In September last year, very nearly the whole of Chelsea’s away end at Leicester joined in with an anti-Semitic chant. That set in place a series of events which this week resulted in a club-sponsored trip to Auschwitz for supporters. Dan Levene, on Chelsea at the crossroads.


It is probably 20 years since I wrote my first story about anti-Semitism at Chelsea.

In the time I have supported and reported on this club, a period exceeding 30 years, it has been more or less a constant.

It is a complex matter here, which is not to say the abhorrence of it is in any way diminished.

Many perpetrators claim an antipathy towards Spurs, not Jews.
Some among them probably even believe that.

But the songs about the death camps prevail.

They have ebbed and flowed over that time: from the 80s nadir; to a period where abuse diminished in the post-Champions-League triumph world; to the era beyond the Brexit vote, where aspects of the support have spoken-up with gusto.

Spurs are not Y-ds.

They are a north London team which inhabits a part of N17: once quite Jewish; now very African-Caribbean; with a strong Turkish influence.

Spurs never chose the tag ‘Y-d army’. But they decided to own it: a theoretical strike against the haters. Probably 97% or more of their support is ‘goyim’, as the few remaining Jews in the area might refer to those not of the race.

Had they not taken the moniker on in the 60s, they might have left the search for a badge-of-pride until the 80s or 90s. In which case, would they now call themselves the ‘N****r Army’?

If they did, would that be acceptable? And would abuse of it be tolerable? In both cases, the answer seems obvious.

Chelsea do hate Tottenham, and Tottenham do hate Chelsea, as many are happy to sing. Such football rivalry is to be expected. To be cherished, even, because without it the game is sanitised.

But often, at Chelsea, it feels like many also hate Jews.

“Barcelona, Real Madrid, Tottenham are a load of Y-ds,” goes the song; and absolutely everyone knows what the Y-word stands for.

Should Spurs stop singing it, would it stop?

I recall Chelsea’s Yossi Benayoun, an Israeli international, approaching an away end once to be greeted with a barrage of: “F*** off you Y-d scum” – from his own club’s support. The record books seem to have missed his time as a Spurs player.

So, though many from the north of London sing about being part of a ‘Y-d Army’ with mostly misplaced pride; the songs from the west which mention the word tend to be about hatred, and often threaten.

I’ve had those threats myself, from time to time, over my public calls to stop the racial abuse.

And so to Leicester away last September…

“Its just a football song,” as some insisted to me on the platform post-match.
But when a significant majority of a 2,000+ strong away end sing about a player who ‘hates the f***ing Y-ds’, it becomes a hate crime.

When a supporter I’ve know for years approaches a Jew on that station platform and insists how ‘f**ing brilliant’ his day out was, ‘because of that song’, it elevates the occasion to one of the worst acts of collective racism I’ve seen at football in some years.

If we assume that every single one of those singers: people who live or work in, or visit London regularly, and who presumably know the Jewish origins of their club’s owner, know what the word means; then we must assume they know the chant is racist.

And, on being asked in the immediate aftermath of the match, the club was adamant that it wanted rid of those who thought it acceptable.

A short while later, Abramovich’s campaign against anti-Semitism was born.

I count among my family survivors of the Holocaust. The story of Auschwitz is one that was always known in my youth.

I have made it a part of my existence to hear the testimonies of survivors.

I have learned of history’s most appalling crimes, simply by listening.

But when one such survivor spoke at Stamford Bridge back in March, with incredible power and remarkable fortitude, in front of an audience of supporters – it felt like a watershed.

I sat with Bruce Buck that night, and I will not break the confidence of such a personal moment.

But we spoke of the Holocaust, and he told me of his pride that fans of the club of which he was Chairman would be taken on planes to learn more of history’s greatest ever abomination. To hear, and to share.

On 5th June, there I flew.

On the flight, a mix of Chelsea staff and supporters.


And this, if there is any such point, is where the plan’s flaw is evident.

I saw on that flight people who I knew had spent their lives fighting against any form of intolerance or prejudice.

