Monday 11 May
The papers had their fun with Didier Drogba over the weekend, if they weren’t offering the job to Ancelotti.
Didier is it seems a disgrace to humanity who deserves a six-month ban at least. He was denied the penalty because he is always diving and this was comeuppance for all his cheating. We have even had the suggestion, this morning in the Guardian, that Chelsea should be banned from the Champions’ League for a season.
The press are never too hot on logic or calm heads and are prone to overreactions every bit as ridiculous as Drogba’s last Wednesday. What they forget is proportion; both Michael Ballack and Didier Drogba were booked for their protests by Tom Henning Øvrebø, who didn’t feel the need to issue a red for dissent. Uefa have asked the ref to resubmit his report with more details of the offences they wish to punish, so it seems clear that wholly disproportionate suspensions and fines are on their way. Not content with having us removed from the competition, Uefa feel a little salt should be rubbed into our wounds.
We don’t get the Didier diving thing either. We are not so myopic as to suggest it has never happened, but he has never consistently dived to try to gain an advantage. People repeatedly say that he goes down too easily, but that concedes the point that a tackle/contact has been made. There is a huge difference between exaggerating that contact to ensure the ref notices the offence, and falling when nobody touched you. For the clearest example of that type of dive you have only watch a rerun of Man U’s visit to the Bridge this season, when a certain Ronaldo spotted that Lampard was between him and ref and simply hopped into the air. Drogba has a reputation for diving with some people but they clearly do not watch him play or are impervious to logical argument. Drogba has never won a penalty by diving.
As for the suggestion that we be banned from Europe, it seems a little over the top considering that nobody died, nobody was hurt, there were no riots, nobody go stabbed in the arse or beaten up. What happed was that some players lost their temper. Lampard was cool enough to change shirts with Andrés Iniesta and John Terry visited their dressing room to congratulate them. Obviously both deserve to be punished.
Carlo Ancelotti is altogether more worrying. In charge of AC Milan for eons and successfully managed an aging squad but waited for it to get steadily older without doing anything about it. Italian tactical acumen is not currently troubling the record books, it would seem that Dutch ingenuity is more rewarding.
Ancelotti himself, is said to be wary. Apparently he was ready to join last summer only to open his paper to find that Scolari had signed a contract. Add to that his repeated declarations of loyalty to AC and we can hope that a canny Netherlander gets the nod.
Tuesday 12 May
A solution to our managerial problems has just presented itself. Reading lost their play-off semi to Burnley last night and this morning Steve Coppell resigned. Able to work in all kinds of environments, we should sign him up as caretaker until Guus is finished with Russia.
Wednesday 13 May
Chelsea reserves 2:3 Manchester City reserves
Scott Sinclair, Ryan Bertrand and Jack Cork all returned from loans and looked bright. Man City brought down Vladimir Weiss, who you’ll remember from the youth cup final last season, who looked the complete package, we should put in an offer seeing how their first team is going to be filled with Ronaldinhos and Kakas, it would be an irony fit to burst if players thought they had a better chance of breaking through here.
Weiss was fouled for City’s third minute penalty, Sinclair conjured a break and lashed one across their ‘keeper to equalise. Beanpole Franco Di Santo put us 2-1 up from another break, before Weiss again levelled and Robbie Mak scored their winner. Salomon Kalou limped off between the two goals and will probably miss Saturday with an ankle.
As expected, Wigan lost their game in hand to Manchester United and the result means our title challenge is arithmetically over. It has been a long season and one that started with a bang and have finished in some style, in between we have been treated appallingly by referees, losing to Arsenal at home to an absurdly offside goal and to Liverpool away after Lampard was sent-off for being fouled. As for penalties, while few have been given against us, we have grown wearily familiar with referees waiving play-on for clear handball, trips, pushes and combinations of the two. Øvrebø was unique only in denying us four in one game, other refs have walked way without quite so much criticism.
