Chelsea 3 Barcodes 0
FA Cup 4th Round
Sunday 28th January 2018 13:30

In the News: Conte. Conte. More Conte. I imagine that on press conference days Steve Atkins (the one who sits next to Antonio and polices the jackals) and Carlo Cudicini (appointed translator) feel like any chat show host that ever saw Oliver Reed walking out onto their set; terrified that he’s lost the plot that much that he’s going to launch into a stream of obscenities, grab someone’s a*se, get his cock out, or all of the above.

This may be controversial, but I’m getting tired of Antonio’s public complaining.

My personal observation is that he does not appear to have the kind of temperament that deals well with pressure. He’s an emotional man and he wears his heart on his sleeve. I’m not judging him, I couldn’t deal with the stresses of managing a Premier League football club, but we saw glimpses of it towards the tail end of last season as we closed in on the title. He lacks some of the traits that have helped others survive. He certainly isn’t bullsh*t filled (Allardyce) or Teflon-coated and delusional (Wenger) Conte says he’s relaxed and just concentrating on the team, and one result at a time etc. etc. But just about everything he says and does at the moment screams otherwise. The ridiculous thing is, I think he’s arguably under less pressure from above than any other manager at Chelsea has been for about a decade. So how much of it is pressure he is putting on himself? The board’s expectations have got to be lower. He came from nowhere last season, after we scraped into the top half of the league in 2015-16, and won the Premiership; sweeping aside Chequebook Pulis and St. Pep with half a squad. This season he has 3/4 of a squad. (We’ll get to that) Given the lack of success over the summer in the transfer window, the amount of money spent by rivals and the fact that we punched far, far above our weight last season, I would be f*cking amazed if Chelsea were demanding anything more of the manager than a top four finish. Last eight of the Champions League would have been ambitious, but not unrealistic. The fact that we’ve been lumbered with Uefalona this early says to me that the hierarchy would be harsh if they considered an exit at the round of 16 as a failure on Conte’s part. He says this is the harder year for him, and I agree. I’ve said this before: I see this really as year one for him. Last season’s title win was a huge bonus, awesome, but it papered over the work that needed to be done to build what was a small squad, especially when it would lead to a serious increase in our workload after the summer. Now we are facing that work and that’s OK. The core fan base will accept too that it takes time to build something, and bring players through. I don’t think Antonio has got pressure on him from anywhere at the moment in terms of what the team has achieved this season. As for the cry-babies that throw a tantrum every time we don’t win 4-0, f*ck ‘em.

Antonio Conte has repeatedly complained about the size of his squad. We needed to add to our squad without completely disrupting it in the summer. We got Caballero in on a free. Who did we buy? Morata for a club record fee in the region of £60m. And four more fully fledged internationals. Our squad has had something like £200m spent on it in the last six months. There is literally no point trawling each and every bullsh*t link the Red Swarm have come up with since last May looking for evidence of the board’s “failure” to sign players. I’ll stick with the ones from Blue Squirrel:

Lukaku – We wanted him. At least someone in the club did. Then Everton tried to get Fabregas or Willian as part of the deal. We said f*ck off. The price went up. Too much. United were willing to pay this price because they have more money than sense. We signed Morata instead. As far as I’m concerned, we win. And so does Conte, who preferred him in the first place.

Sandro – I think it’s safe to say that Conte really wants him. The board got this done. Juve ultimately refused to sell him to us because they had been unable to purchase a replacement in that position and pulled out of the deal. I don’t know what his motivations were to join us. If it was to play for Conte, we may not get him now, but there was no reason this couldn’t have gone through this summer.

Oxlade-Chamberlain – Went to the Scouse because they made promises about what position he would be playing in. Personally I thought he was overpriced anyway. I’m not losing sleep over it.

Barkley – This one was a total clusterf*ck in the summer. The board got him in the door and into a medical before he decided to go home. He was injured anyway, had a meltdown, whatever. Whose fault it was at the time I don’t know, but he plays for us now, so it got fixed.

So what I’m saying is let’s not have a Yaya Toure style, birthday cake meltdown about a lack of spending in the last two windows. They may not have come up trumps in everything; wide players, for one, another striker, but the board have not been idle. Have they bought the players that Conte wanted? Quite possibly not. Because he’s had one foot out of the door since last summer. At his own instigation we had no idea if he intended to stay or walk, so would you be catering to his requests? Or taking the actions you deem necessary to secure the long term future of the squad whoever may be in charge? Seems to me there is a certain element of making your own bed and having to lie in it here.

