Manchester City 2-1 Chelsea – Hard Pressed But Never Crushed

A trip to Manchester City was going to really test the mettle of a team that was showing signs of improvement in their recent four games under Robbie Di Matteo. The realists amongst us were looking for a point, the dreamers were hoping that this would be the great leap forward and the eternally pessimistic were hoping Stoke and Everton might limit the damage.

Well here we are, it’s 10pm on a Wednesday night and Stoke did their best, Everton, a team we often struggle with have again done us no favours, subsiding to Arsenal after sinking without trace against Liverpool a week ago, and we’re adrift in fifth place and feeling somewhat uncomfortable as the fetid breath of the chasing Scouse and Geordie nations, combining in the cold night air to form a toxic miasma that would stun a horse, seeps over our shoulder and into the nostrils.

(No! Wait! King Kenny’s Clown Car has just exploded. The Anfield Hokey-Cokey is in full swing. Some want him in, some want him out and some just want to shake him all about.)

It didn’t really work in the end did it? At times the effort to absorb and then build quickly on the break looked promising. But time and again the chaps lacked composure and control in the final third.

As the first half ticked away Chelsea, while not looking dangerous seemed to have solved the early problems posed by Nasri down the left and looked comfortable if a little too deep-lying at times. The early alarms, including an absolute howler of a pass by Lampard straight across his own half into the path of Balotelli and a lob by Nasri that hit the bar, had been succeeded by a midfield battle where Chelsea tried to keep their shape and press onto the ball if City slowed the play down and City tried to work up the pitch and throw it wide once they’d sucked the full-backs in.

This involved a real effort on the part of Torres and Meireles who were patrolling across City’s defence and too often the midfield dropped too deep leaving space for City to build in. But saying that, and despite having Nasri, Silva, Aguero and Balotelli pushing up onto the back four, by and large Chelsea kept their composure and discipline and were nowhere near as easy to walk through as in previous months.

But, and like buttocks fed exclusively on junk food and lard, this but was to get bigger and bigger in the second half, Chelsea just didn’t play enough controlled possession football and were not accurate enough on the break-out.

When Mancini put Barry on for Balotelli at half time, it was not a backward step but had the effect of penning Chelsea into their own half. The extra midfielder meant a team struggling for accuracy at times saw even less possession. The lack of movement and quality of pass through midfield has bedevilled the team for much of the season. It was too much to expect that it could be put right in less than half a dozen games. City played a more intense pressing game and Chelsea were too easily squeezed off the ball in these situations. Intent as they were in denying City space in the last third, Chelsea were far less intense in the press and thus did not get possession back easily.

I think it was almost their first foray up the pitch in the second half that yielded a corner. When Ivanovic had been forced off after 20 minutes Lady Luck appeared to be treating us and our team with the usual disdain. Suddenly she appeared to smile. A corner was half-cleared, Luiz got his body in to ensure Barry didn’t make clean contact, Cahill whacked the loose ball goal-wards and Toure (the Kolo edition), deflected it past a “despairing” (for custodians always despair) Joe Hart.

And thus we dared to hope and at the same time succumbed to fear. The shovels were out and the trenches deepened another couple of feet. The pattern of the half didn’t really change but Mancini altered his shape again removing De Jong and introducing Tevez. (His introduction would have been along the lines of “This is Mr Carlos Tevez, he has a tendency to homesickness”.) While City certainly didn’t panic, they didn’t immediately create any real danger. Drogba came on for Torres with Merieles having been replaced by Essien before the goal. While Torres appeared unhappy, these two had certainly had to do an awful lot of running and so I can’t really criticise either move. And the second half had seen very little decent service to Torres, well any service really, so the chance to knock it long to Drogba was in some ways an attractive proposition.

And Lady Luck? Well the events of the 77th minute proved that she had not smiled and was merely grimacing as the result of a bilious attack. Essien decided to block a Zabaleta shot inside the box by the time honoured method of turning his back, fair enough a man needs to protect the family jewels and the face (in that order) but inexplicably threw up his arms (cue a gag about not having eaten them in the first place) and so gave away the penalty, which Aguero comfortably converted.

It was a shot of adrenalin straight into City’s system, while Chelsea looked like they’d just stood on the shovel and taken the handle straight in the kisser.

A long, arduous seven minutes passed before a Nasri, Tevez one-two left Lampard trailing the Frenchman in the box as he chipped Cech and found the corner. Time to just stay down on the canvas. There were one or two moments where it looked as though Drogba might cause a spot of bother, but we all knew the game was up.

