I’ve spent much of the week since Chelsea suffered only their third defeat in the league this season reflecting how and why it happened. Other than the fact that we lost 3-0 to West Bromwich Albion, a team who are becoming somewhat a bogey team for Chelsea, I’m still struggling to understand the defeat.
At least Chelsea did not sack Jose Mourinho after losing to West Brom, which must be considered progress as one or two other Chelsea managers have suffered this fate after losing to the West Midlands side.
The only conclusion I can draw from our defeat was that it was all rather silly.
It all started with a ridiculous strike from Berahino which put West Brom 1-0 inside 10 minutes. This was not part of the script where West Brom were supposed to respectfully doff their hats to the newly crowned champions.
Things got much sillier when the referee managed to lose control of both the game and his senses when he booked Costa for some common or garden argy bargee with a West Brom defender. Surely it should have been either no yellow card at all or a reciprocal yellow for the West Brom defender?
And then arguably one of the most comical or silly red cards you are likely to see in a Premier League match. Fabregas for no apparent reason whatsoever decided to kick the ball from the other side of the pitch, and with pin-point accuracy connected with the back of Brunt’s head. Cue indignation from the West Brom players, and I would imagine many a guffaw from those in the stadium or watching at home.
Fabregas received a red card for this supposed violent conduct, and thankfully, unlike Mike Jones, the FA have subsequently seen sense and reduced the automatic ban from 3 matches to one. Perhaps Fabregas and his magic hat just fancied this Sunday off.
John Terry might have wished that he had taken the evening off after he brought down Berahino in the box to concede a penalty early in the second half. West Brom extended their lead to 2-0 and JT was lucky not to be sent off for the challenge. JT lives to fight another day and hopefully will complete his season against Sunderland on Sunday having played every Premier League game this season.
Brunt who was clearly lucky to recover from a life threatening blow to the head courtesy of Fabregas’ earlier cross then completed a surreal evening for Chelsea supporters by blasting a shot past Courtois to make it 3-0. A case can be made that Courtois should not have been beaten at his near post. All in all, very silly.
To those watching on TV who are not of a blue persuasion, the constant singing and chanting by the Chelsea away support all match must also have seemed rather silly. Not least because the more goals Chelsea conceded, the noisier and more vociferous the away support became.
The Chelsea support sang “we’ve won the league” for a full 34 minutes in the second half. Half in defiance, half in triumph and I suspect all tinged with some gallows humour at a somewhat surprisingly poor performance.
For those who both support and understand Chelsea, this was all entirely appropriate and familiar. Chelsea’s away following this season has been nothing short of phenomenal. Tickets for every away game have sold out in a matter of hours, and the support at every away game has been loud and fulsome.
For those, like me, not lucky enough to have been there on Monday night, the away support was no surprise. In fact, many of us remarked that it was redolent of our away support in the dark days of the 1980’s when Chelsea had one of the largest in number and noisiest away supporters in the land. In those days, the worse Chelsea were on the pitch, the louder the support for them was off it, and it was not uncommon for the simple but effective “Chelsea, Chelsea, Chelsea” to be belted out for an entire half.
It was therefore very good to see that Jose Mourinho acknowledged Chelsea’s away support at the end of the match. Jose has been critical of Chelsea’s home support on several occasions this season, and some might argue with good cause, but no such criticism should or could be levelled at our away support. Clearly Jose knows how important they are to the team’s cause and it was good to see him both recognise and applaud their dedication.
And so we come to the final match of the season against Sunderland this Sunday. The sun will shine and the champions will be crowned. Somewhere in between a rather meaningless football match will be played.
Jose’s post match comments seem to indicate that both he and the players are suffering from a lack of motivation and fatigue since they wrapped up the title a few weeks before the end of the season. I made a point in jest on a recent Chelsea FanCast that perhaps once Chelsea had won the league then the league should end there and then. We could then avoid these seemingly pointless matches, or ‘dead rubbers’. I chuckled when Jose appeared to share my sentiments.
Of course this begs a question. If the matches post winning the title are meaningless then why have so many of the players who have been instrumental in Chelsea’s success this season carried on playing? Many of them are clearly fatigued and in serious need of a break – remember that Mourinho has not rotated his squad much this season and only used around 14 players for the most of it. Surely it would have been better to have played some of the talented youngsters in matches where the results were unimportant?
I certainly hope that Jose selects a team for the Sunderland match that takes account of both the need to give some of his players a break and a chance for the youngsters to play. We discussed a possible IX for Sunday’s match on the Chelsea FanCast this week and came up with the following:
Cech (if recovered from injury and probably his last appearance in a Chelsea shirt);
Azpilicueta (played on the right to give Brana Ivanovic a much needed rest);
John Terry (yes he needs a break, but it would be great for him to complete every PL match this season);
Christensen (looks a good prospect so it would be good to see him get another opportunity);
Luis (to accommodate Azpi’s cover for Brana);
Loftus-Cheek (deserves another opportunity in midfield);
Mikel (could be his last appearance in a Chelsea shirt and as cover for Matic, another who could do with a rest);
Cuadrado (although he is the current whipping boy for many Chelsea supporters, we need to give him more opportunities before a final judgement can be made);
Willian (playing centrally to cover for Fabregas who is suspended, and Oscar who is injured);
Remy (although he’d rather play up front, with Willian playing centrally and Hazard recovering from dental surgery, he needs to take one for the team and anyway Jose played him wide against West Brom. Even if Hazard had been available I would have given him a well-earned rest);
Drogba (Costa needs to be given a good long rest – I can’t understand why he was played/risked against West Brom as he was clearly not match sharp – furthermore playing Drogba would be a chance for a final farewell for a Chelsea Legend).
Will Jose take the pragmatic view? Who knows, but if ever he was able to give some tired players a rest, give some opportunities to the youngsters and squad players and allow a few sentimental farewells to some great servants then surely this is the time.
After all, many Chelsea supporters will be so drunk on expectations of seeing the Premier League trophy lifted; I suspect they won’t even notice.