From the dairy this month: Joe Cole’s shining moments of joy, McClaren’s P45, ‘you don’t know what you’re doing’ and incredible youth cup progress.Quotes of the month: “I think this period of my life was actually much worse for Martina because she was with me every second and saw close-up how it affected me. I couldn’t read for more than five minutes without falling asleep. I had terrible headaches and I was taking a lot of medication. I would sleep for almost all of the day. I was constantly exhausted and then I would get frustrated because I couldn’t do all the things that you normally take for granted – simple things like talking or getting to my feet.” (Guardian, Saturday 15 December) If you need reminding of miracles at this time of year, Cech gives some insight into life with a serious head injury.
Saturday 1 December
Chelsea 1:0 West Ham United
It is always a pleasure to have the ‘ammers round for the afternoon.
Joe Cole produced a shining moment of joy amid piles of dreck; heavy tackles, thumped long balls, and general huffing and puffing. In fact the only other bright moment came when Hammers fans shone a laser beam into Didier’s eyes
Once again the new football was absent but once again it didn’t matter much as West Ham managed little better than Solano’s gentle chip and a shot straight at Cudicini.
The first-half was one of the most wretched passages of play devised by two teams this season. Crunching tackles apart there was simply so little happening. West Ham fought on every inch of the pitch and the game had stale 0-0 written all over it.
Once again the afternoon lit up when Shaun came on, is it too much to ask to have him on from the start?
Millwall youth 0:3 Chelsea youth
A pleasant and somewhat embarrassingly easy win, where the goals and points all piled up in the first half-hour and the rest was a rest. Frank Nouble and Miroslav Stoch stood out.
Sunday 2 December
FA Cup draw couldn’t be better, all the glamour of Queens Park Rangers at home. It feels like half a life ago that we last played them and we are buggered if we can remember what happened. Villa will play Man U as always.
Didier will not mind coming fourth in the Ballon d’Or because he came first in the prestigious BBC London Footballer of the Year stakes.
Monday 3 December
It is not often that Chelsea do something with which you just can’t agree, at least since Batesy left, but this is one out of his top draw. Michael Mancienne will not play for QPR against us in the FA Cup. Whatever the agreement between the clubs over Michael’s loan to rob a young player of experience of a high profile match like this is a mistake. Both Scott Sinclair and Ben Sahar will be back from the back of beyond before the game in so it doesn’t apply to them.
Tuesday 4 December
Chelsea reserves 4:2 Southend reserves
Bit of a kick about for Michael Ballack to get some strength in his legs. Everything seems to be progressing well. For the second time in a week the young pair of Frank Nouble and Miroslav Stoch caught the eye. First team football soon for these two please Avram.
The big QPR match will be a Saturday 3pm; oh, the romance and tradition of the cup?
Wednesday 5 December
As Arsenal creep a further point ahead with a draw at Newcastle, news comes in the Didier might need surgery on his knee. Scans showed that last month’s injury has not healed as we would have wanted. There follows a debate about timing, Didier doesn’t want to miss the African Cup of Nations, we don’t want him to miss many league games.
Saturday 8 December
Chelsea 2:0 Sunderland
Another really cold, really boring afternoon which was cold. The new football will have to wait for those days when teams generously decide to take us on. We’ll really be able to judge the mettle of this team under Avram Grant, after next Sunday’s game with Arsenal.
One piece will be missing from that set-up because Didier Drogba had his knee operation after suffering a lock-up on Friday. Whether he will be able to play in Ghana in January is unsure, but we will miss him from the league until February at least.
Without Didier, Schevchenko was given his big chance to impress, and you have to say he passed. His goal was well taken from a cross that required anticipation and committed header, a few weeks ago he lacked both.
That we spent the rest of the game looking for another presentable chance is credit to Sunderland under Roy Keane. He is turning into quite a forceful manager and getting away with 2-0 at Stamford Bridge will have pleased him.
The penalty was a little soft, Alex is big enough to look after himself, but welcome. Frank dispatched with confidence.
