Tuesday 21 December
Finally something happens: Gaël Kakuta has signed a four-and-a-half year contract which squashes the possibility of him walking out to Join any of the Spanish or Italian giants in the summer.
There has been some irritation from the club that a young player should drag out negotiations: Carlo Ancelotti went so far to point out that he wasn’t irreplaceable. Perhaps, now, we can see on the pitch the Gaël Kakuta who turns out for the France U21 rather than the nervous wreck who gets the last five minutes of league games.
Meanwhile Connor Clifford has his loan at Plymouth extended until the end of January. Connor has been a very popular addition to the Pilgrims’ line up
Wednesday 22 December
The FA has refused Connor Clifford ‘s loan to Plymouth. It seems the FA do not consider the arrangement an extension of a loan but a new one and Argyle have been subject to a winding-up order since the original deal was signed. It seems the FA are being arsy at the expense of young Connor who made a big impact during his time at Home Park and was well liked by Argyle fans.
Friday 24 December
Our game against Manchester United has been rescheduled for Tuesday 1 March, that is, unless either team is involved in an FA Cup replay.
Meanwhile, Carl Ancelotti has admitted that the squad is thin: “We had a problem because we had, at the same time, a lot of players injured. When you are not in a good moment, it’s very difficult to put in the young players because you don’t want to put responsibility on their shoulders.” Which, sadly, is exactly what the club have been saying they were there for. When asked back in September about the size of the squad Carlo said: “I have a lot of options. Up front, we have to consider that Sturridge and Kakuta are Chelsea [first-team] players. And McEachran also. It’s normal to have injuries and this is not a problem for us.
“Experience is a good thing and it’s important to have that as a squad but if one of the young players is able to play, the experience will come. It is a very good moment. We have a good mix; young players who are improving and others with experience.” It seems the policy of letting experienced players leave and hoping the youth team could plug the gaps has been found wanting.
Monday 27 December
Arsenal 3:1 Chelsea
A performance without fight, technique or tactics turns our blip into a full slump as we lose against Arsenal with barely a whimper. Whispers about Carlo’s job are one thing but speculation that Chelsea are in decline like Liverpool is more worrying still.
Things started brightly as Didier Drogba trundled forward with Arsenal defenders panicking and flapping but the Ivorian’s effort was wide.
The home team then adopted their usual ineffective tipping and tapping as Chelsea defended deep and narrow knowing they could come to no harm. Games against Arsenal have been the same for the last few years they dominate the opening twenty-minutes and we gradually assert our greater power and control. Tonight was different: we contained their attacking thrusts, restricting them to half-chances and scuffs but the cohesion and power to switch from defence to attack wasn’t there.
Partially because Ashley Cole was busy stopping Theo Walcott, an interesting side tussle we would call a draw, and because the returning Frank Lampard was off the tempo and too deep.
Everyone was out of sorts, Obi Mikel and Essien appeared to have been drugged or jet lagged because both struggled to retain possession or find a pass. The entire team seemed to be relying on John Terry who put in a magnificent shift again but can’t play Arsenal on his own.
Their goal just before half-time was a curiosity. Fábregas dived under a challenge from Ferreira and with the defence suitably distracted Alex Song tipped the ball in. 1-0.
Obi John was substituted at half-time, the reassuring sight of Ramires coming on obviously gave everyone a lift and we immediately played like a clutch of schoolgirls.
First Terry got in a muddle and Essien’s attempt to clear up fell for Walcott to set up Fábregas. 2-0.
Then, Malouda was caught in possession by Walcott, who showed a clean pair of heels and slotted past the advancing Cech. 3-0.
The obituary of the difficult moment that Carlo thought wrote two weeks ago at White Hart Lane was premature.
That Branislav Ivanovic met Drogba’s free-kick with a decisive header a few moments later merely dragged out the hope. 3-1. But Arsenal snapped into every tackle and hogged the ball while Chelsea stuttered. Oddly roles from the opening twenty minutes were reversed as Arsenal were content to watch us in possession waiting for the chance to break. When Terry fluffed a chance at the end and Didier’s effort cannoned back off a defender it was all too little too late.
