The Guardian, Dominic Fifield: “If this was to be the final home match of Carlo Ancelotti’s brief tenure as Chelsea manager, then it was a drab way in which to bow out. Newcastle United’s industry was rewarded with a second equaliser in stoppage time at the end to leave Roman Abramovich scowling in his executive box and the mood utterly deflated around most of the arena.”
The Independent, Mark Fleming: “There was no emotional farewell yesterday for manager Carlo Ancelotti, who is expected to pay the price for Chelsea’s worst season during the ownership of Roman Abramovich with his job. Instead, the Italian cut an isolated figure as Stamford Bridge bade farewell to the Premier League crown. The stadium was less than a quarter-full when the players and coaching staff went on what was euphemistically called a “lap of appreciation”. Didier Drogba, who could also be leaving Chelsea in the summer, smiled and waved to those supporters who had stayed behind, while Ancelotti seemed a little uncomfortable by the occasion. “We have to wait just one week. A week is not a long period, and see what happens,” the Italian said.”
Daily Telegraph: “Carlo Ancelotti’s new-look Chelsea looked anything but challengers for next season’s Premier League title as they threw away victory against Newcastle. In what could be his final home game in charge, Ancelotti’s team selection very much appeared to have the new campaign in mind and it looked promising when Branislav Ivanovic scored inside two minutes.”
Official Chelsea FC Website: “Goals from two defenders looked to have been enough for all three points but Newcastle were allowed to score from a corner two minutes into stoppage time, ensuring Chelsea wait until the final day for a final league position.”
So after last week I’m not really sure how to feel. To be honest, I don’t think we deserved to win anything this season due to our inconsistency. Looking at it positively, we’ll probably finish second ahead of the Arse and a big-spending City side. Looking at the negatives, we’ve got the best squad in the country and still won nothing, and next season Citeh and Liverpool will definitely be more of a threat. But I don’t really want to speculate and analyse too much today – we can leave that to the end of the season. I’d just settle for three points and smashing a few goals in against Newcastle.
Carlo fields a slightly different look team today, perhaps a sign of what is to come next season. I’m glad to see the midfield has changed as Lamps and Essien between them don’t seem to have contributed enough in the last few games, for one reason or another, and Ramires and McEachran both start in the usual (?) 4-3-3: Cech, Cole, Terry, Alex, Ivanovic, Lampard, McEachran, Ramires, Anelka, Torres, Benayoun.
The first half
We start the game brightly, with some good movement and enthusiasm from our attacking players, and score a goal after just two minutes. Ivanovic puts a dangerous ball in across the Newcastle box which is deflected behind for a corner. Lampard takes it, Torres flicks on at the near post and Branners sneaks across his man to side foot it home. It’s nice to see Chelsea come out and make a strong start, something we haven’t done often enough this season, and this continues in the first portion of the game with Torres and Anelka moving well off each other and McEachran et al conducting the play in midfield. A lovely ball played from deep by Lampard gets flicked on by Benayoun and Torres just misses out on controlling it and being left with a clear run on goal.
Unfortunately a bit of sloppiness lets Newcastle back into the game – Alex plays a pass a few feet behind Terry who then gives away a foul. Ryan Taylor hits the free kick from 25 yards out and it ricochets off Gutierrez and past the wrong-footed Cech. Newcastle don’t really deserve to be level but we don’t go and offer that much in response to get back in front. In patches we play well, with good movement on the counter attack, but we also give away too many fouls and misplace too many passes.
The best pass of the half comes from McEachran who threads a 40-yard pass along the deck and inside the Newcastle right-back straight into the path of Cole’s run. His pull back across the box is turned behind for a corner which Newcastle are able to deal with. A few minutes after that lovely pass we show our lack of concentration as the ball is again given away, for the third or fourth time, as we are playing it out between defence and midfield. Thankfully the Geordies lack any real class in their passing and they can’t capitalise.
The second half
Again we start the half brightly and within a few minutes we’ve had a couple of attempts, Benayoun chipping his effort wide and Nico volleying off target after the ball loops into his path. We continue the pressure after another good ball from Ivan ends up with a couple of corners in succession and then a Ramires shot which fizzes wide. However, as with the first half Newcastle begin to get into the game more after about ten minutes. They are helped very slightly by the ref, who seems to give them a few 50/50 decisions, and as the game gets a bit more broken up as the Magpies create a few chances from set pieces. Cech makes a couple of good saves, first from Gutierrez and then from Taylor’s free kick.
After about twenty minutes we make a triple substitution; Benayoun, Ramires and McEachran come off to be replaced by Malouda, Ess and Drogba. Anelka soon switches to the right as we move to 4-4-2. The game continues to be stop-start but swings in our favour as we start getting some of the decisions that previously were going the other way. From one free kick Drogba puts in a peach of a ball, skidding along between the keeper and Newcastle defence, but no-one gambles to get on the end of it.
With fifteen minutes to go there is a brief moment of magic, reminiscent of the end of last season, when Drogba drags back a Malouda ball into the path of Cole’s run, but he opts to square it rather than shoot and Newcastle clear the ball. A few minutes after that another free kick, this time won by Nico, puts us ahead. Lampard hits it hard and flat to the back post, Krull comes but misses, and Alex climbs well to firmly head us into the lead.
From here on I expected us to loosen up a bit, the hard work done, and start showing our quality. Instead we concede a sloppy 92’ minute goal from a corner, Steven Taylor heading in unmarked from the second ball. That basically sums up our season.
- Our right flank – normally most of our attacking wing play seems to come from the left, and involves Ashley at some point, but today Benayoun and Branners linked up well, with Branners putting in some really good crosses.
- Our movement up top – although we didn’t really create enough from it there was lots of good runs and movement from our forwards. Unfortunately a lot of our passes were cut out by Newcastle or were a just a fraction out.
- Josh – he had a good game today on his first start in the Premiership. His passing was good and hopefully we’ll see a bit more of him next season.
- Coloccini – I thought he had a really good game for Newcastle and was the main reason we didn’t score more.
- Sloppy goals – one came from a free-kick that we should never have given away, and the other was from a corner which is always a disappointing way to concede.
- Lack of urgency – I guess it was to be expected after last week but I thought we missed that little bit of urgency today. Perhaps we thought we’d win without hitting top gear, and we definitely played well in patches, but too often this season we’ve lacked a bit of urgency and ruthlessness.
- Joey Barton – well I had to put him in here, didn’t I?
I think this game and the next is all about getting second place and trying things out for the future, hence the team today. A couple of weeks ago I was ranting against Carlo’s inability to change things round when he needs to, and saying he has to go. Now I’ve had a chance to reflect, and I’m not so sure. I really think our team is in transition and it would be nice to see him get a chance to finish that transformation. On the other hand, we don’t want to be left with a Rafa who survives for too long based on his achievements with someone else’s team; namely winning the double.
Basically, I haven’t got anything intelligent to add on the manager debate. For me the most important thing for next season is to a) get Ess and Lamps back to their best and b) find a way to get the most out of Torres and Drogba. If those two things happen we could have virtually anyone managing the side and still win the league (except for perhaps Ranieri).