Saturday, 27 March 2010

Finally Ancelotti gets it - but is it too little too late?

Finally we play 4-5-1 in two successive games and the results speak for themselves. Maybe Carlo read this blog in recent weeks? With one up front, dropping Ballack for the more attack-minded Deco and actually playing Joe Cole on the right wing Chelsea flourished from midfield - this allowed the side to be settled, defend well and create clearcut chances deep within the box. Even with so many injuries it was a performance that brought tears of joy to the eye and was long overdue.
It was not an easy first half. Villa's equaliser was one of the best goals I have seen a visiting side score at The Bridge and we faced another tepid referee who missed many fouls against Chelsea and did not send off Dunne for a challenge that was exactly the same as the one that lead to Belletti being sent off against Man City. I wonder if the referee at Old Trafford next Saturday might try to score against us in the dying seconds to deny us a chance of winning the league?
With one up front Frank Lampard was allowed to dominate the midfield and became our 3rd highest goalscorer of all time in his seven-year spell with the Blues. With so much focus on the supposed brilliance of Villa's English contingent, it was Chelsea that looked like the world class side with Joe Cole, Frank Lampard and John Terry shining.
A special mention must go to the Villa fans. I have never quite understood the Brummy sense of humour - if you find Jasper Carrott funny then you must have special needs - but to sing "where were you when you were shit?" to us when you only fill half of your away allocation and have even half of those fans leave with 30 minutes to go must mean that either their supporters have the most amazing sense of irony or are the truly plastic jcl's that I often criticise Chelsea for attracting in recent years!
Unfortunately I still feel it is too little, too late. This formation at home against Man City would have reaped dividends and given us a slight cushion going into the game at Old Trafford. I expect (or pray) that the same side will be played next week - maybe with Drogba replacing Anelka. If Carlo has learned from previous mistakes then he will have more than tempted me to renew my season ticket because if we play like this with our supposed over-the-hill squad next season then we will win the league by Easter 2011. Come on the Blues!

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Goodnight Chelsea

Having suffered throughout the days of relegation, John Hollins and Slavisa Jokanovic there has rarely been such a feeling of emptiness being a Chelsea fan as there is at the moment. It is ironic that Roman is the man who helped give the club that little push from being a top four team in England to possible world dominators and yet is also the same person who has aided Chelsea's slide back into relative mediocrity since he decided he knew more about football than the manager who helped the Blues win the league with 95 points in his first season in England.
We have another stinkerman at the helm who still favours playing the likes of Kalou (who has never proved himself anything other than a useful substitute) and who when the team is in trouble like it was today brings on Deco!
Chelsea has of course had its share of hard luck - no Essien, Cech or Ashley Cole. Refereeing decisions this season have been abysmal both in the league and in Europe. Our recent run of results means that now some will point to the off the field antics of a few of our English contingent as derailing our season. Mathematically we can still win the league by winning all our remaining matches, but if we cannot beat Blackburn while having a manager who still thinks three strikers up front is the answer to all our ills then we are going to be also rans for many seasons to come. In this hour of despair all I can pray for is a miracle, and while within the walls of the stadium I will give Chelsea nothing but my most utmost support for the remaining matches that I will attend this season.
Of course there are those who say that we should be happy with what we have. Compared to where the club was even ten years ago another possible FA Cup win on the cards and a likely top three finish would not be sniffed at. The likes of Tottenham and West Ham would kill to be in our position. But I do not want to look backwards to where we were but forwards to where this team should be.
Unfortunately the side is now regressing tactically and in terms of quality - and who wants to finish behind the teacher's pet that is Arsenal and the kid who gets all the girls but fails his GCSEs that is Manchester United? That drive alone should be enough to stimulate the manager to start playing games to win and not seek these empty plaudits regarding our so-called new flair from individuals who secretly want our club to fail.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Jose 1 Roman 0

This was meant to be a memorable European night. It is not often that I look forward to a match so much that I am actually thinking about the game all day long. The walk across Wandsworth Bridge towards the ground swigging a beer on a warm, sunny early evening made me remember the first few Chelsea matches I attended with my father and it brought a tear to my eye.
It was certainly going to be an emotional occasion – a manager who should never have left Chelsea returning to his old stomping ground where he was so successful, and a win for Chelsea meant that with only Manchester United and Barcelona to fear in the coming rounds we would have a good chance of reaching the final in Madrid again.
The alarm bells rang as soon as the team was announced. Carlo played his “entertaining” formation of 4-3-3. Two strikers, no right wing and Zhirkov and Malouda the supposed dream combination in the left. The midfield was fairly defensive with Ballack and Mikel holding fort and Lampard stuck in the middle of nowhere.
As always we had the usual incompetent Champions’ League referee – making a big song and dance about booking players in the middle of the park but then missing crucial moments of the game such as what seemed an almost certain penalty or two in Chelsea’s favour. With no cover on the right wing my fear was that they would destroy us on that side of the pitch: in fact, Inter found most of their space down our left hand side where Zhirkov and Malouda were playing – how was this possible? Later in the game Joe Cole came on for Michael Ballack (who actually had a pretty decent game) and yet seemed to occupy a position in central midfield rather than on the right wing!
The stand-out player for Mourinho’s side was Snejder… he was simply immense and helped his side win the battle in central midfield. He set up the goal for Eto’o (a player who not too long ago was considering a big money move to play in Uzbekistan!) and was a massive pain in the posterior.
The bottom line is that Chelsea had little luck and created few clear cut chances on goal – I don’t recall their ‘keeper being very busy and our set pieces were a waste of time.
What have we learnt from this then? More importantly, what has Roman learnt? It is hard to be critical of an owner who has pumped so much money into the club but ridding the club of Mourinho looks like one of the biggest mistakes in Chelsea’s history. The club seems to be going backwards now, with an inept manager in charge who seems to want to pander to the so-called neutrals in the game instead of having that aggressive streak required to win trophies. It is quite demoralising to imagine what could have been if Mourinho had stayed but now we have to live with the consequences.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Lampard 4 Pikeys 1

