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Eye on the enemy – Chelsea

By on March 4, 2015 in Match Preview

We move into our third of four consecutive London derbies and it stands as 1D, 1L. At Upton Park, regardless of our last result(!), we have beaten some big teams over the course of the season – so it is not out of the realms of possibility for us to get something from the game. Especially as Chelsea haven’t been in the best of form; grinding out results rather than bulldozing teams like they were earlier in the season. I asked @StamfordChidge from some questions going into the game. As always, a massive thank you to him for getting involved.

Since we last met over the busy Christmas period, not much has changed for Chelsea. West Ham, on the other hand, have dropped down the table. What have you made of both teams since we met on Boxing Day?

To be honest Chelsea’s form has been a bit inconsistent since then, and we haven’t hit the heights in terms of performance that we did in the autumn. I think we have suffered from injuries and suspensions and a few key players – Oscar for example, have had a dip in form. There has been a feeling at Stamford Bridge recently that we have been grinding out results without playing particularly well. Mind you getting results when not playing well is often the mark of champions so I mustn’t grumble. West Ham also seem to have been inconsistent recently and have not played as well as they were in the autumn. It seems to me that you never quite know which West Ham side will turn up at the moment – the one that outplayed and should have beaten Spurs last week or the one that got thumped by West Brom in the Cup. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them turn up against us on Wednesday though!

A win at Upton Park could increase the gap with the inconsistent Man City – how big an opportunity will Mourinho see this as? Will you be ready after only just playing a Cup Final on Sunday?

Every game for us is massive at the moment and I hope and presume that Jose will be drumming this into the players. The run in between March and April is where trophies are won and lost, and even though Man City are woefully inconsistent, and Utd, Liverpool and Arsenal seem to be too far behind, you can’t take anything for granted. Hopefully they will have recovered better than me and most of my mates have after Sunday’s celebrations. Mind you I hope they weren’t on it for as long as we were!

League Cup in the bag, Premier League looking inevitable unless something miraculous happens on both yours and City’s end, as well as looking promising in Europe. Is the treble the target for this year? If so, how disappointing was it to go out of a ‘weak’ FA Cup earlier this season?

You need a fair bit of luck and things to go your way to win something like the treble. I think most Chelsea supporters are desperate to win the Premier League this year, and I’m sure Jose shares that view. If we won the Champions League as well that would be a massive bonus, but to be honest, I think that we will face some pretty stiff competition with Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Barcelona all decent this year. Going out of the FA Cup was a massive disappointment to all of us – like you lot we have a close affinity to the FA Cup, so it was gutting to go out. Having said that, it may help us a bit in the run in.

Mourinho has been citing something of a Chelsea hate campaign in regards to officials, are you behind him on that front? Why has the level of officiating been so bad this season?

It’s almost impossible to prove whether or not there is a campaign from the FA or the media, but having said that, I think Jose is right in saying that decisions have predominantly not gone our way. Some of the refereeing decisions I have witnessed this season have been laughable and certainly some of the worst I have seen. I think it is a combination of factors at play here: Referees are not fit enough to keep up with the pace of the game and super fit young athletes; they simply do not read the game well enough having not played at the highest level i.e. their decisions on diving are invariably wrong, and anyone who has played the game at whatever level knew that Barnes meant that tackle on Matic. I also think there is an element of pre-judging Chelsea players on reputation rather than calling what they see – Costa for example suffers here. Finally, because Jose is so outspoken in his criticism of them I think they have been pressurised to make no decision rather than risk his wrath in getting it wrong, and that has backfired. It’s a problem throughout the game and the FA either need to get better referees or bite the bullet and use video technology to help them out. They’ll do neither of course!

On managers, what do you make of the majority of West Ham fans’ berating of Allardyce, and wanting him out?

