Monday 14 September
New rules on the make up of Premiership squads have been announced; basically each team will have a squad limited to 25 players over the age of 21 eight of whom must have gone through youth development in England or Wales. Clubs will have a second, limitless, list of players under 21; both lists will be submitted before the season starts and again in January. If a club wants to add a foreign player to the over 21 section they will have to sell first.
The intention is clearly to encourage teams to develop their own players but its effects in practice will be interesting, combined with Uefa plans to limit clubs spending to their earnings we could see a deflationary spiral in the European game.
Another new rule, that will have Ken Bates tearing out his hair, requires clubs to publish annual accounts showing no debts to other clubs or the tax man.
Ancelotti includes Sam Hutchinson, Jeffrey Bruma and Fabio Borini in the squad for tomorrow’s game against Porto. Given the numbers injured or suspended Carlo said: “we need to take three players from the Academy, we are happy to do this because we think we have very good talent and this is a very good opportunity for them to enter the squad – Hutchinson, Bruma and Borini.” If we race into a four nil lead perhaps one might even get a game.
Tuesday 15 September
Chelsea 1:0 FC Porto
A harsh night in more ways than one and Chelsea will be relieved to have come out of the rain with a win.
The rain didn’t help the atmosphere and the lack of atmosphere bred tension. Porto you’ll remember were unlucky not to knock out Manchester United last season when they got a 2-2 draw away, so when measuring this performance we can afford to be generous. Nicolas Anelka’s goal was a work of beauty, as his first shot was crass and led to a routine stop his effort from the rebound was played in at difficult angle with both ‘keeper and defender closing down.
Most of the papers had spent the day wittering about how we would miss Didier Drogba but the problems we faced on the night were through midfield. Lampard, Ballack and Essien played like strangers, often static as passes surprised them and possession was lost or chances went begging. Neither fullback really helped, Ashley Cole had a lot of defensive work to do and Ivanovic looked out of his depth at right-back even if he delivered the night’s best crosses. Once again the diamond meant we had little width against a side so obviously vulnerable to crosses.
It all started brightly as well, Lampard bringing saves from Helton in the Porto goal and then missing a simple header. Porto’s response brought a scrambled save from Cech after Hulk’s powerful shot. We were trying to tippy tap the ball through the middle on a night when crossing was the better option.
John Terry was responsible for the injury time at the end of the first-half as a stray elbow laid him out for a few minutes, head wound or not, he was back on his feet and finished the game strongly. Both Terry and Carvalho’s blocking and clearing where as important for this victory as Anelka’s goal.
Salomon Kalou, in for the suspended Drogba, also had a big influence on the game, it was his pass that set up Anelka’s goal and he found Lampard a few times but the England man couldn’t benefit. Frank doesn’t seem to have his shooting boots on yet this season.
Kalou’s header also brought the save of the night from Helton palmed away the fierce attempt.
Porto created chances at regular intervals a free header just before the break and a string of late efforts as Chelsea collectively forgot how to close down or pass.
The final whistle was a relief and the realisation that we had three points to top the group from a shocking performance and we got away with it, Apoel, our next opponents in group D, got a creditable 0-0 draw in Madrid against Atlético We travel to Nicosia the week after next.
Second biggest cheer of the night was for Joe Cole’s warm up exercises, it is good to see he is fit but Ancelotti was never going to risk him as the game became one of containment.
Third biggest was realising, after a few games of pool in the pub, that the rain had finally stopped.
Wednesday 16 September
Peter Kenyon will be stepping down at the end of the month. Many in the media have gleefully waived goodbye. Kenyon is a man who divides opinions, clearly not liked for the occasional rush of blood to the head but one that changed the financial landscape at Chelsea; the journey from Coors to Samsung, or weak American lager to global brand has been Peter’s project in the last five years and he appears, from the outside, a success.
The pushed/jumped debate cannot be answered until his biography comes out in a few years; he stays with the club as a non-executive director and will represent Chelsea at Uefa and European clubs association committees and gatherings.
You can understand it, we too have got to the stage of our career when long weekend breaks in luxury hotels is easier and more appealing than the Monday morning grind.