What to make of it all? Well there was no faulting the effort and hopefully the fragile confidence we saw returning won’t be too heavily dented. The team does look more organised and cohesive defensively. But there was a noticeable lack of steadiness in possession.

City have a good squad and over the season have been a very good team and are unbeaten at home. But while I can’t say the result is a shock, I do question whether a midfield with the likes of Mikel, Lampard, Mata, Ramires and Meireles should retain so little possession. Are Chelsea that short of technique? Or is it down to movement, confidence, understanding? I think it was always going to be a game where we ceded ground and possession, but we seemed hurried and hustled too often for my liking. And that has been a trend during the season, which must be addressed but will take time and perhaps changes in personnel to reverse.

I’m disappointed. We gave up a lead. But on the other hand given the past few months was it realistic to expect anything else? So let’s end by accentuating the positives.

Luiz had a great game I thought. Composed and unhurried, he certainly seemed to exude a calmness during some of the wilder phases. He was also disciplined. Cahill put in another good performance and they did pretty well as a pair considering the pressure.

Mikel was good, particularly in the first half when Chelsea were able to break out. He made some very good runs forward in possession, the like of which we have rarely seen. Let’s hope this trend to get him forward more continues. The second half he was less in evidence but was getting through a shift in the trenches. He certainly seemed willing to make the angle on plenty of occasions and should have been used more as a pivot in retaining the ball.

Torres ran miles for the team. There just weren’t the opportunities to repeat Sunday’s goal scoring feats. And City’s strikers didn’t score either in open play with a hell of a lot more opportunity.

I wouldn’t single anyone out for criticism, though I worry that Essien is struggling for form. We could have done without him giving away a penalty, but that’s the way it goes sometimes.

We are what we all know, deep down, is the case and that is a less than elite side. There is still a long way to go in getting the side playing such that they could match City toe to toe. We are still less than the sum of the parts, even if a few of those parts are not at their previous best.

Let us all seek solace in the good book.

“We are hard pressed but never crushed. Perplexed but not in despair.” And having finished with a biblical quote (2 Corinthians 4:8), the Flying Burritos will play out with an old gospel standard.

The press reports

The Guardian, Daniel Taylor: “For long spells the quality was low, from both sides. City, however, probably deserved to win on the balance of play and their sheer perseverance. Nasri was the most creative player on the pitch, hitting the crossbar with a first-half shot, and Yaya Touré was a key figure, driving forward from midfield.”

The Daily Telegraph, Henry Winter: “City really went for it. They had to. This was kitchen-sink time. Carlos Tevez, on as a sub, inevitably played a part, rolling a perfect pass into the box for Samir Nasri, timing his run superbly, to lift the ball elegantly over the diving Petr Cech. The Etihad was in total ecstasy, barring the bemused Chelsea section.”

The Independent, Sam Wallace: “The Chelsea team looked different again last night with Frank Lampard deployed deeper and Raul Meireles pushed up closer in behind Torres. Ramires was on the right wing in the position usually occupied by Daniel Sturridge, who stayed on the bench. There was no sign of the injured John Terry on the bench.”

The Official Chelsea FC Website: “Chelsea took a second-half lead but against a dominant Man City side, couldn’t hold on, conceding the winner with five minutes left on the clock. After a first half in which the home side had hit the bar and spurned other chances while the visitors hadn’t gone close, it was Gary Cahill with his second goal in two matches who gave us a lead contrary to the balance of the game. However Sergio Aguero levelled the score from the penalty spot after Michael Essien handled before Samir Nasri scored the winner.”

The goals

60′ Cahill 0-1
78′ Aguero (pen) 1-1
85′ Nasri 2-1

There are 56 comments

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  1. Fat Nakago

    I think you covered the bases pretty well from what I saw from my vantage point in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

    HOWEVER, I must disagree when you say, “I wouldn’t single anyone out for criticism”. Ivan the Terrible was TERRIBLE, and even the guys at my local pub in Milwaukee who know absoluteynothing about soccer could see THAT! And thankfully, RDM saw it as well and made the substitution. What the hell was with Ivan anyway…brainfarts??

    Well, I can’t blame Torres from be miffed at being pulled. He wanted the focking match more than anyone out there. But it was probably for the best for he was most likely one millesecond away from going FOCK ALL on someone in powder blue and getting another Red card. I know Mike Dean was letting the guys play and kept the cards in his pocket (for the most part) and props to him for that, BUT…City is a bit more physical than most might expect and Torres was clearly at a point of having a bellyful of their physical bullshit. And what did Drogba do as soon as he came on?? He BLASTED through one of the Toure bros as if he were Clay Matthews of the Green Bay Packers enroute to sacking the QB.. Not that it did much. The ploy didn’t work. But it was a nice touch….and you don’t want Torres doing that.

