The Guardian, Joe Lovejoy: “Do Chelsea have the best players in the country, or merely the best paid? The question with which Roman Abramovich is said to have confronted his team after their elimination from the Champions League is manna from heaven for media studies classes and pub knowalls everywhere and their verdicts will be even more damning after this latest disappointment.”
Daily Telegraph, Jason Burt: “Ewood Park will always have an iconic significance in Chelsea’s history. It was here, five years ago, that Jose Mourinho led his buffed-up, bare-chested players – who had thrown their shirts into the crowd – in a swaggering statement of victory that said a first league title in 50 years was theirs.”
The Times, Matt Hughes: “It scarcely needs saying that this was a match José Mourinho would have won. Carlo Ancelotti’s side were one up and cruising towards a much-needed victory at Ewood Park yesterday, but they lost their way after half-time and never looked like recovering.”
The Independent, Phil Shaw: “Should Chelsea fail to win the Premier League title for a fourth consecutive year, they are sure to look back ruefully on their performances in the north-west. Carlo Ancelotti’s first trips to Wigan, Everton and Manchester City all ended in defeat, and yesterday Blackburn shrugged off the setback of Didier Drogba’s early goal to restrict them to a single point in the Ewood Park drizzle.”
Official Chelsea FC Website: “A Chelsea performance that fizzled out in the second half as the Lancashire rain began has ended a bad week for Blues.”
After the midweek debacle and a deserved exit to a well organised and committed Inter Milan side we find ourselves pitched up against a battling Blackburn side being fashioned by Big Sam into a decent workmanlike mid table team. Well, if you’re Blackburn that’s about the best you can expect and it’s an honourable position to accept along with the odd chance of a cup here and there. It’s basically what we were pre-Abramovich. To be honest I knew I’d miss the live game because of a quarter-final golf match in the Dennis Bishop Plate me and my golf partner had earned. Still, the miracles of technology meant I could record the game and watch it back afterwards knowing the score and basking in the presumed warm glow of a return to form.
Yep, well at least we won our hard fought golf quarter-final with a resounding 4&3 victory because we played as a team. Against a Gooner and a Fulham fan no less. However, my beloved Chelsea looks to be quite a way from playing as a team. The joy we all felt post-Arsenal has gone completely and after today we now find ourselves in 3rd place, dependent on a Utd slip up, with Arsenal now looking like the main competition for Sir Purplenose. It’s like the gods of football have deemed that only a duopoly between the Mancs and Arsene’s babies is allowed and now the Premier League looks exactly like it did when Ranieri meekly took the Bates dollar.
Quite frankly we are looking a shadow of the team that started the season, and a very weak and pale imitation of the all conquering Mourinho sides. Get used to it folks, we’ve been put back in our place and that’s where we’re likely to stay for some time. And we’re doing it with a whimper and a painted on smile to make the media and authorities like us. Normal service is resumed after the heady bright days of awakening we enjoyed under Mourinho.
It’s been a miserable few days.
No real surprises on the team front with the able Turnbull between the sticks again, Kalou in for Ballack and Ferreira in for Zhirkhov. I’m guessing a 4-3-2-1 formation was Ancelotti’s game plan. The players also knew that Manchester United had beaten the loathsome Liverpool 2-1 to show once again they are the kings of the run-in and also helping expedite the fire sale of Torres and Gerrard in the summer bought on by the need for funds not forthcoming because of the now seemingly inevitable non-qualification to the Champions League.
We started very brightly and it really looked quite a determined spirit within the team. After six minutes a great piece of work from Anelka found Drogba in the box for a nonchalant side foot goal. Hmmm… watching it live, the early goal and the general joie de vivre in the side must have lifted a few heads, especially amongst the hard core bi-polar pessimists amongst you (yes Fiftee, you are included along with me in that category of default darkness). We continued in this vein for much of the remainder of the half, with Malouda looking very skilful and Ivanovic, Alex and Mikel Obi once again looking like comfortable first choice players. Sadly in the last 10 minutes the legs seemed to give a little and we looked slower and slower. Then, what could be a disaster for us, in the 43rd minute a fairly innocent coming together between Diouf and Ivanovic saw our unsung cult hero fall to the floor clutching his right leg. We all know Branners well enough by now to know that he is an honest player and that if he is writhing in pain then it must really hurt. A lot. Sure enough despite coming back onto the pitch his first touch of the ball was pushed out of play and the disconsolate looking Branners trudged grim faced off the pitch. Let’s hope it isn’t serious, although his face told a very different picture.
