What a #BoxingDay

You really have to give it to Jurgen Klopp. He knew what it was saying when he told the world that he’d turn “doubters” into “believers.” Today, just one match shy of the halfway mark in the season, they lead the table by 13 points, with a crushing performance against the second place team, Leicester City (Liverpool 4:0 Leicester City). Today’s match, as in nearly every match since the season began was beautiful, with Liverpool playing with the confidence of champions the world hasn’t seen since the early 90’s Chicago Bulls. This team is truly special (and this is from a Chelsea fan) and it is clear proof that Klopp is a genius.

Yeah, Wolves take on Man City tomorrow, but I think we all know what will happen there.

Tottenham scored a brilliant second goal against Brighton (reminder thanks to my brother-in-law, Keith, who wasn’t in a Theraflu-induced morning nap like this guy was). Bournemouth/Arsenal was a dumpster fire that ended in a draw. Somehow, Watford punched above it’s class to result in a draw with Sheffield United. In the fight for the bottom of the table, Aston Villa outpaced Norwich, which leaves the Canaries at the bottom of the pile. Crystal Palace squeaks one out on West Ham (Happiness for pals Molly and Sarah who I believe got to watch the match live from a box). Everton beats Burnley, Man United sticks it to Newcastle and Liverpool brings the hammer of God down on the Foxes.

So, Boxing Day leaves us with this view of the table.

If Man City beat the Wolves, they’ll put Leicester City out of the second position, but a draw will keep ’em even.

@ChelseaFC brought beauty back to the game

The lads got it done

Today was the kind of day that you wait weeks for, and it wasn’t just because the Blues came out victorious with a win at Tottenham. The match was a pure 90+ minutes of incredible play, showing Chelsea in rare recent for.

Match Formations

Frank Lampard set the boys in with a new formation, one that worked very well to their comfort zone. Both of the goals were scored by Willian, first at the 12 minute mark and then again right before the whistle blew for half-time. There wouldn’t be another goal in the match, but Chelsea held off Tottenham thoroughly throughout the remainder. Tottenham simply couldn’t get it together.

Though Chelsea had only a little more than half of the possession, check out how dominate and effective the Blues’ play was. More shots, more shots on target, better pass accuracy. Tottenham is a fairly technically proficient team. They simply weren’t creating opportunities today.

Now for the Ugly Bits

Sixty minutes into the match, Rudiger fouls Son, who then kicks his foot up (cleats up) into Rudiger’s chest and Rudiger goes down. It looks blatant. Son gets the red card after a bit of theater from the Spur and gets sent off. Shortly thereafter, you could hear the Spurs crowd taunting monkey noises at Rudiger.

The referee halts the match momentarily to handle the report from Rudiger that he’s being verbally taunted and Spurs supporters in the stands are making monkey gestures at him. As all of this is happening, someone throws a drink out onto the pitch at Chelsea’s goalkeeper, Kepa. There are three different PA announcements about refraining from racist behavior in the stands. Three. You can’t make this up.

And this is the sour to a great match-up. Going in, you had all the drama of the story line between Spurs’ Mourinho and Chelsea’s Lampard, the master and the student. You have a young Chelsea team that are steadying their pace as they hold onto the top tier of the table, while Tottenham is working to right the ship as they’ve come out of a dark period under their former manager. Lampard brings in a very effective formation and things start clicking immediately.

Then you have the idiot Spurs supporters who caused all the ruckus in the stands near the end of the match and swayed all the attention from a perfectly good Chelsea thumping to a storyline of racist actions by supporters.

There should be cameras everywhere in the stadium. As Tottenham review the incident, they should be able to figure out who was behind this ugly distraction. And, to be completely transparent, an ugly distraction is the watered down version. I can’t imagine that whoever is behind the incident are REAL supporters. And, if they are, it says a lot about the state of our beautiful game. A lifetime ban from English football would be a starter. Getting a good thwacking from some visiting St. Pauli’s guests would be one better.

People from all different walks of life and places the world over come together to make soccer the greatest sport ever played. If, as a supporter, you have to rely on vile, racist/homophobic taunts and insults to defend your club’s short-comings, cash in your chips and get out of the game. I hope the Premier League, and every league for that matter, make a very strong stand that individuals who display these ugly tendencies have no welcome in our stadiums. They’re not real soccer fans. They’re not true club supporters.

#Liverpool beats #Monterrey, but at least they gave them a run for the money

Mo Salah in the chase

I walk into Amigos in Cedar Falls and the guy behind the counter recognizes my Chelsea FC scarf, smiles and asks me who is going to win between Monterrey and Liverpool.

“Monterrey has a chance,” I say.

He laughs. “C’mon. You’re being nice.”

I remind him that in the beautiful game, anything can happen.

Liverpool may have put two in the goal, but Monterrey gave them a fight. Liverpool carried the majority of the possession, but Monterrey had 16 shots, with half being shots on target.

