Chelsea 2-1 West Bromwich Albion – Press Reaction, Goal Videos, Match Report, Player Ratings

The newspaper reports

The Independent on Sunday, Trevor Haylett: “The Chelsea faithful are not used to having to wait to anoint their new manager with a victory. Jose Mourinho, Guus Hiddink, Carlo Ancelotti had all begun their tenures here with a win. Even Luiz Felipe Scolari launched his ill-fated stay on a successful note. For Andre Villas-Boas, the latest to sit on the hottest of hot seats, it looked as if a second game would pass without the satisfaction of that winning feeling. His defence, unnerved by the absence of goalkeeper Peter Cech, had come apart as early as the fourth minute to gift a spirited and dogged West Bromwich Albion the lead. There was good reason for the new man to patrol his technical area with a worried frown as Chelsea laboured to find a response. But it all came right in the end with a winning goal seven minutes from time.”

The Sunday Telegraph, Oliver Brown: “Crouching on the touchline seven minutes from time, staring down the barrel of a second straight draw, Villas-Boas was aware that two points from six probably signalled a sackable offence under the warped logic of Roman Abramovich. But persistence was rewarded as strikes by Nicolas Anelka and Malouda helped ease Chelsea out of the blocks.”

The Observer, Dominic Fifield: “André Villas-Boas’s emotions overcame him at the end, the Portuguese greeting the final whistle with a punch to the air and what may have been a cry of satisfaction. In reality, this was probably born more of relief. A narrow victory, even as it kickstarted the new manager’s tenure, has actually served to underline the familiar issues that still cramp this squad’s progress. Their transformation remains a work in progress.”

Official Chelsea FC Website: “Chelsea left it late to come from behind at home to West Brom on Saturday but a first win of the season arrived thanks to goals from Nicolas Anelka and Florent Malouda.”

The goals

4′ Long 0-1
53′ Anelka 1-1
83′ Malouda 2-1
Match of the Day highlights and post-match interviews

The preamble

I watched my first Chelsea match for five months last week. Luckily for me my frustration over our poorest season in nine years came to an end last February when I was offered a four-month training contract in Melbourne. I won’t say any more about that as the reasons for our failure last term have been well canvassed on this blog and elsewhere.

Coming to the Stoke match with a fresh eye, however, I can’t say I was too excited by what I saw. In many respects we seemed to be carrying on from where Carlo left off in May:

  • We played for 45 minutes instead of 90, just like most of last season
  • We dominated but didn’t score
  • We were, mostly, too predictable and too narrow
  • We don’t have a playmaker, a left winger, or a right winger, who can switch play quickly and play to Fernando’s strengths
  • Kalou was poor (as he so often is when not a substitute) and missed his usual gilt-edged chance with a free header on goal
  • Lamps was a shadow of his usual self and slowed the attack down with little semi-circles 20 yards from their penalty area
  • We ended the match playing Torres, Drogs and Nic up front – a combination that has been shown over and over again to be unworkable

There were some pluses. Bosingwa was very good for the first time in over two years. Our back four were solid against the primitives from Stoke and Ramires and John Obi were excellent and Fernando was outstanding (even though he had to make his own chances for himself). Best of all we looked sleek, hungry and aggressive – as we haven’t for some time now.

Mention in despatches for John Obi here. To play on when his dad had been kidnapped by Nigerian gangsters – AND to play so well – should attract nothing but praise. A Chelsea legend in the making? Either way, heartfelt wishes for your dad’s safe return, mate.

To return to the start of our season and what has AVB been doing about the squad? Not much, so far as I can tell and, quite frankly, some of his decisions are giving me a headache.

Why have we signed Courtois and then put him out on loan? Where is the trusted cover for Cech?

Why have we signed Lukaku and NOT put him out on loan when we already have four central strikers in the squad? And why do we need five such strikers when only one of them can play in the 4-3-3?

Why are we still playing Torres, Drogba and Anelka interchangeably on the wings? And why have we waited until the last week of the transfer window to bid for a winger when AVB has been here since the start of July?

As I write I have heard that we are very close to signing Juan Mata from Valencia, who looks like a very classy left-sided winger/goal-scorer, for 24 million euros. If true I believe he will be ideal for us and would make more sense of the proposed bid for Modric, who has made a name for himself at Spurs as a feeder for their wingers – Lennon and Bale. Now all we need is a good right-sided winger and I can stop taking the Paracetamols.

Now I don’t expect AVB to come in and win anything in his first season (and I hope Roman carries the same view) and I will be OK with that but I do expect him to make the tough decisions and rebuild the side. I will be very happy indeed if we end up with a first team/squad like this one and challenging hard come April:

Cech; Ivan/Bosingwa; JT/Rajkovic; Luiz/Alex; Cole/Van Aanholt; Jon Obi/Romeu; Ramires/Kakuta; Modric/McEachran; Robben’s love-child/Sturridge; Torres/Lukaku; Mata/Malouda

But I haven’t seen any sign yet that Villas-Boas has done anything with the players he took over from Carlo. And nor have I seen much evidence that he has changed the tactics and found a way to get the best out of Torres.

