Stoke City 0-4 Chelsea – A Riddle, a Mystery and an Enigma


It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma. Churchill was not actually referring to the Soviet Union, but merely alluding to Chelsea Football Club. He surely had to be. There is no more apt description of all that has transpired since, ironically enough, a Russian took over. The oft-omitted last portion of this widely used quotation reads “…but there is a key” – a method to the madness; a calculation to the lunacy; a cosmic justification to all which is perceptibly faulty.

The torches and pitchforks were drawn in the wake up of back-to-back shutouts at home because, more than anything, the riddle, the mystery and the enigma have driven some of us to maddening frustration, and the “key” remains elusive. A neurotic change of fortune from a deceivingly simple 8-0 win against Villa and a splendidly hard-fought away win at Everton to an embarrassing, yet perhaps predictable, loss against QPR and a Wengerian capitulation to Swansea typify the inexplicable, perpetual patterns that tend to glorify and ossify many a season.

There have, of course, been times in the past decade when things were a tad more predictable. Unremorseful Chelsea sides have ruthlessly dispatched those that conspire to upset, but these instances have actually been the exception. The riddle has been the rule.

The fortifications of Stamford Bridge have certainly been weakened, and the fear that our ruthlessness once inspired to beat teams before they even set foot in the capital, is diminishing. Some have attributed the magnificence of the boisterous travelling support to Chelsea’s fortunes on the road. And are we shooting ourselves in the foot with the ill will that greets Benitez on home soil, a man the players clearly seem to have accepted? But the 12th man, for all their undoubted influence, is still not the “key.”

Under the spectre of uncertainty and two wretched performances, Benitez, his skin thickened by a litany of past feuds, knows that anything less than three points at the indomitable Britannia – a stadium that has become a de-facto litmus test (“can Messi do it on a cold wet night at the Britannia?”) – would further lower his stock. Remember this is a man who knows that, barring a miracle in the Premier League, he will receive his P45 and join the unemployment queue come May. He must leave with his reputation rebranded, if not fully restored, if he has any hope of being shortlisted by Europe’s elite. If he even partially unlocks the riddle-mystery-enigma amalgam, I’ll thank him for a job well done.

Team Selection

Petr Cech makes a much welcome return. Maybe I’m being too critical, but Turnbull was very poorly positioned – far too off his line – for Wright-Phillips’ shot.

Defensive Quartet:  Gary Cahill became a father, congratulations to him. I don’t know the sex of the baby, but sign the little one up! David Luiz dropped back into defence after his midfield adventure. We seem certain to sign another midfielder and a persistent clamour of a deal for Fellaini being in the works means Luiz probably does not have much a future outside the back four. The rightfully infallible Ivanovic keeps his place. Cesar “Dave” Azpilicueta looks better by the match and Ashley Cole could very well be playing his last match in a Chelsea shirt against the team he scored at the death in October.

Midfield Duopoly: Super Frank. Sir Frank Lampard. 193 goals. Chelsea’s greatest ever? I’m inclined to believe he will take a pay cut to stay at the club. Forcing him out while keeping Torres would be a crime so heinous, the Hague would need to be notified. Ramires, who is going nowhere anytime soon, slotted alongside.

Triumvirate: Benitez either does not favour Oscar as highly as Robbie, sees his omission as key to keeping Chelsea’s shape intact, or both. With Moses in South Africa, Ryan Bertrand was expected to do the dirty work on the left. Mata resuming his gravitational role while Hazard orbited out to the right.

Lone Wolf: Having scored a hat-trick against Stoke for Newcastle and generally being a more robust individual, Demba Ba lead the line. Thank god. Apparently, Fernando Torres must have dabbled in a funky vindaloo as Benitez claimed his poor performance against Swansea was down to a “stomach bug.” He should see another gastroenterologist because that bug has been around for quite some time.

That’s just the team sheet. Which side actually shows up is, well, a riddle, a mystery and a damn enigma.

First 45

Early minutes reflected the confidence of each team. Stoke, basking in their undefeated dominance at home, pressed, bombarding with deep crosses, and we retreated with most of the team in and around the penalty box. Counter attacks that could be triggered were devoid of organization and imagination. Yet, as has been the case under Benitez’s defensive philosophy, the team remained firm and Ivanovic, obviously determined to make amends, rose highest to nearly every cross.

