Chelsea legend Pat Nevin provided expert analysis as a broadcaster for our last two games. Now he gives more thoughts on the action in his role as a website columnist…
Unusually I will start this week’s column with last week’s quiz. I wanted to know the name of a Chelsea player whose nickname was an animal. Well I got more than I bargained for, there were far more than I thought. So have a quick look at this quality side and see how many of the Chelsea players past and present you can get. The real team is at the bottom of the page.
Bear Lion Shark Kangaroo
Rabbit Bison Ram Rat
I thought we might need a little light-heartedness with the week we have had. Donetsk was a little wake-up call for anyone who was getting carried away by the great start to the season domestically. On the night I think too many players had off days and quite a few looked more than a little jaded. A classic example was Fernando Torres who showed signs that playing alone up front on his own continually was really taking its toll. It is by some distance the most difficult position to play in a team. If you are one of two strikers, you can have rests and it is all about getting into good positions.
On your own you basically chase lost causes and make about one hundred runs knowing only a few will result in you getting the ball. Do this every three or four days and it begins to wear you down and sap the energy and spark from your legs, no matter who you are. Away from home it always seems twice as hard and after a long six-hour flight, a journey which is probably nearer 12 hours from the moment you leave your home to the moment you flop on a hotel bed, then a lack of zip becomes quite understandable.
Others didn’t have good days either and any weaknesses of the system were highlighted against a very good side, high in confidence, playing at home and getting the perfect start. Chelsea had certainly expended a lot of energy at White Hart Lane a few days before and when the game plan was thrown into disarray when Frank Lampard had to go off early after 17 minutes, it had the look of ‘one of those nights.’
Lots of excuses or reasons there, but in the end, if you do not play at your best away from home in the Champions League, whatever the reason, it doesn’t really matter, the result will be the same.The idea is to find a way to make sure it doesn’t happen too often, the experience in the end may do the team good in the long run and it is no more than part of the education of all involved, especially the younger ones, of which there were quite a few.
Manchester United came calling and all of football was looking forward to this one, along with the Everton v Liverpool tie beforehand. Both ties were exciting and some pretty good football was played in an attacking, exciting manner. Chelsea were outplayed for the first 30 minutes by United, falling into the trap of getting dragged forward only to be stung on the break, particularly down our left-hand side.
At 2-0 there was a moment when you feared it could be a rout as we looked naive in comparison, would Robbie change the system and the style to shut up shop? Not a bit of it and fortunately it was a good call. By half-time the wisdom of the boss was borne out. A goal back and De Gea keeping United in the game, it was all set up for a fantastic second half. Another goal and Super Sunday was set up for the final half hour of pure tension and then the referee and his assistant got involved.
Ivanovic had to go but the Torres red was a joke and the winning goal was clearly offside. I was on BBC Radio 5 Live and called the offside before I had even seen a replay. How can I see it from the back of the stand on the halfway line and the assistant who is dead level can’t call it right? The game and the spectacle was killed stone dead, which was a great pity because in the end both the Merseyside derby and our match were decided simply be howling mistakes by the officials.
Now the anger has subsided a bit, you realise that it isn’t solely the officials’ fault. Yes this particular referee is known to be a bit card-happy but he doesn’t do it deliberately, he did his best but got it spectacularly wrong. He and his mates need some help, I have never changed my mind but eventually the opportunity to use technology has to be brought in.
How long can the luddites running football allow this to carry on? Yes it leads to discussion, interest and chat, but we all want fairness above all. Replays take seconds to organise and if rugby, tennis, cricket and the NFL can get it to work, there is no reason whatsoever that football cannot do the same. I know I am howling at the moon to some extent, but eventually they will see the light to at least test the technology. Before that happens however we will have to continue to watch injustice and as fans, spend our hard-earned cash on suffering unfairness.
On the positive side the match proved one thing, the new Chelsea are not too far away from the gold standard in English football. Even in defeat it was clear the players discovered that there is no reason they cannot be in the thick of the action when the trophies are being handed out at the end of the season. There were weaknesses and mistakes and some tinkering needs to be done, but the more experience our fairly young side gets over the coming months and years the better and more imperious they will become.
United come tomorrow for a game that is very hard to call, simply because it is unclear the strength of sides both managers will put out. A few fringe players and youngsters might get a chance and if it gives them more experience then the result is almost secondary. That’s not to say we wouldn’t all want a little revenge for the injustice we suffered on Sunday.
This week’s winner chosen at random is Martin Leverton from Abu Dhabi, any of the answers below would have sufficed. Well done and the prize will be on its way soon. This week to have a chance of winning a copy of the new Kings of Europe book, signed by a player, could you tell me who are the three most-capped (any country) players in Chelsea history? They didn’t need to get all their caps while with the Blues.
Answers as ever to me at email@example.com
And the team at the top translated into their regular names is:
Branislav Ivanovic John Terry Colin Pates Joey Jones
Eric Parsons Michael Essien Ramires Dennis Wise