Monday 22 August
John Obi Mikel’s father, Michael, has been released unharmed from his ten days in captivity. There are few other details, John thanked everyone who had supported him and AVB reiterated his praise for the bravery John has shown. We can get back to calling him Obi John.
Thomas Kalas will spend the season on loan at Vitesse Arnhem. The 18-year-old signed from the Czech side Sigma Olomouc last year and arrived in January after a loan with his former club. The blond pivot (look up Steve Wicks if you need an example) of the reserves late last season will be the fourth player loaned to Vitesse under the arrangement between Roman Abramovich and their owner Merab Jordania.
Adam Phillip is out for another six to nine months with a knee ligament tear. It is his third serious lay-off and he must be becoming firm friends with Michael Essien as they pass the time of day in surgeon’s waiting rooms.
Tuesday 23 August
Bolton Wanderers reserves 0:1 Chelsea reserves
Not a bad start, on a busy day, as the stiffs dominated possession and chances throughout. Todd Kane and Patrick Van Aanholt skipped down the wings but it was Josh McEachran nicking the ball and dribbling into the box that sealed the points. Good start for Dermot Drummy winning his first two games after being elevated from the youth team.
Romelu Lukaku and Oriol Romeu were presented at Cobham. It was Lukaku who got he most attention, even if Romelu will play more first-team games. After all it isn’t every day that the dreams we all harboured come true: “When you’re a true fan of the club, to play for them is incredible. Every day you come in and think: ‘Wow, this is really it’”.
Meanwhile, Juan Mata is having a medical, an announcement will follow.
Meanwhile, meanwhile, Alvaro Pereira could be the next in. The Porto wing-back is seen as cover for left-back or midfield but Porto will want a hefty wedge more than the £16m offered if they are to tango.
Wednesday 24 August
Juan Mata is signed and sealed and has attended training already. He spoke the official website and said the usual things in Spanish but rumours are that he speaks English well.
Sadly, Slobodan Rajkovic is heading out after four years trying to get a work permit the extremely talented defender is joining, you’ll never guess … no, oh, go on then … Hamburg. This time the Volksparkstadion crowd will part with £2m to further cram their defence with our youth team products. But the schadenfreude belongs to St. Pauli fans who watched SV Hamburg dumped on their arse 5-0 by Bayern München at the weekend with Mancienne, Tore, and Bruma all playing.
Altogether now, what’s-a Mata you, Hey! Gotta no respect …
Thursday 25 August
Champions League draw time and a few familiar faces in group E: Juan Mata will revisit Valencia after only one day at his new club, we’ll be seeing Michael Ballack again, injury permitting, at Bayer Leverkusen and Racing Genk sold us Thibaut Courtois in the summer.
We start against Leverkusen at home before travelling to the Mestalla and following those two with home and away against Racing, at least that is just a short ferry trip.
Petr Cech’s old side, Viktoria Pizen landed AC Milan and Barcelona in group H.
Arsenal, who squeaked into the draw last night against Udinese, will play Marseille, Olympiakos and Borussia Dortmund in group F, and Manchester United got the group of death having to play Benfica, Basel and Otelul Galati. The latter are Romanian giants.
Manchester City making their debut in the competition face an interesting few nights against Villarreal, Bayern München and Napoli.
Back with the grind and Andreas Villas-Boas indicated that Juan Mata will probably be on the bench, that David Luiz is back in training but not ready for the weekend, Essien is still long term and he dropped hints that Petr Cech is recovering well and could return after the international break.
Saturday 27 August
Chelsea 3:1 Norwich City
This game couldn’t have started better with a few vibrant attacks topped off by Ramires’ 25-yard crack the defence didn’t learn allowing Jose Bosingwa’s pile driver after only six minutes from a strikingly similar position. 1-0. Jose is enjoying his best sequence of games for some time going forward but is still unconvincing at the back.
Having taken the early lead surely Chelsea would cruise. Ah, not at this stage of the season. Norwich City have impressed in gaining two promotions in successive seasons and the Canaries took to the challenge, switching to a 4-4-2 they should have been a man light in midfield but they created a hatful of chances. First Grant Holt was just beaten by the flight of the ball with Hilario stranded, then the big Portuguese ’keeper denied Chris Martin in a one-on-one. He was up and tipping a Kyle Naughton drive over and saving, again from Holt, down to his left from the visitor’s header.
Something is clearly not working at the back, we are used to full-backs bombing on but the defence seems to be trying to hold an ambitiously high line and asking the goalkeeper to sweep behind. It might work with the right personnel but both Alex last week and Ivanovic this looked vulnerable and better teams would have punished us.
We managed a few more sights at the Shed End goal with Drogba skimming the crossbar with a free-kick and Malouda hitting a Bosingwa cross first time into their ’keeper’s midriff.
Half-time and another strict team talk.
Both out centre-halves had early nods at goal before the inevitable given the comedy defending, an equaliser. Hilario rushed out towards Ivanovic who did his best to clear but Holt looped the loose ball into the empty net. 1-1.
In trying to hit back immediately Didier Drogba raced on to a high ball only to collide with John Ruddy in the Norwich goal. The big man stayed down to cat-calls from the usual morons but he didn’t seem to be moving.
He was eventually stretchered off with an oxygen mask on and taken straight to hospital for scans. Anelka came on as replacement.
The problems at the back we exposed again when Holt simply broke an attempted offside and Terry had to scramble back half the length of the field to conceed the corner.
Mata came on to generous cheers and almost straight away created the chance for a cross that Torres headed at the keeper, encouraging early signs.
Mistakes at the back were racking up as Obi John’s blind back header let them in for another cross, which Ivanovic saved at the expense of a corner.
From that corner Mata played a ball into Anelka’s path and the charging Ramires was upended by Ruddy for as clear a penalty as you could hope. Ruddy was off, a little harshly for denying the goal scoring opportunity and Lampard did the rest. 2-1 and a wave of relief.
Romelu Lukaku stripped down and bounded onto the pitch, all eager and almost got on the end of a fizzing Anelka cross.
Mata then drew a couple of defenders to him before slipping a cute ball for Lampard to cross, only for Ivanovic to confound a poor afternoon at the back by missing a free header.
It wasn’t all lost Norwich’s first sloppy pass at the back allowed Mata to stroke in his first for the club, poor Lukaku was begging for a square ball but his time will come. 3:1.
Altogether a poor performance as we creaked at the back but we started 6-0, 6-0, 4-0 last season and didn’t win the crown so perhaps building slowly into the season is no bad thing. Perhaps Roberto Di Matteo can get the defence out on the Cobham pitches for a serious session after the international break.
The draw for the Carling Cup pitches up Fulham at home. It will be interesting to see what kind of side AVB chooses, especially with the number of young new signings.
Ulises Dávila turned up on Saturday night. The Mexican play-maker is just 20 and heads out on loan to Vitesse without his feet touching down. No news on a fee.
Didier Drogba was released from hospital but will be rested after a heavy concussion. He’ll have the next two-weeks to get over it.
Sunday 28 August
Both Manchester clubs went back above us with mixed performances City only managing five away at Spurs in a 1-5 win, while United failed to score nine in their 8-2 win over a spineless and dispirited Arsenal.
Don’t forget the teams that start the season on fire don’t always finish that way.
Thibault Courtois made his league debut as Atletico Madrid were held 0-0 at home by Osasuna . It was the young goalkeeper’s second clean sheet after making his debut against Vitoria Guimaraes in a 0-4 Uefa Cup stroll.