West Ham United 1 Chelsea 0
Saturday 9th December 7:30am (NY Time)
In the News: Real Madrid seem to be amping up their pursuit of Hazard. Conversely, I don't think we're done so far as trying to get Sandro from Juventus is concerned but this is all for the summer, not the impending month of pain, made up b*llocks and eventual inaction that makes up the January transfer window. Can't wait. Ronaldo announced that he wants seven kids when he accepted the Balon d'or, and the look on his girlfriend's face standing next to him was priceless. More importantly, Kante finished eighth in the race for the award, which was two places ahead of Harry F*cking Kane (try saying his name without swearing, it's not possible) How Hazard was behind that bellend beggars belief. Mike Ashley is holding Newcastle takeover talks in his local curry house, which will only be a surprise if you are one of about two people in the world that thought he had any class. Fat Sam is already mocking his ridiculous pay packet. He didn't even bother travelling with Everton for their Europa League game. He's also got it written into his contract that there will never be an preseason friendlies in Singapore. Where chewing gun is banned. We're used to Arsenal claiming a sell out when they've got empty seats, but it was made all the more ridiculous this week when less than 30,000 had turned up for their game against Bate Borisov; Podgettino thinks not signing any players might have affected Sp*rs's chances of winning the league. How has it taken him till December to work that out? And all hail the Lillestrom player, who celebrated winning the Norwegian cup by publicly stripping naked and putting his cock in the trophy.
The Others: You'd be forgiven for not knowing there was anything but the Manc Derby going on this weekend. Apparently there were only four countries not showing it. I wish I had been in one. Chequebook Pulis was his usual shy and retiring self in the build up, calling City cheats and claiming that his team had no height advantage because he has Mata. Noel Gallagher can't take a joke, and used the back of a guitar to have a particularly savage dig at Gary Neville after his jovial and fully justified prod at Sky recruiting a musician as a pundit for City. I didn't get to monitor any of the scores because I was busy being mown down 20,000 santas in Manhattan (Santa Con) and because football was dead to me for the weekend after how sh*t we were. Suffice to say with the exception of City and those tedious, unpredictable wankers squatting at Wembley, (nobody had a particularly great weekend towards the top of the table.
Them : David Moyes has crawled back out from whatever rock he has been hiding under. Joy. Their big news was that Joe Hart had been dropped. They were 19th before kick off and had statistically the worst defence in the league. Anyone with any experience of supporting Chelsea knew what was coming...
Us: Eleven people started the game in blue today. Three more came on. I'm not angry with any of them. Just disappointed.
When the alarm went off in Lower Manhattan at 6am it provoked the usual bitter response I reserve for having to get up early for an away game. Where am I? What is this hell? To be fair, some w*nker starting off the hotel fire alarm in the middle of the night didn't help. That and I have been dog sick ever since I got to New York. Things I've learned since I got here? There are basically no traffic rules, it's every pedestrian and car for themselves, and as long as you use someone as a human shield crossing on the appropriate side of you, you should be ok. Beware anyone dressed as Santa, because they are all sh*tfaced and annoying, back onto cabbies, on my unfortunate sampling, 40% of them are illegal in some way. And blame you when they get pulled over. (I sh*t you not. "Why did you run that red sir?" "SHE told me to hurry up." What the f*ck? I've not spoken to you since we got in the cab!) And New Yorkers say f*ck more than I do.
To their credit, everyone else turning up at the Football Factory looked more awake than I did. And I had had a fifteen minute head start sitting two doors down in Dunkin' Donuts chugging on caffeine. Over here the game was televised by NBC, who have, out of naivety or sheer desperation, hired Robbie Earle as a pundit. I remember watching him as a kid. And not being that impressed. When I knew nothing about football I knew that he was sh*t. Although he made me laugh when he suggested that when Moyes' appointment was announced, the West Ham players' what's app group would have been awash with crying emojis. The was another Robbie too. Buggered if I recognised him. Guess what they call them. The Two Robbies. Jesus wept. So the moral of the story is that you can cross the Atlantic, and pundits are still tossers.
Morata visibly cringed when he walked and heard the bubble song. I love him. Antonio (theirs, not ours) was time wasting after 42 seconds, but he needn't have bothered. You know it's too early in the morning when another CFC tourist accidentally cheers when Arnautovic scores because he thought it was us. What is it with us and starting every game with a ten-fifteen minute sh*tfest of incompetence and dawdling about like we've not got out of bed early enough? Morata summed up our dreadful start when he went down screaming for a penalty when nobody came anywhere near touching him. That's not going to do him any favours when it comes to getting referees to stop ignoring him.
There was precisely one shot in the opening quarter of an hour: their goal. We had done absolutely nothing. Then true to form, as if by magic we suddenly looked like a football team, as if everyone woke up and realised that they'd boarded an executive coach and turned up in the a*se end of London first thing on a Saturday morning with a purpose. On 19 minutes Dave attempted to put one of his now trademark Morata-bound crosses into the box, but some meathead in claret and blue got in the way. It came out to Eden Hazard but his shot bobbled wide.
