Monday 1 February
Transfer deadline news: No news.
Carlo Ancelotti’s modesty is safe for another transfer window. You’ll recall that the big Italian promised to run round the training ground naked in the snow if we signed anyone in January. There was a brief rumour that Asmir Begovic, Portsmouth’s big Serb ’keeper was on his way but Carlo’s tackle was safe from the frost when Stoke City stepped in with a £3,25m deal.
Tuesday 2 February
Hull City 1:1 Chelsea
Another big missed opportunity, if we had taken the chances we have been offered to extend leads over Manchester United we would be over the hills and far away by this stage, as it is they will go back above us on Saturday when they beat Portsmouth.
No sooner had January, with its dire warnings of poor results, finished and everyone back from Angola than we slip on our way to a four point gap and finish only two ahead. Complacency played its part as did a fussy referee who blew up whenever the game looked to be developing some flow.
Lampard had an early shot palmed away by Myhill which brought back memories of his astonishing chip here last season. Nicolas’s follow up was, um, not so good.
The defence was a bit static at a corner to concede the opener there was a lot of climbing going on but it is a physical game.1-0. Didier stepped in to score from a free-kick. The ball seemed to travel through the wall and Myhill was deceived by the bounce. 1-1.
Bounce however, was generally lacking in Chelsea’s play and while we put effort into the game the few efforts at goal we had went straight at the ’keeper. Substitute Daniel Sturridge had a late shot turned round.
The result will please a certain red nosed gentleman of Manchester, as well as the Hull manager who prefers orange.
Thursday 4 February
The Court of Arbitration in Sport (CAS) overturned FC Chelsea’s transfer ban for inducing Gaël Kakuta to break his contract because all sides agreed that we’d done, er, no such thing. Kakuta was too young to sign a professional contract with Racing Club de Lens, instead he had a “training contract” which now appears not to be worth the paper it was printed on.
It seems odd that two parties in a court case can sit down and agree that the case be wound up but as CAS said in their statement:
The two clubs and the player have recognised that the contract between the player and RC Lens was not valid. Accordingly, the player could not have terminated it prematurely and without just cause and FC Chelsea cannot therefore be liable for inducing a breach of contract.
FC Chelsea obviously expected the decision. Carlo Ancelotti’s streaking forfeit if we signed anyone in January now looks a good bet by the old Italian. RC Lens will receive the full cash amount awarded by Fifa. Fifa’s fines totalled €910,000 but the amount we are rumoured to be paying is £2.6m. This is, according to the club, an; “act of good faith and with a view to the possibility of future collaboration with RC Lens, and without recognising any liability, Chelsea has agreed to pay compensation costs for the training given to the player while at Lens”. Without sounding cynical, it seems Lens shut up when the money was offered and we can expect collaboration with Lens, loan signings and the like, over the next few years. Ken Bates untwisted his knickers back in naught six when we paid £5m for Michael Woods and Tom Taiwo after his blustering threats of an official complaint.
That is not to suggest that Chelsea did anything wrong and the original punishment was, as the club said at the time “totally disproportionate”, but there remains the feeling that Fifa are now as angry with us as Uefa were over Anders Frisk.
With the JT saga running and running and both governing bodies fixated by Chelsea it would be a good thing for the club, the players and the fans to keep a low profile for a bit.
Friday 6 February
Sacked. Fabio Capello actually sacked John Terry. It makes no sense. Rio Ferdinand takes over ensuring that England will be the only country represented by someone who has served a drugs ban.
Hopefully, Capello’s inexplicable decision will kill the fevered publicity and we can get back to talking about football and wait for Rio’s injury problems to reinstate England’s rightful leader.
Sunday 8 February
Chelsea 2:0 Arsenal
This was all done and dusted inside twenty minutes whereupon it became a grand attack verses defence exercise and Chelsea won that quite emphatically too.
Arsenal, as they do, had plenty of possession but conceded to the first corner kick as they ran about headless chicken style, John Terry headed across and Didier Drogba side footed home. 1-0. Sheffield Wednesday Martin in the pub had Drogba first goal scorer and 2-0, couldn’t be, could it.
