Aaaah – the magic of the cup. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the following quote:
“Can you imagine how annoying it is when you win thirteen games in a row and there’s one team only six points behind?”
Since Klopp said this, the Scouse have lost four, drawn three, won a single game 1-0, are out of the League Cup, out of the FA Cup and are eleven points behind us. And I think it’s been less than a month. Now I bet THAT is annoying! Not since the Kruger Telegram has a German looked quite so silly. Even if they beat us on Tuesday it means nothing because they let themselves get stuffed at home by Swansea. That and we’ll always have Slippy G as a comeback.
In the News: Imagine my surprise when Wenger got less of a ban for twice shoving an official than the Oldham manager for simply gobbing off at one. Sit him next to us in the Shed Upper next week. We’ll look after him. There was much amusement to be had all week reading about the Scouse implosion and how Daniel Sturridge is a has-been. But Frank Lampard – Don’t think that that comment about the wonder of their fans went unnoticed in blue corners!
The Others: Wes Morgan continues to be a massive liability, but he managed to get his meathead (it might have been a foot, or his arse, I gave up caring after I cashed out my Derby to win bet at 7/1) on an equaliser and Leicester just scraped a replay. If Leicester are eyeballing Ivanovic it’s not surprising. He’s like a whippet compared to Morgan or Huth, with or without his magic arse. Speaking of the Friday night game, Ladies and Gentlemen I also give you Graeme Le Saux, the world’s only mute commentator. He said about four words in 20 minutes. Still he’s better at it than Michael Owen, he’s not an embarrassment to style and intelligence like Savage, you can understand him, unlike Carragher half the time and he can at least speak English in proper sentences, which ranks him above Rio and most definitely above Ian Wright. And he excels more at talking for a living than he did at ice skating. Or Master Chef. Huge laughs listening to Paul Ince rip it out of his kid throughout, too.
Today got off to a flier thanks to the mighty Wolves. “What is going wrong for L*******l?” Ask the BBC. Who cares! We cry, but long may it continue! Elsewhere, nobody will be surprised to learn that karma does exist and that Allardyce still can’t fashion a win for Palace. L’Arse beat a Southampton side who couldn’t give a flying f*ck seeing as they’ve already got to Wembley, and Oxford surprisingly thrashed Newcastle. I wonder if Rafa goes home to Tyneside and curls up in a ball and just weeps at night whilst looking at a scrapbook of before he failed at life. Lincoln came from behind to turn over Brighton, which means I can perv at the two brothers that manage them for a while longer, but it’s all about the mighty Sutton United tomorrow. I may have no windows left by the time Dirty L**ds head north again, but hopefully they will have got a shoeing at Gander Green Lane. Channel Chopper boys, channel Chopper.
Our Game: A full day off for Thibaut, Captain Cahill, Luiz, Kante and Alonso. Matic, Costa, Moses and Hazard dropped to the bench, where there was also a spot for Kenedy, who I have to admit, I had pretty much forgotten existed. So here we are starting the day with five academy products on the pitch. Check out the enemies of football, eh? (Yawn) One of them, visiting with Brentford, spent much of the week talking about finding it impossible to break into the first team and trying hard not to sound bitter, (I was about 75% convinced)one’s at the other end of his career and has literally nothing left to prove as a club legend, but it gave me great joy to see Ake, Loftus-Cheek and Chalobah all start. Not as much joy as Pepe the Prawn, (muppet alias) whose man-crushes are now just as fickle and indiscriminate as a teenage girl obsessing over a boyband when it comes to the nubile youth in the dressing room. He’d put out for any of them.
The first half saw a spirited beginning from the visitors, though there was nothing doing in the last third until they headed wide after ten minutes. Two minutes later a clumsy body slam on Pesto (f*ck off auto spell) that he may have milked a little bit gave us a free kick on the edge of the box. We were behind and in line with it and as soon as Howard (sitcom nicknames – Big Bang Theory) saw the Keeper’s position he said “this is a goal”. He was right. How you are that far over when it is WILLIAN lining up to smash it at you is a puzzler. Nonetheless it was brilliantly placed by our fuzzy haired favourite. Less than ten minutes later Batshuayi tried to get a pass through to Loftus-Cheek, who couldn’t connect with it, but Pesto the poacher nipped in and sent it past the Brentford keeper on the near post. For all their enthusiasm, the Championship side were quite atrocious at the back. It could have been three in the 25th minute during a bundle in the goalmouth, but the ball didn’t quite clear the line. Another was chalked off as offside and Loftus-Cheek also forced the keeper to tip one over the bar. In the last five minutes of the half there was a little bit of a flurry from Brentford, but nothing for us to sh*t our pants over. Unlike Sp*rs who were 0-2 to Wycombe at this point.