The opposition

I have always had a sneaking respect for Roy Hodgson and, although I think they should have stuck with Robbie di Matteo, he is a good choice for a team like West Brom, as he proved with Fulham. He might have done a lot better with Loserpool had he been given more time and patience, as well as the money that King Kenny has miraculously been provided with in order to improve the squad.

I watched West Brom’s match against Manchester United and they looked very good indeed, restricting the reigning champions to just one shot on target all match. Sir Alex’s vibrant new team of youngsters were only rescued in the end by one of their best players – Juan Own Goal.

West Brom play a 4-5-1 formation and I predict they will do what nearly every visiting team does against us at home (including Manchester United last season): park the bus and wait for us to unravel. Will Villas-Boas have a plan for that?

The betting odds with Paddy Power before the game looked like a good example of bookie’s paranoia to me. We are 1-4 to win, 9-2 the draw, and 11-1 for West Brom to win. Given our lack of progress on the team so far, our so-so performance against Stoke, and the fact that we will be spending 90 minutes breaking down the bus in front of the goal without wingers, I am betting on the draw. 1-1 is my prediction.

The team

Slight worsening of my headache when I see the team sheet. I am OK with Hilario’s selection given that Courtois is currently in Madrid watching us on TV. Despite the complaints I regularly hear from my fellow supporters I have nearly always seen some good performances from him.

But what is Kalou doing there? I thought AVB had a laptop program that analyzed individual performances for him? Maybe he needs to switch over to FIFA 12 instead.

Malouda was poor last week but I can’t see much advantage in bringing Nic on for him; no extra width there.

No place for Josh on the bench but both Ferreira and Ivan are there so we have three right-backs. Ooh, I think it’s turning into a migraine now.

Team: Hilario, Bosingwa, JT, Alex, Cole, Mikel, Lampard, Ramires, Kalou, Torres, Anelka.

Subs: Turnbull, Ivanovic, Ferreira, Benayoun, Malouda, Drogba.

The first half

Just as I was thinking that I had been too pessimistic in my preview it turns out worse than I could have imagined.

West Brom stifle the midfield with tactics anyone, even Villas-Boas and Di Matteo, might have predicted and we look clueless. After some aimless passing around the back, Ramires slops a pass to Alex, who looks like he is working out his pay packet with Juventus in his head, as Shane Long intercepts, shoves him off the ball, and runs on with an easy shot past Hilario.

We spend the next 30 minutes competing to find out who can knock it back to West Brom quickest. The easy winners were Kalou, Lampard and Alex, followed by Anelka, Ramires and Bosingwa.

The result? It was just like watching Chelsea last season against Sunderland, Birmingham, Wolves and the rest; a complete and utter shambles.

There were three highlights: two blinding saves from Hilario that keep us in the match and a shot from Torres which Foster just palms out.

On 35 minutes AVB hauls off Kalou and brings on Malouda. Kalou has been poor but I don’t think he deserves the derision he gets from the stands because, overall, it is a very poor team performance so far. West Brom have been excellent; crowding the midfield and playing up fast on the break.

Last 10 minutes we finally start to play a bit after that somewhat ruthless substitution. Ashley makes a chance for himself that is saved by Foster, then Nic has a decent penalty shout turned down by the referee. Just before the whistle Fernando is upended as he tries to go past three players, Alex blasts the free kick through the wall (his one contribution to the match) and it is saved on the line by Foster. But, in truth, West Brom could easily have gone in two or 3-0 up.

Half-time: Chelsea 0 West Bromwich Albion 1.

The second half

West Brom continue to pack the midfield while retaining a fair bit of possession and we look as witless as we did in the first half.

But just like last season under Carlo we start playing for 35 minutes and, amazingly! – we start using the wings! Malouda is playing out wide left and Nic stays close to the right-hand touchline instead of drifting in. Lampard, in one of his few forays up forward, slips it out to Nic in the 53rd minute, who suddenly cuts in and shoots as West Brom are distracted by a penalty call for a trip on Lamps. The shot is deflected past the keeper into the far corner. Very fortunate indeed but it does spark us on to dominate the rest of the match. A few minutes later, Malouda almost scores with a shot that beats the keeper but is kept out by Steven Reid.

On 55 minutes AVB brings off Torres for Drogba, a decision that worsens my headache still more. If poor preparation, dim selections and crap tactics mean that our Man of the Match against Stoke can’t perform, then what chance has Drogba got? And, in truth, Drogs shows no improvement over Fernando this half.

