Daily Telegraph, Henry Winter: "Stamford Bridge staged the Ex-Factor show on Sunday, a truly thrilling event when old boys returned with a vengeance. So many of the visitors had Chelsea connections. So many delivered. Scott Parker won the 50-50 tackles, even the 40-60 ones. Carlton Cole bullied Chelsea’s defence. Gianfranco Zola, his name sung by home and away fans, masterminded tactics that brought more than a point. It brought a feeling of pride and hope to West Ham."
The Guardian, Kevin McCarra: "The Premier League has become a picturesque landscape of fallen fortresses. The ramparts of Stamford Bridge no longer look impregnable. An equaliser here was until recently a down payment on near-certain victory for Chelsea, but Luiz Felipe Scolari’s side soon slipped back into faltering ways after Nicolas Anelka had brought them level yesterday. The side has now won just three of their nine League fixtures at home, dropping 14 points."
The Times, Matt Hughes: "With respect to the admirable challenge of Aston Villa, the top four from last season are likely to remain the same, though they could yet finish in any order. All four have problems to overcome, with Chelsea’s the most intriguing as their turnaround has been the most dramatic. The best home record in English football history has deteriorated to such an extent that their form on their own ground this season is worse than Stoke City’s, with 14 points slipping through their grasp already. Chelsea’s most recent home league win was a 5-0 demolition over Sunderland six weeks ago, with their last commanding performance against threatening opposition a victory over Villa at the start of October. Given such results, it was little wonder that they were booed off at the end against West Ham United and even Luiz Felipe Scolari, the manager, agreed with the punters’ considered opinion."
The Independent, Sam Wallace: "With respect to Gianfranco Zola, his return to Chelsea as West Ham manager was supposed to be a fond celebration of the club’s greatest player followed by Zola watching his team being soundly beaten. It never worked out that way. Nicolas Anelka was required to score the equaliser and Scolari had to reconcile himself with the fact that he has already dropped four more points at home than Jose Mourinho did in his entire first season."
Official Chelsea FC Website: "And so the home puzzle continues. Two more points are dropped as Nicolas Anelka’s 100th Premier League goal proves only enough for a draw."
I had planned to conjure up a review based on my love of rock music for this one, littering the piece with references to masterpieces from the world of classic rock. But then I’m a witness to today’s freshly delivered pot of arse gravy and frankly the mood for ‘fun’ has gone. I’m better grumpy anyhow. Another chance to go to the top of the Premier League blown, and our beloved Chelsea has been transformed from invincible home opponent crushing machine to twisted basket case with a remarkable similarity to one of the greatest chokers sport has ever seen. We are now the footballing equivalent of Tim Henman. A chance to go top and we treat it like Timbo treated a quarter-final at Wimbledon. So just for today rather than pursue the similes to some of rock’s greatest you’ll find no references to Ronnie James Dio, Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, Dave Gilmour or Ritchie Blackmore, but just the same old Good, Bad and Ugly fayre that have served me so well until now.
- Alex. Despite the apparent desire to leave it has to be said he had a superb game and deserves a pat on the back. I know he has his detractors for apparently keeping Michael Mancienne out of the squad, but that’s hardly his fault.
- John Mikel Obi. Got booked for nothing more than a clumsy tackle after 20 minutes, but was absolutely marvellous, calm, assured and a great distributor and blocker. Pure gold. When substituted ran straight down the tunnel, and I don’t blame him.
- Jose Bosingwa. Looks comfortable on the ball and received 50 yard punt from Petr Cech with superb aplomb. Put some good crosses in but maybe needs to be a bit more selective about this option if no-one is there.
- Gianfranco Zola. Well, he did ruin the day a bit by putting a limited but committed team out who punched above their weight but was given one of the most rapturous welcomes ever reserved for an ex-player coming back with another side. A lovely clip on Sky showed him trying to get into the home dressing room by mistake. One day, hopefully…
- Steve Clarke. Can anyone really blame him for wanting to team up with Zola? Great to see him back and no doubt that if West Ham keep their promises they may have the start of a very profitable partnership.
- The noise. That’s the loudest and most passionate I’ve seen Stamford Bridge in a long time. A concerted effort second half to drown out the West Ham fans. More please.
- Not football related in anyway. I passed my exam and now have a Bachelor of Arts degree! If I can’t blow my own trumpet here, then what’s the point?
- The first half performance. Shocking. Arsenal-like in terms of possession leading to over elaborate flicks and fancy-dan passing with no end result. But I don’t want that and judging by those around me neither do the majority of the fans. West Ham didn’t park the bus either. Fair play to the little genius he has them playing some good stuff with limited players, so we can’t even level the same complaint about being unable to break down teams who come to defend. Something is very wrong with our home mentality at the moment. The patient is ill and Doctor Phil isn’t coming up with the answers. It got better in the second half but even when we batter teams we don’t have the killer instinct. We choke. We’re Henman-like in our ability to choke – perhaps we should have recognised this last year after the Carling Cup, or the Barnsley game, or the Champions League final. We turn into Greg Norman on the last round of the Masters in 1996, or Jimmy White at the World Snooker final in 1994. We have a collective confidence issue and it needs sorting quickly.
