OCTOBER 2008 REVISITED
In the diary this month: FC 1905 Chelsea, legal action against Lyn, Chukotka parliamentary elections, neoplastic neuroma and the end of the 86 game home run.
Wednesday 1 October
CFR 1907 Cluj 0:0 FC 1905 Chelsea
Woeful night for the spectator as the most we bring home from this interesting part of the world is a point and a string of injuries. Didier did his knee and badly by the look of it, Ashley had a back problem in the warm-up, John also got back problems and Alex had a buttock injury.
We lacked any zip but to be fair to Cluj it was down to their closing and tenacity, as much as our own rustiness. They sprang forward on the break but didn’t really test Čech until the end. Honours even in a game we managed not to make a total embarrassment.
Thursday 2 October
Mike Phelan, Manchester United’s assistant manager, appears to be the source of the racist claim against Sam Bethell. It turns out that Evra made no complaint about racism; instead Phelan said he’s heard the comments. Both parties have hearings today although, as always, it will run and run.
Drogba’s injury has been assessed as a bad twist in ankle and knee but not a ligament tear. He should be back in a few weeks rather than sometime after Christmas but he must be feeling pretty low and he’ll probably be circumspect about challenges on his return.
Friday 3 October
Paul Canoville and Ken Monkou were in town to launch an anti-discrimination project today. Chelsea’s staff will be touring local schools with a message about the suffering caused by racist abuse.
Sunday 5 October
Chelsea 2:0 Aston Villa
This performance sets a standard for the rest of the season. All the talk before the game was about Chelsea’s absentees and Villa’s chance to finally end the 85-match unbeaten home record; all discussions afterwards were of Chelsea’s title credentials.
Joe Cole and Nicolas Anelka scored the first-half goals but the real story was contained in the dominance Chelsea achieved and the sheer number of chances created.
Frank Lampard should have headed in Anelka’s cross but otherwise he dominated the whole game creating the opener by simply taking out the whole Villan defence and orchestrating everything the side did.
Ashley Cole was in marauding form; Bosingwa matched him on the other flank.
Overall Brad Friedel made five saves, three chances went narrowly wide, one hit the bar, two were just over and a host of others were blocked or wasted. This was a 2-0 drubbing.
It gets better; Franco Di Santo played in place of Anelka in the second-half and looked the part although he didn’t score. Branislav Ivanovic finally made his Stamford Bridge bow after ten-months at the club. He didn’t look completely comfortable but playing alongside an unusually nervous John Terry perhaps put him off. Petr Čech reminded us that Ivanovic played brilliantly against Portsmouth in the Carling cup. He could be another gem in defence. We were hoping to see Michael Mancienne; we’ll have to wait.
A special word for Florent Malouda who has been knocking goals in without seeming to link play; today was a revelation for his detractors, and we have all been there, he gelled with Ashley Cole outside him playing almost as a winger, he tracked back, he linked; he is the genuine article.
Joe Cole also came off with an ankle knock but Scolari said he’d be available for England at the weekend, although he wasn’t in the squad announced later in the afternoon.
Martin O’Neill summed up the afternoon perfectly: “I thought Chelsea were brilliant today, absolutely brilliant and we would have had to have had our best players playing at the top of their game to compete today.”
Chelsea reserves 4:0 AC Milan reserves
Next in a very busy day for Chelsea teams was this impressive demolition of AC Milan. The goals came from Fabio Borini, Miroslav Stoch, Fabio Ferreira and Morten Nielsen. Gaël Kakuta made his first appearance of the season after a groin problem. To be fair to Milan we were a bit older than them.
Arsenal youth 2:0 Chelsea youth
Another set-back for the kids after posting their first win last week they came unstuck against a fluid and skilful Arsenal side, one that, frankly, didn’t give us a kick.
Tuesday 7 October
John Terry is not going to play for England at the weekend, he didn’t take part in training yesterday because of a back problem and he didn’t finish training today. They’ll give him time but nobody’s is pretending he has much chance.
Thursday 9 October
It seems Arsène Wenger’s ‘financial doping’ could be outlawed; Uefa’s general secretary, David Taylor, and its president, Michel Platini have established a committee to consider a ban on clubs with debt from entering the Champion’s League. Oddly the announcement came at Stamford Bridge where we are hosting the Leaders in Football conference. Chelsea, Manchester United and Liverpool could all fall foul of any new entrance rules. Arsenal would be okay because their debt is against their stadium, United and Liverpool’s debt was incurred in their acquisition. Ours are big at £620m but all in soft loans from Roman.
