The Guardian, Dominic Fifield: “Chelsea found respite in a rout last night. The traumas endured in their FA Cup humiliation at Barnsley were exorcised in part against a hapless Derby County, with Frank Lampard, so conspicuous by his absence at Oakwell, gorging himself on four goals. The irony was that, unlike in South Yorkshire, Chelsea would still have won without him.”
Daily Telegraph, John Ley: “Frank Lampard ensured normal service was resumed at Stamford Bridge last night, when Chelsea forgot their FA Cup pain to lead the Rams to their latest slaughter. Lampard’s four goals took Chelsea to within five points of Premier League leaders Arsenal with a game in hand, and three points behind second-placed Manchester United.”
The Times, Martin Samuel: “Every silver lining has a cloud and the good-news bulletins that followed the arrival of four English teams in the Champions League quarter-finals were swiftly followed by this terrifying reminder that the gap between top and bottom in the Barclays Premier League is seismic, fissure-like and growing.”
The Independent, Glenn Moore: “There can be few better sights for a beleaguered Premier League manager than Derby County’s coach pulling up outside the ground.”
Official Chelsea FC Website, Andy Jones: “Saturday may not be forgotten, but if the football continues like this, it may be quickly forgiven. Next up for Chelsea is Sunderland on Saturday, where a win could see us within two points of the top of the Premier League.”
The weird thing is folks, I get to do a review of a game in which most of us would expect nothing less than an emphatic victory, which is what we got, and yet I feel oddly hollow about the whole thing. Like I said… weird. Anyway, on with the show…
- The performance. Clinical, professional assassination of a very poor team. No doubt under Jose Mourinho we’d have stopped at two and left them with some dignity but it did seem the players that started the game were after proving a point or two, or at the very least making amends for Saturday’s debacle against Barnsley.
- No Shaun Wright-Phillips or Florent Malouda, and the cloned Michael Essien on the bench, which after Saturday is the least I’d have expected. Claudio Pizarro was also relegated to invisibility, which for me is always a good sign.
- Carlo Cudicini. Had bugger all to do bar the goal Derby scored, but I watched the whole game and counted around five up-field punts… all the rest being throws out or passes to an outfield player. Not once in the first half did he hoof the ball out… not once. I know I keep harping on about it, but it allows us to keep possession so much better. I for one, will not be overly pleased to see Petr Cech come back unless he’s seen the error of his long ball punts up the field.
- Joe Cole. Seriously Zola-esque, and on any other night would have been the absolute banker for Man of the Match. Terrorised Derby at every turn, and as poor as they were I reckon any defence would have been quaking.
- Super Frankie Lampard. As Limetreebower stated on his post match comment, his touch was exquisite, his runs superb, his tackling spot on, his passing world class and… well… you can’t knock four goals in one game. I will also say that his partnership with Michael Ballack is starting to bring me out in goosebumps. When these two really click, then everyone should be scared. Marvellous.
- Ashley Cole. Magnificent on the wing, and very assured in defence, with great touches and an apparent resurgence in his confidence. Must be getting… ahem… plenty of exercise and his alleged reunification bout with Mrs Cole has put a spring in his step… well, let’s face it any red blooded man would be the same… wouldn’t they?
- Ricardo Carvalho. On this form, there isn’t a better centre-back at making those marauding runs up-field. If Roman Abramovich does nothing else he should make sure Percy stays with us.
- An ironic cheer from Chelsea fans on Derby scoring a goal through David Jones, plus a chorus of “He’s here, he’s there, he’s every fucking where, David Jones, David Jones”. I’m pretty sure that’s a first for him, and by more fans than he’s ever heard chant his name as well!
- Derby. Simply the worst team to come to Stamford Bridge in a very long time. Seriously, they could have picked eleven of us from the crowd and we’d have given Chelsea more of a game. On this showing they’ll do well to survive in The Championship.
- The atmosphere. At least until the fourth goal went in the loudest noise was that of fans chatting about work that day, or what they’re doing this weekend. Quite a few empty seats in the Derby end didn’t help, but also in the home parts of the ground it was quite obvious this game wasn’t much of an attraction. Is it down to recent performances? Avram Grant? Midweek apathy? Who knows, but on this showing we’d struggle to fill a 50,000 seater.
- The substitutions. At 6-0 we’re cruising and looking good for a few more, then the tactical genius on the bench decides to switch from an exciting 4-3-3 formation, with players playing their roles and creating havoc, to a 4-2-4, after which we never got anywhere near as close to scoring. Off came Ballack for Didier Drogba, and immediately midfield started to look barren. Off went Claude Makelele, to be replaced by the interloping long lost Charlie Essien, identical twin brother in every aspect to the guy we signed from Lyon with one glaring omission, the ability to play football. It’s either that or his “bodysnatched” clone who’s hanging around the Bridge at the moment. Then the midfield became a blue free zone. Off came Joe Cole for an old age pensioner who’d forgotten his zimmer frame in the form of Andriy Shevchenko, and yes Joe Cole did look bloody annoyed. That killed our right-sided domination, and any real hope of padding out the “goals for” column. Is it arrogance on Grant’s part? Is he ticking ‘player satisfaction’ boxes and just trying to keep everyone happy? Is he just experimenting at appropriate times? Whatever the reason it screwed the last 15 minutes up.
