • bluebayou

            Indeed. I think the contrast between the treatment of Borini and then splashing the cash in January, not in panic, but because the players we’d wanted so much in the summer were now available (cough) sums it up nicely. 

            I’m always left wondering at what point in his 2 year reign did the hierarchy become disillousioned with Ancelotti and why?

          • Blueboydave

             It’s really hard to work out, isn’t it?

            A man with the survival skills to last 8 years under the raging ego of Berlusconi at Milan who put up with the sacking of Uncle Ray and having Emenalo plonked next to him on the bench on match days without ever complaining publicly that I ever heard.

            He even overcame the long “bad moment” to reach a point where we were within a win at Old Trafford away from possibly pinching the title from Man U. But still our suits wanted him out.

            With AVB, it seems that being Roman’s own personal choice [allegedly] and costing a fortune to get doesn’t give you any protection or time either.

            So what will ever be good enough from here on? Is it win something every season or you’re toast?

  15. NorthernVA

    Btw great report BB. I am feeling cautiously optimistic about tomorrow night’s game. I think many of the players have a sense that this really is the last chance saloon so hopefully that added bit of motivation will carry us through.

  16. PeteW

    Stoch and Gokhan Tore are also prospering – fast, attacking, direct wide players, exactly the sort of thing we don’t need at all, ahem. 

  17. Der_Kaiser

    Has to be said that while some of the kids Arnesen took to Hamburg might have played a role for us, they are currently lurking just above the drop zone in the Bundesliga.

    Borini and Stoch are the ones that stick in the throat somewhat (for me, anyway).

    • Blue_MikeL

      I believe this is how it works out 10-20 of players one can get one or two gems and the rest are mediocre. However, when we miss even those gems we raise it is disaster. What kills me even more it is that we are going and buying mediocre players, while we can use our youngsters, at least they still have chance to develop and then sold. While buying mediocre players is just loss.   

  18. Fiftee

    Winning 3-1 with 10 to go. To be honest, if we still go out, I won’t be too fussed.

    The ageing Chelsea we loved have shown glimpses tonight that they’re not quite dead yet. It’s nearly over, just not yet.

  19. Fiftee

    I will take this opportunity before ET starts to once again bemoan the officials. How Drogba didn’t get a penalty while being hooked around the neck at the end of normal time is a joke. A joke of Tom Henning Ovrebo proportions.

    They’ve got it in for us have UEFA. I absolutely believe it now. That 4th/5th/6th whatever he is official behind the goal was staring right at it and was unmoved. Cheating fuckers.

  20. NorthernVA

    Cavani aint got nothing on DD. Sorted. Roman keep the transfer fee in your pocket. Contrary to belief from our own support…he makes the difference. Old Guard out!!! Tut..tut.

  21. limetreebower

    Went to the game with one of my boys, ergo had to leave after 90 mins … Bah. Stirring stuff. I’m not sure I buy the idea that this was a “crucial game”: we have more or less zero chance of winning this competition so I don’t really see why it matters when we get knocked out. But of course it’s good to change the narrative around the club, at least for a few days.

    Magnificent display by Drogs. Branners and Crazy David also v good, I thought. Napoli were brilliant for seven minutes, when it looked like they could score at will as long as they needed to: otherwise rather disappointing.

    • NorthernVA

      More than just a narrative for a few days. This was victory for football. Keep the micro-managers out of sport.

  22. NorthernVA

    Every man in a Chelsea shirt deserves credit tonight. Credit again to Senor Torres for working for the team tonight. I hope folks give the same amount of credit to Florent for the the work he did as well. This was a team effort that was required and delivered. I love me some Chelsea Football Club!

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