Who did we sell? Solanke – no choice. He ran his contract down and went somewhere offering more money. He was already stealing a living. Not bothered. Cuadrado – Already long gone anyway. Begovic – replaced by Caballero, no worries. Then the problems start. Chalobah and Ake were more puzzling. Unless you look at it from a non-Blue perspective. They didn’t want to stay, baffling as that may be to us. It’s not like they are setting the league on fire now that they have moved on, so were we wrong in terms of how good they were? Doesn’t look like it. But what does look bizarre is letting players walk out of the door when it’s detrimental to your own prospects because you won’t have enough of them. You’d think it was common sense to talk with your manager before you go into a room with these guys, but, who knows? Matic was the big one. He wanted to leave 12 months previously but we apparently made a deal with him – stay one more season then we’ll let you go. His intention was always to follow Chequebook Pulis. Chelsea had two choices so far as he was concerned. Turn a profit, or force him to stay on against his will until he’s out of contract. To many of us it looked like the club weren’t stern enough, selfish enough. We got more than he was worth, especially considering his habit of going missing and his age, but he went to a rival, which stuck in my throat. Ultimately he had made his decision, we opted for financial compensation over moral victory in this one (because we aren’t Arsenal) and we extracted the maximum we could out of it. Opinions will vary about whether this was right or wrong, and if Conte wasn’t involved in this decision you can see why he’d be p*ssed off.

Conclusion? Conte isn’t particularly in the loop when it comes to who the board pursue or let leave if they show the inclination. But they haven’t hung him out to dry with purchasing players as some of the nappy sh*tters who constantly shriek about them would like to believe. Have the relations between the board and Conte been appropriate? Clearly something is wrong in terms of communication. Why does Conte feel the need to publicly address his issues with the board instead of dealing with them through appropriate channels? Of course there is a chance he’s just a lunatic, but he’s been a functioning, successful coach for a long time and to put it entirely on him is a stretch, however much you disagree with the way he is conducting himself right now. This needs to be addressed by the board. Still, after the game today he has still been reminding everybody that he doesn’t make any decisions. You’ve got a disgruntled employee. Deal with it. Kick his a*se or compromise, work out your differences. I don’t care who may have a problem with who and who is right and who is wrong, and who promised what and who has got a point. I’d just appreciate it if they all keep it in the boardroom where it belongs and get their sh*t together. Then when everybody emerges if they could act like grown ups that would be great. God knows everyone involved gets paid enough.

For me, if Conte goes in the summer, he will have been the architect of his own downfall to a significant degree. That will make me sad because I really do like him. I love what he has achieved with us, I love his passion, it’s infectious and we really had found a coach who everyone liked and who looked like he might stay for a reasonable length of time. His job has never been at risk from the club’s end. The simple truth is that we don’t know what he was promised and just how much of a right he has to feel aggrieved about whether that has or hasn’t been forthcoming from the board. I have to add though, that given their determined backing of him during the Costa debacle, which was a monumental cock-up on Antonio’s part with text-gate and which harmed the strength of the squad, he can’t claim that support from above has been non-existent and lacking conviction. We can take a reasonable stab at the expectations on him and surmise that he has not fallen short of them so far. Even if he feels like it is his only outlet, it is not befitting for a manager to take his complaints to the press every time they wave a microphone anywhere near his face and criticise his employer. In any walk of life it would be unprofessional conduct and he should stop. Then go and knock on someone’s door instead. I would just like to wake up on one morning and not read umpteen articles about how the inside of Chelsea Football Club is like Lord of the F*cking Flies.

Transfer B*llocks: Palmieri and Dzeko could be confirmed in the next few days. Two positions in need of attention, so fingers crossed. Pep is bemoaning that he doesn’t have as much money to spend as his rivals. F*ck off you hilarious bellend. Three wise men alert: Martin Keown’s contribution to the world of football journalism this week? “I can’t understand why Sanchez turned his back on City.” Money, dickhead.

The Others: What moron decided, of all people, that it would be a good idea to let CRAIG PAWSON loose with VAR? He can barely function on a normal day. And not only did they give him Jonathan Moss as a fourth official, the Virtual W*nk Puppet was Andre f*cking Marriner. Eight times Poorson went to VAR, one of them for about half an hour. Once again, the match-going, ticket buying public have had their experience ruined. Once again, this cannot be allowed to happen. The only positive outcome of this was that we got to watch Firminho fall over his own hairdo and miss a penalty that never would have been. And then the Scouse lost. Shame. City are through, West Ham are out, and four games require replays. Including Sp*rs, who couldn’t beat Newport County. Ha.

Us: A reasonably strong side today, thanks to the draw against another Premier League side. Caballero still deputises for Thibaut, whose ankle was slightly mashed in training by one of our own academy players. Big day for Michy. Absolutely had to have an impact on this game.

Them: I only recognised Voldemort. (Shelvey) And some bloke up front who turned out to be Gayle.