Before we begin to wax lyrical about Chelsea, let's get one thing straight: West Ham are a very poor side. They only mustered two shots on target throughout the whole game and the goal they scored came from a foul throw.
It is always nice to beat the Irons - I actually have no qualm against any of their players or manager but simply detest their fans who see no problems with aiming vitriol at Frank Lampard (even though they didn't want him at their club) but are then happy to show their support for Joe Cole - who is actually a Chelsea fan! I am guessing the IQ level at the Boleyn is even lower than that of the average Millwall fan and it won't be too long until those two clubs are battling it out in the lower echelons of the English leagues again.
The club is an oxymoron in itself with such a decent bloke as manager and yet also having a bunch of bitter and twisted fans who used to put the knife into our club because of our lack of success and now can only resort to the personal abuse of Chelsea players.
The scoreline did not flatter Chelsea - there was always only one team in it but at half time there was a big question again about Ancelotti's tactics. Carlo favoured a lop side 4-4-2 formation with no right wing... he obviously listened to me when I suggested he actually play a defender in the left back position rather than the excellent Malouda and maybe this time he can listen again and start Joe Cole on the right. Even when he is playing poorly he adds balance to the side - we don't need both Ballack and Mikel in defensive midfield roles if we need to provide supply to our strikers. Thank the Lord that Malouda had one of his best performances in a Chelsea shirt tormenting West Ham all afternoon.
Turnbull had a decent game - solid kicking, a good save towards the end but there was little he could do with Scott Parker's fluke effort in the first half. Ferreira was solid as per usual but why did it have to take a solo run from John Terry to set up our second goal? We should be thankful we have a player like him who has the footballing intelligence to know what to do when the side is struggling.
One of my big worries is now with our strikers. Anelka in particular looks exceedingly glum (not that he smiles much in any case) and will not be happy to play out wide into the run-in. Ancelotti seems to be a manager who does not like to drop big name players even if it is to the advantage of the team as a whole, so I have to give him credit for taking off Mr Glum and replacing him with Joe Cole. Our play immediately looked more attractive and we had more shape: Lampard could now roam free and was unlucky not to score.
So as West Ham look forward to playing the likes of Scunthorpe in the Championship next season, we now look forward to welcoming Inter. I watched "The Damned Utd" for the first time last night and it is amazing to see how many similarities there are between The Special One and Brian Clough. Both managers succeeded with unfancied teams, were quite outspoken and unpopular only with their own boardrooms and most of their rival managers. In an amazing game on Friday, Jose's side lost 3-1 to Catania after Muntari received two bookings having only been on the pitch for three minutes.
There is no doubt that the Italian league is not what it once was, but when it comes to the game on Tuesday it will all be a matter of tactics. Jose knows his side is not as strong as Chelsea's but he will also know that if he floods the midfield then Chelsea will struggle to create clear cut chances. Will Ancelotti have the guts to drop Anelka so that we have a more balanced 4-5-1 formation or will he pander to the view that games involving our club in Europe have to be pleasing on the eye to the neutral? It seems obvious to me that the focus is on the Champions League rather than the Premiership so let's see how our manager copes with Roman breathing down the back of his neck. Whatever he chooses, this is a game that Chelsea should win and I am extremely looking forward to having Jose back at the Bridge - and there is a part of me that wishes he was still here as we would not even be mentioning Arsenal as possible title contenders if he were in charge.

Monday, 8 March 2010

Another semi-final - well done Chelsea!

In a bizarre week where it was deemed acceptable to have as England captain a footballer who was seen assaulting a member of the public on cctv, I was expecting more strange decisions from our manager in the game against Stoke. Knowing now that it is unacceptable to cheat on my wife but fine to punch someone in the face, at least if the result didn't go our way I could resort to violence with the full backing of the England manager and the media.
Thankfully (and probably more due to suspensions and injuries) Carlo saw sense this week and played a balanced side. As suggested on this blog previously, Paulo Ferreira played at left back (who was easily man of the match and somehow seemed to cross better with his left foot than most of our left-footed players!) which meant that we could have an even midfield with Malouda on the left wing. Yes, we even looked good with Kalou on the pitch!
This is the kind of game plan we should have adopted in the match against Man City. Stoke have a pretty unoriginal tactic: hoof the ball up to the striker and try to spread the play, then try to score from set pieces anywhere within 50 yards of the opposition goal... and with Hilario looking extremely shaky in the opening moments it looked like it might work for the visitors.
Thankfully, with no Ballack in the side Lampard was left to roam freely and could have had a hat-trick with the chances presented to him.
It was extremely sweet to see JT score... although I am not sure why the Stoke fans were singing, "John Terry, are you my Dad?" Are they implying that their mothers are sluts? Note to Northerners: for a chant to be funny it has to have a punchline that makes sense!
What was interesting while driving home and listening to 606 with the resident cockney scouser Spoony (how is it possible for the BBC to grant credence to someone who comes from Hackney and yet supports Liverpool to have his own radio show?) who allowed a Stoke fan with a cockney accent ('cos there's loads of them isn't there!) to come on his show and moan about JT kissing his captain's armband... no wonder the country is against us when they allow such idiots on the radio!
Really not much to say - it doesn't get boring going to Wembley and if our league title chances falls apart most Chelsea fans would not complain if we "only" won the FA Cup... here's to a Chelsea vs Tottenham final!