Chelsea’s fixture list has hardly been kind to me this season, working in retail and following a football team just isn’t compatible.
So bank holiday Monday’s fixture against Burnley provided me a rare opportunity to watch the Blues live.
While I detest the television companies dictating the kick off times, meaning Burnley fans had an almost 240 mile journey back home after the final whistle, I was still kind of glad it was a game I could attend.
And given Burnley’s time wasting and general violence during the game, f**k ‘em.
I was expecting a hostile atmosphere, with the crowd on the players back and of course showing their distaste for Maurizio Sarri.
So I was rather surprised to find otherwise. There was one boo for Jorginho when the team sheet was read out about half an hour before kick off, but as the sides emerged from the tunnel, the atmosphere was pretty good.
Perhaps it helped that before kick off we were in a pretty good position in the league table. Victory would’ve put us into third until the midweek fixtures of our top four rivals.
Chelsea started brightly, playing the ball quickly and causing Burnley’s defence problems.
Then in the sixth minute, a partially cleared corner fell to a free Burnley man on the edge of the area, who rifled a volley beyond Kepa Arrizabalaga.
I thought that would be it. The fans would start to turn and the players would, as they have done all season, capitulate.
The opposite happened, the supporters in the Matthew Harding Lower started chanting, getting behind the team.
Perhaps they could sense that during our good start, we could have Burnley on toast.
And then, we did.
Goals from N’golo Kante and a rocket from Gonzalo Higuain, topped off with a motorboat celebration, had the Blues 2-1 infront.
The place was rocking and people were enjoying what they were seeing.
What I think people tend to miss, is the bits that the crowds get excited for, are the bits you would more closely describe as ‘Sarriball’.
There was a moment in the first half when Callum Hudson-Odoi looked like he had lost possession, but they managed to play three quick passes in a triangle before spreading the ball wide and sending Hazard on the break.
The crowd absolutely loved it. That’s Sarriball!
Then there’s the moments where Kante regains possession in the opponents half and starts an attack. The crowd really responded to that.
After the game TalkSport we’re claiming how Sarri plays Kante out of position, a conversation I thought ended in September.
What Kante does in the final third, including scoring the equaliser, is more what Sarriball is about, and when it’s happening on the pitch, the supporters generally appreciate it.
However, the problem Sarri has, is that we aren’t consistent enough at it. Another set piece, another failure of zonal marking and Burnley we’re back at 2-2.
Then the second half was a rather turgid affair. Maybe the disrupted pre-season and the sheer number of games is starting to take its toll, but we couldn’t find the same spark as we had in the first half.
We still manage to create numerous opportunities, but as has been the case all season, we just don’t have that clinical striker infront of goal.
Giroud’s introduction for Higuain did little to cause the Burnley defence any disruption.
While the ineptitude of Kevin Friend also played its part in frustrating Chelsea, Sarri’s side found themselves slipping to their opponents level.
They failed to ignore Burnley’s antics and in the end, found themselves in a battle they really should have avoided.
Perhaps this is the mentality that Sarri speaks about in his press conferences.
Chelsea should be good enough to beat Burnley at home and they showed in patches that they were. They just didn’t capitalise enough.
The game rather summed up a troubled season, not good enough infront of goal and too easily beaten in defence.
Andres Christensen in particular struggled against Burnley’s physicality.
They targeted him with long balls in the air and I don’t think he managed to win a header.
This tactic is nothing new, I remember Sam Allardyce’s Bolton doing the same to Ashley Cole. The difference then however, was he had John Terry to come over and sort it out.
David Luiz was more than happy to watch on as ball after ball was pumped up towards his centre half partner.
However despite all this, the supporters remained behind the team. And I think that’s important.
Instead of turning on the players or Sarri, we spent the 90 minutes encouraging the team forward in the hope somebody (Hazard) could score.
In the end, it wasn’t to be. Burnley got the point that all but confirms their safety, while our top four chances seem to slip by us again.
Next weekend we go to Old Trafford to face a Manchester United side who have hopefully suffered back to back heavy losses.
There’s a chance there for us to kick start next season, but we can only do so with a united front.
Win or lose up the Blues!