Wow! Just wow! How to follow a Manchester Derby like that?
Well with a quick lie down, a stiff drink and some highly inappropriate oohing and aahing at the screen as they replay Silva’s pass for City’s sixth. If it wasn’t for Barcelona and their ludicrous abundance of talent, Silva would be rivalling Messi and Ronaldo for World Player of the Year. And yes, I know I’m meant to be previewing the massive West London Derby but when you witness a result and more significantly a performance like that, we have to discuss what a seismic day this could be for the Premiership.
To call City unstoppable would be laughably premature but much like the early days of Jose’s reign, there is a clear, ominous momentum being built up by Mancini. The times of merely dismissing an impressive start from the Blue Half of Manchester as an anomaly or an aberration which will inevitably peter out are over. With the hugely talented and varied squad they’ve built up they were always going to be contenders this year but the way they have started the season hinted at what was to come today. Swatting away the dross in this league is one thing but demolishing Spurs and scoring five away from home is quite another.
Yes, I know United going down to 10 men was crucial and that City’s form in the Champions League has been anything but impressive but you simply cannot ignore what a statement scoring six goals at Old Trafford makes. It still hasn’t really sunk in properly but United were humiliated and conceded six goals today. Six bloody goals! Yes that’s six. Sky Sports even went to the trouble of writing out the word as well as putting the number down, in case anyone failed to grasp what had happened today.
Plenty of very good sides have had United down to 10 men and failed to capitalise like City did today, with the 6-1 result not even flattering City in my eyes if you look at the chances they missed. The constant rotation, appreciation of space and controlled, counter attacking football they played really was beautiful at times and I have to admit that by the end, I was cheering them on. As a neutral, seeing David Silva put in one of the greatest individual Premiership performances I’ve ever seen just made me smile and after he flicked the ball up on the halfway line and volleyed it through to Dzeko for City’s sixth, I just started laughing like a giddy schoolboy. It was a joy to watch and a wonderful way to get ready for our Derby.
After I had calmed down from that bonkers game, it suddenly dawned on me that this was our big moment to reclaim the ground lost with defeat at Old Trafford. Whilst I was certainly not part of the “it’s only QPR so I expect a romp” brigade, I was expecting a rather comfortable afternoon against a poor side who after they’d run around a bit and got the Derby Day excitement out of their legs would surely wilt. It wasn’t arrogance or overconfidence but instead an expectation that with the way we have been playing lately, we would simply overwhelm them with our movement and passing. However, I then remembered this was Chelsea we were talking about and things are never quite that simple…
Cech, Bosingwa, Terry, Luiz, Cole, Mikel, Meireles, Lampard, Sturridge, Drogba, Mata.
Subs: Turnbull, Ivanovic, Romeu, Malouda, McEachran, Kalou, Anelka.
So no real surprises for most watching the game as Didier replaced the suspended Fernando and Meireles came in for the injured Ramires whose energy would have been ideal today.
Personally, I was a tad surprised we didn’t go for Nico. Didier has had a poor (being kind) start to the season and the fact that he’s only scored three goals since Fernando arrived says a lot for me. His time at the club is certainly drawing to a close.
Oh and isn’t it nice to see Josh back on the bench. With all of our new signings we do have a rather large squad but this kid certainly has the talent to merit a place in the 18.
Thought I’d give him his own special section. Pay attention kids because for those of you who didn’t see the game, this guy was pretty influential today.
Let’s Get Ready to Rumble…
Apologies. I just couldn’t resist. Today was feisty to say the least. Passionate for long spells, appallingly aggressive in others and downright dirty for the rest of it. If you – like Jamie and Gary – thought this was “the best the Premier League has to offer” then I don’t want really want to talk to you or be anywhere near you. For the rest of you who saw this game I’m sure you’ll agree it was a maddening, exciting and crazy game which made you proud to support Chelsea yet despair that we have to put up with such displays of baffling, refereeing incompetence.
