Chelsea 3-1 Norwich City – Heart of the Mata

The newspaper reports

The Sunday Telegraph, Duncan White: “What with Juan Mata scoring on his debut and Chelsea briefly going top of the table, this should have been a day of unalloyed positives for Andre Villas-Boas and his team but with Didier Drogba rushed to hospital with suspected concussion and another stuttering performance against a defiant Norwich City, celebrations were subdued.”

The Independent on Sunday, Steve Tongue: “As Norwich City’s chirpy challenge was finally quashed yesterday, there was a glimpse of the new Chelsea but also a strong suggestion that the transition will not be as smooth as anyone at the club would like. Juan Mata and Romelu Lukaka, some £40 million worth of substitutes, were on the pitch as the former’s goal on debut ended the visitors’ resistance during 11 minutes of added time caused by a nasty injury to one of the old guard, Didier Drogba.”

The Observer, David Lacey: “In the end the afternoon ended satisfactorily for Andre Villas-Boas’s side when Juan Mata, newly arrived from Valencia for £23.5m, scored a third goal in the 10th of the 11 minutes of stoppage time which were largely due to the prolonged treatment Didier Drogba needed before he could be taken off on a stretcher following a collision with John Ruddy, the Norwich goalkeeper.”

The Official Chelsea FC Website: “Chelsea made it consecutive home victories after a troublesome afternoon against the newly-promoted Norwich City.”

The goals

6′ Bosingwa 1-0
63′ Holt 1-1
82′ Lampard (pen) 2-1
101′ Mata 3-1

The preamble

New Shed End muralToday was my first visit to the Bridge this season since last week I watched the West Brom game from an Edinburgh pub. The only changes of note are beer has moved from £3.50 to £3.80, unless you’re willing to buy a four-pack for £14, and the end of the Shed, where it adjoins the West Stand, has been painted blue with “Chelsea Football Club – The Shed End” in white lettering, replicating the old East Stand.

Old East Stand muralTeam selection was generally as expected aside from starting with Torres and Drogba, which is purely pandering to the two egos. This combination is never going to work since it forces both players to rotate and play periods out of their natural position and today Torres took a retrograde step following his bright start in the last two games.

The first half

As the game started I did find the sea of yellow shirts in the corner of the Shed extremely distracting. We started brightly. I couldn’t understand what all the moaning was about last week. For the first few minutes we had the Canaries caged in their own half and after six minutes Bosingwa, continuing his resurrection, hit a great long range shot into the top corner. I was thinking this could be another 8-0 but unfortunately our Jekyll and Hyde form returned and we just switched off and allowed Norwich back into the game.

The second half

No substitutions and more of the same. Sloppy passing plus Torres and Drogba both looking hopeless and toothless. I hadn’t seen Hilario for a while and I’d either forgotten or never realised how poor he was at clearing. He was so desperate not to kick that he threw the ball out to defenders in the most inappropriate circumstances, immediately putting them under severe pressure. My son stated that Hilario is the worst kicker ever. I reminded him that he was too young to have seen Bonetti. Still I consoled myself that at least Hilario looked competent dealing with shots and crosses. Why oh why do I let myself have these thoughts? Within a minute of thinking Hilario was adequately covering for the absent Cech he came out way too far for a cross and collided with Ivanovic, allowing the ball to drop to the overweight Holt to fire into an empty net.

A few minutes later down the other end Malouda put in a good cross. It was a fifty-fifty between Drogba and the goalkeeper who succeeded in punching out the ball but cleaning out Drogba in the process. Drogba was on the ground for a considerable time, as the 11 (yes eleven) minutes of injury time would vindicate. From the West Lower I couldn’t tell if the keeper was malicious or if it was an accident.

It’s unfortunate that it took a serious injury to sort out our formation but that’s the truth. As well as bringing on Anelka for Drogba, AVB also swapped Malouda for Mata. We only had to wait for Mata’s first touch to realise he’s quality. Not since Zola have I seen a Chelsea player bring the ball under control within an instant. The blueprint is clear. To be a top player you need to be southern Mediterranean, not too tall and with a low centre of gravity. Mata lined up on the left, where Malouda stood (not ran), but he didn’t hang around there for long and was soon to be found on the right and in the middle in the number 10 role.

On 80 minutes the ever running Ramires was played through, beat a defender to get a one-on-one with the Ruddy keeper. Ramires side-stepped Ruddy who then clipped Ramires and brought him down for a penalty. The Matthew Harding end took great delight in abusing Ruddy as he trundled off after receiving a red card.

Lampard, who hadn’t done much else, coolly blasted the penalty into the middle of the goal.

AVB then brought on Lukaku for Torres. Lukaku can best be described as Drogba, only bigger and blacker. If I was a centre-back and saw Lukaku running towards me at full speed I think I’d feign a hamstring.

