Firstly, Merry Christmas and all that sh*t. I hope you’ve all stuffed your faces and managed to get through it without throttling your offspring or your in-laws.
In the News:
So Oscar is gone. He is a great player, but he never fulfilled his potential in England. For what it’s worth (nothing actually, as I don’t get paid for this) as much as I liked him, I don’t think it was physical. I didn’t think he was mentally that strong. Hazard had a stinker last year, the whole world was on his back, and he’s bounced back. JT up at Burnley after a tabloid storm, goes and scores; Lampard playing and scoring in the Champions League just after his mum died, Diego overcoming his Hulk rage and channelling it into his game. I don’t think I can see Oscar ever being one of those top level players, one that takes professional or personal adversity and uses it to smash home a point and shut everyone up. To be a real world-beater you either have to have such a massive ego that nothing anyone says can touch you (The Zlatan, Ronaldo) or you’ve got to be a machine, able to turn all your sh*t around and use it to fire you up and take you to the next level. As talented as Oscar undoubtedly is, he never looked like either. He came across, to me, as maybe a bit fragile for the relentless, analytical and critical side of being a professional footballer. He was erratic in his form, from the sublime to the ridiculous in a week. Every setback also seemed to bog him down and last for ages, as he’s proved this when the biggest one has hit him and he’s taken an immediate transfer when he can’t get in Conte’s side. Have a look at what Fabregas has done in the same position. To my mind, Oscar’s Asian move proves my amateur pyschology. Things haven’t gone well for him, and he isn’t going to stick around and prove anybody wrong. He’s taken the easiest option available to him by going to China. He can turn up on his worst day and play to 40% of his ability and he will still be the best player in the country by a mile. He is guaranteed to be a superstar. There is literally no pressure on him, and no danger of failure, because footballing wise he’ll be playing in the equivalent of the Scottish lower leagues. I liked him, but equally I doubt I’ll miss him much, if that makes any sense. I’ll maybe briefly ponder what might have been. Good luck and God speed and all that, but he’s basically being paid an obscene amount of money to end his career.
HHWNBN has been at it again. He’s never been at a club as big as United, apparently. And the league is Chelsea‘s to lose. He also says that he refuses to employ everyone else’s negative tactics (the same ones he has used relentlessly at every club that he has ever been at) because they are beneath them. I wonder when he’ll realise that the only mind he is destroying with his inane (and nonsensical) drivel appears now to be his own? To the rest of the footballing world he’s just that piss-smelling elderly relative that’s let out once a year, sitting ignored in the corner of your lounge on Christmas Day talking to himself in a crumpled paper crown whilst he dribbles mince pie down his front.
I took one look at our big dead turkey and named it Alan, after Pardew, who has probably had about as good a week as the bird. Poor b*stard. And poor Palace fans. Their new manager reckons he had come out of his darkest moment. Well, they are just entering theirs. They’ve just been guaranteed sh*t on a stick, dull relegation battles for the foreseeable future. And more importantly, as Mowgli (special alias) has pointed out: It is pretty incomprehensible that on the one hand England have been fined tens of thousands of pounds for something as innocuous as wearing a poppy, and on the other a corrupt prick like Allardyce is just walking back into the game with no sanctions after humiliating the national side by being as bent-looking as Ricky Martin gyrating on a carnival float to the Weather Girls, whilst wearing a mankini and a two foot headress made of plastic fruit. Adorned in a tracksuit, gnawing on gum and looking like a lazy waste of space, with a big mouth and nothing of any intelligence to say, he will at least fit in in Croydon.
The Others: F*ck ‘em. If we keep winning they don’t matter.
Our Game: We were looking for our twelfth victory in a row, which brings us right up close to the record in one season. Bournemouth became the first newly promoted team to win at the Bridge in fourteen years when they beat us last season (didn’t everyone?) But they had only won one game in the last ten away from home, so tentatively, I was hopeful. We were forced to make changes owing to suspensions. The first was a straight swap of Fabregas for Kante but the talking point was that Batshuayi was left out and that instead, Conte opted to start both Willian and Pesto (Eff off, autospell) To be fair, both have got more of a claim on a starting place by a mile. Perhaps more shocking than any of our team news was the fact that both of Jack Wilshere‘s little twiglet legs were working properly, together, for the first time, well, ever.
