Sunderland 0 Chelsea 1
Wednesday 14th December 2016 19:45
After my Pep rant at the weekend, you’ll probably pleased to hear I’ve consumed too much gin to be that wordy tonight.
This is me pausing for effect.
Right now there is a smug grin spreading across your face isn’t there?
Pause a bit more.
Someone pointed out that I ignored them in the last blog. I shall atone:
Huzzah Everton. Just the thought of that knob on L’Arse’s fan channel getting all ranty makes me happy. But not scary ranty. He'll be angry rugby fan ranty. (Because that is what Arsenal fans are like, for the most part: self-satisfied, socially superior bores, with their cries of “my game is better than your game because we don’t get fighty with each other, but its morally OK when we start drinking each others’ piss in the clubhouse or shoving coins under our foreskins.” The Emirates is like a pseudo-Twickenham for budding egg-chasers who can't get there because the tube-line doesn't stretch that far)
My favourite aspect of their dropped points last night was when Michael Owen was asked if they fought hard enough for the win. Yes. Said the most boring man on earth. But they fought in an Arsenal way, by passing the ball around, as opposed to sticking a foot in and getting even with Everton’s tough play. In other words, a diplomatic way of saying, yes, Arsenal did fight. But being Arsenal, they fought like girls. And lost. Elsewhere we’ve been denied an opportunity to laugh at HWWNBN again thanks to a late winner at Palace from The Zlatan. Bodes quite well for us for Saturday that Pardew’s side just cannot stop conceding, but not well for anyone who doesn’t want to see Allardyce’s fat chops murdering a wad of chewing gum every week whilst he slouches like a wallowing hippo in his dugout. City put a stop to their losing run, turning over Watford at home. Pep will be a genius again in the papers tomorrow. Hull fell apart at Shite Hart Lane, but we can’t have it all our own way.
News: So far this week we have a new contract for Dave. Good defenders are massively hard to come by at the moment, (hence why City would even contemplate coughing up £30m plus for Mangala, wherever he is now, or paying circa £50m for John Stones when he might be nearly half decent, probably, or maybe, one day. Wouldn’t catch us considering that) Anyway, if you’ve got an adaptable, hard-working and exemplary professional such as Azpilicueta on your payroll already, nail him down. And quick. Like Wayne Bridge knocking up that bird from The Saturdays before her beer goggles wore off. Good work.
But Oscar to China. Didn’t see this coming. For me it was a big enough shocker that Ramires or Lavezzi went there. Because let’s face it, the only reason you even contemplate such a move is if you are looking solely at the money and have accepted that your career as far as footballing achievements is concerned, is as limp as a Southern Rail employee’s work ethic. If Oscar makes such a move at 25 it will actually blow my mind. Because I didn’t have him pegged as one of those players. Let’s face it. If you are going to a league that has already commandeered the services of Sven-Göran Eriksson, AVB and Hulk you are fully bumming around with the mercenaries of the footballing world. If someone, somewhere launched a combination footballing/live dogging league in Mongolia and offered them enough cash, those three would be there. The only money grabber they are missing from their ranks is ‘Arry Redknapp, and that’s only because they haven’t yet found a route so he can drive there from Bournemouth every morning.
Our Game: No road trip for me. Deadline means I have 65-odd sad death scenes to polish ready for a Passchendaele centenary book in the next three weeks. So it was down the Nag’s ‘ead with Rodney/Dave and Uncle Albert (sitcom aliases, remember). Lots of familiar faces from the Bridge, ones you can’t necessarily put names to. Enter Denzil - whose opening words were along the lines of “this time last year you escaped that carriage full of those screaming kids on the way home from Sunderland. I had to put up with them all the way to London.” I’m sorry. But I’m not really. We ran for the other end of the train like Payet trying to get away from West Ham. Next time you are welcome to tag along, because if it happened again, Trigger, Janice and I would do the same in a heartbeat!
Some changes to the lineup. Willian in for Hazard and Fabregas for Matic. Personnel entirely capable of getting the job done. Also, a huge shout out for Zooms (this is another autospell brainfart, but one I quite like because it makes it sound like Zouma is actually my friend) who was back on the bench tonight after a long, long road back from an injury that still makes me cringe when I think of how you could hear his scream throughout the stadium. Good man.
The first half was not as dull as West Brom, I can say that much, although this may have been the hilarity of having a commentator scream in Arabic throughout and the novelty value of having Uncle Albert sat on my lap. It was an industrious start on our part, if not inspiring. To their credit Sunderland were put out to have more of a go than our weekend opposition. It was the 33rd minute before we had much to get excited about, when Pesto hit his effort just wide, but the flag was up. Seven minutes later we thought Willian should have shot as he found himself on the edge of the box. Uncle Albert was moaning that we’d overcooked it, but what does he know. 1-0 and he quickly took it back when the replay showed just how neatly Willian had chopped the ball into the path of Fabregas, taking all of the pace out of it so that the latter basically had a dead ball to hit low into the corner to put us ahead. Great time to score, and far less hair raising than having to wait until the final quarter of the game as on Sunday.
It is transpiring that we are now a better side in the second half, and we came out with much urgency after the break. And promptly nearly shot ourselves in the foot with some casual passing from Luiz before we countered, and Victor Moses just shot wide and high. He missed another one on the hour mark too. Let’s not forget that he has massively surpassed anything we thought him capable of so far this season, but I think if he is to go up another level again, he needs to be more clinical in front of goal.
We dominated the game for the first part of the half, muchly aided by Sunderland's inability to keep the ball. But the home side were by no means pathetic, and they had a few fleeting chances of their own. By the last ten minutes the game had become scrappy with some changes that left us looking a bit lopsided. Our substitutions weren't massively inspiring, but then we were ahead, so there was no need to do anything radical was there? And we're into the realms of stacked up fixtures and managing fitness levels over Christmas. It was a solid performance, and we didn’t look under pressure, but I do think that we might have made a much easier night of it with Hazard scampering about, with the skill (and the current form) to do something unpredictable to catch out the opposition. Interesting point, has Willian lost a bit of his mojo since he chopped his hair short? I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt for now and say that this is the beginning of him easing back into the swing of things after his bereavement. He hit the ball straight at the keeper in the 84th minute, but there was just too much giving the ball away from everyone in blue. Fabregas hit a weak effort on 87, which would have sealed it, but the real action of the closing moments saw Courtois (take a deep breath, I’m about to say something nice) saved us from conceding an equaliser with a diving save in the 93 minute. Job done.
Ref-watch? He had shit hair. Whoever he was. But I can’t think of anything specific that he did to piss me off. The two whinges from a slightly less zen Diego tonight for penalties, I didn’t think he had much of a case. I like it when you don’t notice the officials. Because you are not supposed to.
So: Six points clear before Christmas, having won away at City and taken 30 points out of 30. If you’d have suggested that this might be the case in August, I would have had you marked down as a raving crackhead. Undoubtedly points will be dropped, f*ckmuppetry will occur involving sendings off and dumbarse officials, and we’re especially susceptible to being screwed by injuries if they occur in certain areas of the field, but none of this is happening right now, so hurrah!