Who Knew He Could Stoop So Low?
It’s been a tough year for Chelsea. The transfer ban that they were under only allowed the allowed them to sign one £40 million player because they had him on loan in the previous season and there were of course issues with Roman Abramovich not been able to get his money out of Russia or some such bollocks. Now though, without a flimsy transfer embargo in the way, Roman has suddenly found a few quid down the back of the sofa in on of the mansions in his London portfolio, to enable himself able to play FIFA Ultimate Team in real life.
At the top of the pitch, Hakim Ziyech, Timo Werner and Kai Havertz were recruited for a combined cost of about £150 million and that was before they got to work on the defence which saw the arrival of Ben Chilwell for £50 million and Thiago Silva for about £50 million a week despite being a free transfer. Also, they also decided that the £72 million that they spent on a goalkeeper two years ago wasn’t enough and they needed an upgrade so another one arrived called Edouard Mendy. I don’t really know what he cost but I’m sure I added a few zeros to the overall spend.
Frank Lampard is in his second season now after his free-hit season last year, in which he did get the club into the Champions League so fair enough. If he is going to be judged the same way as previous Chelsea managers are judged then he is going to have to win something this season. Anyone remember the manager who won the Champions League for Chelsea – no? Roberto di Matteo – sacked about 3 months later. I’m in a strange position of kind of wanting Frank to do well but not wanting Chelsea to do well and I know that this is not possible. Frank went up several notches in my estimation when he told Klopp to pipe down at Anfield last season.
Meanwhile, back in the more real world of football, Ralph spent the whole of the international break hoping that his players came back in one piece. It appears he has largely got his wish with Djenepo being injured before he went and Stuart Armstrong having a positive Covid test (hair unaffected) so he didn’t play for Scotland. It appears that he is not available to play today. Danny Ings and JWP were restricted to 90 and 20 minutes respectively in the one game out of England’s three that was a friendly, against an under strength Welsh side. Danny capped his performance with a wonderful overhead kick to score the third goal and JWP played well enough in his 20 minutes and was unlucky not to score with the last kick of the game. This was not enough for either of them to even get a minute in either of the Nations League games, in which Southgate decided to go stagnant and boring as it seems to be the way he wants to do it these days. England did manage a creditable win against Belgium but you sense that in a proper game, they would’ve been lost quite comfortably if Hazard and Mertens and the like had been playing. The Nations League games are better than the old friendlies but they do very much sit well beneath a championship qualifying game in terms of their intensity.
Back to today and Stamford Bridge, empty. Chelsea’s team news breaks first and it cost about £400 million. New players Chilwell, Havertz and Werner are all playing and Ziyech is on the bench – that’s £200 million straight away. Even the relatively average players like Jorginho cost £50 million. The defence is arse though – Zouma and Christensen are worse than what we’ve got and no one would pick £72 million Kepa in goal ahead of Alex McCarthy. In fact, we’ve got 3 keepers on our bench who are better than Kepa in Fraser Forster, Kelvin Davis and Dave Watson.
With Armstrong having a dose of self-isolation with his hair, Theo Walcott gets a start with Nathan Redmond coming back in for Moussa Made of Glass Djenepo. There is a first appearance on the bench for Ibrahima Diallo.
It all looks a bit scary from the off as Chelsea pile forward down our right with Theo not giving KWP much help with Chilwell. Chelsea work it from their right to left and we don’t get across quickly enough and the left back forces a decent save out of McCarthy before the keeper saves again from Mount’s follow up despite Werner being stood right on front of him and offside.
Their movement up front is ridiculous and Bednarek and Vestergaard look like they’re playing in lead boots but we show some intent going forward with Walcott running direct from a central position and the ball breaks to Adams who needless to say, doesn’t score, mis-hitting it too close to Kepa.
We haven’t heeded the warning of the threat down our right and Chilwell is again in acres and given time to pick our Werner who heads home but the flag is up and no one complains too much. Keep doing the same things though and eventually it will go wrong. Chilwell feeds into Werner’s feet and he pulls the oldest trick in the book and steps over it and spins and Bednarek is half way down the Kings Road, looking for a hot dog van. On goes Werner as we slowly recognize the danger but the German easily evades the panic from our defenders, cuts across onto his right foot and dispatches it into the net. It’s one of football’s constants – struggling for your first goal – Welcome to Southampton. 1-0, bollocks.
We’re not really getting anywhere after the goal. We are trying to dig in but we’re still 5 yards off all of the Chelsea players and seemingly accepting our fate. Jorginho flips a first time ball over the top, Bednarek is wrong side of Werner and Werner lobs it over McCarthy and nods into the empty net. Fucks sake. On the replay it’s clearly hit Werner’s arm as he went past Bednarek so surely that’ll be disallowed…. Waiting, waiting…. Goal given – fuck off!!!
It’s now looking nasty and I’m having a sinking feeling that we’re going to get battered. McCarthy has to pull off a smart save from a header from a corner but it looks like we might get to half time only two down. Then Chelsea get a bit overconfident and try and play out of defence and Havertz takes a shit touch and gets bundled off the ball by a combination of Romeu and Adams. Adams takes it forward and passes inbetween the centre backs to Ings and you know the rest, one touch around the keeper, goal, 2-1, get in!
