MATCH THREE: Chelsea 3 Burnley 0
27th August 2016 15:00
Customer Comment of the Day: ‘You’ve got sunglasses on.’ Thanks for that. Now give me your money and back away. Slowly.
Away fan insult of the day: This was very poor. Most Burnley fans just wanted directions. (Knowing I was staying put by the Stoll housing and was therefore findable I gave them the right ones) One guy did shout “POUND!” in my face. I give that a 1/10 in the insult stakes, amidst surprise he found his way to London successfully.
The Others: Just when Arsenal had stopped being amusing, along comes Piers Morgan joking-not-really-jokingly trying to tap up unrealistic transfer targets on their behalf via Twitter. Just one more reason why there should be some kind of bellend detection test before people are given smartphones or internet access.
Amrabat gets a penalty given against him today, but got away with a dozen of those challenges last week without so much as a yellow. Huth holding in the box like a twelve year old whose made a leap at Justin Bieber, nothing. No penalty for Watford on a handball but Mike Dean is giving them out for farting in the direction of an opponent in the box. WHERE IS THE CONSISTENCY IN OFFICIALLING! (A rant for another day, maybe, when I’ve had some gin.)
In Pogbawatch (me totting up his worth as we go to prove he is worth nothing like £100m) I saw two truly awful shots, a wide miss and him giving away a free kick in the box before his team could fashion a shot with a high foot. And not a lot else. I will raise him by £1m for today purely because it looked cold and rainy and he stayed on till the end. (Who knows, maybe his stupid hair repels water, as well as people with taste?) Add that to the last two games and he has worked his value up to £6m. 94 more to go. Heartbreaking for Hull, I suppose those of us bearing grudges (because I certainly am) can take some solace from the fact that HWSNBN was shown up to be silly when Rashford was the one that came on and won it.
Our Game: Willian was fit to start, and I was out on one other player in my team predictions, namely Matic over Fabregas. I will let Antonio off this time as he proved he was right. (and probably highlighted just one of many, many reasons he has a seven figure salary and I flog fanzines)
Hazard was taking the piss for the first goal, as he did for much of the afternoon. (I could have licked him when he did that little back heel into the box.) Burnley were not terrible by any means, but as predicted we dominated posession for much of the first half and could have scored several more times, notably when Kante put a brilliant high lob into the box that eventually fell for Cahill to volley. It was largely our own fault that none of them went in, rather than Heaton having to work hard to keep us out. Matic’s shit early passing started off strains of Fabregas and his magic hat in the stands, but he actually got better as the game went on. Burnley worked their way into the half as the game went on to no avail. Fozzy Bear in the West Lower (I’m giving my friends Muppet code names to preserve their anonymity) thought that Willian’s goal was a pass - have to say the rest of us are categorically going with shot on that one. But as you supply us with chocolate fingers at away games I’ll keep the mockery to a minimum!
The second half began much the same as the first. Diego was fiesty, and not in a way that suggested he was going to chew off someone’s leg and spit it out. (Although there is always the hope he might have run into a journalist somewhere before going home.) His best work was for the benefit of others today. The play was entertaining, but the third goal wasn’t quite there, thanks to some sharp goalkeeping, determined defending and JT missing a sitter a foot off the goal line. (Love you John, lots, but next couple of weeks maybe more shooting practice and less time instagramming videos of the little rat-dog?) I don’t recall Burnley having more than one shot until the 72nd minute, and indeed they didn’t have any on target, but after that they really threw in their lot and attempted to get something out of the game. This last quarter was largely what dragged their posession up past 30% and they could have scored before we made three subsitutions and Moses, who had already done more than enough to deserve a goal since coming on, hit one on the break to put the game out of reach on 89 minutes. There was very nearly a fourth too. This could have been an ideal refereeing performance, as my opinion is that you shouldn’t even notice that they are there. Obviously this low profile doesn’t happen with Clattenburg and he had to show at least one silly token yellow to ensure his Match of the Day close up, but it was the best officialling we have had yet this season.