    But as ye said, the match was lost because the midfield was in disarray….there was no crispness or consistency. And thus, no victory.

    Remind me again what Lampard was doing out there today besides wearing an armband with Captain on it? I must have missed that meeting.

    There is work to be done. And garlic to be eaten in abundance before the next tilt.

  2. GrocerJack

    Well said Dr BB. Sums it up perfectly. I really expected little else and thought this game was just a step too far too soon for the recovering team. Agree Mikel, Luiz and Cahill stood out. I remained incredibly clam throughout but that was more to do with my low level of expectation.

    And Fat Nakago….Ivan was injured, pulled muscle which might explain things. He’s been bloody fantastic this season so deserves a little leeway last night, especially as Frank was anonymous/incompetent/unlucky in roughly equal measures and sort of gets my wooden spoon. 

      • WorkingClassPost

        Ivan’s probably having his best season so far, and really seems to enjoy pushing forward these days, so the question is: “Why can’t he cross the ball consistently?”

        We have GK coaches and all sorts of specialist trainers, so why no one to work on that too?

  3. bluebayou


    Not since Van Helsing and the Vampire slayers has there been a finer use of garlic. A stroke of genius!

  4. Cunningplan

    Good report BB, and I’m with Tony no real disaster, It’s what I expected also, afterall it’s their home form that’s been pretty incredible, so no disgrace.
    I suppose the only let down on the night for me, was the 50/50 penalty in their favour, it was the game changer, and penalties seemed to have conspired against us on a few occasions this season.
    I just wonder what we’d be venting on this blog had we been playing QPR, being 2-0 up with 15 mins to go?

    Back to my favourite word PERSPECTIVE. 😉

    And also a quick note on JM”s Madrid who’s 10 point lead is down to 6 points
    They conceded very late goals against their last two opponents from free kicks when they were leading earning them draws.

    I happens to the best.

  5. Dylbo Baggins

    Another great example of supporting Chelsea from overseas. 

    Woke up and turned on the computer at about the 65 minute mark. 1-0 up? Magic. 

    Get out of the shower and it’s 1-1.

    not a good feeling leaving home for a long day after 2-1.

    The only thing that made the final result was the QPR comeback. Not because I’m worried that Liverpool can make top 4 but because I just hate them so much. 

    Big game against the Spuds now.

    • Dylbo Baggins

      *the only thing that made the final result palatable was the QPR comeback…

      curse my lack of proofreading 

  6. WorkingClassPost

    Nicely put BB, as ever, the calming voice of reason.

    Started the evening with no expectations, but did hope to see our recent improvements continue, and in large part, they did.

    Our midfield’s inability to pass to a teammate is odd and the quicker Romeu gets off the treatment table the better. We did have other options on the bench, but they were all primarily attacking players, and that obviously wasn’t part of our game plan.

    They were the home side, and could’ve scored first, in which case 1-2 would probably represent a decent fight-back. But we took the lead and a second goal would’ve finished them off, instead we decided that 20 minutes was a suitable amount of time to hang on, so we let them play in our half, just for the fun of it.

    Now this tactic worked at the Bridge, though the memory of us desperately, and needlessly hanging on, still irks. Anyway, mid-week in Manchester is a tougher proposition, though I never had any of that sense of foreboding that defending a single goal at the other stadium would’ve produced.

    Until that substitution.

    We talked recently about whether Torres is like Anelka, but last night he reminded me more of Crespo, another great player whose work off the ball, and sheer menace when in possession, can tie up an entire defense, and this doesn’t always become apparent until after he’s removed and the hole left behind frees those same defenders to push forward and do their dirty deeds at our end of the pitch.

  7. Der_Kaiser

    A game that City would have walked a month or so ago, so given that we made them work for it it wasn’t a bad night overall – silly mistakes cost us, though; Essien’s handball and Frank losing Nasri. Thought it was a mistake to take Torres off for the same reason that WorkingClassPost mentions above – he was keeping them well occupied.  Mata needs a rest, as has been noted elsewhere.

    Does rather turn Saturday into the proverbial 6 pointer – anything but a win and 4th place is probably out of reach.