But I also saw those who I knew to be anti-Semites: with a long history of racist abuse to their names.

The constituency here was clearly a mix of those occupying the echo-chamber of disgust (the majority); and those flying for a freebie.

It is barely possible to do justice to the thoughts and emotions associated with visiting a place where millions were murdered, exclusively on the basis of the blood which courses through one’s own veins.

Though the blood could have been yours, or anyone else’s, depending on the direction in which hate was focused.

Auschwitz-Birkenau is easily written-off as a place created by evil people.

It was not.

It was designed and run by normal people, by all accounts, who took a conscious decision to be evil.

And the bundles of hair, removed from the corpses of the victims are as real as the carpets made by their murderers from those tresses: to furnish the glistening apartments of those who desired them.

It is a place where rape and murder knew no bounds within the confines of history, and where no pantomime villains or Gotham City backdrops exist.

This was your town, with your people, gone horrifically wrong.

Rabbi Barry Marcus, an inspirational man and public speaker, established these physically and mentally draining field trips two decades ago.

And he is rightly given the final say.


Perched atop the memorial at Birkenau, the home of history’s most effective killing machine: he shows sorrow, and respect. And, in a move that removes some from from their comfort zones, pure rage.

And then, as in the case of the hundreds of trips he has led over the years to this place, he offers the chance to say Kaddish – to remember the six million men, women and children snuffed-out.

I saw people who cracked jokes about gas ovens and Spurs on the way there, who remained quiet on the way back. A small advance.

I saw others who claimed to have been cured of any lingering anti-Semitism by the experience. And let time be the judge of that.

And, for the most part, I saw people who happened to be involved in football – for work, for play – who were utterly broken by the sights they had seen, and the stories they had heard.

The images of dead children; the thousands of abandoned shoes or hairbrushes; the utter dehumanisation of beings who were once people.


The test will be how long these reactions endure.

Was the lesson of the Holocaust here learned?

It will be time before we find out.

But if it was, then the take-away for all should be this: the stigmatisation; the victimisation; the dehumanisation which led to the Holocaust – a turn of events seldom easier to replicate these days than in a football crowd – can be halted.

All that is required is for good people to stand in its way.

It has to be hoped a few more know their role in that, from this moment onward.


By, Aldemaro Narvaez


“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.” Sun Tzu, The Art of War

My brother, Alfredo, and I are separated by 14 months and very little else.  We grew up close. Went to the same elementary (primary) school, high (secondary) school, and graduated from the same college in Memphis, Tennessee.  We support the same ice hockey team, basketball team, and American football team (New Orleans Saints). We agree on many things.  But, when we began rooting for clubs in English football, Fredo chose Arsenal Football Club while I preferred objectively the best club in London. At least nobody chose Spurs.

Whenever we see each other, inevitably the conversation turns to football, and we are constantly questioning the mentality, strategy, and results from each of our clubs. With the third meeting of Chelsea and Arsenal in the month of January just a few days away, Fredo and I decided to ask each other some of those questions that opposing supporters would ask fans of a rival club.

Aldemaro_CFC: With the strengthening of clubs like Liverpool, Spurs, and City, is a fourth-place trophy still status quo for Arsenal or will a repeat of Europa League occur more often?

A: The fact is that most of the clubs not willing to spend over the odds will end up having to fight for Champions League places now. Even if they do, it’s 4 spots and 6 teams. That means two will be always left on the outside looking in. The easiest way to avoid that is to spend and put yourself in a position of strength to fight off the others. Man City have done that. Liverpool are doing that. Man United are desperate to do that as are Arsenal. The status quo is gone because now you’re not guaranteed even that fourth place trophy even if you do spend. You now have to spend smartly.

Fredo_AFC: Chelsea broke through on the strength of their owner’s financial support and a Premier League that wasn’t ready for the influx of money that was about to hit it. With the new TV deals creating a new financial reality, how are Chelsea working to stay ahead of the pack?

A: The new TV deals have, I suppose, given Premier League clubs higher stacks of money with which to buy players; however, other leagues have done a good job of hiking up transfer fees on English clubs.  The influx of TV cash has had an impact, but the unintended consequences have negated the effects of that windfall.