The crowd was remarkably awake for a group of people who between them consumed in excess of 130 million calories and a lot of alcohol yesterday. We like Eddie Howe. We like Bournemouth, because they actually come to play football and it was an even start. A brilliant through ball to Pesto after five minutes was just too long, and we were deprived of an early goal. Our first shot on target came ten minutes later when Hazard danced across the front of the box and past half the Bournemouth side, but there was no power behind it and it was comfortably saved, but more chances followed. There was a great break by Luiz, who went storming up the pitch midway through the half, but when it came to sending him the ball from out wide Pesto’s effort was something in between a shot and a cross. No such worry a couple of minutes later though, when he picked a perfect spot in the top corner to give the keeper no chance and put us in the lead. Bournemouth had their fair share of possession and they forced a save from Thibaut and a great block from Dave. This was followed up immediately by penalty shout from the away side that was emphatically waved away. Which brings me to Refwatch: Mike Jones was quite whistle happy today, though to be fair he was consistent in that he gave everything, all day, to both sides, which is more than can be said for most of his f*ckmuppet colleagues.
Bournemouth came out fired up for the second half, but as we are so efficient at counter-attacking at the moment, it led to immediate problems for them when we broke and they conceded a penalty which Hazard tucked neatly away on 49 minutes. That was his 50th league goal for the club, and the worst thing that could have happened for Bournemouth as then they had no choice but to come right out and attempt to salvage something from the game, leaving themselves vulnerable. Willian forced a save on 57, Moses could have had a goal a minute later. Howe‘s side maintained better possession and worked hard, but on the hour they’d only managed a single shot on target. When they finally did almost get in our box we’d snatch it back and in four passes they were scrambling to defend at the other end. To their credit, Bournemouth kept going till the end. A double substitution introduced new attacking options but still they couldn’t make the breakthrough. Hazard really did deserve a goal for his one man run on the 68th minute, but his shot was blocked. Where I was, we missed what was probably the opposition’s best shot thanks to a feisty man in a Christmas jumper in the West Lower taking on the whole Shed at singing. We salute you, you lunatic. Bournemouth made their last change and brought on Ibe and right on cue one of Wilshere‘s weetabix legs gave way. He came back on and running about looked like all those post Christmas joggers which are going to flood past my window next week for about three days before they give up again. I don’t think he’s convincing anyone back at Arsenal if today’s display was anything to go by. I wrote a song:
Oooooooh Wilshere is a pisshead, he’s got no magic hat,
He went and signed for Arsenal, but they said no f*ck that.
They sent him off to Bournemouth, and he tried with all his might,
But everyone had realised that he was a load of shite.
In injury time Pesto was determined to hog the ball all the way to the other end and it deflected in for his second, (well deserved) goal of the game. No Kante, no Diego, but still the same discipline and the same stability. Smashing people like Everton and United (lol) is all well and good but today, again, we faced a side that played well and have tripped up others and yet still we still didn’t really look under threat for any sustained period of time, despite having less possession. Pesto and Hazard were outstanding, but a word on someone else. Cahill took a lot of sh*t from a lot of people last season and at the beginning of this one(not from me, because I’m shallow and I’ve got got a thing about his ears and his northern accent makes him sound like he might be dirty) He was disciplined and everywhere he should have been again today. He’s now captained us through a dozen straight wins. I think he deserves some credit. He has not the speed of Dave or Luiz, but looks at home in this system. He works damn hard and is much more of a player than we thought we were getting for a pittance five years ago. He’s a decent servant to the club who has never caused any manager any trouble or been linked to any dressing room drama. Players like him and Dave are a rarity in a game full of divas and egomaniacs and I like them.
If I had to pick a hole at the moment? Can anyone name the last player we had taking corners that consistently cleared the first man? We suck at it.
Contribution from Alex Churchill