The Observer, Conrad Leach: “When Chelsea have got over the shock and shame of not winning 6-0 – as they had done in their first two games of this season – they will realise the value of this rather more subdued scoreline. As they have already proved this campaign, creating chances is not a problem for Carlo Ancelotti’s side, but sometimes the putts don’t drop. If they had, then they might even have equalled the 7-0 thrashing they doled out to Stoke City on this ground in April. After all, when Ashley Cole could have scored twice, you know there are goals to be had.”
Sunday Telegraph, Jonathan Liew: “Just the two for Chelsea this week, then, but to a home contingent reared on gourmet cuisine, this win was nothing more than a good square meal. It is fair to say that three games in, the champions are yet to be truly tested. An industrious but guileless Stoke City were ill-equipped for the job, and Chelsea were even able to afford a missed penalty on their way to victory.”
Independent on Sunday, Mark Fleming: “Florent Malouda describes the carefree fluency Chelsea have displayed in their opening Premier League games as feeling “like I was back in my garden”. And well he might, for things are certainly looking rosy for Malouda and the rest of the defending champions. Stoke City provided stiffer opposition than either West Bromwich Albion or Wigan had managed on the previous two weekends but the champions were unruffled.”
Official Chelsea FC Website: “It is now 14 goals without reply from three games as the strong start continues. The Blues were afforded the luxury of a missed Frank Lampard penalty before Florent Malouda opened the scoring for the third game running, again with a right-foot finish. Chelsea then hit the bar, a feat also performed by Stoke with the score still 1-0. Didier Drogba sealed the win from the penalty spot with quarter-of-an-hour to go, followed soon after by a debut for Ramires.”
We find ourselves perched atop of the fledgling Premiership table with a goal difference that Stoke (and many others) would be immensely pleased with come next May. Another six goal haul today would see an increasing number of Chelsea fans depart from reality – not that we need too much opportunity for that – and possibly encourage the News of the Screws’ fake sheikh to turn his attentions from Pakistani bowlers to the defence of whichever team happened to be facing Ancelotti’s globetrotters that weekend.
Tony Pulis and the visitors would presumably have arrived with one eye on damage limitation, their 7-0 humbling down at the Bridge at the tail end of last season. Asmir Begovic, Stoke’s wantaway keeper who picked the ball out of his net no less than five times during last season’s rout, is still on strike and hoping for a move to SW6; his club’s new eight figure valuation is looking prohibitive for a second choice keeper, to say the least.
What else? Oh yes; European footy is back. Thursday’s Champions League draw was the usual mixture of UEFA self-aggrandising pomp and ceremony – oh for Chopper and another grizzly ex-pro pulling balls from a bag in the FA’s basement – and left us with a reasonable group to negotiate over the coming months. Midweek trips to Slovakia and Russia are never ideal, but Drogba’s return to Marseilles to face another Didier with Chelsea connections should hopefully provide the highlight of a group stage which doesn’t exactly set the pulse racing (not much change there, then).
The late, great Eric Morecambe once observed that life is generally not Hollywood, but mostly Cricklewood. Given our recent net-bursting form, this seems an appropriate observation after what was a comfortable, routine victory against a team resolutely determined to give our free-scoring heroes less room to play in than a cat in a wheelie bin.
The performance was sound, workmanlike and as third gear as the outings against West Brom and Wigan, just minus the clinical finishing. Had chances been taken, another goal-difference boosting rout could have been on the cards; a clearly off-colour Frank’s penalty (his reluctance to put his boot through it as he usually does gave a clear indication that something was wrong), the two opportunities that fell to Ashley and Kalou’s late one-on-one howler (too much time to think, you see) and so on.
Not much more to say really – we were dominant in possession, fairly solid in defence and created chances against a side rather lacking in ambition. There will be plenty more games of this nature to come over the next eight months or so; some will end with a more impressive scoreline, others less so.
- Three wins, fourteen goals and none conceded – top of the heap. The perfect start to the season.
- Injuries to JT and Frank. Not good that they’re crocked, obviously, but a minor hamstring tweak and a hernia op instead of flogging the lifeless equine beast that is England is probably a blessing in disguise. The best part of two weeks to rest, recuperate and generally avoid being booed by some shaven-headed fucktards fresh from an EDL march / asked stupid questions by agenda-driven journos is just what the doctor ordered from a blue point of view.
- Mikel – more of him later, but when the bloke I sit next to who has given JOM pelters for his entire Chelsea career stops to observe that he was having a great, almost Brazilian game, you know he must have been doing something right.
- Ashley Cole – like watching Cafu in his pomp.
- Ramires – nice to see the new boy get a run out.
- I shall look forward immensely to seeing the Spurs fan in the office I work from occasionally this week; his confident dismissal of my ‘beware those supposedly easy league fixtures after good results in Europe’ warning proved somewhat foolish, as I told him it would. It did bring back some unpleasant memories about Watford away after a glorious night in the San Siro, though.
- We’re going to face an awful lot of teams adopting the ‘none shall pass’ masses behind the ball approach this season. Much of it will not be pretty.
- The two-thirds full away section. We’ve seen it before to an extent, and it is still holiday season, but the concern is that outside of the bigger teams and traditional rivals, fans of the mid to lower table sides might well be voting with their wallets rather than coming to the Bridge to see their boys on the wrong end of a hiding.
I shall rate the players based on a mark out of ten, taking into account factors such as goals, assists, tackles won, passing statistics, ridiculous and usually misplaced personal biases and/or favouritism and the quality of the individual’s haircut. Marks will be deducted for stray passes, silly coloured boots and being born under a star sign that I don’t particularly care for blah blah blah blah blah.
You didn’t think I was being serious, did you? Read the papers if you want all that jazz.
Man of the Match
Hmm, tricky one. Everyone was reassuringly competent, made few errors and in general, didn’t really set the world alight (not that they had to, if we’re honest). Ashley’s end to end energy was impressive as previously noted, JT’s solidity, bursting from deep run and regista style pass for Malouda’s first was as classy as it comes and also worthy of mention. Alex impressed me with some telling interceptions and tackles on the rare moments that Stoke ventured over the halfway line, but I’ll go with Mikel for today’s honours. The extra second he seems to find in possession coupled with an increasingly impressive range of passing should make the hacks sit up and take notice, if they weren’t too busy churning themselves into a creamy five-knuckle frenzy about the old ginger lad up in Manchester. And he cannae tackle as well as the Obi One, either.
The forthcoming break is both blessing and curse in equal measure. Despite a confident and impressive start to the season, my feeling is that we could do with another game or two to up the sharpness levels a little more and really kick into gear before international duty sends most of the squad scuttling around the planet. West Ham and their, ahem, ‘manager’ next up but for now, all in Carlo’s garden is rosy.