For Chelsea, the current strategy is to buy young and sell high. That includes targeted, established players in their early to mid-twenties that could fetch a decent transfer fee at the end of their contract, and academy players that don’t make it to the squad. The hoarding of young talent has provided us some gems that made it to the starting 11 like Andreas Christensen and—okay, just Christensen—but there are plenty of others that seem on the cusp of pushing for their place in Conte’s team if given the chance to grow.  Amazingly, our youth policy is both our biggest asset and failure.  The string of thirteen managers since 2000 have all needed to pass on youth for established veterans to save their hide and meet the board’s lofty expectations for silverware and Champions League bounty.  Further development of our exceptional youth prospects through two-year loans and sale of certain players with buyback agreements would continue to provide cover to the big fee players being brought to the club. At this time, however, Chelsea are less “ahead of the pack” and more “trying to keep up” because of what often appears as the club’s bipolar nature in their hierarchy of needs.

Evening Stand.jpg

Aldemaro_CFC: Is the Emirates still a destination for world class players, or have years of lackluster transfer and stingy contract negotiations given an air of “baller on a budget” to put off attracting the marquee names?

A: Players chase the money first and always. They’re professional. It’s why so many ply their trade in China now, despite the total lack of footballing pedigree in their league. The catch has always been that the best players want to play for the biggest clubs because they win and because winning for them helped raise their profiles commercially. David Beckham doesn’t become David Beckham if he’s playing for Bournemouth or Sevilla. The difficult catch at Arsenal has been that the allure for world class players has been to play for Arsene Wenger in an Arsene Wenger-styled team, i.e. free-flowing attacks and counterattacks. Now that he’s become the reason for many of the issues at Arsenal, it’s tough to resolve the duality. Mesut Ozil doesn’t come to Arsenal for Sam Allardyce. Alexis Sanchez and Aaron Ramsey picked Arsenal because of Arsene Wenger. So one hand, the best reason to come to Arsenal is also the biggest reason why Arsenal run into the same issues year after year.

Fredo_AFC: Is there a concern that Man City has leapt ahead of Chelsea as the de facto strongest team in the league? How do you close that gap?

A: It’s obvious that City were playing chess while those around them were playing beer pong. City managed to get pieces in place like Txiki Begisistain and Ferran Soriano in their front office, players like Kevin De Bruyne, Leroy Sane, and Gabriel Jesus on the pitch, and remained competitive while they waited to make a move for Pep. They have the financial muscle to purchase almost any player and a type of football that is attractive to any potential target. There is the potential that City fall back to the pack if their wage structure goes off the rails and players begin to ask for more money, or if their spending gets them into hot water with FIFA FFP (insert laugh here), but those scenarios seem a few years away at best.

The proper way to close the gap is by getting transfers correct and limiting the uncertainty in the club hierarchy.  Clear direction is essential. That has been the failure of Arsenal and Chelsea.  Red London has gone from being commanded by the great General Lafayette in 1780 to being commanded by the once great General Lafayette in 2018.  Blue London has been led by everyone from Napoleon Bonaparte to Napoleon Bonaparte’s Spanish waiter. In either case, both London clubs need to get their generals and troops in order.

Aldemaro_CFC: From an outsider’s perspective, Arsenal FC seems in great position to outbid others for the services of world class players. Why does the Arsenal board spend like a grandmother’s Christmas budget with so much money in the bank?

A: That’s down to Stan Kroenke and his hands-off approach. On the one hand, it means he does not meddle in the running of the club’s day-to-day operations. On the other, he’s not going to be there to tell Wenger and Gazidis that spending 150M pounds on a talent like Mbappe, for example, might be worthwhile. Kroenke’s approach across his various clubs, teams, and franchises is spend just enough to remain good enough. American sports give him some cover in this but there is a reason none of his sides have ever won a championship.

Fredo_AFC: How do you improve Chelsea’s attack this season? Do you just wait for Morata to figure things out?

