The Observer, Anna Kessel: “If a victory over Everton would have “resolved everything” for Chelsea, then where exactly does yet another draw leave Carlo Ancelotti’s flagging side? “Disappointed” was the manager’s response. “Angry. Not just for the result, but we played a poor second half. We lost our idea to play our football. Just a long ball, we were scared. I didn’t like this.””
Sunday Telegraph, Duncan White: “The eyebrow has lost its energy. Carlo Ancelotti’s usually ironic good humour is finally beginning to fray as Chelsea’s slide continues. With speculation about his future, the sudden dismissal of Ray Wilkins lingering, Frank Arnesen’s resignation and now a fourth straight league game without a win, the Italian is firmly in his worst spell since taking over last season. Lucky the Russian World Cup success is there to distract Uncle Roman.”
Independent on Sunday, Steve Tongue: “Having threatened to run away with the Premier League title, Chelsea are losing ground by the week. In the past six matches they have scored three goals and taken a mere five points, surrendering the leadership first to Manchester United and now to Arsenal, both of whom they face later this month, after an away game at Tottenham.”
Official Chelsea FC Website: “A late Everton equaliser at Stamford Bridge on Saturday made it four league games without victory for Chelsea.”
After the November shambles we have all endured I have been lying in a dark room for a couple of weeks. I could have gone on slumbering for a few weeks more but my mobile beeped and it was Nick asking if I would write today’s match report. Don’t think my nerves have recovered quite yet so this match has come a little too soon for me.
Musing over what has gone wrong it seems fairly clear to me that our injury list has been the main reason for our recent collapse. If we had been told in July that Lamps would be out for four months, Alex out for two, Benayoun out for six, with JT playing through injury for the whole season, and Drogba effectively unable to play properly for two months with malaria, I don’t think many of us would have developed high hopes.
Add to that the fact that Malouda, Anelka, Kalou and Sturridge have failed to carry the team while the others have been out and it is a minor miracle we are still second.
The thing that galls me the most, however, was the decision to carry a light-weight squad forward into the season from July. If all our senior players (except Essien and Ivan) are in their 30s then it was insane to let Carvalho, Ballack, Joe Cole, Deco and Belletti leave. And for Ancellotti to opine back then that we didn’t need any more players is just an insult to the intelligence of us supporters. I realize Carlo may not have been the decision-maker here but I dislike being strung along with empty phrases and wishful thinking. There was simply no chance whatever that our youngsters were ready to step in and maintain the standard of last season. Our one major signing – Ramires – has attracted a fair bit of obloquy for his starting performances but it was insane to think that he would be able to adapt to the Premiership in a few weeks. Although he did play quite well last week against Newcastle, I’m told.
I can see, quite clearly now, why we have been playing 45-minute matches. One reason is complacency, another is arrogance, but the third is possibly the most important: that 30-something players, some of them carrying injuries and illness, are in no fit state to compete for 90 minutes. And there are no ready replacements. And Carlo does not seem to have any idea at all how to manage the squad around this.
Therefore I have resigned myself to the fact that this is going to be a transitional (read: ‘unsuccessful’) season and trophies are going to be very hard to come by, if at all. Reaching the conclusion gives me a certain tranquillity but no doubt that will soon disappear if, today, we play like Dad’s Army, give away silly goals to Everton, and our title chances continue to drain away.
And right on cue another one of our bogey teams arrives at Stamford Bridge. Everton are adept at playing a containing game against us and nicking a result and it is fact that we have only beaten them once in our last five fixtures. But their recent history is almost identical to ours with key players like Hibbert, Osman, Neville and Jagielka injured and Fellaini and Arteta suspended. Result? Only three points taken from the last five games (compared to our four) and that 1-4 home defeat to West Brom last week mirroring ours to Sunderland.
Funny thing, though. I haven’t seen any negative press coverage at all about that. Shouldn’t the alsations who write for the tabloid sports pages be telling us that Everton’s owners are mismanaging the club, that Moyes is on his way out, and that their ageing squad isn’t up to it any more?
I will dispense with my usual pre-match quote from Carlo as his recent comments don’t seem to be worth the price of his English lessons at the moment.
As expected, JT returns for a hobble around the pitch, even though we are told that he is by no means fit. Essien returns from suspension and replaces Ramires. Malouda continues to fill the left midfield slot as Zhirkov is also injured.
Cech, Bosingwa, Ivanovic, Terry, Cole, Obi Mikel, Essien, Malouda, Kalou, Anelka, Drogba
Subs: Turnbull, Ferreira, Bruma, Ramires, McEachran, Kakuta, Sturridge.
The first half
First three minutes and we start off like Dad’s Army, watching on in amazement as Saha tries to put them 2-0 up. Then we start to play. In fact I counted no less than 42 minutes continuous play for the rest of the half as Essien and Malouda drive us forward while JT is a colossus at the back.
