Yoshida and Stephens Practice 'Heading the Fucking Ball'
Before the game, yours truly was interviewed for the SFC Dellivery podcast. If you want to hear me talking rubbish as opposed to just writing rubbish, then the link is here....
A trip to Stamford Bridge, scene of quite possibly last years’ best performance and result when we walked away with a 3-1 win with Sadio and Graziano in perfect harmony. Those were the days. Sigh! We didn't realise at the time the Chelsea were going to be pretty shite by their standards last season, nor that José Mourinho wasn't going to last too long in the job. Antonio Conte has taken over this season and you couldn't really grade the job he's done as anything less than 10 out of 10. Top of the league and in the FA Cup final.
The reason we are playing here on the Tuesday night was because the fixture was originally scheduled for this Saturday just gone but Chelsea were in the FA Cup semi-final in which they beat the second best team in the country, Tottenham by 4 goals to 2. Watching that was fucking scary as they managed to play and beat the aforementioned second best team in the country and leave out two of their best players in Hazard and Diego the Bastard. They both came off the bench in that match, as did Fabregas and completely turned what was a pretty even game in Chelsea favour.
As far as Saints and Claude are concerned, this game is a bit of a free hit. We, on the face of it do not have much to play for whereas they have rather a lot with Tottenham just four points behind them in the race for the Premier League crown. I can't imagine they'll be in the mood for any slipups tonight.
I don't often get the chance to go to many away games but I’m here today and it makes me smile to think of previous visits to Stamford Bridge like the time Gianluca Vialli was their player manager and we got told to fuck off by Graeme Rix for calling him a pretend manager as he was the one given instructions when Vialli was on the pitch. Little did we know that Rix was going to disgrace himself by becoming the manager of Portsmouth and a fully paid up member of the sex offenders register.
It is a different ground now of course and it's a good ground still maintaining some interesting features from before the time when all grounds tend to look the same. Getting into it is a bit of a performance and they certainly take security seriously. And I don't know if you remember that 7 foot 2 Russian boxer that David Haye won the world title against a few years ago, well he works security at Stamford Bridge. My son was just staring at him as this guy was huge.
As the ground fills up, the painfully small allocation of tickets that we've either been allowed or have chosen to take becomes apparent. We are away in one corner of the Shed End and the surrounding Chelsea fans don't seem bothered by our presence at all. The big screens are showing highlights from down the years of Chelsea specially loads of goals against us including last years game when Willian scored a free kick from miles out. Oddly enough, They don't show the three goals that we scored afterwards to win that game.
The Chelsea team is as you'd expect with Hazard and Diego the Bastard restored to the starting lineup. And there is one surprise in our team in that Nathan Redmond is on the bench and Boufal is starting. As the teams line up it looks like we are tinkering with the formation today with a return to 4-3-3 with Tadic on one wing and Boufal on the other. This is the formation where we basically pump loads of crosses into the box to one player but at least now, that one player is Gabbiadini. I am not looking forward to seeing how Yoshida and Stephens deal with Diego the Bastard. He has managed not to score for about his last 10 appearances and you know… It just wouldn't surprise me in the slightest.
Away we go and Chelsea look incredibly dangerous as soon as they get the ball. The speed of passing and movement leaves us chasing around and it takes a shite touch from the Bastard to give us the ball back. We don’t look too shabby ourselves when we win it and we create a chance when Cedric’s cross is not dealt with and Gabbiadini is sniffing around as Courtois dives on it. Kante then absolutely trashes Davis and it’s a 100% booking but not today because a) it’s the first minute and b) it’s the big club at home. We work a nice free kick but Stephens can only shank it across goal to the keeper. From the throw out, Chelsea build and one long ball puts the Bastard away on the right hand side of the penalty area and knocking it back to Hazard who is totally free and he screws a shot across goal and into the far corner past the diving Fraser and into the corner of the net. It’s shite from Stephens who has turned his back on both Hazard’s run and the subsequent shot and it’s also shit that Hazard has cut in from the left and no fucker has noticed him. Cedric should have picked him up and Romeu isn’t close enough. Such an easy goal.
We nearly fuck it right up again as Davo tries a backheel in midfield and loses it. Fabregas through to Bastard, to Hazard and thankfully he has a Shane Long moment and balloons it. We make sure we keep the ball for a bit to try and play our way into the game and at least give Chelsea something to think about. Boufal is looking decent when he gets it but there’s not much change to be had out wide where Moses and Alonso defend strongly. A shot from Davo takes a deflection and we win a corner. Over it comes from JWP, it flicks off a Chelsea head and it finds Gabbi on the back post and he takes his time before knocking it across and Romeu bundles it into the Chelsea net. Get in! All the Chelsea fans who had been somewhat smug in watching their team just roll us over, suddenly realise they’re in a game.
