Welcome to the Twilight Zone. No, not sh*t looking metrosexual vampires and the most god awful plot, script and acting that the world has ever seen; but a world where Chelsea fans have very little to complain about. Not that this will stop various nappy sh*tting contingents, I’m sure.
One thing we will have to live without in 2019/20 is Eden Hazard. We all knew it was coming, and quite frankly anyone who hates him for going needs a good pimp-slapping. He got his life-long dream move to Real to play for his childhood hero. And he signed off with class. “Leaving Chelsea is the biggest and toughest decision in my career,” he said. He would not have left us for any other club, that much is true. “I gave my life, my legs, my buttocks, everything,” he apparently said to Aubameyang at the Europa League final. No prizes for guessing which one I will miss the most. He wasn’t always perfect, but he was a kid when he signed for us. Notably he ate himself into semi-oblivion one summer under Chequebook Pulis and contributed to his demise. But he was still thinner than Costa and let’s be honest, he wasn’t the only player on strike and the biggest architect of of said demise was the arch lunatic himself. 352 games 110 goals 81 assists and 6 trophies. I will miss him so much, not only his phenomenal talent but his cheeky sense of humour (comedy dig at Sarri on the way out, apologising for being a sh*t defender) and the best a*se in football to boot. But life moves on.
I did have to chuckle at Conktois: “Welcome to the best club in the world.” Get it in quick mate, you won’t be there much longer. Eden’s unveiling in the Spanish capital took in more fans than four of Real’s league games last season. A few weeks later Zidane is teetering on the edge and everyone is fat shaming the new signing. The boy had earned a f*cking quarter pounder or two over the summer. I’ve just seen a video of him trying on a new suit and he looks pretty damn good to me. He’s probably already hankering after the comparative lack of hysteria at Chelsea. And that’s saying something.
One departure we weren’t so sorry about: Sarri. In the one single instance of him showing any professional or indeed social awareness during his entire tenure in London, he buggered off. We didn’t like him. We didn’t want to sit through that sh*t again this season. And yet how could we sack him when he’s just won a European trophy? I’m willing to bet that Bruce Buck verily chewed his nicotine stained hand off and offered to let him pluck the £7m out of his g-string waistband when he turned up offering his resignation. Pretty evident he was hankering over a move to Juve, and by mid-June he was finally gone. Thus making everyone’s life easier and along with another loon manager we’ve recently seen the back of, causing chaos across Serie A. It is going to be a clusterf*ck of hysteria and Ill-tempered skulduggery next season. Conte has broken Juve hearts by going to Inter, and Napoli fans are tearing down Sarri plaques and drafting death threats. Icardi is just baffled that he woke up one morning to find that he’s no longer the most hated w*nk-puffin in Italy.
Side note: On Sarri’s departure Zola was offered and turned down an ambassadorial role. He leaves with no egg on his face or anywhere else, untainted. Mainly because I don’t think Sarri said more than four words (probably “where’s my fag butt?”) to him all season.
Cue the Press Plebs making up a lot of nonsense who might be our manager this coming season. Javi Gracia, Steve Holland, Chequebook effin’ Pulis (If I was an editor I’d have refused point blank to pay anyone for submitting that) Allegri, Vierra (WTF?) the Wolves manager with the Uncle Albert beard whose head is stuck on upside down. Even Ralf Rangnick - whoever that is. He sounds like a dodgy villain out of yet another sh*t Marvel film.
