Fulham v Chelsea: Player rankings

Here’s how I saw our team yesterday. Click here for a match review.

Keller – 7/10
Didn’t have a lot to do but was rock solid when called upon. Pulled off an outstanding save from Kalou that kept us in the game.

Baird – 7/10
A good game by our under-fire right back. Grew in confidence as the game progressed and made a number of very important tackles. Delighted for him.

Hughes – 7/10
Very solid display – as usual.

Bocanegra – 7/10
Superb once again. He is making far less mistakes than last season and saved our skin on a number of occasions.

Konchesky – 7/10
Solid defensive display – although Joe Cole still managed to get in some telling crosses – and made some good interceptions and runs. Could have grabbed the winner late on.

Smertin – 7/10
Excellent in the first half. Tackling, some nice touches and battling hard. Died off a bit in the second and rightly replaced to an ovation from the visiting faithful.

Davis – 7/10
Good, solid display.

Davies – 8/10
He was everywhere. Managed to combine superb defensive tackling with surging runs, pinpoint passes and dangerous crosses. A constant menace to Chelsea all over the field.

Ki-Hyeon – 5/10
…and that’s generous. The only weak link in yesterday’s team. Looked slow and, quite frankly, uninterested. Not match fit perhaps? A couple of decent touches showed what he was capable of, but surprisingly lacklusre.

Dempsey – 6/10
Had a great chance to put us 1-0 up early on. Battled hard but pretty average in comparison to previous performance this season.

Healy – 6/10
Failed to make any kind of impression on the game. Was surrounded by blue shirts every touch he got and found himself stranded out on the right.

Kamara – 6/10
Blew a great chance to seal the victory.

Bouazza – 6/10
Came on too late to make much of an impression.

Murphy – 6/10
Okay. Again, too late to do much.

Man of the match: Simon Davies. He just shades it for me because of his all-round performance and commitment to the cause.


Chelsea v Fulham: An opinion

In the hours since yesterday’s match at the Bridge ended I’ve been struggling to work out exactly how I feel. Am I elated that we performed well or disappointed that we failed to make the most of, arguably, our best ever chance of beating our nearest rivals on their own patch.

After watching the highlights – repeatedly – I think a draw was a fair result. Both teams had great chances to take all three points, and while we can bemoan the fact that Konchesky and Kamara failed to capitalise late on, it’s only fair to acknowledge Chelsea came very close too.

It was definitely our best performance at Stamford Bridge since we were promoted to the Premier League in my opinion. We hustled for everything, defended superbly and, eventually, brought the best out of Petr Czech who is a world-class goalkeeper.

Starting from the back then… For the first time this season I felt we had someone between the sticks who was confident, and more importantly, had the confidence of his defenders. This is something we’ve been badly lacking with Niemi in the side.

Our defence played very well against arguably one of the world’s best strike forces. Yes, there were times when Chelsea broke through. Kalou turned Baird inside out on one occassion and Joe Cole managed to get some dangerous crosses past Konchesky, but generally we were solid.

Baird, in particular, visibly grew in confidence as the game progressed and made some fantastic challenges. Bizarrely, this wasn’t enough to stop him coming under fire from some quarters of the crowd – to my utter disbelief – but I will save that for a later post.

In midfield, Smertin played like his life depended on it and Simon Davies was absolutely everywhere. He must have run miles…back in defence one minute, attacking the next, falling back to break up a Chelsea attack, spreading balls about….he was outstanding.

Sadly, the only area in which we were disappointing was up front. How typical it is that the first match all season that we manage to keep a clean sheet is also the first one in which we fail to find the back of the net!

Healy was kept very quiet, Dempsey played with characteristic aggression but didn’t make much impression really and could have done better with his headed chance in the opening exchanges. Kamara fluffed his lines after coming on and Bouazza was okay but arrived too late to make much of an impression.

However, the worst player on the pitch in white was Seol Ki-Hyeon which came as a huge surprise to me. Maybe it’s just a lack of match fitness, but he was slow, lumbering and generally lacklusture. His one or two nice touches were totally overshadowed by the negatives and he should have been replaced by Bouazza far earlier.

All in all it was a performance of which the players can feel proud. They battled hard and we were only a whisker away from recording our first victory at the Bridge since 1979. Next year eh?

Interview: Chelsea bloggers

We caught up with the mysteriously named BC, who runs the Blue Champions blog and to Ash Kirby, the web consultant for Swindon Blues (I think some of the latter’s answers were tongue in cheek!) Our grateful thanks to both for their time.

Incidentally, to see a breakdown of our Premier League record at Stamford Bridge click here, and to read a preview of tomorrow’s match click here.

