Monday 21 October
Arsenal’s misery in Sheffield continued tonight as they lost 1-0 to United. Ian Wright scored their last winner in the city back in 1993. The result and the fact Sheffield United nearly held Liverpool puts our draw with the Blades into context and leaves us in fourth place two-points ahead of the North Londoners.
Meanwhile, Dr Fran Kirby has been awarded an honorary doctorate of science from the University of Winchester. Well done to her and possibly a first for the club.
Tuesday 22 October
Frank Lampard has a very different way of dealing with the press than some previous Chelsea bosses. In today’s press conference a Dutch journalist asked him why he was so scared of Ajax
“What makes you say that?”
“You look scared…”
“That is just my face”.
He went on: “”I respect the team, on a serious note. We saw the way this team played last year, and I know that the team has changed slightly, I am very aware of the new threats of the team and anywhere to travel in the Champions League is a difficult match. They have won two games in the group convincingly, so definitely it is not a fact of being scared of Ajax.
“We have confidence in ourselves. We know that it is a tough match. But the reason I spoke after Newcastle is because that was a game in the Premier League who played a very low block. 5-4-1, very difficult to break down, which we managed to do. Ajax is completely different, so it was really important that we flipped a switch the minute that Newcastle finished because tomorrow is a tough match.”
The club announced suspensions and potential life bans on three Chelsea supporters who subjected a fellow Chelsea fan to racial abuse while we played a Europa League tie against Slavia Prague in April. The club have apologised to Jerome Bailey for the length of time it has taken to investigate. Considering the victim provided seat numbers on an official away trip, it is difficult to understand how the club can have taken this long to start investigating the accusations.
Wednesday 23 October
Ajax 0:1 Chelsea
Brilliant. Just brilliant, breathtaking football, nerve, application, tactical discipline and concentration. We didn’t just beat last season’s semi-finalists but beat them convincingly on their own patch.
We started a little nervously, Fikayo Tomori dithered on one early ball and had us scrambling to cover but it was one of only a few chances we allowed them as we committed plenty of players forward, creating early openings for Hudson-Odoi and Mason Mount.
They thought they’d scored in the first-half only for VAR to rule Quincy Promes offside by a toecap.
What seemed impossible at the start was that we would come to dominate in midfield as Jorginho and Kovačić worked themselves into the ground to create the base for Mount, Abraham, Willian and Hudson-Odoi to take the game to Ajax.
Both Tomori and Kurt Zouma were confident playing the ball out from the back and our full-backs found themselves in the opposition box time after time.
The mood of the arena changed as the second-half wore on, gradually “Super Frankie Lampard” started to replace the expectant home crowd’s noise.
We were working so hard to close down across the pitch and for all their unbeaten start to the season we rarely looked in any difficulty. The home side got a two-on-two break once in the match. We did allow them the customary one chance from a corner but that bounced away off the post.
Michy Batshuayi came on for the tiring Tammy and Christian Pulisic replaced Willian who had been on the end of a few tackles.
It was fitting that the substitutes combined for the winner as the American captain squared a ball and Michy crashed it against the underside of the bar and in. 0-1.
Reece James made a brief cameo at the end to get a taste of the big stage and the experience will have done the six academy graduates who played all the good in the world.
In the closing few minutes we controlled the ball at their end of the pitch offering no possession for them to move down field.
This was the big test in the group and we passed. Talk of a defining moment in the season is a little too early, remember there are still three games left in the group but we have two of them at home.
It is hard to keep your feet on the ground when you have just outplayed last season’s Champions’ League surprise package with a sizzling performance of class and control… Frank mentioned Burnley in his post-match interview and you know he will have them out on the Cobham pitches and concentrating on the Clarets tomorrow morning. But we can allow ourselves another broad smile. Chelsea football hasn’t been this much fun in a long time. Plenty of us are in danger of facial cramp from grinning from ear to ear and back again.