A bit of showboaty fuckwittery from Boufal gives Chelsea possession in our half and it’s carnage as the ball pings around our penalty area and Bastard sees an opportunity to have a dive which he does. Clear fucking dive – cheating fuck. Luckily, Lee Mason, who has a reputation for being shite, doesn’t give it. We are scrambling about and eventually a shot from Matic deflects wide. Stephens is not happy with Bastard and has a word.
Defending too strongly is Luiz who is marking Gabbiadini. The Saints man holds him off, controls the ball and tries to move away with it but Luiz just grabs his arm to stop him going. Free kick but no booking for deliberately grabbing someone. Another fucking home town big club referee. Free-kick expert JWP (1 out of about 200) hits the head of someone in the wall from the free kick and it deflects away for a corner. In it comes and again Chelsea don’t deal with it and it bobbles around before Boufal hammers it into the side netting.
As we approach half time there’s another Chelsea attack and Alonso tries a volley which Cedric should clear left footed but he chooses his right and skewers it off for a corner in shite fashion. In it comes and Mason makes them take it again as Bastrad grabs Bertrand round the nexk and throws him to the ground. Over it comes again, half cleared, back in and Cahill is completely free to nod into the net. Who the fuck was marking him? Bertrand has Costa so I assume that our two centre back Colossus’s have Luiz and Cahill. Yooshida was on him for the original corner but Cahill came out when the ball was cleared and Cedric picked him up. Of course when he went back into the penalty area then Cedric and Yoshida should have communicated and Maya picked him up again. It’s shit defending – we put no pressure on the crosser and then lose two headers. Shit - we really needed to get into half time at 1-1. Kante then trashes Davis again and gets booked, 45 minutes too late.
As the players go off for half time, Bastard is half a step behind Stephens and giving it loads. Just as they’re about to go out of sight and into the tunnel, Bastard gives him a dig in the back. Obviously, as a Saints fan I think he’s a complete arsehole but we really could do with a couple of players to intimidate the opposition.
The second starts and Tadic has half an opening when Gabbi plays him in but his pull back towards Boufal is miscontrolled by Cedric who is having a mare. More Chelsea pressure and more shit defending from us and no one dominates and heads it away and Fraser remains nailed to his fucking goal line. Corner and eventually they work it to Fabregas and he’s ran off Cedric and crosses and there’s Bastrad up against Bertrand and he just nods it easily intot the net for his first goal in fucking ages. Utter shite.
Boufal is having a mare now and giving the ball away all the time and he’s off to be replaced with Nathan Redmond. Saints are creating the odd chance and winnign corners and from one of these, JWP’s delivery is perfect and Yoshida has a free header but totally misses the ball and the chance goes as Gabbiadini tries to react and hits the side netting again. Our centre backs are not a danger of getting a strong header on the ball at either end of the pitch. There’s a lightning fast break from Chelsea with Hazard leading the way and playing in Kante but Fraser actually gets off his line to stop the shot from the newly crowned PFA Player of the Year.
Tadic thrown a pathetic wobbler when he doesn’t win a throw in and gets booked and Long is on for JWP as Claude decided with 8 minutes to go that we’re fucked unless something changes. Score the next goal and we have a shout and we have a chance as Long gets away on the left and with two men in the middle and just one Chelsea defender, he predictably picks out the defender as if he was trying to. No quality whatsoever.
Oh here’s some quality. Two 1-2’s, one with Hazard and one with Pedro and Bastard smashes it past Fraser who doesn’t move, for 4-1. Fucks sake. J-Rod is on for Gabbiadini and he doesn’t look interested. I know it’s only a few minutes and we’ve lost already but at least try and look interested instead of just ambling about. nJoy of joys as John Terry warms up in front of us. There are the predictable but nonetheless amusing chants about Wayne Bridge, Anton Ferdinand and his mum. He comes on for Moses – I guess they can risk him with a 3 goal lead and 4 minutes to go.
At 4-1 down and as we tick into the 90th minute, the travelling Saints fans show what we’re all about with a huge ‘Oh When the Saints’ chant. It’s proud stuff even though we’re getting battered. I ask my son if he want to go now and beat the rush as it’s a school night and all that but he’s not interested and wants to stay. Good lad! And, he’s rewarded as Cedric gets down the right, puts over a really good cross with his left foot and Ryan Bertrand has got up from the back and flicks a superb header past Courtois and into the net to give our two ex-Chelsea players goals at Stamford Bridge.
