PREMIER LEAGUE PREVIEW PART I.
Usually, about now, I’d be climbing the walls with glee about setting off for Huddersfield, of all places, tomorrow morning. I’m about 20% excited, at most. It’s coming, but slowly. Because Chelsea Football Club verily broke me this summer. Not because I nappy shat my way through June and July complaining about the fact that we should have been spending half a billion on players and boo-hooing because we weren’t in for Ronaldo; but because the corporate f*ckwittery finally became too much to bear as they made a pig’s ear of offloading a manager that everyone knew was leaving by about February, and compounded everything from the lack of interest in the club’s key fan base (i.e. the ones that pay to go to the matches) to the Nikefication of our lovably cheesy megastore and installation of their rancid, half-nonsensical and arrogant advertising slogans plastered all over the Bridge. (‘Thrilling’ us all, and ‘We Are the Pride’) I have a pair of Nike trainers I know refuse to wear on principle.
But anyway. F*ck it. The reality is, are we going to go and support another club? No. They have us hooked and they know it. So at least there is now actual football we can concentrate on again, and I can go about rediscovering my love for watching Chelsea play, which (though elements in their swanky West Stand offices seem to have forgotten) is the point of this now global enterprise and the reason we all fell in love with the club in the first place. (Not because of the promise of an on-site shoeshop where middle aged men would have the opportunity to spend £200 on a pair of Nike football boots. A necessary addition. I’m sure.)
So after all this cockwombling through the act of replacing Antonio like also-rans who didn’t make the final cut to appear on The Apprentice: Huzzah! Sarri finally arrived, coach number fourteen of the Abramovich age; bringing a supposedly maverick style of football and 10,000 Rothman’s with him. And, bringing Zola too, double hurrah! The new boss was a banker, not a footballer, and coaching was a hobby. He puffed his way up through the various tiers of Italian football, (I should point out that Mowgli - special alias - has declared that the second he sees the boss light up inside the bridge, all the stewards in the land won’t stop him from having a fag) and has only had four seasons in top flight management, where he over-achieved with Napoli but ultimately failed to dethrone Juventus.
But. He brings with him this fabled attacking football. Let’s lay this out, if anyone uses the expression “Sarriball” within earshot of me, I make no apologies for slapping you with a match programme. Or any solid object to hand. Because it makes us sound c*nty and Scouse-like with their propensity for dreaming up sh*t nicknames. (Hendo - case in point) He plays a 4-3-3 as standard, and advocates one or two touches and no more. All going forward. Poor Mikel’s head would have exploded if he was still here. Early videos have shown him drilling players again and again as they rocket from one end of the pitch to another in a matter of seconds. So strikers love him, and he favours players with technical ability, disciplined, not to mention obedient. He’s a workaholic, and in return he’s demanding, like Conte, but there was no fun under him, he was exhausting without respite. Sarri has the ability to lighten up, apparently. He’s a superstitious chap. He has been known to fly drones over his own training sessions for analysis, (I’d be so tempted to just dive-bomb players) and he has his men practice a full game in one half to get them used to tight spaces. In the sixth tier of Italian football he drilled 33 different coded set piece routines with men’s names. Apparently it is more like 40 now. He said he’s not at all interested in the transfer window. Music to our ears after listening to Antonio bleat his way through every press conference like a spoiled brat as the season wore on. Sarri is not interested in PR niceties either. He wears what the f*ck he wants and there is no angry code to him wearing a tracksuit instead of Armani. (We’ve had Scolari, who looked like a minor sex offender so anything goes on that score really) He says what he wants too, which has got him into shit, but then we’ve dealt with worse. Do I care if he turns out not to be the kind of bloke I want to adopt as my dad? No. Not if he is good at his job. In the minus column? He’s not won anything. I went on my Eddie Howe crusade over the summer. I’m sick of diva managers and taking one from further down the pecking order and giving him a chance to shine is fine with me. He moves on rapidly - which cynics should say will suit us fine. It will make the press plebs happy, at least.