Monterrey 1, Liverpool 2

Sometimes You Just Gotta #Pass

Something that has really surprised me this season is how many short passes Chelsea is doing in the backfield. Take Saturday’s match at Stamford Bridge against Bournemouth. Chelsea completed 487 successful passes of 590 pass attempts. That seems like a lot, right? Well, yeah, when you consider that Bournemouth (the match winner) only made 192 successful passes of 293 overall. This is what the Chelsea nonsense looked like.

Note: None of this passing resulted in a goal

You’ve got to ask yourself, “Well, where is all this passing going?”

To the left, to the right, to the left, to the right

The top two most frequent pass combinations were Rudiger to Zouma and Zouma to Rudiger. Now, I get it…you might not be a massive Chelsea supporter and you may not know exactly who these two Blues stars are, but let me break it down for you. Rudiger and Zouma are both in the back line. That means that a whole lot of passing was going back and forth and not moving forward.

Remember, you’ve got to move the ball forward to actually score

Now, another way to look at this is that 28% of passes moved backward and 24% moved squarely. That means that less than HALF of all passes were moving forward. Also, only 4% of passes were long passes. The rest of this nonsense was short, safe passes and a lot of them were kicking the ball around in their back third of the pitch.

Here’s an idea to put points on the board. MOVE THE BALL FORWARD, LADS! Good grief.

Chalking up #Chelsea v #WestHamUnited as #Lampard’s Olive Branch to #Pellegrini

Good grief. There have been better days for Chelsea FC. Today was certainly not one of them.

The best defense is to step aside, as to not get hit by a flying ball

West Ham United looked better than they have in weeks. I have to think this was an early Christmas gift from Frank Lampard to Manuel Pellegrini. Not to discount West Ham on any level, but boy oh boy, Chelsea was a mess. Just look at the game stats.

Could have saved a lot of space and just wrote “Chelsea couldn’t hit a goal all match.”

Chelsea ran with the majority of possession, strangely had 666 passes (oooohhhh yeah in a crazy Devil voice) and somehow committed no fouls. (WHAT?!?!?) The Blues had Mount, Pulisic and 2018 World Cup winning Giroud on the attack. That’s how you get 19 shots and 6 of those on target, though West Ham were simply more accurate and precise with their shooting today.

Lampard: Let’s let the defensive line play as midfielders and leave the real defense to the midfield and the attackers.

A few items to note:

  • Why on earth was James playing forward Pedro in so many situations? He was useless in setting up opportunities for the attackers. And, in doing so, was often late to get to the backfield to defend (which is what he was there to do). It left a huge exposure for Chelsea and honestly, I’m surprised it was 0-3 by the half.
  • Chelsea spent way too many passes moving the ball backward into their own defensive territory. At the half, more than half of possession play was within the mid-field. Chelsea simply wasn’t moving it forward, which was astounding when you consider the line-up of attackers at the front, but then again, the mid-field was simply a mess and for some unknown reason, James (THE DEFENDER) spent to much time trying to set up shots, which he simply couldn’t do.
  • Where there weren’t large holes in the defensive line, the defenders were slow to get to the challenge and Zouma seemed at times like he was afraid of taking a hit from the ball.
  • But, obviously, defense doesn’t win the match (even when James thinks it might). Quality striking felt like it was coming from too far away. It was like watching a dad throw softballs to a kid, just hoping that something would connect. It clearly never did.
“Hey look, I’ll try to score too.”

Today was pretty clearly a hiccup for Chelsea, who has been playing well for some time. Last weekend’s loss to ManCity was expected and the draw against Valencia (in the Champions League) wasn’t totally out of nowhere. But the lads need to get it together and Frank’s got to make some better learning moments out of a day like today.

Lampard looks ready to run out there and win it himself.

And, the commentary is not to discredit West Ham United. They played strongly today. They appeared to easily strip away the ball from the finest of Chelsea players. Even though they appeared to tire late in the match, they still clearly did what they needed to do. Hopefully, this is a bit of a turnaround for Pellegrini’s boys.

Chelsea FC Women Clean the Pitch Against Birmingham City

Chelsea FC grabbed their largest win of the season in a visit to Birmingham City with a 0-6 win over the home team (Chelsea grabbing 6 points and walking away with a clean sheet against Birmingham City).

  • This is the 25th consecutive WSL match on the road that they’ve won
  • The no-loss run on the road dates back to May 2017
  • Scorers included Ji (2′), Bright (37′), England (45’+1′), England (63′) and a pair from Spence (48′ and 52′)

Just a reminder, you can watch all of the Super League matches on the FA Player app or your desktop. Visit https://faplayer.thefa.com/home/womens-super-league to sign up today.

Chelsea take on Everton at Everton on Dec 1. (Full schedule is also found on the FA Player site.)

Match Week 13 Recap

I know what you’re thinking, “Dude, you’re putting out your recap clearly on a Sunday night and scheduling it for post on Monday.”

Yep.

“And you’re not even waiting for Newcastle United and Aston Villa to finish their Week 13 match.”

