Wednesday 2 November
Chelsea 2:1 Dinamo Zagreb
We looked at sea for the first quarter of an hour, down to a soft goal and playing at least one gear below the visitors, we had Raheem Sterling to thank for picking up a ball and delaying his shot until he had the space to score. It was remarkably calm for a player short of goals and a real sign of class.
Denis Zakaria started his first and looked to be working harder than his colleagues and as we settled started to look a really good acquisition on loan from Juve.
His goal was just a thump after the ball fell to him on the edge of the box. Mobbed by teammates he is clearly very popular.
After the break we started with a bit more swagger as Aubameyang crashed one off the bar and we started making more chances. The trouble was we couldn’t finish them. Mount had a freekick well saved, Conor Gallagher smashed one point blank that was somehow saved.
And then Ben Chilwell pulled up at the end with a hamstring pull days before the World Cup.
It wasn’t exactly a tactical masterclass as we looked very open out of possession against a Dinamo who haven’t won away in Europe since the last century.
Noisy buggers. Sang constantly, we’ll wake in the small hours with that thumping drum still pounding in our ears. Not a night for ”sing when you’re winning, you only…”
Ben Chilwell limped out with a hamstring. It looked bad. Not as bad as the ruptured cruciate that kept him out for the second half of last season.
Last season we hit the buffers when Reece James and Ben Chilwell were both sidelined with injury. Given the recruitment of this summer we didn’t strengthen the defence enough. Cucurella came in but had been playing at centre-back and having lost Alonso was barely adequate cover as it was.

Chelsea U19 4:0 Dinamo Zagreb U19
Leo Castledine scored a first half freekick as we competed better and defender better than we have so far in this year’s Uefa youth League.
A flowing move saw Louis Flower tap in the second. Harrison Murray-Campbell got the third and Frankie Runham grabbed the fourth. The wind was so strong it was difficult to judge the performance in a dad rubber.
Josh Acheampong was again impressive in a squad that is, in some cases, way younger than the U19 would suggest.

Jessie Fleming signed a new deal that keeps her a Blue until 2025. The Canadian Olympic gold medallist has been the quiet engine room of the team for the last two years with eight goals in 69 appearances.

Saturday 5 November
Derby County U18 1:3 Chelsea U18
We bow out of the U18 league cup with a win, finish second in the group and do not progress.
Two goals from Tudor Mendel-Idowu either side of another from Donal McNeilly means we get at least a confidence boosting win.

Sunday 6 November
Chelsea 0:1 Arsenal
This was as close to a 1-0 thrashing as you can get. The gulf between the sides was embarrassing.
Potter has managed two points out of the last 12. This pathetic performance just adds to the impression that the man hasn’t a grasp of the squad or any workable tactics.
We have been used to awful performances against Arsenal side in recent years but this flop didn’t merit the term.
At least we didn’t get torn to shreds but avoiding the kind of humiliation we suffered last week is hardly good news.
We created nothing of any worth and while the Boehly shambles in the summer, recruiting a hodgepodge of players and paying over the odds for all of them, is partially to blame Potter has shown himself supremely unable to get anything out of the players he has.
There is no attacking shape or imagination, no clear midfield structure and nothing approaching defensive solidity.
Arsenal controlled this match from start to finish Potter’s side surrendered possession tamely. The press was so much easier from the visitors because we were playing with two strikers. It was comical.
We stumble from one shit performance to the next. Potter afterwards said we were in “a different phase” to Arsenal… which is bollocks. We are 13 games into the season, exactly as they are and we have a gormless manager who inspires no trust. Asked why his players didn’t seem to know what they were supposed to be doing Potter looked blankly back at the questioner, he has nothing to say for himself. No explanation of why his team bombs week after week. He is dragging us backwards. We are 13 points behind Arsenal.
Finishing seventh or eighth is all Potter seems capable of. Getting rid of him now is, perhaps the wisest move. The feeling is that if he is still in place after the World Cup we will do well to struggle get into the Europa Conference.

Manchester United 1:3 Chelsea
We ended United’s perfect start to the season, the three we scored were the first they’d conceded and we made them look ordinary in the second half.
The first half was even and a little flat but their mistakes made it quite easy for Beth England to intercept and feed Sam Kerr, she stepped away from her tackler and find the net.
Lauren James made it two with a flashed shot into the corner .After a slip of our own made it 1-2, Erin Cuthbert added a third and cemented our dominance.
Arsenal had a comfortable away win over Leicester and have a game in hand over us as we sit joint top of the league.

Monday 7 November
Chelsea U21 3:0 Tottenham Hotspur U21
Jude Soonsup-Bell broke the deadlock from narrow angle, Charlie Webster stretched the lead and Malik Mothersille put the cap on thing on the break. Spurs put all their efforts wide.
It means we are within the group massed round the top of the table as we break for Christmas.

The Uefa draw this morning paired us with Borussia Dortmund. It will be an interesting tie. The Germans have been up and down and have the scintillating Jude Bellingham. At least a trip to Westfalenstadion might inspire Todd if he stands on Die Gelbe Wand – the yellow wall.
We could fit one in if we pulled down the hotel.
In other ties, Liverpool will play Real Madrid, again already, Manchester City got a bye with RB Leipzig and Tottenham will play AC Milan.