    Still, King Kenny, we want you to stay…

    • NorthernVA

      Kenny has really provided sense of stability to the season. Whenever I feel low about our prospects I just take a gander at LFC and the King’s travails and I instantly become overtaken with a renewed sense of optimism.  

  8. Cunningplan

    And some of the over-reaction from posters on the other thread with regard our loss was totally over the top, we can still win something, unlike a few others.

    One of the Manchester clubs will be trophyless come the end of the season, and I still think Utd will do it because of Fergie, not because they’ve been the better team.
    I think City will find it hard to take if they fail, and with their squad of players they should have been out of site a long time ago.

  9. Blue_MikeL

    As I said it already: “The honeymoon is over and old ugly bitch is back at it”. 
    Frank “I don’t know why I am not playing” Lampard first sets Mario for one on one with Chech, then limps behind Nasri, which leads to inevitable goal. Why did we fire AVB, does anybody remember the reason? 
    Now Di Mateo, really where do I start with this one. Is it time to send Emenalo to investigate his tactics and report to Roman? Rhetorical question really, rhetorical. By the way has anybody seen PeteW?    

    • PeteW

      You called. 

      Your Lampard obsession is unnerving. Comes close to trolling. 

      I remember why we fired AVB. It’s because he was shit.

      Who would you seriously have picked ahead of Lampard last night?  We don’t have the options in midfield, that’s been obvious all year. So unless you have a sensible point to make, can it. 

      The whole midfield played badly – Essien and Meireles were actually worse – and  the defence got caught ball-watching really badly for the winner. 

      Looks like we came for a point, which is always a dodgy tactic. Two tough games coming up with not much room for rotation. I don’t think they have the legs for it, and wouldn’t be surprised if the focus from the players is on the CL over the league.

      • Blue_MikeL

        Strange, but we still speak like deaf with blind. (I am not suggesting that you are either deaf or blind. I am merely stressing the point that we don’t understand each other).

        • PeteW

          I understand you perfectly. you loved AVB and are now going to make barbed comments every time we lose even though you didn’t accept for one second the previous manager ever did anything wrong. Go tell it to the tabloids, I can’t be bothered with it. 

  10. Fiftee

    And with every passing day we read stories of the summer ‘clearout’ and the vast rebuilding we’re going to do.

    Only, no-one seems to be considering the financial implications of not finishing in the top 4. No CL football severely reduces our income, and with it the ability to attract these so called superstars. The Europa League is not going to be an attractive proposition to some.

    Seems we’ll be in the throes of AVB’s legacy next season. Although not quite one we want, need nor can afford. Arsebiscuits.

    Yes, this is my pessimistic outlook. I don’t think we’ll beat Spurs Saturday, nor do I think we’ll manage a top 4 finish.

    • WorkingClassPost

      Just took a peek at Spuds
      and even with their recent dip, it’s hard to see us
      finishing above them. Both fixture sets are remarkably similar, except that we
      play Toons, Arse and Poo to their Swansea, Bolton and Norwich.

      Now, I don’t dismiss any PL team lightly, and Swansea in particular can turn anybody over, but bearing in mind that
      they start with at least a two point advantage, and we also have CL to
      play, it don’t look good. Arry will know that a draw against us will
      probably do, and even if they lose, we’ve still got to win more PL games than them

      So, realistically, we’d better start planning to win the CL, if we want to compete in the next one.

  11. limetreebower

    I’ll put my hand up as another who liked AVB. But —

    Please, can we all agree that there really isn’t any future in the AVB-lovers coming on and posting gleefully every time we lose, and the AVB-haterz coming on and posting every time we win? Let’s leave that stuff to the less impressive blogs.

    I think it’s pretty unarguable that sacking AVB has made the current team better, now.

    I also think it’s pretty unarguable that the current team has a shelf-life that is rapidly shortening, and that within the next season or two we’re going to have to develop a team that isn’t based around the core of the Mourinho all-conquerors.

    As to whether AVB would have been the right manager to oversee the development of that team: some of us think he might have been, some of you think he definitely wasn’t. Now he’s gone, neither side will ever be able to claim they were right. So perhaps we should file it away as a matter of opinion/argument.

    I only watched about 25 mins of the game — basically the second half up to our goal — during which we looked entirely comfortable, if unlikely to score.

    Since I’m holding to my minority opinion that it would be no bad thing for us to finish outside the top four, I’m actually finding it incredibly pleasurable watching the team these days. It’s psychologically amazingly healthy to be liberated from the terror of dropping points. I’m even looking forward to going to the game against the Spuds.