Full time and back to Fulham Broadway Tube which is a fuck site better organized than Wembley or the Emirates have been this year. On the tube back towards Wimbledon, we’re reminded again about how success is expected at the big clubs. There’s o real excitement or babble about the game from the Chelsea fans. Most of the noise is coming from Saints fans laughing about stuff or slagging off Diego the Bastard. One Saints fan says ‘Too fucking soft’ to me as he gets off the tube. He’s right – we’re too soft and too easy to play against.
In contrast to the Manchester City game where we turned up and didn't have a go, at least we had a go tonight but it makes you realise the futility of it all. If you come to places like this and play an open game then the chances are that they are going to be better at it than you are. And so it proved. The opening 10 minutes, even before they scored was scary as whenever they got forward we seemed to get cut to ribbons with very little organisation. I’ve been reluctant to admit it but we have an issue with Fraser Forster. He doesn’t get off his line and it doesn’t help the defenders because they have to defend deeper than they should be. Any keeper should be dominating the penalty area but Fraser even struggles with the six yard box. If there was a three yard box he’d struggle with that as well. The centre backs were exactly as predicted – weak and lacking at the vital moments. Stephens stood up to Costa quite well in the first half, accused him of diving and got in his face. I don’t know if the tunnel incident at half time had any bearing but he didn’t get near him in the second half. Yoshida looked very shaky as well but as usual, the pair of them did some good things but it can’t be denied that we are letting in too many goals. The ball just isn’t cleared – we have chances to clear and it just doesn’t happened, usually plopping off someone’s head and bouncing down for the opposition to pick it up. A defender is judged on 90 minutes – you can’t just play well for 75 minutes and call that a ‘good game’. They weren’t the only problem with the midfield not helping much when we lost the ball – Hojbjerg and even Clasie would have competed more than Davis and JWP who were both poor.
Hazard’s goal was a superb finish as he found himself space in the box and then put it in just about the only place in the goal where he could. Having got back to 1-1, the goal before half-time was a killer and at the time it was undeserved. In the second half though, they were just better than us and it became the Diego Bastard show and predictably, we couldn’t deal with it. We are not nasty enough as a team and it was pretty easy for him to be honest.
In my opinion, Claude got the selection wrong. Hojbjerg should have started to give us a bit more height and weight which would have been useful and at least enabled us to match them for height at set pieces (goals 2 and 3) and at risk of sounding like a broken record, Caceres should have played as well. You don’t win 60 odd caps for Uruguay without being a bit nasty or not being able to play a bit. He would not have let Diego the Bastard take the piss like he did. It really is time to take Stephens out of the firing line for a bit. I get annoyed with reading about the value of ‘giving him experience’. He’s had 10 or so games now which is experience and it’s positive but now it’s time to take him out for a bit before it becomes counter-productive.
I see that Chelsea had less possession than us but of course, did more with it. They go forward with real purpose. It's almost like Conte has a rule where they've got 10 seconds to get in the penalty area and up to Bastard or Hazard. We were too slow in build up again. It's hard when you have Kante and Matic to get past but there were numerous times when Gabbiadini made darts away from Luiz and we instead preferred sideways and backwards. Boufal was a positive in the first half though defensively he’s a nightmare. I know we didn’t play with a No.10 today but that’s his position – stick him out on the wing and he doesn’t do enough. Tadic was as frustrating as always, only really coming to life once Boufal went off and he switched and found himself on the left.
Lee Mason, the referee wasn't a major factor in the result today but he had a form of blindness when it came to booking Chelsea players. A foul in the first minute should be dealt with in exactly the same way as a foul later in the game. There is no doubt that Kante should've been booked after one minute and as he wasn't, he was allowed to keep rampaging around the pitch until eventually did his deserved yellow card. Also, how can Gabbiadini hold off David Luiz and when he goes to move away from him, have Sideshow Bob holding onto his arm. It’s not even a shirt, he’s grabbed hold of his fucking arm and held it. Sure, we got the free kick but why on earth does he not get booked for deliberately pulling someone back?
Anyway – moving on. A defeat to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge does not define a season. Games like our next one at home to Hull do define a season. They are battling relegation for a reason and that’s because they’re pretty shite, despite Marco Silva’s positive impact on their results. It’s worth noting that it’s only a positive impact in home games as away from home they’ve been absolutely dire. Three points – no less.