So: We are top of the league. We really are. When I heard that song start going round the Bridge I was so disorientated that I actually thought it was the Burnley fans for a moment. And first clean sheet at home in the league since last November. We never would have made three attacking substitutions last season, or under HWWNBN. We would have brought on Mikel, parked the famous bus and held the 2-0. Probably in that instant, Burnley would have scored, and knowing our luck there would have been an equalising goal off someone’s butt-cheek in the dying moments. It seems those days are gone. As it was, Burnley opened up and we, having reinvigorated an attack that had run out of steam with three nippy players, managed to pick them off on the break and make sure of the three points. Don’t get too excited, but it looks like we might have a manager/head coach/whatever with some balls and a bit of common sense. He's not HWWNBN going on the defensive, (thank God) and he may not be Ancelotti letting us run on all guns blazing and smash teams by seven or eight, but I will gladly settle for something in the middle.
Things are looking rosy so far, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. We’ve not played anyone yet that has their sights realistically set on the top four. But just when we are hitting our stride, along comes that plague which resigns us to clearing out garages and tramping round IKEA and other miserable examples of domestic monotony on a weekend. An international break. Time then to ponder some of life’s questions. How does Conte not sweat when he is going batshit on the touchline? What was James Milner’s creepy goal celebration about? Can anybody get near Ranieri as the nicest man in football? Why does Koscielny like a human cross-bred with a velociraptor? And just why does Gary Lineker insist on pronouncing Conte’s name in a terrible Godfather accent?
We’re not back at the Bridge until we sample another travesty of modern football in mid-September: a Friday night fixture. Let’s all doff our caps to Gonzo in the Shed Upper who is seizing the positive and attempting to break his record for the most shitfaced he’s ever been at a game. He’s going to finish work early to get going. On the Wednesday. I’ll probably post an expletive ridden diatribe about how shit international football is at some point in the next couple of weeks, and some mockery of transfer deadline day. (Will Harry Redknapp be randomly driving round in his land rover looking for attention, and can anyone top the big purple dildo of last year?) If not, back with a preview for Swansea soon.
HAPPY 14th BIRTHDAY RYAN!
P.S. I give you this little ditty from the Wimbledon bound tube:
N'golo Kante you are the love of my life
N'golo Kante I'd let you shag my wife
N'golo Kante, I want to tackle like you
Chelsea vs. Burnley Preview
The others: Sp*rs face the Scouse in the early Saturday kick off. Hopefully a punch up, some crushed metatarsals and general carnage to entertain the rest of us, ending in a draw if it’s not too much to ask. Would be all the better if Vertonghen gets a fingernail in the eye. He ruins my 100% record of liking Belgians.
I’m instituting “Pogbawatch” in an attempt to pinpoint when he actually proves he’s worth £100m. I’ll gauge each week what he does and see if he breaks that figure by the end of the season. Going into this weekend he’s up to £5m for not being awful so far, but on occasion struggling to control a football. He’s got a long way to go. United travel to Hull for the 17:30 kick off on Saturday. If they have any self respect they will leave Fellaini and his ginger afro at home.
Elsewhere at 15:00 on Saturday, Palace need to beat Bournemouth after a poor start that has people (i.e. press knobs) talking about Pardew’s job already, Everton host Stoke, Leicester, you would think, can hope for their first win at home to Swansea and Wenger avoids the mood at the Emirates to take his tired looking setup to Watford. Super Sunday sees Boro (again), away (again) to West Brom followed by City at home to a West Ham outfit that already look knackered. Cue more homemade Joe Hart banners. At least try and colour inside the lines people, otherwise you look doubly foolish on TV.
Chelsea Vs, Burnley, Saturday 27th August, Stamford Bridge, KO 15:00
The internet has been awash with pictures of Willian flapping about in a swimming pool this week. I am sure the inventor of the worldwide web had far more noble aims in mind than this and people posting pictures of their dinner. Anyway, he is a doubt, though he is back in training. Other than that, we’re all good. Our new GK Eduardo slots in as third choice behind Courtois and Begovic. Still no sign of Zouma. Get well soon you beautiful monster.