A: On the pitch, go back to the 3-4-3.  I understand the reasons for the change to the 3-5-2, but Chelsea is better served by playing to our overall team strength out wide.  The interchange of our wingbacks and wingers provide flow to our attack, and bringing in Cesc at the right time often cracked stubborn defenses open during the second half of games last season.  At times we may be well served to go with a five-man midfield, but asking Moses and Alonso to do all the heavy lifting out wide twice each week has only served to wear them out and make them ineffective or get them injured.

As for Morata, Granovskaia is not the type of Director that will chase a 60M pound striker with a 35-40M pound up-and-coming forward in January. So, it’ll be a bit of bargain bin shopping for an older forward in January. Conte obviously doesn’t rate Batshuayi very highly (or at all) finding him much too raw for his liking, but the alternatives that the Chelsea board have reportedly targeted this January window makes it crystal clear that: 1. Someone at the club has a great or horrible sense of humor and 2. They will not upset their shiny new star by bringing anyone that can overtake him in the starting 11.

I like Morata a lot. Chelsea need to give him plenty of time to adjust and excel in the EPL, but it will be kid gloves until at least the end of the summer. Hopefully we can incorporate Tammy Abraham into the squad next term, and whoever we manage to bring in during the January transfer window pushes Morata to a higher level.

Aldemaro_CFC: What does the future hold for the Gunners?

A: Transition. Lots and lots of transition. The fact is, even if he’s not the problem, Arsene Wenger has demonstrated an inability to find the solution. I’m of the mind the club and he will part ways this summer. The two-year deal given to him last summer was a roll of the dice. “Hey, you just won the FA Cup again and maybe you, Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil and Per Mertesacker can all bring the team together and finally win the PL trophy! We’ll even buy that striker you’ve needed for last 3 seasons!” It was not the worst idea but they couldn’t countenance Man City’s season or that Alexis really wanted to go in the summer to join them or that Mertesacker was done while Koscielny and Mustafi have picked up injuries. Now with a director of football, a new contract negotiator and new head scout/player personnel director in place, I think the reality is Arsene will get a chance to say farewell at season’s end. Beyond that, we’ve a squad that’s either too old (Koscielny, Monreal, Cech) or too young (Iwobi, Maitland-Niles) or the guys in the sweet peak spot are too injured (Wilshere, Welbeck, Ramsey). Whoever comes in next has an overhaul.


Aldemaro_CFC: Give me the top four things you would do to change Arsenal for the better in the next five years.

  1. Devise a post-Wenger management plan. If that is bringing in established players like Aubameyang and Mkhitaryan and then hiring Ancelotti to oversee things for next 3 years while the squad matures, so be it. If that is chasing Max Allegri or Joachim Low to take over post-WC with a Brinks truck of cash and letting him do what he wills, so be it.
  2. Begin stocking up on young talent. Despite the revenues, we aren’t going to be paying anyone 500k pounds a week any time soon. Nor paying 200M quid as transfer fees. That means finding talent and developing it. Something we were famous for years ago but seem to be falling short in the last few years. We still have kids coming through, but that feels more of a desperation move than a planned growth strategy.
  3. Build inroads with the fanbase. The calcification of the last decade of fighting, feuding and general foolishness among Gooners won’t be broken up in one summer or by one hire. But they have to work towards helping supporters who’ve felt dismissed, betrayed or that have feuded with the club come back into the fold. Not all will, but you have to extend olive branches. Winning will fix a lot, but need to get people on board to avoid the usual happy-to-mad cycle we are on. A committed supporters base helps build that home fortress advantage that clubs seek.
  4. Exercise some of that power we have. Arsenal are the 4th-5th richest club in the world. We used to have David Dein as our face in a lot of the backrooms and power structures of the game. That allowed Arsenal to muscle in and keep up with the bigger boys. Since his ouster, Arsenal have been tiptoeing around the world of football and letting clubs bully them. We’re too nice. Say whatever you want about Real or Barca or PSG or Bayern, they aren’t bullied about. Not by agents or their FAs.

