AnimeDull Tedious ShiteFORTRAN IVThe Sporting Life

Grasping At Grace


grace2Chelsea 2      Crystal Palace 1


It was to be the return of The Special One. All the Blues Fans worldwide applauded the return of Jose Mourinho at last! It was going to be so simple from that point on. All the pieces of the puzzle that were floundering under AVB and RDM and The Fat Spanish Waiter would fall into place and we would win and win and win!!

The unfortunate truth is that instead of dwelling in state of grace, we are  hanging by a perilous thread and grasping for grace.

Yes, we won today. We dispatched Crystal Palace as expected. Yes, we are in 2nd place at the moment, 2 points adrift of Arsenal, and waiting on results from White Hart Lane as I tap out this telegram. But it’s not what we expected so far, not what we thought it would be like with Jose Mourinho back at the helm.

As I said, we won today, as we should have. No one in their right mind, not even the most die-hard Eagles fan expected Crystal Palace to win today at Stamford Bridge. It should have been an easy win for my Blues. It should not have been as perilous and treacherously difficult as it was.

It’s so frustrating to watch and to see….that all of the pieces of the puzzle are there….but they just don’t seem to be able to fall into place and form a complete picture.

I’m quite sure Mourinho has barked up their ass plenty, and continues to do so, even as I write this, even though it’s 3:57AM Sunday December 15th in London as I hammer this sentence out on my IBM 029 Key Punch Machine.



grace3The Return of The Special One


It’s a good thing for Chelsea that soccer doesn’t have a shot clock like they have in basketball. Based on the evidence of our tilt with Crystal Palace, we would never have been able to manage the 67% of possession that we had through the game. For most of the match, we seemed content to pass the ball around the perimeter as if we were trying to run Bo Ryan’s famous swing offense from the #4 ranked University of Wisconsin Badgers; and at other times, it seemed like we were running Dean Smith’s ball control scheme that he employed so well with the University of North Carolina Tarheels back in the day ((said scheme, btw, was responsible for the introduction the shot clock in college basketball)).

I doubt very highly that this was the tactical scheme that Jose Mourinho laid out for our Blues on the day. Nor do I think it’s the style of play he wants from the lads in blue.

Chelsea’s play this season has for the most part been ponderous and error-prone. Defensive lapses have been the rule of the day….John Terry is and always will be a leader and a legend, but he’s a step off the pace at times and all his cunning and knowledge can’t make it up for that. That, plus he can’t do it all alone. Someone in the back line has to step their game up…in fact, ALL of them do. The scary thing right now is that Terry’s irreplaceable leadership and experience will need to be replaced someday, sooner rather than later, and I don’t see any on our current squad who would be able to step up to that level….our back line talent is average at best.

The mighty mighty midfield. Yes, they are the mighty ones, Hazard, Mata, Oscar, Willian, Lamps, Ramires and all. But what the fuck have they been doing for the most part other than pass the ball to each other, or back to Terry, Cahill, Luiz & company? Alright alright…I know I’m exaggerating a bit to make a point. Point being that with all their skill and intelligence, and all of Lamps’ experience, there seems to a lot of low-watt bulbs burning on their creative porches. Teams that park the bus and pack in the defense and pressure the ball seem to completely befuddle our midfield. They pass it around the horn a few times, flick it back to Terry, and start all over again, assuming they don’t lose the ball on the counter. I’ll admit I’m sketching this in with generalizations and painting with a broad brush. Willian showed flashes of brilliance and pace today…and that bodes well for the future. But no one is going to mistake Willian for Shakespeare, Charles Bukowski, or Andrew Lloyd Webber when it comes to the creativity department

Then we have our strikers….who might have legs like traction engines, but they haven’t gotten much work.  It’s always been in vogue to whinge about Fernando Torres since his transfer from Liverpool, but it’s a bit unreasonable to expect the big man to throw it down when he’s not getting the ball in the paint from our midfield sideshow—ditto for Ba and Eto’o. Yes, I know he’s being covered by 10 men in the paint, but nothing ventured, nothing gained. At Palace, Torres got the rebound off the woodwork from Willian’s 3-point shot and like a big man should, he threw it down. There’s been not enough of that and there needs to be more. We have to stop leaving our strikers to stand in the paint like a bunch of scarecrows out in some lonely field.

So it’s no doubt then that we’re left wondering, fans, haters, and neutrals alike, just what the hell is going on at Chelsea and why hasn’t the old-time magic and the old-time feeling been revived with the return of the Special One.