    • Cunningplan

      “It’s psychologically amazingly healthy to be liberated from the terror
      of dropping points. I’m even looking forward to going to the game
      against the Spuds.”

      I’ve always said that supporting a successful football team is easy, and it certainly got easy for us.
      Although I would have liked our dynasty (if you could call it a dynasty) to last a bit longer than it did, but it’s going to be very hard for Utd fans when Fergie goes, just as it has been for Poo fans in the last 20 years.

      • Blueboydave

         My brain understands completely the logic of LTB’s argument about wanting us to do badly for the rest of this season, but my heart just can’t go along with it, not even at the Stoke game when we had a fair stab at turning that into reality.

        Supporting a successful team did get easy for us for a bit, but if you remember when we were in the midst of one of our long unbeaten home runs it all started to become a rather dull, complacent experience at The Bridge and some of us started hankering for some of the excitement of the bad old days when we were never quite sure what would happen next.

        Got our wish didn’t we?

        • Cunningplan

          “Got our wish didn’t we?”

          We sure did, with bells on!

          Perhaps or saving grace as fans and supporters with regard all things Chelsea, we can adapt to our lack of success a lot easier than Liverpool fans have, and possibly Utd in due course, well I have anyway.

    • Ryan

      Agreed. We could make Guardiola or whoever the manager but this squad of players is not one of the best in Europe anymore. Last nights performance was further proof of how far behind we’ve fallen. The way we played, allowing City to dominate and play on their terms, showed that even the players/coaches know that we aren’t really able to compete. We set up just like I’ve seen plenty of other inferior PL sides set up against City. We gambled on having enough quality on the break to hurt City (like Napoli did) but we didn’t. Rami had a touch like a fucking carthorse last night (I like him but he must be the least Brazilian Brazilian I’ve ever seen), we either lost possession or used it poorly or were just pushed off the ball by Citys big lads. No complaints about the tactics though really. We did what we could.

      I can sort of understand some frustration at Lamps (much as I love him) because when you’re seen to be falling out with the manager because you’re being dropped you set yourself up to be criticized every time you have a poor performance.

    • Radicalevan

      I’ve come to the conclusion that Chelsea will never have a Fergie, a Moyes, a Wenger. The club is not set up that way. The vision or project will come from the DoF (in theory, they stick around for a few years) and the manager is selected on tactical style, experience, man-management, etc. I realize that this is the way most European teams are structured, but in my mind England’s love of ManU and Sir Alex blinds us to the fact that such a team and structure is exceedingly rare- truthfully it’s no use to anyone in comparison.

      What Manchester has done successfully (and what we can use for comparison) is constantly integrate key young players to established core players: Giggs, Scholes, VdS, Ferdinand were reinforced by Rooney, Ronaldo, Nani, Valencia, Young, Jones, De Gea, etc.

      What players have Chelsea added alongside it’s core? If the core is Cech, Terry, Lampard, Essien, and Drogba, it is hard to name any player added to the team (prior to this 12 month period) to whom the load can be shifted.

      Effectively, our new-core players (Luiz, Cahill, Ramires, Mata, Sturridge, Torres) have taken over for the old core. How many seasons have been spent blending them into the squad, teaching them the Chelsea ethos/style/culture? One, thereabouts. 

      Emenalo seems to have started his DoF tenure well enough; he has certainly changed the youth prospects from dull to exciting in rather quickish fashion and the first team has (for the first time in a while) talented players that are not 30-odd years old. Finding the right manager is the last piece for his (Emenalo’s) project. Easier said than done, clearly.

      The good news is that it doesn’t seem to matter a whole heaping lot. At his worst, AVB left a team fighting for 3-4 place. Players making silly errors, questionable man-management skills, naive press handlings. RDM seems to have players making the same errors but with better man-management skills, and slightly better press handlings. More honest, anyway. Would a top-class manager make us better? Probably. Did a poor (inexperienced. I think AVB will come good eventually) manager make us terrible? No. Will next year be better? I imagine so.

      • Day Tripper

         This is an interesting post. I live abroad so get few chances these days to go along to the Bridge, let alone follow what is going on in the ‘hinterland’ (by which I mean the reserves, youth team, youth policy etc). Emenalo gets a lot of stick on this blog, mainly for supposedly looking stupid, although I wouldn’t imagine there are many who really know what he does (one or two, I think, do). Ferguson is unique, in that he has provided continuity and stability over so many years. It hasn’t even been necessary for him to be a good coach, tactician, strategist etc  – I think he’s made many cock-ups on that front, especially in Europe. But it is utterly inconceivable that any player rebellion could take place on his watch. Nor on Mourinho’s for that matter. But the problem with Mourinho was that he was never interested in the long term. One of Mourinho’s many arts is to know exactly when to join a team – and exactly when to leave. But now I’m digressing..