Thus I reckon very similar team as last week. Usual back four. Kante, hopefully Fabregas over Matic. Don’t see the point in risking Willian when you can have him properly recovered and ready to go after the usual soul-destroying early international break. (Chinese water torture for football fans) Scrappy-Doo (with fangs) to return up front after midweek. Got to give the tabloids something to fill at that dead space, after all. Oscar, Hazard and I’d give Moses a shout over Pedro after the cup game.
Antonio Conte Assessment: Given our history with managers I intend to keep a close eye on this one. Using all of my FBI profiling skills (meticulously absorbed watching 12 seasons of Criminal Minds) he appears to be failry relaxed (well as relaxed as a mad workaholic gets) and sane at the moment. On the Mourinho Scale (a careful and scientific calculation based on the premise that the more dishevelled and tramp-like a manager gets, the more he is about to strike the male menopause and have a total meltdown) I have him at a Defcon 1 at the moment. (Those not familiar with such speak, that is normal and it goes up to 5 when the Russians are coming).
Fun fact about Burnley: (I am an historian, you are going to have to put up with a certain amount of useless information each week) Their mascot, Bertie the Bee, once rugby tackled a streaker. Hilarious. They are one of the oldest teams in the country, formed back when Chelsea FC was but a twinkle in Gus Mears’s eye. They adopted a claret and blue kit in 1910 because they admired Villa, and before that had gone through about as many different colour clashes as you might find lurking in Elton John’s wardrobe. We haven’t lost to them in the league since 1973, but they did put us out of the League Cup on penalties back in 2008. From memory they had a large keeper and he got a whole buffet menu sung at him by the MHL. (I doubt you’ll ever hear ‘vol-au-vents’ sung with such rapture again at the Bridge.)
Conte isn’t taking them lightly and nor should we, though I wonder how much of a gauge bashing the Scouse (hoorah, Burnley, by the way) is as they are so up and down. They were also helped by getting an early goal. Dyche’s team are usually pretty determined so it certainly wont be a pushover. (Hell, we couldn’t even push over League 1 on Tuesday) He says he hopes as underdogs his team can play with bit of freedom. He's going to rest Jon Flanagan after his exertions in the cup. In their other fixture so far they lost at home to Swansea City and in the early table they sit 8th.
I’m not predicting scores, (on the same principle that prevents anyone with a brain tempting fate by putting Chelsea on their accumulator) but it might take a while to break Burnley down, and matters won’t be helped if we continue to concede 50% of the shots on target fashioned against us. They only had 19% of the ball against the red plague, so expect us to have it a lot, but I doubt this will bother them and they will try and hit us on the counter. Typing about vol-au-vents has made me hungry. I’m off to lunch.
The ref, by the way, will be Mark Clattenburg sporting his tacky new tattoos to go with his hairplugs. Last chance to get the August fanzine, drop by and see me before the game!
Up the Chels.
Charting the Unknown
EFL Cup Round 2: Chelsea 3 Bristol Rovers 2
23rd August 2016 19:45
Away fan insult of the day: None. Again! I have to say I found the Rovers fans a giggle, and far from the pitchfork wielding, fire belching nutters I had been led to believe would descend on West London. So instead of an insult, here's a fun fact about insults. I asked a couple of chaps who bought a fanzine why they call themselves The Gas. They said it was because their club was near a gasworks. They then informed me that alternatively, Bristol's other team is near a sewage works, so they have dubbed them The Shit. They then gave a jolly rendition of how they sing "Shit-heeeeeeeads" at them. You can't really fault the logic, I suppose.
Round 2!? I hear you say. Yes, this is what happens when you are Chelsea and you fail at life for nine consecutive months. But it's done now so lets just enjoy the ride...
The others: Not a lot going on elsewhere since our last match, Super Sunday might have been overstating the potential entertainment value a bit. I thought the Sunderland/Boro derby was a good watch. However, I'm pretty sure I fell asleep during the West Ham/Bournemouth game and drooled on myself. Into the cup games today and there are distinct shouts of "it really is our year" coming from somewhere North West of here where it is still fashionable to scrunch you hair with moose and own Bros LPs. Elsewhere, hurrah for Gillingham and Northampton for knocking out higher league opposition and, from a selfish perspective, ensuring that we can't be the first Premier League team to exit the competition to an exalted chorus from the Daily Fail.
