Tuesday 22 September
Both Joe Cole and Yuri Zhirkov will play tomorrow night and there will be chances for some of the reserve regulars and fringe players (we weren’t aware that Chelsea’s squad was big enough to have a fringe). It will be good to have Joe back around the place he will be playing in the sausage roll just behind the strikers, who could be Kalou and Borini. Should be interesting night.
Didier Drogba’s dramatic departure on Sunday could have been just cramp as a scan revealed no lasting problem. He will be rested on Wednesday in any case.
Wednesday 23 September
Chelsea 1:0 Queens Park Rangers
First real feel of autumn on the Fulham Road, chill winds blew us off course last term at about this point so an experimental team needed to perform well.
Impressed by the confidence of young Arsenal players in this competition over recent years, many have been arguing that the Carling Cup is a good place to test the best reserves so a side featuring only two youngsters was a bit of a disappointment but there is something to be said for bringing players back from injury. Chelsea lined up with Hilario; Ferreira, Hutchinson, Ivanovic, Zhirkov; Mikel; Belletti, Malouda; J Cole (c); Borini, Kalou.
QPR certainly came with an attitude and it is good for the occasional cup meeting to be reminded how little they like us, we really get their goat, it is one of the funniest local rivalries in football.
Given the number of changes the early play resembled a group of strangers, certainly this Chelsea XI didn’t seem to appreciate the way Borini plays. As if they were expecting him to do a Drogba impersonation the ball wasn’t played into his feet, he did have and early header flash over the bar but couldn’t get the service for regular chances. The same could be said for the whole of the QPR side; they made progress down the wings but showed little after that.
Joe Cole was the star of the show but Yuri Zhirkov almost stole his limelight with a superb ball into Borini for the early chance. Belletti belted the best effort of the half from a massive free-kick but Heaton in the QPR goal seemed to be in mood to keep everything out.
Frank Lampard came on at half-time and the team was more coherent and driven. Five minutes into the half Joe Cole retained possession well and fed Kalou and the spindly Ivorian found the net.
Cole replaced Zhirkov on the hour. Yuri wasn’t as spectacular as we’d been led to expect but he is just returning from injury and playing left-back instead of left midfield, so we should cut him some slack.
Sam Hutchinson got a good ovation when Terry replaced him and it seems things are finally going right for Sam after bad injury troubles.
QPR pressed late on but Hilario only had one real save to make
Joe Cole almost capped his night with a goal but as the angle narrowed he only managed to smash the ball onto the ’keeper’s nose.
All round a satisfying night, another derby win, three back from injury, very positive signs from Hutchinson and flickers from new boys and Kalou scored.
The draw for the next round will be ‘coming up after this’ at some point during Sky’s Saturday coverage.
Thursday 24 September
Uefa have finally given us the written rationale behind the transfer ban. Lawyers will be readying their paying-in books, er, we mean reading the documents in detail.
Saturday 26 September
Wigan Athletic 3:1 Chelsea
That will be the sound of the wheels coming off. Wigan outplayed, out fought and out thought us, contrived to have Cech sent off and finished against nine-men and you have to take your hat off to them. Chelsea were ragged and ill disciplined from the start. Failed to close down in midfield, watched Wigan perform routines at corners without getting in the way and generally lacked passion. Chelsea turned up expecting to win and didn’t put the effort in.
We started brightly, for the first fifteen minutes we strung passes together, had shots, closed down in midfield and then Wigan won a corner; nobody in blue reacted to the short corner or to Titus Bramble who Drogba left with a free header for 1-0.
Everyone expected a strong fight back from Chelsea but the reaction never came. Instead Wigan continued to press and made running in behind Chelsea’s back line look easy and fun. John Terry had to be at his best as the ball found Jason Scotland in space with Carvalho spinning like a top some meters away. The resulting corner was almost identical to the goal with Chelsea slow to react to the short corner again, thankfully Cech managed to smother the shot from Boyce.
Florent Malouda flew into a challenge with Mario Melchiot which could have broken his leg, the ref didn’t react but it was a straight red card offence and so we were lucky to still have eleven on the field at half-time.
Something was obviously said at the break and Chelsea smuggled a quick goal as Malouda wandered into the Wigan defence with the ball and Drogba shinned one in through the ’keeper’s legs. His 100th goal for Chelsea.
Almost immediately Terry had a great chance from Carvalho’s ball back in after a corner but the ball was deflected wide.
What should have happened next was a Chelsea revival and another victory, what actually happened was a whole lot worse.
Cech sprawled early at the feet of Rodallega who gratefully tripped over the Chelsea ’keeper’s boot, not a dive as much as taking the opportunity. Cech protested the red card as he was not the last man, Terry and Cole had run behind to block, but the ref was happy with his decision. Malouda was subbed for Hilario who dived out of the way of the penalty hit straight down the middle. 2-1.
Frank Lampard had the chance to pull it back but headed over and after Ashley Cole limped out with knee trouble it only remained for Paul Scharner to make it 3-1 with a tap in at the death.
It has been coming we have had defensive jitters from the opening day, when a more composed Hull side could have had three, everyone will be talking about wake-up calls and how we will respond against Apoel and Liverpool, without Cole and reliant on Hilario and his penchant for flap and panic. This week could define the season for us before the clocks go back. Win two and the confidence will return with the suspended Cech, lose two and the confidence will start to drain away.
Norwich City youth 2:1 Chelsea youth
This Chelsea youth team is incredibly young and spent the afternoon being muscled aside by bigger boys. We took the lead just before half-time when Kenny Strickland met a corner with a rasping shot but they hit back straight away to level and then suckered us in the second. Dermot Drummy singled out George Saville, playing at the base of the diamond in midfield, for special praise. Saville is a first year scholar
Before another busy day peters out to a few too many beers at the Pineapple and a game of pool, we’ve just remembered the Carling Cup draw spat out Bolton Wanderers at home. It is hard to contain the excitement. It will not be the game live on the telly because the city of Liverpool takes on North London, Liverpool travel to Ashburton Grove and Everton to White Hart Lane. Both Manchester clubs drew lower league opposition – Manchester United at Barnsley and Manchester City entertain Scunthorpe.