JANUARY 2008 REVISITED
Tuesday 1 January
Fulham 1:2 Chelsea
Another anti-entertainment afternoon, many with hangovers will count themselves blessed if they woke up in time to discover the score. In fact after the minute applause for Phil O’Donnell not much else really happened.
Fulham have a new manager to impress and spent the start of the first period trying to do just that. They had control of midfield and while they didn’t really threaten they did take the lead. Joe Cole tangled with Moritz Volz, Murphy converted.
Avram must have conjured a bollocking at the break for himself and the team, because Sidwell disappeared and Obi John took over from Essien holding in the middle allowing Michael to rampage. Essien simply isn’t the answer in front of the defence; perhaps Grant was trying to boost Steve’s confidence ahead of the departure of the chosen for Ghana, week after next.
Fulham didn’t really get a look for the rest of the game. Kalou headed in from Alex’s knock back and Ballack dispatched his own penalty. He does go down easily but only when he has actually been fouled.
It was an afternoon a precious few chances and little entertainment. Some where even rude enough to suggest Fulham might be on their way down, as if that was any way to behave when visiting your neighbours.
Friday 4 January
Ryan Bertrand and Jack Cork are off on loan again. Corky is going back to Scunthorpe, while Ryan will move up a division to play with Norwich City.
Saturday 5 January
Chelsea 1:0 QPR
QPR eh, remember when they were big, ask your father. Nowadays our neighbours from the Bush are considerably richer than us, tiresomely, and didn’t they love to tell us so, but it will be a few years before they outshine us in anything but the bank balance.
Nothing much happened this afternoon, the general consensus was that this was a potential embarrassment avoided. Pizarro shot, the ball bounced off the post and then went in off the goalkeeper’s arm. Then nothing.
QPR were tidy and enthusiastic but didn’t really threaten. When they did construct chances Hillario had the measure of them. We were sluggish and playing a few, like Sinclair, Sidwell and Pizarro, who are second string. Steve, in probably his most comfortable performance for us so far, perhaps he is over the stage fright, hit the post in the first-half and Alex had a free-kick tipped round in the second.
Martin Rowlands stood out for Rangers but mainly because he was willing to have a pop from anywhere.
Didier Drogba came on after an hour, more for a bit of exercise than anything else. He had a few moments to suggest he is not far away from sharp but we’ll not see much of him until the end of February.
Job done, see you Monday lunchtime.
Do have to quickly mention the constabulary who appeared to think a war was on the way and treated everyone like shit again. Take you right back to when we would have cared that QPR were coming instead of being amused.
News comes in that Everton have been allowed to keep Yakubu Aiyegbeni and defender Joseph Yobo out of the Nigeria squad until after the first-leg of the Carling Cup against us next Tuesday, raises the question as to whether we’ll be allowed to keep Obi John.
Chelsea youth 3:2 West Ham United youth
Gaël Kakuta scored the opener and one of the best you’ll see this season. Jinking run and 25-yard shot, he followed that by crossing for a Hammer to put through his own net. Two goals conceded from West Ham set pieces wasn’t great but it was good to know this lot hadn’t been at the mince pies because they kept running and sealed it with a penalty.
Monday 7 January
Chelsea reserves 0:0 Portsmouth reserves
Not much, Phil Younghusband and Jimmy Smith back from loan, Gaël Kakuta promoted from the youth team. A few chances toward the end but otherwise just stalemate.
Wigan, away of all the glamorous cup draws we’ve ever been involved in that is one of the dullest. Any one of the 22,000 who froze their nuts off back in 1980 watching the Latics beat us 0-1, still harbour thoughts of revenge. Twenty-four hours after we went top of the league by thrashing Newcastle 4-0, one match report said of that night’s Chelsea team of Fillery, Britton, Langley and Walker, that defeat at the end settled on them ‘like a green mould’. Different days.
We have made a bid, seven days into the transfer window and we’ve actually tried to buy someone. Nicholas Anelka however will not be with us until we up the bid. However much it is (between £10 and £12m depending where you get your news) we should be putting it towards Berbatov’s right leg and raiding the piggy bank to buy the rest of him. Why, Anelka is a good striker, proven in the division, capable in Europe but sulky and disruptive and not as exciting a prospect.
Tuesday 8 January
Chelsea 2:1 Everton
Something special happened tonight that might define this team for the rest of the season. It is difficult to say exactly what.
Everton arrived in the middle of a, rightly praised, season of endeavour and rare creativity. Chelsea limped into the match with half the team out injured or on the plane to Ghana. It shouldn’t have been a contest, that it was speaks highly of the players and, while we are loathed to admit it, the management of Avram Grant.
We bossed the first hour of the match. Shaun Wright-Phillips scored a beautiful goal and we squandered a host of other chances. Ballack, for all of you, ourselves included, who had doubted him, was near majestic.
