Independent on Sunday, Steve Tongue: “A lot of water has flowed under Stamford Bridge since Eriksson took tea with owner Roman Abramovich in the summer of 2003 to discuss becoming manager of Chelsea. Jose Mourinho was given the job and the rest is history; or was until Avram Grant took over eight matches ago. Six of them have been won, the last five in a row, and for the home team’s supporters it was all glorious fun yesterday as the little-regarded Israeli lived up to his promise to produce a brighter style of football.”
Sunday Times, Joe Lovejoy: “The king is dead, long live the king. Chelsea’s fifth win in a row, by a crushing margin, was the most convincing proof yet that there is life after Jose Mourinho. Not just life but fun, as his successor Avram Grant demands. Didier Drogba’s two goals underline the fact that normal service has been resumed at Stamford Bridge. There has been speculation that English football’s most potent centre-forward would like to follow his erstwhile mentor out of the door marked exit, but there was no sign of that here, Drogba scoring two goals and terrorising the City defence with a towering performance that left England’s Micah Richards abject in embarrassment.”
The Observer, Duncan Castles: “This was an exhilarating encounter: Chelsea powerful, coherent and swift in their attacking; Manchester City precise on the counter and real contenders for 45 minutes. If both defences were ragged and rarely capable of shutting opponents down, it only added to the enjoyment of a game that matched Avram Grant against form opposition for the first time since usurping Jose Mourinho last month.”
Sunday Telegraph, Roy Collins: “The Special One? Who needs him when Chelsea have Avram ‘The Alchemist’ Grant, who erected a Big Top in SW6 before encouraging his entertainers to fill it with more goals than in any match during Jose Mourinho’s reign as manager, gaining the added reward of inflicting the highest professional defeat on humiliated City manager Sven-Goran Eriksson.”
Official Chelsea FC Website, Christian Collison: “Chelsea showed we are truly back in the championship fight today after thumping Eriksson’s Manchester side. Cech was hardly called into action thanks to the strength of our back line despite missing John Terry. Great game, brilliant result.”
- This may be a very long list! First, the performance. Magnificent doesn’t cover it. Every player deserves a bouquet for putting in such a dazzling display. Every tackle was fought for, every loose ball was chased after, every pass was timed to perfection. I haven’t seen this passion and desire for some time and it felt good. I want more… much more of this. World class. Just like watching Brazil. Exhibition football. Arsenal? Who they?
- Frank Lampard. Lean and mean, he truly looked like the best attacking midfielder in the world. And where did he suddenly get such a turn of speed? Has he been having a touch of the old extra-curricular with Darren Campbell when Sheva’s back was turned? He set up the first goal with a superb pass, weighted like a Tiger Woods putt, and the pass for the second was simply breathtaking. It couldn’t have been better for Drogba if the ball had a golden bow tied around it, served on a silver salver by the gorgeous pouting Jennifer Aniston. No really, I mean it. If not playing for England does this to him, then please Frank… listen to Tony… retire from England and let Stevie ‘Goldenbollocks’ Gerrard have the pressure because by God there won’t be a Chelsea fan in the world who would complain if it meant seeing more displays like yesterday’s.
- Didier Drogba. If he carries on like this, rampaging through defences, fighting every corner of the pitch for every ball and generally looking like a £50m player then this will be the season when he is crowned the number one player in the world. Honestly, Roman should be crawling across fields of broken glass with his cheque book open to keep Drogba with us. He is simply the absolute best player anywhere in the world at the moment.
- Michael Essien. Surprisingly poor in a few games this season, but boy was he back to his best yesterday. The phrase “midfield general” barely covers just how good he was. His passing was supreme, his awareness was awesome and his tackling was precise. Perfect.
- Paulo Ferreira. I’ve been a big critic of the man because his drop in form last season was so dramatic. For all the world I thought he’d be gone and so poor was he at times, I’d have packed his bag and seen him to the taxi. It seems clear that his dip in form was a crisis of confidence that stemmed from a fall out with Jose Mourinho. Yesterday, he was simply the best left-back in the country. We have the best two in Ashley Cole and Wayne Bridge, but if Paulo did this every week it’s hard to see how either would get in the team. He was utterly perfect in every sense, great tackling, great vision, the personification of calm and truly exquisite passing, crossing and wing play. World class.
- The crowd. The Matthew Harding Lower was buzzing and the feel-good factor was added to by some video footage at half time of great Chelsea goals from the 1950’s until today. You know when things are going well because we taunt fellow Chelsea fans in other areas of the ground. It was good to hear The Shed singing their old routines about being the “west side / white wall / middle of The Shed”, and being taunted by us lot singing about being the “North Stand of The Bridge”. Even the West Stand piped up; however I think the East Stand will only ever sing if they are all covertly infused with hallucinogenic drugs!
- The goal fest! About bloody time too. I loved Mourinho, but you can’t help think he would have instructed the players to hold at 2-0 and then strangled the game. It’s too early to know if this is the influence of Avram Grant or Henk Ten Cate, or whether the players just felt they owed us all something special, Frankly I don’t care, I just want to see us put more teams to the sword like this.
- Mike Riley. Yes, the referee again. I know it can be a hard thankless job but honestly the levels of ineptitude are shocking. One only had to witness Mark Clattenburg’s utter nightmare last week. Riley missed two nailed on penalties, booked Lampard after Micah Richards had clattered him and then tried to punch his lights out (temperament problem anyone?), and booked Essien for a most innocuous challenge. His assistant flagged a ball out of play that never even grazed the line, let alone go over it. Has the uplift in status to highly paid professionals made any difference to the standards? In a word, no!
