Monday 20 December
We face West Ham in the women’s league cup after the quarter-final draw. Ties to be played Wednesday 19 or Thursday 20 January.
Spurs have been kicked out of the Europa Conference League after they cried off a tie with Rennes due to covid cases. Uefa deem the game forfeit and, as per, declared Rennes 3-0 winners and Spurs out at the group stage. Spurs have not exactly treated the new competition with respect and getting kicked out raised the merest shrug.
Tuesday 21 December
Wales and Scotland have closed sporting events to spectators for at least three weeks. The ‘government’ in England hasn’t made up its mind because it is so concerned with covering up its own incompetence and lying it no longer has time to control covid.
Our league cup quarter-final tomorrow goes ahead. We’ve lost Trevoh and N’Golo to new injury concerns but Jorginho’s positive was a false reading so he is back. Andreas Christensen is also missing. The U23 squad were move up to the first-team bubble but as Tuchel said it is a risk and Lewis Baker tested positive for covid.
Meanwhile, Oldham Athletic have taken extreme measures to arrest declining crowds and deflect attention from fan protests by banning supporters. The tinpot dictatorship at Boundary Park banned three fans because “ you have regularly displayed your desire to promote your dislike of Oldham Athletic Football Club, its management and its progression; and you are influencing others to do the same. You are taking deliberate steps to harm the club and cause distress.”
These fans “regularly displayed their desire to promote their dislike of Oldham Athletic Football Club, its management and its progression and are influencing others to do the same”.
The order might have over stepped by banning the three from all of Oldham’s games even away matches… which look likely to be in the National League as Oldham are adrift at the bottom of the fourth tier at Christmas. The first Premier League club to fall out of the professional leagues is theirs for the taking.
That is should happen at Oldham, which was Ken Bates’ first club and his attitude to criticism was very similar, isn’t a surprise after Oldham had even taken the step of refusing to sell tickets to its own support to avoid protests.
We can only express our solidarity with the exiled Latics and wish them a swift end to the Lemsagam era.
Wednesday 22 December
Brentford 0:2 Chelsea
Harvey Vale, Xavier Simons and Jude Soonsup-Bell will never forget this night as they all made their debuts in the first team and we progress.
The late own-goal from Reece James’ cross and a Jorginho penalty after Pulisic got to the ball before Fernandez, the Brentford stopper.
The hosts were close to a full-squad at kick-off and having given us a hell of a game in the league looked dangerous but their deep crosses to the back stick didn’t bring many chances and Kepa Arrizabalaga was in good form.
Even with the youngsters up front we used the ball well and Harvey Vale had a chance deflected wide. We started to dominate after the break with the youngsters departing and experienced heads coming on and an increase in pressure on the Brentford goal did the trick.
The balls out of a plastic container exercise handed a home semi-final first leg against Spurs as Liverpool travel to Arsenal.
The ties are due to be played in the first two weeks of January but covid restrictions could see them as one-off matches.
Meanwhile, a signing – Alsu Abdullina signed for the women’s squad on a two-and-a-half-year deal from Lokomotiv Moscow. The left-back has 30 Russia caps already.
Thursday 23 December
The covid situation continues to deteriorate. Pep Guardiola even dusted off his Catalan anarchist roots and suggested a player’s strike might be needed to get the Premier League to see sense.
As it is with three games off on Boxing Day and Everton the latest to have a request turned down it seems football’s authorities are making another good case for independent oversight.
Sunday 26 December
Aston Villa 1:3 Chelsea
A stronger showing for the side with Lukaku’s return and goal a welcome lift.
The big Belgian didn’t start and a first half of struggle saw Pulisic do his best up front alone.
That we won a penalty to equalise the fluke opener, that flew in off Reece James’ head, was down to a clumsy tackle in the box on Callum Hudson-Odoi and no protest of any kind from a claret and blue shirt.
Lukaku’s introduction changed the complexion of the match, he headed in a Hudson-Odoi cross after 10 minutes on the pitch and strode forward with the ball at his feet several times before being up ended for the closing penalty that sealed the win.
We move back level on points with Liverpool and six behind Manchester City who are sailing through their fixtures without a care.
Thomas Tuchel said afterwards that Both Lukaku and Hudson=Odoi had been risked against doctor’s orders and that Kanté and Silva had been taken off with injuries and are likely to miss Brighton on Wednesday.
He added his concern for his players and the indifference of the FA and Premier League. “They make us play all the time, even if we have Covid. We have new injuries and it won’t stop … we are struggling, we’re pressing our players. I have maximum respect for what the players did. We do changes because of injuries. We don’t change for tactical reasons any more.”
The German added “I’m very impressed with my players but super concerned … maybe we made a big mistake letting players play after corona and one or two training sessions.
“But obviously they [the Premier League] made us play and so we play.”
He called again for five substitutes in the Premier League to help with the stresses of trying to fulfil fixtures with a depleted squad but didn’t expect any movement, “We are not protecting the players because we are the only league who doesn’t have five changes.”
We will have to hold our breath and hope for no further injuries on Wednesday.
Wednesday 29 December
Chelsea 1:1 Brighton & Hove Albion
Typical, given the stresses on the squad at the moment and a difficult Brighton side a late equaliser was always on the cards. Tuchel was furious we didn’t get a penalty when Christian Pulisic was tipped off balance and then tripped. The implication was that he was on his way down before he was tripped but only through contact.
