Chelsea v West Ham United

It's fair to say that Preview Percy's "not only is the glass half empty, some idiot is bound to knock it over" look on life was not eased any by last weekend's performance against Everton. So it's business as usual for his look at Monday night's visit to Chelsea then....

Next up we face Chelsea away at the Money Laundry. It's a Monday Night match so 8pm will be the kick-off time, meaning those of you with a propensity for turning into a pumpkin at midnight may want to check on your homeward journey details.

Using the book we got her for Christmas, Daisy, the work experience girl with the beautiful smile, provides me with the statistic that this will be the 112th meeting of the two clubs in a fixture that dates back to October 1923, when the teams drew 0-0 at Stamford Bridge in the First Division as was. The stats are a bit closer than one might have thought with us having won 40, drawn 22 and lost 49 of those meetings, which just goes to show what a difference that dodgy billions liberated from the former Soviet Union can make.

Their form has been a bit on the inconsistent side this season which has seen much grinding of teeth from the support in the direction of manager Sarri. Somehow, despite not being particularly pleasing on the eye, they are still in with a chance of the 4th spot currently occupied by Arsenal. Both teams have 63 points but Arsenal are four goals to the good in the goal difference department. The other rivals for the 4th so-called Champions League spot are Man Utd, who are two points behind the Pensioners having played the same number (32) of games.

The winter break saw one major arrival. Sort of. They spent ?57.6m on Dortmund midfielder Christian Pusilic who, despite the vaguely Slavic-sounding name, is an American having been born in Hershey Pennsylvania. His youth career took in someone called Michigan Rush and PA Classics, though he didn't play for the Detroit Ignition indoor of which his Dad was general manager for a spell. Gotta love those septic club names.

He pitched up at Dortmund having picked up a Croatian passport en route, courtesy of his grandad. This allowed him access to the EU leagues, though he turned down an invitation to actually play for Croatia.

Meanwhile, this being Chelsea, Pusilic was immediately loaned back to Dortmund. Daisy informs me that before her calculator blew up trying to keep track of the comings and goings, Chelsea's loan deal count was up to 51 for the season. Some of those have come back and gone back out but most are out to the end of the season. All very rum isn't it?

They did bring in Gonzalo Higuain on loan from Juventus - it's an interesting thought that the ?8m+ loan fee they paid was more than Spurs shelled out on transfers all season. Again, handily for EU purposes, Higuain was born in France during a spell when his dad was playing there and so retains French citizenship despite not knowing one end of a snail from another.

Of course, next season's transfer windows are likely to be a darn sight quieter for the club, given that they have had a ban slapped on them for dodgy dealings relating to the signing of youth players. Despite being bang to rights on the charges Chelsea launched an appeal in the hope that the resulting delay would allow them to sign players in the summer window. This was a trick successfully used by Barcelona in the past - they went on a massive spending spree before their particular ban took place. However, it seems that FIFA have gotten wise to that particular one and have denied the Pensioners the freeze on the ban they were seeking. So unless the appeal has some merit - and frankly it looks for all the world as if its sole purpose was to delay the inevitable - it seems that at least one Sky reporter will be able to put his feet up at home rather than hanging around until midnight outside their training ground on the next couple of over-hyped deadline days.

The ban will only affect their ability to buy - they will be allowed to sell which will raise an interesting point. Even before the ban came into effect there had been murmurs of discontent from "sources close to" youngster Callum Hudson-Odoi who, famously, had started for England before starting a League game for Chelsea. Bayern are said to have made a number of bids for the player in January and eventually the player himself handed in a transfer request. Chelsea's problem will be whether or not to stick or twist. The player's contract expires in June 2020 which means that next January he can probably sign a pre-contract deal to move on for a free in July. Unless Chelsea try to sell him before that is. I believe that Eden Hazard might also be in a similar situation - the damned paperboy is late today but some have told me that there have already been talks with Real Madrid. Look on next Summer as Europe's vultures circle.

So what else has happened in the wild and wacky world of association football I hear you ask. Well "Colin" Warnock has been shooting his mouth off again. The problem is that, whilst he does have a point about the standards of officiating in this country, the ignorant idiot's preferred mode of going into sound-bite friendly rants about having the referee "shot" is probably music to Mike Riley's ears. Instead of having to answer questions about a system that protects poor performance and does nothing to address the problem of "ego-officiating", Riley can simply deflect much-needed debate by muttering something about respect and the need to set a good example for the Sunday leagues. Well done Colin.

