Monday 14 August
Diego Costa has been fined two-weeks wages for failing to turn up for pre-season training as the club and play square off for another round of recrimination.
It is such a pity that we couldn’t have handled this situation better. Diego was such a huge personality and had such a profound impact on our last three campaigns. The offending text message is apparently still on Costa’s phone if anyone wants to see and it is clear that when it was sent Antonio Conte thought he had Lukaku sewn up and had direction and momentum in his summer business. What has happened since has been a huge let down for fans and manager.
Most summers in recent years we have been left wondering what Chelsea are playing at in the transfer market. Identified targets have been missed far more often than hit. Players of the standing of Juan Mata, Romelu Lukaku and Kevin De Bruyne have all been handed over for grubby little transfer fees.
The club have admirably met their financial fair play obligations but every time we have reached some stability and success the side has been allowed to drift or worse been weakened.
Michael Emenalo and Marina Granovskaia should be looking to justify themselves as another shambolic summer comes to an end.
The draw has been made for the new U18 cup. There will not be a merit group round of fixtures this season, the FA like to mess around with youth competition formats each summer to confuse participants and fans alike, so the new cup has group stages with teams playing either home or away.
We have been drawn in group B with Brighton, Newcastle and Blackburn.
The women’s pre-season fixtures have been confirmed as they swan off to Austria to play VfL Wolfsburg and Bayern München before a home game against Everton and then a trip to Portugal to play Sporting. The WSL does not start until September.
Tuesday 15 August
Plymouth Argyle 2:2 Chelsea U21
(Argyle won an extra point 5-4 on penalties)
Many fans of the professional clubs drawn to play an U21 side from the top two divisions poured scorn on the format of the Checkatrade Trophy but they underestimate the positive impact games like this can have for player development. The disappointing crowd of just under 4,000 suggests fans of lower league clubs still find these matches insulting. The Chelsea XI that took the field, however, included plenty of young faces in Luke McCormick, Cole Dasilva, Martell Taylor-Crossdale and Callum Hudson-Odoi among them, while the hosts average age was closer to 25.
Our youngsters more than held their own in the first half, pressing high up the field and creating chances.
The goals both came from Callum Hudson-Odoi in the second. A defender’s slip allowed him through on goal just after the hour and his composure saw an assured finish. He doubled our advantage from a free-kick a few minutes after skying an open goal chance.
The late goals we conceded will be almost as important to the development of the team as the good play we showed to take the lead.
The competition demands a penalty shootout to determine an extra point after a draw and we lost 5-4 with one effort hitting the base of a post.
Thursday 17 August
It has emerged that Eni Aluko is no longer an England player because she made a complaint of bullying against manager Mark Sampson. A specific allegation, that he assumed a mixed-race England player would have been in trouble with the police because she was black and from London, has apparently been disproved but Aluko has not been picked by Sampson since the wider allegations were made. Aluko was paid £80,000 in hush money to make the problem go away ahead of this summer’s Euros.
It seems the FA are happy to put up with aggressive intimidation from its staff as long as the bullying is applied to all races equally.
We have long thought Sampson overrated, tactically inept and getting the least from a talented group of players. It now appears that he is also an emotionally insecure, petty tyrant and he should be sacked for inappropriate behaviour.
Friday 18 August
Chelsea U23 2:0 Derby County U23
A productive night under lights at the Bridge as Reece James and Luke McCormick supplied the goals for our first win of the season. Fresh from the 2-2 draw with Plymouth the U23s lined up in a 3-4-3 – perhaps the gaffer was watching – with Dujon Sterling and Cole Dasilva as the wing-backs.
It was a struggle in the first-half for clear cut chances and after our opener on the hour Derby, with thee over-age players, pressed us right to the death as our defending became more and more last ditch until we snatched a second on the break.
This was another really good test for our youngsters.
Saturday 19 August
Chelsea U18 1:0 Reading U18
When Juan Castillo curled an effort into the top corner of the net early on everyone rubbed their hands with glee expecting a goal fest… but somehow the ball wouldn’t go in either end for the rest of the match and 1-0 it stayed.
Sunday 20 August
Tottenham Hotspur 1:2 Chelsea
Spurs are on their way to Wembley… stop sniggering… this match was perfect for Chelsea, after all the summer’s recriminations and the shambolic opening day performance this match suddenly brought the fighting spirit and determination back to the squad. Pre-match headlines had Morata starting up front and David Luiz playing in midfield. But the match was expected to be a comfortable home win as Chelsea had so many injured, under prepared, or suspended. To that end we saw a first start too for Tiemoue Bakayoko and an unfamiliar defence with Andreas Christensen and Antonio Rüdiger starting alongside Cesar Azpilicueta.
The early signs were promising as Spurs probed but lacked penetration and we fizzed in an early cross that Morata headed wide. The miss was not too costly as we took the lead after twenty-odd minutes when Luiz was tripped on the edge of the box and Marcos Alonso curled an effort over the wall into the top corner. 0-1
Spurs had a brief spell of possession thereafter but could do little better than hit a post.
Those watching for tackles worse than the one that cost Gary Cahill last week were treated to one in each half as Eric Dier sliced through Luiz with his studs up and only earned a yellow… handy that, as yellow card incidents cannot be reviewed by the FA… then Vertonghen scythed down Victor Moses in the second.
Spurs mounted a spirited but unimaginative second-half fight back but only created one clear chance that Michy Batshuayi headed into his own net. He did have to make contact because the Spurs player behind him would have had the goal if he didn’t but up and out Michy, not down and in. 1-1
It didn’t matter in the end as Kante’s through ball to Batshuayi is intercepted but Hugo Lloris’s quick throw is retrieved by David Luiz who feeds Pedro who slides the ball through to Marco Alonso who batters in past Lloris at his near post. Usually Chelsea celebrations at Wembley involve half the stadium but today the 3,000 travelling fans managed to blow the roof off all the same. 1-2
After a humbling defeat Tottenham can, perhaps, reflect on the decision to pipe drumming through the PA system instead of allowing their fans to create the atmosphere.