The match started out rather sloppily. Martin Tyler told us that the Chelsea squad had been glued to the Utd-City game in the build-up and in the opening stages, we didn’t exactly look all that focused. QPR were buzzing about and harrying in their typical, ‘up and at ‘em’ style but with the class we had on show, we really should have just knuckled down and played around them. Instead we looked shocked and almost offended that these minnows from down the road had had the temerity to barge us about and get in our faces. “We’re the artistes from West London don’t you know and we deserve a bit of time and space thank you very much,” was the impression I got from a few of the guys in the early stages and ultimately our sloppiness and timidity was punished.
Yet another long punt into our box was allowed to bounce by David Luiz towards the waddling Helguson who was struggling to reach it before the ball ran out of play. However, David then inexplicably decided to run into him and barge him over. It was a nailed on penalty and another ridiculous notch on Luiz’s ever increasing belt of moronic defensive mistakes. The penalty floated in and we were 1-0 down and chasing the game.
At this point you expected the fight back to begin. AVB has developed a passionate, entirely committed and hugely impressive team ethic this season but for the rest of this half, that team spirit was severely lacking. Whether it was dawdling to reach second balls or getting brushed aside by QPR’s aggressive tactics or just forgetting the passing, moving and high tempo football which has brought us so many goals recently, we didn’t look like the side which had brushed aside the likes of Everton and Bolton. Frankly, we looked like the shambles of Carlo’s last few days in charge.
Now, I hate to pick on one man – actually who am I kidding, I love it – but when reflecting on that first half I was trying to work out why we were playing so poorly. QPR’s pressing game was an awkward distraction but something was clearly missing from our attacking play. Then it struck me, Didier was having one of his sulks. He was at his arrogant worst when he decided to blaze the ball out for a throw despite having four players in support but even before that moment he seemed to be lost in our fluid, rotating side. His touch was off, his pace was non-existent and his attitude stunk. He seemed intent on doing things on his own and after nearly half an hour of his diva act, I was royally pissed off. I forgive arrogance if you’re having a barnstorming game and have the ability to back it up. But when you’re a target man getting dominated by Anton Ferdinand and having passes embarrassingly bounce away off your shins, understanding from the fans is a little less easy to come by.
So at this point things weren’t going well. Chris Foy then decided to get involved to liven things up a bit for some peculiar reason. A couple of baffling decisions for nothing fouls by Mikel and Ash went against us, then he decided to ignore a five minute spell of constant hacking on Sturridge from Clint Hill before his big moment came. Our high line was caught out with another long punt, this time to Shaun Wright-Phillips. He was in a race with Bosingwa and it was clear that both were pulling away at each other’s shirt. After a coming together on the edge of our box, the ball broke loose to SWP and he had a one-on-one shooting opportunity with Petr. However, he stopped and turned to see Foy rushing towards the box with a red card in his hand, which he promptly flashed in Jose’s face like a headmaster, revelling in getting his little black, punishment book out. Bosingwa, JT, Ivanovic and the Chelsea fans went ballistic. JT’s frankly weak defence that he was there on the cover should be dismissed and instead the issuing of the foul should be questioned. Both were pulling each other’s shirts and it merely looked like a slip from SWP as he approached the box. The fact that he got straight back up and collected the ball in preparation for a shot was telling for me. Anyway, there would be no changing of Foy’s pea-sized, petty mind and we were down to 10.
Unfortunately Sturridge was then understandably sacrificed for Ivanovic and for the rest of the half we looked to scramble home to the dressing rooms without conceding again. However Didier then decided to awake from his slumber, which ended in predictably disastrous fashion. From yet another woeful first touch, he went chasing the ball and instead of letting Taarabt dribble down a cul-de-sac covered by Ash and JT, he lunged in, catching Taarabt’s shins with two feet. It was a terrible challenge which even Lamps winced at in the background. What made it worse though was the disgusting arrogance Didier showed as he walked off. With Mikel calmly telling Didier what he thought of his irresponsible behaviour, Didier decided to put his finger to his lips, patronisingly telling Mikel to shut up. It was a moronic, indefensible challenge which deserves to see him fined. He’ll be excluded after his ban – as is AVB’s wont when he likes to punish stupidity on the pitch (see what happened to Kalou after Valencia) – but this looks increasingly like the winding down of Didier’s career at Chelsea. More on that later.
