And doubly so when the opposition lose their sh*t like Yaya Toure finding out someone's forgotten his birthday. Again. But don't laugh too hard. Remember, when it comes to not winning the league for ourselves, City are the lesser of all possible evils.
Manchester City 1 Chelsea 3
Saturday 3rd December: 12 'effin 30pm.
The Others: I'll be honest. We were so busy gloating (and sleeping) on the way back that few f*cks were given about what was going on elsewhere. Swansea shouldn't be surprised to be bottom. Bob Bradley is about as qualified to be a premiership manager as Donald Trump is to be President. And I doubt that will end well either. Poor old Monk. But Palace have been saved from a fate worse than Allardyce for another week at least, as the chips finally fell for them against an apparently tired looking Southampton side.
Oh, and we are all aware that Conte has had a hair transplant, and that he looks very suave for it. On the way to the land of Manc, in conversation with Tom and Barbara (sitcom aliases, remember) it transpired that Klopp has allegedly also had it done. Given that he has cornered the market in "tramp chic,” and wouldn't look out of place lurking under a bridge at 7am snaffling a mouldy Gregg's sausage roll and washing it down with a can of White Lightning, it may constitute the biggest waste of shaving off your pubes and glueing them to your head (I'm reliably informed this is how it is done in the land of Scouse) that has ever occurred. So he wanted hair, so that he could choose never, ever to brush it. And better highlight his disdain for personal grooming... Hmm...
Our Game: The cryptic press conference comments yesterday transpired to be an admission that Matic was unavailable. Which was a worry when all was revealed an hour before kick off. Combining Fabregas with Kante is more offensive than you'd choose to go for away to Manchester City. But we lived in hope. We were evidently more excited than several thousand Mancs, who didn’t bother filling their seats today. Slightly shameful for a top of the table clash.
For those that did bother, we had an open first ten minutes. If their intention was to push us into playing with five across the back it wasn't really working. It took less than a minute and a half for one of them to take out Hazard, which was sadly predictable based on previous fixtures. At the other end there was perhaps a lucky escape for Gary Cahill in the seventh minute. Seen those penalties given. Speaking of, on the half hour we had the first of what was to be his many, many interpretative falls in tribute to a dying swan when Aguero went down looking for a penalty. I thought I was being harsh when I turned to Victor Meldrew and said "I'd only be pleased to see that man if his shin bone was sticking out of his sock." Victor's response? (Bearing in mind that Aguero is to him what Vertonghen is to me) "Nah, f*ck that, sticking out of his mouth." I love you Victor, you miserable sod.
Only about four of theirs offside when they had one chalked off. For nearly every break they had, we'd retaliate, but with neither side breaking the deadlock. Key in this respect was Luiz. Time and time again, he put in the crucial block in what was turning out to be a reassuringly disciplined performance in the face of their attacks. So it was gutting for us to concede an own goal off Cahill on the stroke of half time. Just unlucky, but nonetheless, depressing. Then, as if that wasn't sh*t enough, half time consisted of robots (Team Nobody vs. Team Gives a Shit) doing press ups in what was the most convoluted, waste of time clusterf*ck of an excuse for entertainment that I have ever seen at a football club.
So it can only get better in the second half, right? Diego, who maybe reached Defcon 3 at one point today for the first time in a couple of months, shot wide on 48 minutes, and almost immediately afterwards, Conte made his first change replacing Pesto (1-0 autospell) with Willian. The fuzzy haired little superstar could have passed it neatly out to Alonso almost immediately, but elected to take a feeble shot instead. Nonetheless, we looked more together than at the beginning of the first half. They could have and should have taken a decisive lead on 56 minutes, but the ball fell to some ginger bloke who smacked it spectacularly off target considering he was four yards out. He's worth a fortune apparently.
