A little preamble
So, you’re sat at home, satisfied that as The Dear Leader of the blog and Generalissimo of the Podcast, the Alan Parsons… the Nile Rogers… the Quincy Jones of all Podding Sheds that everything is just tickety-boo under Jose v2.0. Who do you reach for when a potential banana skin fixture scheduled for the atmosphere graveyard of Saturday lunchtime hoves into view… why not that Tony Glover chap, after all he has possibly the best track record of covering potential tricky games (a euphemism for games we’re likely to bollocks up).
And so it came to pass, our Dear Leader asked me to cover the game, and as golf is off the agenda for a while until the torn rotator cuff shoulder injury (aggravated by the recent herculean 300 mile bike ride) has been mended with a ‘procedure’, and things were looking rather spiffing from a Chelsea perspective I heartily agreed to cover the game. And of course this deal was accompanied by my perennial hex of choosing to watch the live games we lose.
I doubt a single Chelsea fan had any real qualms about The Happy One’s (THO) selection for yesterday. Maybe the odd moronic raised eyebrow at the selection of Luiz partnering JT from the Mikel haters who have found a new faux-villain to victimize, but generally there were no surprises. And maybe that was half the problem.
I watched sofa-bound with Chelsea Bob and his delightful wife, the long-suffering Gill as I’m the only one with BT Sport (a decent and refreshing change from Sky it must be said). Well despite plenty of possession, by the time the first half ended all there was to talk about was a decent JT effort from a corner which crashed the bar, and a slightly fortuitous repeat against the bar from the following Ivanovic deflected overhead kick. Newcastle offered very little and we offered just slightly more.
OK, let’s call it as it was, it was DULL, DULL and thrice DULL. It stank. The so called hot bed atmosphere at Lord Mike Ashley Sports Direct Mega-Superdome was no louder than my local library on a particularly quiet day. That’s lunchtime games for you. Go to the Bridge on a Saturday lunchtime game and even matches versus the loathsome Spurs have that dinner party feel about them. It’s too early. It’s just wrong.
By half-time, the eyelids were straining to stay open, and in a refreshing departure from Sky’s constant ‘Judgement Day’ hype for even the most sedentary fixtures even Jake Humphrey and the BT panel said as as much.
The second half was noted by Mourinho’s early arrival in the dugout, a face long and puzzled. In retrospect his post-match comment about ‘smelling how this game was going’ now must have seemed like a freshly laid and extremely runny dog turd by the end. It’s how my guests and I felt. As insipid as the first half was, our second half continued in a similar vein. Amazingly little effort, no passion, no urgency, confidence draining and the inevitable combination of a needlessly surrendered free kick, sleepy defending and a goalkeeper who believes his domain starts and finishes on the goal line. Petr Cech for me now joins the realm of Ed de Goey as a decent shot stopper but a flapper and controversially a bit of a coward in his box. I’ve looked at the first goal again, and for all his faults I think Joe Hart would have come for that cross and punched. As would Sir Chesney (sic) at Arsenal, or Schmeichel in his day, or just about every other goalkeeper. In fact I’m jumping more and more into the Courtois to return lobby the more I see Cech riddled with indecisiveness. Having said that, let’s pay credit to a resilient Newcastle side who grew in confidence and before the goal could quite easily have already been two goals to the good. In fact with the benefit of hindsight, one might even say that Newcastle ‘Chelsea’d’ us, by digging in and ruining the first half, and then repeating in the second half with more bravery to come at a side that was either having a bad day / didn’t like the weather / was arrogant and cocky (refer to THO’s ‘treating the game like a friendly’ comment / lost every bit of the ethos that saw an unbeaten October / can’t play lunchtimes (delete as appropriate).
