The Guardian, David Hytner: “Carlo Ancelotti had admitted in the build-up to this match that Chelsea were a club in crisis and in that context it felt appropriate that they should blow an injury-time opportunity to seize all three points, with a penalty, and return to the top of the Premier League table. The incident was the climax to a thrillingly open match which advertised plenty of what is good about English football and it saw Didier Drogba step up after the referee, Mike Dean, had ruled that Heurelho Gomes had fouled Ramires inside the six-yard box.”
Daily Telegraph, Henry Winter: “What a crazy, compelling Premier League season. Just when everybody was organising a wake for Chelsea, the champions refound their resilience. John Terry and company made a very significant point on Sunday: dismiss us at your peril.”
The Independent, Sam Wallace: “They did not leave White Hart Lane having conquered the place but there was more of a familiar strut about the Chelsea team that departed down the stadium’s tunnel yesterday evening after they recaptured a little bit of what has made this team so indomitable in the past.”
Official Chelsea FC Website: “Didier Drogba came off the substitutes’ bench to score an equaliser and then miss a late penalty as Chelsea missed out on a morale-boosting win.”
OK everyone, take off your kevlar jackets and tin hats. Put the white flag away and feel free to stick your head above the trench. Everything is fine. It’s OK. Really, it’s all pretty cool. There’s a ceasefire of sorts. Maybe with Christmas approaching we can all gather together in no man’s land for a kick around with our sworn enemies, sharing some cigarettes and listening to Pipes of Peace before the Generals order us back into the firing line again.
I had hoped to be starting this review with something demonstrably more upbeat than that, perhaps lining up some Lennon lyrics with which to show that everything is back on track. That’s what I’d hoped. What I feared was a return to last season’s reviews where it seemed I was on duty for every flying visit Captain Cock Up made to Chelsea, which earned me a rather Jonah like reputation amongst the writing fraternity in this neck of the woods. So I find myself happily neutralised and walking somewhere along Middle Ground Avenue but with a definite turn approaching into Upbeat Street.
Like many amongst us I feared that the Redknapp inspired Spurs, beating Arsenal the other week, putting some more nails into Mad Rafa’s Inter coffin and generally fast becoming the media’s new darlings, would gorge themselves on the rotting corpse of Chelsea today, with the gleeful hyena packs of Manchesters United and City and the continuously hateful Arsenal circling in the distance ready to feast on the leftovers.
Yes, the Bi-Polar Express readers (that’s you lot that is) are a fantastic sample of typical Chelsea fans. Some have blue-tinted glasses of blind faith permanently super-glued to their person, others walk around in darkened houses, wearing hooded shrouds of doom and despondency, waiting for the inevitable collapse of the club and a return to the oddly nostalgic days of being managed by such coaching luminaries as Porterfield, Hollins, Hurst, Blanchflower and err… Avram Grant. Very few of us fit into any other category, although many of us as befits our Danny Baker bestowed bi-polar status swing wildly between both extremes.
The last few weeks have seen a slump that many of the younger fraternity won’t have seen before, but believe me my friends… I’ve been supporting Chelsea since 1970, and I’ve seen times when a streak of one win, three defeats and three draws was almost a cause for bunting and street parties down Fulham Road.
Like many it isn’t so much the poor run we’re on, we all accept that football is never as finite as teams that are better on paper beating others, or that teams in rich veins of form or poor will therefore continue with that. Sometimes luck plays a part, sometimes attitude, sometimes confidence, sometimes skill and sometimes passion. We all know we’re not the luckiest team, we all know we have bucket loads of skill, but we can all see that what’s been lacking lately is attitude and passion, leading to the loss in confidence, all covered in a nice ladle full of key player injuries and silly suspensions.
Today was a chance to show something else, to get all those attribute ducks lined up in a row, and but for some desperate bad luck it nearly all came off. I don’t mind a defeat if it’s hard fought and you’re beaten by a better team, or a hard fought spirited draw, it’s when we show no passion, no effort and no drive that upsets me and I’m guessing you fine readers as well. Today was a day when the flames of all of those attributes were finally re-lit.
Well, the only real surprise in the team selection was seeing Didier Drogba consigned to the bench, according to Carlo this was a technical decision, or as studio guest Gianfranco Zola (Roman, give him the no.2 job!) put it ‘Italian for being dropped’. The heart also fluttered at seeing Ferreira picked to sit at right-back and face the current ‘world’s greatest player’ (© the Sun, the Mirror, the Times, the Independent, the Torygraph etc. etc. ad infinitum) in Gareth Bale, or is it really Lee Evans? Or Cornelius? Separated at birth maybe?
So, the team was Cech, Ferreira, JT, Ivanovic, Cole, Essien, Obi, Kalou, Malouda, Anelka, Ramires with Drogba on the bench. The heartwarming bit was seeing Frankie Lampard back albeit on the bench as well. It’s been too long without him.
