The Guardian, Kevin McCarra: “Surely it ought not cost so much to play in an impoverished match. Having just become the most expensive signing in the history of English football, Fernando Torres was derided by the fans of his old club when Chelsea took him off in the 66th minute. The centre-forward had certainly not flourished on his debut and the £50m fee is a weight he must learn to carry, but there were many around him whose cheaper stumblings went unnoticed.”
Daily Telegraph, Henry Winter: “For Carlo Ancelotti, this numbing defeat reduces the champions’ chances of catching Manchester United, who remain 10 points clear. The last time Chelsea lost seven games in a league season the manager, Claudio Ranieri, was sacked. Ancelotti needs time to bed his new players in but a huge call has to be made on his attack, one that could define Chelsea’s season.”
Official Chelsea FC Website: “An afternoon that heralded two Chelsea debuts fell flat as mistakes at the back allowed Liverpool a second-half winner. It was a match typical of many league games between these two sides in recent years – a tactical stalemate for much of the afternoon. Chelsea failed to function as an attacking unit, either with Fernando Torres on the pitch or without him.”
What a difference a day / week makes…
For once, the usually over-hyped deadline day lived up to its billing. It was, as the spin merchants might say, certainly a good day to bury bad news. You could probably have made the odd prehistoric remark about the competence levels of female officials and got away with it. Maybe even some old guff about being ‘cash positive’ when you’ve just lost £70 million odd might go unnoticed.
But as pantomime buffoons Keys and Gray, now presumably discussing the possibility of a warm-up slot on Jim Davidson’s forthcoming “Keep ‘em in the Kitchen Where They Belong or They’ll Want the Bloody Vote Next” tour will tell you, timing is everything.
While the blue faithful mulled the indignity of being outdone by Spurs for a player as, well, available as Steven Pienaar (how’s that ‘club with ambition’ thing working out for you, Steve?) and the almost crushing inevitability of the club’s crack – I think that’s what it said – negotiators fouling up the much-mooted David Luiz deal, it seems that Roman had found a spare £75 million knocking about down the side of the sofa.
Don’t know about you, but I love it when that happens. I usually just pop out and buy a few cans with the sofa proceeds, but it’s all relative, obviously.
So with Sky’s deadline clock ticking down, our benefactor decided to hang out the back of Liverpool FC and didn’t stop smashing it until their prized asset, one currently disgruntled but rather decent striker by the name of Torres, made his way to Stamford Bridge.
(You will note that I am endeavouring to use the popular parlance of the day in order to remain down with the kids, like Mr. Keys, and to keep things reasonably topical.)
That’s £50 million to you, Mr. Abramovich, or a bit of change out of a couple of Shevas, to use local SW6 fiscal / striker related slang.
As huge piles of burning red number nine shirts lit up the night sky all over the Liverpool area, any worries about the nation being enveloped by a large cloud of acrid smoke and self-righteous indignation were quickly overtaken by subsequent events.
Namely, the huge clouds of excess vapour resulting from the rest of the nation crying and pissing itself laughing as King Kenny went out and blew £35 million of his windfall on a broken Jimmy Nail impersonator. It would be impolite to ask how much of the fee equated to medical bills and bail money.
Oh, and as Roman pushed his trolley around the European marketplace, he returned briefly to the strangely haired centre-halves aisle and popped that Luiz chap in for good measure.
All transactions completed quickly in the space of one day (a bit like using the self service ten items or less checkout at your local Waitrose, I suppose), world football shaken to its foundations again and even the most hardened cynics amongst us Chelsea fans giddy with excitement.
And as luck, fate and general alignment of the planets would have it, Big Fern’s first game just happened to be against his former employers. Against whom, he said, he was quite keen to score.
History against the future, as it were. This, we hoped, would be a cracker.
But as we all know, it’s the hope that kills you. I shall shamelessly plagiarise my esteemed colleague Herr Glover’s summary of the game which he left on my voicemail earlier.
“Poor. Shite, shite and thrice shite.”
Liverpool were just the better side, and the argument for leaving Torres out grew stronger as the game wore on. Dalglish’s 3-7-0 team came to suffocate, restrict and generally frustrate which they did admirably well given the limited resources at their disposal. Had Maxi not been wearing Ronnie Rosenthal’s boots, the result would have been even less pleasant to think about.
As for us, a lacklustre midfield, a £50 million striker starved of service and partnering a lethargic looking Ivorian chap with our best player of recent weeks left out (Ramires – no idea whether he is injured or not), we looked more like the Chelsea of December than the one that ran riot at Sunderland a few days back. The odd penalty shout and half-decent blocked shot aside, we didn’t really do enough to warrant Carlo’s inevitable protestations that a draw would have been fair for all concerned.
Uh-huh. Sorry Carlo, but responsibility for this one lies with you (and Petr and Branners for their crossed wires, anyway). Plus points were Luiz’s cameo, and, erm, well that’s about it really. Oh, Sturridge, D. seems to be scoring, which is nice. After forty odd goals in the Premier League yesterday, today’s fare produced a couple of rather dull 1-0 wins for the away teams – I suppose it was probably written, somewhere.
- Had a very fine venison pie for lunch.
- Arsenal. Yes, I have to agree with the sheep in the media that I do find them endlessly entertaining (at times, anyhow).
- Really drank far too much for a Sunday afternoon.
- The “He who betrays will always walk alone” banner. What a bunch of self-important bloody drama queens.
Man of the Match
Nope, struggling with that one too. Luiz, just for looking less mediocre than the rest.
Bragging rights for the weekend’s big game travel to Merseyside. Something of a triumph of graft over craft, Dalglish’s side won’t be pretty to watch but he’ll stand a good chance of taking them into the Europa League next season. We’re doing what United did last season – failing to capitalise on slip-ups and not offering anything like a substantial challenge.
But overall, I’d say the future is bright and whilst the Scousers leave civilisation with smug grins, I’d still rather be in our position than theirs right now. And in amongst the heady events of the last week, there is a lesson for our owner should he care to take heed of it.
Top class footballers, despite what you read in the media, are motivated by winning nice shiny silver things. They are well rewarded for their endeavours, undoubtedly, but make the mistake of thinking that a well-filled bank account is all that makes them tick and you may be surprised by the response.
Torres came here for many reasons, one of which appeared to be the promises about investment and the future that were made and subsequently broken by those in charge at Liverpool. Wayne Rooney was evidently convinced enough by his conversations with the United bigwigs about the future and his part in it during the summer, but our Spanish galactico had clearly heard enough from the ever-changing management team at Anfield.
Temperamental these superstar footballers may be, but as the few days have demonstrated they don’t come cheap either. Once you’ve got them, it’s wise to keep them a) happy and b) motivated. Fail to deliver on promises made, and you might find yourself minus the people that you need to keep challenging for the big pots. That way lies mid-table mediocrity which is a little too costly in itself these days.
And the big news item from the last seven days? Whilst it was arguably a debut to forget, Senor Torres is Chelsea’s number nine and I‘m sure that the future will hold many better days for him and Carlo’s boys.