The Guardian, Andy Hunter: “There was no hostile reception for John Terry at Goodison Park but he was to suffer regardless. The Chelsea and former England captain was at fault for both Everton goals as David Moyes celebrated his first ever victory over the London club and Carlo Ancelotti saw his side falter at the Premier League summit. And they could have few complaints.”
Daily Telegraph, Mark Ogden: “For all the embarrassing headlines and revelations he has had to endure over the past fortnight, not even his twelve minute audience with Fabio Capello last Friday will have proved as uncomfortable for John Terry as his 90-minute mauling at the hands of Louis Saha.”
The Times, James Ducker: “There is a danger that Terry’s blunders will overshadow the bigger picture, which is the Barclays Premier League title race, but on that front Chelsea should probably just be thankful that Manchester United were held to a 1-1 draw away to Aston Villa.”
The Independent, Ian Herbert: “Chelsea do not care much for North-west England – three of their season’s four League defeats have occurred here – and the same malaise which affected them at Wigan and Manchester City allowed Saha to take his season’s tally for Everton to 15 goals.”
Official Chelsea FC Website: “Chelsea’s form on the road continues to keep it tight at the top of the table after a committed Everton performance took all three points despite Chelsea taking a first-half lead.”
“No man is happy without a delusion of some kind.
Delusions are as necessary to our happiness as realities”
(Christian Nevell Bovee)… whoever he was.
Do you know what’s funny?
Yeah you, over there, reading this on your iPhone. Is this even available on the iPhone? Bet it is, although the merits of staring at a tiny screen to read your news still baffles me. There’s probably even a little downloadable application that lets you scroll down the report by tilting it towards you. After all, there’s an “app” for everything isn’t there? There’s one that turns the iPhone into a motion-sensitive light sabre for fuck sake: it makes wooshy Star Wars noises as you swipe it around. Really passes the time during the unrelenting march to death, that.
However, thus far I have been unmoved by friends of mine screaming for me to join the Steve Jobs cult. It’s not just his patronising, creepy-tennis-coach look. No, it’s his and Apple’s endless ripping off of their customers. They may have turned the cultish, over-hyping of every new release of a slightly updated bit of kit into an art-form but there’s making money and then there’s exploiting a bunch of brainwashed followers. Now, at this point I’d like to point out to our dear leader Nick that I’m not trying to expose his folly at having joined this march towards universal iPhonism, but sometimes it’s just nice to go against the tide, which brings me on nicely towards the subject of today’s class: delusion.
Swimming against the tide, not following the herd or simply turning your back on the group, is that the sign of an independent, single-minded rebel or a stubborn old git? I pose this question in the aftermath of our crushing, or should I say controlled win against Arsenal on Sunday. Monsieur Wenger has been called a number of things in the past few days; stubborn, unreasonable, tight, a bloody moron (ok, that’s just me) but why not deluded? His tirades, perhaps tirades taken out of context, about Arsenal dominating the game and having all the possession and constantly pressing for a goal and blah blah blah were all true in some ways, but after again losing easily to us, they just sound like the ramblings of a mad man.
Wenger appears to be a member of the minority of people in England who believe that Arsenal’s way of playing football is not only the right way but the only way. Or putting it more accurately, the most deserving way. Playing total football on the floor deserves to win trophies in his mind but unless you have the likes of Xavi, Messi and crucially, a star striker to act as a focus for this football, this drive for footballing artistry to rule the world is ultimately a futile one.
But if he knows that he is in a minority of one or perhaps two if Pat Rice chirps up, why doesn’t he shut up? It’s really quite simple. Loudly and repeatedly complaining about those bully boys from West London using ‘professional tricks’ to engineer a win ultimately achieves nothing and for the rest of us acts as an annoying pain in the arse. Usually I like to champion the ideals of those with radical and new opinions but this time enough’s enough: it’s time Arsene was carted off to the mad house. His time has gone and I believe that Arsenal deserve more than pretty football. They’ve fallen such a long way from the Invincibles in such a short period of time that I just feel sorry for them. It’s sort of funny how football works like that.