OUR GAME: There were was a more relaxing night planned for the likes of Kante, JT, Diego (I had thought that the West Country might be one corner of our fair isle that he hadn't yet offended, and that his absence would ensure the survival of this past tonight, but they booed him on the touchline). I have it on good authority that the in lieu of being able to write about him being evil on the pitch, the press will run a story on the back pages tomorrow detailing how he spent the whole match barbecuing puppy kebabs whilst tripping up old ladies out the back of the East Stand. Two days later they will run a tiny tiny tiny two line apology admitting that they made this up.
We began brightly, and quickly, and I think although Bristol were clearly not intimidated, it prevented them settling down. They made good opposition, growing into the game and were clearly (fans included, even the scamp who made it into our end) up for the occasion. At some point last season, when I think we played lower league opposition (possibly MK Dons?) their manager said afterwards that it was not so much the skill level that separated the teams, but how quickly top players think on the ball. This seemed to be the case tonight on our three goals, with the Bristol Rovers players finding we were three passes ahead before they had sussed out what was going on.
It was all I could do not to vomit in the second half, no, not because the performance was pretty bleak, but because the new pies being nuked behind us in the stand smell like school dinner shepherds pie. In my opinion, because this is my blog, after all, Begovic should have come for that ball prior to the penalty. He started to, and would have got there, but he bottled it. Now, I admit I was eating my dinner at the time, having starved myself to sell the fanzine (thank you Sam, benevolent god of chicken nuggets!) but I thought the Bristol Rovers player was looking for the penalty, which you would expect, and that we went right ahead and gave it to him. Not stonewall by any means watching it live, but you see them given. No real argument, providing that we get one of those later in the season!
Memo to Conte: Absolutely, unequivocally, BAN Matic from ever shooting. OK once, long, long ago, when London was still lit by gas lamp and people regarded photography as soul stealing witchcraft, one might have gone in; but he generally has the sense of direction you'd attribute to a blindfolded pigeon with one wing strapped to its side that has been on a bender with a bottle of Absinth. And it makes my heart sink when I see him swing his leg back instead of looking for the pass. Not quite as much as when I see Branna back off and leave a defensive clearance to CESC!!! (Rage) But, still, make it stop.
What we really wanted to see was a run out for some of our fringe players tonight, and we got that. So how did they fare? Those who have not been getting in the starting eleven were clearly out to impress the new manager (though, it seems this is still not enough of an incentive to get Fabregas to clear the first man when he takes a corner).
Moses: "Goalscorer for Chelsea." I bet those were words he never thought he would hear again. I think its great that it appears to have been a completely level playing field in terms of showing Conte what you can do, and he has certainly benefitted. (Watch him get loaned to Stoke now I have said that). It is a shame he hit that last shot like a bellend, because a brace would not have been unwarranted tonight. Still had legs to sprint at the end too, which was good to see. He's obviously not a first choice starter, but if Conte can manage that against Moses's expectations, he makes a great impact sub and a certainty for cup games. As for Ola Aina, steady enough, right? Without being mind-blowing? I recall one blazing run into the box and it was a shame he had to go off. Pedro was pretty anonymous, he appeared to be quite stroppy when he was subbed, but at that point he hadn't fashioned anything in an hour of football, so he had no reason to be. Loftus Cheek was the disappointing one for me. He went from trying too hard (and notably not passing when he should have done) to zoning out of the game altogether. My opinion of him stands, that he obviously has great ability but his concentration is wank at the moment, and he doesn't work hard enough off the ball. There is a whole lot of sauntering going on. He had some good moments tonight, namely his assist, but I doubt he has blown Conte away with that performance. Until 70 minutes I would have said that so far, Michy hasn't put a foot wrong, but as soon as that thought entered my head, he made two stupid passes to nobody. I remain massively impressed though. He seems to be in the right place at the right time, which beats us ranting about how nobody is in the box. Poor Chalobah, he spent so long waiting on the sideline, presumably for a point when the result was assured, when he would get his turn, but it didn't work out for him tonight. Hope it does soon though. It feels like I've seen him in everyone else's colour except ours! Incidentally, I've just googled Marco van Ginkel to see what has happened to him - and did you know, that his name isn't Marco? It is Wulfert Cornelius, which is so much better.