Salomon had most of the rest of the chances but isn’t sticking things away at the moment. A long run in the side would do him good but he is also off to Ghana.
JT and Pizarro got a bit stuck in to Liam Miller at the end and the boy foolishly pushed Claudio in the face in retaliation. John is getting a reputation for losing his cool which will not serve him well as captain if refs arrive with the idea that he is up for an argument; softly, softly John.
Oh, and Ronaldo though it necessary to cheat by diving for a penalty when United were already 3-1 up at home.
Sunday 9 December
While you were slogging round the shopping centre this afternoon saying things like “it’ll do, it’ll do” and “did you see what she bought me last year” or “it’ll be a cold day in hell when I spend £35 on that bastard”, Arsenal were losing at the Riverside. It means we are only three points behind going into the game at the Emirates next week.
Monday 10 December
West Ham reserves 0:0 Chelsea reserves
Plenty of chances for a win but no goals for those freezing their nadgers off. With an eye on the Youth Cup defeat to Stevenage on Thursday plenty of regulars were rested but we still controlled in the main and created some good moves.
Avram expects Didier back within three weeks, although it is probably best to wait to see what the medics have to say. People call John Terry an iron man but, although he moans and hobbles a lot, Didier Drogba has been playing through incredible pain and discomfort.
Meanwhile Jose has turned down the opportunity to manage England, he said there had been useful discussions with Barwick and Brooking but that it wasn’t for him. Many have said that Jose wouldn’t be diplomatic enough for the job but who the fuck cares? If we won the World Cup would you personally mind if Jose stepped on a few toes to get there? No, of course you wouldn’t. That kind of thinking robbed the England team of Brian Clough, now it has robbed them of Mourinho. Never, they, will and learn need to be subtly rearranged (unless you are Yoda) to describe these cretins.
Wednesday 11 December
Chelsea 0:0 Valencia
“We deserved to win 5-0 at least but because it was not important I enjoyed the game,” it isn’t often you can agree wholeheartedly with Avram. Santiago Cañizares was the sole difference between no goals and a five-nil win. Kalou and Cole hit the bar and post respectively. Shevchenko spurned a few. Lampard would have scored but for Cañizares pulling off a blinding stop.
Andrij Mykolajovyč Ševčenko was substituted at half-time, to save him for Sunday’s game with Arsenal.
As 0-0s go this was one of the better ones, the low points mostly involved Shaun Wright-Phillips, his crossing simply went anywhere but near a Chelsea player. The other off day was Tal Ben-Haim’s, he stank, again. The odd thing is that we know there is a good player under there, good anticipation and an unheralded ability to play the ball forward; it seems he is constantly strangled by nerves.
Petr Cech was back and actually needed to be sharp on two saves. But the few highlights Valencia managed showed up how far they have fallen, We have no idea what happened there but something is seriously amiss, that a team can go from two Champions’ League finals to this struggling misshapen mess in a few months is a sobering warning to us all. Perhaps too it is an indication of how well Avram has done in keeping his players motivated and facing in the same direction.
Thursday 13 December
Stevenage youth 0:1 Chelsea youth
Adam Phillip, on as a sub, scored the goal that confounds our, oft repeated, prediction that we’d lose in the first round. Bloody cold night for playing football, which wasn’t helped by a 20-minute delay. Newcastle or Shrewsbury in the next round.
“Chelsea FC have admitted a charge relating to the behaviour of their players towards referee Andre Marriner during a match against Derby County last month”, we should start sticking up for ourselves.
Avram got a new four-year contract today. He won’t stay that long but at least he’ll have something to feather his nest when he gets sacked. We’re not being pessimistic, all football management careers end the same way. Still no word on his coaching qualifications, by the way, although Uefa seem happy to let him continue.
Sunday 16 December
Arsenal 1:0 Chelsea
Never would have happened under Mourinho, in fact it never did happen under Jose. That they could have been down to ten men and their goal was a gift preceded by a foul doesn’t really excuse losing to Arsenal.
