Tuesday 3 November
Atletico Madrid 2:2 Chelsea
Carlo Ancelotti said afterwards that: “There was no frustration but it is never good to take a goal in the last minute”. No frustration? He should have been watching from the stands or a south London pub where the entire evening was frustration. Clearly, Atletico were determined to have a fresh start in their faltering season at our expense and ran tirelessly at us all night. They were expecting the diamond and, with Ballack missing, they came close to over running us through the middle.
The Vicente Calderon was clearly up for it as well as Chelsea looked a little bemused to meet such fervour. Yet we soaked up the pressure well as Cech only had one save, from Reyes on 20 minutes, in the first-half.
We didn’t create too many ourselves; Drogba had an early shot across goal, Kalou did well to get a head to an Ashley Cole cross but it flew wide and Lampard drilled a shot across their ’keeper but high. The most notable contribution was from Joe Cole who was behind the build-up to every chance. In fact he was everywhere, far from playing at the tip of a diamond he was tackling back in the centre and covering Ashley Cole on the left. The boy was industry.
The Lampard chance was on the stroke of half-time and the team shape stayed the same at the start of the next period only to suffer the same problems as in the first. Madrid were quicker to the ball and made more determined runs.
Didier fell rather theatrically to earn a free-kick that was turned on to the post, just, by Sergio Asenjo.
It was just past the hour and with most of the entertainment coming from the faces of the Manchester United fans in the public bar who were clearly unaccustomed to being 3-1 down at home, when Sergio Aguero volleyed in unmarked from a left-wing cross. 1-0.
Chelsea’s reply came almost entirely from Didier Drogba first he thumped a header in from Malouda’s cross, 1-1, and then he broke through the middle of a square Atletico defence and side footed the rebound from his initial shot. 1-2.
That we conceded a free-kick and another goal to Aguero clearly rankled with Drogba afterwards: “Perhaps we could have done better with the defensive wall, and maybe avoided conceding the free-kick as well … It’s really frustrating to concede a goal like that after the effort we produced. But we can be pleased with what we have achieved.” Which translates as: “I did all the bloody work and they let me down”.
Ancelotti was more pragmatic recognising that it was a hard game but that qualification for the knockout rounds was the most important achievement.
We are now one point ahead of Porto at the top of the group as they struggled to beat Apoel in Nicosia by a solitary goal.
Thursday 5 November
[email protected] Our naming rights are being considered for sale or, according to the management speak of our new chief executive our “sponsorship architecture” is being reconsidered. £10m per annum will buy you the rights but don’t think just because you won the lottery you can turn up and call the place anything you like; you’ll have to commit for ten years.
The news comes from Ron Gourlay, taking part in his first foot-in-mouth exercise; a long interview with Chelsea television. It marks a refreshing change from Peter Kenyon, after all Ron has waited five days after succeeding Kenyon to make a string of arrogant and nonsensical pronouncements where Peter would have been straight in there on day one.
He actually said: “Hopefully, if there was brashness there then maybe you won’t see as much brashness going forward”, which, at least, means he can talk the talk. Only he then spoilt it by brashly saying we wanted to win two European Cups in five years.
The naming rights will have to include the name Stamford Bridge to show respect for our ‘heritage’. We are in danger of showing a lack of class as well as a lack of history, in the eyes of our detractors.
“Retaining the heritage of the stadium is paramount” presumably by rolling it up and keeping at the back of the groundsman ’s shed while we prostitute the name of the Bridge to all comers.
Ron says the move is necessary to keep up with the big spenders and if we ever hope to breakeven, which he admits will not be soon. He also seemed determined that we couldn’t expand the capacity beyond 42,800 but he was forgetting that you could pull down the hotel and start again.
Stamford the lion should sponsors us; he used to boast about his playboy life style, now he can put some of that wealth to good use. Stanford’s map shop in Covent Garden maybe, thankfully Reebok is already taken.
Friday 6 November
The Court of Arbitration for Sport lifted the transfer ban until they have deliberated on the rights and wrongs of the Kakuta business. Given that many expect the transfer ban to be reduced to one window Chelsea have not asked for their case to be fast-tracked but did ask for this window to be open instead of getting the punishment over now and having the summer free to do business. Ancelotti has said that he doesn’t need to sign anyone unless he has an injury crisis, which is unpredictable.
Overall it smacks of management at the club that cannot think tactically going forward.
Under the suspension of the punishment Gaël is free to play and will probably feature for the reserves on Monday against Fulham.