So: Here is a little stat for you. In our opening three games, our opposition have fashioned 8 shots on target against us. From these we have conceded 4 goals. This is shit. On the up side, we have already scored 7 goals, (it took us until mid-September to do that last season). I've also noted this progression:
Courtois punching when he should catch and catching when he should punch
Miserable JT Inexplicably bad though trying hard Cahill
Willian covering Branna who is away with fairies Dave working his arse off
Willian covering Matic Fabregas passing the ball to the other team and Willian trying to bale him out
Hazard limping Willian trying to do his own job Willian covering Pedro/Oscar
Chelsea August 2016
Courtois engaging his brain more
Happy JT Normal Cahill
Original Branna, not one abducted by aliens last year Dave still working his arse off
Kante Matic at least looking like he gives a crap
Fit Hazard Willian Rejuvenated Oscar
Let's hope we can go into the international break with another win...
Oh - and a last note. Football discussion and debate is warmly encouraged in the comments section, but if you are a frustrated adolescent who doesn't support Chelsea and has nothing better to do, who wishes to comment about my genitalia, your genitalia, in fact any genitalia, or wants to make threats you wouldn't carry out because you are either gutless when not hiding behind your keyboard, or because your mum would ground you, your insults won't be going live. And a word of advice, putting a nonsense email address still doesn't stop your IP address from coming up on anything you submit. You can address any complaints about this apparently militant and unreasonable rule structure to email@example.com
A Hornets Nest...
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.
MATCH ONE: Chelsea 2 West Ham 1
15th August 2016 20:00
Customer comment of the day: 'If I give you a pound can I lick you?
Away fan insult of the day: 'I'm not giving you a pound, I'll give you a punch in the face.'
I give this a 3.5 It's a fair enough start, after several weeks away, but if this was the Olympic medal table, West Ham fans would be Australia to our GB. They talked (albeit somewhat unintelligibly) a good game beforehand but ultimately were left trailing in our wake.
I've just got home with a bag stuffed with sugar free Carabao and a skip in my step, because that was better than I dared hope for.
The others: We've had to wait the whole weekend to get to our fixture. Of note this weekend was Arsenal's reality becoming glaringly apparent. I have to question, if you are a world class player right now, would you sign for them? Obviously, we're not in Europe this season and we have our own issues as far as that goes, but they seem to be in limbo as a club, probably until Wenger goes, and would you sign your name for five years not knowing what you will be embroiled in further down the line? They've got form for not spending the money to build a team that will challenge for the big trophies, and who knows who will be in charge? Even if this is not the case, are they just too flaccid (great word) in terms of getting their business done? I feel these are valid, philosophical football questions, but of course, I was too busy laughing yesterday to care about what the answers might be.
Which brings us on to Lolerpool. Have they just morphed into Klopp's Dortmund? Half a dozen or more goals in most of the games, potentially scary coming at you, but if they can score three, you can probably score more as their defence is hilarious. Any team that concentrates on keeping them out will absolutely beat them, because Mignolet will cost them at least nine points on his own this season, and with the likes of Moreno at the back, they aren't going to see many clean sheets. I'm going to go out on a limb and say they won't be anywhere near challenging for the league. At least if karma has anything to do with it, they won't be. No team with that many topknots/measly ponytails deserves anything but mockery.
Not quite up to mockery territory yet, but there must have been a moment in that emotional void that is the Etihad on Saturday evening when St. Pep thought, 'What am I DOING here?' An example of a team that proves it isn't easy to absorb everything a new manager is trying to throw at you and put it into practice. I stand by my statement though, (which I have made to literally anybody that will listen) that he has only ever had jobs where he already had a winning team in his lap and that he will be exposed at least to some extent at Manchester City for being a lot less shiny (with the exception of his slightly odd shaped bald head) than he gets given credit for.
Hurrah for Hull! (Leicester are so last season) Good on those put upon players for coming out and giving their put upon fans something to cheer about.