The truth is that these rules will not be around for a few years and will be watered down. If they ever arrive Roman will have to find an accounting trick to make the loans into equity.
Friday 10 October
Chelsea are to sue FC Lyn Oslo for the £16m we were forced to pay for Jon Mikel Obi. We paid for Obi Jon after Lyn claimed to hold his registration and claimed the player had signed for Manchester United. A Norwegian court recently found that Lyn’s former chief executive, Morgen Andersen, had forged documents in relation to Obi Jon’s registration. He took the signature from Jon’s youth contract and copied it onto a professional contract. And Manchester United said we had taken football into the jungle over the Obi Jon saga; running the “dirtiest of all dirty tricks campaigns”. An apology from United might be in order.
Chelsea are asking for the full £16m because “the transfer was based on the fraudulent misrepresentation that Mikel had an employment contract with Lyn”, it seems the clubs are talking to each other and a compromise will be reached.
Chelsea stressed that although £12m of the fee went to Manchester United, we are only taking action against Lyn and Andersen.
Luiz Felipe Scolari has been appointed to Chelsea’s football board. He takes the place vacated by Avram Grant’s departure in May. It gives him more control over transfers than Jose ever enjoyed and means there cannot be a director of football.
As another busy day grinds to a halt we shouldn’t forget that Michael Mancienne played for England’s victorious U21s against Wales in Cardiff.
“It is a problem in the back for Terry,” said Fabio Capello today, meaning, of course, it is a problem in the back for England, as JT will definitely not play on Saturday. Can Joleon Lescott cope with Kazakhstan? Considering the Kazakh’s have recently dumped half their squad and have bought a host of U21 and uncapped players we’ll just have to wait and see.
Saturday 11 October
England 5:1 Kazakhstan
Ashley Cole got a huge and unnecessary amount of shit for this result. At 2-0 up Ash played a blind ball inside, Zhambyl Kukeyev tapped home and the crowd got on his back until we restored a two goal lead. Some booed him all night but there were some cheering in the Wembley stands. Ashley, while not playing particularly well, was responsible for a good deal of England’s forward movement. An odd evening where we started brightly with Theo Walcott making their left-back squirm but we failed to get through in the first-half. The second was a better experience. We strolled into a 2-0 lead without breaking sweat, then came Cole’s mistake and a portion of the crowd got their rocks off booing and looked faintly silly as England actually played well against tiring opposition and took their chances.
Elsewhere, Branislav Ivanovic scored one and hit a post n Serbia’s 3-0 win over Lithuania, he is having a good month. Ballack scored in Germany’s impressive 2-1 against Russia. Salomon Kalou scored a penalty as Ivory Coast beat Madagascar 3-0.
Chelsea youth 3:4 Southampton youth
Another defeat for the youth team with most of the visitor’s goals either freaky 30-yard efforts or defensive mistakes.
Monday 13 October
Chelsea reserves 0:1 Aston Villa reserves
The table topping clash worked out badly for the reserves as a Steve Sidwell, who else, goal condemned the stiffs to their first defeat. A scrappy game of eight yellow cards was capped by Carl Magnay’s dismissal for two yellows.
No sooner has he resigned as governor, he goes and gets himself elected as an MP. Roman Abramovich was elected with, a vaguely Stalinist total of, 97% of the popular vote to a seat in the regional Chukotka parliament.
As the financial system calms down for 24-hours, focus has switched to the impact of the stock market troubles on the oligarchs: Roman’s assets have apparently shed 80% of their value since Russia invaded Georgia in May. Last week Bruce Buck said the economic situation would have an effect on shirt sales and season ticket renewals but didn’t expect the effect to be felt until next season.
John Terry will not travel for England’s game in Belarus and Ashley Cole will also miss out with a hamstring injury. Both have returned to Cobham.
Tuesday 14 October
Michael Mancienne has been speaking about leaving Chelsea in search of first team football. Michael spent the last two season’s on loan with the super hoops and is now an U21 regular but he is fifth in line at the back for Chelsea after Branislav Ivanovic was called into the squad ahead of him. Mancienne has the ability to be as influential a personality as John Terry and tonight he played his regular role as the rock at the back for England U21 as they scraped by a determined Wales squad. The game finished 2-2 with England down to ten-men.
