(We All Want To Go To) Chelsea

Is that a regular thing that Chelsea do? Diego Costa taking the match-starting kick-off on his own. I’d be half inclined to class it as a set-piece kick-off.

It’s a bit shit like.

I don’t get the antipathy towards Friday night football. On nights like this it’s a beautiful thing. I’m old enough to remember the BBC showing live Friday night football during the mid-1980s. That Ian Rush hat-trick at Villa Park. Kevin Keegan and Terry McDermott’s return to Anfield in Newcastle United shirts in the FA Cup a couple of weeks earlier. They were ace. Win an iconic game on Friday night and chill out for the rest of the weekend, while everyone else stumbles over each other during the Saturday bunfight and the Sunday spotlight.

Tranmere Rovers were definitely on-to something for all of those years.

What do we all make of this ‘new-age’ rivalry with Chelsea?

I’m not all that bothered about them either.

It’s all a bit reminiscent of our ‘rivalry’ with Nottingham Forest during the late-1970s and early 80s. There was an intensity of sorts, but it made no sense whatsoever and you always felt it wasn’t meant to last too long.

This niggling issue with Chelsea has festered for over a decade now. It’s not problematic enough to warrant a trip to the doctors, but you might pop in the chemist on the way past after picking up the kids from school.

If they were a medical complaint, then they’d probably be Athlete’s Foot, or a mild fungal infection.

They are a rival though. They are a fellow contender for a place in the top 4, a fellow contender for the title itself perhaps, just as Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur are/might be. Two wins and one draw from away days against those three sides is undeniably impressive.

At Stamford Bridge we grasped the opportunity of administering some self-doubt to a potential rival. Just as we did at the Emirates. We should have done the same thing at White Hart Lane. Just how good must Burnley be then?

Ahem.

We play with the minds of our rivals. We get under their skin. It is one of our most potent weapons. Not bad for the net-spend profit kids eh? Keep your rival off balance and you might just knock them over.

In some ways the pressure is more intense for other clubs. It’s not us who are blowing a sizeable amount of money on re-signing a sub-standard and ridiculously haired centre-back. It’s not us spending £89m to re-sign a player we gave away for next to nothing just a couple of years ago. It’s not us losing mid-week at Wembley, being stretched by having to juggle Premier League and Champions League, while three or four building blocks short of the class to win either prize. It’s not us with the manager who’s been there for 20 years, 12 years on from his last league title success and never having cracked the Champions League code. It’s not us that have just employed the Yoda of football coaches, yet still see a raft of empty seats and are expected to succeed immediately.

Of course we aren’t perfect, but we really do have less pressure than the rest of the pack this season. Let’s enjoy it. That net-spend stat is neither a stigma, nor a badge of honour. What we actually have is a fantastic manager, some pretty talented footballers, the room to stretch our legs and the rumblings of something special starting to stir. By rights we have some loose change in our back pocket that might enable us to strengthen in January should the need arise.

Embrace last night for what it was. A well-crafted win which was more than deserved.

Yes, on the pitch we still have a scary propensity to play the occasional ‘hospital pass’. What we have added to our repertoire however is the ‘hospitality pass’. That killer ball which picks the lock. It was Philippe Coutinho this time with that spectacular ball for Dejan Lovren to open the scoring.

Coutinho has been shelved to an extent so far this season. As the growing importance of Roberto Firmino has been embraced, there has almost been a dance-off between the two, in battle over the crown to be our most stylish Brazilian superstar in the making. Whisper it, but we are actually allowed to have more than one outrageously talented footballer at any given time.
Jordan Henderson though?

What a strike that was. It was worth “Five pumps of the Kloppometer” according toJames Pearce. As fine a barometer of rating has maybe never before been born?

There is something utterly cosmic about an under the microscope player pulling off something of beauty. There were signs on Saturday against Leicester City, and now this. Henderson’s stock could be rising to peak levels again before too long. I spoke of recycling in the wake of the win against Leicester, but it could just as easily be re-energising, or re-engaging. The descriptive element isn’t important, it’s the ‘re’ part which acts as the precursor, as it is an admission that there was always something about the player in the first place, before they were perceived to have ‘lost their way’.

Do we always need to be ‘fixing’ things with a new one?

I don’t think we do. Don’t get me wrong, there are some lost causes that need to be remedied, but some parts just need care and attention.

Last night was a good sign. From 2-0 and cruising, to 2-1 and a testing final third of the game. Where lays the vulnerability in those circumstances in reality? Conventional thinking suggests that the team who’ve had their lead cut is the vulnerable entity. There is however an argument to be put that it is the other way around. The pursuer is left more exposed as it chases an equaliser, or maybe more. If we can add a sting to the tale of those circumstances, then we burrow further under the skin of our rivals.
Friday night football eh?

In conclusion, Dejan Lovren looks like a goal-getting Bond villain of a centre-back with that black eye. He needs a regular one.

Antonio Conte does that demonstrative thing which Slaven Bilic excels at on the touchline. Crouching low, arms outstretched, as if telling someone to stop where they are because there is broken glass on the floor. An ace look when winning, the pose of a ‘man in control’ yet pure Basil Fawlty when losing.

Chest bumps, head ruffles, back-slapping and manly hugs all round. 3 points gained where not many other clubs will exit with anything other than a defeat.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

Scraggy

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