Lastly, imagine my surprise to read that Manchester United's youth team are scurrying away from the theatre of tourists' dreams like rats fleeing the Titanic. I will watch He Who Shall Not Be Named's, (henceforth HWSNBN on this blog) tenure with a wry smile (and probably a fair bit of ranting). Because we all know from experience that their highs might turn out to be magnificent in years one and two, but by season three, you will probably know where we were coming from!
OUR GAME: I'd like to say it is always a pleasure to welcome West Ham to The Bridge, but it would be a massive, fat lie. Almost as fat as the chunky bloke walking down the Fulham Road singing about how we needed a forklift to pick up Frank Lampard. I would have explained hypocrisy to him, but chucking multiple syllables at him as he shoved a half-pounder in his face with all the grace of drunk bird in Croydon inhaling a doner kebab on a night out would have been akin to kicking a puppy.
Speaking of hypocrisy, I always forget in between playing them, just how ridiculous it is to watch Andy Carroll (insert donkey sound effect here) crashing through every player in a blue shirt like a knackered racehorse on an acid trip and then moaning and crying like a little bitch baby every time someone brushes up against him. His a-game is throwing his entire body towards an opponent in the hope that something positive will happen. Whether this is breaking their leg, or getting his meathead on the end of a ball in the direction of the goal seems to be of equivalent value. He irritates me more on this front that Fellaini purely because of his shit ponytail and his whiny face.
Punching threats outside the ground aside, it is never pretty when we play West Ham. From my vantage point at the complete opposite end of the stadium, I was convinced we should have had a penalty earlier in the first half. I couldn't remember a single slightly worrying attack that they had made at our goal. I just remember being much aggrieved by the usual Anthony Taylor cluster fuck of inconsistency and just grateful we came out on the right side of it for once. How Scouse Sports had the gall to claim they had had some semblance of a shot before the 70th minute was beyond me.
And yet, they scored with the first attempt they had. Again, dodgy viewing from the shed end but on the replay it seems we were a bit unlucky. Ping pong on the box and I think James Collins would be the first to admit that if he has scored against you then there has to have been a fair dose of Providence involved. All you can do in that instance is make sure you score again, which we did. I'd have gladly taken that result before kick off.
No doubt if I was to load the Daily Fail's sports page I would read about how Diego Costa is a monster who eats babies and batters nuns. They are probably questioning how in the whole wide world he was still on the pitch. So I will save myself the bother, not least because I don't have much respect for a paper that is so needy and desperate about staying on top of a 24 hour news cycle that they don't even spellcheck the dubious articles that they make up as they go along. I prefer to make the point that if this is based in any way on him already having a booking, then impartial journalism would relate the fact that his was the only dissent that was punished and that the pantomime horse at the other end in the number 9 shirt should have got at least the same, along with several of his teammates.
So: Three points on the board in a derby that was always going to be a difficult first fixture, and lots to be positive about. I thought Oscar was great. Whether it turns out to be redolent of previous seasons, where one game he is like this and then the following week you want to fling yourself at him like a spider monkey and claw his eyes out remains to be seen (I am sure that isn't just me). There was real pace about much of our play today, a lot of it stemming from Kante, who kept the ball moving nicely. Costa and Hazard look half the size they were this time last season, which proves just what a difference it makes when you actually BOTHER with a preseason (and probably ban them from all drive thrus). All involved looked hungry, though in the second half I thought Matic, as he tired, lapsed back into his frustrating self of last season. But in just a few weeks the new boss seems to have at least drummed in the necessity of actually having to WORK if you want time on the pitch and the concept of wearing a Chelsea shirt with some pride. We know-alls in the Shed all looked round when Moses and Michy came on and the formation changed as if to say 'hmmmm,' and commented that if it worked and we scored a winner it would be inspired. It is only one game, but Conte wasn't afraid to go for the win, or to change things to do it. Too many times last season I felt we watched a match going down the toilet without anybody doing enough to try and change our fortunes. Tonight wasn't perfect, but you can see that a lot of work has been done and that it has already put us in a better place than we were at any point last season. If the team continue to work that hard, and embrace what the manager is trying to bring to the team, surely it can only go upwards from here. (She says about half in hope and half in expectation at this early stage!)