But one name dominated the list from the very beginning. Frank - they wouldn’t, would they? Is it not too soon? Or is it perfect because we’re banned from shopping and the weight of expectation will be as low as it has been for fifteen years?! I was halfway up a mountain in Utah when they confirmed he was coming home. Hurrah. But it was not just Frank, and this is why I’m excited:
Jodi - a fantastic four year spell with the youth. Those last two years? Seven trophies. 4th and 5th successive FA Youth Cups and a quadruple to end. Not to mention assistant manager for Frank last season. His affinity with Chelsea is priceless. He came through our ranks himself and all those players we’ll have to look at because of the transfer embargo? He knows them. So does Joe Edwards, who Frank tried to take to Derby too. He has been promoted. If that means more to see of him, then huzzah. He’s fit. Chris Jones did go to Derby, after 12 years with us and he’s come back too. We have a young, vibrant management team who love our club. This has to be a good thing. Eddie is still about too, and the club have FINALLY addressed the void between boardroom and pitch left when the much-maligned pantomime villain, Emanalo, departed. Petr Cech has also come home, as an advisor to Marina and Makalele is back too as a youth mentor. Leaders we’ve missed in the dressing room so much over the last couple of years are back at the club.
Well if you wanted to know how invested in Frank and his new regime the club are, you have only to look at the last 24 hours of the transfer window. We’re on a ban. We have our best centre back out till at least September. We’d just broken our cardinal rule of no more than a year on a contract for an over 30 for David Luiz. And yet in the space of one day the sh*t has hit the fan, and we’ve drop kicked him out the door and let him join a “rival.” (It’s Arsenal, I can’t quite say that with a straight face after the last twenty years) The two had never been close. The arch-professional who takes his football dead seriously and the class clown, but it happened quickly and it’s a huge statement of intent going forward. You cannot have a former teammate undermine the new manager, and the speed with which he was dispensed suggests that it might have been a concern.
You never know what was simmering in the background, but it baffled them as much as us. My one Gooner friend is predicting that each game will be won/lost 10-9 and Emery and Kronke will be in the centre of the pitch screaming “ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?” This is a player they’ve mocked us for for a number of years, and suddenly he’s their problem. Another Gooner was heard lamenting that he’d rather they’d taken Cahill. On a ten year deal. Another quip? Rare you see a transfer where both teams are made instantly better for it. Let’s also not forget that off-loading Luiz has enabled us to cut one of those foreign players we were over our quota on. On a serious note, whilst his football could be erratic, his class as a human being was not. He actually gave a sh*t about the connection between the players and the fans. And there’s a long affiliation, including, of course, Munich. Thanks for the memories, on and off the field, old chum. God Speed, you bonkers lunatic. I won’t be booing you when we run into each other again. If you get a moment, look at some of the very recent reviews of his restaurant and have a giggle. Well played, Chelsealand.
Cahill went to Palace, Rob Green retired, and deals were done to get rid of Fankaty Dabo, (Coventry) Ola Aina, (Torino) Jay Dasilva, (Bristol City) Tomas Kalas, (Bristol City) and Kasey Palmer. (Bristol City) Those last three netted us nearly £15m. We released Todd Kane, Eduardo and Kyle Scott, and Baba Rahman and Marco Van Ginkel are floating about in the ether somewhere. The latter whilst recovering from long term injury.
Which brings us to the Chelsea Loan Army. Manpower that Haig would have wept with joy over if he’d been presented with those numbers in early 1918. Morata “lifted the lid on his Chelsea hell” this summer. Didn’t “feel loved by the club or the fans.” And here was me thinking he was as thick as pig sh*t as well as a whinge-bag of epically vomit-inducing proportions. Who knew that the message was actually getting through all the time? Oh, “and his team mates did not trust him.” No sh*t, Sherlock. Every time they have you the ball you either lost it, sat down on the pitch and cried, were offside or got booked. We wanted rid of him so badly this summer we tried to strong arm Atletico into actually paying up for him, threatening to recall him from loan. Then when it looked like we might have to have him back we quickly bent over and let them shaft us financially. They’ve promised to buy him at the end of this coming season, apparently. If I was them, that would be a lie.