Five minutes later our goalie keeps us in the match yet again. Odemwingie is clean through on goal with Alex trundling after him but Hilario keeps him out with his chest.

My headache is pretty bad by now but I get some relief when Villas-Boas finally hauls Alex off for Ivan; as soon as he comes on we step up another notch. He puts Anelka clean through on the right, Foster comes rushing out but, instead of going round him Nic curves the ball behind, just wide.

But by now the worst is over. Ivan puts Shane Long in his pocket, our midfielders start to retain possession and Cole and Bosingwa are giving us still more width, putting West Brom under more and more pressure as we drive forward. But clear-cut chances are few and too many crosses end up in Foster’s hands.

Seven minutes from the end we take the lead. Bosingwa is put through, again, by Ivan and with some clever wing play he crosses behind their defence for Malouda to score from a simple tap-in.

Now many bi-polar supporters will understand me when I tell you that my first thought when I saw West Brom kicking off again was ‘How long will it take them to equalize?’ Sure enough, three minutes later and Hilario was again our saviour with another good save from Odemwingie. West Brom have it nearly all their own way in the final five minutes but somehow we keep them out.

Full time: Chelsea 2 West Bromwich Albion 1.

The player and management ratings

Traditionally for this blog I will provide some totally subjective and frequently irrational ratings based on how they affected my headache.

  • Bosingwa. One Paracetamol. Participated in the general defensive malaise and some of his crosses were poor. But he was our match-winner as it was his sublime skill in their penalty area that set up Malouda for the second.
  • Terry. No change in symptoms. Not sure why he was ineffectual. Was he trying to cover for Alex? Or just too slow? Struggled to cope with Tchoyi.
  • Alex. Headache rapidly translated into severe migraine throughout his time on the pitch, with associated ‘halo’ effect and consequent nausea. Ponderous, slow and distracted and Shane Long made a monkey out of him.
  • Cole. Half a Paracetamol tablet. To be fair, he spent most of the first half holding off Scharmer. Got forward more in the second half but created little.
  • Mikel. One Paracetamol. This is not really his kind of game, I think, as we don’t need a holding midfielder when we are trying to break teams down. Showed a lot of urgency going forward in the second half and needs to play with more attack in future if he is going to keep Romeu out.
  • Ramires. One Paracetamol. His fourth minute back pass to the dozy Alex was sloppy and he gave away possession too easily in the first half but ran and tackled like a maniac in the second half.
  • Lampard. Who?
  • Kalou. Increased cranial pressure towards the frontal lobes. Did little in his time on the pitch and I assume he was taken off for disobeying AVB’s instructions to stay out wide. But it’s unfair to blame him for the team malaise.
  • Anelka. One Paracetamol. He was one of only two players that showed much creativity. But, too often, his moves came to little. A clever goal from him as he took advantage while their defenders were watching the referee.
  • Torres. One Paracetamol. You can’t expect Fernando to play well with the tactics AVB came up with. Grafted like a Trojan in the first half to try and create something, and nearly scored.
  • Drogba (substitute). Worsening tension in the temporal lobe. Was he in a sulk? Did little after coming on.
  • Malouda (substitute). Two Paracetamols. We began to dominate after he came on and we started using the flanks more. Some of his moves ended up by the corner flag but he worked hard and could easily have scored twice.
  • Ivanovic (substitute). Morphine-like effect as he settled things down at the back and his passing out was sublime at times.
  • Hilario. A complete cure. Were it not for him we could have lost 2-4. And if I hear any more moaning about him from my Chelsea mates I will send them the match video. Man of the Match.
  • The Manager. If things carry on like this I will have to go and see my GP and ask him if there has been any research done on Andre-Villas-Boas Syndrome. Weak selections and poor tactics were his responsibility and he must shoulder some of the blame for our first half performance. But, to be fair, he galvanized the team after he brought first Malouda, and then Ivan on, and imposed more wing play.

There are 95 comments

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  1. Talktoace

    It’s all very well criticising AVB’s selection and tactics . . .but he hasn’t got a different team to choose from yet has he. Admittedly selecting Kalou (one of our worst starters but often a very good sub) was a bit of a surprise but it was Alex with help from Ramires who stuffed us up and they were our best 2 players in the last match.
    What did you think about AVB blaming the fans nervousness and lack of empathy (Support) for the poor 1st half performance after the goal. It lets the players off too lightly BUT it is evidently true. Over the years at Chelsea I have seen the Matthew Harding End retreat into themselves all too often. They used to get roused by us going down a goal. Spurs and West Ham fans etc are often louder than us to start with BUT when things go against Chelsea we used to rally to support our team whilst their lot fell silent. If we can’t do that we’ll have to be described as an audience rather than as fans

  2. Anonymous

    I’m naturally a pessimist but I’m not quite as downbeat as your report.  Either I’m now at the age where rose tinting has been applied to my spectacles or this blog has mistakenly been invaded by manic depressives.