But enough of that, it’s Chelsea we’re supposed to be concentrating on and at the moment we’re top of the league. Yeah, we’re only stumbling towards the title with a six point gap now down to two after an inevitable but stupid wobble in December but it’s the Chelsea to say “Who the fuck cares?” We’re top of the bloody league and if we can keep our big players fit and continue to grind out wins the title should be ours.
Just one change from our comfortable weekend win as the legs and pace of Zhirkov came in for the tired and wasteful Ballack.
An away game against David Moyes’ bunch of “long-ball thugs” as I harshly described them on the weekend never gives off the warmest of glows in the stomach but tonight’s game had the whiff of an ugly and costly night. Now for those of you who didn’t have the pleasure of sitting through all 90 minutes or Match of the Day’s highlights, then I won’t spoil it for you, but put it this way; we’re not so much stumbling towards the title as having our dead corpse thrown over the line before United’s gang of pensioners, Mr. Averages and geniuses (Rooney) creep over before us.
So kick-off arrived with Utd drawing level at Villa Park through yet another own-goal (is that 10 for the season?) and then Nani getting a red card to brighten the mood. So the side already a nice little boost to get them going.
And it sort of looked that way. I say sort of because Moyes’ specialty is getting his average side to run around at 100 miles an hour and launch long-balls to Saha hoping for a moment of brilliance or a set-piece (a little hint of things to come). Now, that may be a harsh description but I’ve never really rated Moyes. Those who put the Scot at the head of the list to succeed Fergie are out of their bloody minds. Jose may be stereotyped as a man who coaches effective yet boring football but Moyes just coaches ugly football. He’s an ugly manager with an ugly side and I don’t care who disagrees with me.
As you can probably tell I’m a little pissed off after tonight’s result so it’s time to calm down and relax before starting again… you lot should probably have a play on your iPhones…
Ahhhh… look at the lovely way the screen steams up… Ooh… I can rub it away too…
…Ok I’m back. So the game begins as predicted: Everton running around like a chicken who has had one of its feet chopped off and us sitting back waiting for these strange Northerners to calm down and let us play. Not much happened which could be described as proper football as both sides struggled to keep the ball and Everton continued their relentless bombing of our box with long-balls. But then we decided to wake up as a trademark punt from Cech was knocked on by Didier for Malouda to fire home. And that was 1-0. If we could have ended it there then the title was nearly won. We were four points clear now.
We were now into our stride as we began to keep the ball well and appeared to have Everton under control. But something didn’t really feel right. I don’t know if it was the lack of rest which our ancient legs need to perform (see how well we play when Carlo and the boys have a week to prepare and rest) or whether it was the inevitable lack of tactical work the squad would have done after an exhausting game against Arsenal but our possession was rather meaningless. It was beautiful on the eye at times but it never really threatened and we never looked like getting a second. Carlo has said on many occasions how the side doesn’t like to change “their philosophy” when we play away from home but perhaps it’s time we did. We look lost at times on the road, as if we don’t know whether to embrace the Jose instincts of hanging onto a valuable 1-0 lead or getting the second to kill off the game.
And then our pointless Arsenal-esque possession football (or simple time wasting if put another way) was punished. Now guess where from. Beautiful flowing football? Err no. A brilliant piece of individual skill? Still wrong. A refereeing mistake? Very much no. Ok, I’ll give it to you: a bloody set-piece. Yep, a fucking corner. A ball swung in from the right was headed home with ridiculous ease as Saha escaped the attentions of Mr. Terry. Our captain fantastic was again great in open play tonight but this one mistake at a corner virtually cost us the game. We had Everton under control and if it wasn’t for this gift of a goal their aimless running around would have petered out. The lead was back down to two points.
For the rest of the half we began to lose control and some of our players began to hide. Now, I know have been harsh on Anelka ever since Didier returned but tonight he was fucking useless. It’s not his fault that he’s not very good on the right wing but to not even try or put in as much effort as Florent bloody Malouda is embarrassing. We could have restored our lead as Malouda found Didier with a beautiful through ball and our battering ram showed unexpected finesse by cutting it back for Ashley to easily convert from six yards but instead an off-balance Anelka decided to interrupt proceedings with a pathetic prod wide. It was that kind of night for our number 39 but more on him later.