That was on seven minutes and we didn’t have long to wait for a reply as Arshavin fired Fábregas’s chipped pass straight at Cech.
When Arshavin again lost possession on the edge of our box we broke, as Ancelotti said on Wednesday the way to beat Arsenal is to counter-attack, Lampard fed Drogba coming in from the right and the big Ivorian beat the hapless defence to score with his left. 2-0. Surely there would be another goal in the next 68-minutes, Martin couldn’t walk way with £180?
But he could. Arsenal hogged the ball but didn’t get through on goal until late on when Nasri chose not to shoot. Fábregas did have a free-kick brilliantly saved by Cech but for the most part our defence restricted their opportunities, demonstrating our considerable defensive organisation and craft. Mostly in snuffing moves out in the centre as Arsenal failed to get wide or play over the top. Didier had a thunderous free-kick come back from the under side of the bar but that would have spoiled the bet.
John Terry’s performance was under close watch by the press for any signs of stress, but he was imperious, at one stage just before half time running forward playing one-twos he broke into the Arsenal half and set Anelka away. Anelka then found Carvalho backing him up. A minute before the break and Chelsea’s centre-backs are marauding forward. Mourinho would have had a heart attack.
After the game JT applauded the crowd and threw his shirt and armband to fans. Oddly, it was Arsène Wenger who put his finger one the reason for JT’s form: “I had some players who, when they had private problems, were even stronger on the pitch because it is the place where they get out of it, get away from it.”
Wednesday 10 February
Everton 2:1 Chelsea
As the ball flew over John Terry’s head came the realisation that however much we might want to win the league, our away form will probably rob us of the prize. We don’t seem to have the concentration necessary when, as so often before this season, all the pride and application of the weekend disappeared for nothing tonight.
A few weeks ago we sat down to write an article on how last season differs from this despite the eerie parallels: new manager each time and new tactics, both requiring the full-backs to bomb on and magnificent starts to the season. Even the wobbles when they came, came at the same times. The difference was that Scolari’s Chelsea seemed to be directionless while Ancelotti’s was still striving, still creating chances. Not tonight.
After a bright start Everton out-muscled us across the park. Florent Malouda poked us in front from a long free kick, and flick on he seemed to run around the back of a static defence. 0-1.
After that it was all Saha: with JT trailing in his wake, he had a free header for the equaliser. 1-1. Then he missed a penalty after an off-balance Carvalho tripped Donovan.
In the second-half Everton simply wanted it more than Chelsea. First to every ball the Merseysiders murdered us. Terry was wobbling as he missed one ball over his head from which Saha should have had a corner, only to repeat the mistake to let the big French lunk score. 2-1.
It was pathetic how easily we wilted against a good but limited Everton side. Perhaps Chelsea should appoint managers until February and have Hiddink come in for the closing stages just as the Americans have closing pitchers in baseball.
Didier Drogba did hit the bar with a late header and Frank Lampard had an effort tipped round the post but it was little and it was too late.
Ashley Cole hobbled off and will have scans tomorrow; they are concerned about a broken ankle.
Saturday 13 February
FA Cup 5th round
Chelsea 4:1 Cardiff City
A comfortable victory somehow carved from a defensive shambles, after every Cardiff corner and set piece led to free headers. The only surprise was that their goal came from open play.
Didier Drogba got out of the blocks early as Obi John played a sumptuous ball over the top of a square defence and the Ivorian netted about 90 seconds into the game. 1-0.
The first-half was downhill from there; Alex had to hack the ball off the line from a corner and Hilario pulled off a showy save this time from a free header from a free-kick.
Their goal seemed preventable. Zhirkov didn’t move to stop Burke’s cross and Michael Chopra ran in unopposed with Alex simply watching. 1-1.
If you listened hard at half-time you could just make out faint swearing in Italian.
Something was ringing in the players’ ears as they came out. Joe Cole had his first-half performance rewarded with substitution as Salomon Kalou came on. Within five minutes Kalou fed Drogba who played a superb ball over for Ballack to lift a finish over the ’keeper, 2-1, and when Sturridge scored his customary FA Cup goal, again from Drogba’s menace, we were comfortable. 3-1.
