The Observer, Amy Lawrence: “Three days before the man himself returns to Stamford Bridge, Chelsea put on a performance that was classic Mourinho. There was no great need to exert themselves and, against a pedestrian West Ham side, they plucked the three points necessary to regain position at the top of the Premier League table.”
Sunday Telegraph, Duncan White: “Chelsea were inspired by a superb Florent Malouda, who made the first two goals and scored the third. The France international was back playing in his favoured role on the left wing, having deputised for the suspended Michael Ballack in midfield against Stoke City last weekend. He destroyed Jonathan Spector, the West Ham United right back, and Zola was even forced to switch Valon Behrami from the left to the right to try and help deal with him. It didn’t work.”
Sunday Times, REPORTER: “Chelsea fans sang “One England captain” and saw this derby win as another chapter in the story of John Terry’s rehabilitation. But there is a better, more unlikely comeback at Stamford Bridge. When an Italian manager with an aversion to wingers arrived last summer and a rival left-sided attacker was his only major signing, there were probably players more confident about life under Carlo Ancelotti than Florent Malouda. But who, Wayne Rooney apart, is playing better? In Chelsea’s push for the title Malouda, unexpectedly, is their Factor X.”
Independent on Sunday, Steve Tongue: “Chelsea, it is clear, are in better shape than Internazionale ahead of Jose Mourinho’s return here on Tuesday. After the Serie A leaders had crumbled in Sicily on Friday night, Carlo Ancelotti’s team recovered from a brief and unexpected stumble against their rivals from along the District Line; a route which, like West Ham’s back-line, was not operational yesterday. In doing so they regained the League leadership, having played the same number of games as Manchester United, who will be expected to beat Fulham this afternoon to keep the pot boiling nicely.”
Official Chelsea FC Website: “Chelsea will spend Saturday evening back on top of the league table following a morale-boosting derby demolition of West Ham.”
I was not looking forward to this game. In our last five Premier League games we have two defeats and one draw. Our last home game was the debacle against Citeh, which left me and most other supporters I know thinking we have blown it again. We seem to have lost the ability to keep clean sheets and things aren’t helped by our goalkeeping problems. Ross Turnbull played today and I had heard that his initial performances for the reserves after his transfer in the summer were terrible.
On the positive side, we looked solid against Stoke last week with both JT and Alex making a welcome return to form. Meanwhile, Drogs, Ivan and Malouda have all been playing well and Ferreira has been solid in the left-back position.
On the other side of the pitch, West Ham have been depleted by injuries although I groaned when I saw Parker was playing – their best player by a mile and one of the reasons why we only scraped a 1-1 draw against them at Upton Park.
Turnbull, Ferreira, Alex, JT, Ivanovic, Lampard, Mikel, Ballack, Anelka, Malouda, Drogba.
Was relieved to see that Carlo had put out our strongest team with no nonsense about resting players for the Inter match on Tuesday.
The formation was the now familiar 4-1-2-2-1 with the front five interchanging across the park on attack.
It seems to me that the game could be broken down into three phases:
The first 30 minutes when we were in control and looked set for an easy win.
The last 15 minutes of the first half, and the first 10 minutes of the second half when we looked poor: laborious, cumbersome, slow and frustrating.
The final 35 minutes when we got back in control and, following Drogba’s first goal, started to look inventive again, knocking in two further goals.
We poured forward from the start with purpose and intent. There was some wonderful movement between our front five, with Malouda conspicuous from the start with some great runs and crosses, Paulo, too, looked dangerous on the left. Another interesting tactic, I noticed, is that Mikel seems to have been instructed to lob it forward quickly to Drogs when he has succeeded in breaking up a counter-attack. On three occasions this left the Hammers running back desperately, having been caught out pushing up. On 15 minutes Malouda, with yet another perfect cross, found Alex, who seemed to be eight feet in the air when he headed past Robert Green. And from the kick-off Upson almost scored an own-goal as he touched a pass to Drogs onto the bar. Four minutes later Drogs was wrongly given offside when he was through on goal with only Green to beat.
West Ham only had two shots on target all match – but equalised from one of them on the 29th minute. Dyer played a foul throw to Parker. It should have been cleared by Mikel, who fluffed it. Parker hit it into the net from 25 yards with a goal that GianFranco might have conjured up.
In truth I don’t know why we let Scott Parker go. He was their Man of the Match today – hard-tackling, unflappable, skilful and astute. Far better than Ballack, the man Jose brought in instead. For the next 25 minutes of the game it was Parker who drove them forward while we lost our confidence, cohesion and composure. The only relief was that the West Ham forwards were piss-poor this time around and created nothing.