    You say you haven’t seen any sign yet that Villas-Boas has done anything with the players he took over from Carlo. I don’t think any player is looking worse than last year and two players, Bosingwa and Torres, have been transformed for the better. Surely that’s a sign of an improvement?

    We started poorly, AVB made an early substitution and tactical change, something we begged for last season while Carlo waited till the 80th minute to make a like for like change, we got better and came from behind to win 2-1.  That’s good isn’t it?

    • Der_Kaiser

      With you there, Mark. Will take some time to adjust to a new manager / methods and with some new blood plus maybe Mata and Modric or similar, things will look brighter still. A front line of Torres, Mata and Sturridge with a bit more zip behind them in midfield doesn’t sound too bad to me.

      (Those who slung brickbats a-plenty at Carlo when the going got tough last season might want to consider that the problems he had weren’t going to disappear overnight or with a new manager.)

      Impressed with the improvement in Torres, but he’s still falling short of what we should expect from a player of his calibre. Goals, and soon please, Fernando.

    • Cunningplan

      Have to agree with you Mark, I’ll also cut and paste what I said on the previous report about the game.

      What we did to WBA was no different to what Utd did last week.
      Yes poor first half that looked like we’d picked 11 strangers from a pub to have a game, second half vast improvement. Lets not get too carried away yet, I quite prefer we have a low key start unlike last season when we apparently won the league in the press after 6 games. I think AVB knows what we need to improve things, at least he made a very bold JM like substitution after 35 mins, which did work.
      And remember things could be worse, we could Arsenal fans!

    • Marco

      I haven’t seen any sign yet that AVB has changed the team he has taken over from Carlo. On yesterday’s evidence we are playing exactly the same way we were eight months ago. Thought the report made my own view clear: we need a 4-3-3 with two good wide players if we are to get the best out of Torres. 

      And I stick by my view that AVB hasn’t been bold enough with his selections. We really did need Josh and/or Benayoun playing yesterday. Lamps is still not fit, or in form, and I don’t know why he was playing at all. And I don’t see, either, how Lamps is going to fit into a team with Torres in it.

      Is the improvement in Bosingwa’s form down to AVB? Or just a natural desire to impress the new manager? Torres’ excellent performance against Stoke was not due to any changes AVB has made.

      I completely agree that AVB made some good substitutions. Isn’t that evident from my report?

      Let’s hope we do end up with Mata and Modric coming in and Dan (if we aren’t going to buy a right-sided wide player) playing off Torres. Again, that was something I made clear when I described my ideal team come April.

  3. Austin Solari

    I posted this on the last report by mistake so have copied it here ……..

    Only thing I got to laugh about yesterday was that seconds before Malouda scored, he was being roundly abused by the MHL for not running after a pass mere seconds earlier!! The guy behind me was screaming at him. Hence his run to that section of the MHL and his little jump for joy. I just turned and looked at the bloke who did have the grace to say ‘Great goal but he is still a lazy bastard’ LOLI have seen two games now and the thought that comes to mind is ‘Same old, same old’. AVB is really going to have to work hard to get this team playing as champions

  4. Evan Gale

    Totally. Chelsea should have hired me as the new manager. I know the correct tactics to really whip the boys into shape.

  5. Machchan

    Unless my eyes deceived me, it was (dodgy defender) Bosingwa who passed to Alex for the subsequent stuff-up…

  6. Anonymous

    Excellent report, Marco — caught the atmosphere perfectly. Indeed, as AVB commented, the atmosphere was in some ways the most distinctive feature of the evening: the unmistakable and rapidly-formed unspoken consensus of 41,000 people all thinking “oh no, here we go again …”

    I’m surprised by some of the more optimistic comments here. Admittedly West Brom are by no means the patsies they’ve been in recent seasons but for the whole first half (including the period after the substitution) there was no visible difference in general footballing quality or likelihood of scoring between them and us, and even in the second half we never came within parsecs of the kind of performance more or less the same players were putting on this time last year. The midfield looked slow and disjointed throughout, and the ageing backbone of Mourinho’s team — JT, Frank, Cashley, Drogs — doesn’t really seem to represent the kind of problem that can be solved by installing a new manager. JT looked really, really, really dodgy: almost painful to see a properly talismanic player like that hovering on the edge of being a liability.

    But never mind all that. As recommended by Dr Bayou, I’m going to forget about the big picture and concentrate on the pleasures of actually watching games. If I can’t enjoy a late winner, I might as well stop going. I did see Mata a few times when the Euro U21 championship was on telly and he looks an excellent signing too, precisely the kind of prospect we need.

