The Guardian, Sachin Nakrani: “Another win and another rout but for Chelsea the hard work begins now. The team travel to Manchester City on Saturday having blitzed their way through an opening set of fixtures which proved as comfortable for them as had first appeared. This latest game was over as a contest by half-time but ahead of the visit to Eastlands, and the arrival of Arsenal here on 3 October, it will have done the hosts no harm to have endured some anxiety after the interval.”
Daily Telegraph, Jason Burt: “Ian Holloway likes an idiom. Or an ‘Olly-ism’. So he will know why this game could only be described as the football equivalent of shooting fish in a barrel. Chelsea scored four, but it could have been 10. Such was the mismatch on show – for the first half at least. Holloway found his own way of describing it — likening it to needing to “sit in that Popemobile (with its bulletproof glass). God help us”. But Blackpool’s approach has won friends as well as points this season and the courageous way in which they took the game to Chelsea during the second period was remarkable.”
The Independent, Mark Fleming: “The question remains whether Chelsea are able to play their magnificent, high-tempo passing game against better teams than Blackpool. If they are, then heaven help the rest of the Premier League as this Chelsea team will take some stopping.”
Official Chelsea FC Website: “Chelsea raced into a 4-0 lead by half-time with goals from Salomon Kalou, Didier Drogba and two from Florent Malouda, but for once the juggernaut slowed after the break.”
Losing one’s ‘mojo’ in any sense may be the subject for much mirth and merriment amongst the hordes of sad ignoramuses for whom life is merely about functioning, about sleeping, eating, getting up for work and then sleeping again. Believe me I know enough people who are exactly like that. Wikipedia (and therefore the gospel truth) has around 35 definitions for the word ‘mojo’…but the closest for me is something like a cross between ‘self-belief, confidence and passion’. I’m lucky enough in my life to have several aspects each containing a degree of ‘mojo’. I have my golf which is eternally frustrating, annoying and yet when the odd great shot comes off can be utterly joyous. I have my bikes which can transport me off to areas of breathtaking beauty within 15 minutes of my house, areas so staggeringly beautiful, even my neo-Darwinist atheism can be challenged…such beauty by random chance? Hmmm…food for thought. I have my passion and love for France, its food, its culture and its language. I have my obsession with technology, for gadgets which amuse or help me control my life, or give me capabilities I never knew were possible.
You see there are lots of things over and above the usual ‘family’ line which impact on my life. Of course, football, and specifically Chelsea has been another area of passion for me. So to suddenly find this swirling well of passion and emotion replaced by a gaping area of vacuity is quite traumatic. Whilst I am forced to work with people best described as semi-Golems, prattling on about their kids or their work or their house or their work…or their tedious bloody work, my chosen friends have passions on politics, food, art, football, sport, wine, drink, science, technology…the list continues ad infinitum. The Golems however, see my hopefully temporary state as a source of immense humour…they make inane jokes about it that brighten their dull existences. At work my passion for Chelsea is almost my USP (Unique Selling Point for those who don’t live on PA, Planet Acronym). It sort of marks me out, and whilst it can be a pain in the rear end it does give some people a route into me. Yes, there are times when internally I’m screaming ‘I CAN talk about more than Chelsea or football you know…try me on the Gaugin Exhibition at The Tate’. I realise that people will often not know about that particular passion, or will simply choose the easiest or best known route.
I’m used to conversations overflowing in faux-sincerity with people who try to talk football, but in reality are the types who would go to a game with a picnic hamper and an outdoor Jenga set. I nod with them, patronizing them in the desire not to burst their sincerity bubble. I only enjoy bursting bubbles of snobbery or pomposity, not misguided sincerity. I’m used to the even more unfortunate people who can’t converse but feel it necessary to say things like ‘I see Chelsea are still crap’ when sharing the urinal bay with you, to which I just laugh uncomfortably instead of busting open their skull with a claw hammer and stirring their brains with a potato peeler whilst screaming dementedly into their ear ‘We’re not fucking crap and haven’t been for years you empty headed fuckwit’. Instant dismissal is the penalty for that where I work so I keep it under wraps. When those unfortunate types now try and talk football to me, I simply shrug my shoulders, and despondently answer ‘Dunno, didn’t watch any football this weekend’. Cue their chance to recommend I take up another interest such as DIY or philately or some such dull beyond belief pursuit. One exponent of such UC (© KaiserJonny_II) even suggested I should watch tennis. Even I couldn’t disguise my withering look of utter disdain and contempt for that comment.