  12. Cunningplan

    We have problems now, and I think as far as the next 20 years go, that requires Marks crystal ball to give us the answers.

  13. Musumba

    Essien  is seriously retrogressing as a player, he occasionally commits a lot of school boy blunders ,he is morphing towards being an error prone defender with grave consequences,lampard looks like he is back playing for AVB.I watched his invaluable experience come in “handy” for the second goal after being shown a clean pair of heels by Nasri.It seems  these two old players can not sustain their concentration for  long periods of time.Daniel sturridge in as much as he is selfish, his runs help in unsettling defenses and we always end up with clear cut chances when he is playing,i always feel he is more of a threat than any of the current strikers and he creates a competitive atmosphere when he is included in the starting lineup.when Dan is not there the Drogba  and Torres become so lethargic and ineffectual.

  14. WorkingClassPost

    My insider at the Bridge says that Spuds have just informed us that they’ve bought one of those long bendy-buses to use as their new team coach.

    Thing is, there’s some debate as to where they’re going to park it.

  15. WorkingClassPost

    Depends how you measure success.

    If it includes the ability for us to pass the ball to somebody wearing the same colour shirt, then no, I don’t think that I’ll be adapting to lack of success anytime soon.

  16. Der_Kaiser

    Frankly, irrespective of anything else, losing tomorrow would be a new level of utter ghastliness whether we make 4th or end up 7th.

    This is Spurs we’re talking about, for heaven’s sake.  Can you imagine how unbearable they’d be?

    • Blue_MikeL

      This season really tested my imagination so far, but I am not sure I can apprehend “how unbearable they would be”.

    • Dylbo Baggins

      Finally, a little perspective. 

      I remember back when i first wondered onto this blog and spuds hadn’t beaten us for in the league for donkeys…

      Then i fell in with a Spurs girl and it all turned to shit.

      Losing at home would be too much for me- if we lose and you never hear from me again, well, just connect the dots for yourselves…

      • Cunningplan

        If we do lose and we never hear from you again, anything of value you can leave to us bloggers? 😉

  17. bluebayou

    “At this point we would all form a big circle around the two protaganists and shout fight fight fight and if any unwillingness was shown, a cry of BUNDLE would go up and everyone piled in. Got it?”

    (From A Critique of 1970’s School Playground Behaviour in North London  by Dr B Bayou £90 from Amazon or £25 for cash if you pop round the house)

    • GrocerJack

      I have a version of that book written by my good but grumpy self. Mine was titled ‘How to Cope With Real Life Through the 1970s Education System’ – free to any memeber of the Guild of Grumpy Blokes (Life President, Mr T Glover, BA, MBCS, CFC etc etc)

      In West London, the QPR heartland of Ealing/Hayes/Southall/Hanwell and indeed out as far as the Metropolitan line final stop at Uxbrdge, the war cry was in fact

      “BARNNNNNNNNNDULLLLLLLLLLLL” – In that exact elongated form. it took me years to get the exact sound written right. A shout of ‘Bundle’ basically meant you were gay, although back then we used the term ‘queer’. Political correctness wasn’t about then, and this term was neither homophobic or derogatory. But then neither was ‘Paki’. It just referred to someone who wasn’t of assumed anglo-saxon stock. 

      it was a tough and unforgiving school. My first day, after the obligatory toilet flush hair wash, and the creeping red peeling skin torture of ears flicked with metal combs, when the break time bell (an upgrade from junior school play time bell) went off, we as timid, tortured, scared but excited first years stood in awe as the 5th formers stood by the metalwork and woodwork huts taunting the staff and refused to go in. These huts were conveniently situated by the coal bunkers which stored the coal for heating the school. This was the early 1970’s you understand. Coal was still king.  When the teachers approached, a full barrage of coal rained down upon them. At a time when one was used to seeing the scenes in Belfast of rioters hurling things at soldiers and police, this was similar but rather more scaled down. This went on for around 20 minutes, with the 5th formers even daring to light up their stolen parents Players No. 6 ciggies in defiance (my Mum smoked Picadilly fags which were rather rough). When, finally the teachers gathered in force the 5th formers then charged on the watching crowd. I got smacked about in the cricket nets. they didn’t discriminate, that’s for sure. 