By the end of the half you could argue we should have been three or four up, but how many times have we heard that this and previous seasons? Chances spurned and players seemingly all to eager to throttle back and settle for the 1-0. We could do that once, under Mourinho, but since his departure that is a skill we have long since lost.
The second half started with an apparently arse-kicked Blackburn getting stuck into us far more, and us looking more and more like a team not just leaking confidence but pissing it out at the rate of a fire hose. Now plenty of comment was made after the Milan game about piss-poor refereeing starting to look a bit conspiratorial. I dismissed that for Tuesday but after seeing Steve Bennett’s dreadful display today when Blackburn kicked several of our players and we didn’t see as much as a free kick for some of them I am starting to wonder. I’m starting to understand how Gooners feel now when they complain about teams getting into them and their players not getting the protection they’re entitled to. You’ve no idea how painful that sentence was… me empathising with Gooners… that’s how bad a week it’s been and how utterly miserable and pessimistic I now feel about this season… a season we should have been 12 points in front of by now.
The sluggish play, the drained confidence, the fight now missing eventually took its toll and on 69 minutes the newer more aggressive Blackburn got their reward with an equaliser. From that point on the game looked over, Blackburn would treat the draw like a win, and we would flounder around the pitch looking more and more desolate and desperate. On 74 minutes off went the hapless Kalou-less, once again living right up to his nickname (but by no means being the worst player we fielded) to be replaced by Deco… fuck me… what is this? Some kind of black comedy? That’s when you know you’re in trouble when you’re replacing a very frustrating but loyal player with one of the worst players ever to play for us. I mean, Deco makes Shevchenko look like one of the best players we ever had, and at least Sheva tried, bless him. Deco is first on my list to go, in fact I wish he’d go now. And so, we huffed and puffed but the damage was done. The last seven or eight minutes was all us, but again I ask where this urgency was during the rest of the game. The final whistle was a blessing for both sides in the end, Blackburn so they could rest up and us so we could get on the coach and skulk off to lick some more wounds.
- Ross Turnbull looks a good second keeper.
- Seriously, that’s it.
- The ref. Once again oblivious to genuine claims by our players.
- The injury to Branners. Just another nail in the coffin?
- The new Clueless – yep until I see any further evidence The Eyebrow sits there as Clueless Carlo. Fiftee did a superb rant in the final few comments of the Inter Milan article and I have to agree. This alleged tactical genius who had the chance to refresh the squad but chose not to, now looks more and more hapless as the season goes on. Yes, for me he is starting to look like Scolari Mk. II. I want him to stay for another season just to show that progress is being made, but if he insists on keeping a stale, not necessarily ageing squad intact then we can expect even more heartbreak.
- Tuesday 16th March until Sunday 21st March 2010.
Bah… humbug… all average with extra marks maybe for Alex who looks a good bet for being first choice centre-back, Malouda who looks superb and that’s about it. Below average again from Lampard who looks seriously out of sorts.
Manager rating – 2/10 – Scolari-esque? Ranieri-esque? Gordon Brown-esque? Whatever, at the moment he looks a bit out of his depth as the business end of the Premiership starts to bring all its ascendant pressure.
Overall team performance – 5/10 – Ho hum, hey ho…
Man of the Match
I’m so pissed off it’s untrue so I’ll keep it very brief. We look shot. We look bereft of ideas. We lack pace and width. We’re too static. We don’t know how to cope with teams that get in our faces at the moment. We lack spirit and we look jaded and tired. It isn’t necessarily the squad age that is the issue, but it is the staleness of a squad that has a lot of players that have been together too long it seems. All I hope is we stutter to the end of the season and finish at least second, although I think that looks increasingly doubtful now. An FA Cup is nice, but it’ll still feel like a consolation prize and let’s not forget we have to get past the pacy Aston Villa who’ve already bloodied our nose once this season.
As a good Doctor once said:
“Change my dear… and not a moment too soon.”
All I can say is Amen to that. Let’s hope the summer sees some genuine and radical changes to refresh the squad with my desire being for two or three ‘hero’ signings and the promotions of the youngsters to first team action. If it’s good enough for Arsenal and United then it should be for us.
Keep the Blue Flag Flying High!