Monday 12 December
Chelsea 2:1 Manchester City
It didn’t take more than two minutes for our high defensive line to look more like a clothes line than a Premiership defence: Aguero turned Terry near half-way and fed Balotelli, round Cech. 0-1.
It could have got worse: Balotelli repaid the favour only for Bosingwa to cover as Aguero threatened. Meireles did manage a couple of pot shots in reply but Aguero was again free but fired wide. Then Silva tries to dance round Bosingwa and the referee, Mark Clattenburg failed to spot the trip – Bosingwa actually managed to kick Silva while appearing to get out of the way.
Given the surprisingly direct start from a team only a few points ahead of us who have struggled to score more than five in a game in recent weeks, Chelsea wisely reverted to plan B and started to defend more deeply. It worked. City started to get frustrated as avenues to the edge of the Chelsea box became congested. Toure was clearly getting frustrated when he first kicked Mata, ever so gently, while the latter was on the floor and then slapped him in the face. While we are grateful to Clattenburg for failing to spot the penalty, are officials simply looking the other way this season? Have Fifa issued new guidance (Directive number: 666 “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil”)?
The agony of waiting for them to break again was briefly interrupted on the half-hour: John Terry pinged a superb ball left-footed out to Sturridge on the right, he cut inside and for once chose to cross not shoot and an unmarked Meireles arrived to volley home. 1-1.
Shortly afterwards the Meireles almost got himself a red for a studs-up tackle.
And so half-time with few additional scares; Chelsea really do look extremely solid when defending deep, why we don’t try it more often is anyone’s guess.
Sturridge started the second-period with a bang. First he was hauled back by Gaël Clichy, who was booked, out on the wing only to meet Mata’s delivery but fire over. Ramires and Mata were probing forward, making Kompany and Toure look mugs but the referee was still being stingy with his cards … until … Ramires breaks, Clichy upends him and a second yellow means red.
Having sent one off the ref went card happy. Romeu was booked, again, while winning the ball cleanly, again. Ramires went in the book a little later again for an innocuous looking challenge. But we were keeping the pressure on, crosses rained in but defenders by an large got in the way until … Sturridge (what would we do without him?) cut in onto his left foot and fired goalward. Well, in the general direction of too hard, too high and too wide but Lescott managed to get both hands in the way. Lampard, on as a sub, pulled rank, whacked the penalty down the middle. 2-1.
You have never seen so many freezing, soaking wet people celebrate quite like that.
The party atmosphere lasted through the last ten minutes as Didier Drogba indulged in a master class of keeping the ball in the corner and frustrating your opponents. At one point he turned the attentions of two defenders and blasted toward goal from 30-metres. It would have been him goal of all time but in the end we had to settle for 2-1.
Oriol Romeu deserves further praise. The young Spaniard has made the holding position his own and shown a very cool head under pressure and a good range of passing. But for one early slip that nearly allowed a chance he had a flawless night.
Meanwhile, in the morning Shanghai Shenua announced a deal for Nicolas Anelka to sign in January. No fee was mentioned but Nic has got himself a three-year contract worth more than we could even earn in a lifetime. Since becoming Avram Grant’s first signing, from Bolton Wanderers for £15m, Anelka has scored 59 goals in 184 appearances.
Tuesday 13 December
Frank Lampard expressed his bemusement at being on the bench over the last few games and diplomatically – of course, Frank’s middle name is tact – moaned about a lack of communication with the new boss. Juan Mata doesn’t think it will be a problem for the England international: “He has the experience to remain calm, even when he’s not playing, to know that there will be times when he will play because there are so many games. He still has a lot to give. He will score a lot of goals and play a lot of games this season, I’m sure”.
Wednesday 14 December
Chelsea youth 2:1 Doncaster Rovers youth
Stains Town FC’s Wheatsheaf Park is step back in time for the modern premiership fan. Holding 3,000 (and nine, 3,009 don’t forget the nine) it is cold, difficult to find and when you concede after a few minutes, charmless. That said, the youth team would probably be happy to call it home after battling back from an early free kick to seal a win with goals from Lucas Piazon and John Swift.
