The Observer, Paul Doyle: “From Russia without oomph. Chelsea tackled this domestic chore as if drained by their midweek trek to Moscow and, although they eventually stretched their lead at the top of the Premier League to five points and extended their 100% record at Stamford Bridge for the campaign, this was a far-from-perfect performance.”
The Independent on Sunday, Steve Tongue: “Anyone investing even a modest sum on Wolverhampton Wanderers to win here at something around 20-1 would have received an unexpectedly good run for their money. It was tighter than many a fixture between League leaders and those down among the dead men at the bottom, without in the end even denting Chelsea’s extraordinary home record. Like all Premier League visitors since Aston Villa last March, Wolves failed to score, but few if any can have had more opportunities to do so. A finish was simply not there, bringing to mind last season’s feeble total of 32 goals, the worst of any team.”
Sunday Telegraph, Duncan White: “After victory in Moscow this was another controlled, if far from exhilarating, win. There is no doubt that Ancelotti’s team still miss their attacking fulcrum in Frank Lampard, who, the Italian says, will return to training at the end of this week and will be available after the Blackburn game next weekend.”
Official Chelsea FC Website: “Chelsea made it eight consecutive home clean sheets in the League against Wolves today following a tense game inside the Bridge which saw Jose Bosingwa play 78 minutes of football.”
I bet some of you erstwhile readers think this writing lark’s all a bit easy, it’s all just “go to the match, watch game, fill up memory cells with key moments, go home, write the facts, send it in”. Well let me tell you my friends it doesn’t work like that at all. We work hard at our training sessions, we work with our coaches and we have to constantly think up different themes for the reports and articles in our quest to keep this journal fresh and interesting, and of course to keep our Dear Leader happy. If any of us disappear suddenly and without any trace then it may just be that we have in some way displeased our Dear Leader, maybe with a shoddy performance, or because we politely challenged something he has asked us to do.
Prior to a report, the selected writer will adjourn to a quiet area and run through a set of cognitive exercises to limber up the old grey matter and get those neurons firing efficiently. Those not chosen will stand on the virtual sidelines waiting for the Chosen One to come forth and show us the report, much like Moses did when coming down from the mountain. It is always a moment of great revelation to get an early read of the blog when a new article has been posted. But, there are occasions when the Chosen One pulls up and for whatever reason is unable to fulfil the honour of entertaining and informing you, dear reader brethren, on all things relating to our wonderful club. At this point, the Dear Leader walks over to you in a virtual manner, and whispers in your shell-like the well chosen words that mean a stiff call to arms:
“Get your keyboard ready son, you’re going on.”
Today was such a day. Our top striker… sorry… writer has some rather more important and pressing business to attend to and so I got the late call to express some views on today’s game. I just hope I can do the good Lord Kaiser justice at such late notice.
So, to the football and a chance to watch some real stuff instead of self-serving posturing from Mister Rooney, some sinister undertones from Sir Rednose and some even stupider posturing and brinkmanship from those involved in the Portsmouth tragi-farce.
All we needed was a good win and a decent performance from our boys and the weekend would be set fair, and we could all sit and watch Citeh and the Arse play out a knackering draw tomorrow as comfortable pseudo-neutrals. Trust Wolves to put in a decent attempt at stifling that goal…
So, oblivious to the call of duty I duly arrived at the ground after polishing off a decent plate of cholesterol-based meat products and chips at the newly renamed Broadway Cafe (formerly the American Cafe) in a successful attempt to drive away the hangover demons left over from a raucous night of Guinness and Rioja. The atmosphere was muted, and the team announcement met with knowing and approving smiles as we saw Drogba back in the starting line up along with Jose Bosingwa starting his first game for over a year. The general feeling was that this might be another walkover and a hatful of goals. Well, in my usual default position of uber pessimist I was seeming a lone detractor from this optimistic rather rose tinted view. Judging by the rather quiet atmosphere in the stands, it seems a lot were expecting a rather perfunctory barely breaking sweat win over Mick McCarthy’s plucky but doomed team of cloggers. Well, it seems I was rather more right to be a bit concerned, and more accurate than most with my forecast of 2-0 at best. Now I had expected that mainly based on last season’s thumping we gave them at Stamford Bridge, which I had thought might mean a siege mentally for Wolves based on them parking the old charabanc firmly in front of goal, aligned with a suspicion that we’d be rather tired after a long trip and tough game in Moscow. Am I being a bit smug here? Damn right I am!
On the tactics front I think we were trying to play the Dummy Reversal method or perhaps a Drury Convention. As usual, you might guess that I’m still not turned on by systems and tactics, sticking with my thesis that “Nobody really knows anything about football”.