Had Kenwyne Jones taken his chance, it would have been desperately unlucky and changed the shape of the match completely. Petr Cech did make a difference by killing the angle well.

But soon, the tides shifted dramatically – and mysteriously – with Chelsea taking control of the match. Eden Hazard’s control with virtually every part of his anatomy ensured his comrades were able to strut up the pitch and take up dangerous positions. His class oozed with every touch. I am still of the belief that his form, more so than Mata’s in many ways, tends to define our attacking play.

Rafael Benitez said that nine times out of ten, Chelsea would have won that match against Swansea. Not the wisest statement, but nine times out of ten, Lampard would’ve slotted away Chelsea’s first real chance against Stoke, which was flicked on by none other than our Senegalese striker. How he still manages to find that mercurial positioning now must be blood deep. Intrinsic knowledge of his role and influence is what makes Frank Lampard the player he is. Ironically, the Stoke fans, chanted “Boring, boring, boring” as we controlled possession. A pint of whatever they‘re drinking, please.

As the half ended, Eden Hazard, with a touch of class, laid off a ball to “Dave,” who crossed, it must be said, absolutely perfectly, beating two defenders. Jonathan Walters, making Duncan Ferguson proud, hammered the ball with his cranium into the back of Stoke’s net. For all the YouTube compilers out there, kindly include this in the top 10 own goals of all time. Jokes aside, Mata would have got there had Mr. Walters failed to do so. It was a deserved 1-0 lead.

Second 45

As the second half began, I noticed one attribute of our front line that stood out: The Ba. His hold up play, particularly muscling off two Stoke defenders to keep the ball, allowed our midfield to dictate the game. I don’t care what system we adopt, Chelsea’s modern DNA necessitates a striker who can play with his back to goal. Ba’s play ensured Mata, Hazard and Lampard could play the football they were born to. I recommend having a special scouting unit to identify West African target men – they seem to be built to play for no other club. And how comfortable Sir Frank seemed lobbing a long ball to Demba Ba, knowing full well that this was a striker who could chase down and wrestle with the best of the lot.

Somewhere in between our dominance and the lovely lineswoman sparing us a penalty, Walters went postal – scoring a second own goal to truly show us who’s boss. Roman, sign him up!

Stoke’s rugby league reputation soon preceded them as Shawcross, who actually made no contact with Mata, flew across the turf like Bruce Willis in Die Hard, prompting the referee to actually give Chelsea a penalty decision. It was a refreshing call, seeing as stonewall penalties were denied like a recession-era bank loan. Sir Frank Lampard unleashed a penalty that was so emblematic of his tenure, of his power, of his class, that it might as well have been the signature on his new contract. Had it not been for the heroics of Asmir Begovic, Lampard could – and should – have had his hat-trick.

Hazard capped the day with an orgasmic left-footed strike, curling and swerving into the far side of the net. Ballon D’Or class – you heard it here first. What was perhaps most impressive was his initial inclination to seek out a pass rather than take the shot. Such altruism is what will serve his career and Chelsea’s future well.

So there you have it, we thrashed Stoke in their own manor, something no team has done before, and it was done with style and panache after a few early scares. The commentators and pundits argued that it exemplified the performance of European champions. But, actually, it’s turning out to be quite the quintessential Chelsea season – hopeless internationals one day, world beaters the next. Some things truly never do change.

We are no closer to unravelling the riddle, solving the mystery or deciphering the enigma, but I will gladly rejoice in a ravaging at the folkloric Britannia.

How about those contracts, Bruce?