Wednesday 9 November
Manchester City 2:0 Chelsea
Lewis Hall will never forget the night and deserved his place.
It seems both teams played a B side and it showed in early skirmishing. City dominated the ball at the start but it was Christian Pulisic who planted the first real chance into their ’keeper’s midriff.
The half was really open as both sides pressed forward. Lewis Hall had a great chance to opening the scoring as he collected Pulisic’s pass and had the presence of mind to step inside his tackler and then passed it to the ’keeper. He held his head in despair as his inner commentator filled in the narrative.
We had clearly set up for the small break as the three furthest forward would go leaving enough back to smother City’s breaks. It worked well enough in an entertaining first half.
Of course they scored twice within a few minutes before the hour. Koulibaly didn’t jump at the end of the wall as Mahrez’s freekick flew just over his head and Mendy could only palm a shot across the box for Alvarez to tap in the rebound, Lewis Hall had another shot turned round the post but we didn’t really threaten.
The only bright spot of the night was our inability to stop City’s attacks meant Edouard Mendy could show what a good goalkeeper he is.
Arsenal, Tottenham and West Ham all also got knocked out tonight leaving Charlton Athletic as London’s only representative.
Getting knocked out of the cup nobody really cares about, with a scratch side is one thing, Potter will dread a bad performance at Newcastle at the weekend.

Thursday 10 November
Raheem Sterling, Mason Mount and Conor Gallagher are going to the World Cup. Gareth Southgate said he had spent the last few days on the phone to the players who miss out and that Reece James wouldn’t be available until the latter stages and dropping a player, back from injury, into a quarter final might be a mistake.
Conor’s placed is deserved even if it was helped by Steve Holland whispering in the manager ear.
Don’t get carried away by our chances. Marcus Rashford is going because he plays for Manchester United and Ivan Tony is a Brentford employee. Harry Maguire is going while Guehi and Fik stay at home.

Friday 11 November
The Papa Paints Freight Trophy draw throws up Peterborough United. The tie is nominally a home tie but they’ll probably not brush the cobwebs off the Bridge for the Posh.
We lost 1-3 to them back in 2019 with Billy Gilmour, Mason Mount and Tino Anjorin in the side. Doesn’t that feel like a long time ago?

Saturday 12 November
Newcastle United 1:0 Chelsea
Chelsea showed great fighting spirit and the temperament for battle, only it came after the final whistle. A pushing and shoving contest will bring a failing to control charge.
Graham Potter cannot help changing the side around but you have to wonder what he thinks he is doing. Sterling was missing through illness, we were told, but Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang sat and watched from the bench.
Chelsea looked like they were a selection of spare parts and injury to Ruben Loftus-Cheek meant Conor Gallagher playing at right wing-back.
We would like to talk about the bright cameo from Christian Pulisic or the commendable and capable league debut for Lewis Hall who looked the part of Premier League player.
But the calls for Potter’s head are getting louder. He had few supporters on social media afterwards and it is difficult to disagree. We are 16-points behind Arsenal having won only two from the last 15 on offer. We have barely had a shot on target, haven’t created chances and have started with a different version of a back three or back four in each of those five games. Losing three in a row at Brighton might have been ok but we have slumped from challenging for the top four to eighth in no time at all. Any challenge for the title is gone and we look a long way second best to Newcastle.

It is difficulty to hold Graham Potter’s feet to this fire on his own. Todd Boehly must shoulder much of the blame, for his decision to appoint Potter but also for the way the club has been run since the consortium he heads took over.

Boehly sacked a great coach, a coach who won the European Cup for this club, kept us going through sanctions and injuries, very nearly beat Real Madrid despite all that, and replaced him with a scout master. Sacked a genius and hired a …

Todd promised a lot when he was appointed but hasn’t delivered on anything.

Todd’s real problem is that he read a book called Moneyball: the art of winning an unfair game by Michael Lewis. The book is about how the Oakland As manged to win baseball games by recruiting players who had been underestimated and undervalued.

We’ll be charitable and say that Todd has read Lewis’ book and not just watched the Brad Pitt movie. Brentford and Watford have both had a degree of success by trying to emulate the statistics-based approach although both have not taken a literal path from the baseball story. Football simply is not the same. Boehly seems to think it is.

During the sanctions imposed on Roman Abramovich in the spring we knew that Antonio Rüdiger, Andreas Christensen, Marcos Alonso and possibly more would be leaving. That was destabilising for the squad and the club. The heart of the defence walked away without a transfer fee. So, the summer was going to be expensive and difficult.

Thomas Tuchel was expecting recruits, already identified, to arrive quite quickly in the summer. Instead, Todd Boehly sacked anyone involved in scouting, recruiting or negotiating football contracts. Not only the bigger, more obvious faces of the Abramovich regime, Bruce Buck and Maria Granovskaia, but player contacts like Petr Cech and the head of scouting Scott McLachlan left. Todd took on the task of summer transfer dealing himself.

We turned up to pre-season training in the United States with no new players. When we met Arsenal, 24th July in Orlando, their summer recruiting was all done and their new striker had already rattled in four, we had Koulibaly off the aeroplane and straight onto the pitch.

