The Independent on Sunday, Russell Kempson: “Just when Fernando Torres thought it could not get much worse, the Spain striker’s career at Chelsea hit a new low yesterday. He was sent off for a horrendous tackle on Mark Gower that, had it fully connected, could have led to a serious injury to the Swansea City midfielder. Torres had just scored only his third goal for Chelsea and a beauty it was, too. But no doubt fuelled by adrenaline, still on a high as he dragged himself out of purgatory, he launched himself into the most reckless of two-footed studs-up challenges. Gower escaped by millimetres and was quickly on his feet.”
The Sunday Telegraph, Ben Findon: “Bruised and beaten in their Manchester misadventure six days earlier, this should have been the perfect balm for Chelsea and Fernando Torres. For Chelsea, it was indeed a soothing victory over Swansea City’s top-flight novices, but they were forced to achieve it with 10 men when an anguished Torres was sent off shortly before the break.”
The Observer, Jamie Jackson: “Fernando Torres scored his second goal in consecutive league games in Chelsea’s 4-1 win over Swansea City at Stamford Bridge but was then sent off. It capped a turbulent week for the Spanish striker.”
The Official Chelsea FC Website: “A Ramires brace sealed another home win in the Premier League after Fernando Torres, later red-carded, had opened the scoring at Stamford Bridge and sub Didier Drogba rounded off the scoring in injury time.”
Why the title I hear you ask? But then again maybe only my re-sparked imagination is telling me that you asked. Or even cared. Salvador Dali is one of my favourite artists and his lunacy and surrealism is what attracted me to one of my other passions, that of art. This piece of course is clever because you see the swans on the water, then the reflections of the swans in the water look like elephants and when you look back at the swans they then look like elephants as well and then the reflections look like… well you get the drift. Why this to start the report? Well, I’m sure when Swansea (the Swans) looked into the mirror at the start of the season they saw roaring elephants ready to rampage in the Premier League. Tenuous? Of course. But they’re not swans. And they’re not elephants. They’re not graceful but haughty. They’re not large, intelligent and powerful. No, not swans, not elephants.
They’re mice. Cute, fluffy mice looking for cheese and chocolate and peanut butter in the promised land of plenty, but who’ve nested in the middle of a cattery.
I don’t say this to annoy anyone either but today the gulf between us and them even with 10 men was as huge as the gap between earth and the nearest planet orbiting two suns. Light years.
This is my first visit this season having missed the games due to the usual ‘vacances pour une mois dans le sud de France’ and after such a long break, like many others from May until mid August the football tank had been refilled, the passion veneer re-polished, the desire engine tuned and serviced. The jaded broken machine of last season’s Chelsea seems to have undergone a similar makeover and it’s down to our very own Andre Villas-Boas. This young, intelligent, good looking, dapper, calm, thoughtful, philosophical man has cast a spell over the club not dissimilar to the harsh, ruthless winning one of Jose Mourinho. Except this one smiles. It cares. It has manners. It feels warm and safe. We have a new messiah.
And finally, no-one does a mixed grill like the American Diner cafe on the Fulham Road. No-one.
I rather like the recent trend of ‘stream of consciousness’ writing for the match report, but as my consciousness is easily distracted by refereeing, food, hot women, bad tackling and trying to get a fucking tweet to work from my seat I think, for me, it would be better to stick to a traditional précis of events and a Good, Bad and Ugly approach with the much loved and cherished player ratings as well. By the way my Twitter handle is @chelseatony for any fellow tweeters. Well if I can’t plug here, where can I plug?
Was it a shock that Lampard was selected for bench warming duty today? Ian McGarry one time Sun hack (@garbosj for any tweeps here) warned on 5 Live that this would happen and I, along with others used the Twitterverse to hurl scorn at this revelation. Turns out of course he was right and again kudos to AVB for being brave – the bench was a glittering array of talent, with Drogba, Lamps, Luiz, Malouda, McEachran and err… Kalou. It’s been a while since we could boast such a glittering array on the bench. Other than that no surprises as AVB keeps faith with the players who have served so well recently. Of course there was edge as well with Brendan Rogers getting a warm welcome back, and no doubt Scott Sinclair itching to prove a point as well.
To the game.