Ampadu to Leipzig the most important loan so far as the future is concerned, carrying out the same strategy that has been so successful with Christensen. Here’s where the music stopped for everyone else:
Nathan Baxter (Ross County)
Richard Nartey (Burton Albion)
Mario Pasalic (Atalanta)
Charly Musonda (Vitesse Arnhem)
Nathan (Atletico Mineiro)
Daishawn Redan (Hertha Berlin)
Jake Clarke-Salter (Birmingham City)
Matt Miazga (Reading)
Lewis Baker (Fortuna Dusseldorf)
Dujon Sterling (Wigan Athletic)
Conor Gallagher (Charlton Athletic)
Jacob Maddox (Tranmere Rovers)
Trevor Chalobah (Huddersfield Town)
Danny Drinkwater (Burnley)
Josh Grant (Plymouth)
Izzy Brown (Luton Town)
Victor Moses (Fenerbahce)
Luke McCormick (Shrewsbury Town)
Ike Ugbo (Roda JC)
We may be banned from signing players, but in a rare show of sensible adulting, the club did tie down Pulisic at the beginning of the year, and he finally arrived, so we do have a new face. With the ban, though, the most important thing was to tie down the players we have. Mason Mount has signed a long term deal. Hurrah. Ruben’s dad has been having a moan. Said if he played under Podgettino he’d have had 80-90 league appearances by now. I put in a call to Childline. What kind of parenting is that? Wilfully talking about your boy being a Sp*d? “I only want to play for Chelsea,” replied Ruben, also putting his name to a new contract. In the most shameful display of tapping up the world of football has ever seen, Bayern still wouldn’t f*ck off with regard to Hudson-Odoi. First it was said to be a pathetic £22m. Then it went up to nearly £50m. Frank was apparently given the final say on Willian and I’ll be surprised if he doesn’t extend his contract. We’ve dispensed with having a veritable grandad as our third goalkeeping choice too, which had become a habit. Jamie Cumming has a new deal and he will be the third choice keeper. So youth at the forefront again. Reece James is another one we’ll be looking at giving a new contract too. Unsurprisingly, we did nothing to try and retain the services (she says laughing) of Higuain. We did, however, secure Kovacic on a permanent deal. I didn’t really have a problem with this, he’s the new Mikel. Ok he will never score a goal or do anything magical but that isn’t what he’s there for. I didn’t object, especially in light of our current transfer predicament, but there were many loud protestations on the world of Twitter, which is always a good barometer for sensible opinion. (Ahem) Whhhhhhhhhhhhhhhy??!!? they shrieked.
Let me tell you why. Picture a woman with her husband’s credit card. Chelsea is that woman. The shops are about to shut, and the tight-fisted bugger never treats her like this. She has got five minutes to make a purchase otherwise it will likely be a year before her stingy husband offers her his card again. Now, in the shop they only have one pair of shoes in her size. It’s a slightly bland pair of shoes that don’t exactly fill her heart with a joy, but it’s her last chance to own new shoes before the window of opportunity shuts. The woman buys the shoes. Every. Time. Knowing that they are probably ugly and knowing that in a year they might well be forgotten about and gathering dust at the back of her wardrobe. Kovacic is a slightly boring pair of shoes that happened to fit. I can live with that. Because he might well go with more outfits than the woman anticipated. If not, she has lost nothing and in a year when the card is offered again she will just go and buy two pairs of really shiny shoes to make up for it.
And so we came to pre-season.
1-1 against Bohemians. Press plebs having a field day, until we then beat St Patricks 0-4. Goals for Mount, Emerson, and two for The Beard. A sponsorship deal with Yokohama meant we were bound to have to pitch up in Japan eventually. Whilst there we lost to something that sounded like a slightly dodgy retro moped, but beat Barcelona. Let’s be honest, none of those really mattered result wise, for they were all about everyone trickling back and trying to build their fitness up. Reading constituted another workout and would be the last game with wholesale nonsense changes before we start seriously getting ready for the upcoming fixtures. They looked like a side only a few days from their opening league encounter, i.e. more ready than us. A bit of luck to help them ahead, but the finish deserved it. Wiped out bu a stunning free kick from Barkley. Kenedy scored. More surprisingly, he had managed to get out of the Far East this time without offending several million people. The Salzburg game, against a team whose season had already begin, was another goalfest. Pulisic and Barkley dismantled them in five minutes. Then carried on bitchslapping them. The American might not be Eden - but two goals and winning a penalty in less than ten minutes was pretty sexual. Not as much so as Pedro Unicorn, who has already scored the goal of the season, with a filthy flick that came from nowhere after he outran the pass from Barkley. We rounded of our preparations for the United game by clawing our way back from 2-0 in Germany thanks to penalties from Barkley and Tammy Abraham.