Raheem Sterling did arrive but as another winger or lightweight inside-forward, not the final piece in the jigsaw – he joined Man City – but as another lightweight inside-forward. We have players who can perform in that role and so in terms of squad development Sterling was a strange choice. Mason Mount, Christian Pulisic, the underrated Hakim Ziyech and Kai Havertz all already fulfil that function in the side.

Tuchel was clearly frustrated that Todd was jetting around linking Chelsea to Ronaldo and letting a deal for Jules Koundé ,that was already agreed, lapse so Barcelona snapped up the promising young Frenchman for less than €50m. We stumbled through summer weeks and paid €80m for Wesley Fofana at the last minute.

Kalidou Koulibaly is another weird choice that doesn’t take the squad forward. Losing Rüdiger, Christensen and Alonso from a backline, already short of numbers, meant we needed new defenders. Koulibaly is a distinguished player but there is a reason clubs were not beating a path to Napoli’s door he is over 30 and we paid €38m. Whatever you think of him as a player, few serious defences in Europe’s elite are built around two 30-year-olds.

Injuries to Reece James and Ben Chilwell last season exposed our lack of wide defensive options and Cucurella can’t cover both positions on his own. Especially as at €65m he arrive for nearly twice what he was worth.

We spent a record amount, £228.4m, on squad makeweights and panic buys. We paid at least 30% more on the transfer business we managed to do than the market demanded. It might still have been difficult for Maria Granovskaia to have cut deals this summer because the market knew we had new money coming in and three defenders leaving on a free. It does seem clear that Todd, wined and dined in Barcelona, didn’t really know what he was doing.

The striker we hired is a case in point. Aubameyang was only €12m but was widely seen as disruptive and unprofessional. Arsenal dumped him on a free and Barcelona were happy to let him go after half a season. The logic of buying a risky player was his personal relationship with Thomas Tuchel. The two had worked together at Dortmund where the Gabon striker scored 79 goals in 85 appearances. Tuchel said “Some players stay your players because you were very, very close. And Auba is one of those players … there was always straight away this close bond.”

It was clear we were taking a punt on a 33-year-old striker because he was a friend of our coach and probably only Tuchel could get the best out of him.

That relationship was given one game.

Sacking Thomas Tuchel was, on the face of it, an irrational and premature decision. When he first arrived, the German was handed something of a poisoned chalice replacing club-legend Frank Lampard. He did so with intelligence and grace. Leading a threadbare Chelsea squad to the European Cup and successive top four finishes.

Beyond that he held the club together throughout sanctions, injuries, covid absences and the messy takeover process. Few managers could have done that and still put a competitive side on the park – let alone reach three domestic finals and scoop our first Club World Cup. We, as fans, suffered through the period but the stress of all those problems, that process, falling on Tuchel’s shoulders and everything that happened behind the scenes means this club owes Thomas Tuchel a huge debt.

But Todd had thought it out. Todd had a plan. Todd has been feeling like a man in the background as the Dodgers were revived, now he wanted to have his own plaything

In Roman Abramovich we had an owner who said little or nothing in public for 19-years. Todd opened up straight away.

“When you take over any business you just have to make sure you are aligned with the people who are operating the business. And I think Tuchel is obviously extremely talented and someone who had great success at Chelsea. Um, our vision for the club was finding a manger who really wanted to collaborate with us.”

He went on to say there are lots of walls to tear down at Chelsea, suggesting that the first-team and academy didn’t share data, “they didn’t share information about where the top players were coming from.”

Which doesn’t make a lot of sense at a club where not only the players blooded by Lampard kicked-on under Tuchel but were joined by Chalobah and Gallagher.

Todd was speaking to an asset management conference so you can forgive him for sounding like he doesn’t know what he is talking about. Empty management speak works at those events but it isn’t a coherent plan for running a football club.

To put it another way, what he is saying is bollocks.

First of all, this is not a business. Football clubs turnover relatively small amounts of money. More than they ever have in the past and they have potential for growth but no business ploughs all of its profit, and more, into transfers, agents fees and into astronomical salaries for irresponsible young men. But that is how football clubs work.

A football coach is not operating a business. He is not a partner who shares an aligned vision for collaboration. He is the man who can win you more football matches. He is the one demanding more in player recruitment and wages and insisting the club runs for the benefit of his first-team. That is his job. If you’ve mistaken him for someone who wants to grow the brand, or have team-building sessions you’ve spent £4.25bn on the wrong business.

Amid all else the medical chief Paco Biosca also left. It struck the football-world as faintly absurd when Wesley Fofana, his transfer having taken so long, was flown to the USA for a medical. We had very experienced staff at Cobham perfectly able to carry out the task. Biosca had been with Chelsea for 11 years, taken the squad through two Champions League triumphs. But he too was surplus to requirements.

It is destabilising for the squad to lose familiar faces from around the club. They are professionals but too many going out the door in a short space make you wonder what the club stands for and if loyalty is important.

The psychology of the group can deteriorate quickly. Chelsea’s players also lived through the stresses of covid, sanctions and the uncertainties of the last year. What they feel when their player liaison, respected coach and trusted doctor are sacked in quick succession is likely to be negative.