The impact Peter made at Chelsea is probably best measured by the fact that everyone has their own favourite embarrassing moment, tapping-up Ashley Cole was controversial but when you’re also caught having meals with Sven and Rio you start to look like you want to be caught; our own favourite was the insistence that we would be bigger than Jesus at about he time we balanced the books, or was that turning the world blue.
The Times will be particularly pleased because they have been dropping hints that Kenyon was leaving since Scolari went or even before when Robinho failed to arrive.
The most fitting image of Peter’s time at the club has to be leading the players up to collect their medals in Moscow: high-profile but “there’s no success like failure and failure’s no success at all”, as Mr Zimmerman said.
Chelsea XI 5:2 Ipswich Town XI
Sturridge continues to do his best without getting on the pitch for the first team, a hat trick performance with the midweek Champions League subs Fabio Borini and Jeffrey Bruma getting one each. Joe Cole and Nemanja Matic also played,
Thursday 17 September
Ron Gourlay will replace Peter Kenyon, the 46-year-old has been at Chelsea for the last five years most recently under the title chief operating officer, he followed Kenyon from Umbro to Manchester United and appears to have been finally handed the lead after being understudy for so long. If events of the last two weeks were not strange enough we’ve signed a new goalkeeper, no really, Croatia’s Inter Zapresic have agreed to sell us Matej Delac and keep his registration until 2011. Given that we have clearly paid up front, a Zapresic spokesman said we’d saved them from bankruptcy, Uefa might regard it as a bit of sharp practice to get around the ban.
Sunday 20 September
Chelsea 3:0 Tottenham Hotspur
Tottenham left a string of ifs fuming from the press conference to the team bus: if they had taken one of their early chances; if they had been awarded a penalty; if King’s hamstring hadn’t gone, if Bassong hadn’t been stretchered off. In the end all of the ifs merely add up to a great big but.
This was Didier Drogba’s afternoon; he annihilated Tottenham in the second-half. It started brightly for Spurs with five breaks and three testing shots in the first fifteen minutes, Defoe put clean through the middle of our defence by Palacios could only hit Cech’s legs but at the same time we were probing forwards, Bosingwa thumping the crossbar with an early effort.
From the moment Frank Lampard narrowly missed from Anelka’s cross it was clear that the better team was in blue. Ledley King had Didier under control for most of the first 45, so the big Ivorian simply went wide to fine space and the ball, as soon as he picked up on the right he smashed a cross over and Ashley Cole stole in to head passed a helpless Cudicini. Ash went slightly mental about what was still only his fourth goal for the club. It is however, his second this season and he scored in the last league match at Sunderland last season, perhaps he is on a role and we can expect a ten-goal haul?
The second-half had barely got started when Drogba turned King who immediately pulled up injured. The treatment and substitution distracted somewhat from Frank’s lame poke wide from Drogba’s pass.
Almost at once Tottenham had their penalty appeal and Chelsea scored a second. First Keane raced into the box only for Carvalho to trip him near the goal. Howard Webb said no penalty and Keane was right to point to himself waiving an imaginary yellow, it was either a penalty or a dive but Webb bottled both decisions. And then we scored. Lampard picked up loose possession, after a strong Drogba shot, and the near anonymous Ballack beat his man to the ball.
The best was saved for last, Cole’s long ball found Drogba running off the shoulder of Bassong rounding the ‘keeper and tapping home, one of those goals where you know what is going to happen from the moment the ball left Ashley Cole’s boot and the ecstasy of it rises as you watch the execution. Perfect.
Spurs were still game, Palacios volleyed wide from a Peter Crouch knock down but they didn’t really seem to believe it was possible. Obi John had a shot scrambled round the post by Cudicini before Anelka and Sebastien Bassong went into a seemingly innocuous challenge but the big Tottenham defender stayed down and appeared to be being given oxygen and placed in a neck brace before being removed.
We took pity on them after that and didn’t go for the cricket score. Moments after Bassong departed Didier Drogba appeared to pull a muscle after an air shot and he too had to be stretchered off.
Daniel Sturridge must have done something wrong because first Kalou and then Fabio Borini came on, and while it is gratifying that the 18-year-old Borini had a taste of the first-team, we are supposed to be readying Sturridge to replace Drogba during the African cup of nations, aren’t we?
On loan Miroslav Stoch scored both goals as FC Twente beat Heerenveen 0-2 away.