To be honest, I think Allardyce is a decent manager. He’ll keep you in the Premier League and surely that is more important than playing the ‘West Ham’ way and seeing attractive football – surely that’s a bit of myth isn’t it? I don’t think West Ham have played the ‘academy’ style football for years. Mind you as a Chelsea fan I have got used to watching football where we grind it out and win trophies rather than playing breath-taking football and for me when it comes down to it I’d rather win than be entertained. I don’t go to entertained, having won nothing for 26 years I prefer seeing us win stuff! But whilst I don’t get why the Irons are getting their knickers in a twist about it, I would never criticise them for berating Sam. I was one of the most publicly vociferous Chelsea fans about hating Rafa Benitez and wanting him out. He should never have been appointed; he had no affinity for Chelsea and he played clueless football. In short he wasn’t ‘Chelsea’, so I get where you are coming from – but would you be happy playing in the Championship? Sam could get you into Europe?

Eden Hazard has been quite quiet on the ‘end product’ scale of things, only producing one assist and one goal since early February. Is he still your danger man, even when he isn’t necessarily putting the ball in the net, or assisting a teammate to?

I know what you mean, and yes to be a truly world class footballer he needs more consistency and goals, and believe me he will be one of the best in the world sooner rather than later. But remember he is also being cynically kicked out of every game at the moment and is getting no protection from referees. Also, we have a number of players across the team who can contribute goals and assists, and finally, Eden Hazard has been Chelsea’s best player and most consistent threat in practically every game this season, so yes he is our key man!

On a scale of 1-10 how many years older than 26 is Diego Costa?

In dog years about 47. No, seriously, I’m sure he is 26 but his maturity as a footballer is way beyond that of a 26 year old.

It seems that the disgusting incident in Paris has opened up a whole can of worms in the Premier League. In that it seems to have magnified everything in regards to Premier League fans. E.g. Kevin Kilbane reported West Ham fans for chanting “Harry Kane, he talks like a ****” (something to that effect) – whilst I understand his viewpoint – should this type of thing really be eradicated from the game? It seems that the edge to football is being magnified to such a ridiculous extent post-Paris incident, that everything fans do is shrouded in a bad light. Not even exclusively to Chelsea fans either. What are your thoughts on the matter?

I think there are several important points here. First, genuinely racist behaviour should have zero-tolerance and needs to be condemned without question. I think the recent demonization of all Chelsea fans has been disgraceful, especially with the media witch hunt and trial by social media. Every club in football in England will have a small minority of idiots who express racist views, it is a societal problem and football just provides a muster point for such behaviour where a non-thinking mob mentality pervades, but it has no part in football or society.

Having said that there is also an insidious sanitisation of the game I fell in love with going on, its aim being to stamp out any rowdy behaviour so beloved of football fans. I blame the proliferation of the middle classes in football nowadays – you know, the type who lap up £1,200 season tickets at Arsenal together with their Latte’s. The game has been gentrified and turned into entertainment – an extension of the theatre and frankly it stinks. It is, and has always been the working man’s game in my opinion, but first he has been priced out and now he is being hounded out by the overarching PC attitude so beloved of modern society.

In January you were rumoured to be looking at Enner Valencia. From what you’ve seen of him do you think there was any substance to the rumour, and would you be happy if Chelsea were indeed looking at him?

Yeah I saw those rumours but I’m not sure there was any truth in them. He seems a decent player and of course he’s young but I think the signing of Cuadrado may have put paid to that, although there is still potentially a replacement for Salah or Schurrle needed as we got rid of two and only brought one in. To be fair, most Chelsea supporters would rather see one of the very talented youngsters given a chance than buying someone like Valencia.

On that note, if you could have any West Ham player, who would you pick and why?

Valencia as I said is a decent player and when you played us at the Bridge I thought he was your best player and was a constant threat, and I like his pace and trickery but is he better than Hazard or Oscar or Willian or even Cuadrado? Song is also decent and has done a good job for you but again is he better than what we already have?

Final question, your match prediction please?

I’d settle for a squeaky 1-0 and no injuries, red cards and stupid refereeing decisions!

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