Each time I’m asked to write a match report I find myself considering the same thing. The writing of the report itself – the gristle, bone and viscera of the game. The teams, the players, an elementary attempt at some sort of tactical analysis and a few personal opinions. With Chelsea FC though nothing is ever that straight forward and invariably I feel compelled to contextualize any thoughts I might have. In other words, give a quick debrief on whichever catastrophe is swirling around Stamford Bridge this week. So here we go.
Ashley Cole has been awarded a contract extension worth a variety of sums depending on who you believe. Quite right too. God only knows who we’d replace him with. He’s a proven winner and still one of the best left-backs in the world.
Frank Lampard, so far hasn’t been offered a similar extension despite the consensus of opinion being that he’s still good enough to warrant another year’s wages. Wouldn’t be surprised to see Lamps still at Chelsea next year. Could depend on who the manager is.
Interim manager Rafa Benitez has had the least successful start to a reign of any Chelsea manager appointed by Roman Abramovich. Not exactly popular with supporters anyway, this has become one of many hot topics for most Chelsea fans. Many want him out. Some because they hate him, some because they believe he is no more than a mediocre coach. Plenty of disagreements about the behaviour of a “proper” fan at a football match. Right to boo or a “plastic” supporter? Support the team or show the board that you aren’t happy?
Who knows. All I know is it’s never dull supporting Chelsea. Never has been. Never will be. Doesn’t matter how much money Roman spends. You’ll never change Chelsea. There’s always a balls-up just around the corner. That’s why we love it. Would we rather be Arsenal?
Cech; Azpilicueta, Ivanovic, Cahill, Cole; Lampard, Ramires; Mata, Oscar, Hazard; Torres.
Three points were a must. For both sides but with the most unpopular man in West London coming under increasing pressure after a run of poor results at home and United already almost out of sight, a win would go a long way to shoring up our Champions League spot and restore some confidence to the team.
Things could hardly have started better. Dominating possession and pressing Arsenal all over the pitch. Mata gave us an early lead after a superb piece of control and a wonderful finish. Ramires fouled Coquelin in the build-up but the fact is Arsenal weren’t at the races for 45 minutes. To be fair to them they had a decent chance before Mata gave Chelsea the lead but Giroud spurned the opportunity. How different the game game might have looked if a certain Dutchman were still on their payroll.
Lampard scored his 195th goal for the club from the penalty spot after Ramires was brought down in the box by Szchezny. Replays may have showed Ramires made sure he went over the big Pole’s outstretched limb but live it looked a stonewall penalty and once given the goalkeeper should’ve been sent off. One fortunate decision each but 2-0 Chelsea.
The atmosphere inside the ground was brilliant throughout the first half and with Ramires and Lampard completely dominating the midfield Hazard, Oscar and Mata had ample opportunity to keep the Stamford Bridge faithful happy. Vermaelen had Torres in his pocket but that wouldn’t have surprised anyone that hasn’t been in a coma for the last three years. He’s been in more pockets than a Romanian gypsy operating in the West End. It really does seem that while some supporters are critical of the booing of Torres we can all agree that he’s finished. The only people that I can find (on Twitter mostly) that still have any affection for him are young, female and may have an interest in him that goes beyond his ability in the box. The fact that Demba Ba has been able to come on for the last nine minutes of a game and show him up twice really tells you all you need to know.
I actually felt quite relaxed at half-time. It was bloody short-lived though as we were out-fought, outplayed and second to everything after the break. Mata had a poor (by his standards) second half. Hazard and Oscar were unable to influence the game. Lampard, who had showed great drive in the first half faded. Ramires put in a huge shift but when you’re under pressure and struggling to retain the ball Obi Mikel’s simple passing and upper-body strength are probably what’s required. Unfortunately he’s on a different continent. I might suggest that our consistency has suffered in his recent absence (suspension/injury/AFCON) and I’ll be very glad to have him back.
The game was summed up for me afterwards by an Arsenal-supporting friend “you were good first half and we were shit, we were good second half and you were a bit shit but your lot can defend and your best players are better than our best players. Giroud and Torres should both be in the Championship.” I thought that summed things up pretty succinctly.
Rafa will never be popular but he is the subject of much debate. If he’s responsible for the poor displays isn’t he as responsible for the good ones goes the argument. That’s a logical position. It makes sense but what really characterizes his tenure is inconsistency. From the sublime, to the ridiculous and back again. Beat Stoke 4-0 away. Lose 1-0 to QPR at home. Yesterday’s game was a microcosm of that form. That’s my problem with Benitez so far. Sure at times the players haven’t been good enough but we know they can be good enough. The phrase “top-down, winning mentality” was mentioned by one of you, Tony (GrocerJackUK) or Jonny (KaiserJonny) I think, regarding what Mourinho would bring if reappointed and I couldn’t agree more. After so much upheaval it’s surely the most sensible thing to do.
Yesterday wasn’t really a day for moaning though. We best Arsenal. Gained a little ground on United. Kept pace with City and extended our advantage over the other teams seeking to secure a Champions League spot for next season, and as I chatted to the Arsenal friend after the game I realised that for all the moaning about the board, the owner, Torres, Rafa, Frank’s contract, the booing etc I’d much rather be us than them. Chances are we’ll obtain another couple of big players in the summer. Possibly Falcao, possibly Fellaini. We already have some of the most exciting attacking players in the league. Mourinho will be looking for work while we’re looking for a manager and we’re Champions of Europe. What have Arsenal got to look forward to? Pinching Yanga-Mbiwa off Newcastle and desperately trying to claw their way into the top four. Things could always be worse.
Juan Mata’s goal.
Frank Lampard’s penalty.
Gary Cahill’s last ditch clearance.
Ashley Cole’s new contract.
“Robin Van Persie, he left cos you’re shit!” ringing around Stamford Bridge.
Up the Chels.
The Guardian, Dominic Fifield: “Chelsea have spluttered amid the poisonous atmosphere allowed to fester in this stadium over recent weeks but Arsenal’s visit provided an antidote of sorts. All that rancour was forgotten amid the distraction of a rumbustious derby, the dissent at Rafael Benítez’s mere presence more a grumbling than bellowed protest. Victory against local rivals has strengthened Chelsea’s position in third. Any respite is to be cherished.”
The Daily Telegraph, Jeremy Wilson: “Familiar problems were evident, not least in the form of Fernando Torres but it was still critical for Rafael Benitez to record what has been only his second win at Stamford Bridge since replacing Roberto di Matteo in November. An added bonus for Benitez of Frank Lampard scoring in the 16th minute was that even the usual chants for Di Matteo were forgotten.”
The Independent, Jack Pitt-Brooke: “Arsenal’s famous ‘self-sustaining model’ can look fairly exposed at Chelsea, a club with the opposite problems. Here at Stamford Bridge there may be too much what Arsenal lack – purpose, ambition and ruthlessness – but perhaps not enough of the patience which Arsenal seem to be drowning in. Not everyone would hold up Chelsea as a perfectly-run club but they have won two Premier League titles, four FA Cups and one Champions League since Arsenal lifted anything.”
The Official Chelsea FC Website: “Stamford Bridge is smiling once again after two first-half goals proved enough to win this London derby against an Arsenal side who came back strongly after the interval.”