Right now my brain is reeling. I never thought that I would hear myself say “Michael Owen has made me feel better.” If he is the voice of reason, then the rest of the world must really have gone to sh*t. Bertie is perched across from me, looking out of the window to catch a look at the Four Horsemen. I blame Brexit. And Torres.
In the News: Another day, and yet more vague reports of clear the air meetings between Chelsea players. They’ve spent more time allegedly jawing about how sh*t we’ve been away from home than they have now actually spent training in the last fortnight.
Here is the gist of the endless Chelsea press coverage since Sunday:
Sarri is going to get fired
Sarri is going to stay
Sarri wears his own clothes to training, must be leaving
Hazard is leaving
Hazard is staying
Zidane is coming (must be certifiable)
Zidane is not coming
Hazard will only stay if Zidane is coming
Pulisic is confident we’ll have got our sh*t together before he arrives (I’m glad someone else thinks so)
All of which can be boiled down to one honest headline on the Press Plebs’ behalf:
“None of us know what the f*ck is going on at Chelsea.”
Ramsey will be on £400,000 a week in Italy. Have they been watching the right player? Or is this going to be like when the Americans thought that they were buying Tower Bridge for a lake in the middle of Arizona? Speaking of Welshmen abroad, let’s hope he assimilates better than Gareth Bale, who is allegedly still communicating with his teammates in Madrid by hand gestures. Because they don’t speak chimp. Marcelo, who was complaining about this, should at least be grateful that they’ve managed to wean him off from throwing faeces at his colleagues like he did at Sp*rs.
The Others: Everyone seems surprised that Sergio Ramos is a sneaky git. Where have they been for the last fifteen years? And poor Ole came down to earth with a bump in the warm-up competition. After admitting he was in fact human (and could do nothing about Alexis Sanchez, who has now injured himself by running into a linesmen) Pogba sent off as well as conceding two away goals. Arsenal lost in Belarus. To add insult to injury (or fake illness, if it’s Ozil) the referee sent off Lacazette too. If a Serbian thinks you’ve been overly violent you must really have given it some.
Them: There was a Dahlin, which allows for all sorts of Blackadder inspired jokes. And a Safari, which is novelty. Other than that there was a bloke who played about twice for West Brom and a former Greenock Morton star.
Us: We couldn’t even beat our youth team in training apparently, so here’s hoping for a miracle. Five changes. Alonso got a night off, as did Ruben who has slightly aggravated his back. Rudi, Eden, Kante and Higuain on the bench just in case and CHO is finally let out of the transfer request doghouse. Why did you make them? They asked. Rotation, he said. The club’s official twitter was trying to give it some oomph and inspire us all from the depths of Mancunian despair as we sought to claim our first away win of the year. Cant blame them for trying. Me? I’ve reduced my expectations drastically in the last few weeks. If we don’t concede four goals and aren’t sh*tter than a beep test contested by Phil Jagielka and Sam Allardyce, I will not cry myself to sleep. Frankly after Sunday I’ll be impressed if we can walk out for the handshake without falling over in a pile of bodies and soiling ourselves. If we can score a goal away from home I will be ecstatic.
They were on a break which hopefully meant that they had all been lying about scoffing cake and/or beer. Their first time in the knockout stages, but it did not bode well for us. They came out wearing sky blue – which made me twitch. Alonso wasn’t actually supposed to have the night off, but he caught sight of that and was found at the back of the coach sucking his thumb and rocking backwards and forwards, curled into a ball and muttering Sterling’s name under his breath.
In the opening three minutes we had already spent more time in the opposition half than the whole of the City game. By the time we reached 15 minutes the feisty home crowd were raging about the referee and lobbing missiles onto the pitch. Aside from one 50-50 where Luiz may have been penalised on the edge of the box though, the replays showed he was pretty bang on. They weren’t bad with the ball, but they looked like a team that hadn’t played a competitive fixture in a while. Uwe Rösler said he thought he’d seen things he could take advantage of. That doesn’t make him clever. We’ve been so bad of late at times that Stevie Wonder has seen things he can take advantage of when it comes to Chelsea. Happily though, Barkley fulfilled some of his potential tonight. He was in the right place at the right time. 0-1. Pedro Pony cross, defender should have blocked but fell over and it dropped to Ross right in front of goal for our first shot on target and his first European goal. Amen. They found themselves in our box shortly afterwards, but couldn’t fashion a shot. Kepa had had nothing to do so far, which must have made a refreshing change. They were pressing quite well though, and really by half time it had been a pretty even contest. So far we’d taken advantage of our one attempt on target, which came as a result of a defensive error, but I’ll f*cking take it.
A promising start to the second half. Actual coherent football. As usual we made nothing of it though and they came back at us. Then Barkely was at the centre of it all again to punish the home side for throwing everything forward. Up he went – three on three with Willian who picked it up on the left and put it into The Beard, who flicked it into the net. Two away goals. Dizzy heights indeed. “They’ve just got to keep a clean sheet now” says the commentator. Moron. Has he not seen us? But they were tiring with half an hour to go, not surprising since they have been on an end of season break since before Christmas and things don’t kick off again in Sweden till the end of March. Barkley should have made it three on 64. What a peasant. Sell him. (It was actually a fantastic save that denied him) A Pedro Pony shot deflected just wide on 68, then a quick free kick on 70 almost fell to The Beard. We really wanted a third, and so Eden was getting ready to come on and really rub their noses in it. Then Kante came on for Jorginho on 73. One more would have made us nice and comfortable, and able to rest players in the second leg a few days before the cup final. So what do we do? We f*cking concede. Christensen done. You really can’t complain about not being picked when you keep making errors when you do get a shot. And Kovacic was sitting in the holding role after Jorginho’s departure, not Kante. And he was second best getting back. Would Kante have been? No comment. Straight back up the other end for a corner to try and dig us out of another mess, CHO on for the final five minutes. We huffed and puffed but with no more joy. Is it just me, or did the announcer in the background sound like he was doing an even more racist impersonation of a Chinese person than Peter Ustinov in One of Our Dinosaurs is Missing? Their goal had given them renewed vigour and they dug in at the end. Curse them.
So:1-2 instead of 0-3. Our usual mantra: At least we’re not Arsenal. Our defensive integrity is as fragile as Lindsay Lohan’s virtue and a team that isn’t even fit almost pegged us back. But after Sunday this win is a bigger deal than it should be and my dreams of a tie in Istanbul this season remain intact, for now. That and as Michael Owen says – whilst you wouldn’t get carried away with us beating pre-season Malmo, you also shouldn’t get carried away with our demise when you consider we look favourites to go through into the last 16, we’re in the final of the League Cup, Fifth Round of the FA Cup, still in the hunt for top four. That’s a hell of a lot more potential for some sort of glory than most teams. Including Sp*rs.