Daily Express.jpg

Fredo_AFC: What happens if Antonio Conte leaves at this season’s end? Who replaces him?

A: Something in me says that Conte is gone, and I’m not happy at all in thinking that. Body language, track suits, beards, and getting into grouchy, old man war of words with Mourinho tell me he’s getting fed up with England. A deep dose of the pressures that comes with Chelsea cannot help at all in getting him settled or convince him to stay. He may try to see what assurances he gets and what happens during the early portion of the transfer window, but I think he will return to Italy in the summer if we don’t make strides the second half of this term. Besides, he managed to win the Premiership title in his maiden voyage and he would leave the club having bested a lot of what his predecessors did. I genuinely hope I’m wrong.

As for potential replacements, I know Chelsea will initially look to tempt Simeone out of Atleti. But getting the Argentine may be far more difficult than just splashing the cash as he has a language barrier to vault, will be limited in his ability to acquire the players he wants to bring in, and he just got the band back together with Diego Costa in their brand-new stadium. I just don’t see Simeone leaving for Roman’s rubles this summer.

Other targets like Jardim (Monaco), Sarri (Napoli), Zindane (if sacked by Real),or Ancelotti are decent options, but the right choice is Max Allegri. He would build on Conte’s work and provide a far subtler personality to the recent string of hot-tempered Chelsea first team coaches.  Juventus just signed an extension with Allegri until 2020 last summer, so getting him out of the Bianconeri would be difficult.  Also, would Allegri want to leave the stability of the Old Lady for the shark tank at The Bridge? Still, Chelsea have shown they can attract the best coaches—keeping them happy is another thing altogether—and paying over the top for what may be the third or fourth best coach in the world would be worth it for me if we lose one of the few coaches ahead of him in Conte.  Something else to consider is that after so many coaches with fiery personalities at Chelsea, Allegri may cut down on the high blood pressure meds CFC supporters have been popping like Skittles for years.


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London is Blue is a soccer fancast created by Chelsea FC fans from America and covers all things Chelsea. Hosts are @BBBusbee, @DanDormer and @NickVerlaney.

London is Blue is proud to be presented by WorldSoccerShop. Visit them at to find the best Chelsea FC gear!

GUEST: Amadí, @amadoit__

Part 1: Huddersfield Town Review

Chelsea 3-1 Huddersfield Town, Premier League

Tuesday, Dec. 12th | John Smith’s Stadium

Part 2: Social Media Questions

Part 3: Southampton Preview

Chelsea vs. Southampton, Premier League

Saturday, Dec. 16th | Stamford Bridge

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London is Blue is a soccer fancast created by Chelsea FC fans from America and covers all things Chelsea. Hosts are @BBBusbee, @DanDormer and @NickVerlaney.

London is Blue is proud to be presented by WorldSoccerShop. Visit them at to find the best Chelsea FC gear!

Part 1: Swansea City Review

Chelsea vs. Swansea City, Premier League

Wednesday, Nov. 29th | Stamford Bridge


Part 2: Social Media Questions


Part 3: Newcastle United Preview

Chelsea vs. Newcastle United, Premier League

Saturday, Dec. 2nd | Stamford Bridge


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London is Blue is a soccer fancast created by Chelsea FC fans from America and covers all things Chelsea. Hosts are @BBBusbee, @DanDormer and @NickVerlaney.

London is Blue is proud to be presented by WorldSoccerShop. Visit them at to find the best Chelsea FC gear!

GUEST: Liam Twomey, ESPN FC @liam_twomey

Part 1: Liverpool Review

Chelsea 1-1 Liverpool, Premier League

Saturday, Nov. 25th | Anfield


Part 2: Social Media Questions


Part 3: Swansea City Preview

Chelsea vs. Swansea City, Premier League

Wednesday, Nov. 29th | Stamford Bridge


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So you’re going to London, are you? Going to see the mighty Chelsea F.C, play? GOOD! It’s about time you made it across the pond to visit the fortress known as Stamford Bridge and we’ve got some tips to help you if you’ve never been before:

Don’t forget to pack the little things!

