Tuesday 27 September
Oh, for god’s sake, shut the fuc … up (part2): after goals in his last two games the gentlemen of the press have had to move on from Fernando Torres, instead, Frank Lampard has become the negative obsession of the day. Asked repeatedly about Frank’s place in the squad AVB eventually snapped, “I think I’ve answered that question enough”.
He tried to explain to the braying idiots of the press: “The fact that these players are ‘changing’ and that they are ‘out’ and then they are ‘in’ and, ‘What is the problem with this player?’ and, ‘How is he going to react to a different situation?’
“I don’t see things like that. We all see things in the dressing room as team objectives and collective objectives, nothing else … I just go on managing my team and the biggest challenge of the manager is having everybody motivated.
“Everybody wants to play, so everybody competes for a place. There’s no mystique in this situation. It’s the day-by-day life of management.” He might have been a wee bit tetchy after the players were delayed for four hours at Gatwick waiting on the tarmac before changing planes.
Actual information contained in the press conference: Daniel Sturridge is fit and Ramires is back from suspension. Alex, Paulo Ferreira and Josh McEachran are not with the squad in Spain.
Wednesday 28 September
Valencia 1:1 Chelsea
Ah, it was all going so well. AVB will not lose sleep over a draw for which, although clumsily handed to the Spaniards by Salomon Kalou, he’d settled before the match.
For once in a season of thrilling matches from start to finish there was actually a few yawns around as the first-half trundled along. There was incident: Torres was clean through and bundled over in the penalty area but then we don’t get penalties in Uefa sanctioned competitions and the players seem to realise; there was hardly a murmur in appeal.
The hosts started like a group of six-year-olds thrust onto stage in front of all their school friends – they know what they are supposed to be doing but are too nervous to pull it off. A minute after the Torres chance, Malouda’s weak effort was poked goalwards by a defender before their ’keeper fumbled a simple catch from a corner. All this in the space of ten minutes.
When they eventually settled to some possession Valencia moved the ball menacingly enough: Jordi Alba on the left and Soldado and Pablo Hernandez in one move down the right found penetrating play but no supporting colleagues or bodies in the box.
And so it remained for the rest of the half, they had possession but no penetration and we seemed content to contain any threat they had.
We started the second with more penetration. Bosingwa flew down the right and Torres’ header was brilliantly turned aside by Diego Alves.
Valencia were still creating half chances but it was Ramires who broke in the inside-right channel and bore down on Alves but couldn’t find a side-step or shimmy and the chance went begging. Almost in a heartbeat the Spanish ’keeper was keeping out an own-goal when one of his defenders contrived to head goalwards.
Malouda then broke to the byline and sent a low cross to Lampard, unmarked at the edge of the area, and the has-been pensioner slammed in. 0-1.
The flurry of activity and chances swept the spectacle up and quietened the crowd down but Valencia were not finished and started to find a route to the edge of our box with every attack. Their best attempt comes when Piatti smashed one toward the top corner but Cech pawed the ball behind.
Ten minutes later Jonas does the same and Cech saves just as smartly but from the corner Kalou, on for Lampard, gets his hands in a muddle and the ball strikes his hand as he is jumping to clear. The penalty was a formality. 1-1.
Malouda had time to twist into the box and was upended, no penalty goes without saying, and was booked when he clipped a defender while trying to regain possession.
The scenes at the end of the match – when the ref blew for a foul and, as we were about to take the kick, for full-time –were absurd. Cole and Mata were both booked for asking the ref where he bought his watch.
A point is not so bad with home and away games against Genk to come we should be qualified by the time we go to Germany.
Friday 30 September
The Paris-Dakar rally is in the future plans of our manager. AVB confessed to a passion for rugged motorcycles and a desire to take part in the famous race that these days, obviously, starts in Argentina and finished in Lima, Peru.
Saturday 1 October
Southampton youth 3:2 Chelsea youth
While five goals is a good average per game it would be better if more went in their goal.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek got us underway in the first-half before Scott’s brother, Jake Sinclair, levelled. We seemed in complete control until a loose pass just before the break surrendered a lead.
A mixed up corner clearance allowed them further ahead before Jake Swift’s free-kick pegged back the deficit. Adi made all the usual positive noises and would have been encouraged that we made so much of the running against a strong academy like Southampton but the defensive slips are costing us in every game. More work needed.
Sunday 2 October
Bolton Wanderers 1:5 Chelsea
Ah, poor Bolton, having played five of last season’s top six in the first seven games they find themselves rock bottom. Owen Coyle asked several times for Daniel Sturridge on loan again this season so it was inevitable that with only a minute on the clock the player wriggling free to score would be, yes, Daniel Sturridge. 0-1.
JT suffered and eye watering encounter with David Ngog but a quick count confirmed they were both still there and we carried on.
Bolton looked shell-shocked even before the kick-off. Chelsea’s play was so simple and direct it could have been seven by the break. Chelsea’s midfield just had to play in Sturridge on the right and he did the rest.
Ramires pass to Mata, out to Sturridge, into the box and square for the washed-up pensioner Lampard to score. 0-2.
Almost immediately Lampard is shooting again but the angle is against him and Ramires’ first touch sees the ball out of play from another promising move.
On to twenty-minutes and Sturridge, still with the freedom of half the pitch, finds Mata who howls the thing over the bar. Sturridge then decided to do all the work himself, cutting on from the right he flashed in a shot that the hapless goalkeeper, Bogdan, could only help into the net. 0-3.
From the kick-off David Luiz strolled up the field and blasted on from a mile out only for the hapless (what, we’ve used hapless before? What else could we possibly say, the man has no hap) Bogdan to palm the ball straight to Lampard. 0-4. Even old men can’t miss those.
The half dwindled from there; Chelsea clearly didn’t want to embarrass their host any further. AVB clearly told them to redden some faces in the second-half because Bolton sneaked back into the contest when Drogba was blocked at a free-kick and Boyata scores the header. 1-4. We are not going to keep many clean sheets this season.
Never mind though because the pensioner makes it a hat-trick when he exchanges neat passes with Didier Drogba and fires in after getting the ball out from under his feet. 1-5.
And we really did take our collective foot off the petroleum. They had a few streaky chances; the substitute Ivanovic hacking off the line a ball that appeared over.
The replacement of David Ngog delivers a torrent of home boos and the first “you don’t know what you’re doing” of the season.
Daniel Sturridge had the space for his own hat-trick but fired wide. And that was pretty much that. The three-points keep us on the shoulder of the Manchester two and well poised as United face Liverpool before the Manchester derby. All of which will have to wait until after the international fortnight. What is that you say? England have a must draw game against Montenegro. We take it all back – the international game must be thrilling, romantic and rewarding.