One of them has a bandage on the leg; the other, a bandage on his "confidence" - Julian Finney
With all the fireworks spent off the field during the week, all that was left for on the field Sunday was a wet dud. Having now dropped points for the fifth straight match, Chelsea sit just fourth in the Premier League.
At the time of this writing, there are 68 pictures from this match in the SB Nation photo database. Without doing much research at all, that may be the most ever outside of possibly that beautiful May night in Munich.
A disproportionately large number of the 68 show Fernando Torres as their lead subject and humorously large number of those that show Torres as their lead subject depict Torres either sitting dejectedly on the pitch or holding his head in his hands. Other pictures show Petr Cech kicking a ball hopelessly high and far into the night sky, sure to be an air-lifted gift parachuted with love from Chelsea to Manchester City. There are a couple of Eden Hazard adjusting his family jewels (an important skill for a professional footballer, as I've come to understand), while the token shots of Ashley Cole, Oscar, and Juan Mata are far less newsworthy.
Some pictures show a balding man with rosy cheeks shouting and gesturing with his hands. Sometimes he's shown standing next to a suave looking Italian type with a luscious baby blue and white cashmere scarf. The contrast is striking. There's also a single shot of David Platt watching his players warm up, which seems completely random until you realize that whatever he was looking at was probably the most exciting thing to happen on the day. Alas, there are no pictures of Platt's Chelsea counterpart, as the new assistant manager was hiding somewhere in Row Z of the Chelsea dugout. Don't be shy, Boudewijn! Does that rhyme?
On a sidenote, my favorite thing about Zenden being back in the limelight (somewhat) is the use of his nickname Bolo as a sarcastic play on an entirely reprehensible Twitter hashtag. Like, "I ain't got no coaching badges but that don't matter in England anyway #BOLO."
Just about the most exciting of the 68 pictures are the ones that incidentally show absolutely zero on-pitch action and are instead of Chelsea fans holding up signs and shirts with #16 on them. I wonder who wore that number quite famously about 15 years ago? Le sigh. (No, no, not Le Sulk. He's in China. Or West Ham. Yes, really; well, maybe; call me, Nico.)
Needless to say, I had hoped for so much more when I had signed up to do the match report for this one. To wit, when my visiting mother-in-law was complaining about how the Thanksgiving festivities across this great nation have caused all her daytime soap operas to go into showing just reruns, I told her that she should just become a Chelsea fan because we get more juicy story lines in a week than Dallas (R.I.P. Larry Hagman) used to in a season. Who shot Roberto Di Matteo? Is it time to wake up and say that this season is just a dream and it's in fact the summer of 2012, Chelsea have just won the Champions League and agreed to sign the most exciting wizard with a round ball in all of Europe?
All notions to such twists were put to rest when the familiar voice of Peter Drury started talking about a Chelsea manager hired to "make Fernando function" and to "take Chelsea back to the top", and "to win and win with style." This was the real world; this wasn't just fantasy.
Peter Drury will be devastated, I'm sure, to know that said manager accomplished none of those things on this day. But I shouldn't shortchange anybody, Fernando did have a shot after all (an improvement of infinity percent over his statline from West Bromwich Albion) and perhaps on a different day said shot gets rifled into the roof of the net rather spectacularly. But on this day, it flew harmlessly over the bar. It was one of five Chelsea shots to do so, with only just one other - a weak David Luiz effort from a free kick - actually forcing Joe Hart into action. That's six total shots from the Champions of Europe if you're counting, matching the low set in the first competitive match of the season away to Wigan.
While Chelsea started with an obvious defensive winger in Ryan Bertrand that day, the new manager rolled out a lineup much more similar to recent Di Matteo variations. The Triumvirate of Hazard-Oscar-Mata was alive and well although much more rigid and restricted. Any inkling of the goal-manufacturing whirl of free roles in the attacking band was quickly dissuaded when Hazard and Mata kept dropping back to the corner of their own penalty area to defend. Ashley Cole and Cesar Azpilicueta were also restricted in their attacking ambitions, while David Luiz and Branislav Ivanovic kept things calm and simple. The net result and the just reward for all this was the first clean sheet by Chelsea in 10 matches. Long overdue, I suppose, although Petr Cech still had to be equal to a late Matija Nastasic effort from a corner, while Sergio Aguero and David Silva both wasted wide open headers.
On the flip side of things, the Chelsea attack was toothless. The one official shot on target and the first real effort at goal from Chelsea came six minutes before the break. Ashley Cole - whom the crowd serenaded several times with "we want you to stay" - also tested England's #1 late on in the second half, but thanks to referee Chris Foy's* missed call, this action officially recorded as a shot-off-target. Regardless, it would've been only a slight improvement to the final statline. About four minutes into the second half, there was a sequence of 6-7 passes - Azpilicueta (interception) to Ivanovic to Ramires to Hazard drops it to Oscar spreads wide to Mata cuts back and crosses to Cole - that possibly made Vincent Kompany produce a single bead of sweat. Otherwise, the City backline enjoyed a rather eventless afternoon. Victor Moses & Oriol Romeu were introduced as the minutes ground on, neither changing the status quo much at all.
* This was Chris Foy's first Chelsea match since that match at QPR last season. Talk about polar opposites in terms of on-pitch action. Foy did not factor into the result today, although he was maddeningly inconsistent in terms of what was deemed a foul between the first and second halves. Job; done.
At the end of the day, the one point gained is better than zero points gained. But, combined with other results from the weekend, it has dropped Chelsea to just fourth in the league and now five off the top where not that long ago they've held a four-point lead themselves. And so the rain teemed down on the low-key display at Stamford Bridge, a perfect metaphor for the wet dud of the Ninth's first match in charge.