While you pack it’s important to remember little things like how you can’t have liquids more than 3 ounces in your carry-on, you need an adapter to plug electronics in, having British pounds with you before you land.

Here’s our Amazon Shopping List:

  • Call your bank and/or credit card companies to let them know you’re traveling abroad;
  • Go to a bank and exchange money for British Pounds (GBP £);
  • Check if you have an international cell phone plan or if it’s easier to buy a UK SIM card when you land.

I just landed, what’s next?

After landing and getting your luggage, we recommend stopping by one of the cell phone kiosks to buy a U.K. SIM card and data plan. The three of us purchased a 1-month unlimited data play from O2 for approximately $40 and we never had issues with signal or data throttling. Unlike in the U.S., these plans are pay-as-you-go so you don’t have to sign up for a contract or anything.


How do I get to my hotel?


With the recent legal issues with Uber, and because it’s unique to the U.K., we recommend grabbing a black cab when it’s time to head to your hotel — just tell them you’re going to the hotel at Stamford Bridge and they’ll drop you off literally INSIDE the gates. It’s one of the best first impressions of Stamford Bridge a fan can have after a long flight.

Black cabs also have lots of room for people and luggage unlike other taxis and ride sharing cars. You can use the app “myTaxi” to get a discount on your ride and schedule a pick up time as well:


One of our drivers was a Tottenham fan so we had a great conversation about the rivalry and players from each club as we made the long trek to Cobham to visit Chelsea’s training ground!

If you prefer to take the tube with all of your luggage, you can do that, but it’s not going to be easy…

NOTE: the stop you want to get to Stamford Bridge and the hotel is “Fulham Broadway tube station” which is in Zone 2:

Welcome to the Millennium & Copthorne Hotels at Chelsea Football Club!


Yeah, that’s a long name, so from now on we’ll just refer to it as the Millennium Hotel. Once you’ve checked in and dropped your luggage off, if you’re not completely jet lagged and it’s light outside, start off by walking around outside of the stadium and check of those super touristy photos you know you want to take!


There’s a lot of free Chelsea sights outside of the hotel that are free and of course there’s the Chelsea Megastore too!

Is there any Chelsea history in the area?

Duh. Before our last trip we reached out to Rick Glanvill, Official Chelsea historian, who offered these places as perfect spots to visit, but first, show Rick some support by buying one of his books and following him on Twitter:

Buy Rick’s books: 

Follow Rick on Twitter:

“The Rising Sun pub, now Butcher’s Hook, is the obvious landmark. The club was founded at an upstairs meeting there on 10 March 1905:

Another pub, formerly the Britannia on the corner of Britannia Road/Fulham Road, is where the first fans’ organisation was formed in 1948: the Chelsea (Away) Supporters’ Club. They coordinated away travel on coaches etc and organised dances etc. It still exists: (definitely doesn’t resemble anything Chelsea anymore)

Not sure if you will gain access, but there is a tiny bit of wall down the east side of the Health Club that is the oldest wall on the entire site – it was built by the hospital that was on neighbouring land to prevent supporters traipsing through their grounds after games. The club wrote to request they rethink, adding, ‘Your doctors and nurses will no longer be able to play hockey on our pitch.’ (!)”

Brompton cemetery is also nearby which is the home of a Chelsea-related graves.–.html



London is Blue is a soccer fancast created by Chelsea FC fans from America and covers all things Chelsea. Hosts are @BBBusbee, @DanDormer and @NickVerlaney.

London is Blue is proud to be presented by WorldSoccerShop. Visit them at to find the best Chelsea FC gear!

GUEST: Vaishali Bhardwaj

Twitter: @VaiBhardwaj

Instagram: @VaiBhardwaj

Facebook: /VaiBhardwaj

YouTube: VaishaliBhardwaj

Part 1: West Brom Review

Chelsea 4-0 West Brom, Premier League

Saturday, Nov. 18th | The Hawthorns

Part 2: Social Media Questions

Part 3: Qarabak FK Preview

Chelsea at Qarabak FK, Champions League

Wednesday, Nov. 22nd | Baku National Stadium

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London is Blue is a soccer fancast created by Chelsea FC fans from America and covers all things Chelsea. Hosts are @BBBusbee, @DanDormer and @NickVerlaney.