Actually, more on him now. Everton were doing all the pressing but when we did have the ball we did have a couple of potential chances. We were able to break away in numbers but predictably Nico messed things up. With Lamps, Ash and Didier all free he dribbled down a cul-de-sac and lost the ball to Neville and then turned away and shrugged. And that laziness was almost immediately punished. Everton went up the other end and found acres of space with Ash out of position. Arteta sent Donovan running down the inside-right channel but the ball appeared to be too far ahead of him and Ricky was tempted into performing one of his trademark sprinting interceptions. Except his challenge was completely mistimed and Donovan had the simplest of tasks in knocking the ball past him and running into Ricky’s leg for an obvious penalty. Shockingly, the world’s most useless penalty saver kept out Saha’s strike and the half ended 1-1.
So after a worryingly sloppy and tired first half we came roaring out for the second period. We were all over them and dominating the game with free-flowing, slick football. It was only a matter of time before we scored. Except, none of that happened. If anything we were even more useless. Whereas in the first-half we looked controlled yet a little lost with the ball, now we looked completely clueless. In fact we didn’t actually touch the ball for 20 minutes. Everton were battering us with plenty of long-balls, crosses and general pressure and we were struggling. The back five or six including the impressive Mikel were standing up to most of what Everton could throw at us and one could argue that they didn’t create anything in the way of a chance, but still, this endless pressure would surely only have one outcome.
But that would come later, for now back to Anelka. Fifty-four minutes were on the clock. Chelsea finally had control of the ball and Anelka was in a dangerous position on the left wing. Instead of crossing to Didier or Lamps he dropped the shoulder three times, ran around in circles and then crossed the ball into Distin’s legs. Instead of concentrating on Everton’s breakaway he simply shrugged his shoulders, threw his arms out and sulked off to the corner flag. It was fucking pathetic play.
We were still on the rack as Everton continued to come forward but our defence, the superb Ivanovic in particular, was keeping them out. Unfortunately Ash had to hobble off with a worrying looking foot injury (if broken our Champions League hopes are in tatters as this side without Ash and Essien look slow and predictable) and as soon as that happened we had no out ball whatsoever. The pressure was incessant but after Anelka’s dismal night was ended with the arrival of Kalou, a more orthodox 4-3-3 started to produce results. We had width and pace but our midfield was still strangely anonymous. In the end we cracked. A long ball to Saha evaded Terry’s head and the Frenchman volleyed the ball into the far corner for a deserved 2-1 lead. Except on closer viewing the ball flew straight between Cech’s hands. Oh well, one flawless game for Big Pete and then one glaring error. That’s how it is with him at the moment.
We had 14 minutes to get back into the game and Carlo responded with the substitution of Mikel for Sturridge. His pace and trickery almost brought immediate results and I really hope that Carlo gives this boy a chance soon. A perfect Cruyff-turn led to a corner which Didier crashed against the ball from 12 yards out. We were close but not close enough. However, that near-miss stung us into action and suddenly we were back to our title-chasing best. Kalou, Sturridge, Lamps and again Ivanovic were driving us forward but ultimately it was too-little too-late. Our pressure yielded no results and a narrow 2-1 defeat was the most we deserved. In the end, Everton and Saha out-battled us and out-fought us on a crucial night in the title race.
- Ivanovic – Absolutely fucking brilliant. Rumours of a bid for Alves worry me, after all, a right-back who can’t defend have cost us in the past. Isn’t that right, Glen? But if it gives him the chance to partner JT then we’re the better for it. John looked jaded tonight and if it wasn’t for Ivanovic we would have lost by three or four.
- Mikel, Sturridge and Kalou – Our three ‘youngsters’ were the only ones who looked to have the drive and legs to get us back into the game. We all knew this season would come but this squad’s time is nearly up. We’re too bloody old to keep going. As I said earlier, a week’s worth of training, tactical preparation and most importantly rest will always get us a win but when the games come every three days we can look tired and, well, just too damned old to keep doing this. This summer will see a huge overhaul of this squad and anyone who says we don’t need it can fuck off.
- Villa’s result – Hanging on for a draw, against 10 men, whilst playing at home is pathetic but tonight could and should have been so much worse for us.