So, the message from our Dear Leader, describing his own similar loss of mojo, and asking if I was prepared to go on point for today’s match reporting duty I jumped with both feet. This, if anything, would be the chance to light the kindling of football passion. Surely the anticipation of the journey, the pre-match meal in the cafe with the usual banter about my inability to choose from the menu (a meze would be perfect for me), the smell of fried onions along the Fulham Road, the hubbub of the milling crowds, the chants from The SO Bar, the religious lunatic with his microphone promising salvation if we listened to God, the apathy lined faces of the stewards and the sight of the lush green pitch as I walk up the steps into the stadium would be enough to fan the tiny flame of footballing ardour.
How very odd. One of the regulars in the club room, Jim, who travels to every game home and away from Bournemouth, gave his ticket for the Newcastle game to another one of the guys to sell it. Intrigued by this I asked him if he had something else on, and he just sighed and said that he was finding it harder to get any enthusiasm going for certain games. I mean this is one dedicated fan who’s mojo also seems to have gone missing. Is this what the game is reduced to? Is Arsene Wenger really Dr Evil, resorting to some airborne mojo diminishing virus in order to get his hands on a trophy? Is Tubby Benitez really Ernst Blofeld in disguise and has decided that having failed to dominate the world from Liverpool he can leave one last terrible mojo destroying poison? The equivalent of the school prankster treading on the stink-bomb before slinking off to pastures new? Perhaps it’s a new FIFA policy to undermine the fans enthusiasm, stop them going to games, reduce the revenue and put us back in our alleged rightful place.
We need answers.
So, to the game my friends. I’m now willing to impart this little known fact. I’m old enough to remember when Blackpool were in the first division when we were, back in 1971. At that time I’d been supporting Chelsea for one year. I was 10 at the time which makes me approaching…work it out yourselves…and quietly please! Since then we’ve had little or no contact with them, but they are a very old and venerable club, much like Preston who have simply found their natural level. It’s such a surprise to be playing them, even the fans couldn’t really muster up a single anti-Blackpool song, choosing instead to sing the dreadful ‘Championes’ chant as a riposte to the lively travelling crowd. I sort of envied them, their gallows humour and spirit in the face of such overwhelming odds. Who’d have thought part of me would hanker back to the days when we enjoyed a sense of camaraderie at Stamford Bridge through adversity?
The first surprise was no John Terry in the starting eleven, nor on the bench. It seems he has an injury, although no real details filtered through as to what it might be. Other than that very few surprises in our choices to start, with Ramires continuing to get the starts whilst Lamps is repaired fully (nice to see us not rushing him back) and Alex and Ivanovic forming the central defensive partnership. Tactically we were probably trying out the Bidermeyers Slip or Ottoman manoeuvres (see Mornington Crescent rule book for details). Although I suspect that Carlo was willing to risk the rarely used Picard manoeuvre for this in case we should need it against the big boys. My only surprise from the Blackpool aspect was finding out Brett Ormerod was on the bench for them. I am convinced he went to school with my dad!
Less than two minutes on the clock and Salomon Kalou finished off from an early corner and we were already in the ascendency. Ten minutes later and some dazzling lead up play led to a perfect pass from Drogba (captain for today) for Malouda to slot home. Frankly the ball rarely came anywhere near the Matthew Harding end during the first half and on 30 minutes a turn short from Drogba wrong footed Gilks the forlorn Blackpool goalkeeper. 3-0 and looking like a potential rout. On 41 minutes yet another dazzling lead up led to Malouda slotting home brilliantly for number four. It was men against boys. Half time duly arrived and one couldn’t help suspecting that another four would follow, or bugger all as the game was won and you had to wonder if we really wanted to utterly destroy such a friendly bunch. I left my part of the ground to join my friends who had a space by them. Well…my neighbour Attilio had bought his charming wife along to the game as his usual partner, his brother Tony was in Italy. It felt rude to stay and intrude on their hand holding closeness. If only she’d bought a friend…please don’t tell Mrs CT I said that!