Half time and I’m not too sure how but we’re right back in this. They really can’t defend for shit, neither can we… but I trust Ralph to sort our issues out better than Frank is going to sort theirs out.
Sure enough, we are the better side at the start of the second half with us going all peak-Barcelona with some great play around the edge of the box before Adams tees up Ings who takes no backlift and sends a shot skidding just wide of the far post.
In a repeat of the Jorginho pass in the first half, Romeu flips a first time chip over the defence and this time it’s Zouma in the Bednarek role and he fucks it up as well, hitting a back pass at Kepa which is underhit enough for the keeper to shite his pants and totally bottle the 60-40 challenge he has with Adams and miss the ball altogether. Che stumbles on , keeps it in, tries to pull it back to Ings but it hits a Chelsea defender, then Kepa comes flying in with his feet and misses everything again except the post and Che calmly makes an angle and smashes it high into the net. Great finish, fucking hilarious, 2-2. Kepa looks like he’s about to cry and he looks about 14. I actually feel sorry for him for a moment.
Kepa Tackles Post. Bad Move.
So having worked so hard to get back into it, we load the gun and shoot ourselves. KWP goes backwards when he should've gone forwards to keep the pressure on and we go across the pitch. Vestergaard has got over excited and bolted forward ahead of the ball and then we lose it. Fair play to Chelsea – lethal. Pass, pass, pass, Werner to Havertz, tap in, 3-2, fuck sake etc.
Ralph looks to the bench and it’s a surprise to see Redmond come off but he has been a lot less lively than Walcott has. On comes Nathan Tella on the left. By comparison, Chelsea take of Skate Bastard Mount and bring on Ziyech.
Walcott has really come alive in the last 10 minutes or so and he’s running at the defence and they’re scattering and he tees up Adams who drags his shot wide. Walcott again produces a great run down the right before pulling it back to Danny Ings who tees it up for himself before getting a good low shot away but fair play to Kepa who pulls off a decent save.
Diallo and Long on for Romeu and Adams with five to go. 90 minutes up, 4 to go and I still feel confident that we’ll get a decent chance. Tella puts a lovely ball in behind the full back but it’s just too long for Ings and then a ball up to Bertrand sees him bumped to the floor by Ziyech. Bertie’s free kick is headed away by Zouma, Theo drills it back in and it’s past Kepa and into the far corner – mental. In my house there is beer and tea all over the place. Actually, as you all know, it’s not Theo’s goal because Jannik Vestergaard has stuck his head on it and guided it into the corner. A stooping header – when you’re that tall you spend your life stooping. Well stooped you big beautiful Danish person you.
Fucking hell. 92nd minute equaliser away at Chelsea having been two goals down. Absolutely fucking beautiful.
You can pick holes in all of the three goals that we conceded and you can also question our play when we didn’t have the ball in the first half ball but when we were on it today, in the second half in particular, we were superb and totally deserving of the point we eventually got.
As he is fitting for a game that saw us playing at times very well and at times very badly, no one had a truly outstanding individual game for the whole 90 minutes for the pick of the bunch was probably Danny Ings, Che Adams, KWP and Theo Walcott. JWP and Romeu were also huge in the second half, dominating against Jorginho and Kante.
Walcott started like he didn’t really know what was expected of him in that right-sided number 10 position that Stuart Armstrong usually plays but as the game went on he really grew into it. I was impressed with a number of early crosses he put into the box and also the direct running when space opened up in front of him. It was truly a very good second debut and if that’s the position that he continues to play then he will learn the defensive side of things and the positional side of things when we haven’t got the ball and will only get better.
The central defenders had a bit of a torrid time today, especially in the first half, not helped much by the midfielders in front of them who were not getting close enough to stop by continual supply through to the Chelsea front players. Let’s not get this out of context, Chelsea have players worth about £200 million playing at the top end of the pitch but Jan Bednarek will know that should’ve done better on both of the first two goals. Chelsea’s quicker footed forward players also meant it was a torrid first half for Vestergaard but he stuck with it and got his reward in the 92nd minute.
It was another superbly taken goal by Danny Ings and it was brilliant to see Che Adams take advantage of one of the worst bits of goalkeeping and defending you could ever wish to see as Kepa went a fair way to proving that the £72 million spent on him was possibly one of the biggest wastes of money in football history. He looked like a 14 year old who had been called up when 4 goalkeepers got injured in the warm up.
There was also an impressive 20 minutes for Nathan Tella who came on for the largely anonymous Redmond and made things better, playing one lovely ball inside the full back for Ings and generally looking like he has a chance of making it at this level.
Ralph was predictably delighted with the end result as he should be. He can see that we are getting back to the levels that we had in the Project Restart games and though we didn’t put in a 90 minute performance today, you can’t be unhappy with a point here. The interviewers were all more keen to talk to him about his former player Timo Werner than about any of our boys but of course, what do you expect?
Another big test next up with league leaders Everton at home. The good news is that following the Merseyside Derby today, Richarlison will be banned and Pickford, despite ending Virgil van Dijk’s season, won’t be.
Oh yeah - Pay-per-view. Fuck that.