    Plus Branners makes me happy. Typical expressionless ball-winning hack through some poor sod’s ankles only minutes after coming on. Bless you and your inner psychopath, Branners.

  7. Ososdeoro

    Random thoughts: Up until pre-season the prospect of having to use Hilario would have scared the daylights out of me, but his performance in Asia merely made me a little disappointed that Cech was hurt and hopeful that the sub would perform. He did!

    It’s nearly the same with Bosingwa. Prior to pre-season he was a disaster, but in pre-season he was really good, so starting him doesn’t bother me and after thirty or forty awful crosses through the air, the one on the ground in front of goal was just what we needed.

    Even Lampard made some nice passes in the second half, but I agree that his time is up. Would rather see Benayoun, Modric, Meireles or the like out there. Prior to the season Lampard practically dared AVB to not use him if he couldn’t perform. Dunno what AVB is waiting for.

    Torres displays high energy, but when the one or two opportunities came that a 50 million-man would typically take advantage of, he did not take advantage.

    The crappy pass was Ramires, but Alex didn’t have to take time running around it like he did. I just think both were napping and didn’t see Long coming.

  8. Gleb

    A bit off-topic but I’m going mad about this: Mata is 23, so how come he captained the U21 squad THIS YEAR? How could he skip a year? I don’t understand…

    P.S. There must be a catch… But what is it? I though I knew much about football, but 23 year olds playing for the U21 team is something I had been unaware of.

  9. Gleb

    Ok, sorry everyone, lazy me:
    “To be eligible for the campaign ending in 2011, players need to be born
    in or after 1988. Many can be actually 23 years old by the time the
    finals tournament takes place; however, when the qualification process
    began (late 2009) all players would have been 21 or under.”


  10. Anonymous

    Call me old fashioned but I’m not happy that Josh Mceachran has bought a Range Rover before he’s passed his test and shelled out £20k per annum so his girlfriend can drive it.

    1. Kids of that age shouldn’t be allowed such large and powerfull cars – they’ll hurt someone else
    2. He should be concentrating on getting established in the first team, not flashing it about

  11. Anonymous

    On the “atmosphere” in the ground thing, it felt most like disappointment, rapidly turning to anger in my area, though my “favourite”  bellowing Mr. Angry was strangely subdued, even at the string of 50-50 decisions the referee gave against us.

    Do I win a major prize for spotting the first of what I suspect may become a major theme of the season: the first call of “Bring on Drogba” came from behind me just as the captains were shaking hands before the coin toss 😉

    • Der_Kaiser

      Was something of a malaise hanging over the ground – quite a few empty seats dotted around, probably due to folk still being on holiday.  At least one s/t holder near us had packed it in and opted for a few games via membership this season, according to his neighbour.

      Have to say that the two appearances the Drog has made thus far haven’t really inspired much confidence that he’s a better option than Torres right now.  Rather hoping the arrival of Lukaku and return of Sturridge might gee them up a little.

      Know very little about Mata, but pleased as he sounds like the sort of player we should be going for – fills a big gap in the squad that hasn’t really been addressed since Robben’s departure; young, not super silly money, good track record at the top level; apparently a fairly intelligent bloke too.

  12. Anonymous

    … and of course, every time Drogba starts it’ll be “Bring on Nando.”

    Was going to say more but just spotted some really lovely looking green grass over on the other side of that fence.

  13. Petew

    Really poor performance, agree with Jonny that it shows how Carlo wasn’t entirely to blame for the way we played last season BUT at least AVB made some bold proactive changes. Malouda should always start ahead of Kalou, and I say that as fan of Sala, who is currently getting the most depressing kind of abuse from supposed fans all over the Chelsea universe. He doesn’t deserve it.

    Which brings me to Torres, who does deserve and still looks like £50m badly spent to me. Drogba may not be great, but at least he remembers that a striker is meant to spend at least some of his time in the area. Trying hard and still being crap is the sign of a player in decline and I don’t think he’ll make double figures this season unless MATA hits the ground running.

    Now Mata looks like more of a Zola than a Robben to me, quick feet and brain, the first really creative player of that type we’ve had for a decade, potentially a really brilliant signing. Have a feeling his arrival will completely change the style, character and formation of the team, unless we are going to take the round peg/square holes thing too far and shuttle him out wide rather let him run free. 

    But we have to remember that Chelsea players NEVER EVER get going straight away, so please BE PATIENT.

    If Modric also comes in the next week, things are really looking up and we have a very different looking team in prospect. I have absolutely no idea how they might line-up. Any thoughts?

    Lampard  – playing badly but we are mad if we think a new manager is going to come straight in and drop a club legend after one game. You can’t do that. Lamps will be given a long long chance to prove himself – he won’t be treated like Kalou. That’s only proper.