Nine bookings for once reflected the severity of the game. With both sides guilty of some artless tackling but the ref most culpable for failing to gain any semblance of control.
John Terry’s foul on Cesc Fábregas was a case in point; Fábregas bounced straight back up from the challenge and shoved JT in the chest, thus raising his arms to an opponent and warranting a red card. The ref booked John and Frank Lampard, who was probably just reminding him what his job was. Still Frank isn’t blessed like Gerrard with the gift of talking fluent referee.
Emmanuel Eboué then stamped his studs into John’s ankle and only received a yellow. You’ll remember how much we complained when Obi John was sent off at Old Trafford for an offence that wasn’t a patch on this. Eboué was trying to block the ball but left his foot in to make contact.
Their goal, Cech flapped, Gallas pushed Ben-Haim, goal.
Shaun should have equalised, Shevchenko might have. Neither looked capable of really hurting. Joe Cole had to come inside to get the ball because he isn’t a winger and looked all the stronger for playing the middle.
Ash should be more careful about how he waves to the crowd, some seem to think his salute to his former worshipers was somehow insulting.
Southampton youth 3:1 Chelsea youth
Threw this one away in the first-half, with two soft goals inside 30-minutes but played well second, and should have had a few more, except Tom Taiwo got himself sent off. It was thank kind of day.
Monday 17 December
John Terry and Chelsea will feel Eboué’s stud marks for the next two months at least. John has three broken bones in his foot (and he tried to run it off – made of steel that one) and will be missing for at least six weeks, probably three months. Knowing him he’ll be back Saturday.
Fabio Capello got his feet under his Soho Square desk today and all we can say is good luck. He has one advantage; the state of the England team and the depression level of much of the support means what ever he does is going to be better than McClaren. Whether it will be good enough…
Wednesday 19 December
Chelsea 2:0 Liverpool
Benitez was doing his nut after this, not because Peter Crouch was sent off but because the ref should have intervened before because Obi John had fouled him. Letting the game flow, playing advantage, and teaching your players not to lunge in with their studs up would seem not to be Rafa’s strong points.
The game wasn’t a classic. Frank Lampard’s 99th goal in blue means he can start writing a message in permanent marker on his vest for Sunday. Shevchenko’s blast at the last might give him confidence or just confirm that he doesn’t often score important goals.
Liverpool set out to hit us on the break, but with Carvalho back in the side they stood little chance.
Michael Ballack made a belated return from eight months out on his ankle. So injuries bring mixed blessings.
Thursday 20 December
Everton in the next round of the cup, thrillingly: at home first. Crouch has been opening his big racist gob, saying that, while he was in the wrong, Obi John shouldn’t have been rolling round like he’d been shot, and only foreigners do that. Peter, that is the biggest load of shit to come out of a footballer’s mouth since simple surgical cures for twisted bowel.
Oddly Queen’s Park Rangers are now considerably richer than us, Lakshmi Mittal the world’s fifth richest man bought a chunk of our little neighbours.
Friday 21 December
Longest night of the year, it is all longer days from now on and Olympiakos in Europe in the spring.
The inevitable happened at the Cottage: Lawrie Sanchez lost his job. That is what you get for spending £20m buying the Northern Ireland squad. Hopefully there will be less hoof under Ray Lewington, who takes over as caretaker.
Sunday 23 December
Blackburn Rovers 0:1 Chelsea
Joe Cole lit-up proceedings again, as Chelsea fashioned one glorious movement amid more away day huff and puff. Petr Cech’s hip injury comes at a bad time, with Cudicini also out (rib) it was up to Hilario to come on to be the hero, and he was, deflecting away a goal bound header with seven minutes left.
Blackburn were lively from the start but Cech and the crossbar were equal to their best efforts. Shevchenko skied a perfect opportunity and just as everyone was wondering what more could go wrong Joe broke onto Kalou’s perfect pass to finish with a rocket. 0-1 never looked enough but Blackburn couldn’t take advantage of Cech hobbling on for fifteen minutes before being subbed and we rode out the rest in comfort.