Lille and Valencia drew 1-1 in the group’s other game
Ajax U19 0:1 Chelsea U19
A headed Thierno Ballo goal was enough to get our Uefa Youth League qualification back on track. The goal came with just a few seconds on the clock and the rest of the match was a struggle as two evenly matched sides slugged it out.
The recalled Marc Guehi led the defence with another commanding performance. He is too good for this level. And it should be noted that Ajax had half a side away at the U17 World Cup.
Ajax and Lille have six points in the group, we have four and Valencia only one.
Friday 25 October
Say what you like about football it can still surprise you: Leicester City went to a very rainy St Mary’s and did Southampton 0-9. It is the biggest away win since Sky Sports was put in charge of the game’s history but it is also a record margin of victory in any league game away from home in the 130-and-odd-year history of organised football.
Ryan Bertrand was sent off early on for the home side and you have to feel sorry for the wee lad for whom this was his first game as a Southampton fan. It can, as New Labour used to burble, only get better.
Saturday 26 October
Burnley 2:4 Chelsea
Christian Pulisic burst onto the scene today with a left-foot, right-foot, header hat-trick and Willian added a fourth before two late hoofs ruined the clean sheet.
Christian has been pressing for a starting place with notable sub appearances in the last few games but to stamp yourself onto the team with three goals in a difficult away test shows what a squad we have.
Frank Lampard was delighted for the captain of America but emphasised the contribution of Jorginho and Kovačić in midfield who kept the team moving forward and broke up almost everything Burnley tried to do. He will have been delighted too by the confident performance of Reece James in the half hour he enjoyed after replacing Alonso.
The worrying issue involved VAR, again. Having not changed a single penalty decision all season VAR have really nailed their colours to the mast. Callum Hudson-Odoi ran onto a Mason Mount one-two and was clearly tripped by a Burnley leg and pushed in the back, the penalty was awarded. VAR scrolled it back a few times watched the contact between Tarkowski’s left knee and Hudson-Odoi’s right thigh the Lowton push in the small of his back and then overturned the decision and the Chelsea player was booked for diving. Tarkowski was trying to move his leg out of the way but the contact is obvious. We have suggested that VAR is being run deliberately badly to discredit as a system, we have suggested they set VAR up in the pub and make decisions because they are drunk, we have suggested that they are corrupt. Back in September when assessing their own performance they could only identify four mistakes from 227 incidents assessed. We identified four mistakes a game involving Chelsea.
That VAR needs reform is now without question. They are saying the clear contact between defender and striker is not enough to make him go down and that it was a clear and obvious error by the referee. Neither of which is defensible given the contact between players and the track record of VAR to date. This is an abuse of the system.
Sean Dyche disgracefully labelled Hudson-Odoi a diver in his post-match comments. . It isn’t the first time a Chelsea player has been subject to this kind of prejudice, Cesc Fabregas was booked five times instead of being awarded penalties when he played for us.
The incident wasn’t enough to destabilise the team and the two late Burnley strikes were both flukes. We didn’t really look like conceding again and saw out the game comfortably.
The first time Frank Lampard has managed seven wins in a row and the first time we have scored four or more in four consecutive away games. Christian Pulisic became our youngest ever hat-trick hero taking the crown from Tammy Abraham who only held it for just over a month.
Today marks twenty years since Chelsea travelled to AC Milan needing a point… altogether now, “Oh, Denis Wise… ”
Sunday 27 October
West Ham United 1:3 Chelsea
We had to come from behind to beat the Hammers and Arsenal’s win over Manchester City means we climb to the top of the table.
Ji So-Yun scored a screamer to give us the lead after Sophie Ingle had netted the equaliser. We fell behind in the 58th minute when Adriana Leon scored with her first touch as a substitute. That we should have been three or four up by half-time didn’t in the end matter as Drew Spence made the points safe with a late third.
Arsenal thought they had beaten Crystal Palace today only for their winner to be varred out of existence. I suppose it proves that VAR are not only picking on us but that their incompetence is spread more widely.