Thanks to Rodrigo, who claims that he and his brothers were El Salvador's two lone Chelsea fans back in the day, I was drinking gin at 7:50 in the morning. That's how bad this was, and it still was not dulling the pain. These a*seholes always play the game of their lives against us. Granville (sitcom alias) was texting me from Colliers Wood lamenting that hockey had been cancelled, landing him in front of this nightmare instead of freezing his b*llocks off in a park somewhere. On 27 minutes I think we registered our first shot on target, from Kante. I love the twins, both of them, but half the time they can't hit a barn door so that one of them was the only one that had come close spoke volumes about our output. On the touchlines Batshuayi was hugging a hot water bottle to his face, possibly trying to pour boiling water in his eyes to make the hurting of this game stop. Conte was going batsh*t crazy. I don't think anyone was particularly awful, but the whole lot of them as a group just equalled "meh." Morata tried a shot on 34 minutes and took out Winston Reid's face instead. Almost consolation. Not quite. We were on top now, finally. It had only taken 1/3 of the game. Bakayoko had an attempt deflected wide, and Antonio was pacing the technical area like a caged lion waiting to get at them at the break. Hairdryers at the ready. "Just get one before half time" we said. But no. Instead of hammering them for the last few minutes of the half, it was the other way around. Moyes, despite being inexplicably bright red, and looking like he might keep over in a fit of apoplexy, had prepped his hapless band of pikeys well, and we had obliged their enthusiasm and discipline by being woeful.
Here I have to give credit to Rodrigo's visiting Cousin Alberto. Hanging out of his a*se having only stopped drinking three hours before, and having been dragged out of bed and shoved into a Chelsea shirt, he was more enthused than us. He had just got straight back on the beer with the philosophy "f*ck yeah". Even though it was possibly the sh*ttest 45 minutes of collective football Chelsea have played since our season of shame, his colours were nailed to the wall and he has decided that till the day he dies, he is a blue. To be fair he had a decent football compass to begin with, having sat down at kick off with the croaky remnants of his voice, stating that all Arsenal, Scouse and Uefalona fans are smug b*stards. We spent most of halftime mocking Farca fans. Rodrigo says that when El Salvador's legions of glory hunting Messi fans bore him with tales of their miniature hero, he asks them for a YouTube link of him scoring against Chelsea. Tap tap tap. No results found.
Round about half time the crowd on the pub woke up and started singing. We were just hoping for the same response from the players. Bakayoko had been hooked for Pesto. (f*ck off autospell, it's too early) To me, this looked like a tactical switch aimed at a more dynamic offensive effort, which would further stretch their tin pot defence. Unfortunately the nappy sh*tters, who have now seemingly moved on from blaming Cahill for every goal conceded, every severe weather front and every traffic jam in Britain, took it as vindication of their complaints that the latest object of their hysteria is responsible for everything that goes wrong during a Chelsea match.
The change in our performance was not exactly awe-inspiring, but it was encouraging. We could have had an equaliser on 49 minutes, but then a sloppy pass from Cahill left Arnautovic running on goal practically unopposed. Luckily for us he can't multi task for sh*t and couldn't stay onside whilst plotting a run into the box. I don't know who the Brits calling the game were, but one of them kept calling Cesc "Farbegaaaaarse." Who are these commentators? We raged. They're idiots, pointed out Cousin Alberto, who is now the fountain of all football logic as far as I'm concerned. Whilst West Ham screamed for nonsensical penalties and we continued to fluff our lines, we tried to explain to two Latin Americans why one should never confuse "Do one" with "I'll give you one" especially if one is male and addressing another bloke.
Zappacosta hit one just wide on 57. It might have been a cross but it was one of our better efforts. Which says it all. Then something remarkable happened. A premier league referee booked a member of Chelsea's opposition for time-wasting. Which means that I might actually have to say something nice about Anthony Taylor for the first time since... well, since Arsenal were contenders for a meaningful trophy. To be fair, he needn't have bothered. He could have added half an hour on at the end and we would have still been too incompetent to make use of it in this game. West Ham we're doing enough to keep us at bay, so Conte threw the kitchen sink at them. With roughly half an hour to go, I think (two gins down before 9am, things were fuzzy) we had Willian, Pesto, Morata, Hazard and Cesc on the pitch. If we couldn't make that work against the worst defence in the league, which is managed by Moyes, we are morons.
We appear to be morons. Christensen had a shot blocked by Reid, before Morata squandered out best chance of the game on 82 minutes. Should have buried it.
Eden put one just over the bar shortly afterwards but it was just not our day. NBC were claiming that West Ham have taken the title from us. Lunacy. That's like stating that King Harold was killed by the anonymous blacksmith who forged an arrowhead. Five minutes added on. In the words of Rodrigo we should have asked if we could have saved those five minutes for a game where we would actually have been doing something remotely worthwhile.
So: Being the abject pessimist that I am, I warned you all this was coming. This was a glaring example of what happens when you start badly (as we keep doing) and don't take your chances (as we keep doing). We've been let off the hook a couple of times and this time we weren't. The fact that we were outshone by a collection of other clubs' rejects in an athletic stadium made it all the more annoying. Looking at the big picture it doesn't really change my expectations. This shows why our benchmark this year should be top three and not retaining the title. Conte is rotating the squad well, but our performances are frustratingly inconsistent. This is perhaps what we should have expected last year, but he basically went and shot himself in the foot by winning the title first time out. I maintain that third with automatic CL qualification, last 16 or last 8 in Europe, steadying the squad whilst integrating a couple of young players like AC or Musonda and finding a way to bring Loftus Cheek on is a solid season. So far none of that looks out of reach.
*Picture of pensive Conte comes from Chelsea's official website