There was a brief revival after the goal that saw us squander two or three chances to equalize but just when there was a glimmer of hope for a point, Newcastle skipped through our midfield (much as they’d done all day) and substitute Anita fed Remy who having missed one sitter straight at Cech wasn’t going to repeat that error. 2-0 and game over. What little pride the Chelsea players had displayed hissed from the collective punctured body knowing it was over. At the final whistle to Cech and Terry’s credit they went to the travelling fans, whilst all the others skulked away down the tunnel, and if it was in shame then they did the right thing. None of the Creative Herbert’s (TM Dr Blue Bayou) performed well. Hazard picked up a knock and should have been whipped off. Mata followed up a sparkling display versus Arsenal with a three-day old flat pint of lager. Oscar was a fumbling bumbling lightweight seemingly spiralling out of his excellent early season form with alarming rate. The critics rounded on Luiz for pulling out of a tackle as it that alone demonstrated the flaws throughout. Luiz to his credit did very little wrong, and the same goes for JT and Ivan. Ashley Cole conceded he free kick leading to the goal and was exposed a couple of times at left-back by pace and his own positional fuckwittery. Frank Lampard is mystifyingly still playing every game. He looks off the pace and dare I say a little knackered. Ramires tried very hard, but as good as he was versus Citeh and Yaya Toure, yesterday he struggled to find any outlets for his industry. Torres was utterly starved of anything decent, and as we suspected last year, maybe him and Mata aren’’t compatible, whereas alongside the impressively bustling and battling Schurlle he looks in tune. Willian also looks more useful and for me, with 20-20 hindsight I think Lampard would have been better replaced by Mikel and maybe that’s the first call from now on. Mata or Oscar or Hazard replaced by Schurrle and Willian. And maybe, just maybe Demba Ba might have wanted to show the barcodes what they were missing. I’m warming to Luiz in midfield if Cahill gets more game time. Cahill has not made an error this season and for me partners either Luiz or JT better than any other combination.
But I’m not the coach. And neither are you. On paper yesterday’s side looked massively superior to Newcastle, especially when their injury list is considered. And yes, I know we all have bad days at the office, but what has mystified me, and Jose if his post-match comments are anything to go by was the complete loss of bottle from last week’s magnificent display versus Citeh. For me that comes down to over-confidence and arrogance, both admirable when deployed appropriately, but we saw similar versus too many teams last year (West Bromwich Albion, QPR and Southampton as examples). THO has also spotted this with his comments on how we have ended up in double figure points deficit to the winners of the Premier League for the last two seasons.
Let’s hope he can take this shambolic display from yesterday and turn that into a full on November backlash, starting with Schalke this week.
Keep the Blue Flag Flying High!
The Observer, Louise Taylor: “Alan Pardew limbered up for his latest meeting with José Mourinho by issuing such a gushing ode to Chelsea’s manager that he seemed in the grip of a bit of a man crush. The good news for Newcastle fans was that, on the privacy of the practice pitches, such public flattery evidently gave way to forensic detail and strategic planning as Pardew choreographed a vital win, which has offered him significantly increased job security at a juncture in his Tyneside career when he really needs it.”
The Sunday Telegraph, Luke Edwards: “This was not so much a defeat for Chelsea as a reality check. It was a loss that prompted Jose Mourinho to question himself as well as the mentality of his players and their suitability for a Premier League title race. Mourinho did not hold back in his criticism, questioning his team’s title credentials, their attitude and their heart. He was disgusted by the lack of energy and aggression, alarmed by the manner in which his side were out-played in the second half and irritated by the mentality of players who failed to appreciate how tough games at places like St James’ Park can be.”
The Independent on Sunday, Tony Booth: “No one does withering quite like Jose Mourinho. Asked yesterday is he had erred in his team selection, following a defeat he had ‘smelled coming’ against Newcastle, he did not waste a punch. “I made 11 mistakes,” he said. “I should pick the other 11 and not this 11. It is the feeling I have when my team plays so bad. Of course I’m exaggerating. We had some guys with some normal good performances, but the feeling is that I made 11 wrong choices.””
The Official Chelsea FC Website: “The winning run came to an end on a wet, grey day on Tyneside when after a first half in which the woodwork denied Chelsea a deserved lead, a much-improved performance by Newcastle after the break yielded goals for the first half. Yoan Gouffran, from a set-piece, and Loic Remy, in open play as Jose Mourinho’s men pushed for an equaliser, did the damage, denying the Blues the chance to move to the top of the table and inflicting our second league defeat.”