Roman Abramovich made mistakes too, sacked managers we thought should stay – Mourinho, first time, Carlo Ancelotti and Conte – and hired managers without the necessary charisma or qualifications – Avram Grant or too inexperienced in English football like Phil Scolari and André Villas-Boas. But throughout we maintained momentum, we kept important players and developed the squad. And we won things, often.

Graham Potter has been hired, not because he has any experience managing a successful football club. He hasn’t won anything apart from the Swedish cup. Potter has been hired because he has been moderately successful in taking relatively unknown players and coaching them to a higher level. It seems slightly absurd that part of his reputation rests on the profit Brighton made selling Marc Cucurella to Chelsea.

Todd’s Moneyball approach is premised on bringing in players who can be improved and moved on for a profit. It seems absurd to say out loud but Todd has taken an asset he paid over £4bn for, a club winning and challenging in the Champions League and seems intent on reducing it to a business model premised on Norwich and Watford’s recent success in staying in the Premier League or bouncing back when relegated.

Statistical approaches to football have failed in the past. Charles Reep and Charles Hughes had a baleful effect on English football as their statistically illogical system, that more goals come from moves of three passes or fewer, led to stagnation and hoofing it into the channels.

The statistical spell was so strong the FA allowed Howard Wilkinson to base their training manuals on it for decades. We still haven’t won anything at international level since the 1960s because of their illogical and statistically flawed systems.

Thankfully the influence of foreign managers in domestic football cured our game, gradually of route-one. Moneyball is likely to be just another statistical dead-end. It is all ‘pressing-axis’ and ‘passes per defensive action’, ‘field-tilt changes’, ‘maintaining control and maximising the opportunity to create chances’, ‘pressure metrics’. You get the drift, players don’t go on runs, they ‘progress the ball’.

Rinus Michels, Valeriy Lobanovskiy, Marcelo Bielsa, John Neal, wouldn’t have given it the time of day. It isn’t about football but it is something accountants can measure. And accountants attend hedge fund gatherings and talk about collaborating and managing a business. It ends in mediocracy.

Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp do not run their clubs by the Moneyball principles, nor do Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Juventus or any other successful European club. You simply cannot run a major football team that way.

What can we do to fix this mess? Plenty of pundits agreed with Chris Waddle who watched the tame surrender at St James Park: “Whether he clears four or five out in January, whether they go on loan and he gets three or four in and gets [them] playing the way he wants … I like Graham Potter, but what system is he trying to play at Chelsea? It seems to me it changes every 20 minutes. At the minute everything he is experimenting with is not working.”

Getting three or four in used to be an option but we overspent by 30% and more above the market rate in the summer and can have very little in the bank with Uefa already adding us to the financial fair play watch-list.

Those hoping for reinforcements in January should also remember that Graham Potter is used to fishing in the smaller pools. We had been linked to a blizzard of names for a new technical director in the past few months before Laurence Stewart was appointed. He might hit the ground running but, sadly, the first words out of his mouth were about developing player pathways. Todd said “Laurence is a world-class football leader who understands talent management, data and scouting, player development and performance”. Which sounds suspiciously like Moneyball to us.

Todd Boehly has let us down in other ways too. His consortium came in promising fan representatives on the board. But so far nothing. The Conservative Party have gone through the selection process for two prime ministers in the time Boehly’s group has spent not appointing fans representatives.

Nothing on stadium redevelopment either – expect an architect to lead the consortium by the nose to an expensive Spurs-dome clone, with a nice shiny new model. Rather than developing a football stadium. Possibly by pulling down the hotel and building a huge terrace.

Not all American owners are as short-sighted and greedy as the Glazers at Manchester United. The Fenway Sports Group at Liverpool hired a German coach and have stuck by him through thick and thin. We have led a privileged life watching Roman Abramovich’s Chelsea bring trophy after trophy to west London. With nation states now buying up clubs perhaps our time has passed and we will have to learn to live in the second tier alongside Aston Villa and Everton. It not a bad life.

Monday 14 November
The home tie against Peterborough United will be played at their Weston Homes stadium (London Road in old money). We exercised the option of holding the tie away to avoid using Stamford Bridge. The match is next Tuesday 22 November.

Tuesday 15 November
Paul Winstanley joins the club as director of global talent and transfers. Previously at Brighton Paul comes in on the coattails of Graham Potter but is highly regarded.

Wednesday 16 November
Gary Cahill hangs up his boots today at the age of 36. Two leagues, two FA Cups, a European Cup and 61 England caps is not a bad haul for a player who was undervalued and underestimated throughout his career. We wish him well.

Friday 18 November
Emma Hayes has recovered sufficiently to be back on the Chelsea bench as we welcome Spurs on Sunday at the Bridge. She said she would probably need the rest of this year to get over her operation fully but said that the direct line of communication from the dugout to her sofa had only failed during the second half of the Manchester United match. Praising Denis Ready and Paul Green for their work in her absence she said it was good to be back at work.

Emma’s real message was about the scandal of underinvestment in gynaecological services on the NHS. Emma has private insurance but was scathing about provision more widely.