Elsewhere, Tottenham's new stadium, built with the assistance of over ?30m of public money, opened to general acclaim. In fact Spurs fans were so impressed with the place that nearly enough of them got off their backsides to fill the place. Nearly. 3,000 of them presumably found the reruns of Last Of The Summer Wine on Gold, or perhaps a box set of Mrs Brown's Boys too tempting to miss. Actually, given their track record, I suspect a fair few of them ended up at Wembley.

And so to us. Well last weekend was an absolute shambles. Quite possibly that was our worst performance of the season. Only Fabianski and Rice can emerge from that debacle with any sort of credit. The word "clueless" is often, and incorrectly, bandied about as a generic catch-all way of saying "rubbish". Not this time. It seemed for all the world as if the players quite literally did not have a clue what to do when they had the ball. Unless there was some standing instruction to treat the ball as if it were radioactive, covered in Novichok and came with a prize of an evening out with Piers Morgan for each completed pass. If that had been the case they carried out their instructions to the T. Sadly.

Now "off-days" are one thing but it looked to me that what we saw from Arnautovic and Perez went beyond a mere temporary case of the blues. Arnautovic got himself into one good position before recreating the famous "on ice" scene from Bambi. After that, if one might be permitted to extend the "recreating scenes from movies" metaphor, the Austrian seemed to join Perez under the "cloak of invisibility" in which he wore for the first 45 minutes. If you missed the team announcement or couldn't see as far as the electric telly things at either end you could easily have been forgiven for not noticing that Perez was there until they announced his replacement at the interval. In the case of Arnie, MP later suggested that the player had been out of sorts due to a knee injury sustained on international duty, though tellingly the boss included the word "maybe" in his assessment.

The manager must take some of the responsibility for Saturday. It was an odd team to field, even allowing for injuries and the family bereavement suffered by Noble which restricted selection a bit. If Huddersfield was a warning it was one that went unheeded. He does have better news on the injury front. Anderson, Nasri, Fredericks and Arnautovic (ahem) have all recovered from what ailed them last week and that might freshen things up a bit.

Prediction? Can't see us doing stuff this week I'm afraid. The past two matches suggest that players are drifting into bad habits and, although it would be typical for us to go from the ridiculous to the sublime in successive weeks, years of bitter experience suggests that, like Greater Anglia trains, it would be unwise to rely on anything like that happening.
So this week the ?2.50 I was going to donate to Fort William FC's Deer Droppings Clear Up Appeal will, with heavy heart and the utmost of reluctance, be going on a home win. If I can open up the Winnstone Turf Accountancy app once it's finished paying out on the National (when the fun stops you're listening to Sky's sycophantic commentary on a Liverpool match) the wager will be placed on 3-1 to them.

Enjoy the game!

When last we met at Stamford Bridge: Drew 1-1 (Premier League April 2018).

Exactly one year previously to the day Azpilicueta gave the lead on 36 minutes. By the time the announcer had learnt how to pronounce the player's surname (73 mins) Hernandez had equalized. Joe Hart had one of his better games for us that day.

Referee: Chris Kavanagh

Now that we've noticed we were getting Atkinson every week they seem to be pushing Kavanagh our way instead. Controversially allowed Harry Kane's offside goal against Chelsea in the League Cup to stand despite being in a VAR truck with every conceivable view only a screen-touch away. Which goes to show VAR will only ever be as good as the referees operating it. And it they are not very good......

Danger Man Eden Hazard
Always a threat - it always seems an odd selection whenever they leave him out

Percy's Poser:
Last week we had a look at the Liverpool Echo whence came the following headline:
Driver crashed into train station and said "it's ok I'm XXXXX and XXXXXXX"
Congratulations to Mrs Sandra Tolleshunt-D'arcy of Tolleshunt D'arcy who correctly identified the missing words as "Taxed" and "Insured". Sandra added that it took the Merseyplod next to no time to find the perpetrator as there are only a handful of cars on Merseyside that are actually taxed and insured.
For this week we visit Surrey News which covers the area in which their training ground is located. Surrey it seems has a problem, prompting the following headline from which we have nicked some words:

Can we sort out the etiquette for greetings so that people stop accidentally XXXXXXX XXXX
Good luck everyone!

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