Community Shield: Arsenal 1 Chelsea 1 (Goons win on mad penalties)
No. As you can see we learned nothing at all from the FA Cup Final.
Us: It was a predictable Chelsea line up, with Michy replacing Costa. Obviously Matic and Chequebook Pulis have hooked up again like a couple of exes ignoring all the reasons they broke up in the first place, so Cesc started alongside Kante. Willian came in for Hazard, who is still recovering from injury.
Them: Presumably Sicknote Ozil had “flu” again. Or whatever this is code for when he can’t be arsed to go to work. No Ramsay or Sanchez either. Shame.
It was almost real football and f*ck it. It’ll do for now after a summer spent being conscripted for household chores and Saturday supermarket shopping. The highlight of the first five minutes was us starting a song about how much we hate Sp*rs, then the Goons joining in, with the result that 85,000 people all sang “Stand Up if You Hate T*ttenham” in what is currently their “home” ground.
It was pretty even, but there wasn’t much intensity in the opening spell. The first chance fell to them, a tame header which floated right into the hands of Thibaut. By the tenth minute we looked leggy, lethargic. If anything, they were slightly on top, but it was not a bristling contest. It felt like watching a Sunday morning kickabout. Willian in particularly looked languid, and Moses was doing everything at half speed. On the flip side Michy was tenacious, constantly trying to orchestrate runs in behind. Luiz tried to give us forward momentum and of course, Kante was Kante. There were a couple of close calls, Welbeck hit the post, and at the other end the jammy buggers managed to keep it out after Michy and Moses had combined in the box. Then there was a lengthy break while Mertesacker rolled about on the floor.
Mrs Brown (Sitcom alias): How did Mertesacker get hit in the head? Nobody can get up that high?
Me: Probably elbowed himself in the face. Moron.
This lull rounded off a bit of a flat half hour, and it only got worse as we moved towards the break. We were nodding off in our seats. If anything the sloth like momentum was now with us. The ball was dug out on 34 minutes by Kante, run forward by Willy and resulted in a great long range shot from Pesto (Yawn autospell) but it was expertly saved by Cech. Not, Thibaut, because they play for the same team, BBC journalists. (Facepalm)
The reaction after half time was exactly what you’d expect after an ear-bashing from Conte at half time. And it worked. Within two minutes we had a corner. Trigger (Sitcom alias) pointed out that Cahill was completely unmarked on a corner. That’s f*cking stupid. We said. It was also stupid when nobody had picked him up after the corner was taken too. Not a man near him as the Captain headed it on for Moses to burst forward and put it past Big Pete. Michy could have had one shortly after, and we were looking much better. A naughty one from Pesto on Xhaka prompted no card, presumably because Xhaka has scythed down just about everyone in the league at some stage and it is just regarded as karma. As the half went on, the Goons settled into it more. There were some timely interventions form Cahill and Luiz, ubiquitous foul throws from Moses, the ghastly appearance of Giroud’s beard and a headed clearance from Cesc. On 73 minutes Morata made his competitive debut for Chelsea. Almost immediately he could have scored. The effort, four minutes after his introduction, was brilliantly worked, Willian curling it across the box to him with the outside of his foot, but the new boy connected with the shot all wrong and it blazed over the bar. Rudiger came on, and Musonda was getting ready just as Pesto went crashing in with another naughty challenge. This time he didn’t get away with it and he limped off after deservingly seeing red.
Which brings me to Refwatch. Bobby Madley. Bobby. F*cking. Madley. It took me ages to realise it was him because he appears to have been on a crash diet over the summer. It also looks like he might have embraced the fact that his hair has run away from his head in embarrassment and just shaved it off. So the PGMOL punishment for being one of the worst officials in the league last season? Command of the curtain raiser at Wembley. It beggars belief. What else could he then provide other than the usually volatile, unpredictable and imbalanced minefield of f*ckwittery? The red card call was right, but Bellerinescaped a second yellow after dragging Dave off the ball by the neck, then there was Willian’s booking. From my excellent vantage point 200 yards away it was clear he fell over his own feet, and nobody is going to convince me otherwise. As the game ticked on, it didn’t particularly show that we were a man down. Morata could have scored again and at the other end Cahill put in an excellent block. Why. Why. Why. Why. When there are ten seconds left in a game do we persist in passing it about. Just punt it into the box! Sadly this appears beyond comprehension, and so 1-1 it was, and straight to a penalty shootout.
The overly-excited chump on the tannoy announced that it would be in the new “A-B-B-A” format. Were they going to have a disco dance off? No, apparently this does still involve penalty kicks. Being English, panic set in. There was much drunken bafflement about how it all worked. Then there was drunken shock and quite a bit of horror as the order of our spot-kick takers was revealed. Maybe they did think it was a dance off and Cahill and Courtois are the players with the groovy moves? I know that Cahill initiation song was “Sexy and I know it.” Anyway. He was a Super Trouper. Courtois was most categorically not, then Morata scuffed his wide and we didn’t win. It was over quicker than a Sp*rs title charge. I like not this new shootout format. All the pressure ends up on one team very quickly. And it’s over in two minutes. W*nk.