“I think it’s unacceptable to wait for prolonged periods to see a gynaecologist in this country on the NHS. And I have to say this: if these conditions were suffered by a man, there would be zero chance you would be waiting for a prolonged period.”
Emma has long shown her willingness to use her position to speak out about injustice and would make a fine politician when she is finished with football.
“What I realised in all of this period is that my privilege took my pain away, I have health insurance, but my pain and suffering was no different to anybody else’s and what I realised was, whether it be my 18-year-old niece who suffers from ‘period problems’ to younger women who struggle with endometriosis or polycystic ovaries, is that half a million women are sat on a waiting list for a prolonged period to see a gynaecologist in this country, which is simply horrendous. It’s a political choice not to invest in women’s health and being in the position I am, I have to highlight that.”

The draw for the third round of the FA youth cup paired us with either Chester or Bradford City who play at the Deva Stadium next Wednesday. Our tie with the winners will take place during the week

Two days before their filthy world cup Qatar banned alcohol sales in the stadiums. Piss-in-a-glass Budweiser was the only available brew so many will not miss the experience. Fifa has been running round trying to placate sponsors but organisers are clearly exercising. Their power over Fifa.
They have at least promised to stop arresting journalists for filming in public. Not that Qatari promises mean very much.
They have also pulled some of the payments made to fans who were being subsidised to attend. Fearful of empty stadiums the Qatari government promised to pay for flights and subsidise accommodation and meals for fans throughout the five weeks. In exchange fans were to say positive things about Qatar on social media. Only they have reneged on that promise too. Positive social media post are going to be fewer as each fan gets hungry without their food allowance. Expect tetchy after lunch on the first day.
It is no wonder that LGBTQ+ fans are staying away. Promised that they would not be subject to the backward homophobic laws of this absolute monarchy, Qatar has shown itself to be incapable of honest action or understanding why the world loathes them.

Saturday 19 November
Tottenham Hotspur U18 1:2 Chelsea U18
Michael Golding curled in a sumptuous opening goal but the best was Josh Acheampong’s left-foot thump which secured the points. This wasn’t and easy or straightforward match as Spurs gave almost as good as they got but it is back-to-back wins and a chance to go second in the table.

Gianni Infantino had a public meltdown in the face of criticisms of Qatari human rights abuses. He started what was supposed to be a Q&A with the world’s press with an hour-long nervous breakdown/filibuster saying “Today I have strong feelings. Today I feel Qatari, I feel Arab, I feel African, I feel gay, I feel disabled, I feel a migrant worker.” Which must have been difficult for the multimillionaire, white-European to say. He did say that he was bullied at school for having red hair but didn’t explain the equivalence with the LGBTQ+ community who face arrest, imprisonment, torture and even death at the hands of Qatari police.

He was right to say that Europeans have plenty to apologise for but he was a little out on his timeline saying “I think for what we Europeans have been doing the last 3,000 years we should be apologising.” Don’t know what you were doing Tuesday 19 November 978BC, we hope it wasn’t reprehensible.

Sunday 20 November
Chelsea 3:0 Tottenham Hotspur
Emma was back in. the dugout and we dominated Spurs. All the goals came in the first half as Sam Kerr broke onto a long pass from Millie Bright, Erin Cuthbert was free at the back stick to volley home and Guro Reiten stroked home a penalty after the powerful Lauren James was clipped.
Spurs looked light weight by comparison. They threatened occasionally and added a few hefty tackles for good measure. Their best player by far was Drew Spence. It is something of the love and respect Drew is held in here that the whole squad, including Emma Hayes, gave her a hug after the final-whistle.
The second half was tighter as we looked to be in second gear. Bright lashed a volley against the crossbar to entertain the 38,350 who turned up on the day.
Emma said afterwards that her table-topping team would like to play at the Bridge more often and that the women’s game was outgrowing the small stadiums but not quite ready yet to fill the bog ones.

Qatar 0:2 Ecuador
In brewery-piss-up news: the Qatari police spent the first half of this match dragging people out of the fan park with batons. The park had almost double its capacity because few hotels or bars had paid the £23,000 BeIN subscription to show the tournament. The fan park is then one of the few places football is on screen during this world cup. Piss-ups and breweries would spring to mind if alcohol was allowed anywhere outside the, yes, you guessed, fan park.
Weirdly for all those who travelled to Qatar to watch the world cup the only place you cannot see the world cup is in Qatar.
Enner Valencia scored both of Ecuador’s goals as the host looked like the minnows they are.

Monday 21 November
England 6:2 Iran
A significant result for Gareth Southgate and reward for allowing his side to play attacking football.
Jude Bellingham added the opening goal to a dominant midfield performance. Saka scored two, Raheem Sterling was the first Chelsea boy to score at these finals and Marcus Rashford and Jack Grealish score the others.
Iran replied through Mehdi Taremi just after the hour walking in behind Harry Maguire. They were awarded a joke VAR penalty at the death. The joke was that it was awarded for shirt pulling when Harry Maguire had been wrestled to the ground with the score still at 0-0.

In brewery-piss-up news: hundreds of fans were locked out of the kick off as ticketing apps failed. Fans arrived hours early but tickets disappeared from their apps leaving fans accessing email accounts for receipts for the original purchase.