So: It feels like my football club again, is the general refrain across West London at the moment. It promises to be a bold new era, if the club sticks with it. That said, any of this nonsense about Lampard being the first manager to go is irrelevant. It would take a Luiz-style turnaround. My feeling? Frank is safe for this season no matter what happens.
Youth will get a chance. We have no choice. The average age of our squads, give or take:
2016/17: 27 years and 10 months
2017/18: 27 years old.
This time last year: 26 years and 8 months.
This time around? Currently 26 years and 1 month. Largely held up that high now by Big Willy being 37 now.
One important thing Sideshow Bob did say before he went bombing out of the door though: “You have to think about opening the door - not the door opening for you.” Still no room for complacency amongst the younger ranks. This is a narrow window of opportunity, and they have to grab it with both hands if it is to be a launchpad for the rest of their careers.
Entertainment Value. One thing that is already apparent if pre-season is anything to go by, is that the turgid days of watching Sarri do the same thing, week in, week out, are a thing of the past. This goes for formation as well as personnel. Don’t forget, Lampard has seen more of the managing elite (obviously not AVB or Scolari) than most players get to in their careers, to make up somewhat for his lack of experience as a manager. He’s had a front row seat to observe what does, and does not work. At Chelsea.
Ones to Watch. “I grew up watching Lampard… it feels amazing to be here,” says Pulisic, and this kind of enthusiasm seems rife throughout the ranks. He’s promising to deliver speed and creativity. Can’t help but wonder how that would have worked out under Sarri. Anyhow, we saw some flashes of brilliance in pre-season. He’s a kid. He’s-not going to give us everything we’ve lost in Eden this season, but he’s certainly going to give us something. Jorginho is doomed! Everyone screamed as soon as his dad left the building. “I might ask different things of Jorginho,” says Frank. In the meantime, the player who was singled out for all the faults of the manager in his first season has a chance to start again, to some extent. And we should given him that chance. “He has left and I have stayed here and I need to do a job for my team at Chelsea.” He’s got four more years on his contract and is excited to crack on. Frank will give him more space and of course, a chance to use an ounce of creativity not based on an elaborate flow chart of boredom. He also thinks he is more aggressive now and ready to make a bigger impact in the Premier League. Massively excited to see what Mason Mount does this season, but equally, I think Barkley really is the one to watch. Not only does he look like a serious athlete at Chelsea, not only did he have a banging pre-season, but dare I say he’s starting to emerge as a bit of a leader on the field. He’s playing for his footballing idol now, which can only be a good thing, seeing as he’s the closest thing to Lampard we’ve had since Lampard left. If Tammy gets 15 goals, Cundy will consider it a huge success. I like to think he’d do a bit better than than, even if I do suspect we’ll see more of Giroud. God knows with Batshuayi, the mad little bugger is a law unto himself. It’s like trying to predict the weather in Iceland.
But let’s be realistic. We’ve lost our best player. Eden is irreplaceable in terms of a one out, new one in scenario. Ruben is still injured, as is Hudson-Odoi. You can basically write off the first half of the season for both of them in terms of any real impact. With luck we’ll have Rudi back in September, but that’s a number of key players not running out for us come this weekend. Still some work to be done after pre-season too. We continued to be really vulnerable on corners throughout, never getting to the ball first. But the pressure is off, somewhat. I ran a poll and it turned out, as fans our expectations haven’t changed that much. Most people said they wanted top four, but I fall in with the second large group, who basically said top six - any European place would be an achievement this time out. We’ve got to accept that as a club we’ve changed tack quite brutally since we last kicked a ball in anger, and that it won’t all be smooth sailing. But then, it’s not like we ever have a season without drama, is it?