Well, oddly enough after last week’s fine but losing effort against Manchester’s second richest team the first 25 minutes of this game were… well… a bit average really. Swansea tried to play a nice passing game without the requisite quality up the park to take advantage of it, and Chelsea were seemingly content to play the slightly bored cat playing with the freshly trapped mouse role. Let the mouse run, drag it back, give it a whack, let it run, drag it back and so on. Swansea had a few nibbles but as the half moved on more and more of the game was being played in their half. We had a few half chances and they frankly had none. Bosingwa showed that the art of crossing the ball was still evading him. Cech could have pulled his deck chair out, replaced the skull cap with a hankie, rolled a spliff and munched on a doner kebab such was the paucity of action he was involved in. And then in came the catnip in the form of Torres and the inevitable link up with Mata, fast looking like buy of the season. Torres looked sharp again and of course his life is all about yin and yang, good and bad, black and white, jump or burn. The goal was Torres at his best, reading the pass, taking the ball and finishing with deadly ease. The other side of his coin was of course yet to follow because someone somewhere does not want a totally good Torres story. We were off the mark and Swansea looked like they were running out of steam. Within a few minutes Torres had dropped deep to collect the ball, spotted a gap for Cole to run into and split the defence with the resultant pass for the impressive Ramires to slot home number two. Game over. More or less.
If we do have guardian angels, then it’s just as feasible that we have guardian devils. Torres is burgeoning proof of that theory. He had the yin of the goal, and then in came the yang, the devil on the shoulder winning the argument with the angel on the other, no doubt hissing into his ear ‘It’s your ball, go for it, use BOTH feet’. Nando promptly did and although not making contact with Mark Gower (who in fairness made little of it) it was one of those that could have been red or yellow. A players ref like Phil Dowd might have dished the yellow and a ‘no more’ stern warning. But Mike Dean isn’t a players ref. He’s the traffic warden of refs. He suffers from Mainwaring Syndrome, a condition whereby the privilege of rank instils a power complex into the mind and you become important in your own head but nowhere else. He’s a Scouser. An officious, incompetent, unpleasant aloof prick. So, of course he dishes a straight red. OK, in fairness it could have been called either way, but beside from that decision all of the other qualities I’ve described were on display from the first whistle. Six yellows were dished in a game where there was hardly a poor tackle on display. A yellow card for a shirt tug from Mata at a non point of the game said it all. There will be serious amounts of yellows if that gets applied rigidly across the league. From the sending off until half time the promised entertainment died. Literally nothing happened as the well drilled and disciplined Chelsea contingency so prevalent during Mourinho’s reign came to the fore. High praise there for AVB.
The second half, as one might expect, started with an unchanged Chelsea deciding to play the bored cat role again. Swansea reverted to their feisty mouse role, and as we purred and barely stirred we let them run a bit. At best even with the man advantage they only managed the odd half chance. And then the bored cat raised an eyebrow and stretched a paw and whacked the mouse back. We got the ball and with a coolness a frozen cucumber could only pray for we passed and stroked the ball around. Ten men looked like twelve. Swansea huffed and puffed and blew themselves out. A masterclass was in progress. Anelka now playing the lone gunman role showed what a class act he is. Superb ball control, superb passing, a shot that would have wrapped goal of the season up had it been an inch lower. This may be his last season and we will miss him badly. For the rolling stock fans, he is a TGV. Graceful, sleek and gets to speed with ease and very little noise or fuss. The ovation when he went off, which the Sky fuckwit commentator said was for Drogba was awesome. Mikel Obi was a giant all game but again, second half he was Makelele/Ballack/Desailly-esque. I doubt there is any higher praise. Ramires ran and fought and tackled and scored again and could have had a hat trick. This boy has a very bright future with us. Ivanovic deserves a mention for an utterly faultless display and one tackle in the latter part of the game when the dying mouse was thrashing out its last breaths of life, had me out of my seat applauding loud and long. Not one player had a stinker today but for me those four were the stand out players. The calmness of the team was reflected on the bench by AVB and gang, including the hot physio (who she?). Of course despite Ramires coolly slotting home a third goal we will always conjure up a bit of Keystone Kop football to give the opposition some hope. A long clearance which JT could and should have headed into touch was met instead by a poor attempt to drop it into the path of Cole. It was a hospital ball. Straight to Routledge who Ash promptly pulled down, selflessly taking a yellow for the team. The resultant free kick saw a great very un-Bosingwa like cross straight to Ashley Williams who Bosingwa had lost for a lovely headed goal. An unnecessary free kick caused by a sloppy JT moment followed by set piece defending the likes of which has not been as bad since the darkest days of Big Phil Scolari.
