The Guardian, Kevin McCarra: “There is a cadre of veterans in Carlo Ancelotti’s team and while their wisdom looked a great asset when Spartak Moscow were beaten 4-1 at Stamford Bridge in the Champions League on Wednesday, they had not saved anything like enough vigour to withstand Liverpool. Fernando Torres, scorer of the goals, gave a magnificent display and his clincher was superb.”
Daily Telegraph, Henry Winter: “As well as lifting Liverpool spirits, a deserved triumph rooted in collective endeavour, the right game plan and the resharpened cutting edge that is Torres also carried a wider significance. No longer are the Premier League’s chasing pack choking on Chelsea’s vapour trails. No longer are the champions looking invincible. In stifling Carlo Ancelotti’s side, Liverpool matched Manchester City’s work-rate. Yuri Zhirkov and Ramires simply lacked the power to deal with Gerrard and Lucas. Didier Drogba, restricted to second-half action, was struggling with a fever.”
The Independent, Ian Herbert: “It is tempting to ascribe Chelsea’s defeat – a genuinely extraordinary one given how listless Liverpool have been of late – to the discomfiting effect of sides who press them hard away from home, though Ancelotti’s pragmatic – and impressive – response last night seemed a reasonable one. He had actually encountered a perfect Mersey storm. No side can enter a game minus Michael Essien, Frank Lampard and Drogba and be entirely unaffected.”
Official Chelsea FC Website: “Chelsea suffered a second league defeat of the season on Sunday as two first-half Fernando Torres goals proved our undoing. The result was a fair one as our hosts dominated the opening period before defending stoutly in the face of a much-improved Chelsea after the break.”
Oh dear, do I really have to do this?
Not after that mess. Please, someone raise their hand and offer to take my place.
No takers I see. Well, screw this. After a performance like that, I just can’t take it anymore. I’m off…
…Ok, I’m back and I’ve manned up. Well, sort of. So let’s do this then.
You know, I’ve always hated trips to Anfield. Despite it being the location of some of my favourite Chelsea moments of all time – Branners’ double in the Champions League, the 4-1 battering we handed out to them in Jose’s second season after Jamie Carragher said that we “were scared of playing Liverpool” and the 2-0 win which all but secured the title last season, all come to mind – Anfield is one of those away days which kind of scares me.
I don’t know if it was just a strange day but my leg was particularly shaky this evening and my stomach was also rather jittery. But I guess that’s what trips to Anfield do to us Chelsea fans. Whether it’s Casiraghi pulverising his gentleman’s area against the post, the ghost goal, Eidur’s miss from a yard out in the 98th minute of that semi-final, the penalty shoot-out defeat or our nightmarish trip there under Scolari, these away-days up North have regularly proved to be extremely painful. And add to that our dismal away form in recent weeks (I thought that City performance would be hard to beat in terms of misery levels but I clearly underestimated this side’s ability to inflict despair on its fans) plus an ever growing injury list that now includes Essien’s dodgy toe, and you had the feeling that today just wouldn’t be our day.
But then I put my rational hat on and told myself to stop being so bloody pessimistic. We’re the fucking Champions, with a team full of world-class players like Ashley Cole, JT and Petr Cech and are being led by one of the best managers in the world. So why should we be scared of facing a bunch of rejects like Konchesky, Lucas and Carragher, rigidly cemented into the archaic, straight lines of Roy Hodgson’s 4-4-2? We are Chelsea Football Club for fuck’s sake and we were here to win. So “COME ON” I silently roared to myself whilst no-one was watching. A win today would be the perfect way to capitalise on Arsenal’s defeat and after the earlier wobble, my rousing speech was the perfect way to get ready for Super Sunday. I was hopeful. I was optimistic. And I was ready for a fucking master class as we easily swept past Liverpool.
Well, that was the plan anyway.
Cech, Ivanovic, Terry, Alex, Cole, Ramires, Mikel, Zhirkov, Kalou, Anelka, Malouda.
Subs: Turnbull, Drogba, Bosingwa, Ferreira, Sturridge, Kakuta, McEachran.
So no Lampard, Essien or Drogba then. Frank recently said that he always knew that this new tendon injury would “require a 10-12 week recovery” so why Carlo has been telling us that he would be “back for the weekend” for the past four weeks, I don’t know. Essien’s toe and Didier’s fever meant that our starting XI looked weak, rather negative and distinctly shot-shy. And when you need a goal away from home the thing you don’t need is a midfield three of Mikel, Zhirkov and Ramires who have mustered between them a grand total of zero league goals.
That earlier optimism was beginning to fade.
I’d like to state at this point that this first half was one of the most dismal, embarrassing, shameful, shocking, shit, abysmal, appalling and inexcusable performances I’ve ever seen from a Chelsea side since the dark days of Scolari.
