As we tumble into our second week of the international break it is interesting to note how low “interest” in the international football has plummeted outside of the major tournaments. I remember as a sprog being so excited at the prospect of being able to go to Wembley to watch England play. Now I’m not sure if I’d draw back the curtains if they were playing in my garden.
The break followed that well known Festival called “Kick Chelsea” where the two participants Manchester United and Stoke were asked to pit their wits against us and trying to find out if that was the way you could beat us. Unfortunately it was not an even contest as only one of the games had a referee. The other had a casual observer who only occasionally got involved. Sadly for the spectating millions neither team were able to stop our progress although both can be said to have given it their best efforts.
I know the answer but it still baffles me why these sides approach the game in this manner. It was only New Year’s eve that Stoke RFC ran us really close at the Bridge, the lofting of the ball to Crouchy caused us all sorts of problems and we let in two goals at home for the first time in a while. You would have thought at their home ground they would have explored that route again and in the same way I was concerned about Carroll the other week this potential bombardment left me quite anxious. Obviously the temptation to kick us was too much for old Sparky to give up and therefore playing us off the park was never an option. Delicious irony therefore that our winner was scored from a set piece.
The United kickathon was sadder for me. I love Jose and always will and based on the first 20 minutes his new team played well. To be fair every time we broke they tactically fouled us and it was an obvious tactic as was the continual pummeling of Eden. He was obviously sending his own message to Jose after last season’s fall out. Those who mocked and jeered Jose are entitled to do so . I just don’t get it. What is he doing now that he didn’t do for us? I would be very surprised if he doesn’t succeed at Old Trafford. I think it is established the “Judas” comment was down to one individual in the stand behind the dugout but it was to Jose who chose to make himself the victim. His refusal to even look at any of our players after the match as he thumped his chest to the united fans was reminiscent of what he did for us and that’s now in the past. We have moved on and so should he but he sees us and Conte as rivals and so unfortunately the bile will continue at Old Trafford in a couple of weeks time.
So we have two home games in a week following the break and they will both be tough. Whilst the festival has ended you can be sure that Big Sam will not discourage such behaviour. He arrives on the back of four wins and games after international breaks are notoriously difficult. We already have doubts over Eden and both Thibault and Diego have apparently picked up knocks. We are in a nice run of form and the win column is filling up again. Let’s hope the momentum can continue especially with Pep turning up on Wednesday. He will be keen to avenge the home defeat but if we defeat Palace a draw against Citeh will not be the worst result.
Of course with no football the transfer rumours have to be ramped up. The biggest of those stories affects probably the best attacking player in the premier league, our own little Belgian wizard. So the jolly white giant from Madrid is just going to come along with a juggernaut of cash, pick him up and leave. Now there are two things here, the first of which is that money is irrelevant when you are unable to find a replacement. The only player I have seen recently who looks a patch on Eden is Bernardo Silva but to be fair I’ve only seen him a couple of times. So I’d much prefer Eden to stay and Real Madrid go knocking on someone else’s door. The second point is its not a story. Being the mug that I am I watched the five minute piece on Sky Sports news which said no bid and no talks. All the back pages have the “details” as well but it is all speculation and it is basically RM asking through the press whether he wants to join them.
One other interesting thing that’s happened is that following the under 21 International this week RLC has suddenly been “discovered” and everyone is
clamouring for him to play or go out on loan. OK then but I suspect his club manager knows best. It is true to say that his late appearance against Stoke proved to be a very telling contribution and it is good to see the Antonio appears to have his fitness sorted out. We then have the “problem” of working out which of him Nat, Lewis Baker, Casey Palmer, Izzy Brown, Ola Aina, Bertrand Traore will make it into the squad next year with Andreas Christiansen. That is not to mention the next batch on the horizon who Jody Morris has skilfully navigated into yet another FA Youth Cup Final. It is truly remarkable and to get one or two in the first team will be hard but with more competitions next season perhaps more chances. Who knows?
So in conclusion it is fair to say that we are looking forward to being back at the bridge on Saturday.
Clayton is the author of Palpable Discord: A Year of Drama and Dissent at Chelsea
How many passes will Ross Barkley make this weekend? How many tackles will Kante make? What about touches for Herrera? And assists from Diego Costa? Aguero and shots on goal? With a new feature called Player Bets you can say there will be at least 2 shots or 5 tackles etc. It’s a new way to bet from a new bookmaker.