- Saha – What is he doing at Everton? Him in this year’s Arsenal side could have been great.
- Set-pieces – 16/23 conceded is just embarrassing.
- John Terry – Brilliant in open play for most of the game but one error at a corner and one missed header from another Everton long ball cost us. But as this Chelsea side is so arrogant and complacent, perhaps our bunch of lazy superstars needed this result to concentrate the mind.
- Everton’s football – They won the game and deservedly so but David Moyes should have learnt to coach in a more attractive style than this if he wants the top jobs in the game. He’s the new Big Sam in my eyes.
- Away form – Last season we were useless at home and amazing away. This year it’s the exact reverse. As I said earlier, the team looks lost and scared when we go 1-0 up away from home. Carlo needs to focus the side and tell them whether we should hold on and battle for a 1-0 or go for the killer second goal. Until they know what to do we will continue to drop points on our travels. It’s a good thing that we’ve still got to go to Anfield, Old Trafford and White Hart Lane then.
- Cech – 8/10 – Three bonus points for a penalty save but one knocked off for a crap attempt to palm away Saha’s volley.
- Ivanovic – 9.5/10 – Superb. I love the Serb and in time he’ll become a Chelsea legend. He may not attack like Alves but would any of us drop him for that Brazilian fairy?
- Carvalho – 6/10 – Looked nervous and like many others tired. I’m willing to put a large amount on this being his last season.
- Terry – 6/10 – He’s been bloody brilliant since the headlines but tonight looked like one game too many for his tired mind. His rest will come in handy.
- A. Cole – 7/10 – Before the injury, his pace, drive and attitude were keeping us in the game. After he went off, the defeat was inevitable. He really is that crucial for us now and if he doesn’t make it to Milan, our season could be over.
- Mikel – 7.5/10 – I was impressed by him tonight. Calm, composed and classy.
- Lampard – 6.5/10 – Never got in the game but his quality on the ball was evident whenever we gave it to him. But the fact that he only touched it about 10 times tells you how badly we played tonight.
- Zhirkov – 6/10 – Impressive start but faded as Everton cranked up the aggression. He’s still not a left-back in my book.
- Anelka – 5/10 – Terrible. His great early season form is slipping away as he fades away on the right wing. We’ll win at Wolves but when we travel to Milan Carlo must decide whether Anelka plays in a diamond or Joe starts in a 4-3-3. If Anelka starts on the right, then Jose will find a way to exploit that flaw.
- Malouda – 6.5/10 – Did more than Nico but that isn’t saying much. A little too weak for these away-days perhaps?
- Drogba – 6/10 – Never got the service and until he headed against the bar you would have struggled to realise he was on the pitch.
- Ballack (sub) – 6/10 – Did absolutely nothing.
- Kalou (sub) – 7/10 – A bit high? I just liked the pace and energy he brought to the side after Anelka was hauled off.
- Sturridge (sub) – 7/10 – Again, too high? I don’t care. His pace and tricks livened up our performance and he deserves a chance in an important game. That doesn’t mean Wolves away.
Man of the Match
There’s only one. Ivanovic is a rock for us and I can’t imagine our side without him at present.
So how about that? Who wouldn’t have bet that we would cruise past Arsenal and then crumble against Everton? We’re just that predictable. Predictably inconsistent that is. Listening to Utd desperately go for the winner at Villa Park despite only having 10 men, I could only look at our slow and clueless throwing away of a 1-0 lead and feel sadness. Sadness that we will probably throw this title away. Sadness that this team is coming to an end. And sadness that since Jose left we always choke when we’ve got the chance to pull away. This side knew how to lead from the front but at the moment it looks like we have no idea how we want to play. Our shit December led to a stunning January and now a stupid February as our chance to scamper away at the top has given way to nervous stumbling against the likes of Burnley, Hull and Everton. I believe that we’ll beat Utd and Liverpool but as Rafa showed last season, winning the Big Four mini-league means nothing. Winning the title needs consistency and belief and at the moment it doesn’t look like we believe we will win the title.
So a disappointing night. But that’s Chelsea for you.
Is it possible to win the league by only winning at home?