London is Blue is proud to be presented by WorldSoccerShop. Visit them at to find the best Chelsea FC gear!

Part 1: Manchester United Review

Chelsea 1-0 Manchester United, Premier League

Sunday, Nov. 5th | Stamford Bridge

Part 2: Social Media Questions

Part 3: West Bromwich Albion Preview

Chelsea at West Bromwich Albion, Premier League

Saturday, Nov. 18th | The Hawthorns

Contact Us






London is Blue is a soccer fancast created by Chelsea FC fans from America and covers all things Chelsea. Hosts are @BBBusbee, @DanDormer and @NickVerlaney.

London is Blue is proud to be presented by WorldSoccerShop. Visit them at to find the best Chelsea FC gear!

Part 1: AS Roma Review

Chelsea 0-3 AS Roma, Champions League
Tuesday, Oct. 31st | Stadio Olimpico

Part 2: Social Media Questions


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By, Ugo Nwogwugwu

The Proof

Tuesday 31st October, Stadio Olimpico – Another evening of Champions League football; Chelsea were in the Italian capital for their European match against AS Roma. It was almost exactly two weeks since the reverse fixture at the Bridge – in which Eden Hazard had somehow prevented his club from turning a relatively straightforward 2 – 0 win into a disastrous 3 – 2 defeat.

Since then, AS Roma had kept three clean sheets and won three Serie A games in a row. They’d beaten Torino, Crotone and Bologna 1 – 0 each, and their top scorer Edin Dzeko was now up to 10 goals for the season. Chelsea had also won their three domestic fixtures since the Roma game. They’d scored seven goals, many more than Roma had, but they’d also conceded three goals in those three matches, all against far more humble opposition than their opponents tonight.

Well, now they had a tough midweek game against Roma, just before another major test at the weekend versus Manchester United. But playing the best in Europe one game, then the best in England the next – these are big team troubles. If Chelsea truly deserved to win anything this season, this was the opportunity to prove it.

Roma full backs Emerson, Bruno Peres and Rick Karsdorp were all out injured. Chelsea’s Victor Moses was still recovering from a hamstring problem. N’golo Kante, although partly recovered from his injury, was not included in the matchday squad.

Roma lined up in a 4-3-3 with Stephan El Sharaawy, Edin Dzeko and Diego Perotti up top. Chelsea reverted to their familiar 3-4-3 with Rudiger, Luiz and Cahill in center back, and Cesar Azpilicueta shifted out to right back. Cesc Fabregas and Tiemoue Bakayoko started in midfield.

It was a slightly less compact, defensive setup than expected from Chelsea – they were away from home and two points clear at the top of the group – Roma needed a win much more than they did. Either way, Antonio Conte would soon find out whether or not it was right tactical setup for this game.

Line-Ups & Ratings

AS Roma

Becker 7, Fazio 7, Jesus 7, Florenzi 6.5 (Manolas 6), Kolarov 7.5, Nainggolan 7.5, De Rossi 7, Strootman 6.5, El Sharaawy 8.5 (Silva 5), Perotti 7.5 (Pellegrini NR), Dzeko 7.5

Subs Skorupski, Manolas, Under, Gonalons, Gerson, Pellegrini, Moreno


Courtois 5, Azpilicueta 5.5, Rudiger 4, Luiz 5.5, Cahill 5 (Willian 5), Alonso 5, Fabregas 4 (Drinkwater 5), Bakayoko 6, Pedro 6, Hazard 7, Morata 5 (Batshuayi 5)

Subs Caballero, Christensen, Zappacosta, Kenedy, Drinkwater, Willian, Batshuayi

Big Moments

El Sharaawy’s Still Got It

And… less than a minute into the game, Chelsea were a goal down. No, a 3-4-3 with Cesc Fabregas in midfield probably wasn’t the right tactical choice for this game. Pedro had a shot blocked at Roma’s end, then Kolarov carried the ball up the left wing into Chelsea’s half. He played a long ball up centrally to Dzeko, who headed it backwards into the path of Stephan El Sharaawy.