Aaron Ramsey was the pick of the players, the Arsenal midfielder cracked in Wales’ equaliser and had a hand in everything else that happened.
Wednesday 15 October
Belarus 1:3 England
Another fitful performance but the reward of another away win, to make it four out of four. Capello has certainly made an impact in terms of results if not style. Lampard was a rock in the middle and needed to be as Belarus surged round him and Gareth Barry, the hosts played three in the middle to our two and with Walcott always forward and Wes Brown unsure of himself it was left to the Chelsea man to stem the flow of attacks and spring England forward.
Gerrard gave us an early lead but the home side responded with composed and effective passing football, some more of which would have been good from the visitors. Their equaliser was a direct result of their passing pulling the whole of the England defence out of shape before a simple cross and headed finish.
Wayne Rooney then made the second-half his own by burying two chances on the break and what had been a struggle had a plump score-line to cover the cracks.
Wayne Bridge looked rusty at left-back but with the whole defence creaking he didn’t stand out.
Michael Ballack played a blinder for Germany hitting a post in the 1-0 defeat of Wales. He hadn’t trained all week with a calf problem but was passed fit in the morning, bad news for Bosingwa however as he missed Portugal’s draw with ten-man Albania through injury. England fans get impatient and boo but how must Portuguese fans feel not scoring against a side that had a player sent off before half-time?
Petr Čech also missed out with a thigh problem but his Czech team won 1-0 against Slovenia.
Thursday 16 October
The MP for north Norfolk, Norman Lamb, has just made the most astonishing claim. He has asked betting patterns around Derby County’s 2-1 over Norwich City a few weeks ago, to be investigated. He is claiming that a match was fixed. If the match had been played any earlier, when Derby hadn’t won in nearly a year then maybe, but a routine 2-1 home win shouldn’t be that suspicious. The strangest aspect of this case is that the suspect bets were laid on a Norwich win. The consequences could be serious for commentators who’ll have to limit use of the phrase “he couldn’t buy a goal at the moment” in case it turns out to be untrue.
Friday 17 October
Michael Ballack had surgery to remove thickened nerve tissue in his feet or neoplastic neuromas. We know, it adds another layer of understanding to our medical knowledge. Ballack will be out for at least three-weeks.
As will Didier Drogba, who said yesterday that he would like to end his career at the club. Didier was speaking at the belated signing session for his autobiography. He confirmed that he had thought of leaving last season after Jose was sacked and Avram dragged everybody down. It seems Scolari has charmed him into a change of heart.
John Terry will play tomorrow and Deco might but half a team miss out through injury: joining Ballack are Petr Čech, Ashley Cole, Michael Essien, Ricardo Carvalho, Joe Cole and Didier Drogba. The message from Brian English is that everyone is on the mend and that some will be fit for the Liverpool game. All of which is good news for Scott Sinclair, Michael Mancienne and Miroslav Stoch who all make the bench and will be desperate to get on the pitch.
Saturday 18 October
Middlesbrough 0:5 Chelsea
Bright sunny day on Teesside, not as cold as you’d expect, or as smoggy. Another match to test our title credentials, this time with eight starters out through injury, and another passed by Scolari’s team with flying colours. Everyone complained that Boro were slow to close us down and didn’t really put up a fight, we would argue that, like Villa two-weeks ago, we didn’t allow them to perform. Our passing was neat and to feet and when a home defender tried to get tight the ball had already gone.
For all that Salomon Kalou’s opening goal came via a beaming Wayne Bridge cross and a Belletti shot that took a few deflections. (It was the first goal Middlesbrough have conceded in the first-half of a match this season.) We’ll skip lightly over Lampard’s open goal there has been a lot of it about. The rest of the first-half was Malouda’s, either pinging crosses in or smacking the ball toward the goal, he was everywhere.
The second-half started to the same pattern as the first, we passed around them they ran in circles, then Belletti strode forward to belt one in from 30-yards, very Brazilian. In fact, Belletti’s position was a revelation; he was all over the field, busting his gut to get forward while Lampard sat deeper.
