In the News: Ake is back. Straight in the squad for Oscar presumably, which means we won’t be splashing out on that position on this transfer window. I’d be amazed if we pulled him away from playing every week at Bournemouth to then go and buy someone. Mikel brought a tear to the eye of many a Chelsea fan. (For all the right reasons) Joking aside, he has been at the club for ten years. Yes, he was like marmite at times, and at times you could have throttled him. That said, I never understood the way some people had it in for him. Scoring against PSG, Munich, anyone? Palace away last year, that back heel at Everton for the sixth goal? For every moment of haphazard f*ckwittery you can throw at me, I’ll give you one back where he made me want to dry hump his leg. His game didn’t lend itself to massive amounts of glory, but it did save our arses on several occasions. I say God speed little Nigerian Messi, and all the best at your new club.
The FA Cup wasn’t exactly a deluge of stunning entertainment, apart from laughing at the Scouse who flung on everyone and still failed to win. If the games lacked magic cup fairy dust, then let yourselves be entertained by the nonsense that is BT (stands for Bunch of Twats) Sport coverage of the competition. I didn’t think it was possible for Ian Wright to make a bigger fool of himself, but it was funny watching him try by attempting to argue a point that flew in the face of the rules of the game despite the fact that everyone else in the studio made it clear that he was an idiot. And it got better later in the day. Harry Kewell made a play for the most depressed pundit in football history. He is the only man you will ever see look more miserable when someone scores. But the highlight was the bitchfest going on between the female goalie who can’t handle people disagreeing with her about anything and Paul Ince/Chris Sutton at the other end of the massively long sofa. It was great. Seriously I mean great. And yes I did say great.
Our Game: Ah the beauty of the cup. The abundance of full kit wankers, people asking where the stadium is when they are standing outside what used to be the So Bar, the inflatable bananas and other random objects. Not so much fun is getting booted out of The Shed. We went on tour today. To the West Lower. They have a f*cking street market in the stand, that’s what they pay the extra money for. Do you know what the bad thing about relocation is though? My absolute, flawless ability to end up next to a backseat manager (let’s give him an alias of Wanker) shouting his assessment of every single ball that was played like anyone values his opinion. This was only marginally less irritating than the nicknames he had for all of the players as though they were his mates. (Faba, Gazza, yes, I sh*t you not – the fact that he survived the match without me clubbing him with my handbag is a miracle up there with loaves and fishes)
Alonso and Luiz got a day off. In fact we changed almost the entire starting lineup after Wednesday. Sadly, this in no way improved our corner taking ability and it took three to clear the first man, and actually, when that one did, it cleared everybody. The first real chance of the game fell to the visitors, but a close range save from Begovic denied them. It was a disjointed start on our part, given that this was a new team selection, but early chances nearly resulted in a nifty back heeled goal from Cahill and JT was denied when his longer range effort went straight at the keeper. The first goal came shortly afterwards when Willian made a great run and Loftus-Cheek’s effort came back out, Chalobah’s follow up shot was also saved and it fell to Pesto (up yours, auto spell) who cracked it into the top corner from a tight angle. He could have had a second on the half hour when played in by Ruben, but took a touch and ended up smashing it off the bar. Just before half-time Loftus-Cheek was in the thick of it again as he knocked it down to Batshuayi in the box for the Belgian to knock it home.
Just into the second half Willian managed to thread the ball past three defenders and the keeper from outside the box to put it into the bottom corner, and we were three up. Chalobah could have had one shortly afterwards, but in a display of how hardworking he is, less than sixty seconds on, after someone else’s wayward pass, he had made it all the way back to the opposite box to ensure that Peterborough could not capitalise. Which brings me to Refwatch. I was ready to say Kevin Friend had an OK day today, until he sent Terry off. I am in agreement with Antonio, that it was not a red card. As reported by the BBC on 14th April 2016:
“Players who commit a foul to deny a goalscoring opportunity will no longer automatically be sent off, football’s rule-making body has confirmed. However, players committing accidental fouls that deny a goalscoring chance will now be cautioned instead. But deliberate fouls will still incur a red card. Those include holding, pulling or pushing, not playing the ball, serious foul play, violent conduct or deliberate handball in order to deny a goalscoring opportunity. The change has been ratified by the International Football Association Board (IFAB) – a body made up of the four British football associations and Fifa – which decides on changes to the Laws of the Game.”
