Saturday, 22 February 2014

My Day at the Bridge

Well, where to start?

How about the plastic nature of the club? As if listening to irritating Chelsea fans discussing football on the tube on the way to the game wasn’t bad enough (I nearly intervened) I walked around part of the ground where I had to pass a picture of a piece of Chelsea’s history every 2 yards. So, basically pictures of them winning trophies, post-2005. This was around bizarrely castle-like surroundings, those of you’ve been in the away end at Chelsea will know what I mean.

Then when we got into the ground some hyped up, weird bald guy is stood on the pitch with a microphone cheerleading the crowd. “Let’s hear it from the Shed End” etc. etc. I don’t think he realised he had a microphone either, shouting like he didn’t indeed have one. He’s then reading out the names: “John Teeeeeeeeryyyyyyyyyyyyyyy” and “Fernando *holds mike up to the crowd*…”. Ugh, pratt.

Then there’s the cringeworthy banners: “John Terry, captain, leader, legend”. How about “John Terry, racist, cheater, ref intimidator” instead Chelsea fans? Others include “John Terry’s blue army”, “One love, one life, carefree since 1905”. What the heck is this carefree nonsense all about anyway?

And then finally there’s the half-time tribute to Alexei Smertin of all people, who basically was taken for a lap of honour by Mr. Match Announcer himself (as he holds the microphone up towards the largely unresponsive crowd).

But in all seriousness, I had a largely enjoyable day. The last minute Chelsea winner aside it was a good afternoon, the game was entertaining and tense. I didn’t think Everton deserved to lose, they restricted Chelsea to very few opportunities- Hazard was quiet in the second half and Oscar and Lampard were anonymous. But they kept possession well, harassed Chelsea well to win the ball back and created a fair amount of chances and chance opportunities.

In the first half Mirallas had a couple of good chances, Osman came close and Pienaar and Baines were causing havoc down the left-hand side. Jagielka had a good headed chance and there were a couple of chances in the box where a shot wasn’t taken. Whereas Chelsea only really had one chance.

In the second half they came close again 2 or 3 times until they faded a bit and started sitting too deep. It was odd for Martinez, particularly when you consider Chelsea weren’t actually looking that dangerous to start playing deeper in the last 15 minutes. It was Moyes-esque.

Everton should still take the positives from this, basically they came to Chelsea’s backyard and matched them at the very least, I’d argue they were the better side. Thy just lacked the finish up front, who knows what the score had been had Lukaku been playing. Counter-attacks started breaking down more in the second half but mainly when it went to Naismith- I thought it was odd Mirallas was taken off rather than him. He looked their biggest threat and had pace on the counter. Naismith slowed the attacks down and it halted Everton. However, overall they need to take the positives from this and move on. They showed again today what enormous potential they have.

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

So, so close

Yaya Sanogo did well tonight. He exceeded my expectations. His movement was good, at times he linked up well and also showed glimpses of what a big potential he has. But tonight wasn't the time for that. Tonight we were playing the best team in Europe and needed to get a positive result. We shouldn't have been in the position where we're playing a Champions League debutant who's hardly kicked a ball in top flight football.

You don't see any other big team across Europe playing such an inexperienced lad who isn't up to that level yet. Yes, Sanogo did well but he did well in terms of our expectations for him. If Giroud had done some of the touches in the box tonight that Sanogo did he'd be criticized. I'm not blaming him, I'm saying we should have a better striker to be playing in this game.

Imagine if we had Suarez tonight? If the ball had fallen to him in the box the 3 or 4 times it fell to Sanogo we'd have probably scored at some point; he'd have known what to do- when to lay it off, when to turn, when to shoot etc. I'm not saying the club should have got Suarez, because it's easier said than done- perhaps it was a impossible transfer to pull off in reality.

But we should have a really good striker. Man City have managed to find 4, Liverpool (who haven't qualified for the Champions League since 2009) have 2, Man Utd have 2, Barcelona have 2, Real Madrid have 2, Dortmund have 1, Juventus and PSG have them, arguably Napoli too. We should be in that group of teams. We shouldn't have to be playing Sanogo in a game like tonight's. He's a good looking player for the future but for the here and now he's not ready yet to spearhead this team to European glory. And that's what we're looking for at the end of the day, that's why we play in this competition- to try and win it. But we can't with the striking options we have.

I've done an Arsenal/Liverpool XI. And only 3 Liverpool players are in it. Mignolet, Suarez and Sturridge. Yet Liverpool are only 3 points behind us in the league, which suggests they're around the same level as us and there isn't much between the two sides. But the 8 on 3 suggests otherwise. So what balances this contradiction?

The power and influence of having two deadly strikers, one of whom is absolutely top class. That's how much of an impact they have, through creating chances and goals out of nothing, scoring for fun despite having the likes of Jordan Henderson and Joe Allen behind them. Imagine what a striker of Suarez's caliber would be capable of with the likes of Walcott, Cazorla, Ramsey and Ozil around him.

I firmly believe we have a very good side and that we are very close to greatness. We are a top class striker away from winning the league (we might win it without one even, you could argue if we had one now we'd be about 10 points clear) and being genuinely strong contenders for the Champions League.

Getting a top class striker is, of course, a lot easier said than done. But that's what we have to go out and get, no matter how much it costs us. We need to make a real statement of intent by going out and attracting a Suarez/Lewandowski/Aguero level player.

I don't think we'll win the title, and for that very reason. Our four striking options at the moment are Giroud, Sanogo, Podolski and Bendtner. Whereas Man City's are Aguero, Negredo, Dzeko and Jovetic. I think ultimately that'll be the difference, even though we have a better defence than them.