So we were down to nine men, panicking and desperately hoping this wouldn’t get any more embarrassing. Mata was then sacrificed for Nico with the clock winding down on the half and as the whistle went, those of a Chelsea persuasion looked to be shocked and rather lost. This was AVB’s Chelsea. Chaos like this isn’t meant to happen.
The players were out early for the second half and we were all wondering how we’d stay competitive in this game let alone get back into it. Some may underestimate how tricky it is to play with nine as you have to somehow solve the impossible equation of balancing keeping a back four in place, a target man to provide an outlet, a midfield to press the opposition and – if you have any fingers left whilst counting up your players – trying to provide some width. AVB clearly disagreed with Ray and Martin’s suggestion to shut up shop and hope to sneak something at the end and told the guys to just go for it. And frankly, we were bloody brilliant this half.
Whether it was Lamps constantly raiding forward (didn’t someone say he was finished, out of energy, over the hill…), Meireles displaying all the class in the world with some stunning footwork all over the pitch, Mikel performing like a number 10, defensive midfielder, right-back and centre-back throughout the half, Ivanovic and Cole playing as wingers yet still covering back when QPR broke or JT putting in a stunning Beckenbauer impression, we were controlling this game and displaying so much heart, fighting spirit and passion that the fact that we never quite got the goals we deserved hardly mattered. It had that feel of us fighting back at the Emirates with only 10 men when we gave up our title in 2006/7 season and by the end of the half, the smiles had returned.
We burst out the traps with Meireles curling over a beautiful cross for Lamps whose goal bound header was deflected wide. We were pressing all over the pitch yet still miraculously had spare men, waiting to accept the ball. Both Branners and Ash were storming forward to provide crosses to set up both Lamps and Meireles for long range opportunities. Luiz then nicked the ball and set up another counter attack which eventually ended with Barton crowding out Lamps on the edge of the box. We were dominating the game and playing some lovely stuff which was extraordinary to see due to the lack of numbers on our side.
So how did AVB do it? Well with a beautiful tactical display. I know some don’t really appreciate the tactical side of the game (“good players should always be able to find a way to play well together” is the bullshit I get tired of hearing) but the way he set us up in this half was something beyond virtually any other coach in Europe. With the ball, we kept two at the back (one of which being Mikel) and allowed Ash to play as a left wing back, pushed Branners even further forward to be a right winger and with Lamps, Meireles and Nico playing keep ball in neat triangles in the middle, we engineered space for the spare man to be JT or Luiz to storm forward. It was beautifully fluid, total football at times and despite the inherent high risky nature of chasing a game with only nine men, we put in some magnificent stuff. The days of Chelsea not having a plan B are well and truly bloody over.
It had now been five minutes since Chris Foy had been in the game so he decided to get involved again by booking Mikel for a trip, Lamps for complaining that Derry had clattered into his knee with a terribly late challenge, Ivanovic for a block, then waving away clear shirt pulls on Lamps and Luiz in the box before he laughably decided to confront JT and book him for rightfully complaining at that elephant Kenny for diving and rolling all over the place when JT ran near him. I tried to stay as impartial as possible when judging his refereeing performance but by the end I had just given up. It was one of the worst displays since Ovrebo’s nightmarish showing.