    Finally, why are we flogging Alex when we have no back up? Have we learnt nothing from the previous occasions we have gone into a season with only three CBs? Anybody fancy Paolo at CB with Hilario in goal against United…

    • Anonymous

      The official website is now conforming Kalas has gone out on loan for the season to Vitesse Arnhem, while there are rumours too that we’re flogging Rajkovic because he’s been refused a work permit again, so we seem bereft of emergency youngsters even.

      In which case surely we couldn’t be crazy enough to let Alex go, and it’s just Summer Transfer Madness Made-up Bollocks?

    • Marco

      Have to take issue with two inter-related points you make

      One of the many onerous responsibilities well-paid Premiership managers face is having to do something about under-performing players. While it might not be their fault that squad-members play badly from one game to the next they still have to do something about it – call in the club doctor, re-motivate them, change their role within the team, or drop them. Carlo signally failed to do anything about consistent poor performances from (amongst others) Essien, Lampard and Drogba last season and persisted in playing them week after week. Was that what Roman paid him £6 million a year to do?

      And why on earth cannot AVB drop Lampard? Lamps might even benefit from some time on the bench. Alf Ramsey dropped Jimmy Greaves, Mourinho dropped Joe Cole, and SAF has dropped such club legends as Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Gary Neville several times over the past few years. Don’t think their temporary ordeal did themselves or SAF much harm in the long run!

      • Der_Kaiser

        Has to be said that before the “drop Lampard” bandwagon gets out of control, he tends to start the season reasonably slowly. If necessary then of course he should make way, but he may be getting a chance to play himself in – AVB sees him in training and has spent a pre-season with him, so presumably he’s seen something that makes him worthy of inclusion.

        Point on Carlo remotivating players – maybe not so easy when you’re being undermined by the club as all our managers are at some point.

  14. Der_Kaiser

    I have already seen an ‘AVB is clueless’ thread elsewhere.  Some of our twattish fans are starting to make Roman look the model of patience and restraint.

    Be surprising if we are flogging Alex with no replacement in mind.  Very daft indeed if so.

  15. Cunningplan

    I’m certainly quite excited by the Mata deal, the clips I’ve seen on Sky Sports, he does look like the canines genetalia!
    Good pace, nice finishing, and takes a mean free kick, should interesting to see him and Drogs fighting over who takes them, although with the size difference I wouldn’t fancy his chances.

    I will also add, perhaps he should be given an interim shirt number, and if he turns out to be a gem award him the No. 25.

  16. Ososdeoro

    Agree with Marco about Lampard. Of course a manager should be wary about making such moves, but Lampard himself said before the season, publicly, that he shouldn’t play if he can’t hack it. And I don’t even think it should be as a permanent non-starter — it’s just fairly evident that he needs a rest every other game or so. Evidence for that is that he played quite well in the first few pre-season games before starting this decline. In my very history lacking all-time best list, Lampard is at the top. Doesn’t mean he’s effective today.

  17. Gleb

    Man U keeper still looking very very dodgy (how much time until SAF will have had enough?), but lucky enough to keep a clean sheet. Spurs look plain crap.

  18. Blues FTW

    Not that this is a valid excuse, but since nobody keeps such stats, this is a good time to start the lets-not-give-penalty-to-Chelsea counter:

    Stoke v/s Chelsea 
    1. Marc Wilson on Lampard 55th min
    2. Ryan Shawcross on Torres

    Chelsea v/s West Brom 
    1. Anelka brought down by Foster – 44th min 
    2. Olsson on Lampard – 53rd min
    3. Olsson handles ball over Ivanovic – 79th min

  19. Blues FTW

    BTW, it was fun going over youtube to check Mata out, and most of the highlight videos were compiled by Arsenal fans. Felt kinda bad actually – which is always a good thing.

  20. Ososdeoro

    I guess it does bear saying, Kaiser, that Lampard’s second-half performance was acceptable yesterday.
    Thanks for posting that, limetree! Heard it here first.
    Blues – yes, quite amazing all the penalties not given.

  21. Anonymous

    Photo on front cover of today’s Grauniad appears to show Juan Mata standing in front of the flag of free Libya while the next door chap looks down the barrel of a toy rifle.

    Nice to see footballers taking an interest in world affairs, and I gather he has a uni degree in journalism, but perhaps this is taking things a little far.

  22. Anonymous

    No two ways about it, finish ahead of Utd and you should be champions. They were good last night. Some good young signings who’ve fitted in seamlessly.

    The ‘keeper may cost them a few points in the short term, but he’ll come good.

    And so to us. Mata is a brilliant addition, and Modric as well would set us up nicely for the campaign. Presumably Mata takes up the foreigner slot freed up by Yuri’s move which means someone else has to go if we sign Modric?

    Looking forward to Studge’s return after the Norwich game, should give the ‘wide’ boys a bit more competition.