Having said that, I never felt we were going to draw or lose this match. We just needed to step up a gear.
The first ten minutes of the second half were scrappy, with West Ham being allowed to carry on with their shirt-pulling, pushing, niggling tactics. We, in turn, couldn’t seem to get out of our half without immediately giving it away. Lamps and Ballack frequently wasted possession. Meanwhile, Anelka had his worst game for us since – oh – since his last match. The result was that there was no fluency and invention going forward.
On 55 minutes JT decided to liven things up. He took over Frank’s job, strode forward to their penalty area, and flicked it to Malouda. In an exact replica of his pass for the first goal, he lobbed it for the Drogs Bollocks to head home.
After that we slowly regained control with Malouda absolutely magnificent and involved in every worthwhile attack. Joe Cole came on for Anelka on 66 and, he too, had a good game, although he could scarcely be worst than Nic was today. I have been giving Joe a poor press recently but I hope he plays on Tuesday. His tricks and flicks around the penalty box looked a lot more promising than Anelka’s blind-alley runs.
On 76 minutes Malouda got the goal he deserved. JT (again) strode forward and lobbed it to Didier, who chested it down. With some sublime trickery, Florence wrong-footed Gabbidon and calmly stroked it home.
Zhirkov came on for Ivan, and Kalou for Malouda, presumably with a view to resting these two in-form players for Inter.
Lamps had three good chances today, drew a great save from Green with the first and hit the post with the second. His third drew another great save from Green but, this time, Drogs thumped in the rebound.
Credit to Ross Turnbull. He had very little to do today but his handling was good when called upon and he made an excellent point-blank save from Kovac in injury-time.
I will continue to dispense with artificial marks out of 10 and will use my thumbing system instead.
Turnbull. Thumbs up. It was an ideal Premier League debut for him as West Ham rarely threatened but he did nothing wrong.
Alex. Thumbs up. Another good defensive display and it’s amazing to see him thumping home headers like that.
JT. Thumbs up. We’ve definitely got the real JT back. Not only solid in defence but got upfield to set up the second and third goals.
Ferreira. Thumbs up. Made one bad mistake in the first half when he let his opponent retrieve the ball on the by-line – a cross from which they really should have scored. But otherwise he was solid. Plus, like Blue In My Veins, I really like the guy.
Ivanovic. Thumbs up. Not quite as good as I have seen him but blocked every attack down our right and his rampages forward were usually threatening.
Mikel. Thumbs sideways. A mediocre game by his own recent high standards. Broke up a few attacks and set up some good lobs for Drogs, but lost his battle with Scott Parker.
Lampard. Thumbs up. He just doesn’t look the same midfield play-maker that he used to be. But his shooting today was much better.
Ballack. Thumbs sideways. He mystifies me and I still can’t work out what it is he does.
Anelka. Thumbs down. When Dids was away for the African Cup of Nations, he was wonderful. As soon as he starts playing with Dids again he is woeful. Yet he was great alongside Drogba last season under Guus. What’s going on? Sort it out Carlo.
Drogba. Thumbs up. Another two strikes takes him to 21 Premier League goals this season.
Malouda. Both thumbs up. Absolutely immense. Set up two goals, scored one, and made 16 crosses in on goal.
Joe Cole. Thumbs up. On for 30 minutes and was not nearly as influential as Malouda. But this was a lot more like the player we saw before his injury.
Zhirkov/Kalou. Not on the pitch long enough for me to rate them fairly.
Man of the Match
Florent Malouda by some way. Although JT and Drogs both deserve honourable mentions.
- We are top of the table again.
- Our goal difference is back up to 42, with ManUre on 43. It’s quite possible that the title will be decided by that factor.
- We didn’t have to get out of first gear too often against West Ham and, hopefully, the team will not be too tired before Tuesday’s game.
- Scott Parker. A really good player, who also scored the goal of the match. Maybe we should try and entice him back?
- Robert Green. It could have been 7-1 were it not for his saves. Could he be the man for South Africa?
- Mark Clattenburg and his assistants. I may be getting paranoid here but it seems to me that some referees are way too lenient with the fouls that go on at Stamford Bridge, particularly those on Drogba. At least four of West Ham’s players should have seen yellow today and you can bet that that is exactly what would have happened to us had we been playing away with those tactics.
- West Ham. Even allowing for injuries, West Ham looked like a Championship team to me. Surprises me that Gianfranco and Steve Clarke have produced such a pedestrian side.
This result lifted my mood slightly but West Ham were poor and we will have to play a lot better against Inter, who will be far more potent going forward. Having said that we looked well on top for most of this game, and you can’t argue with the 4-1. Indeed, the last time we beat West Ham by that score in the league, we went on to win it.