The first half was a rather strange affair, akin to the recent display against Villa at times but punctuated by some good stuff, especially Bosingwa’s stinging shot which bought a wonder save from Hahnemann. Overall, we couldn’t really get any tempo going, I suspect due to a combination of rather daring play from Wolves who held the ball admirably and some rather leggy Chelsea players operating a few percentage points below their optimum level. Wolves were rather good value, although the Chelsea fans probably didn’t appreciate it. Yes, as Danny Murphy said there were a few hard tackles from them, but similarly we’re hardly a side that worries unduly about a little rough house treatment. We barely made Hahnemann do any work at all other than the save and at times stringing more than three or four passes together was looking like a tough task. But we are, if nothing else, a resilient team and even when we’re under par we still have the ability to grind out a result – that’s what differentiates us from Arsenal, and it will be interesting to if Citeh have the same mental toughness when things are a bit tight. After the luck they got against Blackpool I would suspect not. On 23 minutes we did however put together a lovely move with the impressive Anelka linking well with Zhirkhov to thread through Wolves defence and leave Malouda with an easy strike to give us an early-ish advantage. The expected goalfest never happened but we did have a good chance or two after that. 1-0 at the break and a strange feeling of missed chances that we’d normally bury had me feeling that my prediction was looking better by the minute. I should have had a bet.
The second half followed a similar vein with bursts from us, good possession in the midfield from Wolves and some dogged defending from us as well. I’ve not seen the stats but I’m guessing Wolves won the corners count in the second half. Luckily their lack of quality up front would have meant something special would be needed to breach big Pete’s goal. As the half wore on the performance became more laboured and Carlo seemed to have spotted this, with Kalou coming on for a tired looking Malouda. It did the trick, and a fresh Kalou seemed to spark up the rest of the team a little and the last 15 minutes were arguably our best and most consistent part of the whole match. On 81 minutes another fine piece of work on the right this time saw the ball threaded through Wolves again for a clinical finish by a much improved Kalou. 2-0 with 10 minutes to go and the points were in the bag, but credit to Wolves who unlike Arsenal when they conceded the second goal, their heads never dropped. They may struggle to stay in the Premier League this year, but on today’s performance they will cause some teams a few problems. Ferreira came on for Bosingwa who can relax happy in the knowledge that he did a decent turn today. The other substitution was young Josh McEachran coming on for Zhirkhov with 10 minutes left. More game time for the young man can only be good thing.
Standard Good, Bad and Ugly fayre this week as time is of the essence and I want to sit down and watch some mindless TV before drifting off into a non-alcohol based sleep.
- Another clean sheet. I am fairly sure the last goal conceded by us at Stamford Bridge was Aston Villa and that was way back in March. That’s a pretty awesome statistic by any account.
- Another win, putting us clear at the top by five points at the time of writing, and many of us wanting an Arsenal win against Citeh. Not often you’ll hear that said.
- The referee. A good performance today from Lee Probert who was unfussy and allowed the game to flow.
- Spurs getting a taste of the post European game hangover and struggling to a 1-1 against Everton.
- Didier Drogba – not a return he’ll remember with any great satisfaction, but to be fair he was patently way below his normal fitness level, so it was good he got a full game under his belt.
- Stephen Hunt… who is most a definitely a cu… well you all know what he is.
The much loved and adored player ratings (out of 10 and from the default score of six with marks added or subtracted for being good or bad)
- Big Pete – 8/10 – looks very close to his imperious former best
- Bosingwa – 8/10 – a polished return
- Cole – 7/10 – screwed a couple of gift chances to have a shot or get a decent cross in but like others he look shagged out
- Terry – 7.5/10 – standard good stuff from him
- Branners – 7.5/10 – a great foil for JT
- Obi – 7.5/10 – a bit subdued compared to his recent high standards, but OK in general
- Zhirkhov – 7/5/10 – looks a very good option for making things happen
- Flo – 7/10 – low key performance but a steady strike for the first goal
- Essien – 7/10 – an even lower key game with some uncharacteristic losses of possession and stray passing. Obviously tired
- Nico – 8.5/10 – sheer utter quality oozing from every pore but needs to be a bit more selfish from time to time
- Drogs – 6/10 – not fit, frustrating and frustrated but still helped for the second goal
- Kalou (for Malouda) – 8/10 – not on for long but scored a lovely goal and livened us up. A much improved player from previous seasons
- McEachran and Ferreira (for Zhirkov and Bosingwa)- 6/10 – both did OK considering they weren’t on for long
- Overall team performance – 7/10 – not great but not poor, and definitely laboured
Man of the Match
Nico – who was sheer class today and the best on the ball by a long way.
A five point lead looks good and a draw between Citeh and the Arse would be a good result, or even an Arsenal win. The performance wasn’t good, as even Carlo acknowledged but the result is always the more important factor, and as the hackneyed old cliche goes… the sign of a great team is one that wins when playing poorly, and that was very much written for us today. There’s little doubt the midweek exertions played their part in an under par performance, but it does look like we’re one of the few teams that can roll our sleeves up and do a job even with a European hangover.
A bit like me, in fact.
A week’s break until an arduous trip to Blackburn next weekend will no doubt give some of our stars a chance to relax those muscles.
And talking of aching muscles, the one in my skull is switching off bit by bit, the eyelids are drooping and the keyboard is making more and more mistakes. So, much like Chelsea this sub standard performance from me will hopefully keep me in good stead with our Dear Leader, and as Carlo himself said… the result is more important the performance…
Time for bed said Zebedee… zzz…
Keep the Blue Flag Flying High!