MATCH TWO: Watford 1 Chelsea 2
20th August 2016 15:00
Away fan insult of the day: None. Literally, none. Watford fans were so nice that it was almost disappointing. In fact I didn't think there were any Watford fans until that goal went in and suddenly there was noise.
I give them a 0, for total lack of imagination and expect at least a random obscenity when they visit the bridge later in the season.
Home from the north (heading up for twenty minutes from Euston definitely qualifies) with three points, despite the best efforts of a naff referee and most of Watford's players to kill several of our players.
The others: I'd be doing us all a disservice if I didn't start with Lolerpool, who managed to lose to Burnley despite having 81% possession. And I had heard a rumour that this was their year. Long may Klopp reign, as far as I'm concerned. They will continue to bomb from random highs to hilarious lows and end up somewhere in the middle of things by the end of the season. He's like both Chuckle Brothers rolled into one wearing joke shop glasses. As for Arsenal. I love Wenger's resolve, that there is nothing wrong and that it isn't all about spending money. Yes Arsene, because a team with a delusional megalomaniac at the helm doing literally no buying, no strengthening and no rebuilding whilst all of their rivals work their nuts off over the summer and expecting to somehow maintain pace with them all never did any harm, did it? Unless you watched any part of the nightmare that was Chelsea last season, that is. Obviously he can chain himself to the railings at the Emirates for all I care because if the comedy stopped, one or both of these teams might get good, and nobody wants that.
Apparently Lukaku is willing to stay at Everton as Chelsea are reluctant to spend 75m on him. That is the best transfer news I have heard all week, because if I had 75 PENCE and a choice between a bag of wotsits and buying him back for Chelsea, I would still carefully consider my options. Perhaps the biggest chuckle I've had this week though is the apparent surprise in the nation's newspapers at Joe Hart being dropped. Let's consider the fact that he has fluctuated between dogshit, passable and downright ludicrous in the last year/18 months. Add to this that arguably his fuckwittery singlehandedly saw England dumped out of the Euros and then ask yourself, who WOULD want him in goal? Apparently Sevilla are interested, but the manager has concerns over his ball distribution. Frankly, if he is willing to overlook everything else that is wrong with his game right now Hart should be thankful, because his career could have gone a lot further down the toilet than a move to sunny Spain after such a long stint of mediocrity. Oh well. Cheer up mate, at least you don't have dandruff.
On a totally random note, I popped into the megastore this week and came away deeply disturbed. Everything seems to be branded with a random carabao. (which according to google is a type of water buffalo found in swamps in the Philippines - I think it was their piss they were giving away in cans before West Ham judging by the taste) Unless you are planning to hop back in time and attend a rave in the early nineties, I suggest you steer clear of all the neon colours and bonkers patterns, regardless of the fact that People's Republic of Ch*lsea doesn't want you having anything with their name on that isn't purchased from them directly.
OUR GAME: It was a literal hornets nest at Vicarage Road this afternoon. I can only assume a training session at Watford involves psyching yourself up over something violent like an episode of Game of Thrones and then heading out to practice pushing each other over. In Deeney's case it involves a kebab on the way home too. Before I get accusations of being fattist - whilst he may not be morbidly obese, as someone paid to be a professional athlete he is carting around about a stone of burger weight that even Kerry Katona would be ashamed of.
The actual football was disappointing to begin with. Watford came out ready to just two handed shove any Chelsea player off the ball, and though we had marginally more opportunity than them, certainly in the box, at the 26th minute the most interesting aspect of the match was that the rain had made Azpilicueta's shorts go transparent. And then we went behind. Again. Watford weren't even very good. But then that was the problem last season wasn't it? Not being able to beat teams that on paper should have been nowhere near us. "It's happening again!!!" You could hear from some of the more emotionally incontinent in the away end as they began rocking back and forth in their plastic seats.
The idea of Watford maintaining pressure on us when we had possession was commendable, astute tactics. But what I object to is the fact that it consistently ended with a forearm smash or an abundance of nasty tackles that came in so late that they made Southern Rail look blindingly efficient. Why did the referee not see this? I hear you ask. Because he was a bellend. I've rarely seen such a shit display of officialdom since a certain Norwegian arrived in West London, and not since Nelson raised his telescope to his blind eye has so much been blatantly overlooked in plain sight. Even Wenger would huddle in shame at the amount that the match officials apparently didn't see this afternoon. Highlights included free kicks being taken at seven yards because when he asked the Watford players to move back, they just said no. But the indecisiveness is what really winds me up. If I had a pound for every time Jon Moss put his whistle in his mouth to blow and then didn't, or let play go on four or five seconds before he finally blew it, I need never sell another fanzine. And Dave would be in Bora Bora come kick off on Tuesday night. The ultimate piss take, however, was the fact that after being punched, pulled, kicked and shoved all over the pitch for almost an entire game of football, Hazard was booked instead of the likes of Guedioura or Amrabat.
Ranting aside, we were 1-0 behind. Last season, in the face of a (not unexepected) slog away from home against a team that is set up more to stop you playing football and not to try and beat you at it, not a lot would have changed. Maybe a couple of like for like substitutions, endless passing around the edge of the box, resulting in nothing but going home and avoiding Match of the Day and pretending none of it had happened. But now it seems that we have someone on the sidelines who is constantly looking for a solution, not a scapegoat and who is willing to roll the dice and try to win instead of bunking down and clinging on for a draw.
So: On Tuesday, Conte's last hand was to go two up front with Michy and bring on Moses with fresh legs to run at them, and it worked. I had no issue with Fabregas not coming on because that kind of dynamic bombing in on the West Ham goal isn't what he would have brought to the game, and as it proved, that is what was needed. Today, though, the killer pass wasn't there. It was reminiscent of last season with balls going back and forth on the edge of the box and no end result. Today was perfect for Fabregas to come in and send an inspired pass (or several) up for the forwards to latch on to. I can see why Conte wouldn't have started with him over Matic (don't get me started) away from home, but I can definitely see why he would have finished with him.
I wanted to shake the idiot behind me on the way to the station complaining that nothing has changed since last season. WRONG. Was it perfect? God no, but give the guy a damn chance. He's barely been in the job a month, he fully admits he needs a couple of reinforcements and who could expect him to have fully imprinted all of his ideas, all of his tactics and everything he wants to bring to the club by mid-August? Get a grip, you fools. Hazard and Costa - none of the issues apparent at the beginning of last season, others far more ready for the upcoming season too, and Kante, Michy both settling well. Twice we've not been in a winning position. Twice the new manager has made ballsy substitutions and we've walked away with three points. Still early to gauge whether or not this is luck or genius, but lets hope that eight months from now it has transpired to be closer to the latter.