And so a new manager gets new players, and the club get the chance to redress the balance after falling a bit short in the transfer window last summer. It was worth bumping the homegrown quota and picking up Rob Green on a free just to watch the nappy sh*tting contingent reel. Twitter went into actual Chelsea meltdown. But in addition to this, we needed a top class, first choice keeper. Everyone was touted to replace him. I’m pretty sure if my mum put on a pair of gloves the Daily Fail would have linked her to Chelsea. Butland, Cillessen, Pickford, Oblak, Donnarumma, Cech, Hart. And all along we’d been bidding on Bob (or Rodney, or Dave II) for weeks. Which tells you exactly how much the Red Swarm knew all along. Colour me surprised. They made it all up. In comes a £72m, record breaking signing in the shape of Kepa, on a bumper seven-year deal with a lot of potential to live up to and a name that makes Azpilicueta look like Smith.
We tried to bolster the centre-backs, but Juve held out on Rugani, and there were other positions that needed more prompt attention. Unsurprisingly, after a less than inspiring debut season, Morata was linked with a move away. Though using the fact that he was seen wandering Spain, where he was born, or Italy, where his in-laws are, to link him all over the place was particularly sloppy journalism. We wanted Lewandowski, they said. But we’d need to fork out £100. Plus £9.99 for a baseball bat to slug him over his head. Because why he’d step down to the Europa League and a club who didn’t have a manager, or worse still had a bunny boiler still at the helm at the time is anybody’s guess. Then it was all about Higuain, who opted to remain in Italy. They went for the usual ploy too of linking everyone with a similar passport as potentially following Sarri to England. Insigne said he’d be happy to follow along with half of Italy if you believe the media. But in the event, no new strikers have arrived. Which currently leaves us with Batshuayi, Abraham, Giroud and Morata; and nowhere to hide for the Spaniard this season. He was wet, to say the least last time out. My perception of him has not been aided by a photograph of him blowdrying his wife’s hair. He is so in touch with his feminine side to me now he might as well have a face like Rooney for how attractive he is to me. I hope he succeeds, I really do. Because he can;t have become sh*t overnight and if he doesn’t, we’re screwed.
Most of our attention was on the midfield as the summer progressed. Hazard is not going anywhere, and THAT is the best bit of business we did, whether it be because we asked for £200m, or whether it’s a case of convincing the player to “give it one more season and see how you get on with Sarri.” Who cares, I’ll take it. Our position with regard to a transfer fee won’t be any weaker next summer. And we kept Willian too, who was scurrying for the exit like a rat from a sinking ship with inappropriate emoji-itis under Conte. He practically had his tongue in Chequebook Pulis’s ear at the FA Cup Final. “Mourinho is the best manager I’ve ever worked with,” blah, blah, blah. Chelsea can’t be daft enough to sell another first teamer to a rival can they? Of course they can, but they resisted, probably aided, if there was any truth in it, by the fact that United allegedly refused to let us have a sniff of Martial. There was an inexplicable few weeks when UEFAlona, Real Madrid, literally everyone and his dog tried to sign a thirty year midfielder that can’t always get into our first team, but even though he might have tried to set fire to his passport in an attempt to stave off his return, return he now has, apparently with every intention of behaving like a grown up.
Thus we could afford not to hound every available attacking midfielder on the planet. What we did need to do was ensure that unlike last season, we weren’t having to use Fabregas in a more defensive position, because against the better sides, with the best will in the world he isn’t good enough to do it. Kante, of course, is sublime. But Bakayoko is not, yet, if he is ever going to be. Others are untested. And so in comes Jorginho, a blinding bit of business. He played more passes than anyone in Europe last season, which seems like a good thing based on what we’ll be doing, and he knows all there is to know about working for Sarri and employing his methods. If he has the personality to impart that on his new teammates, and it looks like he does, then he is invaluable. In comes Mateo Kovacic in from Madrid on loan too, hopefully with an option to buy clause at the end of the season. Very promising outlook in that part of the field. Giroud says he and Hazard also tried to have a word with Fekir this summer. Apparently he got all the way to the end of talks with the Scouse. Presumably he then actually went there and that’s why that fell apart.
And finally (and this is dedicated to Chicago) THE NOSE GOES. Sarri appears to have had very little interest in spending any effort on Courtois. Good. Ive never given less of a sh*t about a first team player leaving the club. There goes possibly the most ungrateful sod ever to wear the shirt. I’m not wasting any more ink on a man whose own ego far outweighs his worth as a player. I advocated sympathy with him last season because of his personal situation. Then he kept right on talking. My favourite part was when his agent was implying that big bad Chelsea were keeping a man from his children. Considering that the circumstances leading his then-pregnant partner to relocate back to Madrid revolved entirely around his inability to keep it in his trousers, perhaps he deserved to learn the hard way what happens when you don’t pay any regard to your family.
