September began with an incident which was as surreal as it was disappointing. Chelsea were outbid in a transfer deal. By Manchester City.
Transfer deadline day was shifted to September 1st as the final day of August fell on a Sunday, and with one outrageous bid we all found another reason to hate Mondays. Although Chelsea had been linked with a move for Real Madrid’s Robinho throughout the summer, Manchester City had been taken over by a company representing the Abu Dhabi royal family, leaving them absolutely minted and ready to show off their new found affluence.
£32m was eventually enough for City to steal Robinho from under our noses, though it must be said that our reluctance to be held to ransom over a player was refreshing considering what we have shelled out in some of our previous transfer deals over the last few years.
What was worrying was the balance of our squad, or rather the imbalance. Alex Ferguson had mentioned in pre-season that we were looking old, and as September marked an end to transfer activity, we were left with players who were considered over the hill and short on flair.
Of course, they aren’t over the hill, and we still have enough creativity in our ranks, but there’s no doubting that Robinho would have provided something a bit different to our squad.
Losing out on the Brazilian was a hindrance, but losing Michael Essien was a disaster. The dynamic midfielder was crocked during an appearance for Ghana against Libya, and eventually ‘The Train’ would not return until March 2009.
September not only saw us lose Essien, but also assistant manager and Chelsea legend Steve Clarke. Over in East London West Ham announced the shock appointment of the man voted as Chelsea’s greatest ever player, the one and only Gianfranco Zola, as their new manager. Zola, in turn, appointed Clarke as his right-hand man, ending the Scot’s long relationship with Chelsea.
Life without Clarke and Essien went on however, and interestingly enough there was some football played during the month. It seemed Robinho just could not escape Chelsea no matter how hard he tried, as the Blues first game of September was at the City of Manchester Stadium against a newly-rich Man City side.
Now we all know what happens when a club comes into a bit of money. They automatically buy success and win almost everything there is to win. Which is why Man City beat us and went on to win the quadruple. Oh…hang on.
Actually we showed our class by dispatching of City, winning 3-1 despite a Robinho opener. Ricardo Carvalho equalised, followed up by goals from Frank Lampard and Nicolas Anelka, before John Terry was shown a red card for a half-way line rugby tackle on Jo, which was later rescinded as he was not the last man and he was not denying the Brazilian striker a goalscoring opportunity, something which the increasingly hapless Jo seems to need no help with.
The win over City was followed up by a thrashing in the Champions League as Chelsea kicked off Group A with a 4-0 triumph against Bordeaux.
Ray Wilkins joined the club as an assistant to Luis Felipe Scolari and the veteran midfielder Mineiro also put pen to paper on a contract as we snapped up the out of contract Brazilian. Why on earth was he out of contract? We soon found out. Why did we sign him? Nope, never really got an answer to that one sorry.
Manchester United were next up for Chelsea in the Premier League with Ferguson’s side visiting Stamford Bridge. Ji-Sung Park put the away side in front following some poor defending by Chelsea, and United held on for the majority of the match despite the Blues constant probing.
Salomon Kalou was Chelsea’s saviour though, coming off the bench to bag a headed equaliser in what was a stop-start game, fastidiously officiated by referee Mike Riley and notable for the seven bookings picked up by Manchester United.
Deco – who picked up player of the month for August – was injured in the warm-up while Carvalho injured a knee during the game and was replaced by Alex. There was some controversy after the game also, as Rio Ferdinand fouled on the edge of the box just before the final whistle. Chelsea should have had a free-kick, and Ferdinand should have seen a second yellow card. Riley, inexplicably, blew up for full-time.
While we were all waiting for the set-piece to be taken, and Wednesday arrived with not even a wall set-up, football carried on and notably, the League Cup kicked off. We were treated to another game against Portsmouth, who we vanquished on the opening day of the league season 4-0.
Again, this time at Pompey, we won 4-0. Lampard bagged another penalty against David James, while the frustratingly bad Florent Malouda appeased the boo boys to double the scoring. Lampard netted again before Kalou added a fourth.
Pompey had had a poor start to the season and we were simply compounding their misery. Speaking of misery, we visited Stoke next.
Newcomers to the Premier League Stoke City had been in the news in August after bookies Paddy Power had paid out on the side to be relegated after just one game. However, the Potters were sticking around like a bad smell and had beaten Aston Villa and drew with Liverpool before playing us.
We did what not many people can do however, and got in and out of Stoke unscathed. José Bosingwa and Anelka secured the points in a 2-0 win.
The League Cup draw was made in the afternoon and we were handed a home tie against Championship side Burnley in the next round. Seemingly winnable right?
Wrong. The next few months would provide several surprises for Chelsea.