John Obi Mikel was then sent off. What for is a mystery, he went in with studs showing on one foot, missed the player and ball. Clumsy but nothing more – a yellow. The ref wanted more action and gave him a straight red. Obi John has now been sent off four times, and we can’t honestly say any of them was valid. His four-match suspension will be served while he is away in anyway.
Everton revived, equalised and could have gone ahead, only for Chelsea to put them under further pressure even when a man down. The winner owed much to Shaun’s presence, if not actually his head.
Whatever happens in the second-leg, that performance should define the team spirit for the rest of the campaign, if Arsenal and Manchester United don’t keep going, this lot have the strength to beat them.
Remind us we wrote that if the Tottenham game and second-leg end in lame capitulation.
The only down side was Pizarro, who missed a shocker, but played his part in keeping their defence busy.
Oh and if we forget to mention anything else: Florent Malouda made another telling contribution on his return.
Friday 11 January
Nicolas Anelka finally signed for anything between £13 and £16m.
You have to ask where he is going to fit in; cover for Drogba during the African Cup of Nations yes, but what happens in February? Are Chelsea going to repeat the experiment started when Shevchenko signed and revert to 4-4-2 to accommodate Anelka? Drogba and Anelka can form a partnership but we don’t expect Nicolas to sit patiently on the bench awaiting his chance if the formation stays with 4-3-3. The partnership may flourish but we haven’t looked strong recently when experimenting with formations.
Berbatov would perhaps have been a better option, because at least he would have a place in the team whether or not Didier was around.
Still a first-half hat-trick tomorrow might change the way we feel.
Saturday 12 January
Chelsea 2:0 Tottenham Hotspur
Not dominating like six-goal Manchester United but we are getting stronger and pushing hard. Arsenal’s draw with Birmingham means this competent containment and dispatch of Spurs (who dominated Arsenal three days ago), takes us to four points from the top.
Belletti’s opener was an unstoppable drive right out of the Brazilian bible – 35-yeards straight into the top corner. Spurs huffed but didn’t really get close to scoring and Wright-Phillips smashed in a second. The goals, the midfield play, the solidity of the defence however, was not the story: our new no. 39, Nicolas Anelka strode on after an hour and stole the show. He had few touches, most of them assured, one brilliant turn and shot, that looked off-side, and a superb volley which hit the bar promises much from the new man.
Norwich City youth 2:3 Chelsea youth
Sergio Tejera scored twice and set up a ninetieth-minute winner. It was some performance to haul his side back from 2-0 down. Hopefully we’ll control the play as well and defend better against Shrewsbury in the cup on Thursday.
Tuesday 14 January
Branislav Ivanovic is the new name to get used to, the 23-year-old Serb has one full international cap, a work permit and cost about £9m from Lokomotiv Moscow.
Thursday 16 January
Chelsea youth 4:0 Shrewsbury Town youth
The score in this could have been anything. We battered and battered but only had the one goal from Jacob Mellis at half-time. Gaël Kakuta, Miroslav Stoch and Morten Nielsen all made their mark, but couldn’t score Mellis got a second after half-time before a goalkeeping error allowed Patrick Van Aanholt’s shot to squirm in. Michael Woods completed the scoring right at the end.
Performance of the night, despite his slip for the third, was the Shrewsbury ‘keeper Jasbir Singh.
Leicester City home in the next round.
Fined again, for failing to control our players again, we are getting a bit of a reputation at the FA, but as we are the only club ever charged with this offence £40,000 seems a bit steep. Meanwhile old boy Lassana Diarra, who left us for Arsenal at the end of the summer, move on again (yes, already) to Portsmouth, committing himself to his new club by saying that he will leave as soon as a big club comes in for him. Awkward customer that one.
Saturday 19 January
Birmingham City 0:1 Chelsea
He only scores against Birmingham City, Pizarro stooped to head in about ten-minutes from the end, and stole the points. Birmingham had been inventive and strong and despite all our possession we only really made one other chance.
Claudio had only just regained his feet after trying a dive when he scored our first goal from a header in living memory. Juliano Belletti should take all of them
We almost threw the match away when the boys were trying to have a quiet kick about at the back when Cech thumped the ball straight at Cameron Jerome whose snap header skimmed the post.
That wasn’t even the worst open goal miss City had, Sebastian Larsson kicked the ball anywhere but in while completely free in front of the net.
Losing Shaun to a twisted ankle could be a source of regret on Wednesday.
We created very little, everyone huffed about how this City side got a point from Arsenal and nearly got one from Manchester United, but in those two games their opponents actually tried to score.
Can’t complain too much, the win keeps us four behind.
Monday 21 January
While Essien’s Ghana got off to a win last night, Chelsea fans tuned in their hundreds to the interactive coverage of Nigeria against Côte d’Ivoire to see Drogba and Kalou against Obi John. Didier looked like he hadn’t played for a few weeks and looked unwilling to test his knee by so much as turning but it took a stunning tackle from Danny Shittu to prevent him doubling the Elephant’s lead.