Carlo Ancelotti looked to be scratching his head afterwards saying we needed to “wake up” if our season was to be saved: “I was surprised by this performance. I’d seen some very good training sessions this week, so I did not expect this. We have to wake up. Until now we’ve been sleeping. But maybe I have to be the first to wake up.”
“Maybe I have to be the first to wake up”, the most infuriating thing about Carlo is he genuinely does seem to know what is happening. He is not old enough to start becoming confused because he “put it there just a few minutes ago, and now it’s gone” but he sometimes sounds like it. The manager, the head-coach, should at least sound like he knows what he is doing. But before we go recommending a change of direction, remember, Rafa Benitez is out of work … always keep a-hold of nurse.
Wednesday 29 December
Chelsea 1:0 Bolton Wanderers
Can anyone honestly say they are enjoying this at the moment? There was an air of relief around the ground at the final whistle, relief at the result and some of the second-half performances but the first period was so dire and Bolton’s dominance so compelling many started to wonder if the Chelsea squad had been replaced with celebrity look-a-likes.
Ramires came into the side for the injured Obi John but otherwise the side was unchanged. Well, given the size of the squad that was hardly a surprise, what was a surprise was the inept, sleepwalking, drift of the first-half performance in what was a must win game.
This was Chelsea’s chosen first-eleven yet however they strove to attack they couldn’t muster a single shot as Jussi Jaaskelainen watched the first period without muddying his gloves.
Bolton fared much better as John Terry had to make last ditch tackles to deny Kevin Davies and Johan Elmander.
The second-half sparked when Frank Lampard fed the ball to Drogba who saw his shot bounce back off the post but it was progress.
The decisive moment came when Essien bustled forward and slipped the ball to Drogba running wide Bolton exploded with fury at the offside that wasn’t given but later, much later, replays showed he was clearly on. Malouda dispatched the Ivorian’s for his eighth goal of the season.
There were still plenty of heart in mouth moments as Chelsea continued to look fragile in mind and body. Sam Ricketts lashed over when it looked easier to score and Holden powered in a free-header that Cech pawed over for a corner. In between Essien’s header was scrambled off the line and Ivanovic headed over.
Branislav picked up a first-half yellow card that means he will miss the Villa game on Sunday. Ivanovic has been on the verge of a ban for weeks and he only had two more days to wait until his punishment for five yellows switched from a ban to a strongly worded letter. It seems everything is working against us at the moment.
Thursday 30 December
Benfica have turned down our £17m stab for David Luiz. They did hold out the prospect of us being allowed to sign the 23-year-old Brazilian defender but for, ahem, £42m.
Friday 31 December
Salomon Kalou is in the Opta team of the year, at least that is what rumours say. The squad based on the statistics for best player in each position is as follows: Foster, Cole, Ferdinand, Terry, Sagna, Kalou, Van der Vaart, Lampard, Nani, Berbatov & Rooney. Even given that this column has been blowing a trumpet for Kalou since he tore defences to shreds at the end of last season, it is something of a surprise to see him in there.
Sunday 2 January
Chelsea 3:3 Aston Villa
An ability to impose your will and the self-confidence to command events are essential for any success. Giving a Villa defender the freedom of the Bridge to head a late equaliser is as close to that as Carlo Ancelotti gets at the moment.
With Branislav Ivanovic suspended Jeffrey Bruma got his, long awaited, first league start.
This was a struggle just to watch. Villa have been appalling away from Villa Park this season but they enjoyed plenty of early possession and forced the first save of the game when Ashley Young seemed to miscue a cross and Cech scrambled over.
Ferreira and Ramires were looking the weakest links until suddenly we had a penalty. Lampard chipped a high ball into the box and Malouda was climbed all over by Collins. Lampard back to the spot, after three misses, makes no mistake. 1-0.