Q. What do you make of the departure of Mourinho?
BC. I cannot avoid the cliché – a big loss to Chelsea and the Premier League.
Two sad things about Mourinho’s departure – one is there was no pressing need to oust our most successful manager and the second is the manner in which he was made to quit. The whole thing could have been avoided or at least handled better by the club. Honestly speaking, surely something’s wrong behind the scenes. The club could be Roman’s but the team was/is certainly Mourinho’s. As fans we feel completely ill-treated and betrayed. Enough said.
AK. Me personally am gutted

Q. Do you think Avram Grant is the man for the job?
BC. Straight answer is No. Avram Grant cannot be replacing someone like Jose Mourinho. Avram Grant does not have the pedigree to be managing the Chelsea of today. Whatever the club says, it seems almost certain that we’ll get a more permanent replacement, so that Avram can return to his directorship of football. All said, I’d give Avram some time. Let’s see what he’s got. For all his eccentricity in sacking Jose, Roman is not a multi-billionaire for nothing.
AK. Not at all

Q. How confident are you that you’ll end the season as champions?
BC. Well, given the current turbulence and the kind of competition we have this season, it would be a massive achievement to win the title. Arsenal and Liverpool are flying high but we know quite a lot about their consistency or the lack of it. If we are able to get over this whole Jose saga, if we do not lose players to other clubs/injuries, if African Cup of Nations does not impact us too much – we should be able to do it. But there are too many ifs you see. We have a great team with brilliant spirit, determination and winning mindset and killer instinct. I’m fairly confident.
AK. I am not

Q. How do you view Fulham? As rivals? As an irrelevence?
BC. Can I choose the latter? Kidding. Certainly, I won’t see Fulham as a rival until you get your own version of Roman! But the derby is always fun and interesting but always seen as a three-pointer. That said, I’d like to see Fulham in the top half of the table.
AK. In terms of a threat, none

Q. What do you think of the new-look Fulham team under Sanchez?
BC. I should admit that I’ve not seen the Fulham matches this season. I thought Chris Coleman was quite good but Sanchez should be better. With all these players he has bought this season, you should only improve, something like Eriksson’s YouTube youngsters.
AK. I preferred Coleman but he seems to be settling the team

Q. Are there any of our players you’re worried about?
BC. Worried, no. Wary, yes. Kamara, Dempsey and old boy Smertin in the same order. But I don’t think beating Terry, Alex, Belletti, Ashley Cole and finally Petr Cech for a goal, is that easy a proposition.
AK. All of them at the moment

Q. Who, on present form, should we most fear this weekend?
BC. Shaun Wright-Phillips is on real good form at the moment. He can be real threat and with the side midfielder role in 4-4-2, he is completely unleashed and also has people to cross the ball to. Watch out for him.
AK. Abramovich

Q. What do you think the score will be this weekend?
BC. 2-0. That would be the first match at the Stamford Bridge since the departure of the Special One. It would be an emotional one. There could be demonstrations, protests, songs and banners to show support to Jose.
Like Jose said, fans at the Stamford Bridge never had to cry because we never lost there under him. Avram knows the consequence of losing that record a week after Jose’s exit. By all probabilities, we should win comfortably.
AK. 1-1

You can read a preview of the match from BC’s point of view by clicking here.

Preview: Chelsea v Fulham

On paper it certainly doesn’t look much of a contest. Chelsea’s multi-million pound superstars of world football against our battling side which has been put together for a fraction of the cost, but there are some factors which could swing the advantage in our favour.

Firstly is the upheaval that’s happened in recent weeks with the departure of the ‘Special One’ and the installation of the hitherto virtually unknown Avram Grant to the manager’s chair. It’s a bizarre situation and unsettling – as their lacklustre showing against Man Utd illustrated.

Secondly, it is being reported that Roberto Carvalho and Frank Lampard won’t be fit to play tomorrow which is good news – although Didier Drogba is poised to make a shock return to the side which is worrying, considering the damage that he can inflict.

Thirdly, we know they’re not invincible.

Don’t forget we turned them over at the Cottage (come on, who could forget that afternoon!!!) on March 19th last year when, arguably, they were at the very peak of their powers under Mourinho and en-route to their second successive Premier League title.

Both teams have had troubled starts to this season, although the Blues are certainly in a healthier position at present.

So far they are 6th with 11 points on the back of three wins, two draws and two defeats. Victories have been recorded against Birmingham and Portsmouth at the Bridge, and Reading away, while they drew 0-0 at home against Blackburn and 1-1 at Liverpool. The two defeats – both 0-2 reversals – were suffered on the road at Aston Villa and Manchester United.

In the league they have scored seven goals and conceded eight. Their leading scorer so far is Frank Lampard with three, while Drogba, Pizarro, Malouda and Essien have all chipped in with one-a-piece. However, they have failed to score in their last three league games.

This form is in stark contrast to this time last season at which point they had won five out of their first six games and were topping the league with 15 points.

