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!)