We seemed not to gain any impetus from the goal as first Villa clattered us all over the place in their effort to get five bookings before the break but the home team’s confidence had more to do with themselves rather than the opposition: from a cleared free-kick Anelka fed a ball to Ferreira to clear but the shaky Portuguese hesitated played the ball off an attacker and Michael Essien, eyes one the ball, inadvertently tripped Reo-Coker in the box. 1-1.
They nearly sneaked a lead just before the break when Cech had to be smart when Collins sneaked round the back of a dozing defence but the visitors were rewarded almost immediately after half-time when Heskey bundled in Downing’s cross. 1-2.
The goal actually sparked a response from Chelsea but it wasn’t until the hour that Lampard smashed a volley that Friedel sprang to turn over.
Friedel was at it again when a sumptuous pass from Lampard released Malouda but the big American somehow got his big American arse on it and the ball was scrambled clear.
The pressure is almost constant as the substitute, Salomon Kalou is twice unlucky when he might have had a chance. Ad it is Kalou’s effort that allows Drogba to pick up the loose ball and fire through half the Villa team on the line. 2-2.
John Terry then decided that enough was enough and charged forward to meet the rebound from Drogba’s massive header with a side foot into the bottom corner. 3-2. The celebrations where wild everyone raced to Ancelotti and partied like they had won the game. Well, scoring in the 90th minute you say probably…
Except Villa skipped down the other end and a floated cross was met by Clarke unmarked and he planted a soft header past Petr Cech, who was more distracted in blaming his defenders for the free-header than trying to stop it. 3-3.
So the moment goes on. John Terry and Didier Drogba had a marital on the way off the pitch just to prove how shambolic Chelsea have become in recent weeks.
Tuesday 4 January
Carlo said he was lucky to be in a job at his press conference today and conceded that he will, “pay the bill at the end of the season” if things don’t get better.
There are rumours that the young Czech defender Tomáš Kalas who has been at Cobham during the Czech winter break will be staying and not returning to Sigma Olomouc as planned.
Ryan Bertrand has returned from a very successful time at Nottingham Forest with a slight injury. Ryan made left-back his own while at the City ground playing 19 times.
Wednesday 5 January
Wolverhampton Wanderers 1:0 Chelsea
Well, this is about as bad as it can get. Given 85 minutes to equalise a sloppily conceded own-goal this Chelsea side failed against the team that started the night bottom of the league.
That Kalou and Drogba could, should, have scored cannot mask the fact that Wolves worked harder than Chelsea for the whole game and deserved their three-points.
Their goal was ridiculous. Cech made a fine save after we’d allowed Ronald Zubar a free shot but as the corner came in Lampard was out of position, Cech stayed on his line and Bosingwa kneed it into the back of the net. 1-0.
To go behind is a familiar feeling to this squad but they played so woefully that they failed to create more than one chance on target in the first-half; when Hennessey was lucky to get a foot to Kalou’s effort. We were slow in possession as if we expected goals to come instead of working for them. Given the length of the moment it is a surprise to find the team failing to grasp the need for graft.
As always we were better in the second-half, Ancelotti should really give his half-time talk before kick off and we might play well from the start. We had a smattering of half-chances before Drogba turned his man, only to see his shot cannon off the post.
Kakuta’s introduction toward the end just highlighted how static most of the other Chelsea players were. There is something wrong at Chelsea
Thursday 6 January
Chelsea reserves 7:3 Tottenham Hotspur reserves
Just a friendly played a Cobham to get some of the cobwebs out of post Yule legs and minds but an encouraging thrashing to lift the mood around the place. Daniel Sturridge will be keen for a first team start after scoring five and Gaël Kakuta, Josh McEachran and Jacob Mellis distinguishing themselves against a young Spurs XI.
The only down side was the performance of Hilario in goal for the first-half as Tottenham benefited from three mistakes from the Portuguese to come back into the match at 4-3.
