A little preamble
So we’ve finally turned the corner have we? Last week’s perfunctory victory over Bolton was the pivotal part of the season was it? We had pretty general agreement across all of cyberspace, and the three-dimensional world we physically inhabit that at last AVB had found his best team. A mixture of the new and the old, the untested and the established. The newer players like Mata, Ramires, Sturridge, Cahill and Luiz would integrate seamlessly with the big players entering the twilight of their careers, Lampard, Cole, Essien and of course the mercurial Drogba.
All we needed was a tremendous record at the Hawthorns, a small injury list, some optimism and we were home free.
So it was a good job those senior players turned up then wasn’t it? It was a good job the new intake showed why they are the right people to take Chelsea forward to a new age of glory then?
Our dear leader, Nick, asked the Podding Shed gang, a motley crew as you’re no doubt aware, of world-weary but not necessarily wise men, all in different stages of general grumpiness (a peculiar inherent trait amongst men from 35 onwards) if we fancied writing a review. It’s been a while I thought, and besides, like everyone else I was confident we had turned a corner and fancied writing something positive for once.
We had turned a corner it transpires. The one that leads to the edge of an abyss from which even Spider-Man with his adhesive qualities would struggle to get out of.
As the great Roger Waters once wrote and no doubt sung:
“And when you lose control, you’ll reap the harvest you have sown. And as the fear grows, the bad blood slows and turns to stone. And it’s too late to lose the weight you used to need to throw around. So have a good drown, as you go down, all alone, dragged down by the stone.”
Who is the stone that’s dragging us down. AVB? Buck? Gourlay? Roman? The ‘senior’ players? The new intake? The whole blend?
And so to the game…
I am still hungover, some 36 hours after the last glass of imported Dominican rum was consumed to a home cinema system being pushed to the limits of its performance envelope by James Edward Page, Robert Plant, David Gilmour and Roger Waters. This hangover was so bad during the game yesterday that had Old Nick … Beelzebub … Louis Cyphre (apologies to Alan Parker for that blatant theft) knocked on my door I would have sold my soul for a cure there and then. I’d have even bought a secondhand trident off the bloke. But as a 50 year old man, slightly overweight and hungover I’d have performed better than almost every Chelsea player yesterday. Even if I’d had gout as well.
The first half really was a blueprint for the whole game, and a photograph of the whole season thus far. The first thing to note was this team which had done so well last week have obviously been affected by some sort of body snatchers event. Because to say they barely recognized each other is an understatement along the scale of saying that Derek Chisora might have a bolt loose somewhere. So we had a player who looked and no doubt sounded like Frank Lampard, but patently wasn’t. The same goes for the rest of the team with exceptions for Cole, Ramires and Luiz. Whoever the man who looked like Juan Mata was yesterday it’s the best disguise I’ve ever seen. The second thing to note was how bloody slow and ponderous we are. Teams aren’t scared of us because we’re not dangerous, they just know that if they have pace then they have us at a disadvantage. The third thing was our passing. We’ve never been Arsenal or Barcelona in the passing tippy-tappy stakes. We always had alternatives. But now we’re not even at pub team level on passing. Who was this team we were playing, West Bromcelona?
Drogba absolutely stunk the place out. Ball control? Nope. Speed? Nope. Passing ability. That’ll be a no then. He made one very good pass to Sturridge, who as his wont these days missed, albeit by a very small distance. But a miss is a miss and I suppose had it been 20 yards wide, or an Essien corner flag special it makes no difference.
As the half wore on, we had a few lucky escapes, but there was always a sense that half time would bring a change for the better. Like last week, we could go in at 0-0 and then do all the hard work second half.
Unbelievably … no make that believably we actually came out and looked worse. There were flashes of control, of ideas, of moves but they all petered out through a poor pass, poor control or a tiger tackle from a very feisty and enthusiastic West Brom. AVB subbed Sturridge for Malouda, which as any fule kno’ would make not a jot of difference even if Studge’s head had dropped after about five minutes of the game. Whatever the question is I doubt the answer would be Malouda. He let Torres have his obligatory 14 minutes, breaking Ancelotti’s First Law that states Torres and Drogba can’t be on the field at the same time. Torres did what Torres does and ran about and tried to make things happen, but within five minutes he too was afflicted by this creeping malaise running through the club. Meireles came on for Ivanovic which seemed an odd move. One of those for which no-one can see any real purpose for. This of course had all the hallmarks of seeing the stable door open and rushing over to close it because of course West Brom had scored by then and not undeservedly so. They’re another Swansea. A team managed by someone the players seem to like who has the knack of getting so called lower/smaller teams punching above their weight. Like Swansea they tackle quickly, they pass quickly, they move quickly and they care. They genuinely care. They care about the club, their fans, their manager and their pride.
That’s my summary of the game. Not very technical I agree, but overall we were rubbish. The combined affect watching the team yesterday was akin to having arse gravy poured over your head whilst Jedward serenade you and Alan Carr tells you some of his ‘jokes’. Deeply, deeply unpleasant.
- West Brom – everything we weren’t to be truthful.
- Our away fans who despite being served this dross sang manfully and womanfully until the last.
- Phil Dowd. Surprisingly very good yesterday.
- Petr Cech without whom we would have lost by four or five.
- A Liverpool defeat which means the Carling Cup springboard to further success theory might have just failed. Leaves us clear for 6th or 7th.