Salomon Kalou’s lively display was rewarded toward the end when he somehow contorted himself to bend a header in over the keeper from Paulo Ferreira’s cross. 4-1.
Peter Borota (1952-2010) leaves us after a long illness aged just 57. Peter was not the greatest Chelsea custodian but he did inject a bit of eastern block glamour to a tired Chelsea side during my first season with a season ticket. Peter joined in March 1979, signed by Danny Blanchflower (ask your grandfather) and rapidly became a television favourite for rushing headlong out of his area to sweep up behind a defence that was frequently caught square. Peter was the first player I ever saw kick the ball out when an opponent was injured. He was a great character who left us for Brentford on his way to Boavista in 1982. It all seems so long ago.
Wednesday 17 February
FA Youth Cup 5th round
Watford youth 0:4 Chelsea youth
The goals came from Kaby, Marko Mitrovic, Jeffrey Bruma and Josh McEachran. The pick was from centre back Bruma, returning from injury, who ran onto and controlled Billy Clifford’s lofted pass before reversing the ball past the goalkeeper.
Everton or Blackburn over a two-legged semi coming soon. They play on March 1st. Blackburn have already defeated Manchester United 3-0 in this season’s cup.
Friday 19 February
The first transfer in an age and a half: Swedish midfield dynamo-kid Amin Affane, 16, has signed a deal which means he will join in July. Small and technically accomplished by all accounts.
Saturday 20 February
Wolverhampton Wanderers 0:2 Chelsea
Buoyed by the news that Everton had already thrashed Manchester United, we finally accept the chance to move clear at the top but it was anything but a convincing performance.
John Terry was back in defence after his holiday; Frank Lampard has a virus but is expected back for Inter; Carvalho had a rest so Ivanovic partnered JT in the middle with Ferreira coming in on the right.
Wolves started brightly, they recently beat Spurs at home and applied the same tactics of smothering and hoping to hit on the counter. Kevin Doyle had an early run at the defence to draw the first save but little was happening at either end. Ballack did volley one over but we seemed to carry no threat and neither did the hosts, Cech had to turn one round for a corner but it was straightforward.
That was until five minutes before the break Obi John broke out of defence fed on to Zhirkov who played a neat one-two with Ballack and calmly squared for Drogba’s 18th goal in the league. 0-1.
Wolves began the second-half with greater vigour but it took them ten minutes to chip a ball over for Adlene Guedioura to volley fiercely at Cech. Worryingly, it was again John Terry watching the ball over his head without reacting.
He didn’t cover himself in glory from the next meaningful attack he shaped to clear a bouncing ball and kicked air, the ball bounced through to Kevin Foley but Cech again smothered and Terry recovered to kick the next effort off the line.
Ancelotti pushed Anelka alongside Drogba in attack in the second period giving Joe Cole more freedom in the middle just behind them. Joe seemed to relish the fight a bit more as a result.
Jeffrey Bruma came on in place of the injured Zhirkov, with Bruma playing right and Ferreira switching to left. Mourinho will have noticed.
There quickly followed a second goal as Cech cleared the length of the field Drogba was too quick and too strong for the Wolves defence and rounded the ’keeper for 0-2.
There was still half and hour but Wolves lost their bite. Anelka could have put us three up but it would have flattered, as it was the defence for once reacted quickest and the ball was off Nicolas’s toe a twinkling after he’d realised it had arrived.
Wednesday 24 February
FC Internazionale Milano 2:1 FC Chelsea
Cracking matches don’t come much better than this. Behind after only three minutes Chelsea regrouped and played a much-fancied Inter side off the park for the best part of the match. Losing Petr Cech to an injury could possibly change the course of the season.
It couldn’t have started better for Jose Mourinho and the Nerazzurri, a simple ball reversed into Diego Milito a quick step inside a flat footed John Terry and Cech was beaten at his near post. 1-0. Given all the pre-match chatter about who would play left-back (Florent Malouda who played there in his time at Lyon) a swift attack down the right was perhaps the surprise tactic.
The goal didn’t distract Chelsea from their task, as the midfield gained first control and then dominance. Kalou, playing wide left was the greatest threat but it was Didier Drogba’s free-kick that thundered back off the bar after 14 minutes.