Frank Lampard had a few good stabs at his hundredth goal but hitting the post after running half the length of the pitch was the closest he came.
Why is it that old drunk blokes in front of Sky coverage insist on saying “that one’s in your back garden mate” whenever the ball goes over the bar?
Carvalho’s form after such a long time out was the biggest plus, with the rest of the squad queuing at the physio’s door we have him to be thankful for but with our two main goalkeepers injured and John Terry out who will take the gloves if Hilario falls prey to the keeper crisis?
Wednesday 26 December
Chelsea 4:4 Aston Villa
This was back to the days of figgy pudding defending and eight goal thrillers that used to mark the Christmas programme.
What can you say, Chelsea started as if they’d only just finished their turkey while Villa played as if they’d not eaten in days. They could have been three up before half-time, that they were two ahead was down to a mixture of leaden defending and Cech’s now customary slip.
Lampard’s thigh strain gave us an hour of Ballack an boy he played well. He won the penalty that enabled Shevchenko to pull one back on the stroke of half-time. And it was a penalty, the ref had a clear view and decided on the first sending off of the afternoon.
1-2 at half-time wasn’t so bad, especially as Andrij then did what he was bought for and thrashed in a 20-yard wonder goal. His performance was excellent, his next contribution was to play in the marauding Alex for a well taken third and everything looked back to normal, defence was stronger the attacks more sustained, only for the defence to sleep at a freekick and allow Villa, unmolested a free shot for 3-3.
Ballack’s free-kick to restore the lead came courtesy of a ref who saw an offence that was invisible to the rest of us, but the penalty he awarded Villa at the death was cruel. Ashley Cole was sent off for handball when the ball clearly hit his shoulder. The club will appeal.
That took us down to nine-men because Ricardo got him self sent off on 80-minutes for a two footed lunge, that won the ball and missed the player but could have been serious. These tackles have been controversial recently because of the inconsistency of interpretation and a general confusion as to what the law actually is. Carvalho’s however was stand out wrong and he later apologised. So with Terry, Malouda, and Drogba out injured, Cole and Carvalho suspended you have to be thankful that we’ve only got shaky Newcastle and flaky Fulham in the next two league games. Oh, an QPR in the cup but we were thinking of taking them on with one hand tied behind our back anyway.
Thursday 27 December
Frank Lampard will be out for a few weeks at least with another torn thigh muscle. Buying a few players next week is looking increasingly sensible but then it did this time last year.
Friday 28 December
What the f*** is the FA appeals panel for exactly? Ashley Cole lost his appeal against being sent off on Wednesday. Assuming they have a DVD player and the rights to review footage, how did they come to that conclusion. The ball hits Cole on the shoulder not the arm, no penalty, no card, no one match ban. The FA can’t do anything about the first two but looking at the video you have to correct the latter. Although it is called an appeals hearing so perhaps they listened to the radio commentary before making their decision.
Meanwhile, manager madness has spread down to the Cottage. Roy Hodgson has been given the Fulham job on a long-term basis. To which you have to say: ‘you what’. Hodgson hasn’t had notable success in this country, his last job was getting creditable results for Finland but failing to qualify.
Saturday 29 December
Chelsea 2:1 Newcastle United
Salomon Kalou, three-yards off-side pulled this one out of the shit because the new manager doesn’t know what he is doing. Newcastle were furious that the goal stood as Kalou profited from a deflected shot with two minutes to go.
The rest was a struggle, Newcastle were better organised than you’d expect and it seemed to take an age before the ball fell to Essien to scoop home.
Their equaliser had sods-law written all over it and is probably the scrappiest effort at the bridge this century. Wayne Bridge managed to back-heel the ball over the line while trying to clear under pressure from Nicky Butt.
Three-points from this were vital for keeping the slim hopes of a title challenge going, especially as news came through at the end that West Ham had beaten Manchester United. We closed the gap to four-points. Arsenal remain two-points further on, but we have to be realistic, with half the side injured or suspended and five off to the African cup of nations, we will do well to better third.