The week Rafa rang the changes
Monday 25 March
Brazil 0:0 Russia
That was strange; like renting out your front room for someone else’s birthday, with different songs and waving different flags and banners.
Russia and Brazil put on another entertaining draw with Oscar and David Luiz to the fore. But there was even more of a Chelsea flavour with Yuri Zhirkov on for Russia and Luis Felipe Scolari coaching Brazil.
Russian looked the better team on the night with Brazil still struggling to gel the excellence in their ranks.
At U21 level, England played Austria with Nat Chalobah starting again and Josh McEachran coming on to score a second-half penalty after his shot had been deflected with an arm. Sadly the referee spoiled the match by sending off two Austrian players in England’s 4-0 win.
Arsenal beat CSKA Moscow to earn the right to play us in the NextGen semi-final in Italy at the weekend. The final is on Monday with a 3rd/4th play off on Sunday.
Aston Villa or Sporting Lisbon will provide the opposition.
Over in America Roman Abramovich is awaiting the birth of his seventh child but he is free to do so as the FBI confirmed that he had not been arrested. How these stories get out we’ll never know.
Tuesday 26 March
Montenegro 1:1 England
If you thought the performance in Poland was bad look away now, this was another Roy Hodgson special. Another manager in the wrong job at the wrong time, at least he hasn’t called the England fans plastic.
Roy is a nice chap but he is not competent to put out an England team. Tonight he decided that any attacking craft should be abandoned as we ran scared from the might of Montenegro.
His midfield consisted of Gerrard, Cleverley and Carrick. This was a side picked for dysfunction because ahead of that trio of stumbling incompetence was an attacking spearhead of Milner, Welbeck and Rooney.
To summarise: Milner tried hard but wasn’t very good (as you would expect of a Manchester City substitute), he never lifted his head to see where he should be crossing. Gerrard mistook, as he normally does, running around for contributing. Cleverley has been promoted beyond his ability. Welbeck is a sprightly forward but never a wide player. He wasted almost every bit of possession. Carrick needs twenty touches before making up his mind to pass sideways and Wayne Rooney is simply not very good in an England shirt. He sulks, is selfish and is prone to girly little tantrums.
Lampard, Parker, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Sturridge all watched this farce from the bench. Hodgson’s team was out manoeuvred in the second-half but he either didn’t notice or didn’t know how to what to do. His response did not come until the 79th minute when he brought on the out of touch Ashley Young for Cleverley. It reinforced the feeling that if you play for Manchester United you are in the England side no matter how little football you have played.
Elsewhere in competently managed international sides: Eden Hazard scored again for Belgium as they overcame Macedonia this time at home. Liam Bridcutt, now of Brighton but once of our academy, made his international bow for Scotland in a 2-0 defeat in Serbia.
Biggest cheer of the night was for Petr Cech receiving his 100th cap as the Czech Republic beat Armenia 3-0.
Meanwhile, Paddy Power confirm they don’t want the custom of Chelsea fans by putting their hilarious Fernando Torres burger van ad on a, well, a van underneath the site of the hoarding that was ordered removed by the council. Great going Paddy, piss off the fans of a football club – that’ll win you business.
Thursday 28 March
Finally, something Chelsea has happened this week: the youth team game on Saturday against Palace has been cancelled. Well, they are all off to lake Como for the semi-final and third/fourth play-off or final over the weekend.
Friday 29 March
Chelsea U19 4:3 Arsenal U19
For those who like their football topsy-turvy this was perfect, for those of us with dicky hearts it was bad medicine but a good result.
Arsenal at this level have transformed from Barcelona-lite to Wimbledon. They played 4-4-2, stuck bodies behind the ball and played long into the channels. Their forwards and midfield eschewed playing for muscular closing down and they almost got away with it, if it hadn’t been for Chelsea’s pesky kids.
Chelsea, with average age of 17 and a half in an under 19 tournament, played all of the attacking football in the first-half but found themselves behind at the break. Not for want of trying but they were facing a bullying Arsenal attitude with a referee who obviously wasn’t used to thuggery and a pitch better suited to parks football.
The second period was much better as we contrived to pull out a 3-1 lead. First Islam Feruz reacted quickest when Lewis Baker’s penalty was saved. Then Baker atoned for his penalty by blasting a 35-yard rocket straight through an embarrassed goalkeeper. The classiest move came when Ruben Loftus-Cheek stroked the ball out to Alex Kiwomya who sauntered forward and found Jeremie Boga on hand to convert his cross.
So, 3-1 to the good and with only ten-minutes to go what could possibly go wrong?
Extra-time found Arsenal seemingly drained by the effort of coming back to 3-3. As they barely threatened. John Swift’s good control toward the end set up Baker for his second and spared us penalties.
Aston Villa overcame Sporting Lisbon to make the first all English NextGen cup final on Monday.
The Chelsea squad might yet play over 70 games this season, and so they will be delighted to learn that they’ll have another one in St Louis on 23 May in a Baseball stadium against Manchester City. Oh, the wonders of being treated like a product, not a football clubSaturday 30 March
Southampton 2:1 Chelsea
Benitez made seven changes from the last eleven and a predictably unbalanced Chelsea side succumbed meekly to an improved Southampton.
It is almost as if Benitez no longer cares. He made no tactical improvement, bar bringing on Hazard and he left Demba Ba on the bench for the abject Torres.
John Terry’s goal was simply a reminder that Benitez is trying to prove that he has a bigger penis that our captain by rationing the defender’s appearances. In the process he is damaging our season.
We don’t care if he wins a cup or even if he stayed ten years and won a host of cups, Rafael Benitez is the most irritating, selfish little prick ever to manage a football team. The sooner he leaves the better.
When Roberto Di Matteo left we were four points behind the leaders. We are now 22 points behind Manchester United. Abject failure.