In the excessive injury time a loose pass was seized on by Mata who sped into the box to slide the ball neatly to the right of the keeper.

The player ratings

What does it Mata, the new Zola will take care of everyone else’s failings.

The finale

The future’s bright. Mata, Lukaku, Luiz and young Josh all managed by the new Mourinho who won’t gouge your eyes out. Might take a while for it all to come together but let’s all be patient.

As I walked down row 16 to the exit, with the Matthew Harding stand singing “We’ve got Abramovich, you’ve got a noisy bitch”, the canary had been knocked off its perch and the offensive yellow dispersed from the Shed End.

There are 57 comments

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  1. #win singh

    “Lukaku can best be described as Drogba, only bigger and blacker. If I was a centre-back and saw Lukaku running towards me at full speed I think I’d feign a hamstring.” – This made me smile, the kid’s got talent and really enjoyed his press conference where he had the right mix of sheer awe, good humour and determination

  2. Dylbo Baggins

    The result was good but we are certainly in a transition period. Will be interesting to see how long some of the old heroes get before players like Mata are able to start week in, week out.

  3. Anonymous

    Two exciting home games. I’m trying to ignore the fact that they shouldn’t have been exciting. Like West Brum, Naaardge were a lot better than lower-mid-table fodder used to be a couple of seasons ago, but we still ought to be swatting them aside much more easily. As Marco says (thanks Marco) for the first five minutes it looked like we were going to do just that, and then … everyone … stopped.

    It’s terrifying how dodgy the defence looks. Since the Desailly-Leboeuf days we’ve always, always looked like we’re going to be difficult to score against. But now all it takes to create a clear chance against us is the simplest of balls over the top or free kicks to the far post. Strikers who play for better teams than West Brum and Naaardge aren’t going to miss those chances. Bosingwa was better than Cashley — who’d have thought that would ever happen?

    Drogs and Nando both look like they’re moving at half speed when they’re on the pitch together. Clearly there’s no feel for each other’s play there. They have to keep stopping to see what the other one’s doing. Which makes it incredibly easy for a defender to read, which is surely why both of them plus Malouda had the ball simply taken away from them over and over again.

    Selection for the next game is going to be interesting. OK, he played a lot of his minutes against ten men, but Mata was terrific. Instantly and glaringly obvious how he *moved* every time he delivered a pass: he’d slip the ball away and then immediately spin off looking for space. You could actually see the change in the tempo. He started making Frank look like the old Frank — time on the ball, options ahead of him. It’ll be hard to justify starting Malouda ahead of him.

    Plus Studge is no longer suspended. Hmm.

    It’s hard to convey just how biiiiig Lukaku is in the flesh. Encouraging to see AVB not afraid to stick him on (he was being readied before we were awarded the penalty).

    I’ll stick with my prediction that this season isn’t going to be much fun, but at last, at last, there are proper glimpses of the next Chelsea team.

    • Anonymous

      I’d agree with almost every sentiment you express there, LTB.

      I’m hopeful, though, that the imminent return of Cech may restore some confidence to the back four – they were under the cosh early on against Stoke but looked a lot better than at any point in the 2 home games.

      Trying not to read too much into brief cameos from Mata and Lukaku but the surge in energy and pace they gave the team was the most encouraging sight of the season so far.

      I read in The Observer today that Mata is the first Chelsea player to score on his league debut as a substitute since George Weah in 2000! 

      My nostalgic memory thinks that we almost used to have a tradition of a string of players scoring on their debut, but can’t recall who has done it recently at all?

  4. Nick

    Thanks for the report, Mark. Much appreciated.

    Lots of chatter on Twitter during games about our high line causing problems. John Motson seemed to have it in for Branners on Match of the Day last night, but from what I saw it was Hilario who was at fault for Norwich’s equalizer.

    Didn’t Zenden score on his debut?

    • Anonymous

      Trevor Francis was doing his usual general anti-Chelsea shtick on Sky’s commentary team too – and seemed incapable of distinguishing Ivanovic from Terry repeatedly – or indeed Terry from Lampard at one point.

      Returning to the “Bosingwa better than Cashley Shock Horror” point – could Cashley have been replaced by his far less talented identical twin much as Michael Essien was a while ago; or perhaps the rumoured return of the fragrant Cheryl to the marital home is taking a heavy toll?

      I think we should be told, though, there again, if it’s the latter perhaps we don’t really want the details 😉

      • Cunningplan

        Yes I was ranting at Clever Trevor and his ability in thinking Branners and JT are identical twins. Although he did get it right with regard their goal and Hilario entering no-mans land, whereas Motty on MOTD seemed to think it was all Branners fault.

        Didn’t see the Spuds/Citeh game, but it appears all is not well in ‘Arry’s camp, as with Mr Wenger and his team of toddlers at OT also.