Player Ratings

  • Cech – 8. A commander.
  • Cole – 9. He has enough in the tank to carry on playing at a world-class level for enough time to warrant an extension.
  • David Luiz – 8. Back in defence and carried his midfield form over.
  • Ivanovic – 9. Infallible.
  • Azpilicueta – 9. Doing his best to impersonate Ashley Cole down the right.
  • Lampard – 194. Ran the show and deserves whatever he asks for.
  • Ramires – 9. Gives as good as he gets.
  • Bertrand – 7. Struggled to get into the game but covered the left flank well.
  • Mata – 9. Ground Zero.
  • Hazard – 10. Still has every chance of being Chelsea’s first Ballon D’Or winner in a few years’ time.
  • Demba Ba – 9. His back-to-goal play allowed the supporting trio to do what they do best.
  • Terry (sub) – 6. Good to have him back, but is clearly a bit rusty given the penalty foul.
  • Torres (sub) – Good question.
  • Ferreira (sub) – 7. Mourinho’s perennial rating of his first signing.

Man of the Match

Super Frank. I still can’t bear the thought of him wearing anything other than a Chelsea shirt.

Press Reports

The Sunday Telegraph, Oliver Brown: “Chelsea are discovering that life on the road can be every bit as invigorating as Jack Kerouac suggested. Away from suffocating tensions on the home front at Stamford Bridge, where supporters have hardly helped inspire the team with recent mutinous chants, Rafael Benítez’s players extended their prolific away form to nine goals in two games while inflicting upon Stoke City the club’s heaviest home defeat in the Premier League.”

The Independent on Sunday, Simon Hart: “Away from the toxic atmosphere in the stands at Stamford Bridge, the Londoners are on quite a roll. This was Chelsea’s sixth successive away victory under Rafael Benitez and it was undoubtedly their most impressive as they tore apart a Stoke City team who had not lost at home since last February.”

The Observer, Paul Wilson: “Chelsea managed to deprive the Potters of their proud claim to be the last team in all four divisions with an unbeaten home record, proving that while Rafael Benítez’s side might have been through a blip with defeats to QPR and Swansea, they can still do it on a freezing cold Saturday in Stoke. Chelsea did not just end the record, they demolished it, and deserved to, though it always comes in handy when the home side chips in with two own goals from the same player, who then goes on to miss a penalty.”

The Official Chelsea FC Website: “Chelsea moved up into third place of the Barclays Premier League with a comfortable away win, which saw a combination of good fortune and a strong team performance.”

Goals and Highlights

45′ Walters (og) 0-1
62′ Walters (og) 0-2
65′ Lampard (pen) 0-3
73′ Hazard 0-4
Match of the Day highlights

There are 38 comments

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  1. buddha9

    i’m not convinced by this newspaper narrative concerning our happiness away from SB — QPR proved against Spurs that they are simply parking the bus against everyone and pinching a goal at the end well.. that’s just luck — swansea we ran it and if Ba had been there and not sick note then we would have won and why did we loose? Two bad mistakes —– this isn’t nerves this is just luck going against us in truth — incidentally why don’t teams park the bus at OT like they do at SB — no idea but they don’t appear to —- still think we have the best team and still think we’ll be there or thereabouts come the last month.
    As for Rafa well he’s not a man anyone can love; admire maybe, respect maybe, love no — even the pool fans don’t go round saying we loved him, not on the guardian blogs anyway — thought he was a good coach yes loved him no — he’s not Carlo anchelotti or mourinho — but he’s making a decent team of this side — much as I Ioved RDM, truth is he ‘s never known how to organise a defence, either at WBA or Chels and having to score 3 goals to win a game was causing too much tension in the team —

  2. mark_25

    Yes buddha9, I agree.

    QPR and Swansea parked the bus.  You know when you buy products, like a set of headphones, they can be packaged in plastic that’s been melded together at the seams so it’s physically impossible to open. Until you get home of course and surreptitiously use one of your wife’s expensive Japanese cooking knives to make the first incision when the packaging can then be ripped to shreds.

    Playing Torres again QPR and Swansea was like prodding the headphone package with a peeled banana, and a very ripe one at that.  We were never going to make the first cut.  And to cap it all against Swansea the tag “two goal Ivanovic” seemed to confuse the poor chap and he performed a “Jonathan Walters” before the term had even been invented.

    Excellent win at Stoke but it was bloody freezing.

    Anyhow the solution to winning at home is simple.  Rotate Torres out of the building in the opposite direction from the pitch and start with the team that beat Stoke.