So: We could have won the shiny dinner plate just as easy as we lost it in the end. That said, this just felt like another preseason fixture, as opposed to a competitive one; especially in the first half.
We didn’t learn anything new today. Except perhaps that Antonio doesn’t give a sh*t about the Charity Shield. Otherwise he brings Christensen on instead of Musonda after the red. Kante is still a boss. Batshuayi is in mid-evolution. He no longer skips around like a harmless bunny rabbit. He holds the ball up much better, but sometimes still gave way under pressure. I want him to instill fear in defenders. I want them to groan when they see his name on the team sheet. Rough em up Michy. It’s time to go full b*stard. Great little cameo from Musonda. Rudiger more clumsy but it’s very early days. Morata was the best of the subs. Looking increasingly sharp – he could have won it for us today, but it was not to be. I’ve forgotten what it’s like to watch a Chelsea forward win ball after ball in the air. As a whole we were markedly better in the second half, but very few were consistently sharp all the way through. Fabregas faded, Willianfloated in and out. Cahill, Dave and Luiz looked, for the most part, more ready to get going than most. But you’d expect that from three absolute pros, even if one of them is bonkers. Our major problem remains that if the two wings backs aren’t at it, we’re in trouble. And in preseason George Michael (Nope Alonso still hasn’t seen himself in a mirror) has not really been at it. He wasn’t great today either. He limped off and I wonder if he’s been carrying a niggle. An actual niggle. Not an ITV Sport “niggle” when they are actually talking about someone’s broken ankle. Either that or it occurred when Bellerin cleaned him out in the first quarter of an hour. On the other side Moses was good against the Goons in China but in the last three fixtures he’s been decidedly ropey in the first half before coming good in the second.
As for them they looked better than when we thumped them 3-0. Lacazette? Their money signing, I forgot he was even playing. He got outplayed by Welbeck. So he might as well go and drown himself in the dressing room jacuzzi. And let’s remember that according to their standard schedule, Arsenal will have face-planted by October. That’s the highlight of their season. On 6th August. Suckers.
We drew, it’s the not the end of the world. Do you know how you know that Conte doesn’t care? He was in his tracksuit. Just like at West Ham (sorry, the prized Olympic Stadium that West Ham are squatting in at the taxpayers’ expense) in the League Cup last season. This is the equivalent of you or I turning up in our PJs. Perhaps we had hoped for more progression over the summer and more new faces, especially when the two Manc clubs have spent a fortune. That said, they did that last season. Everyone said it was Pep vs Chequebook Pulis, and they weren’t anywhere near the title. Just a thought. Chelsea have not been sitting round with their thumbs up their a*ses all summer. The club has been unlucky in that some of their efforts have come to nothing through no fault of their own. United were willing to pay more than Lukaku was worth, we weren’t. They wanted 75m plus Willian or Fabregas. Quite rightly we told them to f*ck off. Sandro was, apparently, a done deal until Juve failed to sign a replacement and wouldn’t go through with it. Even the Bakayoko deal went around and around because of his current injury. Nothing has come easy.
Can I say with impunity that I believe Chelsea have done everything possible to boost our numbers, and got every deal right? No. Because I don’t have enough information to make that judgement, and because right now from the outside it looks like they might have missed a trick. But I know that at least four of the outgoing players wanted to leave, however much we’d have wanted to keep them on our books. What do you do in that scenario? (I will say though, that unless he knows where bodies are buried I don’t know quite why Matic held so much sway that he got away with his move to United) I don’t like hearing about unprofessional texts and Conte talking about disagreeing with the club in public, but our league winning manager is not happy, and this, considering we won the league a few weeks ago. His demeanour has been miserable in the last few days and if he feels like going through the press is the only way to make himself heard that is just stupid.
He is the manager Roman has wanted for years, so he needs to be backed. The sad fact of modern football management is that the results come down on the boss’s shoulders when they aren’t 100% in control of their circumstances. Conte has a right to feel supported by the players, the board, the fans after what he has produced. As far as the board is concerned, they need to do their jobs so that he can continue do his and this is the discrepancy at the moment, or at least he feels it is. But let’s not start bulk buying nappies just yet. We haven’t actually failed at anything. We’ve got Hazard to come back to fitness, as well as Bakayoko. The window isn’t shut, so the club have time to turn it around, even if arrivals will now come in later than would be ideal. I’m happy with the three big signings we have made, and I don’t think we need marquee buys, we don’t need to do a Pep and spunk money on every bloke with a Spanish accent who bats his eyelids at him and owns a pair of shin pads. What we need is a deeper squad. Seventeen players is not enough.
In the meantime, Sean Dyche will probably have watched that and been encouraged that he can drag something out of the game next week. The players that we do have have now got six days to get their heads properly in the game ready for Burnley. When the work really begins.
Don’t forget you can relive the joy of last season (and the sarcasm) in the book of the blog. Alexander is the author of the excellent Veni Vidi Veci. Following Chelsea in 2016 – 2017.