The moral victory was clearly with Iran as their players refused to sing their national anthem before the match. Their captain, Ehsan Hajsafi, spoke ahead of the game about the situation in his country following crackdowns and demonstrations. He said the squad supported the victims of the state security and police. “We have to accept that the conditions in our country are not right and our people are not happy,” he said. 400 people are estimated to have died since Mahsa Amini’s death in custody having been arrested for not wearing a headscarf. Nearly 17,000 have been arrested including prominent actors and musicians. The Iranian government has said the protests are orchestrated by its foreign enemies.
“Before anything else, I would like to express my condolences to all of the bereaved families in Iran” Hajsafi said “They should know that we are with them, we support them and we sympathise with them”.

Gurning the crowd was David Beckham who shamefully has not pulled out of his role as an ambassador for the tournament. Joe Lycett went through with shredding £10,000 and, symbolically, Beckham’s reputation as a gay icon last night as the tournament started.

Fifa further disgraced themselves by threatening bookings for any captain wearing the rainbow armbands. The sanctions were announced late and all the teams planning to make their support for the discrimination clear pulled out. The FA were prepared to put up with fines but not having their players suspended for the knockout stages.
Nobody really knew what the One Love band was supposed to support. The colours had nothing to do with a rainbow (red, black, green, pink, yellow and blue appeared on many lockdown NHS pictures but not in the sky) or any existing LGBTQ+ campaign.
The stated intention of the band was to “promote inclusion and send a message against discrimination of any kind” which is nice but not really specific to anti-racism, sexism, homophobia, worker rights or anything else. Perhaps it was so broadly based Fifa worried it might represent all opposition to Qatar and staging a tournament in a backward, slave-owning, monarchist shithole.
What is really terrifying about this move is the power Qatar clearly have over Fifa. Forced to move the first game to Sunday, ban alcohol sales at the last minute, ban the One Love band… Fifa have caved in to every deluded order issued by the Qatari state.

Senegal 0:2 Netherlands
Both Kalidou Koulibaly and Edouard Mendy started this one and as usual we fell asleep only to be woken by ITV commentators blaming Mendy for both goals. It was a little harsh as he was beaten to the flight for the first and saved well, only the shot he saved wasn’t going in and the rebound fell to an orange boot.

USA 1:1 Wales
Welsh fans with rainbow bucket hats had the confiscated on entry to the stadium. If the Qatari authorities wanted to stifle the issue every action they take just highlights the intolerance of their system of government.

Timothy Weah, the son of Liberia’s president and ex-Chelsea striker George, put the USA ahead with a well taken goal as Wales failed to turn up in the first half.
Second half changes and a Gareth Bale penalty saw parity.
Wales face Iran next while the USA will play England on Friday.

Pernille Harder required surgery on the hamstring she did on international duty and will be missing for ‘a significant period’. It is a blow but the form the women have been showing and the return of Emma Hayes means we are in good shape.

Tuesday 22 November
Peterborough United 2:4 Chelsea
Meanwhile in the real world – Chelsea put the Posh to the sword. Malik Mothersille opened to scoring on the break. Cesare Casadei then hit the top corner from fully 30-yards. Even the home fans applauded.
They had one back before the break before Mothersille restored our cushion.
Things got nervous after Jack Taylor, former schoolboy at Cobham, pulled another back but Ben Elliot let the ball run across him and planted it into the top corner.
This is a significant won against a side that dominated Spurs U21 in the group stages. The draw for the last 16 is on Thursday evening. The competition remains regional so we will face either Cheltenham, Milton Keynes, Plymouth, Stevenage, Wimbledon, Portsmouth, and Colchester or Bristol Rovers. Beating any of them really would be a statement but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Argentina 1:2 Saudi Arabia
ITV got its elastic twisted around this one but Argentina have been relying on aging players for a while now, while the Saudi team have been throwing money at the problem. The two were bound to meet in the middle.

Mexico 0:0 Poland
Denmark 0:0 Tunisia
Neatly summed up with the only ‘goals’ being ruled out for offside.

France 4:1 Australia
The Dingokickers, or whatever, thought they had a chance as they took the lead but France buried them with slick passing and some great finishing. Olivier Giroud failed to score in Russia but still came home with a winners medal so it might have jinxed French chances when he stuck away the second and fourth.

Ronaldo has been sacked by mutual consent from Manchester United on the same day the Glazers announced the club, a family cash-cow since 2005, is for sale.
Depressingly Chelsea are still being linked to Ronaldo. Thomas Tuchel said a firm no to the Portuguese cry-baby in the summer. It will be a test of Graham Potter’s leadership to see if he also rejects a player who beat rape allegations on a technicality only last summer.

Wednesday 23 November
Chelsea 2:0 Real Madrid
Emma will be delighted. This was a stern test and we didn’t really allow them a sniff. Real were better than any team we’ve played here in a long time, their pressing was difficult to overcome but our defensive work and shape were nearly perfect.
The first half was really tight but we broke the deadlock on the hour when Sophie Ingle headed in a corner after Millie Bright flicked on. Erin Cuthbert didn’t look at all embarrassed when her driven cross arced into the far corner.
PSG thrashed Vllaznia in the other match leaving us on nine pointe and PSG and Real on four each. A result against Real next week in Spain would see us through.