This proved to be the turning point of the match. Less than two minutes later, just as I was typing "we need to start taking our chances” onto my phone, Diego held the ball up brilliantly from a Fabregas chip to level the score. The game was turning out to be the same niggley, mean-spirited affair that it always is when we visit the Etihad and at this point either side could have won it. Which leads me to my assessment of the referee today. All the players get picked apart week in, week out, so why not? In technical terms he was as pathetic as Wayne Bridge eating crocodile bumholes on ITV for attention. The last thing you want is a game like this ruined by some f*cking hippy referee who thinks football is a non contact sport. And who do we get? Bingo. Anthony Taylor is in a league of his own. True to form, his grip on the game today was about as vice-like and convincing as a ninety year old woman trying to arm wrestle The Rock. What I despise about seeing his bald head appear in proximity to me is knowing that as well as the opposition, we will face his complete unpredictability. You feel like it could swing the game, and that is just wrong. The minutiae that he chooses to get involved in has no logical correlation at all with all the important stuff that he pretends not to notice. Hence a punch up at the end, and players kicking the sh*t out of each other. And players booked for pretty much nothing, whilst Aguero knocks out a more stringent diving programme than Tom Daley and Fernandinho is swaggering around having kicked every in Chelsea blue for 90+ minutes as opposed to the ball. Replace the City names with a couple of ours and I'm pretty sure their fans would have exactly the same complaints about him. Nobody asks that they’re perfect, but consistency should be a given.
The home side obviously wanted more than a point out of the game, so it was bizarre when Pep made a defensive substitution on 69 minutes and brought on Clichy. And it blew up in his shiny face within a minute thanks to a touch of complete class by Willian. Three passes from their box and a turn by Costa to play him in and we were ahead.
Then it was City’s turn to try and come from behind. Yaya came on, looking like he might need to borrow some of his brother's infamous diet pills. He was not really up to speed and it was a bit of a random one for anything other than trying to shore up the midfield. It was definitely a stretch, given how little game time he has had of late, to expect him to waltz through out midfield and shaft us like he frequently has in the past if that was the point. Coming from someone who is lauded as a tactical genius, City's first two substitutions showed a remarkable lack of imagination. Things got marginally better for them when Pep hooked Stones and replaced him with Iheanacho. They threw the kitchen sink at us, and Antonio's measured response was to add Chalobah to try and hold the line.
It was quite probably the longest ten minutes of my life as we approached the final whistle.
"Sit down Pep you spoilt wanker!" Shouted one wit.
"Work hard now all of you!" Said a constructive chap behind us.
Victor Meldrew's response? "Kick the c**t!!" (Aguero)
Ultimately we were all praying that they would leave a gap at the back and we could finish them off, which is exactly what happened on the 90th minute. Three passes, Hazard, pissed all over Kolarov, who had already been left for dust with a five yard headstart by Willian for the second, and the points were ours. Wasn't it nice to finally see Aguero get what he's had coming to him for about four years with regard to his habit of two foot stamping on/diving at Luiz? Perfect. And then Fernandinho got what he deserved too, thanks in part to some sly gittery from Fabregas that was one of the many reasons I wanted to throttle him when he played for Arsenal. Much smugness was evident. (After we did a quick count up to make sure all of ours were still on the pitch)
So: They kept sending a stat round on the rolling screen saying we hadn't scored against them in three matches. In the words of Barbara: "Up Yours!" On paper this was perhaps our hardest fixture of the season. Last year they tanked us 3-0. Today we were Godzilla, they were Japan. My verdict? At this point in time there are too many City players that don't look like they are worth half what the club has paid for them. We were the better team, even if they have a better tally of individual stars. Also, it's ten times more amusing when the other team not only rolls over having led, but then has a meltdown and their manager comes out shell shocked and spouting existential waffle worthy of Eric Cantona in his post match interview.
Fabregas put in a great shift. Most of the time I forgot Matic wasn't playing, and the difference was only really noticeable when we lacked the latter's height in the box when defending set plays. Magic hats off to Cesc. Hazard, great; Costa, outstanding. In fact nobody had a bad game, although Alonso found today tough, I think. Notable once again was the fact that Chalobah was sent on with a bit part to play and, not only did he quietly do it once again without putting a foot wrong, (especially when you factor in that he also shoved Aguero over on his arse) but he set us on the path to killing off the game with the third goal. In short, after a ridiculously early start, today gave us:
12 City fans left at full time
11 dodgy tackles
10 players scrapping
9 dubious penalty shouts
8 games unbeaten
7 places over Jose
5 games left this yeeeeeeear
4 shots on target
3 Chelsea goals
2 very long overdue City red cards
And only 1 team at the top of the leeeeeeeaaaague