But bugger his private woes. We paid him to play football. He went from being promising, to meh-worthy because of his propensity to talk utter sh*t without running it through his brain, thus offending people, to being about as likeable as a dose of herpes. Not a pleasant man, and with his departure there is no need for Chelsea fans to zip it on the subject anymore. It isn’t bitterness because he’s gone, it’s annoyance that all he ever did was whinge about being made a multi-millionaire when actually, he wasn’t that great when it mattered. There were many and various hilarious remarks when photos were released of his medical. Searching for brains, finding that he speaks out of his arse, inability to close his legs, no backbone, lack of a heart, and so the list went on. Like the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion and the Scarecrow all rolled into one with a giant fake beak attached, it seems. Madrid “presented” him. All the bells and whistles couldn’t make up for the fact that he has no personality. Then there was the hilarity of his little photo shoot. “Usually they do keepy uppies” said Sky. Behold, Real, how you just spent £35m on a bloke who can’t use his feet. So he settled for dribbling on the badge instead. I wonder if when he was snogging it the Real fans were pondering on all the nasty stuff he’d said about them before. Atletico fans certainly noticed. They are raiding Spanish Ikea for little stuffed toy rats to bombard his goal with on account of him being a traitorous hypocrite in their eyes. Excellent. He’s already yapping about enticing Hazard to join him. So he may have left the country but I still want to nut him. The rats are one euro each, and I’m going to settle for donating a novelty collection pot to fund some on Marco’s stall for Arsenal instead.
And of course it wouldn’t be summer if Chelsea weren’t pimping out half the contents of Cobham on loan. More will depart; there is talk of Bakayoko to AC Milan and Everton submitted the paperwork to take Kurt Zouma on time. Worse ideas for him. For now this is where our little blue birds have flown to…
Lewis Baker and Jamal Blackman have gone to Leeds. They’ll be popular.
Reece James to Wigan
Dujon Sterling to Coventry
Nathan Baxter to Yeovil
Trevor Chalobah to Ipswich
Jacob Maddox to Cheltenham
Charlie Colkett to Shrewsbury
Todd Kane to Hull
Danilo Pantic to Partizan
Jhoao Rodriguez to Tenerife
Mario Pasalic to Atalanta
Nathan to Atletico Mineiro
Victorien Angban to Metz
Kenedy to Newcastle
Kasey Palmer to Blackburn
Kyle Scott to Telstar
Eduardo and Jake Clarke-Salter to Vitesse
and Mason Mount has gone to Frank at Derby
Preseason literally had no bearing on what is to come this season, so I went on holiday instead of paying much attention to it. That said, firstly nobody appears to have gone on a Edenesque c.2015 Summer Burger Binge, which was a good enough omen for me. Perth flapped about a bit at the beginning but settled down and made life more difficult. Considering they had had no time at all to learn how to do Sarri’s bidding, the hugely depleted squad that went all the way to Australia didn’t look like headless chickens, which was satisfactory enough for me. Hudson-Odoi began a mini rampage to prove his worth for the new manager, which was carried over to the Inter game, where Bakayoko cost us an equaliser, and beyond. Against Arsenal, RLC took a wayward penalty in the shootout but Hazard has called for his presence at the Bridge this season. I’d be surprised if he was going to go abroad, but perhaps if he hasn’t had any football by January they may rethink the situation about a domestic loan. Barkley has also looked sharp and appears to be enjoying life under Sarri in the early stages. Green was the shootout hero against Lyon, well, for the 12 people that went to watch. No, we didn’t come close to beating City, but we didn’t get mauled either . With half a side playing a completely new philosophy of football I can accept that at this stage - 38 set plays - remember? Lots of positivity coming out of others to. Morata says he never want to leave. Nay! The press made it up? Perish the thought? After 181 days out of the picture, Luiz arrived back in the side at Wembley and Giroud is all for fighting for his place, he says.
Prospects are good - do not forget that our unbeaten run that led to the title in Conte’s first season did not start until October. And we had to get mauled by ARSENAL first. Patience, people, patience. Top four and a decent run in the Europa League will do for me.
Rejoin me for part II later on, where we’ll laugh at Arsenal, United and Sp*rs.
*Picture of a Chelsea Manager actually smiling at a press conference (yes, really) comes from the club's official site.