Germany 1:2 Japan
The German players held their hands over their mouths in a clear indication that they had been silenced by Fifa and then collapsed to two late goals on the break.
Bottom of their group in Russia Germany, who started with Kai Havertz as a false 9, face Spain next.

Morocco 0:0 Croatia
Ziyech and Kovačić slugged out a defensive draw. Runners up last time Croatia have made many changes but lacked a finisher to complement their possession.

Spain 7:0 Costa Rica
Cesar Azpilicueta and Spain did their best to keep up the goal average by burying Costa Rica. Old boy Alvaro Morata made it onto the pitch to score the last.

Belgium 1:0 Canada
The Chelsea old-boy side were caught by Canada’s determination and pace. The Canucks won and missed an early penalty and Belgium grew increasingly irritated by their inability to keep possession or their shape.
Kevin de Bruyne was awful throughout, overhit and misdirected passes. The sole reason Belgium struggled over this hurdle was that they finished one of the few chances they made while Canada thrashed everything wide.

Away from the pitch and Wales bedecked their training ground in rainbow flags, while the DFB are taking Fifa to court over the One Love armband. German players wore rainbow patterns on their boots and issued a very strongly worded statement: “It wasn’t about making a political statement – human rights are non-negotiable – that should be taken for granted, but it still isn’t the case. That’s why this message is so important to us. Denying us the armband is the same as denying us a voice. We stand by our position.”
If Qatar thought this issue would go away they will be disappointed. Bullying and bigotry get under the skin of Europeans are we will not let it drop.

Thursday 24 November
Cheltenham Town away in the draw for the Papa John’s trophy. The tie is to be played the week starting December 12th. The Robins are in League One at the moment and drew 0-0 with a Chelsea side last season in the group before winning the shootout 5-4.

We will be playing a friendly in Abu Dhabi against Aston Villa on Sunday 11 December. We are apparently taking warm-weather training in the despotic police state.
Having learned nothing from the current world cup and human rights abuses Chelsea should not be sportswashing abusive shit holes like Abu Dhabi. Tickets are on sale but don’t bother going if you are a woman, gay or an unbeliever – blasphemy gets you a death sentence.

Switzerland 1:0 Cameroon
Uruguay 0:0 South Korea
Portugal 3:2 Ghana
Ronaldo cheapened the world cup, as if it wasn’t devalued enough, by diving for a penalty. VAR did not intervene despite no contact and a theatrical dive. The cheating marred an otherwise entertaining second half.
Brazil 2:0 Serbia

Iran’s squad are under enormous pressure. After pointedly not singing the anthem before they played England, a prominent footballer, Voria Ghafouri, was arrested today for spreading propaganda against the Islamic republic. The arrest of the former international after training for Foolad Khuzestan is a clear warning to the national team who play Wales tomorrow.
Ghafouri has been a vocal critic of the regime’s treatment of it Kurdish minority and had visited victims of the crackdown following the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian Kurd, in custody last month.
Three years ago he distributed shrts in memory of Sahar Khodayari who died by setting herself on fire after receiving a six-year prison sentence for attempting to watch a match in the male only Iranian league

Friday 25 November
England 0:0 USA
So, we swing from England are going to easily win the competition to we will be lucky to progress from the group.
We’ve long said that Gareth Southgate is too conservative and too loyal to failing defenders. But injuries have tied his hands to an extent.
It was good to watch with family members who said that England’ s women were much better and more direct and why couldn’t the men play like that. Amen.

Wales 0:2 Iran
While the Iranian players mumbled the national anthem before the game they did for a timid Wales side deep in injury time. Junior schools across the nation had been allowed to watch and it is soul-destroying to think how many young dreams and expectations went pop.

Qatar 1:3 Senegal
Graceless from first to last the stadium emptied almost completely before the final whistle as Qatar become the first host nation to crash out bottom of their group and only the second after South Africa to fail to get out of the group. Can’t really say they didn’t deserve it.

Netherland 1:1 Ecuador
Can’t watch them all.

Saturday 26 November
Dulwich Hamlet 3:6 Chelsea U21
Mason Burstow and Cesare Casadei had us in the lead at the break and the Italian completed his hat-trick in the second half as Thomas and Burstow added to an entertaining friendly.

Chelsea U18 1:7 Fulham U18
The live stream was cancelled at the last moment, Fifa probably worried about U18s football clashing with the Tunisia v Australia, and it was probably a mercy for the U17 we sent out to face Fulham.
The squad has done really well in the U17 league cup group but 0-5 down at the break we did at least have the pleasure of McNally saving from McNeilly. It was the later who got our consolation at the death.

Poland 2:0 Saudi Arabia
Robert Lewandowski has taken four world cup games before finding the net, including missing a penalty in the last one, but finally found the onion bag when presented with the ball by a defender in the box. Expect him to win the golden boot.

Tunisia 0:1 Australia
Couldn’t be bothered.

France 2:1 Denmark
Andreas Christensen powered in an equaliser for the Danes but Jules Koundé showed us the wide play we have been missing, since fumbling his transfer and allowing Barcelona to sign him, as France picked off the Danes.