To be frank, this was a poor advert for European football. Yes, European, with most of the players from both sides playing Europe it seems talent has been coached out. It could just be that Bertie Vogts couldn’t manage a curry. Kalou’s mazy Gemmill stole the show after an hour.
Chelsea confirm that Shaun’s ankle is bruised not broken and he will probably miss the trip Everton.
Anyone heading for Brisbane Road this evening was disappointed, the reserves were off with a waterlogged pitch.
Tuesday 22 January
Lamps has re-crocked himself and will miss another few weeks at least. Meanwhile Spurs do something they never do and beat Arsenal, and 5-1 at that. The pub we were in was rocking not with jubilant Cockerels but punters glad to see Wenger taken down a peg.
We remember a bitterer night when Spurs won the second leg of a semi 5-1 but they honestly deserved it this time.
Wednesday 23 January
Everton 0:1 Chelsea
So, it is Tottenham on February 24th at Wembley. You have to envy the present generation of Chelsea fans for whom a cup final is a once a year party. When you think how thrilled we all were beneath the twin towers for the Full-Members’ Cup back in the ’80s.
Everton where game, their fans howling out passion from three sides, but ultimately this Chelsea are too great a force. This team was stripped to the bone by Ballack’s withdrawal. Thankfully Shaun was okay after his ankle problem on Saturday otherwise we’d be up a creek.
Everton had their twenty-minutes at the start but still we created the better chances.
The game settled into a tense struggle from that point on, but we controlled them for the most part, limited them to half-chances and stole it with another Joe Cole fired moment of light.
Malouda curled a forty-yard pass over the defence and Joe’s control and shot were perfect. Deja vue courtesy of the fact that this goal was identical to those he scored against Wes Ham and Blackburn; same take, same shot, same power to get the ball in at the near post, same 1-0 score. Three top class keepers scratching their heads.
At 3-1 on aggregate we could start packing sandwiches for Wembley Park.
We do have some work to do on the training ground when breaking. Time and again we had the chance to snap through their defence only to miss place passes or tangle with defenders. A few drills might make it more instinctive.
Finally, a nod to Petr Cech, his first child, a daughter called Adela was born last night back in the Czech Republic. Winning tonight might make him feel like it was worth missing the birth.
Friday 25 January
Franco Di Santo, from Audax Italiano in Chile, an 18-year-old Argentinean striker signed on today. He has been highly praised already but we know him mainly through the papers linking him with transfers.
Meanwhile the Drog scored in Côte d’Ivoire’s 4-1 win over Benin. Obi John’s Nigeria only drew with Mali but may yet qualify.
Saturday 26 January
Wigan Athletic 1:2 Chelsea
No Ashley Cole, even if his girl will take him back it seems his manager will take a little longer.
Anelka inspired this, shall we say, gritty win to take us through. He scored his first goal when he volley Belletti’s long pass over the keeper and set up Shaun for the second when he squared the ball instead of shooting, let’s hope that sets a trend.
Wigan scored the best goal of the afternoon when Antoine Sibierski turned on the spot and bashed a volley beyond Cech. Overall another BBC choice, whenever the other boys form the Bush try to pick the game of the round for television it is always something of a disappointment.
Crystal Palace youth 2:2 Chelsea youth
Fabio Borini and Gaël Kakuta secured a draw for the youth team ahead of their youth cup game on Thursday at Stamford Bridge.
Monday 28 January
Huddersfield Town at home in the cup, Manchester United and Arsenal will play each other to eliminate one of our main rivals, of course the draw isn’t fixed. Liverpool get a tough home tie with Barnsley.
Dennis Wise quit his job at Leeds United today to become some kind of übermensch at Newcastle. Keegan will be delighted to have the next manager in place already.
Michael Essien scored in Ghana’s 2-0 win over Morocco and will now probably play Obi John’s Nigeria in the next round, which means we will have at least one player back next week.
Oh and while the boys were having a kick-about who should show up but Diego Maradona.
Tuesday 29 January
Obi John Mikel bailed out Nigeria in the last group game. He scored the first and made another in the 2-0 win over Benin. His goal makes the third Chelsea scorer in the tournament.
Didier scored the first for Côte d’Ivoire in their 3-0 hammering of Mali.
Wednesday 30 January
Chelsea 1:0 Reading
Strange match, we tore into them in the first period and at the start of the second-half but they kept creeping back into the match. Ballack’s thumping header after 30-minutes never looked quite enough but we managed to make it last.
Joe Cole had a marvellous effort well saved on around twenty-minutes, quickly followed by Wright-Phillips tricking his way into the middle, hurdling a late challenge before the keeper pushed his flick away.
Actually Shaun did that all again in the second-half. But for all our other chances and their possession not much else happened.
Adrian Pettigrew had only just looked round the door following his loan at Brentford before he is off to Rotherham United on loan for the rest of the season.