- No Shaun Wright-Phillips! Not even on the bench! A poor way to treat someone who has really started to lift in confidence and his value to the team. Florent Malouda was also mysteriously omitted from the squad, but he has a long way to go in my eyes to show the sort of commitment Wright-Phillips has.
- Manchester City – especially Javier Garrido. They were bad, very bad. But one can’t help think that this was caused by them being utterly outclassed by a rampant Chelsea who would have steamrollered anyone yesterday. That doesn’t excuse Garrido though who was basically missing in action for large parts of the game. Alan Hansen destroyed him on Match of the Day last night and rightfully so.
- The largest team photo being removed! For those who don’t know it was along the wall that divides Stamford Bridge from the Oswald Stoll Mansions. Part of it is used for this blog. I know that Russians are keen on re-writing history in order to delete someone’s details but this is a bit drastic isn’t it? It was a rather unique thing to have and I can only hope it’s been taken away to be updated rather than removed permanently.
- I bought my lovely youngest daughter some stuff in the shop. She wanted a pink hoodie and a cap. Why is that bad? £13 for a bloody cap in the Megastore? Daylight robbery. I’m not even sure Uncle Ken Bates was that greedy.
- Petr Cech: Never looked in any real danger but made one or two assured saves – 8/10.
- Juliano Belletti: A revelation since his arrival. A really classy player who made some superb tackles and wing runs – 8/10.
- Alex: I’m almost tempted to say John who?! Near faultless display and a real bonus for us – 8.5/10.
- Paulo Ferreira: This not a typo! He merits a perfect 10 for his display. Well done – 10/10.
- Ricardo Carvalho: Calm, assured, superb. Welcome back. I never fear for us when he’ s playing. Must be worth £25 million at the least – 9/10.
- Frank Lampard: Yep, another 10 for what was a perfect display that would only have been topped by a goal. Even had the confidence to showboat a bit – 10/10.
- John Obi Mikel: A rash tackle or two didn’t detract from yet another mature display that belies his youth – 8.5/10.
- Michael Essien: Is Tony going mad I hear you ask? Never ever gives perfect scores and then three come along at once (well look down to see the fourth!). Read the bit above in “The good” and that says it all – 10/10.
- Joe Cole: Taunted Garrido mercilessly and scored a lovely goal. Ran the right wing like a real magician and was inspirational at times – 9/10.
- Didier Drogba: Utterly superb, better than Thierry Henry because, unlike Henry, Didier’s head never drops. The first goal was good, but the second was down to sheer determination and pig headed stubbornness because he refused to believe Hart had saved from Lampard and a goal was the only true justice at that point – 10/10.
- Salomon Kalou: Nicely taken goal and caused problems but is still very frustrating to watch and made one or two howlers, but to mark him down when he scored a good goal would be disingenuous of me – 8/10.
- Andriy Shevchenko (sub): Did well enough in his 10 minutes or so but has clearly lost any pace and so can no longer be the main striker. However he still knows how to control a ball and to pass so maybe he should accept that he could play a Mark Hughes type role – it’s got to be worth a thought. Took his goal superbly and despite any rumours of deceit and mutiny the players looked genuinely happy for him when he scored, and the crowd response was also very warm. He always politely acknowledges the crowd, and even gave his shirt to an adoring female fan at the end – 7/10.
- Claudio Pizarro (sub): Only got about 15 minutes but did enough to cause problems and was a tad unlucky not to have scored – 7/10.
- Overall team performance: 9.8/10 – Honestly… it was that good. If you missed it then you missed the best game of the season and for some time.
Man of the Match
Now, do you see the issue here? I have given four players a perfect 10 and believe me, I am a harsh critic, as some of you may know from previous reviews. Any of these four could be named as Man of the Match and in each case it would be well deserved. However, in the interests of diversity, and knowing that Lampard, Drogba and Essien have earned this honour several times I have decided that it was Paulo Ferreira, and believe me, last year I never thought I’d be selecting him. What swung it was the fact that he was being played out of position and yet you would have thought he’d been a left-back his entire life. Whatever it is that’s changed in his life, long may it continue. Take a bow, Paulo my boy, take a bow.
Was anyone really thinking this would happen? From the dismal Fulham display to the sublime one yesterday seems a million miles. I still harbour a thought that I’ll wake up tomorrow and that it will be Saturday and this is all a dream. My youngest daughter, Natasha, came yesterday for the first time since she was 5 years old (she’s now 12). She could have been a lucky charm, but one thing is for sure, she saw a thrilling display of passing and moving football, backed up by power and passion that will live in her memory forever. She was utterly mesmerised and loved every minute. Obviously I have to tell her it isn’t like that every week, but that games like this are like good golf shots. They erase the memory of the previous bad shot in an instant and remind you of why you go to football and subject yourself to such a rollercoaster of emotions.
It’s too early to eke out just how much of this recent run is Grant’s doing, and there is no getting away from the fact that ten of the thirteen who played yesterday are Mourinho’s acquisitions. However, if he and the new backroom team really are responsible for taking the shackles off the players and allowing them to express their talents more freely then they are to be congratulated. Some in the press will say this was more down to Manchester City being poor, but they were third in the table on merit and you can only beat what’s in front of you, and we all know that this was a long overdue performance and scoreline. I can’t remember the last time we scored six in one game, and to be honest if we’d converted all our chances then we would have been in double figures. For now, I am happy to wallow in the warm glow of being a witness to such a comprehensive spanking and I truly hope this is a sign that we are on our way back.
Keep the Blue Flag Flying High!