Monday, December 1, 2008

A neutral corner: Chelsea v. Arsenal from the perspective of a Liverpool supporter

While Colin assembles his treatise on the inspiring Gunners victory yesterday, I'd like to jump ahead in line to get a little more in depth about my obvious reaction to yesterday's result at Stamford Bridge. In short, it can be summed up thusly: WHOOOOOOO!!!

As we get closer to marking off the first third of this terrific (to this point) season for Liverpool supporters, every single positive sign is so encouraging. I'm getting tired of playing the "Not gonna jinx 'em" game with Liverpool. Look, dammit, it's time to crank this title challenge into hammer-slam levels of intensity. That's why it was a refreshing couple hours of fun to wade into the bar yesterday and watch things without being all that attached to the result. I could sit back, openly cheer for Arsenal to take Chelsea down and then wait for today's match against West Ham.

Plus, it's just so easy to hate Chelsea – especially when their biggest local supporter here in Milwaukee is standing by himself in the bar with a fleece, team logo blanket draped over his shoulders, reaching like a bizarro, John Terry-Dracula cape to the floor. In the first half, Chelsea were the better side. Sorry, Colin, Jamie, Carl, et al. But the match was fast-paced and enjoyable.

But back to the hammer-slam levels of insanity. What van Persie's goals showed me was a Chelsea unwilling to summon the Mourinho-era reservoirs of indignity. In that, I mean Chelsea used to take it as an affront that anyone would ever dare take a lead against them. I remember a match a couple years back at the Bridge where Bolton went 1-nil up. Chelsea's answer was to score something like three goals in six or seven minutes, then tidy up the slaughter with five total in the second half. It took my breath away. As much as I despised them, I watched segments of that second half on DVR multiple times over the course of a week. It was, as I'm fond of saying, a statement of intent.

Chelsea is just different now. Scolari appears to be polishing up his excuses and explanations during the final half hour of matches. Lampard looks ... old. Drogba looks ... disinterested – whether he's playing or in the stands with earbuds in place. They miss Essien more than I think anyone thought would be true. In the past, I would bend the ear of anyone close to me with confident declarations that Essien was Chelsea's best player. It seemed somewhat far-fetched on a team with Drogba and then-at-their-peak Lampard and Terry. But Essien makes that machine move like a 19-year-old girl five Smirnoff Ices into Saturday night at the Girl Talk show. Should he return this season – and I believe the projections are for him to come back sometime around March or April – he could make the difference for them.

For now, though, I'll gladly and with a wide smile take Arsenal reviving their campaign (again) with a win over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. C'mon Liverpool! The points against West Ham are there for the taking today. Go clear at the top boys.


Carl said...

I agree Jim, Chelsea set the pace for the first half of the match. Arsenal did have their chances but they lacked someone to finish. While Chelsea looked like the they were waiting to take theirs. I hate to say it but I miss the intensity of a Mourinho Chelsea because they truly did not take it on the chin like this. A victory against them was like Rocky 1, very hard fought and down to the wire.

Jerod said...

What I really loved about the wins over Kiev and Chelsea is that we deviated from the norm. We got a little dirt on our uniforms, a little grit between our teeth. Three points are three points no matter how you get them.

A note on Liverpool / West Ham. I thought it was fair result albeit a surprising one. Bellamy, Upson and Green played their asses off but I still expected a well-timed Kuyt header or a magic Stevie G rocket shot to eventually seal the deal. But alas that is why they play the games.