The first half was a decent affair and the prayers of most Chelsea fans seemed to have been answered in seeing Essien back to his hard tackling and driving best. We actually didn’t get off to our recently normal languid rather arrogant start, but actually looked like a team that had been stung by criticism and wanted to prove a point. To be fair to Spurs (not a sentence many will ever hear from me) they took their part in the game and didn’t act with any fear, or give us too much respect. In fairness why should they? The days when we could bully them off the park at White Hart Lane went west a few years back and our recent journeys there haven’t exactly been happy experiences. My heart still hasn’t fully recovered from Avram’s 4-4 nightmare. Plus they are a form team at the moment, leaky at the back but prepared to counter that with an attacking ethos more reminiscent of their bitter North London rivals, the detestable Arsenal. Harry Redknapp is a player, a wheeler dealer, and down this way he’s split the Hampshire Massive who either hate him for deserting Portsmouth, or love him for winning them an FA Cup. Either way, he is a proven manager who always engenders massive loyalty from players.
On 15 minutes or thereabouts, Spurs had their first decent chance, when an offside Defoe managed to twist back on Ferreira and find Pavlyuchenko with his pass. A turn, a feint and a lovely shot left our defence and Cech for dead. First blood to the horrible Spuds. Now, far be it from me to criticise anyone, but I do think Cech got his positioning wrong, and as good a shot as it was, I’d expect someone of Cech’s ability to at least get a hand to it. Within minutes Essien got in hard on Cornelius Bale who went down like some blooming great tart only to recover within 30 seconds when realising he wasn’t getting a decision, or more importantly and likely, getting the Bison booked. For the remainder of the half we huffed and puffed, had a goal disallowed for offside because Nico decided to be a lazy arse and not get himself back on, and although the game was technically very good and fast paced the clear cut chances for both teams were few and far between.
Half time, 1-0 down, but far from being out. If it were a boxing film we’d be Rocky and Mickey would be shouting in our ear to switch to southpaw. Carlo had similar thoughts. Time to dispense with the 4-2-3-1 or 4-5-1 or whatever it was, and go to 4-4-2. Off came the unfortunate Obi, who’d had a very good game thus far, to be replaced by a smiling Drogba. Well I saw him smiling, but the Sky commentary team saw fit to describe him as angry and frustrated. Still, they’re paid to spout utter bollocks, whereas I’m not paid to spout anti-bollocks. The second half was another fine spectacle of fast paced play, Drogba immediately starting to frustrate and agitate Dawson, and even Kalou seemed to lift his game a bit. Nico dropped off, although he may have already done this from minute one. I love Nico but today wasn’t his most sparkling display. Spuds had a few half chances as did we, but in the 69th minute a long ball found Drogba who annoyed the crap out of Dawson by pushing past him, only to smash the ball straight at Gomes. Luckily Gomes was already going to ground so the ball spun through his hands into the net. Sometimes power is more than enough. 1-1 and game very definitely on, with Chelsea looking by far the better team. We were tackling hard, passing well, we had real passion and effort and not one player really shirked their duties. Ferreira had negated Bale for the most part, and once or twice our simian friend tried to get past the mighty Ivan who took the ball off him with consummate ease, much to Lee Bale’s annoyance. As the learned Lord Kaiser said he looks like he’s developed serious ‘Do you know who I am?’ syndrome.
On 75 minutes, we were all treated to the wonderful sight of Frank Lampard running onto the pitch. Not a lot of time to change things but an important moment none the less. If we’re a third of the way through the season, then we’re about seven Frank goals down and that might have made a big difference.
The drama finally ended with Gomes inexplicably trying to get Ramires in a full nelson although Ramires had pushed the ball towards the corner flag from Drogba’s knock down. A penalty to us and unsurprisingly up steps Drogba, handed the ball by Lampard, so let’s not have any moans about that. If Lampard takes it and misses then everyone is up in arms and says it’s too early. Drogba is a good penalty taker (mind you I’d rather have Ze German for times like that) but today he changed his tack, preferring placement instead of power and changing sides. Gomes called red and it landed on red, with a fine save redeeming himself for his earlier error of not being able to handle a 75mph shot from Drogba that would have flattened his facial features had it hit him straight on.
Full time, a pulsating, fast paced, end to end game between two teams trying to win in a hard fought 1-1. I think we deserved to win, but them’s the breaks, and today the lads did more than enough to show that things may just be getting back to normal.
The Warm and Toasty
- The performance – full of effort, pride, passion and confidence. The polar opposite of recent pallid, limp showings.
- The re-appearance of Frank Lampard – much missed and hopefully back for the season.
- Paulo Ferreira – like Johnny Morris when he’d walk around with a chimp on a lead, he pretty much did that to Cornelius Lee Bale. He’s not the fastest but he is intelligent and at the moment he’s far better than Bosingwa.