        By the way did anyone see AVB  being interviewed by Jake Humphrey and Eddie (no brains) Jordan after the F1 race at Spa?

  5. Anonymous

    Does the fact that Spurs have been humiliated by City and that Modric got booed off make Daniel Levy more or less willing to sell?

    Also after 25 minutes I had to look up the Spurs team on my phone because I wasn’t sure if Bale was playing.  His reign as a world-class superstar didn’t last long.

  6. petew

    Two good things came out of the game: Mata, and AVB giving Lambert short shrift for his ludicrous claim that it wasn’t a penalty. Carlo was a gent, but I wish he’d given Fergie the odd mouthful when he was lying his nuts off about referees. AVB isn’t going to take any crap, I like that.

    The high line is going to take a while to sort, and it isn’t good for Terry. I’d be more comfortable with it if it meant we were more dangerous going forward, but that really wasn’t the case. AVB used his subs well again, and I’d be tempted to go for a Sturridge-Anelka-Mata front three as our most fluid trio. Torres still hasn’t had a shot on target and Drogba wasn’t any better.

    Don’t think we can really start a game with Mikel, Lampard and Malouda and expect to play with the sort of pace and urgency now required, even though I like all three very much.

    We do have a pretty immense looking squad right now, just one or two things not really clicking. 

  7. Anonymous

    Two and a half horse race for the title, and we’re very much the half horse. Trophy is staying in Manchester based on today.

    We did ok, and that’s about it against a resolute Norwich side. Impressed by Mata. Very impressed. As I mentioned on the last blog, he’s almost too good for the current crop. No-One wanted to trust him with the ball in confined spaces.

    Cetainly got some local pride for the Canaries, Lambert & AVB histrionics aside. They play football, continually want to play football, dont want to resort to long ball ‘hoof’ tactics at any available moment. And have a squad of hugely down to Earth players. Genuinely hope they stay up, but Lamberts off to bigger and better things in the not too distant future.

  8. NorthernVA

    LTB I do share some of your concerns. I do think that the higher defensive line that we are playing don’t really our CBs any favors. City or United definitely have the pace ruthlessly exploit that. Granted they racked up goals today however look at the quality of the back fours that they were up against.

  9. NorthernVA

    One more thing. Clive Tyldesley as is F*&ing Disgrace. This is what he tweeted following DD’s injury.

    @Clive Tyldesley: Glad I wasn’t commentating when Drogba copped a nasty one. Not sure how sympathetic I’d have been. Hope he’s ok. Top player.

  10. NorthernVA

    Sorry I meant Clive Tyldesley is a F*&*king Disgrace. Apologies if I couldn’t convey that properly the first time. However it’s something that bears repeating!

  11. WorkingClassPost

    Not one for predictions, but this is shaping up to be a major season, one way or t’other.

    Didn’t get to watch this one – spent a pleasant enough day seeing the sights of Salvador, but I would’ve preferred a time-out for a couple of hours in front of a box showing the match – had to settle for a disappointing 3-0 defeat for Bahia this evening.

    Sounds like the new guys will be worth watching and I’m definitely in the slow start is best, brigade.

    Reading that DD is ok, too.

    Don’t know why we’re talking Mancs today, though? When I checked the scores last night, the BBC had Poo as the next great thing.

    Anyway, Sao Paulo tomorrow, then back to a slightly less tropical Purley Oaks. Just hoping those poxy looters didn’t make it that far south!

  12. Ososdeoro

    so….under favorite athletes for facebook I put D Luiz (and for awhile, Lampard, but then I got duplicate posts from them for everything). Today wherever these posts came from claimed we signed Mr. Van der Wiel. Haven’t seen it anywhere else though.

    The only conclusion I can draw about this weekend is that it looks either like Liverpool and we are playing for third and fourth, or Arsenal and Tottenham are way worse than last season. Of course, even if the former, perhaps our new players and the managers tactics can get us in the mix.

  13. Ososdeoro

    Arsenal continues to abuse its traveling fans.

    Arsenal thanks ‘fantastic’ fans for supportClub offer to cover cost of a match ticket at a future away trip

  14. Anonymous

    According to the Beeb, Sky Sports News [a channel never to be watched especially during transfer window to avoid madness] are reporting Stoke are in talks for a loan deal for Lukaku.

    The thought of Delap and Co. peppering the penalty box for our new man-mountain must be the stuff of nightmares for many EPL defenders who must be praying this is made-up bollocks.

    I guess we’ll start to get a feel soon for the extent of AVB’s commitment to youth by how many of them disappear on loan deals around EPL/Championship/Europe.

    • Nick

      It has been established on Twitter of all places (believe it or not, if you follow the right people, Twitter is a much better source for this stuff than traditional media) that Lukaku cannot be loaned out to another Premier League club in this transfer window – Rule M.7.1 apparently. However, he would be allowed to join an overseas club.