  23. Petew


    Oh, AVB can drop Lampard after one game if he wants to – but if it backfires, he’s probably going to be out the door before Christmas. The press would explode. If you can’t see that, you are kidding yourself. I mean, you are comparing AVB, who has been in the job for two months, with Ferguson, who has managed Giggs and Scholes since they were teenagers. It’s facile. (And Ramsey was only able to drop Greaves when Greaves was injured). 
    Lampard is a legend with way more cachet than the newly arrived AVB and any sensible manager who has dreams of sticking around would understand that it may take a month – or, perhaps, the appearance of a possible replacement in Mata – before he can start dicking around with club icons with that sort of experience and record. Added to which, I thought Lampard played much better in the second half when AVB changed formation and pushed him forward – it was Ramires who disappointed. Lampard has been through poor spells before and deserves more respect and support given everything he has done for the club.

    Of course, this is yet another consequence of changing the manager all the fucking time – every new boss has to spend the first three months establishing relationships with players who have become increasingly influential in the void of managerial upheaval.  As for your first point – well, it’s pretty self-evident from the performances so far that even our new manager won’t be able to change anything from last season without bringing in a number of new players, so Carlo clearly didn’t have much of a chance, especially given that the key signing – Torres – turned out to be shit. And he did try and change things, albeit not enough (and wasted Sturridge especially). Essien and Drogba were both dropped at times and the only reason Lampard wasn’t is because the results without him playing were even worse than the results with him in the time. Didn’t our surge of form coincide with Lampard’s return, after all?

    • Marco


      Some well-taken points on the current politics within the squad following Carlo’s departure. I sincerely hope you are right in your estimate that AVB may need just a few weeks before putting in some changes.

      My main objection to Lamps’ play at the moment is that he is just so damn s..l…o..w. Think I will explode the next time I see him do those pirouettes near the half-way line, with the opposition given all the time they need to fall back into two banks of four again. And the poor spells do seem to be getting more frequent.

      All eyes on Mata now.

  24. Cunningplan

    My slant on what AVB is doing with the current squad, is to give the regulars the opportunity to prove themselves over the course of a couple of months, or less. He has alluded to their experience and abilities to turn things round when it’s not going well, after all he was part of JM’s team, so he knows their character.

    I’m sure we’re going to see the introduction of the newer signings, as well as the likes of Josh and Sturridge, and I’ve noticed a slight change in our play, with the closing down higher up the pitch in games, bit like Barcelona.

  25. Anonymous

    Good point Clive — very noticeable that our back four was playing a very high line against West Brum, too, which may have contributed to the bad impression left by Alex and JT, neither of them being that quick on the turn (or indeed anywhere else).

  26. Petew

    Sorry if I was snippy Marco!

    I think Mata could be our most important signing for years, and I’m sure Frank realises that. I actually think he is smart enough to adapt and may relish having somebody fast and trick alongside him to do the things he can’t, and to give him the odd breather on the bench. As I’ve said, I’m really interested in seeing how we line up next week (though that said, I imagine Mata will start from the bench).

  27. Cunningplan

    And another point with Nasri, where does he fit in? Citeh have an abundance of attacking players, unhappy players down the line me thinks.
    As you’ve pointed out JD I think Citeh have taken this spending to a level which makes us look somewhat sensible.

    • Anonymous

      It’s all a bit odd because Alvaro Pereira is left sided, Mata prefers the left, I can’t see Malouda going and our better youngsters, Ryan Bertrand and Patrick van Aanholt, play on the left.

      How many left sided players do we need?

      • Marco

        Malouda can switch to the right and, I am informed, Mata has also played on the right.

        According to what I have gathered on here he can also perform at centre-back, as a goal-keeper, and as a performing seal ; -)

  28. Anonymous

    I think the biggest question of this season is who is going to be sold and not who is going to be bought. Clean up is coming, big clean up.  

  29. Petew

    ‘I think the biggest question of this season is who is going to be sold and not who is going to be bought. Clean up is coming, big clean up.’
    Haven’t people been saying/threatening/promising this for three years? I don’t see any major outs now. Maybe Benayoun and Alex but that’s it. Anelka will go in the summer. With Drog, it depends how his season pans out. But I’d bet good money that Malouda and Lampard are going nowhere. 

  30. WorkingClassPost

    Spent a few days with no wifi – but back in a dongle-free zone for a while.

    Saw all but the first 5 mins (missed their goal) and still remain positive about things thus far.

    No TV at the pool which meant I had to move indoors to watch the game and considered going back into the sun during a laboured first half, but I persevered, and it was worth the inconvenience, just to see an early and decisive substitution for the first time in what seems like years.

    Flo came on to good effect, but more than that, the message was clear: things have changed. For too long we’ve watched our guys wander around, half asleep, until the same old substitutions made after 75 mins or so.