Nope, but here’s a spicy Aston Villa meme to make it all feel better.

And, yes, I realize Burnley has a full 7 points on Aston Villa, but those home kits are basically the same, though AVFC wears ’em better and West Ham United wears ’em best.

All better? With Manchester City’s defeat over Chelsea, both teams basically flip-flopped in the table. Still, Chelsea has 7-points against the 5th team, Wolverhampton. Leicester City has been on fire, but one could argue their recent five matches have been a drop in the bucket for this attacking and aggressive club. Still they sit 8 points behind the leaders, Liverpool, who had me a little worried for a moment against Crystal Palace. Would have thought that match would have carried another goal or two for Liverpool.

Here’s what I find most interesting right now, the 5th through 11th place are separated by three points. Those seven teams can have a lot of leaps and jumps within that tier. And, you’re 12th through 16th ranks are separated by two points. That’s wild. And, a good reminder that at this point in the season, it really is any club’s season. (Though Liverpool are still far enough ahead that they will likely be the 2020 champs.)

Looking ahead to next week, Manchester City, Liverpool and Leicester City should all pull in three points easily. I’m going to be tugging out my hair when West Ham visit Chelsea. My heart says Chelsea, but my mind says draw. I’m also anticipating that Mourinho takes victory for another week with the Spurs against Bournemouth, but we’ll see. Sundays’ show down with Sheffield United at the Wolves should be a real alley fight, too.

All times are Eastern

Sheffield United Earns Its Keep

Earlier in the week, I said, “Sheffield United and ManUnited will be a brawl, but considering the troubles with ManUnited, I’m going with Sheffield in the win (it won’t be a blow-out, though).”

In some ways, I was right, though it ended up in a draw, 3-3, with furious action hitting in the last 25 minutes.

A draw. Here’s my biggest take-away, ManUnited is not playing the right players at the right time. They have the quality to be a Top 5 team, but I can’t see the management putting the right players on at the right times. Sheffield United got away with more shots on target and watching the match, you’d swear for the most part, Sheffield had the dominant possession. Sheffield’s passing fell apart in the last 25 minutes, more so than the previous 70. At the same time, it seemed as though Sheffield was making more complicated and longer passes. (Likely how the pass count and the pass accuracy was so much higher for ManUnited.

But here’s the thing, ManUnited’s quality happened for a short burst of about 7 minutes when they scored their three goals. This was also aligned with Mason Greenwood coming onto the pitch. If I remember correctly, Rashford’s goal was more or less a lucky drive in. Right place, right time. (Though, I suppose that’s how all proper football is.)

Courtesy: Google Match Commentary

Sheffield United earns its rightful spot, nearing the top of the table. Today’s draw puts them in 6th place, behind The Wolves. It also marks two wins and three draws in the past five matches, which included a win over Arsenal, a draw against West Ham, a win over Burnley, a draw with Tottenham and a draw with Manchester United. Honestly, Sheffield United is coming in hot from the Championship League and making a stand as a team that deserves to be mid-table, if not better.

This also suggests that Manchester United likely has the necessary ingredients to get back to the Top 6 or better, but they simply aren’t pulling it together in a coherent way. Up until the 70 minute, you’d swear ManUnited were just trying to throw their manager under the bus. Sloppy passes, short passes, often an inability to move the ball down the field fully, etc. etc. etc. We’ll have to see what the next two weeks bring for The Devils.

Tottenham’s Saturday Test

A brand new manager, an away match to prove themselves and regain the trust of the fans. Today was a big day for the Spurs. After Week 12, they had found themselves slumping in the table rankings with less and less hope. Then, the owner sacked their previous manager and brought in Jose Mourinho, a somewhat divisive manager that can either turn a club around or make things much worse. (And this isn’t to say that Mourinho is a bad manager, but things do get awfully dramatic when he’s steering the ship.)

So, today’s Week 13 match placed the Spurs against West Ham United (#COYI). The Hammers have been hanging around the bottom of the table (currently in the 16th spot). This would normally be a blow-out match for Tottenham.

Official Stats

Ok, the obvious first. Tottenham won. They had essentially two days to pull it together with their new manager. But, also remember, this is a champion-level team. It’s shocking how close the stats look. Moreover, the Spurs appear to have had a great first 50 minutes and then gave the Hammers the opportunity to bring it back together. The amount of possession that the Hammers carried was simply amazing when you consider the last 20 minutes of the match. West Ham’s passing accuracy was incredible consider the Spurs should be a “defender” style team. On target shots to shots overall would be 40% for the Spurs and 36% for West Ham United.

Bottom line: Both of these teams have been playing below their caliber. Hopefully, both can turn it around in the coming weeks. I’d like to see the Hammers get back up to mid-table, but at least the Spurs pulled this one off. Jose was in rare form as an apparently supportive manager on the sidelines, not doing the usual sulking he’s known for. At the very least, the rest of the season will be interesting to watch.