- John Terry – world class today, superb captaincy and some masterclass defending that would get him first on the team sheet ANYWHERE in the world.
- Ramires – I doubt he’s ever had to work so hard, but credit where it’s due the lad toiled well.
- Seeing Carlo and Clement working together so well, with Emenalo frozen out. Maybe Clement is the new Ray?
- Our away fans. Even after Spuds scored all I could hear was our lot.
The Cold and Wet
- The long ball shite. Even before Drogba came on there was far too much lumping the ball long from Cech. Judicious use is OK, but time after time is Wimbledon-esque.
- Cornelius Gareth Evans-Lee Bale. Really? No, I mean really? Nothing to see here, now please move on.
- Spurs fans. Is White Hart Lane the new Library?
- Andy Gray. Seemingly more and more anti-Chelsea. Must have harped on about the alleged handball about 20 times, whilst barely mentioning Defoe’s offside position prior to their goal.
- Sky – describing the Loathsome Mancs vs Vile Arsenal as the biggest game of the season, both on Goals on Sunday and all through today’s game. Oh, so we’re not the Champions then? Their dislike of us is really getting my goat.
The Putrid and Rotten
- Gareth Cornelius Lee Evans-Bale. World class allegedly but after today living proof of the hackneyed old cliche that one swallow does not a summer make. Sulky bastard as well.
- Wilson Palacios. Has patently looked at some old videos of Drogba in his bad old diving and play acting days. Bloody great tart.
The much loved and adored player ratings (out of 10 and from the default score of 6 with marks added or subtracted for being good or bad)
- Big Pete – 6/10 – not much to do, but could have done better for the goal.
- Paulo Paulo Paulo – 8/10 – a very very very good game.
- Mr Cheryl Cole – 7/10 – chippy little so and so, but excellent today.
- John ‘Shagger’ Terry – 9/10 – Fabulouslytastic.
- Branners – 8/10 – his usual sturdy high class stuff.
- Obi-Wan – 7/10 – a bit subdued compared to his recent high standards, but OK in general.
- Ronnie Ramires – 7.5/10 – his best game thus far, very hard working.
- Florence and The Malouda – 8/10 – left Hutton for dead time after time and looking much more like the old Flo.
- Bison Man Essien – 8/10 – growling, snarling, salivating, hungry, massive, great.
- Nico ‘pas le sulk’ – 6.5/10 – oddly indecisive and if anything a little too selfless today.
- The Beast Drogba – 7/10 – poor penalty but more good than bad. Odd goal celebration, if you can call it that.
- Scarecrow Kalou – 7/10 – improved when Drogs came on but still seems confused about… well everything really.
- StudgeMan – 7/10 – I think he deserves his start in front of Kalou, just to see if he can finish what he starts unlike Kalou.
- Sir Francis Lampard – 6/10 – not on long enough to make a huge impression, but he is patently talismanic and any team with him is better than any team without.
- Carlo Ancelotti – 8/10 – gambled a bit and didn’t do bad, came out even but saw some ground regained. I liked the way he finally seemed to be interacting more with Clement, although I would love Zola to be there.
- Overall team performance – 8/10 – passionate, spirited, hard working, terrier tackling, winning loose balls, fighting, snarling and much more like the winning but unliked Chelsea that we’d all rather see.
Man of the Match
John Terry, by a country mile, who was utterly world class today and delivered the perfect display of leadership from the back.
So, the crisis has abated a bit, mainly on the back a decent 100% performance across the board today rather than the recent showings akin to some sort of castration inflicted mass erectile dysfunction throughout the team. Today, we had ‘wood’ and we had balls the size of Serena Williams’ buttocks. Maybe even bigger. It was good to see, and even JT stated in his post match interview that he knew the fans would accept defeats and draws as long as there was effort and attitude. I’d like to say he heard me in the pub and just copied me, but my last pub visit has had all the memory erased through copious amounts of Staropramen (probably now on my list of never again drinks).
Anyway, into the notoriously tricky festive period of games and I’m feeling a whole lot more confident about United next week than I was this morning. We can get a result against them but IF and ONLY IF we put on a display like today. Do an Everton / Newcastle / Blackburn or Sunderland level of display and United will tear us apart. For tomorrow night all I can do is hope Santa brings a dire 0-0 draw, with both teams down to nine men, tough red cards and Rooney / Berbatov / Nani / Fabregas / Van Persie / Nasri all getting unfortunate long term injuries from a multi-body pile up caused by someone washing the floor of the tunnel with washing up liquid like they did in the Matthew Harding Upper last week.
It’s too early to declare everything is right again, but the signs are there and if the character is anything like we’ve become used to the maybe just maybe we can hit a rich vein of form at the right time. As in now.
Keep the Blue Flag Flying High!