For all the failures of others it was the deterioration of our own performances under Scolari that let us down. Big games started to feel unwinnable as the team reacted to each set back with disorganised panic. Hiddink’s effect has been significant but the club look more and more inclined toward Italian rather than Dutch managers we fear they are making the same mistake they did with Scolari; plumping for a big name who is respected but past their sell by and tactically bankrupt.
Friday 15 May
Guus, giving his last press conference before a home game, hinted that he knew something about who would replace him: “I know a bit what is going on. I can tell you, but I won’t”. So that is clearer. He added some thoughts on the motivation of the squad now that we appear destined for third and we have a few weeks to wait for the FA Cup final: “the lads like to play football and they must play good games against Blackburn
and Sunderland. We stay on our toes regarding our concentration until the end of May. We have to play the game the way we like to play the game.”
Saturday 16 May
Carlo Ancelotti’s AC Milan lost 2-1 to Udinese today and thus our new boss hands the Scudetto to our old boss, as Mourinho’s Inter are champions in his first season.
Ancelotti went on to say that he will be making up his mind where, or if, he goes after next weekend,
Barcelona also won their league after their closest challengers lost, this time it was Real Madrid losing 3-2 at Villarreal.
Some bunch in Manchester were also having a noisy party but we couldn’t be bothered to find out why.
Sunday 17 May
Chelsea 2:0 Blackburn Rovers
Happy birthday Roy Bentley 85 today, this was a glorious celebration on a day when everyone smiled, even the rain and the new kit couldn’t dampen the party. Opinions on the new kit are mixed but it looked better than many had feared.
Everyone asked Guus to stay, Roman had a laugh about it, the man himself was content with a few bows, he looks distinctly embarrassed by all the attention, but first there was the football.
Opinions about Florent Malouda have been mixed around the ground but his performances over the last month have changed a few minds. He latched onto a perfect Anelka cross to bullet a header into the net for a fourth minute lead. After that we relaxed and enjoyed the day, Blackburn played their part, attacking with some flair just to keep us honest but as the match wore on the weight of possession passed to the home side and chances started to come in pairs. Stephen Warnock seemed to be chief architect, he kept getting the ball in from their left but it was Christopher Samba who headed over their clearest chance.
Anelka should have doubled the score only minutes after we took the lead, Ashley Cole turned the Blackburn defence but Nicolas contrived to hit the keeper.
Blackburn then had a shot blocked before putting the rebound over, when Frank went straight down the other end and cracked one onto the bar.
Jose Bosingwa’s comedy dive was rewarded with a yellow card. He was a touch unlucky because he was anticipating contact but the defender flicked his leg away.
Malouda very nearly rewarded Guus faith in his ability when Drogba dinked a pass over the defence Florent dinked the bouncing ball over Robinson in the Blackburn goal only for a posse of defenders, Gael Givet to the fore, to dink the ball clear.
Early in the second period the chanting for Guus started in earnest and Lampard slid a shot across goal only for Malouda to slide it back into the ‘keeper’s arms. Then, all of a sudden, we’d doubled our lead. Drogba laid the ball off for Anelka to thrash into the corner. It was Nicolas’ eighteenth goal of the season and he joined Ronaldo at the top of the scoring charts, so at least he’ll be motivated against Sunderland next week.
The loose ends: Scott Sinclair returned from Birmingham to take his place on the bench, JT made his 403rd appearance to take him to tenth in the all time list. Oh, and according to many: “You can stick your Ancelotti up your arse.”
Guus said afterwards that he had thought it through carefully: “I have many second thoughts, sometimes third thoughts. You cannot avoid them. You don’t have a button to turn them off, but that’s how it is. When I have to leave – having seen the reaction of the players in the way they’ve worked – I will feel a kind of sadness. That’s for sure but that’s the reality. You can talk about contracts but, when you are committed to people – Russia, in this case – and have given them your commitment with pleasure, I have to fulfil that. But that doesn’t mean that it’s difficult to leave this.” To us that sounds like his last word on the matter.
Finally, we say goodbye and good luck to West Bromwich Albion relegated after losing to Liverpool.