- Carlo Cudicini: He knows the art of ball distribution – 7.5/10.
- Paulo Ferreira: A good overall game and must be edging Juliano Belletti on consistency – 7.5/10.
- John Terry: Got confused with being an attacker from time to time, but to be fair against Derby even I fancied scoring so why shouldn’t JT? – 7.5/10.
- Ashley Cole: Here’s he, he’s there, he’s shagging Cheryl Tweedy everywhere… well it almost fits… ahem… so to speak – 8/10.
- Ricardo Carvalho: Riccy mate, my eldest daughter is 16, so give her a couple of years and I’ll get you a date. As long as you stay with us. That should do it – 8.5/10.
- Claude Makelele: If this is his last season with us, then he’s obviously enjoying it. Superb – 8/10.
- Frank Lampard: Four goals, great performance, seems to enjoy having Ballack around. Magnificent – 9/10.
- Michael Ballack: If he was English… well I suppose he wouldn’t be half as good, so he’d be playing for Newcastle or something. Rightly seemed pissed off at being subbed when him and Lamps were running the show in midfield – 8/10.
- Nicolas Anelka: Subdued start, but as the game went on became more and more pivotal. Still needs to remember his primary role though, but given time he’ll be there with Torres, Adebayor et al – 7/10.
- Joe Cole: I said that losing out on the Fizzy Cup might have done him some good. I was right. I can pay him no higher compliment than this. He was as good as Zola. If you read this Joe, then just keep it up and the whole country will be saying “Wayne who?” – 9/10.
- Salomon Kalou: Still has the propensity to make a silly half cocked decision, but he played well and worked hard for the whole game – 8/10.
- Didier Drogba (sub): Is it just me or does he look a little heavy? And a yard or two off the pace? Did okay, but nothing else – 7/10.
- Michael Essien (sub): Looks utterly disinterested, a little embarrassed and is a shadow of the player we’ve seen in the previous campaigns. Has anyone looked to see if it is really him? – 6/10.
- Andriy Shevchenko (sub): Rubbish. Slow. Poor touch. The golf course beckons – 5/10.
- Overall team performance: Save for the last 15 minutes when the game was won and we visibly seemed to take a little break, this was a highly professional and clinical display. Which is exactly the same as I wrote for the Olympiakos game – 8.5/10.
Man of the Match
On any other night Joe Cole would be preparing his acceptance speech and thanking an endless list of people who’ve helped him thus far… Claudio Ranieri aside of course. But he was outdone by an old stager who has struggled with his recent performances. Frank Lampard… you de man!
A muted atmosphere, and an undoubted crowd hangover made this seem a largely soulless affair. The usual chants were attempted but drifted off into the ether as the crushing pressure of apathy took its toll. Then we scored after a good couple of chances and things just started to lift a little. By the time the fifth and sixth goals came a little party atmosphere had taken grip. All of this was tempered by the dreadful opposition, but as we constantly say on here, you can only beat what’s put in front of you.
This we did with some aplomb, but it was plainly obvious after five minutes that we would win, the only question being the margin of victory. The team that started seemed to be genuinely enjoying themselves and it was apparent to all that they were determined to entertain and score a hatful of goals with no mercy or quarter being given.
Then The Fat Controller decided to make some of the most bizarre changes yet again. Replacing the sublime Ballack, Makelele and Joe Cole, with a seemingly restless Drogba, an apathetic impostor in Essien and someone resembling my grandad in Shevchenko. From that point onwards the sense of deflation grew on and off the pitch as it became obvious Derby’s goal would not be under the same level of siege seen for the previous 70 minutes or so. This was reflected in the obscenely early exits in alarmingly large numbers of Chelsea fans. Yes the game was over, but really the pace was such that all three could have stayed on and not caused themselves any excess tiredness. Yes, I know you can ease players back in, but really… a 4-2-4 easing back in? I know some people will think I’m picking on Grant again, but to me it smacks of him trying to be all things to all men and massaging expensive egos.
We’re still in the Premier League hunt, just, but this was a result I would have expected against a team with 10 points from 28 games, and a goal difference of minus 44… yes… minus 44… that’s not a misprint… before kick off. When we stuffed Manchester City I said two things which stand today. One swallow does not a summer make. I also referred to Mr Wolf in Pulp Fiction in his seminal quote about us not fellating each other just yet. We have two tricky away games at Sunderland and Spurs in the next week, so let’s see where we stand after them. Victories in both and the Arsenal game becomes arguably our biggest thus far this season, and I can guarantee that will not be a soulless affair, and my own Chelsea mojo will be in full flow that day. Defeats or draws on the other hand might just make the Arsenal game a matter of local bragging rights.
If Grant is to be redeemed in my, and many others’ eyes, then this fortnight period up to Easter is when he needs to stand up and be counted, and to show us all what he’s made of tactically and managerially.
Failure is not an option. This could be our finest hour. Despite my deep rooted misgivings about Grant and Henk Ten Cate, my heart is immersed in my love of Chelsea and above all else I want us to win every game. Let’s go get ‘em.
Keep the Blue Flag Flying High!