The second half was just odd. Blackpool came out and got into us with the words of Ian Holloway obviously ringing in their ears and we slipped into a kind of idle mode, content to absorb their valiant efforts. Fair play to Blackpool they tried to play the game the right way, sadly the technical capability rarely matched the good intention, and they are patently naive, but it’s kind of nice to see it. If football teams reflect the personality of the coach, then Blackpool can be described as impishly fun, with a good work ethic. They had their chances as well, as defensive sleepy periods caught us napping from time to time. Better teams cannot be allowed to repeat this because they will have better finishers who will punish this. As the half wore on we saw missed sitters from Kalou (unforgivable) and Ashley Cole (a defender’s attempt) and Drogba (thought he was a rugby player) plus other half chances were squandered. In truth we could have won by 10, but you got the impression in the second half that we couldn’t be arsed. It was sloppy and in truth cheated the fans a bit. At £800 odd I’d rather like my team to play to the full length of the game if possible. The last 10 minutes were in truth an absolute yawn-athon, although Bruma got a chance to get some game time which was good, but surely this was a chance for Kakuta and maybe Sturridge to get some game time rather than Zhirkhov and Benayoun. I suppose it’s about keeping people happy.
In the end, a perfunctory 4-0 win which is nice, but seems to have left some of the fans a bit flat. Maybe the next two tough games against Manchester City and Arsenal will help restore some perspective to the expectations of a great many fans who seem to think it’s got to be six goals every week or we’ve under-performed. I do think a tough game will be good for the team and give them the chance to raise their own game.
Standard Good, Bad and Ugly fayre this week until such time I can fully engage the creative juices for something different.
- A super first half performance of passing moving football and clinical finishing. Arsenal, eat your heart out.
- John Mikel Obi – so cool and calm and collected. Footballing ‘gold’ as Mourinho once described him. Maybe not just yet, but certainly a very good silver.
- Michael Essien – thinner, wirier and oddly even stronger and faster than before. I bet Sir Alex Ferguson has wet dreams about him.
- Blackpool – not because of their talent but because of the spirit and intention. Not for them the kicking up in the air of our players, but the honest toil of honest players.
- Blackpool fans – superb, noisy, ebullient and wonderfully self deprecating. Highlight songs for me…’We want 5, we want 5!’ and to the standard Sloop John B ‘You only scored 4, you only scored 4, How shit are you, you only scored 4’ – if we ever go back to this level I hope to God we can be as funny and cheerful as them.
- Blackpool – Ian Holloway – watch his post match interview with Motty on the Beeb’s web site. Lovely stuff and a joy to hear an opposition manager be so honest and appreciative of what we do. Wenger could learn a lot about grace and dignity from young ‘Ollie’.
- The finding of my mojo…yes, it’s back…try stopping me now.
- The sloppy second half performance from us. A luxury I guess when 4 goals up but slightly cheated the fans.
- Mark Clattenburg – even handedly got loads of decisions wrong. Drogba’s innocuous booking was outrageous, just as his booking of the Blackpool player when we kicked off about his kicking the ball away was wrong because it was a blatant leveller booking. I normally rate him highly but today was not a good day for him.
- Neil Barnett. I just can’t warm to his smug demeanour. Even when he talked about Bobby Smith who died recently it just sounds so insincere.
The much loved and adored Player Ratings (out of 10 and from the default score of 6 with marks added or subtracted for being good or bad)
Well, we didn’t have a bad player out there today, so before re-instating this beloved system I’m going to give everyone an 8 from 10, with 8.5 for Essien, Cole and Obi. Good to see Cech collecting lots from the air with no flaps as well.
Overall Team Performance – 8/10 – it would be churlish to ask for more after a decent 4-0 home win. But I’d still have liked it.
Man of the Match
A tough call this, but as good as Essien was, Ashely Cole was superb today despite missing a sitter. So, it’s young Ashley Cole who gets the bouquet.
The perfect game to rediscover the mojo, stress free, entertaining. The pre-match meal made up for the two and a half hour journey in, which usually takes us 70 minutes on average. The atmosphere was OK but a little flat, maybe because of the opponents and the lack of any real animosity. I can see why opposition fans might think us arrogant when we barely raise much in the way of volume.
But, five games in, 15 points and a goal difference of plus 20 isn’t to be sniffed at. It’s almost been pre-season-like in some ways, and now after some good warm up games we enter our first two game test period of the season. Citeh away will be a test, and we have some unfinished business there from last season. I’d love us to put that cheating little shite Tevez in his place, and give them a lesson in what team spirit and togetherness can bring. Say what you like about us, but Mourinho never allowed any mercenary attitude to creep in as we see at Citeh. It’s their dream, but all I see is tears. Arsenal however are a different challenge. Wenger has done well to keep Fabregas and maybe they are the dark horses this year. They will be one very tough test for us, but maybe the subtle changes in our squad and playing style, and a resurgent Essien might be enough to put them back in their place.
Hold on tight folks the ride starts here. If you wanna go faster then you’ll have to scream louder.
Keep the Blue Flag Flying High!