Our third and Kalou’s second took a deflection, the chance was made by Florent Malouda’s knockdown from Wayne Bridge’s pass; simplicity itself. Florent was involved in the build-up to the forth in linking with Anelka before Kalou chipped over the defence and Lampard headed powerfully in. Malouda’s reactions got him to the ball first for our fifth after Anelka’s shot was parried onto the post and with twenty-minutes left it could have been a worse score-line for Middlesbrough although fewer and fewer of them stayed in the ground to find out.
Scott Sinclair and Deco both got time on the pitch at the end, which will be important for them for different reasons.
West Ham youth 2:4 Chelsea youth
With no reserve game this week, several regular reserves returned to youth action and it showed. Jeffrey Bruma, Jacob Mellis, Gaël Kakuta and Fabio Borini all started and their side controlled possession. West Ham opened the scoring against the run of play but goals from Frank Nouble, Fabio Borini and Jacob Mellis put us 1-3 up at the interval.
Second-half was a little scrappier; we increased our lead on the hour when Borini tapped in and gave away a goal on the break a few minutes later. The win will be a good confidence boost for our very youthful youth team. They will need their experienced players to step down from time to time to help out, even if those four reserve regulars will have been eyeing events at the Riverside where three of their colleagues were on the bench.
Sunday 19 October
We’ll gloss over Tottenham’s latest troubles (two sent off in a 2-1 defeat at Stoke) merely mention that they have only two points after eight games and play Arsenal and Liverpool in their next three.
Meanwhile we have three nominated for the Ballon D’Or, one of Michael Ballack, Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard could lift the trophy but we expect one of those jinky wee wingers will get it.
It is not often that the London Lite gives you the tip but John Terry hosted a lavish party for colleagues, apparently Shevchenko was over for dinner and Avram Grant was invited. It is nice to see the boys still keep in touch with Avram; everyone at the club always said he was a nice bloke.
Wednesday 22 October
Chelsea 1:0 Roma
If you can’t win pretty win ugly is Scolari’s latest saying. He warned us ahead of this match that his teams will try to entertain but the priority is winning the points not hearts and minds.
Deco and Carvalho both returned to the starting line-up but it took John Terry’s headed goal to finally break the deadlock in this match on 77 minutes, after Roma’s midfield and defence worked to disrupt the flow from our midfield. So well set up were the Italian side that a set-piece goal was always likely to be the difference.
The first-half was an edgy affair with wave after wave of attacks foundering and Roma looking to steal a goal on the break. John terry had to read their most dangerous attack expertly to get into a position to deflect wide. The closest we came was from Lampard’s free-kick which clipped the bar.
The catalyst for an improved second-half performance was the introduction of Belletti to play on the right. Kalou switched to the left and suddenly there as more ferocity in attack, running at their defenders proved more effective than trying to pass through them. We still had to wait until the hour for our first real chance when Kalou’s powerful header went straight to the diving keeper.
JT’s goal was a reminder of those he used to score so regularly, glancing in Lampard’s corner. It was his first at home for over two-years.
Overall a workman like performance in breaking down a stubborn Italian side and Scolari seemed to relish the manner of our victory more than the five-goal style we turned on at the weekend: “The most important thing today was our result … we have one more game at home and we needed three points tonight. Sometimes 1-0 is more important than 5-0 because you have to respect the other team.”
Michael Ballack might have talked himself out of the German captaincy. Speaking to Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung he criticised the German coach, Joachim Löw, for leaving out Torsten Frings without any explanation. Michael will meet with Löw this week to resolve the row.
All this and Mourinho said that Didier is a diver.
Thursday 23 October
Didier Drogba will not face FA sanctions for saying he wished he’d chinned Nemanja Vidić in the European Cup final instead of tapping him. The FA have seen sense in this case perhaps some of the board members wanted to do the same at the time, we’ll never know.
Friday 24 October
Chelsea have started an audit of spending across all their activities. The credit crunch comes to the door.
Which may explain the mixed messages from the press conference today; Scolari say he might like to strengthen in January but that it was normal for Peter Kenyon to say no at the moment because the window was closed; Peter Kenyon said no. In fact he said that, barring injuries, we will not be spending in January, He also predicted that we will be making a profit this time next year, given that the developments at Cobham are complete and the club have worked hard to expand the global brand we could see turn over reach £200m; which, to put it into perspective, is still less than your local branch of Tesco.