By the end of the game we had carved out a few great opportunities for Nico, who missed a simple header from Ivanovic’s stunning cross and then Luiz whose overhead kick was deflected agonisingly over the bar by Lamps of all people. It was clear we had run out of steam by the end of the game but when the final whistle came I didn’t feel all that disappointed or frustrated. Yes I was annoyed that we’d let City go six points clear and massively pissed off at Chris Foy but the way we fought back into this game with only nine men made me smile and feel enormous pride for the guys. This was the angry, passionate, ‘us against the world’ Chelsea we thought we’d lost under Carlo and personally that second half was one of the best I’ve seen in a long while. We may be a long way behind but if we play like that for the rest of this season, we’ll be in with a shout for both of the big two titles.
- Passion – The heart and fighting spirit we showed to dominate a game with only nine men was a herculean effort. An incredible second half display.
- AVB – A second half tactical masterclass. He may have screwed up by picking the woeful Didier but the way he balanced a two man disadvantage to still see us dominating the game and creating chances was joyous. I have complete faith in AVB and haven’t felt this way since a certain other young, Portuguese star waltzed in to manage us. The way he calmly destroyed Chris Foy in the post match interviews was also a joy to watch: “Not a bad day for us, a bad day for the referee. We controlled the game with nine men for 45 mins, but every decision went against us. I don’t have a problem with discipline, I have a problem with this referee applying discipline.” When speaking to Chris Foy post-match: “I was very aggressive to him.” Did he have a problem with that? “I don’t care.” I’m in love with this man.
- JT – Utterly magnificent captain’s performance. Drove us forward all game and deserved to drag us back level at the very least.
- Lamps – Where does he get that energy? He may not have the pace or quick feet of old but his class and stamina were magnificent. Talk of a new contract to see him retire at the club in 2015 is completely deserved.
- Ivanovic – A revelation as a right winger. Blessing in disguise to have him as our only fit right-back against Arsenal. Despite his good form, I’m still not a Bosingwa fan so it’s nice to see Branners back in the side. Helped keep Luiz in check too.
- Second half Luiz – A wonderfully bonkers second half performance as he strode forward with all the elegance and grace of Pique or Lucio in his pomp.
- First half Luiz – Let’s all have a chuckle at loveable Luiz. Isn’t it hilarious how he bumbles about conceding fouls, picking up yellows and moronically giving away penalties? Erm, no it’s not. We get that he’s impetuous and naive but he really should have learnt by now. Last chance before you’re benched.
- Chris Foy – A disgrace.
- Didier – It’s his last season at Chelsea. This is not a knee-jerk reaction to one sending off or a single poor performance but a reflection of what has been a woeful 2011 for him. His pace has gone, his poor touch and technique have got worse and he just looks completely lost in this new Chelsea built around high tempo, fluid rotation. Worse than that though is his arrogance. He is struggling to accept that he’s not first choice these days and his ridiculously childish reaction to Mikel when he was sent off just pissed me off. It was Didier at his worst.
- Lack of clean sheet – I know AVB is trying to keep everyone calm by dismissing it but it’s a serious worry now.
- QPR – A terrible team, with a dick for a manger and some of the worst fans in the country. Picking up the ball, throwing it two yards away then screaming abuse at a Chelsea player isn’t big or clever. Just makes you out to be a moron and a disgrace of parent as your child sits there, watching their father spit and swear at another grown man for playing football. Embarrassing.
The player ratings
The ratings are back! Stuff the lot of you who don’t like them.
- Cech – 8/10 – A brilliant sweeper keeper performance. Unlucky with the penalty too.
- Bosingwa – 5/10 – Still a defensive liability as SWP sped past him on a few occasions. Unfortunate to be red carded.
- Luiz – 6/10 – Magnificent in the second half as he stormed forward but his first half naivety is hard to forgive. A silly silly boy.
- JT – 9/10 – Fighting spirit, passion, anger, aggression… it was all there. Almost the perfect captain’s performance.
- Cole – 9/10 – Gets a bonus point for a beautiful two-footed lunge on Barton after the final whistle. A hugely committed, box to box showing. Nearly back to his best.
