The Guardian, Paul Wilson: “Chelsea won where Tottenham had lost to move three points ahead of their London rivals and strengthen their claim on a Champions League place, though Fernando Torres is still waiting for his first goal in five appearances for his new side.”
Daily Telegraph, Rory Smith: “Some couples just click. Others need to work at their relationship. That Chelsea now stand nine points behind Manchester United, boasting a game in hand, their Premier League title not yet wholly relinquished, owes rather more to the natural partnership of John Terry and Frank Lampard than the forced union of Fernando Torres and Didier Drogba.”
The Independent, Tim Rich: “When Chelsea arrived at Bloomfield Road, where they had last been beaten in 1965, a vast sun the colour of a tangerine shirt had sunk into the Irish Sea, which seemed an omen of sorts. Lampard thought the fixture “a banana skin; a Monday night, late in the season,” and well though Blackpool fought, Kalou’s intervention once Drogba had limped theatrically off, was decisive.”
Official Chelsea FC Website: “Three goals and three points made it a successful trip to the seaside for Chelsea on Monday night, bringing us within touching distance of third place.”
Musings on the game rather than a linear report
Well, one minute we’re gliding through the Paso Doble like Brendan Cole, then we’re worse than John Sergeant at the Cha Cha, but in the end we made Blackpool look like Anne Widdecombe, as we came over all Anton du Beke and wiped the floor with ‘em.
But it wasn’t the polished wood of the Tower Ballroom, it was a rather poor surface at Bloomfield Road and while some of the people’s post-game comments might be in the carping, hyper critical style of Craig Revel Horwood, I’m going to be all Len Goodman and accentuate the positives.
There were changes to the line-up with Drogba starting instead of Anelka, Zhirkov replacing Malouda and Boswinga in at right-back in place of Ivanovic.
It looked like we were staying with the new formation, which to my mind is not working too well defensively. Not perhaps because it can’t work, but because the three lines are not moving up and down the pitch in a cohesive fashion, leaving too much space between them to be exploited. There were times last night where it was far too easy to work the ball past midfield and straight onto the back four.
Interestingly, in the second half period where we killed the game off, it was noticeable that we got much closer to their midfield and suddenly Blackpool coughed the ball up in their own half and we looked more threatening and dynamic.
Perhaps it was the midfield changes or just plain old switching off, but those tense last minutes occurred because once more we backed off and gave Blackpool the room to play in. Now that may be because having successfully squeezed the play up they got nervous about how exposed they looked when Bosingwa made his error. That is not the sort of mistake you should be making. But better made at 3-0 up.
There were some poor passages in the game, particularly the ten or fifteen minutes before half time and those final five. But for the rest of the game we denied Blackpool clear scoring chances and played some decent football.
It wasn’t the perfect game by a long chalk. Blackpool were quick into the challenge and seemed to tackle better than we did. At times they seemed a yard quicker. Part of this, I believe is down to uncertainty about positioning and who is taking responsibility for what tasks. Add this to a still brittle confidence, and we can be too easily discomfited at times.
But as we all know the first hour of a Premiership game can often be attritional. When we use possession and move a team around the fatigue starts to kick in around the sixty-minute mark. Recent seasons have shown that patience is important, particularly when form is patchy. And so it proved.
Ultimately we did well enough to have scored more than three. Practically the last kick of the game was a typical Kalou effort from eight yards out, which left someone at the top of the stand with more teeth in his hands than in his gums.
So what about the boys in Blue? How did they do? By and large a good effort all round I think. I am very wary of attributing motive and mood to players, particularly as this can very often be flavoured with personal likes and dislikes, but they seemed in determined mood if somewhat cagey late in the first half where our defensive organisation seemed to break down.
I thought Drogba made a positive start last night. There’s no denying that he didn’t click with Torres, but he held the ball up, had a couple of threatening runs and his game wasn’t characterised by the antics that indicate he is not happy with life. The commentators seemed to think he was moaning at Torres a lot, but was he moaning or communicating? Shouldn’t players talk on the pitch?
He seemed to genuinely get injured. There followed a period where everyone assumed he’d keep playing and no-one seemed ready to come on. The commentators interpreted this as farce, with Anelka and Kalou both on the bench engaged in some kind of “after you Claude”, as to who would replace him. I don’t lip read but it’s just as likely that an old head like Anelka was offering advice to Kalou.
The alternative would be to assume that the management were not making the decision about who was to come on and the players run the team. Surely not?
