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Chelsea 3 Watford 0 (04/01/2015) 05/01/2015

Posted by Matt Rowson in Match reports.
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1- Living, as I do, on the edge of a field some way from London it’s not often that I’m down in the capital and there’s a part of me that’s still coming to terms with the realisation that the city is a continuous entity, not a collection of unconnected bubbles centered on tube stations.  IMG_0756This consideration was a factor in the decision to build up to the game by walking the five and a half miles along the river from a particularly misty Blackfriars to Stamford Bridge… that, and the suspicion that things could turn sour horribly quickly once the actual football got started.  The memory of forking out an ill-rewarded £50 for a ticket for this tie five years ago  was (still) too fresh in the memory to do anything other than anticipate and savour the remote possibility of us overturning the odds.  One in a (very big number) shots do come off sometimes… but I think a straw poll before the game would have quickly come up with “making a decent fist of it and not having our league form disrupted by a dicking”, or words to that effect, as something to settle for.

2- Which I think we did, by any reasonable assessment.  Certainly the first half can be considered a triumph, I don’t think that’s overstating it. Yes, Chelsea had rested the biggest of their big guns but the faint praise implied by a reflection that we only had to overcome a weakened side rather glosses over the fact that (the excellent) Felipe Luis has a Champions (sic) League winners’ medal, that André Schürrle put in the devastating cross for the goal that won the World Cup final in July, that Didier Drogba may be past his best but, actually, was never terribly quick anyway and still has the strength, the nous, the touch and the personality.  From a Watfordcentric point of view what makes the achievement of all but nullifying their first half threat (Bond making one non-trivial stop, a superb reaction save from a near post Drogba header just in front of us) is that this destructiveness is a skill that we’re so very unpracticed at.  I’ve seen comments suggesting, in the wake of the performance that folk “begin to understand how Jokanovic wants us to play” but whilst certainly, as at Cardiff, he got it tactically spot on this was a gameplan that we’ve never seen or needed to use before. Normally it’s us with the ball and the challenge is how to make it count.  We were diligent and disciplined in a way that we’ve rarely been or had to be defensively;  certainly all of the back three, including the excellent Hoban, were outstanding.

3- Here’s the least insightful thunk of the season.  Chelsea, ultimately, had a bit too much quality for us.  There’s some credit to be taken from the fact that it took a stunning finish from Willian to break the deadlock.  The second owed a little to luck, perhaps, a deflection falling kindly for Rémy (albeit that the ref would rather harshly have awarded a spot kick in any case).  Only with the third, with the side rattled, did we really let ourselves down.  We’re not as good as Chelsea, then.  Hardly breaking news… but as a footnote, worth reflecting that while the inclusion of Doherty and Smith on the bench (the latter for the first time in twelve months) is positive opportunity for youth products, it was also suddenly borne of necessity.  We didn’t have anyone else available.

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4- Another thunk that merely reflects a common perception post-match rather than adding to it…  but a hugely frustrating game for Fernando Forestieri.  He was particularly well-suited in this fixture to the ratting and ferreting job that Wayne Andrews was briefly so good at… burrowing under the pitch and emerging unheralded under the feet of his surprised opponent to scurry off with the ball leaving his blue-shirted adversary on his backside, Fessi won us as much possession as anyone.  His quick feet were frequently an outlet too, he and Ighalo attacking wide space to provide support to Deeney as our 5-4-1 broke into a 3-4-3…  and yet…  too often let down by appalling decision making, holding onto the ball for just too long.  Fessi has the mischief and the magic dust to unlock tight defences but here, attacking on the break, we really didn’t want to be giving high calibre opposition time to get set by just one more turn back inside in preference to a ball across the box, albeit with a fair chance of missing its target.  Love him to bits, but this aspect of his game needs sorting.

5- In conclusion, then, no worse than par and nothing that should capsize our recent League form.  3-0 doesn’t give enough credit to our display, but at the same time it would be wrong to suggest that Chelsea weren’t worth the margin of victory…  the credit we take is that we made them play that well, made them show their hand.  The ghost of our most recent top flight seasons, particularly 1999/00 where so often strong performances were undone by a lack of quality, is difficult to ignore… but this was a high benchmark to challenge ourselves against and plenty, Slav not least, came out comfortably in credit.  Not unreasonable to argue that, given the potential psychological impact of a humiliation, we navigated this one successfully despite the result.  On to Huddersfield on the front foot…

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Comments»

1. Roger Smith - 05/01/2015

I guess JS was hoping that FF could do to Chelsea what he did to Man City. Very little in advance about the Watford team selection, so no explanation as to why Anya wasn’t even on the bench. Could it be that he is on his way, and that Layun is his replacement?

Matt Rowson - 05/01/2015

Officially a “knee injury”. Whether this is the rare “Celtic knee” ailment or not remains to be seen.

2. putajumperon - 05/01/2015

Photos in your post. Is that a first?

Matt Rowson - 05/01/2015

Nope…

3. BH - 06/01/2015

I agree on FF. It is rare to see so much talent wasted by poor decision-making. I had hoped he would mature but he is as head-down with the ball now as when he first arrived. He also gives no greater confidence in front of goal. He seems to panic when the cold, clear thinking of Vydra at his best is required. Neither Zola nor Beppe were able to make him relax. It’s one of many things on SJ’s to do list.

As for our performance on Sunday, I felt we stood off them too much for the first 30 minutes and also gave the ball away far too much. Given my comment on FF, I found it ironic that he was the worst early offender but that the team then seemed to take some inspiration from his waking up and hassling people. We were subsequently very good for 15 minutes either side of half-time – until that great Willian strike undid us.

As you say, no permanent damage done. Time to focus on reaching and staying in the top two positions.

4. SteveG - 06/01/2015

Didn’t get to the game, but pleased to hear the comments here and elsewhere about the excellence of Hoban. He always seemed such a good prospect when he initially made the first team and then seemed to lose some confidence when he returned after his injury. If he’s getting back to his best, that’s got to be really good news – and to have such a good game against such demanding opposition will surely do a lot for his confidence. Maybe he’ll now get an extended run in the first team.

Frank - 07/01/2015

Tommie is in many ways the best prospect we have had for years; he is bright, not easily fazed, has good height and courage. He is also not slow. Presuming Brentford are still sniffing we should send Warburton and his unnecessary bitterness packing.

The issue remains whether his various historical ailments will allow him to have the career he deserves and we need.

Matt Rowson - 07/01/2015

Agree completely. The story re Brentford keeps resurfacing and it seems likely that Warburton is the source of them. Which pisses me off, frankly. He’s a great prospect.


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