Michael Essien’s return has been brought forward to, possibly, the end of January.
Joachim Löw will have to come to London if he wants a meeting with Michael Ballack, Scolari invited him over if they need to talk but ruled out Ballack travelling while he is recovering from injury.
Sunday 26 October
Chelsea 0:1 Liverpool
It is scarcely believable that this was the first Chelsea home defeat since my son was born, in fact since he was conceived. It was always going to end somewhere and 86 matches is a fair benchmark to set the rest. Remember Liverpool’s record was a mere 63. The record is really a stunning achievement, and credit has to go to all 64 of the players and the four managers involved. Frank Lampard played in 77 of the matches, John Terry in 73. (210 points and 175 goals for, the stats go on and get more incredible as you read them.) It is a record that is unlikely to ever be eclipsed, if we start next weekend against Sunderland it will be May 2013 before we can extend it.
It ended with a whimper not a bang. Liverpool fluked a goal and then sat back and defended for all they were worth. Their defensive display was resolute and well drilled, and despite the fact they went close from a free-kick, they don’t look to have the capacity to sustain a title challenge. Let the scousers have their moment in the sun and get back to work on Wednesday.
Work was, however, not what Scolari’s system has been doing this week. We’ve had two insipid performances against teams capable of putting enough players behind the ball to stifle our movement both wide and through the middle. We need a plan C.
Chelsea reserves 4:0 Liverpool reserves
Jacob Mellis and Miroslav Stoch, who opened things with a Czech style chipped penalty, both scored two in a performance they will feel makes up for their dire display in the away match a month ago. Man Utd, Milan, Liverpool the reserves seem to be getting the glamour ties, next up for the first-team Hull City on a cold Wednesday night.
Monday 27 October
Michael Mancienne has joined Wolverhampton Wanderers on a two-month deal, which takes him to the creaking of January’s transfer window sash. We should be careful not to lose this one.
Joachim Löw has refused to fly to London to talk to Michael Ballack about his press interview. Having demanded a meeting Löw is too proud to travel so he’ll have to wait until Ballack’s feet have healed.
Wednesday 29 October
Hull City 0:3 Chelsea
Yesterday marked ten years of John Terry in a Chelsea shirt, today marks ten years since Hull City were bottom of the fourth division looking up at all the rest. It has been a long journey for both.
This started with a chip and finished in a reassertion of our belief in our own title chances. On three-minutes Frank Lampard exploded any nerves we had when the ball broke back to him as he tried to play in Malouda he looked up and chipped to the far corner of the net. It was the most deliberately, cleanly, profoundly executed goal you will ever see. The rest of the match seemed to involve Malouda and Anelka blasting away at the Hull goal until both finally scored. We didn’t quite have it all our own way; Hull played with a belief born of the league position and without scoring they tested Čech and hit a post in the first-half. Until, at the start of the second, Nicolas noticed two defenders and a ‘keeper dithering over the ball and nipped in to steal a second. Malouda’s goal, from Carvalho’s sublime cross, should have been his hat-trick but he fluffed all the others.
We didn’t really need to get out of second gear to win this. The only down side was Carvalho leaving the field at the end with what looked a hamstring injury. Joe Cole also came off but it seemed a precaution.
Boris Johnson wrote to all London’s premiership clubs asking them to pay a living wage to their staff. Most of the programme sellers and shop bar and snack bar staff at the Bridge are paid the minimum £5.52 per hour, the mayor is asking for, the socialist utopian figure of, £7.45. Given that we are auditing our expenditure at the moment it is not a good time to ask, but you have to agree that with the stars on such high wages the support staff should benefit too.
Meanwhile John Terry, Frank Lampard, Didier Drogba, Michael Ballack and Deco are all nominated for the World Player of the year. Which, surprisingly goes to the irritating show pony, Ronaldo; a man so unimaginative he has someone else’s nickname.
Finally Slobodan Rajkovic, the expectorating Serb we have at FC Twente, has launched his appeal against his one-year ban for spitting at the linesman during the Olympics.
Chelsea youth 4:3 Fulham youth
0-3 down in the first-half a Frank Nouble hat-trick and one from Sergio Tejera, hauled the youth team back for their fourth win of the season.