    With regard to Rafa, love him or loathe him, we’ve got him till the end of the season at least.  So I do wish our fans would stop insulting him even when we’re 4-0 up away at a team that hasn’t lost at home for a year.  The abuse can’t be helping team spirit so please can we now unite behind the team and, if it’s your fancy, abuse Rafa after the final whistle in May.

  3. Blue_MikeL

    Great win, which saves my time in Shanghai. jetlag fatigue, communication problems and cultural misunderstandings giving me enough headaches, so Chelsea performance saved my trip in a way. Yes, it is true Ba allows people around him to play football. It makes much easier on the team to play with 11 man. Playing Torres is worse than playing with ten man against eleven, it is like playing ten man against twelve. Frank should accept pay cut and sign contract no doubt, but it is not fair to demand it from him.
    Club has made huge mistake with Torres and I am still interested who is the one to blame.

  4. Daddyblue

    RB has said that the atmosphere at SB is not affecting the
    team or the way they are playing. He is just trying to be positive, of course
    the way in which so called supporters are behaving is affecting our team and in
    a negative way.

    To all the 16 minute sheep STOP – you have made your point
    now move on. You cannot call yourselves supporters if you carry on, a supporter
    supports his/her team no matter what, your now petulant show at 16 minutes is
    not supporting nor helping our team in any way whatsoever. Those of you who
    have started too boo Torres are probably the same as those who began booing
    Drogba last season though no doubt you will deny it, supporters do not boo
    their own.

    The 16 minute sheep are in a minority and I suggest that
    from Wednesday and beyond the true supporters show their distain for this
    negativity by booing the clappers.

    • peterw

      Funnily enough, your description of a supporter as one who ‘supports their team no matter what’ sounds much more sheeplike than those who dare to show dissent for the way their club’s management has behaved, and treated fans, in recent years. 

      The booers aren’t going to stop, so you as well stop moaning about that – it’s a point of honour and uniting around an unpopular figure has actually brought the best out of our away support: they’ve not been this loud for years. 
      Booing the clappers? Yeah, that’ll end well. 

      • Blue_MikeL

        Totally agree with your view on supporting. I pay for the tickets, merchandise and I have the right to express my opinion on what is going on on the pitch.
        Simple analogy is family. I do love and support Mrs. Blue_Mikel, but it doesn’t mean that I blindly follow everything she says as simple as that.

        • Ryan

          You don’t sing “Fuck off Mrs. Blue_Mikel, you’re not wanted here!” though do you? Because it doesn’t really scan. 😉

          • Blue_MikeL

            Well, I certainly don’t 🙂 However, there must be a way for supporters to express their opinion and fortunately or unfortunately the most natural way of doing so is during the game. I agree that booing Rafa while we 4 goals up is simply ridiculous and doesn’t make any sense. Now regarding Torres Is there any other way to let the guy know that we feed up with his bugs? He had two years of unconditional and unprecedented support from supporters. So it is time to pay the bills.

        • mark_25

          Yes I sort of agree with this but during the 90 minutes of play I think the team will perform better if we support them.  The days in between matches is the time to voice opinions.

          Torres is shot both in body and in mind but whatever remaining morsels of self confidence he has could not have been helped by booing him as he stepped on to the pitch in the 80th minute at Stoke.  I hope  Torres never appears for us again but if he’s on the pitch surely it must be better to support than ridicule him.  Likewise Benitez.  I’m happy for him to stay but do we really have to sing a medley of anti Benitez songs whilst we’re winning 0-4?

          • Blue_MikeL

            As I said to Ryan for most of supporters the time during the game its the only time. Don’t get me wrong I do feel that booing your team is counter productive, but what its the way for a simple supporter to express an opinion?

          • mark_25

            Can’t you get a megaphone and stand next to the chap by the station exit.  I’m sure you’ll attract more interest.

            Thermal vest time tonight I think.

  5. Austin Solari

    Is Demba Ba Drog Ba’s younger brother??   He certainly seems to be off the same ilk.

    I’ll pick up my coat on the way.