      At that point I fully understood in the matter of a few moments the difference between the cosseted life of the junior school pupil and the real hard rough world that waited me for the next ……40 years of my life. 

      As Mary Hopkins once sang…’those were the days my friend’………

  18. Fiftee

    Final nail, meet coffin.

    That’s us done then. No CL next season. Beyond the Benfica matches and FA Cup, is it too much to hope for a bit of change personnel-wise? Nothing to lose now. Can we recall Josh? Play him. Play Lukaku. Play Chalobah.

    The fabled rebuilding will be dominated by players leaving. We can’t recruit the better players we need with no CL football to offer them. Interesting times ahead for Roman. Some very big decisions to make.

    • GrocerJack

      Disagree, City have on only qualified once for CL, as have Spurs and they’ve survived. A season out won’t be that bad if we can cover the revenue, which I’m sure has been planned for.  

      The only thing we’ve learnt today is that it patently wasn’t all down to AVB, but the players as well. Just no longer good enough and we need to re-raise the bar we set so high under TSO. 

      Crazy David looked better at right back than Bosingwa, who still can’t cross meaning he is not by definition a wing back. A dull game in all, but superb saves from Cech , a masterful stop from the increasingly impressive Cahill (where are those he said he wasn’t good enough for us now?) were most notable observations. No real duffers today, but no real stars outside of the 2 mentioned – and sorry RDM, bringing on Torres for 15 minutes is as shit as anything AVB did. He was crying out to be bought on much earlier as Drogba’s ineffectiveness increased. 

      • Fiftee

        Do you really think (or have I misunderstood your point) that we will have planned for no CL?

        Yes, in the past few weeks it’s become more of a possibility and is now very real. But at the start of the season, it would have been unthinkable. There’s no way Roman and his motley crew of pawns thought about it. Financial Fair Play and all that (another ridiculous sum in getting rid of AVB) mean we’re likely to see a lot of players out, wages freed up from them and very little in the way of top-quality replacements.

        That’s the way I see it. I can’t see that we have that appeal as far as attracting players goes. The club is as unstable as they come. There’s no premium European competition on offer. I just dont see it. Hope I’m wrong…

  19. Cunningplan

    It was a rather friendly type knockabout for most the match, and agree with Tony our players are not as good as they once were. It’s a shame Torres didn’t start because Spurs seemed quite happy to settle for the draw on their first half performance, he would have injected some pace and direct running up front which was needed.
    Spurs are not the team they were during their purple patch, so even a 5 point lead for them is no guarantee of finishing fourth. On saying that beating Villa next weekend is now paramount, but it’s a ground we’ve got very little from over the years so it’s a tall order.

    But don’t worry we’re going to win the CL this year, the voices in my head keep telling me.

    You’re never alone with Schizophrenia. 😉

  20. SweetDairyAir

    I knew I shouldn’t have said that I believed that we would overtake Tottenham for fourth and not Arsenal. I really, truly wanted to believe it would happen, but deep down I think I realised we probably wouldn’t make it. If we could have won today then we may have pulled it off, especially with their terrible run of form they’re currently in right now, but today really brought home what needs to happen this summer.

    Whether you believe AVB was rubbish or not (I happened to believe in him, and still think he’ll probably do well at a club like Inter), it’s clear now that the players are a big, if not the biggest reason, for our decline this year. If they can’t motivate themselves sufficiently for such an important match then there’s no future for them. As has been mentioned elsewhere, if it becomes increasingly clear that we won’t make the top 4, put in the likes of Lukaku and Chalobah and drop the so-called professionals who can’t even raise their game enough to beat a down-and-out Spurs. Who cares if they can pull off a one off match against a 6th placed Napoli?! We need consistency and over the past few years it is clear that these players can’t put in the performances week after week.

    However before we act too hastily, there’s still some time to go and I hope we make the Champions’ League places (it’s hope more than actually thinking it will happen now). I’ve said before that if there’s one more thing these old pros can do for the club, it’s get us into the top 4. Say thank you at the end of the season for their service, and get younger, hungrier players in. If the likes of Drogba and co. can’t get us there though, and there’s a few league games left with it being pretty much impossible to make it, that’s the time to drop them for good and just play the youngsters.

    Whether we make the top 4 or not, a clear out needs to happen. I don’t think they’ll hire RDM, so either he does the dirty work and gets rid of these high profile players, or in the time before we find and hire our next manager the upper management can do it. They can say it’s part of the club transfer policy, just like how Torres was bought without Ancelotti’s input, and Lukaku and de Bruyne without AVB’s. Therefore the next guy who comes in doesn’t need to deal with any potential backlash from players whose cliques had been broken up.