We are camped in their half with 61% possession and some neat balls are going in through to Anelka, Kalou and Drogba, buy nothing to show for it. Chances they might have buried last year are fluffed and we only have one shot on target all half. It looks to me like a repeat of the Birmingham and Newcastle games with lots of good looking tippy-tappy play but no goals. What chances we have come from three good moments after 26 minutes, when Mikel’s goal-bound effort is diverted for a corner, from which JT’s first shot is blocked and then his return shot hits the bar.
But our weak point is Bosingwa, who is beaten time and time again by Cahill when Everton play on the counter.
Meanwhile, Probert is carefully watching while Phil Neville uses a combination of shoves and punches on Kalou, Malouda and Drogba without punishment. Neville then does Malouda twice from behind and goes down clutching his face when Malouda lunges at his groin. But we can be thankful Malouda wasn’t sent off for that. But, to be fair to Probert, Neville finally goes into the book following a rabbit-punch on Drogba a minute later.
The penalty on 40 minutes looks dodgy to me. Neville – in keeping with his low quality as a footballer compared to his obvious skill as a hacker – plays a poor back pass to the keeper. Anelka latches on to it but makes the wrong decision to go around Howard’s right and collides into him. But if Howard was adjudged to have prevented a goal-scoring opportunity, then why wasn’t he sent off?
Drogba duly slams the penalty home. His only contribution to this match, as far as I can tell.
We go in 1-0 up at half time. Let’s hope Ancellotti can get another 42 minutes play out of them with ‘intensita’ – an untranslatable Italian word he keeps using in his press conferences that seems to correspond to English phrases like ‘commitment’, ‘passion’, ‘hard graft’ and ‘the will to actually win a game’.
Half time: Chelsea 1 Everton 0.
The second half
10 minutes gone. No sign of any intensita yet. Everton are back on top and starting to pour forward.
15 minutes gone. Nope, still no intensita or, for that matter, anything that resembles skilful play. Fellaini is being made to look like a world-class playmaker while Essien, Mikel and Malouda look anonymous. And Everton almost level it as Rodwell beats Cech with a header, which rebounds out from the inside of the bar.
Rodwell looks like an excellent player to me, by the way, well worth buying once Roman gets his payoff from Putin for bribing FIFA to put the 2018 World Cup Russia’s way.
20 minutes gone. Nope. Still no worthwhile play to report. Everton have just gone close again with another header that beats Cech. I have said this before but our 4-3-3 looks very weak against a team playing 4-5-1. Especially against a side like Everton, who are playing with intensita. Maybe Carlo should send over Emenalo to ask David Moyes what it is and how it works?
But now Carlo has decided action of some kind is needed and brings off our worst player – Bosingwa – and replaces him with Ferreira. Presumably in an attempt to stop Leighton Baines rampaging forward up the left.
25 minutes gone. Still no signs that Chelsea want to come out and play. I have a quick look at the two benches, Moyes is standing in the technical area, fists clenched and yelling his players on. While Carlo looks like an overweight Clouseau. Meanwhile, our new Ladies team coach is hunched up in his wooly hat pretending to think up a cunning plan.
35 minutes gone. Nope. Still no intensita or any worthwhile moves to report. Everton are lining up to take pot-shots at our goal with 9 attempts on goal to our 8 now. Cahill has just done a Stephen ‘unt on Cech but doesn’t get a booking, despite dangerous play going for the ball which boots Cech in the face. Carlo snaps out of his lethargy for a moment and brings on Ramires for Anelka.
40 minutes gone. Hold on, we’ve just started playing for a few minutes on the counter-attack. But the play ends up on the feet of Drogba and Kalou and goes nowhere. Kalou surpasses himself on 84 when, with an open goal in front of him, he dribbles it sideways instead of shooting and is dispossessed. Our last chance to extend the lead before we get clobbered.
The only real surprise about Everton’s equalizer on the 85th minute is that it didn’t happen earlier. Ferreira fails to stop Baines getting up to the by-line again and, from the cross, Cahill has all the time and space he needs to nod it back for Beckford to score.
Still no intensita from Carlo or any of our players following the equaliser. Aren’t champions meant to be pouring forward to win the match at this point? You can bet that that is what Manchester United would be doing.
But, instead, it is Everton who pour forward looking for the winner, while Chelsea are like a harlot bent over on the couch with her legs open, hoping the customer gets it all over with quickly. But, despite, three more good chances, Everton don’t finish us off.
- Can’t think of anything to remark concerning our team really, apart from JT’s return. But even he faded badly as the match went on.
- We didn’t lose 1-2 as we could so easily have done.
- Ancelotti’s management. Seems quite happy to stand there and watch this dross for match after match, keeping the same tactics, watching the same mistakes, persevering with the same under-performing players, and tolerating 50% performances. Wake up Carlo!
- Drogba. Really should not be playing right now. But who else have we got who could do a better job?
- Kalou. Kalou-less.
- Bosingwa. Is he a right-back? Doesn’t seem to have any defensive skills whatever.
- Our title chances just took a further nose-dive. And they don’t look like reviving any time soon on this display. With Tottenham away up next and Manchester United after that, we could be a mid-table side by the end of the month.
And, now, I really do want to go back and lie down in my dark room. And let nobody disturb me until Carlo finds his intensita, or mojo, or whatever he calls it.