    We’ve still got problems with teams that counter attack us quickly, and we make lots of chances but few are converted, but it’s early days yet.

    Also watched Brazil win the U20 World Cup a bit later, which was kinda nice too. It was a big relief all round, as their poor run has made everyone a bit twitchy here, with 2014 getting ever closer. And talking internationals…

    Drove through Maceio town centre last week and played ‘Spot the European Football Shirt’ with FSTS junior, saw one new Drogba and a couple of oldish Deco’s: so that’s Chelsea 3 – Rest of the world 0.

  31. Anonymous

    Oh look, another Chelsea youth to Hamburg transfer. That’s the 416th this year.

    Guess our hand has been forced by the continued rejection of work permit appellations – there’d be no use keeping Rajkovic – but for someone who’s played senior internationals, £1.75m seems a bit low to me. I bet Arnesen has a lovely file of photocopied player contracts in his new desk at Hamburg….,

    No idea who this guy from Porto is we may have bid for. But anyone who’s first choice for Uruguay – arguably the best team in the World at the moment – can’t be that shit. Can he?

  32. Anonymous

    Hey Nick, nice job.

    Thanks for all your hard work behind the scenes on this blog.  I know you’re a bit like AVB and would rather the contributors take the praise, but credit where it’s due.

    • Nick

      Thanks, Mark. A new look for the new season. I think it more reflects the personalities of the blog’s contributors and regular commenters.

      All: I haven’t tested the new design in older browsers – IE 7 and 8 especially (if you’re still using version 6, hard luck). Let me know if you come across any issues.

      • Cunningplan

        Great job Nick, but I dislike too much change 🙂
        With regard reflecting the blogs contributors, does it mean we should all be taking medication? 😉

        • Nick

          No more change for a while, Clive. The blog needed a spruce up though. You’ll get used to it. 🙂

          Drugs are good. Alcohol’s good. Drugs and alcohol together are fantastic. Unless they kill you. But get the combination right and they’re great for killing the pain of supporting a football club.

  33. WorkingClassPost

    Well, as someone who’s just watched Udinese capitulate to the Arse, I can vouchsafe that a few painkillers might complement the odd pint under certain circumstances.

    Having said that, 3 big beers, two soft drinks and a barbequed sausage for six quid goes some way to compensate.

    On a positive note. I was thinking that if Arse departed the CL it might force them to join the real world of football, so their win might be the best for all concerned.

  34. Der_Kaiser

    Ooh, look at us in our new Sunday best!

    Excellent work as always, Nick – we may not be the biggest of footy blogs, but we’re certainly the most handsome… 😉

  35. Ososdeoro

    Romelu, I would have thought you’d have a good view of the games from the bench, but if you must, is very good.

  36. Cunningplan

    We’ve got quite a tough group, and I can never understand how Arsenal always seem to get the eaiser draw in the group stages.

      • Cunningplan

        I’m sure Uefa would really prefer to let Utd, and Barca go straight through to the final, but they have to go through the charade that this competition is.

        Of course I won’t be saying that if we manage to win it. 😉

  37. Der_Kaiser

    Morning all 

    Tricky draw – Valencia and Leverkusen aren’t easy trips by any means.  Still, no easy games at this level, cliche cliche cliche…

  38. Cunningplan

    On the plus side of our draw, the travelling is kept down to a fairly minimal level, always a bonus when you have two games in a week.

  39. Anonymous

    I’ve been trying to work out why I wasn’t too bothered about the CL draw. It seems to come down to something like this:

    1) We’re not going to win the competition. [It’ll take an unusually good team to beat Barca, and I don’t see us being unusually good this year]

    2) Given the way the draw works, getting out of the group stages is basically easy for the top seeded teams, except for whoever was unlucky enough to get Citeh as their pot 3 team, and that couldn’t have been us anyway.

    3) Therefore, we’ll go out some time in the knockout stages, as usual, so it’ll be the same as all the previous years.

    4) So, who cares?

    Nice to get teams from German and Spanish leagues — those will feel a bit more like proper matches than the group stage games usually allow for.

  40. Anonymous

    I have seen the future, and it is Belgian and very very large.

    As for the present … it is Spanish, beardy, and university-educated.

    • Nick

      Another Chelsea winger with plenty of grey Mata.

      Hoping to have a review of the game by a new contributor to the blog from across the pond a bit later.

  41. Anonymous

    I’ll throw this in early doors, but with his movement and vision, is Mata ‘too good’ for the current Chelsea side?

    No-one seemed to trust givIng him the ball in confined space.

    Compared to Lukaku who looked a bit out of sorts. Young, raw, unproven – yes. But not sure we’ll call on him too much.

    As for the visitors, and my hometown club, I fucking love Grant Holt. One of the last proper footballers. Pulls JT all over the show today, he’s a nuisance.

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