But you know what, we didn’t start that badly. The first 86 seconds saw us knock the ball around beautifully, if rather pointlessly as Liverpool immediately retreated from kick-off into their own half and we pushed forward positively. Andy Gray even commented that Chelsea had “started very confidently,” which was nice. But something wasn’t right. I think it was the fact that for all of our possession, we were going absolutely nowhere with the ball. Anelka was completely anonymous as Carragher and Skrtel dominated him, Kalou had little to no effect due to Liverpool’s deep defence and despite Malouda looking bright, the lack of support meant that his skilful play was often wasted as Gerrard and Lucas surrounded him in midfield. JT and Alex did look comfortable at the back and Ash was getting forward regularly but the inability of our midfield to impose themselves on the game meant that our good start quickly faded as Liverpool grew into the game.
Now, when I say “grew into the game”, I mean they stopped parking the bus in front of their own fans and took the drastic step of moving from eleven men inside their own half to nine. I suppose it’s the Woy way to make sure you stay compact but the fact that Liverpool were restricted to long balls to Torres and Kuyt simply made our glacial tempo and dismal passing all the more disappointing.
And in the end Liverpool got the goal this awful game barely deserved. Yet more poor passing from both sides led to the ball bouncing through to Skrtel and with the first real bit of quality in the match, his clever pass found Kuyt unmarked near the centre-circle. For some reason Alex decided it would be better to retreat to the edge of our own box instead of closing him down and that inexplicable bit of terrible defending cost us as Kuyt turned, looked up, strode forward and pitched a perfect pass to Torres who pushed JT aside and scuffed the ball beautifully into the far corner.
So 1-0 down and despite a few signs of life as Ash powered forward and sent over a couple of nice crosses, things barely improved for us. It wasn’t just that we had only tested Reina once – although I’m struggling to remember any sort of attack we put together in that terrible first half – but that we couldn’t even be bothered to do the basics. Things like crossing the ball past the first man seemed too much for Malouda and Zhirkov to handle, or passing to a blue shirt was definitely beyond Ramires’ capabilities (more on him later), but much of the side just looked lazy, timid and frankly pathetic. Carlo has said that he’s frustrated that we don’t play at 100% for 90 minutes and that the way Man City outfought us shocked him but today was something new. We looked uninterested with few of those in blue ever breaking into a sprint or charging into a 50-50 and this lack of passion or effort reached a pitiful nadir when at 2-0 down in the second half, Bosingwa actually jumped out of a challenge with Torres as he was defending a counter-attack, which nearly cost us a third on the break. It resulted in me shouting a load of abuse at him, which shouldn’t be repeated here but the lack of desire or appetite for the fight really did shock me.
Now, Liverpool’s poor display shouldn’t be overlooked as they were doing fuck all at this point but doesn’t that just make our showing all the more pathetic? Mikel was spraying the ball about well and JT and Ash were at least fighting for every ball but in terms of attacking threat, I think 1/10 would have been a fair assessment of our first-half efforts. And just to piss me off further, as I was screaming out for more passion, Ash’s determination to keep hold of the ball despite getting slapped in the face by Kuyt, cost us a second. He should have just gone down and got the free-kick but he wanted to push for an equaliser and as he lost the ball, Liverpool quickly spread it to Torres who stepped inside Branners and curled the ball into the top corner. And that was game over in my mind. I was tempted to throw in the towel and start watching the F1 I was recording but when our Dear Leader gives you a job to do, you have to show loyalty and finish the task at hand.
So I was back for the second half and stunned to see Zhirkov and Ramires still on the pitch. I haven’t mentioned them so far and I’ll leave a proper assessment of their awful displays until later, but when you need a goal, a midfield of Mikel, Ramires and Zhirkov is not what you want. Strangely, Mikel was the most offensive midfielder on show in blue and despite an obviously unfit Didier coming on, we really didn’t look like scoring for bloody ages.
Yes our tempo was a little higher and yes we were putting in a few tackles but giving an extremely defensive side a two goal lead meant our second half efforts were too little too late. Liverpool didn’t get into our half until stoppage time, which highlights their level of ambition but we just had too much to do to stop one of the worst Utd sides of all time creeping to within two points of us at the top.
Ramires did venture forward a couple of times but his inability to take a ball off JT, turn and pass the ball forwards was astounding. Zhirkov did draw a sharp stop from Reina at his near-post and Ash was storming forward at every occasion but this was the least you expect from a Chelsea side. We’re famous for using our full-backs and passing the ball quickly and attractively but the 2-0 deficit made us look anxious on the ball and when we did get a few crosses in, we had no-one in the middle to convert it. In the end Sturridge, Bosingwa and a marauding JT all had a go at trying to get a goal back but when you saw Anelka smash the ball against the bar from 20 yards out and Carragher knock the rebound into Reina’s arms instead of the net from a yard out, you knew it wouldn’t be our day.
