It has been a turbulent week off the pitch for Chelsea, with the findings of the FA report calling John Terry’s version of events "improbable, implausible and contrived", as well as Ashley’s Cole’s evidence in support of him as “materially defective". The latter led the hot-tempered England left-back to take to Twitter to brand the FA a #BUNCHOFTW*TS, a tweet that he later deleted, but not before the damage was done, it was capped several hundred times and retweeted by almost twenty thousand people. As far as exercises in PR nightmares go, they couldn’t get much worse than that. So it was with bated breath, then, that the tabloid and broadsheet hacks of Britain approached Stamford Bridge yesterday, hoping to see Terry, Cole and Chelsea slip up against a Norwich side keen to atone for their drubbing at home to Liverpool. In fact, Chelsea recorded a good victory over a dire Norwich performance that, on this showing, will be favourites to go down. Four goals scored and many other opportunities created, Chelsea showed that, on the field at least, they ooze class.
Mata Is Back To His Awesome Best
Mata had somewhat of a sluggish start to the season, looking worn out from his various duties playing for Chelsea in the previous one, for Spain in the Euros and then again in the Olympics. (Annoyingly, this just so happened when I was making Matinha the captain of my fantasy football team, but sod’s law, and that). But then di Matteo shrewdly rested him for a few games, and it did the small Spaniard a world of good. Goals and Man of the Match-winning turns against Wolves in the League Cup, Arsenal in the league and then Nordsjælland in the Champions League came before yesterday, where he shined once again. No goal for Mata against Norwich, but he did rack up two assists, including a delicious through ball to Eden Hazard that cut through the Norwich defence like a sharp knife through warm treacle. Question marks arose when Hazard joined this Chelsea team, with many wondering if he and Mata, two similar-style players could complement each other. The fact that Hazard and Mata are the two men in the premiership with the most assists answers that question rather emphatically.
No goal for Mata against Norwich, but he did rack up two assists, including a delicious through ball to Eden Hazard that cut through the Norwich defence like a sharp knife through warm treacle.
Defenders Continue To Get On The Scoresheet
Ashley Cole, David Luiz, Gary Cahill and Branislav Ivanovic have all scored goals this season, the latter two having hit the net thrice already. Luiz, Cahill and Ivanovic are all 6’2” beasts of men and strong headers of the ball, but are nifty with their feet too; Ivanovic’s goal yesterday was a thumper that any striker would be proud to call his own, Luiz’s free-kick last week was nothing short of Drogbaesque, and Cahill now has three times as many goals outside the box as Ruud van Nistelrooy . With Fernando Torres still far from totally convincing (he scored a pretty header yesterday but missed a few gilt-edged chances), it’s comforting to see Chelsea pitch in for goals all across the team. It’s worth remarking, in fact, that the only one of Chelsea’s defenders who plays regularly that hasn’t bagged a goal is the captain himself.
Terry and Cole Unphased By Off-pitch Troubles
The Stamford Bridge faithful sang praises for the controversial centre-back and left-back duo throughout, showing that whilst Terry and Cole are reviled elsewhere (The Observer this morning ran a particularly scathing report, implying that Terry should never play football again and Cole is nothing but a filthy liar), there is more than enough love for them at the Bridge. At one point the crowd broke into a few choruses of the tongue-in-cheek “he tweets what he wants” celebrating Cole’s foul-mouthed FA-rant, and when John Terry’s name was announced at the start of the game it was met with the loudest cheer. Terry himself was culpable for the one goal Chelsea conceded, but the way he, and Cole launched themselves back into the game immediately embodies a gutsy, thick-skinned determination that has aided them get through all manner of off-pitch ugliness. For the next few weeks, they will need that grit, more than ever.
At one point the crowd broke into a few choruses of the tongue-in-cheek “he tweets what he wants” celebrating Cole’s foul-mouthed FA-rant, and when John Terry’s name was announced at the start of the game it was met with the loudest cheer.
The Evergreen Lampard Still Has Much To Offer
Frank Lampard is my favourite Chelsea player. The moment I knew this was watching him score the penalty against Liverpool in the Champions League a few days after his mother passed away. At that moment, it was the most redemptive, cathartic, heart-stopping moment, the ultimate triumph of life over death. To me, Frank Lampard is so much more than a footballer, and it is with huge sadness that I come to accept that this could well be his last season at Chelsea. Already far from a regular starter, Lampard was benched for three games in a row before starting in the Champions League in mid-week, where he managed a fabulous assist for the opener. Yesterday, he got himself on the scoresheet, in a classic Lampardesque goal where the power of his shot saw it sail through a see of Norwich bodies and past John Ruddy. He picked up a minor knock towards the end, but if he shakes it off, will captain England against San Marino on Friday. At 34, Frank Lampard is no longer the main attraction for Chelsea, but he seems to be doing rather well in this more supporting role.
Team Spirit Is Alive And Well
Maybe it’s a girl thing, but anyone who’s read even one of my pieces should by now know I’m a bit of a sucker for ~team unity~. Yesterday, Chelsea had it in spades. Mata leapt into Hazard’s open arms after he set up the Belgian’s goal. On Ivanovic scoring the fourth, he, Torres and Mata exchanged an embrace where, following the players’ respective heights and stature, it much looked like a family portrait of a dad, mum and son. The rapturous celebrations when Super Frankie Lampard scored his first non-penalty of the season was nothing short of beautiful. Obviously I watch football for the goals, the incisive passing, the tackles and the saves. But watching these grown men beam at each other whilst piling on the manlove? That’s a nice sideshow, too.
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