Sunday 8 November
Chelsea 1:0 Manchester United
“It’ll be a long road back to Surrey tonight”, said a voice in the pub and Alex Ferguson isn’t going to go quietly: “The referee’s position to make the decision [for the goal] was absolutely ridiculous. He can’t see anything. It was a bad decision. You lose faith in refereeing, that’s the way the players see it.” Or rather the way myopic Scotsmen with a drink problem see it.
One of John Terry’s increasingly rare headers sent us clear at the top into the international break and nearly blew Ferguson’s gaskets.
That Manchester United came to Stamford Bridge with the main aim of nullifying our formation was the biggest compliment Alex Ferguson could have paid Carlo Ancelotti. United played with three in the middle and had Giggs drifting in from his supposed wing, while Valencia spent his afternoon trying to pen back Ashley Cole. They applied these spoiling tactics so well that there was very little flow to the game, Chelsea couldn’t get going and were not helped by a ref who ignored half the offences and saw fouls where none existed.
The first chance fell to Ivanovic, who might be making the right-back spot his own, but instead of squaring to a better placed colleague, he shot at Van der Sar.
Things were getting hairy at the other end; Wayne Rooney nearly broke through but the linesman stopped him, even though he appeared to be on; then Valencia was, er, tugged down inside the, erm, box by JT but no penalty was given. You have to hand it to John it was the subtlest pull on a jersey you’ll ever see or not see if you are Martin Atkinson.
Giggs lofted one well over while clear and Anelka bent a deceptive shot for Van der Sar to palm away, and that was your lot for the first-half. Didier did lash one into the stands but United put so much effort into stifling our midfield threat and we countered their attacking so completely that the game was deadlocked.
In the second period Wayne Rooney took us on single-handed, creating and trying to convert almost every chance they made. But while they had plenty of the ball you rarely felt they might actually score, the waves of attacks were contained by the midfield shield and defence.
Didier Drogba was having a mixed afternoon, unable to terrorise the makeshift United defence he was booked, ludicrously, after Jonny Evans stamped his studs straight into his chest during a high tackle. In a way you have to agree with Ferguson, the ref wasn’t having a good game.
Then came the moment that sent us five points clear. Ashley Cole was upended by a tackle by Darren Fletcher, United argued that he’d won the ball, but they can’t be so naïve to think that emerging with the ball and leaving the player splattered all over the pitch isn’t going to go against you. Lampard’s cross was headed powerfully by John Terry, only the ball skimmed Anelka’s head as well. The Frenchman wisely declined to claim the goal as he picked up his man-of-the-match champagne.
They pressed, securing a string of late corners, but we dealt with everything that came our way and ultimately looked quite comfortable. It is an odd sensation for Chelsea to win a game where their opponents played so well and we scuff one in controversial circumstances.
The club marked remembrance Sunday with some dignity before kick-off with a minute silence and a symbolic parade of servicemen and Chelsea pensioners. Perhaps Ron was right, we will see less brashness – going forward.
Saturday 21 November
Chelsea 4:0 Wolverhampton Wanderers
This was very much the Michael Essien show. He was all industry, setting up play and especially shooting. When Frank Lampard and Ballack come to retire he will be ready to replace them. This was a severely weakened Chelsea side missing Carvalho, Lampard, Ballack, Bosingwa, and Drogba and yet our attacking movement was as bewildering as ever.
Malouda got us off to the brightest of starts following a sliding half-chance at the other end he carried the ball forward and belted the leather from it with Wayne Hennessey watching it into the top right of his goal. 1-0.
Michael Essien then wriggled away from the marking at a corner to head us two up and then shot from outside the box for three in a little more than twenty minutes. Wolves had their moments but were not closing us down well enough to earn much and when Ebanks-Blake finally got a chance Cech pulled off one of his best saves to keep the clean sheet record intact.
We had to wait ten-minutes into the second-half for the fourth as Joe Cole’s rather weak shot again crept under their ’keeper. It was his first goal for over a year. 4-0.
Gaël Kakuta, 18, was introduced to the Bridge shortly after and showed what the fuss has been about with his first touch he danced away from a challenge and into the area, only to shoot wide.
Nemanja Matic, 21 also came on, followed by another 18-year-old, Fabio Borini as Ancelotti showed where he believes the strength in depth will come from.
Essien was not being distracted by the new arrivals as he sought a hat trick picking up anything around the box and belting towards goal. For good measure one shot saved by Hennessey smacked the crossbar as well as ’keeper’s gloves.
One of Michael’s digs seemed to have gone in as it flashed past the post and bounced off the net support, it seemed to be nestling in the bottom corner.