- Everything about us at the moment – not singling out any individuals as collectively they were all poor and one was … well … ugly.
- An Arsenal win. Now clear points between us and them and despite the criticism Wenger gets, they look far more likely than us at the moment. And they have a fucking goal machine in the rather excellent if loathsome Van Persie.
- The CFC fans who sang ‘You’re getting sacked in the morning’. Absolutely shameful.
- Didier Drogba. Did we really think he’d save our season? A shadow of the player he was. Truly abysmal.
The player ratings (aah … I feel the joy)
- Petr Cech – 9/10 – Had a blinder which was just as well really.
- Ashley Cole – 7/10 – Better, a rare glimmer of light yesterday but still has a bolt loose somewhere. Is he Chisora’s cousin?
- Gary Cahill – 6/10 – May have been better but this was lost in the overall gloom and doom.
- Branislav Ivanovic – 7/10 – Worked hard but needs to realize he can’t do everything.
- David Luiz – 7/10 – Another bright light in a dimming universe.
- Michael Essien – 6/10 – Not a patch on last week.
- Frank Lampard – 4/10 – Anonymous or clumsy in differing measures.
- Juan Mata – 5/10 – Is probably losing the will to live.
- Ramires – 7/10 – Averagely average but signs he is getting back to his pre-injury form.
- Didier Drogba – 1/10 – Good grief. Scary scary decline.
- Daniel Sturridge – 5/10 – Needs to be told he is not Pele. He’s not even close to Pele.
- Fernando Torres (sub) – 6/10 – Fourteen minutes to change things. It’s hardly enough time to find your pants let alone put them on over your tights.
- Malouda and Meireles (subs) – 5/10 – They are NOT the answer to ANYTHING in football.
That makes an average score of 5.7 or thereabouts, and yet overall the sum for team performance is more like 3/10. It could be my calculations and ratings (very subjective) or it could that the players despise each other so much they just won’t play as a team.
Man of the Match
Ashley and Luiz were runners at one point for this, but frankly it has to be Petr Cech for saving us from a four or five goal humiliation.
It could be that by the time this gets published we are once again rudderless as AVB signs his compromise agreement and walks away made for life. Nice work if you can take a year or less of abuse, unreasonable pressure, and the politicking of those above you and around you.
I like AVB and presumably he was hired on potential rather than historic success. But something is very wrong. Those senior players may be making a point about the coach they so despise, but in doing so they’re also showing their disregard for Roman, the club and for the fans. Loyalty stretches as far as a decent pay cheque for most, but even for some this is not enough. The professionalism across the squad is missing, team spirit appears non-existent and one senses that something is very wrong in the state of Chelsea FC. The inspirational JT who has verbally backed the coach allegedly in the dressing room is missing and the sword of Damocles over his future can’t be helping. I think we may be witnessing a perfect storm whereby the coach, the players, the executives, the owner, the media and to an extent us, the fans have created the perfect poisonous and toxic mixture for an implosion the likes of which will make the Bates years seem like the good old days.
On a personal note, the thought of Capello chills me to the bone. Italian football, dour, grinding, with every ounce of flair removed is not for me. Rafa, despite the howls of protest here and elsewhere seems to fit the criteria though. Champions League winner, knew how to get Torres playing, experienced, good with the fans and kept Liverpool in the top four despite the boardroom battle going on. How about Sven for some Swedish calm and logic? I’ve heard Brendan Rodgers mentioned but his experience is even less than that of AVB so I can’t see that being viable just yet if experience is key criteria for a Chelsea manager. This list isn’t great is it?
One final note. I just wonder if by playing to the media and maybe Roman and the fans by picking this so called ‘best team’ whether AVB hasn’t rather cleverly sent a powerful message to the board about the state of the club.
This is the best team as discussed with you.
What do you make of that then?
Keep the Blue Flag Flying High!
The press reports
The Observer, Jamie Jackson: “The tap-dancing around the Chelsea grave of Andre Villas-Boas continues. This defeat from a late Gareth McAuley winner may already be causing the coffin to be lined and the pallbearers put on stand-by. West Bromwich Albion dominated this game, especially after the break, and it may now be a question of when, rather than if, Roman Abramovich decides the time has come for AVB to hear the executioner’s song.”
The Sunday Telegraph, Oliver Brown: “Beaten, befuddled, bewildered. André Villas-Boas has projected many moods at these moments of extremis for Chelsea, but the dominant impression was one of utter helplessness. The beleaguered Chelsea manager, maintaining his now-familiar crouching pose on the edge of the technical area, watched Gareth McAuley lash in West Bromwich Albion’s late winning goal with a mixture of horror and incredulity. It appeared, after all his wild gestures and exhortations, that he had run out of ideas.”
The Independent on Sunday, David Instone: “No longer can many ports be considered safe for Andre Villas-Boas in the storm surrounding him. Chelsea had beaten West Bromwich Albion in their previous 15 top-flight meetings and scored more goals against them than any other Premier League side. But defeat, courtesy of a Gareth McAuley goal eight minutes from time, added further pain to a day that had started going horribly wrong with Arsenal’s lunchtime victory at Liverpool. The smoke sensors that did their job amid more high jinks at Chelsea’s training ground on Friday are not the only alarms sounding at the club.”
The Official Chelsea FC Website: “A goal nine minutes from time following a set-piece decided a close encounter at the Hawthorns.”
(Image credit: Gemini Spacecraft.)