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  7. TrueBlue

    Hopefully with terry back,

    we get the Ba + Terry = Battery to give an assault on the premiership title…

  8. Ryan

    It’s no coincidence that Torres’ popularity has gone through the floor since Rafa took over. He’s been paired up (in my mind anyway) with a man who is probably more unpopular at SB than any other I can remember & there is no chance of the fans getting behind Rafa now. He’s gone in the summer (QPR/WestHam/Swansea ensured that).

    Torres is a massive problem that the acquisition of Ba will only serve to highlight & I’d imagine his popularity will continue to plummet as fans realise just how poor he really has been.

    Excellent report by the way Vik. I tend to agree about a physical striker. It’s very difficult to play up top alone without the physical tools. Speaking of which Lukaku was an absolute beast at the weekend.

  9. adam

    hate stoke are really darty team.I worried about whether players are destroyed. and our performance are amazing .

  10. peterw

    Big week for Benitez now as he has to show he can win three games in a week, including two at home, which I think unlikely as he will rotate us out of contention again.

    His hands are rather tied here, as he really needs to rest Ba rather than play him into the ground but that means bringing in Torres, who it’s worth noting has got much worse since Ba arrived. The club say he has a stomach ache, but I think it’s more likely he is sulking.

    So what does he do? If Torres starts v Southampton and we drop simple points again, than Rafa will look a right lemon after QPR and Swansea. But if he plays Ba and he’s knackered for Sunday… This makes the decision to flog Sturridge even stranger, as we are still one short in the striking department and Sturridge is clearly, for all his faults, a far better option than Torres.

    I’m massively unconvinced the atmosphere is anything to do with the home results as I really doubt the players notice what is being sung, it’s just white noise to them. Booing is different, but Torres is so shit it barely makes any difference to his performances anyway. It all went a big gruesome at the end of the Swansea game, yes, but that’s because we were 2-0 down and had played with such an obvious handicap in the No 9 shirt. The QPR and Fulham games – the atmosphere was pretty typical of a Wednesday night game against crap opposition – flat and a little bored, but far from ‘toxic’ as the papers would suggest. 

    I think the problem is more simple than the rather fatuous observation that it’s all the fault of the supporters (one the press love, which is a sure indicator it’s wrong) – when we score one we invariable go on to score more because we are set up to exploit teams that leave gaps when they go forward. Stoke could have gone either way until they kindly scored for us, after which we opened them up at will. Even Everton played a far more open game than I’d expect them to play against us. 

    But when we don’t score, we get frustrated and become open to a sucker punch because our defence is missing key players (Cech, Terry, Luiz). We are not really a pass-pass-pass possession team yet (as the Swansea game showed), so we have to play on the counter – which is much much harder to do at home, where teams sit back. Without an in-his-prime Lampard or a Drogba, we find it harder to break down defensive teams. 

    Watching United this weekend showed how they are adept at both passing/possession and the counter AND have players like RVP who can score from nothing (a la Drogba). We are still a long way from that level, even though I think our squad is much better than many commentators seem to believe.

  11. limetreebower

    The cold will work to our advantage. Southampton’s south of London so they must be even softer than us. Let’s see how those pampered pansies do on a freezing night up in SW6!

    [dons flatcap and whistles for the whippet to go for a walk]

  12. limetreebower

    In other news: Pep decides he wants to manage a well-run, stable club with a sensible financial attitude and a close connection between management and fans.

    One imagines Roman going “But … but … but … I offered him more money!”

    Still, chance of him learning his lesson = 0.

  13. mark_25

    So Pep isn’t coming but who cares, we’ve got Rafa.

    Can I count on all of you in the West Lower to join me in a chorus of *we want you to stay”

  14. limetreebower

    The limetreeshrub I went with had to bring his French homework to the game (long story). So he spent most of the game memorising irregular French past participles. I think he had more fun than me.

    Appropriately, the past participle of “pouvoir” (to be able) is apparently “pu.”

  15. Benjami

    Well under RDM our average points were 2 per game, under Rafa we are 1.8 per game. Now you could say that that was due to 1 or 2 harder games played when we were managed under Rafa.

    However if you average out the points scored by Man Utd/City, Chelsea, Arsenal, Everton and Spurs in the last few years at each ground you can create a list of the hardest grounds with the average points scored per ground by the big teams. Chelsea games played at these grounds average points the big teams have scored; under RDM 1.7, under Rafa 1.95.