Carlo was full of praise at the end, especially for Kakuta: “In 30 minutes today he showed he has a lot of talent but we have to stay calm. He is young and he has to improve.” Obi John was more straightforward, having endured his own traumatic transfer saga Mikel said: “We try to kick Gaël in training, That’s the only way to stop him”.
Wednesday 25 November
FC Porto 0:1 Chelsea
Instead of dull perhaps we could describe this evening as workmanlike or professional. Nicolas Anelka’s goal – the third he has provided in three 1-0 wins – means we top group D and will face a team that finished runner-up in their group. That doesn’t necessarily mean easy: Barcelona and Madrid could both finish second in their pool.
Porto started this match far more brightly than they had the match at the Bridge. Fernando Belluschi had two spanking shots from distance in the first half one forced a save from Cech, who was agile enough to block the follow-up, the other crashed off the bar. Chelsea held plenty of possession but little threat in the first-half, Anelka had a shot turned round after quarter of an hour but it was the only threat.
Chelsea started the second period exerting even more control on possession but failing to create chances. Deco had a very odd night, hailed on his return to the club where he won his first European Cup medal, he played one pass from the edge of their box so wildly that it was picked up on half-way by an attacker.
Malouda by contrast swapped Saturday’s fun display with discipline and hard work. He is developing.
The goal was by far the best move of the match, Zhirkov fed Malouda and Anelka met the cross point-blank. It was his first goal in eight.
Talk afterwards couldn’t help but turn to the confidence engendered in the team by this result. Didier Drogba completing the full 90-minutes is a big boost ahead of Arsenal and a further pep comes from news that Frank Lampard trained yesterday without complications and could feature on Sunday.
Saturday 28 November
Arsenal 0:3 Chelsea
That quiet feeling that you’ve had all week, the one that says we are too strong for Arsenal was borne out this afternoon. In putting the Gooners eleven points and ten goals off the leadership this amounted to an assassination of Arsenal’s title hopes and a crushing message to Old Trafford.
Two goals from Didier Drogba and a panicked own-goal were enough to put paid to a side that is averaging three goals a game but couldn’t manage three shots on target against the strongest defence in the league.
Arsenal started brightly, bossing possession in the opening exchanges but for all the ball was in their sway they barely tested Petr Cech.
Barely twenty minutes in and Anelka broke through them and was hauled down by Bacary Sagna; no penalty but oddly no appeal from the Chelsea players.
We continued to find it difficult to get the ball back for the rest of the half but while Arsenal have monomaniacal regard for ball retention, we managed to create chances with the damn thing whenever we did have it.
There was a moment when the Coles over elaborated and Drogba was forced into a tame header. He was clearly asking Ashley why he dithered and so in the next attack John Terry, bursting forward fed Ashley Cole, who crossed with his second touch and Drogba opened out his stance to direct the ball in off bar and post. 0-1.
The second flowed through the same channel, Cole crossed only this time a jittery Thomas Vermaelen, frightened of Drogba appearing behind him, diverted the ball onto the exact spot on the post as the first goal, 0-2, and riotous dancing in the stands. It is a great shame that Arsenal do not play Lip up fatty every time they concede a goal. Many of those present in Blue would have burst.
Arsenal thought they had a goal back at the start of the second period; Drogba attempted a thirty-meter back pass forcing Cech to smother from Eduardo as Blues flooded back into the box Ivanovic blocked one effort before Eduardo kicked the ball out of Petr’s grasp and Ashavin bludgeoned the ball in true Sunday league style. The ref spotted about four infringements including handball and a foul on the ’keeper and decided to disallow the goal for the latter.
In their next attack John Terry slid in to clear off Eduardo’s toe and then Andrei Arshavin tried to nick the ball from Petr Cech as he picked up and that was that for Arsenal pressure.
At the other end Drogba’s ball in was chested on by Lampard and Almunia had to stretch to keep the score at two. From the resulting corner Vermaelen held John Terry down but again no penalty was given.
The game dragged on until Essien drove forward and was upended and Didier decided to finish Arsenal off from the free-kick, smashed into the far corner from the edge of the box. 0-3.
Lip up fatty, ah lip up fatty for the reggae.
Earlier in the FA Cup third round draw as holders we were handed a home tie against Watford (again) and while we’ve beaten Watford on the way to the trophy in the past it would make a change to draw a more glamorous team. Kettering for example (or Leeds United) will travel to Old Trafford, while this weekend’s obliging hosts Arsenal go to Upton Park. Carlo Ancelotti has revealed that he hopes to meet Elton John at the Watford tie. Erm.