- Mikel – 8/10 – A few dodgy moments early on when they all looked to be half asleep but when we were down to nine, he puffed out his chest and decided to dominate the game. Brilliant.
- Meireles – 8/10 – Pure class.
- Lamps – 8/10 – A vintage Lamps performance which deserved a goal. Don’t write him off just yet.
- Sturridge – 6/10 – Almost kicked out of the game early on with some disgusting challenges. Unlucky to be sacrificed.
- Mata – 5/10 – Looked shocked at some of the tactics QPR employed. His quietest game yet.
- Didier – 0/10 –Indefensible, moronic, woeful… you name it, we saw it today. I hated his performance and can’t wait for Fernando to return. The beginning of the end.
- Ivanovic (sub) – 8/10 – A revelation in a new attacking role.
- Anelka (sub) – 7/10 – A classy showing ruined with a poor header.
- Malouda (sub) – 6/10 – A bit quiet in his new centre-back/defensive midfielder role.
- AVB – 9/10 – Loses a point for the Didier decision but the second half tactical masterclass and passion he showed when defending our players and attacking Chris Foy was brilliant to watch. The days of everyone loving this new, friendly Chelsea are over and I for one am delighted that they are. We are now led by one of the world’s most tactically astute, intelligent and passionate managers who is rapidly transforming the philosophy of the side. Remember the days when some wanted to give Carlo another year?
Man of the Match
I’ll give it to JT. Magnificent.
So how do you sum up a crazy day like that? Well, I’ll keep it succinct. City are a machine who’ll take some stopping, United aren’t quite as good as people think and we’re still a work in progress. When we’re at our best we can beat anybody but if our attitude is lacking – as it was in the first half – then this new side can look a tad lost. It’s also clear that we’re missing the movement and class of Fernando when you compare him to the shambles Didier put in. But the biggest thing to take away from today is that in AVB we have found a real star. He has an answer for anything it seems and I have no doubt in my mind that with time, he’ll bring success to this club. And at risk of opening a can of worms, I have a sneaking suspicion that he’ll be the one to help design and lead us out at our new stadium…
And on that note, I must bid you goodnight.
The press reports
The Guardian, Dominic Fifield: “A furious occasion has drained composure from Chelsea’s pursuit at the top. Andre Villas-Boas’s side lost their discipline as well as a west London derby here and an opportunity to hoist themselves into second place and nearer Manchester City was passed up, not that those who waved the visitors on their way could care less.”
The Independent, Glenn Moore: “Reduced to nine men before half-time, and trailing to a 10th-minute penalty, Chelsea did everything but salvage a point in a wild second half in this west London derby. Nor did the final whistle halt their defiance. Having seen his team rack up seven yellow cards in addition to the reds received by Jose Bosingwa and Didier Drogba, André Villas-Boas confronted referee Chris Foy in the tunnel and, by his own description “aggressively” told the official what was wrong with his display.”
The Daily Telegraph, Jeremy Wilson: “The great irony was that, once reduced to nine men for 50 minutes of the match, Chelsea performed admirably and had at least one plausible second-half penalty appeal waved away. Yet a final charge sheet of seven yellow and two red cards told an accurate story of self-defeating unruliness. A Football Association fine of awaits for the accumulation of more than five bookings in this match. Villas-Boas may also face individual action for claiming that Foy “lost it” and openly admitting that he behaved aggressively towards the referee.”
The Official Chelsea FC Website: “It was a rare afternoon to forget in west London as two red cards and a penalty cost us in our first league visit to Loftus Road since 1996. In a gripping encounter that also saw nine yellow cards, it was the home side who came out victorious after being awarded a dubious first-half penalty, with David Luiz adjudged to have bundled Heidar Helguson to the floor after just nine minutes. Although Petr Cech got a hand to the spot kick he could not prevent it going in. With more than 80 minutes left to play there was no cause for panic though, only for Jose Bosingwa and Didier Drogba both to receive red cards in the closing stages of the first half, leaving us with a huge uphill task.”