This was Jose’s 100th game as Chelsea manager at the Bridge. I fully expected the theme of this article to be his imperious home record.
I also expected to be writing about our season finally getting under way. Instead, I’m sitting in the pub, with a double Bacardi, trying to get my anger under some kind of control to make a fist of writing a semi-coherent article.
I actually don’t know where to begin.
Regular readers of this column will know my love of Jose verges on the unhinged. That hasn’t changed, but he made a lot of mistakes on Saturday. What we need to try and figure out is whether he made them deliberately or not.
This persistence with Ivanovic is getting beyond the ridiculous. He needs a rest or something — what he doesn’t need and we don’t currently need, is him playing week in, week out. Everyone can see how weak we are up that side with him. What makes Jose’s persistence with the Serb even more bizarre is that we now have a recognised left-back, and as we all know, we’ve had a recognised right-back for three years.
What makes Jose’s persistence with Ivanovic EVEN more baffling is that he gives him very little support, which exposes him even further.
Then there were the substitutions — putting the kid Kenedy on when our backs are against the wall is one thing, but to put him on in the wrong position is actually quite cruel and unnecessary. He did OK, but he and Loftus-Cheek were quite obviously being used by the manager to demonstrate to all, but particularly Abramovich, how weak our squad is. He is playing a very dangerous game here.
Jose said post-match that we do not need to make any signings. I’m not sure how he kept a straight face when saying that. More urgent is the lack of form from some of our stalwarts. Ivanovic we have talked about, but Fabregas, Matic, Hazard are all shadows of the players of last year.
I know it’s early in the season but they should be hitting their stride by now. There is a malaise around the team and it is reminiscent of what happened at City last season, when some of their previously most influential individuals looked little above pub players for much of the season. They were carried by the strength of their squad in the end. I am worried that we are going through a similar thing — but our squad does not have the quality to carry us — but finishing top four is imperative.
Frustratingly, not one Palace player would get in the Chelsea team, yet every one of their players were better than ours on the day, and that’s not acceptable. We now have to win the next four or five games to really keep in contention and try to restore a winning mentality — given what we’ve got coming up that will take some doing.
One thing is certain, the result will have added another £10m to the already exorbitant price tag for Stones.
This Stones saga is getting beyond ridiculous, with Martinez painting himself as this tragic little guy who represents all that is good and great in the sporting arena; and we are the filthy rich bullies who are ruining the beautiful game and casting an evil spell on the poor defender/“victim”.
If they don’t want to sell him, don’t sell him. There you go, job done. How exactly are we doing anything different to any other club, including Everton? Either way, next time Everton come knocking looking for a class loanee or two, I hope we tell them exactly where to go.
But back to the Palace game. Ironically one of my mates missed the game to attend “Fright Fest”, an annual film festival of horror movies. I told him there was nothing he could have seen that was more frightening than what we witnessed on the pitch.
I can only hope that whatever point Jose thought he was making has now been made, and that with the closing of the transfer window, we can get back to some semblance of normality and he reverts to playing the best team available in a formation which is set up to deal with whoever we are facing.
Either that or we go proper transition and start phasing out our ageing players, and integrating our latest acquisitions and the best of our youth players. Most of us can take transitions — what is harder to accept is lacklustre play from a cornucopia of multi-million-pound players and suicidal tactics from a manager trying to win an unwinnable game with the owner.
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