The half closed with a note of controversy; Kalou broke into the box and Samuel took his foot away as he was going to shoot. The gangly Ivorian striker appeared to be waiting for contact but it was a clear penalty.
Salomon did get his name on the score sheet just after half-time. Ivanovic ran across the box and Kalou lashed the ball in from 20 yards. 1-1. The lead did not last, just as many were imploring Chelsea not to drop too deep Cambiasso was allowed to shoot, his first effort rebounded to him from Ivanovic but he buried the second from the edge of the box. 2-1.
It was a few moments later that Cech collected a simple high ball and immediately indicated that he needed to be replaced. Initial ITV scare stories about a cruciate proved wide of the mark but he will not play in the second-leg.
Frank Lampard was having a subdued evening, he had a virus this week, but he nearly poked us level, the ball breaking from Drogba hit a sprawling ’keeper.
All the chances that came after were too difficult, oh, and someone tell Mikel to stop trying his luck from distance, but the level of play in both attacking and defending was breathtaking. At one point Ivanovic slid in to take the ball off Cambiasso’s toe; it was one of the best bits of defending you’ll ever see.
However well we played the defensive laurels have to go to Lucio. He stood head and shoulders above his colleagues and was the rock on which everything we tried foundered.
Saturday 27 February
Chelsea 2:4 Manchester City
This was a shambles, not all of our own making, Mike Dean was the defeat’s true architect but we helped along the way, Hilario’s performance was so poor we should let him go and rely on Ross Turnbull.
Our first-half dominance betrayed nothing of the story round the corner. Frank Lampard turned in Joe Cole’s astute pass, 1-0, and that should have been that. Instead the whole Chelsea defence allowed Tevez in to score the lamest excuse for a goal ever seen on a football pitch. Obi John decided to head backwards to Tevez, Terry got turned inside out before the Argentinean’s shot bobbled across the goalkeeper and trickled over the line. Hilario should have been substituted then. 1-1
Mike Dean stepped in to help Manchester City after the break perhaps he is an old fashioned moralist who believes in stoning as a punishment for adultery. Chelsea had clearly upset the ref because every challenge was suddenly a free-kick and he was dishing out cards Terry and Ivanovic were both booked in the ten minute after the break none of the cards made any sense there were no dangerous or cynical tackles.
Then Hilario allows a narrow shot from Bellamy to squirm in for 1-2. He should have been substituted after the first one. Leaving him on after those two goals amounts to neglect.
Drogba then controlled a difficult high ball and played it off Given for what should have been a corner. Chelsea were feeling the strain and starting to realise that all of the referee’s decisions were going one way but when Ballack protested Dean ignored the fact of the corner and seized his opportunity to book another Chelsea player.
Sadly, Dean was really warming to his theme. He had to wait until the 75th minute to really punish Chelsea but his chance came when Gareth Barry barged Belletti off the ball and ran into the box with Belletti behind him. Barry fell over but on repeated viewing there simply is no meaningful contact between Belletti and Barry and the referee had a very good view of it and chose to punish Chelsea. He gifted them a third and sent off Belletti. 1-3.
Dean’s afternoon was complete when an ungainly Ballack tackle gave him the opportunity to reduce Chelsea to nine. The tackle was clumsy and warranted a card but not a sending off, Dean had allowed plenty of similar tackles to go unpunished but suddenly he saw a Chelsea player and the Germany captain and decided he was going to control the spectacle. Bellamy made it 1-4 on the break.
The time has come when referees should have to explain themselves in public this is not the first time Mike Dean has taken a game by the scruff of the neck and dictated which way it will go. This is the officious prat who made Frank Lampard take a penalty three times at Upton Park you have to ask how many more shambles will he be in charge of before the thick United bloke in the pub stops rattling on about what a good referee he is. That would take a penalty and sending off at Old Trafford and we don’t need to remind you that Dean, and many of his colleagues, would never do that.
The nine men of Chelsea fought hard, managed no to fall any further behind and picked up a penalty of their own which actually involved contact between two players as Barry tripped Anelka but Lampard’s conversion merely helped the goal difference. 2-4.