The young Italian striker had been through a few difficult seasons struggling with injury, but he had not lost his pace, or his marvellous finishing ability. He left Marcos Alonso eating his dust, and rocketed a goal in from the edge of the box – Roma were 1 – 0 up.

A couple of minutes later Chelsea broke forward – Fabregas picked out Hazard with an early ball over the top, and he raced down the pitch. Unfortunately he slowed a little at the end of his run, and Alessandro Florenzi caught up with him and leaned on him a little, putting him off his shot – chance missed for an equalizer.

Hazard had another good opportunity just under twenty minutes gone. He drifted in from the wing, and tried a near post shot similar to the one that beat Bournemouth at the weekend. Alisson Becker saved easily.

Ineffectual Play

Roma had been playing it safe since their early goal, sitting deep and only countering when necessary. It had worked really well against the visitors. Alvaro Morata had barely had an impact on the game, and Pedro wasn’t doing much better.

Hazard had been his team’s only spark, albeit a faint one. Pedro centered the ball for him on a rare Chelsea counter, and he rolled his defender and took a shot, but it was more or less at the keeper, another easy save. Then Morata had a golden chance when Pedro charged down a clearance from Kolarov. The ball rebounded to him just outside the six-yard box, but Becker closed him down and he put his shot in the rafters.

On 28 minutes Florenzi sneakily trod on Hazard’s ankle right on the border of the penalty box, but the referee missed it. Fortunately Hazard was not badly hurt, and was able to carry on after treatment.

Roma had another fantastic chance on the counter, when David Luiz failed to control a long ball in midfield. Edin Dzeko gained possession and carried the ball upfield in a three on two break. He passed the ball to El Sharaawy, but this time the wide forward’s shot was tame and Thibaut Courtois saved. The rebound came back to El Sharaawy but his second shot went off Alonso for a corner.

Hard To Explain

Then came a

moment that was almost impossible to explain. Radja Nainggolan played in another long ball from almost the same spot as Kolarov did for the first Roma goal. It should have been relatively easy for Antonio Rudiger to clear it… but he chose to watch the ball bounce in front of him… perhaps entranced by its graceful parabolic arc.

El Sharaawy cut in behind him, and in spite of Azpilicueta’s attentions, must have really enjoyed his easy chipped finish for 2 – 0. The stadium was rocking now, the home fans singing… it was looking like a really good evening for them to go top of their Champions League group.

Marcos Alonso had a good try at pulling one back just before half time – he found space at the left of the penalty box, and tried to curl it in, but Becker got a hand to the ball. Bakayoko had a free header from the resulting corner, but put it just wide of the post. Roma were by far the better side in the first half, and deservedly went in two up at half time.

Crapped Out

Not much changed for Chelsea after half time. Play was a little more even, but Roma were still creating the better opportunities. Ten minutes into the second half, Conte must have decided there was no point playing three center backs if he was going to get such poor results defensively, and replaced Gary Cahill with Willian. Azpilicueta returned to his familiar right center back position, and Pedro replaced him at right wing back.

It was at best a roll of the dice from the manager, and unfortunately, this time he crapped out. On sixty-two minutes, Kolarov intercepted another poor pass from Fabregas on Roma’s left wing, and he passed to Diego Perotti, who had given Chelsea so much trouble in the first game at Stamford Bridge. Perotti dribbled inside past Pedro, and rocketed a low shot past Courtois from distance – 3 – 0.

Conte put Fabregas out of his misery shortly afterwards, hooking him off for Daniel Drinkwater, and then replaced Morata with Michy Batshuayi. It was too little too late though, and Roma were too professional, and Chelsea too shell-shocked to respond. And so at the final whistle, Roma leapfrogged Chelsea to go top of Group C.

Final Score Roma 3 – 0 Chelsea


Thumbnail image courtesy of: Mirror


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