- Deco. An absolute stinker. If anyone from the club reads this blog then stick this under his nose. He is shite, double shite and thrice shite. Since he returned from injury he has stunk the place out and if ‘senior’ players are willing to moan about training methods or take Florent Malouda to task then I suggest they deliver the football equivalent of a Code Red (see A Few Good Men) or the ‘blanket party’ treatment dished out to Private Pyle in Full Metal Jacket. I’m sick of writing about what a lazy, apathetic, clueless prick Deco is. And I’m sick of the fact that Scolari keeps so much faith in him ahead of Michael Ballack and Joe Cole. So far, he’s heading my ‘sell the fucking twat’ list in front of Salomon Kalou and Malouda. How bad must he be to head that list?
- Luiz Felipe Scolari. Jose Mourinho was a God. But he’s gone. Avram Grant was never qualified to run a club the size of Chelsea. Scolari has a good international pedigree and a reasonable degree of success at South American club level. But increasingly he is starting to look a little lost. Now, if we’re kind we’d say he’s still adjusting to the Premier League, but today we couldn’t complain about not having a plan B option with Didier Drogba on the bench. But whatever message he has the players seem confused by it. Our football under Jose was turgid at times, but always effective and always crushing to opponents. That has gone from our game and Scolari needs to stop being Mr Nice Guy and start chopping a few heads. His substitution of Joe Cole again leads me to think Joey may well be about to hand in a request of his own and that would be scandalous. Deco however seems untouchable no matter how useless he plays, and it’s getting worse. His decision to remove the superb Mikel Obi was up there with Claudio Ranieri at his worst. Removing an admittedly under par Ballack for Drogba and leaving Deco on was utterly bizarre. We can’t think of sacking him because it isn’t the answer, but I sincerely hope Peter Kenyon, Roman Abramovich et al, are going to support him with money in the summer or at least put him straight on expectations at home against basement dwelling clubs.
- Mike Riley. Waved play on when it was wrong. Stopped the game when an advantage should have been played, stopped the game when a West Ham player got injured by colliding with the hoarding off the pitch and was his typically pedantic picky ruinous self. How does he get away with it? Seriously my heart sinks when I see his name as the ref for any of our games.
- Deco. Not good enough for Barcelona and not good enough for us. Truly shocking. To quote ‘Fever Pitch’ – "Will you please, please, please, please, please just fucking fuck off!”
- Sonia, former chart topping Scouse poppet was in the club room on the table next to me today. Quite the hottie close up.
- Petr Cech – 7/10 – Could have done better for the goal.
- Ashley Cole – 6/10 – How can a player who can tame Cristiano Ronaldo struggle against Craig Bellamy?
- John Terry – 7/10 – Took a knock early on but continued anyway. What we have to come to expect really.
- Alex – 8/10 – A rock. Almost flawless.
- Jose Bosingwa – 7.5/10 – Great on the ball but needs to think about the final ball more carefully.
- John Mikel Obi – 8.5/10 – Marvellous. Just marvellous. There are those who think he should be dropped when Michael Essien becomes fit but that is madness – he is our most improved player by a long way.
- Michael Ballack – 6/10 – A bit subdued and got caught with the ball a few times. But at least he tries to get it back.
- Frank Lampard – 5/10 – Poor. Free kicking has gone to pot and so have the corners.
- Deco – 1/10 – Lucky to get that mark. Utterly disgraceful. His last minute stand aside which led to Carlton Cole’s fluffed chance at the end was shocking. Thank God it was Carlton Cole and not Dean Ashton. Rapidly becoming a hate figure.
- Joe Cole – 7/10 – In a terrible first half he was one of the few shining lights. In a much improved second half he faded. Still did more than Deco.
- Nicolas Anelka – 7/10 – Passed well, tracked back well and took the goal brilliantly but saw little service through the game. The others don’t seem to know how to feed him in.
- Didier Drogba (sub) – 7/10 – Lifted the team and the crowd and did some spectacular defending on one West Ham surge. Played a part in the goal but equally showed some poor touches. Ring rusty but still good to see him back.
- Salomon Kalou (sub) – 7.5/10 – For me a good bench option and showed it today.
- Juliano Belletti (sub) – 6/10 – A cameo appearance and not enough time to influence the game.
- Overall team performance – 6/10 – Rubbish first half. Better second half but we need to get back to basics and score goals at home.
Man of the Match
John Mikel Obi. Alex came closest but this lad is a towering influence and when he went off our midfield looked as populated as the Sea of Tranquility.
We are, to coin a phrase, a bit of a basket case. Imperious on the road and pretty dreadful at home. We need to find out why this is and resolve it because I can see West Brom and all sorts coming to us and being getting results like today’s. There’s no masking things now, and whilst ‘crisis’ is too strong we do have a problem at the Bridge. Scolari seems to have recognised that we can’t keep trying to walk the ball in the net and shoot more often, but even when we did that West Ham blocked every single one, such was the way we telegraphed the fact we were going to shoot. True, a bit more luck and without some inspired goalkeeping from the impressive Rob Green and we’d be sitting pretty, but we shouldn’t be relying on luck against such apparently weaker opposition. If we carry on like this then I’ll be putting £20 quid on a 2-2 against West Brom.
We now enter the crucial Christmas period with away games to Everton and Fulham and the home match against West Brom, followed by the FA Cup against Southend at home (dear God, a potential banana skin there) and then Manchester United on January 11th. By then we’ll be much clearer on the reality of our title challenge. In the meantime Doctor Phil needs to get the medicine sorted and relieve the home form creeping malaise.
Keep the Blue Flag Flying High and start the singing!