The match ended quietly with Carlo telling everyone to calm down in interviews after the game as “you can’t win every week” but today was truly awful at times. We’ll probably win on Wednesday and Arsenal’s defeat plus the Manchester derby will come in handy for us, so we shouldn’t get too worried. But in the end a 0-0 at Villa Park, 1-0 defeat at City and now a 2-0 defeat at Anfield hardly look like the performances of Champions does it? We will win the title but these away-day blues are pissing me off now.
- JT – An immense performance from our captain as he looked around at the disastrous scenes, said “fuck it” and decided to try and sort things out on his own. We hardly got a decision out of Webb all day and in the end JT decided to just go around smashing people on his own to try and provoke a reaction from those in blue. His defending against Torres’ opening goal was a bit sloppy but for the rest of the match, he shut the door on every other Liverpool attack.
- Torres – He’s not cup-tied and should be available in January. And when you look at our pathetic efforts up front on the road this season, which one of us would turn down this class act?
- Newcastle – They win in London, again. And that’s why Arsenal will never again win the league under the leadership of Monsieur Wenger.
- First half – Have you ever seen a performance like it from a Chelsea side? It was horrific at times and needs to be corrected quickly if we are to secure this title.
- Zhirkov – He needs to learn how to pass the ball forwards as his lack of confidence or perhaps natural shyness, means our midfield is incredibly negative and defensive at present.
- Away form – That Big Four mini-league from last season seems like a distant dream tonight. Carlo has said that we like to “keep the same philosophy whether we play home or away” but after yet another dismal away day, perhaps it’s time we changed our tactics on the road.
- Lack of passion – The lack of effort on show was alarming at times as we looked slow, lazy, timid and strangely uninterested for much of the game. Not even a Carlo hairdryer was enough to salvage this game and some of these lads need to realise that walking for much of the game just isn’t good enough when you play for Chelsea.
- Transfer policy – I know we were missing Lamps, Essien and Didier (he hardly affected the game did he?), but when you are left with a midfield with zero league goals between them, comprised of a left wing-back, holding player and a rookie, things aren’t looking good. Josh McEachran will be a Chelsea star and we are trying hard to break even but with a couple of injuries our squad looks old, slow and lacking in creativity.
- Liverpool – Apart from two classy Torres finishes, what did they do exactly?
- Ramires – His first-half performance was an embarrassment. He couldn’t tackle, pass the ball to a blue shirt or run for 45 minutes and I lost count of the number of times he was bullied off the ball by Lucas of all people. Yes, Lucas! He requires three or four touches to control a ball and seems to specialise in the first time pass back to JT or Alex. When you replace Essien you are expected to at least get forward once or twice but he seemed unable to move beyond the centre-circle and today was a depressing low-point in his short Chelsea career.
- Cech – 6/10 – Didn’t touch the ball apart from when he picked it out of the back of his net.
- Ivanovic – 6/10 – Disappointing. Let Torres shoot on his right foot instead of showing him down the line and his attacking play was poor.
- Alex – 5/10 – Why did he run away from Kuyt? That defending cost us the first goal and probably the match.
- JT – 7/10 – Our best player today but that isn’t saying much. His defending was impeccable and he did show some passion, which was nice.
- Ash – 7/10 – Our best attacking threat, which says it all really.
- Mikel – 6/10 – Classy. He kept Gerrard quiet and did spray the ball around well but was let down by those around him.
- Ramires – 1/10 – Dismal. He needs to adapt quickly as we need him with all our injuries but his inability to do anything positive or progressive is embarrassing for a Chelsea midfielder.
- Zhirkov – 4/10 – A nice shot apart he was just too timid today. Where’s Frank when you need him?
- Kalou – 5/10 – Anonymous. Liverpool defended too deep to give him the space to use his pace. Oh well. Back to the bench you go.
- Anelka – 5/10 – A nothing performance from him. He was on the pitch wasn’t he?
- Malouda – 6/10 – Looked bright at times but wasteful at others. An up and down game from him.
- Didier (sub) – 4/10 – Unfit. Unwell. And uninspiring.
- Bosingwa (sub) – 4/10 – Came on to add a greater attacking threat but his crossing was dismal and that jumping out of a 50-50 was unforgivable. Pathetic really.
- Sturridge (sub) – 5/10 – Touched the ball twice but gets another point for at least running about instead of walking.
Man of the Match
You’re fucking joking aren’t you. JT deserves some praise but the overall team performance was so horrific that they all deserve a slap.
I’m too pissed off to give this proper thought as in the end, every side experiences a blip, playing away from home is pretty tough and we will win the title but everyone watching has to admit that we were awful.
It was embarrassing at times and if this is what you get when two legends like Didier and Lamps aren’t there to rescue us then fuck me, we’re in trouble. Ramires needs to wake up if he’s to start another game for us and Carlo must work out how to win away from home if our annual Christmas blip isn’t going to return. Apart from the worrying away form isn’t it also alarming that when we’ve only got two or three days to recover, we always look shit? Perhaps we are too bloody old.
Nighty night. Don’t let our horrific performances bite.