Zhirkov showed flashes of the good form we saw last season, particularly in the first half hour. Then he made a couple of poor passes, one that led to the incident where Cech pushed an easy shot onto the post and drifted out of the game for a while. But in the second half he once again showed good movement and direct, pacy runs, which will always trouble a defence.
What to say about Bosingwa? Again a player that started positively. There were some decent attacking runs, he fashioned a good chance that forced a save and he gave much needed width. Defensively, Carney had too much room but that was as much the problems with midfield that I mentioned earlier.
However, he seems to be a player who is trying to find his game and struggling. A couple of lapses, particularly the one for the goal undid a lot of the good work. But then Ivanovic, a player who has been a diamond all season, has been guilty of errors. It happens. But he has the self-belief to go again. Bosingwa appears to have lost that.
Essien and Lampard had better games, Essien certainly less guilty of giving the ball away. Game time is what they both need; though I’m not sure if defensively they are comfortable in the current system. Maybe it’s just a question of working on the training pitch. Three goals in two games (albeit two penalties) will do wonders for Frank and his link up with Kalou was a peach.
Ramires. Well if you were watching the game on another planet in a parallel universe along with Barney Ronay of the Guardian, you might well concur with this observation:
“Wily teen Josh McEachran comes on for the invisible Ramires.”
If you watched the game, then you’ll have seen another fine performance from a man who is establishing himself as one of the first on the team sheet every week.
Dear ol’ Nando. I just grip the rosary harder every week and keep praying. Images of Robert Fleck keep flooding in but I know it will come good. And when it does the goals will flow. I don’t buy the Francophone conspiracy. You could put up any game, for any team and see times where the simple pass is ignored, the open player isn’t seen.
Again I go back to confidence. If Torres is lacking belief, if he isn’t asserting himself and demanding the ball, then being new to the team, his colleagues may not be picking him out as they should.
I still think Ashley Cole is a couple of notches off his best. He isn’t as productive going forward and seems a yard short of pace defensively. But that means he’s steady rather than spectacular and perhaps with Zhirkov back he may have the chance to rest his injuries, which if reports are to be believed are of the chronic type that over time must start to have an effect if not managed properly.
Talking of pace, David Luiz has plenty of that and showed it in covering back on a couple of occasions last night. Not so sure about his abilities one on one. I’d say he needs to work on that. But he’s very good with the ball. One cross field ball to Cole late on, was reminiscent of Leboeuf in his prime.
I thought Terry was steady last night and kept some of the errors that have bugged him recently out of his game. A fine goal in traditional JT style went a long way to calming the nerves.
Cech was confident on the aerial threat and apart from the muffed save where he pushed the ball onto the post instead of around it, he had a relatively untroubled night.
Of the subs, Josh did fine, although was unlucky to be on when the rest decided it was time to think about whether the local water was hard or soft and how that might affect their choice of shampoo and conditioner. Malouda tried a bit too hard for my money, but then we want pressure for places and if Zhirkov’s return can spark him up a bit then all well and good.
And so to Kalou, who once again came off the bench and did the damage. Of course it was a penalty. You kick someone in the knee, it’s a foul. The fact the defender made contact with the ball ten minutes later is of no consequence. If you haven’t seen it, then the term “soft” or “softish”, used by certain media types only works as a comparative if you imagine being hit with a pipe made from a ”softish” metal like lead as opposed to iron. He showed the benefit of one forward operating in behind the other. And yet last Tuesday, putting two up on their centre-backs seemed to work. That’s football. A simple game, but difficult to get right.
To my mind. we’re gradually groping our way back to some sort of form. Players out with long term injuries are coming back and getting games. There is competition for places. Ancelotti has options all over the pitch now and can afford to be flexible in his set up.
Of course we are a long way from perfect and the suspicion remains that we are only ever one game from falling off the plank again.
But supporting the team is about sticking with them through thick and thin. There’s surely satisfaction to be gained from being taken to breaking point and building back to where you feel you might be on the cusp of triumph. We’re on a journey with Carlo and the boys and who knows where it will take us. Spring is coming. Time to cast off the winter doom and gloom. Let’s start playing with the sun on our backs.
It may all come to nothing. But as we’ve been gnashing our teeth for so long now they’re surely all ground down, so all we’ll be left with is tears and the sound of gums rubbing together.
So based on nothing more than blind optimism and a wish to avoid painful gum sores, I’m stepping aboard, ticket in hand ‘cause this train is bound for glory.