Phil and the Blanks
Big Fish Chokes Before Swallowing Little Fish
Big Phil is done at Chelsea. All that's left for Roman Abramovich to do is fill in the blanks with the name of the next gaffer to manage his under-achieving millionaire's club.
I came to this realization 15 minutes into Chelsea's FA Cup third round replay against Division One's Southend United when the lowly Southend-on-Sea Shrimpers went up 1-0 on a corner kick that exposed the mighty Blues current state of disarray.
You see, Luiz Felipe Scolari had promised to ditch man-to-man marking in place of a zone defense (a la Liverspool skipper Raphael Benitez) after Sunday's humilating 3-0 drubbing at the hands of the Red Devils at Old Trafford, yet the Blues (or Piss-Yellows in this case, as Chelsea was wearing their away kits) looked like the proverbial chickens-with-heads-cut-off as they ran about willy-nilly on this first defensive set piece. Southend's Junior Stanislas lofted a ball into the box and captain Adam Barrett leapt to head it home between the clueless Alex and Anelka. Despite Chelsea camping out in Southend's end of the pitch for most of the first half and out-shooting them by two to one, Southend almost went up 2-0 nil as the game approached halftime. Only a brilliant Cech save kept Chelsea from being done and dusted at that point. Alas, at the other end, the Southend goalie made a serious blunder right before the half to let Chelsea even the score and get right back into the game, with Michael Ballack scooting a loose ball past the out of position keeper into an empty net. From that point on, it was all academic as Salomon Kalou, Nicolas Anelka and Frank Lampard added second half strikes.
Despite the final score of 4-1, Chelsea once again had egg on its face, looking like a lower division club on that first foray in zonal marking. Who cares that they steadied the ship and got the result they should have from the start? The ship shouldn't have been rockin' to begin with. Big Phil's gotta be having an ulcer by this point of the season and I'm sure he's lost the faith of his players. He chewed them out royally at halftime, though Didier Drogba wasn't there to hear it - he was (rightly) left behind after his dreadful performance against Man U. at Old Trafford.