Ben Gordon is heading out on loan again but this time to Scunthorpe United. He scored one goal and played 21 times for Kilmarnock, leaving Mixu Paatelainen’s side fourth in the Scottish Premier League.
He joins The Iron in the Championship relegation zone but will miss the first few games, including the FA Cup tie with Everton, with a hamstring injury. Ben signed a new three-year deal with Chelsea at the same time.
Meanwhile, Saturday’s FA Cup opponents Ipswich will be under a caretaker manager after Roy Keane’s shaky regime finally bit the dust.
Friday 7 January
Carlo Ancelotti had to pass a banner calling for him and, surprisingly Roman Abramovich, to go. He laughed it off with the press saying that in Italy it would be worse: “There, you can find 1,000 unhappy people outside the training ground. It’s difficult to fight with 1,000 people. With one, we can manage. If it’s only one, there’s no problem.”
He also talked of getting back to our best by playing our football. Essien, Cole and Drogba all have late fitness worries so Ancelotti will name his team on the day.
Sunday 9 January
Chelsea 7:0 Ipswich Town
That feels better. After a week of further disappointment and defeat Ipswich came, challenged for half and hour and then capitulated.
Patrick Van Aanholt came in at the back and Josh McEachran stepped into the holding role as Carlo Ancelotti kept changes to a minimum.
Ipswich set up defensively and worked hard for their caretaker but couldn’t stop the waves of early pressure with Van Aanholt’s attacking runs down the left catching the eye.
The goal when it came was deceptively simple. Kalou broke from his own half and fed Anelka who bundled through the middle and his shot squirmed out of Fulop’s grasp and Salomon Kalou rushed in to poke it over the line from an inch. Anelka without a goal in eleven was clearly delighted the Ivornian decided to make sure. 1-0.
Ipswich suddenly looked managerless as Bosingwa crossed and Daniel Sturridge flicked the ball in with a backheel. 2-0.
A few minutes later and JT is taken out by David Norris and Frank Lampard’s free-kick was headed into his own net by Carlos Edwards. 3-0.
Suddenly the mood around the place was back to late summer as if everything since November hadn’t happened. And news comes in from the irritatingly timed fourth round draw that should we win we’ll be away to Everton.
Why do ITV have to shunt the draw to after their live televised game on Sunday. This is the lot that had the commercial acumen to spend big on the Ashes highlights and then bury them at 10pm on ITV4 but they should realise that a Monday lunchtime draw keeps everyone in suspense and gives you an extra ratings boost at an otherwise quiet time.
The second-half started the way the first ended with Anelka finishing his own run and Kalou’s one-two with drive into the corner across the ’keeper. 4-0.
Sturridge then cut inside onto his right foot and curling a corker into the far side with Fulop a spectator. 5-0.
Gaël Kakuta came on for Kalou and looked much more assured than he has done in recent appearances. The impressive Van Aanholt limped out of the match shortly after to be replaced by his compatriot Jeffrey Bruma and we had to wait until the 77th minute for Frank Lampard to get on the score sheet. Kakuta won a corner and when he delivered the ball broke to Frank on the edge of the area and he blasted in from eighteen yards with the goalkeeper motionless. Poor Martin Fulop was in goal for Sunderland last season as they conceded seven and his unwanted personal average was maintained a minute later when Kakuta again scampered forward, McEachran fed Ivanovic and Lamprd turned in the Serb’s low centre. 7-0.
Ramires tried a 30-yard shot that flew just over the bar but we started to ease off until Kakuta’s late shot is just saved.
There are so many positives to draw from this performance most notably the contribution of McEachran in the holding role. Many want to see the youngster play a more advanced position where is vision can open up defences but this side has a problem in the defensive midfield and Josh could well be the answer. It might be too early in his career to make him a fixture until the end of the season but a good run of games would prove if he is capable and would rocket his level of experience. Sadly the pressure for results may keep Ancelotti conservative especially with the big lads from Blackburn and Bolton up next.