    Someone like Mourinho could get away with pushing the likes of Raul and Guti out of Real Madrid to show who’s really boss, but even someone like Jose couldn’t push out the likes of Lampard or Drogba, who he nurtured and grew into world class players for a few years. There’s a history, there’s a relationship there. Whoever takes the reigns, the club should take charge and sell the obvious candidates before any conflicts could arise. I’m not saying one way or another whether Mourinho should come back, but you can see how Abramovich might be thinking.

    If Mourinho wins La Liga and the Champions’ League (Madrid are on course for a final with Barcelona), he will leave. He won’t go to Liverpool or Manchester City because they cannot be used as stepping stones to Manchester United. He may go to us or Tottenham (if Harry becomes England manager), but probably to the club who makes the top 4. I don’t see him going to a club in the Europa League. There are a lot of things in flux here because if Madrid don’t win those things, there is a slightly higher chance he’ll stay because he wants to dethrone Barcelona. Having said that, Spanish football has taken its toll on him and he may just want out. Basically if we somehow make the top 4, and Real Madrid win everything, Roman will go all out to get Mourinho back. I heard a theory that Jose doesn’t want to be Fergie’s successor, but his successor’s successor, coming in to rescue them from whoever will undoubtedly fail compared to Sir Alex, so Jose would even stay for a few years, leading to some sort of stability for a while (we can only hope!).

    Talking of other managers, I think Abramovich realises that Guardiola isn’t going to come this year. I actually wouldn’t be surprised if we get Pep within the next 5 years though. He and the guy who used to run La Masia admire our youth setup and say that within a few years it’s going to be very good. We play a consistent style of football through all levels of the academy, with similar tactics, and an emphasis on technique. Guillem Balague (Spanish football journalist) mentioned that he wouldn’t be surprised if he becomes our manager once our youth system has matured a bit.
    The above link says that the secret to Barcelona’s success is a lot more complex than just having amazing players. Apart from detailing how he drills the players like an American Football team, one of the most interesting things I took from it was that he will use slightly inferior players (Pedro for example) who have been brought up in their style of play and know it inside out, instead of someone like Ibrahimovich. So it won’t surprise me if in a few years we are able to snap Guardiola up, and he is able to use our youth to round out the first team squad. In the long term we will hopefully see fewer £50 million signings, and more from our academy to complement the likes of Mata and Modric type players (quite expensive, but not ‘Torres’-expensive, or as high profile as Ibrahimovich).

    For the immediate future though, I don’t know if we’ll make the top 4, and if we don’t I have no idea who our manager will be. There aren’t many outstanding candidates out there. All this talk of the summer, about who our future manager will be, which players should be bought or sold, really highlights to me the fact that I’ve kind of resigned myself to whatever will happen will happen, and it probably won’t be very good. A bit like LTB I feel a bit freer, not having to worry about such frivolities as making the Champions’ League places or getting past Benfica! If we win, I feel good. If we lose, oh well, it’s just what I’ve come to expect nowadays. Hopefully there are big changes that will bring back a winning mentality and fearlessness to the whole club, an expectation that we should be top, and whoever gets in our way will be despatched with ruthlessly. I haven’t felt that way about Chelsea in a long time.

  21. Cunningplan

    For those of you who don’t have ESPN I would advise you watch MOTD tonight just on the strength of Peter Crouch’s goal.
    Goal of the season in my books, stunning stunning strike!

  22. WorkingClassPost

    Hopefully we’ll have more time to talk about this when the new post is up, but I’m far more optimistic about us qualifying by winning CL than by making 4th.

    The draw’s been extremely kind: if we can get past Benfica and it’s Barca then RM so what?

    We’d have to play either or both of them anyway and better Barca over two legs, where home crowds and away goals make such a big difference.
    Then RM in the final?
    A one off against Jose is much more doable than trying to out-fox him over two games.

    And I’m not crazy. We now know what we’ve got to do, and time to prepare and focus, rather than live in the false hope of catching Spuds, and in any case, that may still be possible, we just don’t waste time and effort perplexing about it.

    You may say the guys aren’t able or motivated enough, but this is the last chance for some, and tell me that’s not motivation enough.

    For too long now we’ve been getting into CL with a kind of ‘Let’s just see how far we can get’ attitude, maybe this is when we start to really try and win the poxy thing.

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