No matter who hates who in the Cuckoo’s Nest this week, everyone at Stamford Bridge from the boardroom down to Stamford the Lion could agree on one thing at kick off. For the love of GOD, please don’t stick us with a replay and make us travel the 900 miles to Newcastle midweek in the cold for a replay.

We started off all right in the opening couple of minutes, but then they started running at us. It was a typical subdued early kick off, with a lot of transient cup fans too, so like the players the crowd took a while to get going. Hazard was hacked down on the edge of the box by Chancel Mbemba, whoever he may be, on 16 minutes and the free kick was the highlight of the game for us so far. Until it hit the wall, but we were just about accelerating out of third gear at this point. The Toon were gobby as always today, mostly preoccupied with whining at the ref over every decision he wouldn’t give them but there was the occasional diversion. It sounded like “You fat cockney b*stard get out of our club,” though last time I checked Buckinghamshire wasn’t within the sound of Bow Bells. Still, fair sentiment. Aside from a bit of hair-raising defending we were playing better, even if it wasn’t dazzling.

Voldemort forced a save from Big Willy on 25 minutes, before Zappacosta (I think) made a storming run up the pitch to reverse the play. A scramble in the goal mouth, a near miss and it eventually bobbled out for a goal kick. I was just moaning that we hadn’t fashioned a single shot on target in the first half an hour when Hazard brought down a long ball in the box, flicked it across the box, where Alonso stabbed it through to Michy to set him up with a tap in. 1-0. Christ what is that growing out of the top of his head? As if we haven’t given the Red Swarm enough fodder this week he has to come out with that hairdo.

And the nappy sh*tters were off. First they were complaining that they were bored. Go home then, you won’t be missed. Then it was a Bakayokofest. He’s sh*t. Apparently. He wasn’t even playing. He wasn’t even on the bench. So shut up. After a hairy moment at our end, a minute later we broke and Hazard laid it off to Michy, who made a pretty weak shot out of it. However, Lascelles was unlucky enough to see his block fly up over his keeper and dip in under the crossbar for a second goal for the much-maligned striker. Had the defender left it, probably would have been better off. Another unlucky one for Newcastle. Oh well, sh*t happens. They did their best to get back in it before half time, but heroics from Caballero kept them out and he flicked and palmed their efforts away from the goal.

Shortly after the break Rafa’s barcodes had commenced arguing amongst themselves. We had strains of one of “Harry Potter, he’s coming for you,” aimed at Shelvey and his luminescent head. Alonso almost scored a stunning goal with a left foot volley across the box that took a slight deflection, but it was well saved by the keeper on 55 minutes. Eden could have had one too shortly afterwards, when Michy knocked it on to him but his fellow Belgian had made his run just too soon and was caught offside. Tenacious Double D had his fair share of long range shots today too, but his range was off and the all seemed to be hooked to the right.

Rafa, who I don’t care about to the extent that I am never going to waste my time singing about him, tried to inject a now lacklustre Newcastle with some of the will to live by beginning his substitutions. It didn’t help. Hazard strung together a couple of good corners that were well defended, but they had little inspiration in the way of going forward. On 70 minutes Zappacosta won a free kick in prime Alonso territory. TDD, Cahill and Pesto (f*ck off autospell) all stuffed themselves in the wall and ducked at the right moment, leaving the way clear for Marcos to thump one of his specials into the top corner. Never in doubt. 3-0.

Barkley got his home debut and both Ampadu and Hudson-Odoi got a runout as the clock ran out. Ampadu played a blinding ball forward for Pesto, but it just ran off the end of his foot when he brought it down. Hudson-Odoi made a couple of strong runs across the middle of the field, weaving in and out of the barcodes in the little time that he had. Newcastle weren’t shit. They weren’t very potent but there was an utter lack of conviction about them in the second half that made the winding up of this game a formality. Michy did a fair amount of ball-hogging in the closing minutes, desperate for a third goal. The only man in the place screaming for him to miss was shortarse (special alias) who had a bet on 3-0, the first one he’s placed for 20 odd years. The nappy sh*tters behind us had moved on to TDD now. He’s sh*t too. Apparently. He was far better than the last time we saw him today.

Refwatch: Kevin Not-My-Friend. Didn’t even notice the linesman flagging offside in the first half but mercifully anonymous. It’s amazing how good jobbers like him have started to look since we have seen the impact of the Virtual W*nk Puppets.

So: Another match won, despite the Lord of the Flies rhetoric in the red rags. Well done Michy, back that up on Wednesday with another good showing and you’ll be giving Conte a little bit more to think about. None of the drama about this round that we endured in the Norwich tie. Draw is tomorrow evening, and let’s hope for something interesting. Apart from the announcement of two Roma players I would really like to enjoy blissful silence coming out of the Chelsea press room this week, so we can all concentrate on football instead.