There are few occasions where I welcome a weekend without Chelsea, but September’s international break was bliss. Personally I’d grown tired of supporting the ghost of last season’s Chelsea; an entire team suffering from a form related injury, I thought it was about time I watched a different group of perennial underachievers who were set to pitch it against San Marino. Chelsea and I agreed to start ‘seeing other people’, but I couldn’t bring myself to delete their number.
The weekend passed, they rang. And I answered. It was nice just to hear their voice, promising. Things were going to change, they said.
Okay, one last chance. It’s Arsenal, it’s Wenger. It was lovely. Diego scratched his way back into our hearts, playing it out like a Greek tragedy, the villain became the victim. The Angel Gabriel had fallen, Lucifer and his band of glorious bastards took all three points (there’s a Garden of Eden joke here somewhere although I just can’t make it work – but it’s the thought that counts). Chelsea, for the first time this season, had lived up to expectations. Great. Here we go.
Now, I do not know who St James is, Wikipedia tells me he was the brother of Jesus Christ but I really think I’ve stretched The Bible metaphor as fair as is decent. What I do know is that despite being a Victorian gallows, it is not a cursed land, nor is it somewhere West Londoners have a history of going missing never to be seen again, all I do know is that St James’ Syndrome is a real thing and on Saturday evening once again it took hold of Chelsea.
Most clubs would relish the chance to line up against Steve McClaren’s Newcastle, a second string Sheffield Wednesday showed how much fun it can be. But were it not for Ramires having a Nou Camp-esque moment, possibly powered almost entirely by a collective feeling of despair from the Chelsea faithful, and Willian repeating his mastery of the cross-cum-shot free kick, Chelsea would have suffered even more embarrassment than they did.
Last night saw José back at Porto, and just like the last time he managed in the Estádio do Dragão stadium, Porto won. The first half defined the cliché “a mixed bag”; Chelsea started very well, kept the ball and looked competent, but it was Porto who made the break through. Brahimi had clearly done his research as Ivanovic was, once again, successfully targeted by Chelsea’s opponents allowing ‘so good they named him twice’ André André to get himself on the scoresheet. The Blues were spared another first half defeat when William squeezed in his third dead ball of the season (but the first one on purpose).
The second half began exactly as Saturday evening’s did – with ineptitude – Maicon flicked the ball into Begovic’s net with no Chelsea players in the same postcode as their front stick. The Campaign against Chelsea continued as Porto peppered The Blue’s goalmouth like a good steak, looking certain to grab a third, but some desperate defending meant the score remained 2-1 to the home side. Conspiracy. Late on Diego Costa probably should have been awarded a penalty, rather than a corner. All in all, some better individual performances but no change in how disappointing the result was.
I cannot tell you why Mr Smackhammer would send his aliens after the Chelsea squad’s talent for Space Jam II – but that seems like the only explanation for an entire squad looking lost and drained of ability. I dread to think what the alien Diego Costa looks/smells like.
Talk of José jumping ship, or being pushed, seems rather premature and controversial for controversy’s sake. There’s obviously plenty happening at Chelsea that is not going his way; he’s had some rare mis-judgments and even the media sycophants seem to have grown tired of his press conferences. But personally I don’t see it as anything other than speculation.
My biggest gripe this season is on behalf of a few fringe players; Oscar, Willian, Loftus-Cheek and Ramires. All four of whom have, at times, been stand out performers in a sea of drab showings. Mikel probably deserves a mention, as well.
The Arsenal game aside I see no sense in John Terry’s new position on the bench. Walcott’s pace, as Aguero’s, will cause problems for the skipper, but Mitrovic is the striking equivalent of a Cargo Ship and would not prove too onerous. The Newcastle match especially cried out for some basic leadership and competence. If Mourinho sees Zouma as Terry’s replacement surely they need to play together? Zouma has shown what a lack of experience can do to a back four. The John Terry debate is the perfect example of great idea, poor execution, i.e. there are players who need time away from the field but I don’t personally think he is the right candidate. Cesc, I love Cesc, but there’s no doubt he needs a break, he’s cutting a very frustrated figure and at least two of the aforementioned players, namely Oscar, could fill his boots. The team look stale, and it’s not as if Chelsea are short of options.
Southampton visit The Bridge on Saturday evening, after a frustrating return to Porto for Mourinho, and I’d love to witness a tight match, 90 minutes of football on Chelsea’s soil and, hopefully, on Chelsea’s terms. Back to what we know – get one either side of half time and keep a clean sheet. Lovely. It does not even need saying that this season is far from over, but if Chelsea want to play any part in it they need to do something about it.