As for us, we have now slipped to a miserable 17th with just six points having been notched up so far. The results table shows one win, three draws and three defeats. Our home record shows a win against Bolton, draws against Spurs and Manchester City, and defeat at the hands of Boro. A draw at Wigan and defeats at Aston Villa and Arsenal illustrate the fact we haven’t won on the road for more than a year. That is woeful in anybody’s book.

We certainly don’t appear to have a problem scoring. Twelve goals have been netted so far in the league, with Dempsey topping the charts with three and Healy and Smertin bagging two each. Kamara, Bouazza, Murphy, McBride and Davies have all got one. However, we have let in a whopping fourteen goals – six in the last two home matches alone.

At this point last season we were sitting in 11th position with eight points, having won twice, drawn twice and lost twice.

So what’s going to happen at Stamford Bridge tomorrow?

I believe we have every chance of scoring goals this weekend; my biggest fear is how many we’re going to concede. Our defence has, to put it politely, been rather fragile of late and that’s not a great way to go into a crunch game.

While it pains me to return to the familiar discussion point of Chris Baird – I’m starting to feel like we’re part of a gang bullying this lad – I think for his sake he needs to be rested this weekend as things just aren’t going his way and Volz brought back into the right back position.

However, that is unlikely to happen. On his icons.com blog, Volzy reveals he’s been spending time on the treatment table so we’ll have to get behind Baird and hopefully help him to deliver the kind of performance of which he is capable.

Elsewhere I believe that Sanchez will stick with the familiar line-up in midfield and attack that we’ve seen of late with Smertin being restored to the side after having been rested for Wednesday’s disastrous outing against Bolton. Bouazza will probably return as well, with Seol on the sidelines, poised to cause mayhem in the last 20 minutes if necessary.

Healy will probably be given his starting berth back, although I would definitely like to see Kamara test himself against the likes of Terry & Co at some stage. As far as goalkeepers are concerned, I really don’t know what’s best as I am yet to see Keller first-hand. I presume Sanchez will stick with Niemi – let’s just hope he’s got his form back.

To see a full breakdown of our recent record at Stamford Bridge click here.

Our record at Stamford Bridge

As part of our pre-match coverage, we have gone through the record books to analyse our record at Stamford Bridge in the Premier League…Although most of the games were superb, the statistics don’t exactly make for pleasant reading.

In the six encounters since we won promotion, we have drawn twice and lost on the other four occasions. We have scored nine goals and conceded 14, although two of those were own goals. Here is the full breakdown:

2006/07 season.
December 30th, 2006
Chelsea 2 – 2 Fulham
Rosenior (og), DrogbaVolz, Bocanegra

2005/06 season
December 26th, 2005
Chelsea 3 – 2 Fulham
Gallas, Lampard, Crespo – McBride, Helguson

2004/05 season
April 23rd, 2005
Chelsea 3 – 1 Fulham
Cole, Lampard, Gudjohnsen – John

2003/04 season
March 20th, 2004
Chelsea 2 – 1 Fulham
Gudjohnsen, Duff – Pembridge

2002/03 season
April 26th, 2003
Chelsea 1 – 1 Fulham
Goma (og) – Boa Morte

2001/02 season
March 6th, 2002
Chelsea 3 – 2 Fulham
Melchiot, Gudjohnsen, ForssellSaha (2)

Just one day to go…

…before what I always consider to be THE match of the season and I’m so excited I can hardly concentrate on anything! Any Fulham fan who hasn’t sampled the atmosphere in the away end at Stamford Bridge has really missed out as it’s far and away better than anything you’ll experience at Old Trafford, the Emirates, even Anfield. It really is superb.

I will be back on here later with some interviews with Chelsea fans who have given us their take on the upheavals down the road, as well as a preview of the match, including full details of how we have fared at the Bridge since being promoted to the Premier League.

Fulham v Arsenal UPDATES

First-half summary: Big Jim Stannard was a no-show so Dave Beasant has replaced him and pulled off two fantastic saves – including one from Big Brother, er ‘star’, Ziggy…That was a sentence i never thought i’d write. Rufus Brevett looks superb – maybe we can get him in the line-up for Saturday? Example (he’s a rapper) swept Nigel Winterburn’s legs from underneath him in the comedy moment of the half! Anyhow. 0-0 at the break….

Second-half: Fairly even start. Winterburn just skewed his shot miles wide…
GOAL!!!! We score through a shoe designer called Di Mambro (I kid you not)…We’re playing beautifully with Andy Scott Lee going close
GOAL!!! Arsenal equalise. Rufus fails to close Ray Parlour down and he hammers home…1-1
Goldbaek fouls Parlour and gets sent to the cooler…
It ends 1-1 which means we go out of the tournament as Boro had a higher scoring draw apparently… Everyone is saying it was the game of the tournament so far…