      Because I have little work at the moment and nothing much better to do, I’m hoping to do a live blog of transfer deadline day tomorrow, just for the hell of it. Should be fun(ish) and the club is expected to bring in at least one more player, if not two, while a couple could depart too. Join me. Please. I might go crazy otherwise. And it’s sure to be better than SSN.

        • Nick

          I do PC and Mac support, and build websites for individuals and small businesses in my local area. Work comes in fits and starts. Very quiet at the moment.

      • Anonymous

        I’m still holding out against this Twitter nonsense, hoping it’s a fad that will disappear eventually.

        So that means Davila can only be heading out to Europe too – Vitesse was one rumour I read somewhere I think?

        • Nick

          Davila to Vitesse is almost certain, according to Twitter. 🙂

          Twitter has a reputation it doesn’t deserve, a reputation picked up in its early years. The days of “What are you doing?” are long gone, although there’s still an awful lot of “Eating a chicken sandwich, it’s delish!” (usually in txtspk and containing several spelling mistakes). Follow the right people and organisations though and it’s a brilliant resource, and by far the best source for breaking news.

  15. Cunningplan

    Sorry Nick I refuse to get involved with any transfer nonsense, can’t wait for tomorrow to be over 🙂
    And then we have to do it all again in bloody Jan.

    @BBD I’m with you on Twitter, it’s a fad, bit like texting. 😉

    • Anonymous

      Friends Reunited, Myspace, Bebo …. were all considered the greatest thing since sliced bread at one point, so I’m told, having never used any of them. The MTV generation are a fickle bunch 😉

      @ Nick – I will stick around tomorrow to be proved even more wrong when I predicted it would be a very quiet transfer window a few weeks ago. Can you set it up with auto-refresh or will we have to wear out the F5 button?

      • Nick

        I think the only way Twitter will disappear is if the likes of Google, Microsoft or Apple buy them for billions and quietly kill them off, as they do with many start-ups. The last I heard was that the average age of Twitter users is 31, so even I’m a bit old for it. 🙂

        I have plans to add a live – and you’ll love this – Twitter-like interface to the blog at some point in the future for match and transfer deadline days etc – no refreshing of pages, all posts and comments appear in real-time. But until then it’s F5 all the way. That said, I doubt there will be that many updates tomorrow, not enough to need real-time updating. 🙂

        The Disqus comment system has a real-time service but they charge for it.

  16. Anonymous

    Is it just me, or is it hard to imagine why they’d send Lukaku out on loan immediately after Drogs gets concussed? If AVB was about to bring him on in a game where we badly needed a late goal, I assume he thinks the fellow is ready to contribute …

    Where’s Kakuta, by the way? Anyone know? The reserves are playing dahn the Bridge tonight, maybe he’ll show up there.

  17. Anonymous

    There seems to be loads of talk about us signing Van Der Wiel out there in the barrens of the information super-highway, yet I’ve seen nothing concrete to back this up. And Bosingwa is playing well, and Branners can play there. Or young Nat Chalobah. RB is not really what we need is it?

    I’m on Twitter (avoid Facebook though) and, at 31, am bang on the average user age. How utterly dull and predictable my life is, according to statistics….

  18. Marco

    You 30-somethings make me feel my creaking age….

    4th bid now in for Modric. £30 + million in cash (exact amount not known) plus Benayoun.

    Still don’t (quite) understand why we keep going for Modric when we have McEach plus, also, Mata able to play in the hole.

    *hunts about for pipe and slippers*

  19. petew

    Twitter isn’t going anywhere soon, an absolutely unsurpassed – and very easy to use – source of news and information. Very good group of chelsea fans on there, who know their stuff. You can use it to follow celebs, but that’s really not the point. Get breaking news, crack a few funnies, argue about Kalou – you don’t need more than 140 characters to do any of the above.  

  20. petew

    Modric is obviously the finished article and a cut above Josh right now. Like everybody i want Josh to play more but he’s only 18.Look at the recent history of Joe Cole and tell me that blooding teenagers is a good thing. How many amazing talents burnt out mid-20s because of overplaying in their teens? 

    Giggs is the freakish exception.And look at how United have used Cleverly, we’d all more or less forgotten about him as he’d spent so much time on loan,but know he’s slotted right into their first team and at only 22 has ten years ahead of him (potentially, I actually don;t think he’s that good, but you take my point).

    Don’t think Lukuka is going anywhere. Would like to see a right back come in. 

    • Marco

      Don’t think Modric is worth £38 million though. Would rather we bought Meireles and gave Josh a few games behind him and Lamps (if he ever comes good).

      • Anonymous

        I agree. A bit more Josh.

        If Roman gets carried away with Modric, and pays any price to prove he can get what he wants, we’ll end up with another Torres.

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