    Tl;dr Rafa has had the easier games and has scored less points per game than RDM this season.

    Its obviously the players fault as much as it is his, however again and again he seems too slow with his subs. They are always reactive rather than proactive, we should have changed/freshened up and locked out the game on 2-0 let alone 2-1.

    I say the same thing every home game it feels, sigh

    Good cameo debut (at SB) by BA, and well defended by Swansea Southampton, you make your own luck.

  16. NorthernVA

    Good to see “The Project” is still going swimmingly. Apparently Rafa has picked up only one more point in his first five home games than ‘Arry has at QPR. The gates have been breached.

  17. Gleb

    I have to say… I was one of the few who didn’t hate Rafa. Maybe because I am, after all, not a REAL fan in that I do not reside in the UK and as much as I try to follow everything to do with the EPL and watch most of the games (all Chelsea game and most of the rest), I probably still can’t claim to understand what you real fans out there feel. I somewhat liked Rafa (as much as his type of lack of charisma can be liked) maybe because those Chelsea – Liverpool UCL ties I will remember for the rest of my life. Maybe because I always saw him as one of the relatively few managers who is a scholar of the game (a quality I really do admire, maybe somewhat naively). Someone who takes football seriously not only on the pitch (as most other former players turned managers do), but also off the pitch, where it’s soooo boring for the rest. I even read his book, not because I’m a fan, but because I try to read any book written by a proper manager about the game. I hate biographies, I don’t care about the person, all I want is his wisdom or lack thereof. His book wasn’t very good, frankly, but that’s down to his ghost writer and him being a boring fucker.

    But enough is enough. That’s all I can say. He was never welcome here, he’s not one who can ever truly gain the respect of the squad so that they’re ready to die for him. Sure, the players probably like him. What’s not to like? He ain’t a tyrant, he rotates like crazy, but somehow I think no one inside the squad really hates him. But no one loves him either. I wish the man well, but we was doomed from the beginning AND has shown it just isn’t working. There’s no future with him. He won’t destroy the team, he won’t do anything really bad, but he won’t really get us anywhere either.

    I was against Pep from the beginning as I feel he himself knows he ain’t good enough for anything but Barca (that sounds reaaaaaaally weird, but I do hope you see my point). And his decision proves the point. He’s a coward. He picked the easiest option. He picked the option with very few challenges. And the shame in that is that we won’t see him fail. Because the guy probably can do a good enough job of training a group of football players. And that’s all they need from him at Bayern. The rest is handled by professionals. So he probably win the UCL with them and the league and people will praise him even more, despite the fact that he’s basically managing Barca-2. He’s evading all the challenges of the modern game. The rich crazy owners, the crazy star-struck out of control players, the crazy press, just the overall chaos of the EPL and… let’s say, Real Madrid. The things Jose craves, Pep is afraid of. That’s why he’ll never be better. He’s a smart, smart man, who knows his stuff, but this calculated approach shows the real Pep. Inside he has the balls to realize what a failure he’d be at Man City, Chelsea or even PSG (or Milan…) and what a devastating blow it may have on his career. Barca is actually doing better without him. They were an amazing team before him, with Frank. Sure, he just ended up in a time period when the team truly blossomed and gained its trophies. He made some great decisions, but within the framework of his home club, home team, surrounded by awesome players. He’s smart but he ain’t no Jose. He ain’t a winner at heart. I’m not, either. That’s why I admire people who are. So it’s all for the better. He would have fared no better than AVB at Chelsea.

    That leaves us with… no one, actually.

    P.S. And for all the goals that we sometimes score… Am I the only one who thinks that CFC is fucking boring now that Rafa’s here. Maybe not the football, but the overall atmosphere is one of the most uninspiring in a long time. Everyone’s just lost and tired… We need a kick in the ass, the fans, Roman, the board – everyone.