For me, that tackle was none of the above. Along with the holding in the box rule change it appears to be something else that officials will pay attention to if and when they can be arsed. It’s not like it cost us anything, but it was needlessly harsh on JT who I thought had had a solid afternoon that would give him great encouragement following his injury woes. Still, having already withdrawn Cahill it meant no rest for Dave, who had to come on and it ruined Loftus-Cheek’s afternoon as he was withdrawn to facilitate a reshuffle. Their goal was well set up, and rewarded a large travelling contingent for making the trip south. Fifteen minutes from the end though, Batshuayi held the ball up well to lay it back for Pesto, who claimed his second and finished them off. A result we would have expected, but by no means were Peterborough just making up the numbers.
So: We got to see some players whose chances are limited by a lack of European football this season.
I don’t think Begovic could have done much more for the goal, and he certainly made more than one decent save, most importantly when the game was still at 0-0. JT’s afternoon was brought to a premature end. The showing against West Ham in the league cup means I still reserve judgement on how effective he is in a three-at-the-back-scenario until I see him turn out against better opposition than a League One side. This final phase of his career presents new challenges for him and the way in which he is approaching them so far this season (i.e. without sulking or moaning) to my mind shows what a club man he is. He’s chosen to stay till the end as opposed to going out on a high like Lampard, else he’d be in China taking handouts for doing bugger all. It must immensely hard to find your place having been top dog for so long and adjust your expectations. It was outstanding to see Zouma, our big, beautiful monster, back after his long injury lay off, looking fit and ready to kick on. And I was not the only one enthused. Even when he put a shot on the roof he got cheered. He got up again after the opposition attempted to decapitate him, and I thought it was a really solid, encouraging reintroduction to first team football. It’s like having a new signing. Ivanovic 2.0. The slimline version. Has possibly been on a desert island talking to a volleyball called Wilson angrily in Serbian since the Arsenal defeat. I’m mourning the loss of half his fantastic arse by drinking gin as I write this. A couple of wayward passes, but no more than you’d expect across ninety minutes. Chalobah had great moments at both ends. He is reliable, his energy levels don’t wane. His progress is steady and encouraging and he’s earned his appearances in blue twice over by proving himself away from the Bridge. Perhaps that is what Loftus-Cheek needs? He’s got the potential to be a better player than Chalobah by some way, but that doesn’t guarantee anything. Does he need to go to another Premier League club, a Bournemouth or someone similar? Is his development suffering because we have kept him at the club? Maybe he needs some room to grow away from the expectation of being the next JT? God knows stretches elsewhere seem to have worked for Moses, Ake and Chalobah (Gin = philosophy, I’ll be on the meaning of life and trying to make sense of the plot of The Golden Compass by the end of the night) In my opinion he needed to play a blinder today, and at times he did. As the game went on he got better and better. He worked hard, he looked meaner, tougher too. By that I mean willing to throw his weight around with some attitude and claim his place on the pitch. I think on recent occasions prior to today he has looked a bit wet, a bit reluctant, sort of half chasing stuff around. Faffy, as my nan would have said. Maybe it has been nerves. When he got motoring down the pitch with the ball at his feet today it was an impressive sight, and I don’t just mean in a perverted sexual way. But at the moment he chooses what to do with it at the other end, it is not as exciting. Yet. When I mention him being willing to throw his weight around, this is categorically something that Batshuayi needs to do. I know he scored, and I am pleased for him, but to my mind he didn’t stick it to his doubters today. The one thing he should take from Costa right now if he wants to kick on is his determination to chase everything down, regardless of whether it looks like a lost cause. Costa has real presence on the pitch because you just, can’t, shake him. Drogba was the same. Defenders get piled on them because they are a monumental pain in the arse and you can’t let them out of your sight. Michy backed out of way too much today. In my opinion a lack of presence was what was missing from him today. That said I think he’s being judged harshly at the moment. I’m not saying we don’t need to add someone further along in their development to the squad, I’m just going to accept him for what he is. I think people forget how young he is. He just isn’t the finished article yet, and neither The Drog or Costa were at his age.
Right with that, I am going back to the latter attempts on the Passchendaele Ridge in November 1917. Rock. And. Roll.
Contribution from Alexander Churchill. Follow Alex on Twitter.