There was a confusing moment when Mason Mount finished but the referee had already blown to award us a foul. VAR was supposed to eliminate frustrateing mistakes like this but seems to hit the
Romelu Lukaku is back in form though and his header gave us the lead until Danny Welbeck popped up at the end with a sickener.
This time though you couldn’t argue that Brighton didn’t deserve it as they dominated us in midfields in the second-half and Rüdiger could have been sent off for a foul on Tariq Lamptey.
Ben Chilwell will have surgery on his knee problem after the club had tried to see if the injury would heal naturally but the softly, softly approach has been ditched for surgery. With Marcos Alonso now our only left-sided defender and the transfer window only three days away we are being linked with every out of favour left-back in Europe. One more interesting move would be to bring Ian Maatsen back from his successful loan to Coventry where the 19-year-old Dutchman has been helping the Sky Blues challenge at the top of the Championship.
On a busy day for news John Terry’s return almost passed us by. If the first-team need an inspirational speaker they could do worse but for now John is back as a youth team coach and mentor. He said he would be back.
Thursday 30 December
As if yesterday’s result and injuries were not enough a video has emerged of Romelu criticising Thomas Tuchel for changing the system to exclude him and to express a yearning to return to Italy. To be fair to him he also said that he was determined, “I won’t give up. I will be professional. I am not happy with the situation but I am professional and I can’t give up now.” He said it all in fluent Italian as well, the man has hidden depths.
Ben Chilwell had his surgery and said that he was “positive and motivated” for his recovery. Hopefully he doesn’t mean positive in the sense we have come to understand the term but it wouldn’t be a bad time to catch covid
The accounts for the last year look bad as we crashed to a £145.6m loss. The dip is almost entirely due to playing matches behind closed doors as broadcast revenues increased. There was a note in the report saying the club are “reliant on Fordstam Limited for its continued financial support.” Amen.
Thomas Tuchel is going to try a trial-and-error selection process as he struggles to name a defence with Ben Chilwell in surgery, Reece James out with a hamstring, Christensen out with a back problem and Thiago Silva being assessed.
Responding to a question about Lukaku’s form coming back from an ankle injury and covid Tuchel said “I’m surprised with what he’s doing, actually very surprised … But I don’t know how long he can do it. We will see and we will try it but I don’t know.”
Friday 31 December
Thiago Silva, Kai Havertz and Timo Werner were all in training today but one session ahead of the Liverpool game might not be enough.
Tore Andre Flow has left us to re-join Sogndal in Norway where he started his career. The lanky Norwegian was a much underrated striker in the 90s and has been with us for ten-years as youth coach and ambassador.
Saturday 1 January
Emma Hayes is now an OBE as the new year’s honours list is published. Emma has garnered plenty of awards in the game and deserves recognition by a wider society. It cheapens the system that rich Tories can buy a place in the House of Lord and mass murders like Tony Blair can garner a knighthood but it is still a significant recognition if you’ve earned it.
Sunday 2 January
Chelsea 2:2 Liverpool
Standing is back. For the first time since 1994 you can stand at a top-flight game and the stewards cannot nag you. The only trouble is that standing after all these years for two hours at a stetch is much harder than you remember.
A very close result but one side was clearly superior on the day and we can take some pride from playing them off the park for long periods.
Jurgen Klopp was absent dues to covid and they missed Alisson, Joel Matip and Roberto Firmino but both fielded strong starting line-ups. We dropped Romelu Lukaku. The club had played down the significance of the interview he gave Italian television some weeks ago but then dropped him for the match. It looked an issue that would dominate the outcome but Anthony Taylor wanted than honour and Lukaku was relegated to a footnote.
Sadio Mané should have been sent off after just 6-seconds as he led with an elbow into Cesar Azpilicueta’s face. It was clearly premeditated as he knew where the Chelsea defender was and planted his forearm into the face. Spineless, red fancying referees are not new but VAR was supposed to iron out the obvious favouritism.
Trent Alexander-Arnold handed Pulisic an opening that he should have netted only for Mané to be handed a similar chance to open the scoring after Trevoh Chalobah tried to head a clearance at knee-height.
Mo Salah then did both Marco Alonso and Edouard Mendy to put the visitor’s two up. They managed only one penetrating ball and had two ill-deserved goals.
Mason Mount flirted with a red when a tangle left him shrugging his foot free of contact with Kostas Tsimikas. VAR had a look but Mason was clearly moving his foot away from the defender so they couldn’t do him for a kick.
They would have loved to. The officiating was red-shifted from the start. Not only allowing Mané to stay on the pitch to score, picking over our goals with a fine-toothed comb looking for a reason and at one point awarding a goal-kick instead of a corner when the ball clearly, obviously and under the nose of the linesman came off the Liverpool ’keeper.
Mateo Kovačić restored some semblance of fairness by volleying in when Kelleher could only punch away a free-kick and little Christian Pulisic was rewarded for all his hard work in recent weeks with a fine finish on the break.
The noise after the goal was incredible as standing really frees up the airways for a good shout.
Mason Mount, fed by Havertz’s clumsy touch very nearly handed us the lead at the break but the ball bobbled agonisingly wide.
The second half was patchy. Salah and Mané had two similar efforts comfortably saved but Liverpool were clearly second-best across the park and despite our patched-up defence we were the only side really looking to win the match. Kanté and Kovačić were largely responsible for the dynamism of our midfield and both worked extremely hard and left Liverpool with scraps.
Kelleher saved well from Pulisic and then smothered a rebound effort from Mason Mount as we pressed for a winner that didn’t come. Manchester City will be delighted with the draw as they now lead by 10-points.