  18. GrocerJack

    “But enough is enough. That’s all I can say. He was never welcome here, he’s not one who can ever truly gain the respect of the squad so that they’re ready to die for him. Sure, the players probably like him. What’s not to like? He ain’t a tyrant, he rotates like crazy, but somehow I think no one inside the squad really hates him. But no one loves him either. I wish the man well, but we was doomed from the beginning AND has shown it just isn’t working. There’s no future with him. He won’t destroy the team, he won’t do anything really bad, but he won’t really get us anywhere either.”

    Well said Gleb. Pretty much perfect description of how I m starting to feel. i can’t/don’t hate Rafa because his rather timid insults to us as fans bounced off me (I’m an adult you know). But this insipid style of football, which was there under RDM as well is what sickens me most. We’re Barca lite. Diet Barca. Low cal Barca. 

    Yes folks we have finally become Arsenal. Tippy tappy intricate pussy football better suited to arcade games. It’s arse gravy. It’s for girls. It stinks. Loads of wank passing with fuck all steel and no end product. How many times did we run out of ideas last night in the final third. Thats when we reached the final third. Yes, every single fucking time. Clueless and riddled with complacency, laziness, incompetence and arrogance. Frankly I’m sick of the whole shebang and maybe it’s time to use the Viagogo service for a few weeks and take a fan sabbatical. After all thats what the players seemed to do.

    Hazard gets a little credit  for running a lot last night. Luiz as well for never letting his head drop. Frank watched  a game go by him last night. Oscar and Ramires stunk the house out last night. even Dave at right back looked like he’d smoked 20 Rothmans pre game last night as he chugged up and down the flank chasing lost causes wearing red. 

    So, bearing in mind Rafa is literally caretaking to keep him visible in the game I am rather hoping we get Jose back to instil a top down winning mentality making us feared at home and hated everywhere else. because I’m not really prepared to shell out a grand for a season ticket to be entertained by a bunch of passionless circus performers. 

    Oh, and well done Pep for showing Abramovich that money isn’t the be all and end all of life. You’ve taken a good option there rather than the insanity and constrictions of a club that is run by a despot who seems to model his ownership on Putins presidency principles. His way is the only way …Roman is the emperor and he rules.

    I’d rather like him to sell up now thanks. 

  19. mark_25

    The players were to blame last night.  I was thinking our squad was pure beef but now I’m worried some of them are 29% horse meat.

  20. peterw

    Rafa’s rubbish, really. Can’t inspire the players at home, no tactical innovation until it’s far too late, poor substitutions and he’s turned oscar and Ramires into a pair of disasters. 

    Can’t keep clean sheets any more either. Didn’t think we were playing tippy-tappy football last night – we were more just pumping it long for Ba and later Cahill. Hopeless really.And you can’t blame the fans for turning a 2-0 lead against relegation fodder into a draw. You can blame the players, but the manager is paid an awful lot of money to make sure they don’t do things like that.This was always a season for change, and that means mixed results, but there’s no logic behind what happened last night (and the previous two Wednesdays, really). Roman is like a gambler who keeps throwing good money after bad, he’s been playing catch-up ever since he sacked Ancelotti and can’t really see where this will end at the moment. 

  21. peterw

    This is what I worried about with Rafa. I didn’t like him much as a person, but his record at Liverpool was basically not all that great. My abiding memory isn’t the two well-organised but rather fortuitous 1-0 wins in the semis v Jose, but the ease with which we destroyed them at Anfield in the league 4-1 and under Hiddink 3-1. They were spineless, gutless, we mullered them. 

    And then, in the other semis in the return legs, he cocked up so badly – freezing when 2-0 up at half-time at the Bridge (in the epic 4-4- which we really should have won 6-2), and then taking off an actually quite good Torres in extra time in the Avram Grant semi, effectively surrendering the match. If this guy was the master of the two leg knockout, how did he get bettered by Avram Bloody Grant?

    I hadn’t really registered Benitez during the Jose games, he was shapeless, but it was these games that put me off him as a coach – and the way he opportunistically slagged off Drogba before the semi in 08 was pathetic and poorly judged, making me question his character as well.

    We’ll carry on with the odd great win and disappointing draw and crappy defeat, but we won’t make any progress – nothing that couldn’t have been achieved by RDM at half the financial and emotional cost. 

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