But it was too little far too late for the mouse. The cat was still bored and with seconds to go the sharpened death claw of Drogba struck the final fatal blow after a decent run from the very un-TGV Malouda ended with a square pass to DD for a stop/turn/shoot/score combo that would have seen him into the next round of Strictly. Yes, he was very pleased, Like the cat who got the… mouse I suppose.
4-1, well deserved and well earned. Something tells me last season that would not have been the case in similar circumstances.
- Ramires. Hard working, tracking back, forward runs. Vital.
- Anelka – simply world class. Arousing.
- Ivanovic. JT should watch the video of him today. Superb.
- Torres. Got back on the bike. But the bike got a puncture. Striving.
- Mikel Obi. His best performance by far. Ever. Promising.
- AVB. Braver, more daring and dynamic than Carlo. Sorry if that hurts but it’s true so far. Inspiring.
- Stoke showing their result against us was no fluke and puncturing the red Mancs’ air of invincibility. Gratifying.
- Mike Dean. A disgrace to officiating, as were his assistants.
- The TV in the club room with the fuzzy picture right by where we sit. Not a good advert for Samsung.
- City fluking their way past Everton. It has to end.
- Yeah, the Torres tackle. Unnecessary and a poor challenge. On balance he can hardly complain. Still not a red for me.
An unusual one here. I got back and watched us again on Football First on Sky. What I then listened to was nothing short of Utter Cuntery of the highest order from Tony Gale. He spent the entire match sticking the knife into us with just the odd compliment spat through a stream of vitriol and derision. I thought Andy Townsend sat proudly atop the punditry fuckwit mountain, but the king of football arse gravy is dead. Long live the king. Tony ‘shitforbrains’ Gale.
Player ratings – subjective and very probably illogical and unreasonable
- Cech – 7/10 – Could have gone fruit picking today and put Louis Spence in goal. Would have made no difference.
- Bosingwa – 7/10 – Improving but dropped a bit for the last 10 minutes.
- Terry – 7/10 – Something not clicking. Was the root cause of the free kick leading to the non clean sheet.
- Ivanovic – 9/10 – One of the few constant things we can rely on.
- Cole – 8/10 – Brave, hard working, dogged.
- Obi – 9/10 – Utterly magnificent.
- Meireles – 7/10 – Good game, shit haircut.
- Ramires – 9/10 – Showing last season was no fluke.
- Mata – 8/10 – A few sloppy touches but soon settled and showed his superb ability.
- Anelka – 9/10 – Utterly magnificent. See Obi Mike.
- Torres – 8/10 – Great goal, looked sharp and dangerous. Silly tackle.
- Malouda (sub) – 6/10 – Sub for Mata but not in same league at the moment.
- Drogba (sub) – 7/10 – Late appearance but looked lean and mean and hungry. Lovely taken goal.
- McEachran (sub) – 7/10 – Didn’t get long but looks cool and calm.
- Manager rating – 9/10 – Should be featured in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy as the prime exponent of the Don’t Panic mantra.
- Overall team performance – 8/10 – Can you hear that purring noise?
Man of the Match
Boy this is tough. Ivan was faultless today. Ramires got two goals. Anelka was a magnificent sleek beast oozing class of the World variety. Mikel Obi was magnificent. Frankly they all deserve it. So, I’ll give it to… Nico I think. Tireless, selfless, calmness personified and the rock of the team today.
Third. 3rd. Number 3. Trois. Troisieme. Sitting on the rails, tucked in behind the leaders. Pacing ourselves. Waiting for the others to falter. Like Seb Coe in his prime we’re sat on the shoulder of the pack. When we need to kick on we will. It’s not being top now that counts, it’s being top in May. We are undeniably a work in progress. The change in style will need time for fans and critics to understand. We will leave gaps, but we will score goals. This is evolution in progress folks and we can sit back and watch the fine AVB guide us through it.
We may win nothing this year, but we’ll win nothing in style, exciting and thrilling and entertaining which has to be better than last year when winning nothing with shambolic, listless, slow football was our trademark. The joy returning is showing on the players faces, bar Kalou and Malouda maybe.
The Doctor once said, when asked by Peri (the buxom assistant for the Dads) what was happening to him after regenerating from Peter Davidson to Colin Baker:
“Change my dear. Change. And not a moment too soon.”
Very apt for us I think. Very apt.