grace4Manchester City 6      Arsenal 3


If this match had been the Buffalo Bills versus the Cleveland Browns on a wicked cold December Saturday ((there used to be Saturday football in the NFL after NCAA football was done and dusted back before Thursday Night Football was invented)), then this would have been virtually unwatchable. Instead, this was a tour de force of a performance. Most of the force being Man City. But Arsenal got to do a few pirouettes as well. I wanted Arsenal to lose to make it tighter at the top of the table. So mission accomplished thanks to the Noisy Neighbors. But I don’t really give a toss about Man City ((though I don’t hate them as much as much as my wife does)), so I won’t belabor every goal from Sergio-kun’s opener on 14 minutes to Yaya Toure’s penalty kick on 90+6 which was the encore performance. Arsenal had goals of their own drizzled in between there but none of them were scored by Olivier Geroud who’s on my EPL Fantasy Football Team so I don’t really care  that two of them were by Theo Walcott and that Arsenal’s encore performance was courtesy of everyone’s favourite Big Fucking German, Per Mertesacker. But both squads have been grasping at grace themselves recently. Arsenal has started the season brightly and are top of the table 2 points clear of Chelsea and Liverpool…but their lead is a tenuous one and it not looking as certain as it did a week ago or even 3 days ago that the Gunners will be top of table come Christmas. They lost 2-0 to Napoli in the Champions League earlier this week which left them 2nd place in Group F and will await Monday’s draw for the knockout rounds and their chance to perform their ballet with likes of either Bayern München, PSG, Barcelona, Atlético Madrid or Real Madrid. Man City are facing the same potential adversaries since their gaffer Manuel Pelligrini forgot or didn’t know or realize, the tie-break rules for the Champions League….his boys needed to score a 4th against Bayern to in order to top Group D…simply beating Bayern wasn’t enough. That, and despite destroying lots of teams in the EPL in their title recovery pursuit this season, they’ve not lived up to their potential either, especially on defense, and have clawed their way up to 4th place….so grace is within their reach. But it is not within in their grasp. There. I’ve written a whole paragraph that is almost as unreadable as the aforementioned imaginary NFL tilt would be unwatchable, about a football match that was compelling, exciting, and vital in the grand scheme of things. Mission accomplished.



grace7Tootenham 0      Liverpool 5


A team like Liverpool has been perpetually grasping at grace for years and years, ever since ManU(re) during the Terrible Reign of Sir Alex Ferguson knocked them off their fucking perch. And this season grace, however illusory, seems to be within their grasp. Tootenham, meanwhile, doesn’t know what it really means to grasp at grace. And thus, despite some key injuries, Liverpool came down to London and gave the Spurs a good hiding.

Despite and perhaps even because of AVB, the pieces of the puzzle at his disposal would appear to form a complete picture. The only problem with the picture is that it’s a complete picture of Tootenham in 7th place and it’s not in focus and there are some pieces missing. Does that make any sense or seem reasonable? Well…it does and it is. That’s the unfortunate home-truth for Tootenham.

I wrote before the season began that Tootenham could finish 5th. They are currently in 7th, level with Newcastle United (qu’est que c’est???)) at 27 points, but lagging behind on goal differential. Tootenham have only scored 15 goals so far this season….that’s 2 goals less than what today’s opponent Luis Suarez by himself has scored in the Premier League this season for those of you keeping score on these sorts of things in the wilds of Iowa County, Wisconsin, USA. I also mentioned that Tootenham will probably regret letting go of Clint Dempsey. Both him, AND The Goddamn Batman from the look of it. They could use Bale’s cute poses right about now.

And as if you had to guess or wonder, they will now also have to accomplish their destiny without Andre Villas-Boas. After that Liverpool hiding, AVB was sacked in the morning ((this very morning as I wrap this up)). Perhaps that fan up in Tromsø was on to something after all.





grace9cThe Special One


It was to be the return of The Special One. All the Blues Fans worldwide applauded the return of Jose Mourinho at last! It was going to be so simple from that point on. All the pieces of the puzzle that were floundering under AVB and RDM and The Fat Spanish Waiter would fall into place and we would win and win and win!!

The unfortunate truth is that instead of dwelling in state of grace, we are hanging by a perilous thread and grasping for grace.

Alright…I’m exaggerating a bit for effect. But then again, this is nothing new. Nor are Chelsea’s current perils and weaknesses anything new. They’ve been with us ever since Carlo Ancelotti’s Endless Bad Moment right on through AVB, RDM and The Fat Spanish Waiter. And they continue right unto this very moment under The Special One who was supposed to be The Happy One this time around, leaving him more as The Scowling One, reducing him to what seems like small-minded pettiness.

Last year, the over-riding theme of Chelsea critique from us Blues fans revolved around the coaches and the management. The Rafa-Out Brigade bringing out the best and the worst among us. While criticism of the players, especially certain players like Torres, was there, for the most part it wasn’t front and center.

But the problem IS the players…as I’ve been drumming at all along during defeats, draws, and even in victory…such as the 2-1 win over Crystal Palace.

I know scoreboard trumps all, and winning ugly gets the same 3 points as winning with beauty and grace. But given the tools at our disposal, winning ugly is simply not good enough.

It’s just that the players and their talents are so much better than merely wining ugly. And being Chelsea, the expectation now is always there for true greatness. We have great players, and we have, once more, perhaps the greatness coach Chelsea has ever known. And I’m not taking anything away form Ted Drake who led the Blues to their first 1st Division Championship in 1955. Jose Mourinho isn’t called The Special One because it’s just a catchy marketing slogan.

We’re approaching the halfway point of the 2013-14 season. And while 3rd place is nice and will qualify us for Champions League again, we’re not exactly where we thought we be, and we’re definitely not the team we thought we’d be at this point. Mostly the latter in my view.

The feel good moments that heralded the return of Jose Mourinho have begun to fade a bit. I note on some of the Chelsea fan sites and forums that criticism of The Special One is beginning to take shape.

Before this becomes a full-blown and ugly roar, they players need to stop merely grasping at grace. They need to actually take hold of it, by the scruff of it’s neck if need be, and make it their very own.

And the time for that to start, besides right now, is tomorrow, Tuesday, 12/17/13 at 1:45PM CST at the Stadium of Light in Sunderland.


that's all for today


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