Thursday 15 December
New evidence in the Loftus-gate affair: apparently, unseen video footage has been submitted to the CPS as they dwell on their decision whether to press charges or not.
It speaks volumes for the thoroughness of the police enquiry that was submitted to the CPS in the first place that new video evidence could become available. Remind yourself how many broadcasters covered the game nearly two-months ago – erm, one.
Friday 16 December
The annual balls out of the bag exercise in Nyon paired us with Napoli. Before you all troop off to the travel agency remember your stab vest. Things have been hairy in the last few years but Man City made it out pretty much unscathed.
Arsenal drew AC Milan, while Manchester United, oh, no hang on, their draw will be on in an hour.
Bayer Leverkusen proved how important that draw with Genk was by pulling Barcelona.
Group winners are away in the first leg and dates will be announced soon … as soon as today – we’ll be playing Tuesday 21 February and at home on Wednesday 14 March three, er, weeks later.
The academy boys got Norwich City away in the next round of the FA Youth cup.
Saturday 17 December
Wigan Athletic 1:1 Chelsea
This was the most anaemic disappointment of the season so far. With Luiz absent from defence Bosingwa retained his place and Ramires has a slight knock so Lampard came into midfield. That we missed the two Brazilians became painfully obvious as the match wore on.
The first-half trundled along with little incident; they tried an early dive, John Terry tried a thirty-yard thunderbolt, and they squealed about a handball when Ivanovic was doing his best to get out of the way Drogba made on effort to beat the defender but he headed just wide from Mata’s cross and that was it in a deathly poor match, against Wigan for god’s sake.
The half-time change was a doozy, Romeu went off and Salomon Kalou came on. While it was an opportunity for poor forgotten Salomon, the change felt forced, as if the manager was trying to influence the match but couldn’t think how to do it. Romeu had been his usual calm and effective self. So Kalou will play on the left and Mata will float in behind, erm, something like that.
Kalou did break to the byline and square for Drogba to shoot wide before Ashley Cole sent a long diagonal and suddenly Sturridge is in, excellent first touch and shot. 0-1.
Shortly after the goal AVB took off Mata for Mikel and we started to struggle. First John Terry looked to have injured knee ligaments then an Ivanovic back pass failed to reach Cech only for the big Serbian to get back and head the chance away. We were rocking with quarter of an hour to go.
AVB seemed to be struggling as well. He took Sturridge off and replaced him with Malouda? The one reliable outlet going forward and he’s replaced with an out of form sulking get. So the midfield, missing the drive of Ramires from the start remember, has now lost Romeu, Sturridge and Mata. We struggle to mount an attack or, after Monday master class of keep-ball, hold possession for more than a couple of passes.
The late, sickening but inevitable, equaliser came when Di Santo found Rodallega bursting into the box and Chelsea players flailing around. Cole and Cech got in each other’s way as the ball squirted across and Gomez tapped in. 1-1. On the balance of play you couldn’t argue that it wasn’t deserved. We were hanging on towards the end as Wigan threw bodies at the box and we struggled to keep them out.
This was another shambles. AVB got this wrong, it seems Luiz and Ramires were rested ahead of Spurs on Thursday and most of the team that played looked sloppy and uninterested. The substitutions compounded things as the three most effective players on the pitch Romeu, Mata and Sturridge all gave way to clearly inferior replacements. If AVB thinks we are going to win something he will have to cure the problem of pissing away a lead, especially away from home, against Wigan Athletic.
Sunday 18 December
Predictably everyone around us won their games, QPR didn’t have Foy to help and lost 0-2 to Manchester United. Arsenal had their moments but lost to City 1-0. Tottenham go above us again by beating Sunderland 1-0, even Liverpool managed a 0-2 at Villa, where we would probably ship a late equaliser having picked Hilario as holding midfield and Bosingwa as a lone target man. Sorry, but what is the point in beating City to cut the gap to seven, only to hand back two of the points you’d won and in a manner like yesterdays. Angry.