Not deterred, Brentford came out to have a go in the second half. Willian sent an early opportunity over the bar, before he made a great run, leaving half the opposition for dust on the floor to play the ball in for Ruben, who cracked the bar. Branna came on for Willian on 62, probably because he starts Tuesday and Conte wanted to rest his legs, but he’d also lost the plot a bit and was bombing round shouting at everyone, as my nan would have said, like a tit in a trance. Thrilled to see the Serb score one of the easiest goals of his tenure after running most of the length of the pitch. It would be nice to see him go out with a bit of a bang instead of fading away before he departs. No doubt about the penalty after he was brought down either, clumsy on the part of the defender, which brings me to Refwatch: Michael Oliver – we’ve not had him in a while. He wasn’t under any pressure at all today, but no incessant whistle blowing, no missed decisions for me and no brain farts in either direction. In the same way I will nitpick at every f*ck up they can muster, I suppose I’ll have to give them credit when they actually earn their money. But grudgingly, like when you are forced to applaud at your kids’ God awful school play.
So: Our fringe players got a run out against league one opposition last round. This time it was Championship Brentford, so a step up. How did they do?
Right at the back they weren’t called into much stressful action. Zouma is still on the comeback trail. I’ve not seen him sprint all out since his return, but he had a nice little wander up field a couple of times today and looked good. Hopefully his youth, and general beastlikeness (if it isn’t a word, it should be) is not going to leave him with any lasting damage after such a nasty injury. I am a tiny bit afraid of him. But I love him.
Chalobah has been progressing well all season and I think he was the best of the bit-part players again today. I just can’t fault him. Energy, discipline, presence and precision. He looked every bit as good as he did against Peterborough. Scrap that, better. He just looks like he belongs. Shoving people over on their arse when they mess with his teammates like at City helps me like him too.
Same for Ake, who is back in blue and deservedly so. Our faithful, roaming Chelsea academy nomad was all over the pitch today. He began in Alonso‘s role so he’s seemingly not only back to replace Oscar. He was really impressive on the left. When Dave went off he slipped into the back three and in both positions he was every bit as comfortable as he has looked at Bournemouth. Early days for him under Conte, but very promising confirmation of his versatility and he slotted into the team well.
Given that we’d given him up for scrubbing boots at Vitesse or having been abducted by aliens, the same goes for Kenedy, who also got a chance to try and show that he too is a competent alternative to Alonso. I can’t recall that he put a foot wrong, other than daring to take to the field in a heretical shirt sleeves and gloves ensemble, and he even had a chance to get himself on the scoresheet.
Loftus-Cheek’s last two showings have been really promising. Today he was bullied off the ball five times in the opening 20 mins. Then he won us a corner shortly after that and got progressively better as the game went on, For me, he played his way right into it, and is streets ahead of the frustrating showings we had come to expect. If I had to come up with a criticism, it would be that he is a bit of a tank, and I think at youth level he’d probably got quite good at throwing his weight around and flattening people. But now he’s going to be up against experienced players and fat b*stards like Charlie Adam and it isn’t quite as effective. A couple of times today he tried and it didn’t work, he bounced off. Hit ‘em harder next time!
But at least he tried a bit of this. Which is more than can be said for Batshuayi, which saddens me, because I want to see everyone in a blue shirt do well, but he is a conundrum. He’s not lazy. He worked hard today. He got an assist and a goal. But. And it is a big, Ivanovic-style but. (get it?) I was wringing my hands for much of the game because the return he gets for his work is not nearly good enough. I think I understand why he doesn’t necessarily start when Diego isn’t there and you can just use Hazard or one of the other miniature assassins instead. This was Brentford. With the greatest respect, he will face much, MUCH tougher defenders. And yet there was no presence, no aggression. I can’t think of one occasion in which he went in for a 50/50 and held the ball up. Or took it off anyone. In fact from what Howard and I clocked, he went in for his first proper challenge, like he meant it, on 89:56. And he ended up fouling the guy. The best strikers in the world intimidate the f*ck out of defenders. People want to forearm smash Costa in the face. If anyone said that about Batshuayi right now, I’d think they had a history of being heavily medicated. If I was a defender, I’d be inclined to think that if I went in for the ball growling loud enough, he’d let me have it. He’s not sh*t. He’s just nice. He can do really good things when he isn’t under any pressure, like his assist. It troubles me that he’s got the fighting spirit of a Frenchman facing an invasion who has run out of smelly cheese. (I can say this because all my friends are French) Someone put it better than me when they said he needs b*stard lessons. He’s not even assertive when he’s making runs. Case in point on 67 minutes today. Pesto breaks, and instead of bombing in and SHOWING him where he wants the ball, he floats in between two decisions and waits for Pesto to choose for him. Why did Michy get a goal? Because as soon as the penalty was called, Diego picks up the ball and says, go on, get on the scoresheet, you deserve it. (Or possibly “PUT THIS IN THE NET OR I WILL EAT YOUR FACE!” – in Spanish) People are not going to give you those opportunities on a regular basis to be nice, you need to grab them for yourself. Costa comes on with the result dead and buried wanting to destroy the opposition, forgiving him for the faux pas of the short sleeves and gloves, because I don’t want to make him angry, he did more effective work in front of goal in ten minutes than Batshuayi did all afternoon. The ball runs out of play at 4-0 and he acts like it is the end of the world. Buy a mannequin, Michy. Stick a picture of Danny Rose on it and practice getting angry and punching it in the face repeatedly. Find your inner monster. Man up. CHANNEL CHOPPER! Because it is frustrating that most of what else would make you really quite good is there waiting.
I’m far too sober for a Saturday night. I’m going to find gin. Bring on Tuesday.
Contribution from Alex Churchill. Follow her on Twitter