Argentina 2:0 Mexico
Lionel Messi and Argentina re back on track after their inital loss to Saudi Arabia.

Sunday 27 November
Japan 0:1 Costa Rica
Costa Rica evened up the group by beating Germany’s conquerors. Any of the teams can qualify from Group E.

Spain 1:1 Germany
Because Spain drew with Germany in a really tense and at the same time dull match. Kai Havertz was dropped by the Germans and Dave spent the game on Spain’s bench. Fullkrug’s late equaliser keeps the Germans in the tournament, just.

Croatia 4:1 Canada
Telling a side you’re going to ’eff them inly works if you actually and truly ’eff them. Canada looked like they’d make good on their coach’s promise with a first minute goal – the nation’s first in the finals – but Croatia, with Kovačić pulling the strings all afternoon, were in a mood to make them pay.

Belgium 0:2 Morocco
Belgium were stuck in England’s gear as they struggled to mount an effective attack, falling to two late sucker punches. Hakim Ziyech was influential throughout.

Monday 28 November
Manchester City away in the not fixed in any way or bent at all, rigged or in any manner contrived FA Cup draw.
We had the same draw in the League Cup and sponsors and TV companies clearly don’t care how fixed it looks as long as they have a tasty tie for the cameras.
Still, City will be easy to beat if de Bruyne continues to shin the ball into touch with every other pass.

QPR boss Michael Beale said last month that “Wolves are a fantastic football club … but I didn’t think it was the right moment because I entered into an agreement here and integrity and loyalty are a real big thing for me.” Just over a month later he abandoned Queens Park Rangers for Glasgow Rangers. Hm, integrity and loyalty are no longer a big thing for Michael.

Sack the board: Juventus lost their entire board after losses of over £220m brought police investigations. Andrea Agnelli can keep pressing for a European Super Liga from prison.

Meanwhile in the desert:

Cameroon 3:3 Serbia
Finally, a match that wasn’t a toil to watch as Cameroon stormed back from 3-1 down with an Aboubakar scoop – Pat Nevin would have been proud – and an equaliser from Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting.

Brazil 1:0 Switzerland
Brazil are favourites to win this world cup but beyond Richarlison’s goal in the last game have done little to suggest they deserve to.

South Korea 2:3 Ghana
Another comeback but this time Ghana had to wake up after letting a two-goal lead slip. Kudus with a deft header and a real hump bookended a match in which either side could have won.

Portugal 2:0 Uruguay
Ronaldo has been given the freedom of Qatar. In the first match he won a penalty where there was no contact with the defender and in this the preening halfwit claimed a goal after Bruno Fernandez’s cross looped in without a touch from the deluded one. Without club and clearly out of his mind nobody should take the risk of signing this deluded … fuc… cun…dic… arseho… no way of finishing this sentence conforms with the rules of decency we try to live up to as a family website.
The referee confirmed Portugal’s blessed state by awarding them another penalty when the ball hit a player’s supporting arm. The handball regulations have changed but the arm supporting the body or the stopping you from falling is instinctive not deliberate.

Tuesday 29 November
Chelsea U18 2:4 West Ham United U18
McNeilly and Castledine with the first-half goals. We fielded a very young defence who struggled against a Hammers side who had won their previous eight matches.

Ecuador 1:2 Senegal
Edouard and Kalidou will meet England on Sunday after Ecuador looked to be caught in the headlights and couldn’t up the gearing.

Netherland 2:0 Qatar
Pathetically Qatar couldn’t even fill the stadium for their home world cup exit. The whole place lacks grace. The Netherlands will have to be better.

Wales 0:3 England
England spoiled the party for Wales with three second-half strikes. Although their first half struggle against the USA and late collapse against Iran were bigger problems.
England came to life after Marcus Rashford’s freekick and Phil Foden’s almost immediate second. Rashford rubbed in the salt with his second.

Iran 0:1 USA
The USA go through after Christian Pulisic’s goal proved enough. The game was overshadowed when an Iranian man was shot in the head as protesters celebrated the country’s departure from Qatar. Protestors inside the stadium and across the country marked the exit in favour of those who have died there in recent weeks and against the regime – women, life, freedom.
Pulisic was taken to hospital after colliding with the Iran ’keeper. It looked like he took a hefty hit the crown jewels but officials said an abdominal problem.

Wednesday 30 November
Chelsea are back in training at Cobham. Everyone not in the desert turned up for training.

Australia 1:0 Denmark
This was the competition’s real shock as undercooked Denmark simply failed. Australians will probably fail to gloat about this in a decade and half… or so.

Tunisia 1:0 France
Everyone is underdone today as France failed against Tunisia but despite the Tunisian win Australia go through.

Saudi Arabia 1:2 Mexico
Mexico needed more goals. At One stage they were level on points goal difference and goals scored and were going out only on the number of yellow cards but a Saudi goal saw Poland qualified despite…

Poland 0:2 Argentina
… a sluggish match but a goal within a minute of the second period’s start decided the game.

Of the teams qualified so far only England and France look like they have any form and will meet each other in the quarter-final if both get through.