Tag Archives: Chelsea

Premier League Files: Victor Moses

Premier League Career: Wigan Athletic (2010-2012), Chelsea (2012-2013, 2016-PRESENT), Liverpool FC (2013-2014), Stoke City (2014-2015), West Ham United (2015-2016)

Victor Moses enjoyed a resurrection in his Premier League career when Antonio Conte used him as a wing-back during his first season as Chelsea manager in 2016-2017. Having been discarded completely by Jose Mourinho, Moses did a great job in his new position having previously made his mark as a flying winger. The rewards were greatly demonstrated as Victor ended the season with a Premier League title winners’ medal.

Moses was born in Lagos and suffered tragedy in his childhood when both of his parents were killed in religious riots in Kaduna. Less than a week later, his remaining relatives paid for him to travel to the UK to claim asylum. Placed with a foster family in south London, he took up education in the city and played plenty of football in his spare time.

Spotted by Crystal Palace, he was offered a place in their academy and he made his first-team debut for the Eagles aged just 16 in November 2007 vs. Cardiff City in the Championship. He played 16 times in the 2007-2008 season and tasted the play-offs too although it ended in disappointment as Palace lost in the semi-final stage over two legs to Bristol City. He signed a new contract that summer and continued to shine even if the club struggled, both on and off the pitch.

As the south Londoners slipped into administration in January 2010, he moved to Wigan Athletic for £2.5 million on the final day of the winter transfer window. He made his debut seven days later as a substitute in a 1-1 draw with Sunderland and by the end of the season, was a Premier League goalscorer when he scored in a 2-2 home draw with already-relegated Hull City in May.

It was clear that there was plenty of promise in Moses’ game but his rawness meant his final ball or finishing ability sometimes let him down at the crucial moment. His first full Premier League campaign was a struggle with competition for places meaning he was never a guaranteed starter. Injuries also hampered his progress but when Charles N’Zogbia departed for Aston Villa in the summer of 2011, Moses began to blossom. He scored six times in 38 matches, helping Wigan towards another unlikely escape from relegation.

By now, there was a tug-of-war for his services on both a club and international scale. Having represented England’s junior levels, Moses elected to stick to his birth roots and accepted the opportunity to play for Nigeria at senior international level. He was part of the successful Super Eagles squad that won the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations, scoring twice in the group stages against Ethiopia.

Chelsea liked what they saw too and pursued Moses all throughout the summer of 2012, making four unsuccessful bids. After an impressive outing against the reigning Champions of Europe on the opening day of the 2012-2013 season, Chelsea came in again with a fifth bid and this time, Wigan accepted, moving to the Blues in the closing days of the summer transfer window.

Moses’ early involvement for Chelsea came in League Cup and European games but his late equaliser to rescue a 1-1 draw at Swansea City in November 2012 saw him gain further opportunities in the Premier League, especially when Rafa Benitez became interim manager later that month. The goal at The Liberty Stadium was his only Premier League strike of the season but he made 23 appearances and saved his goalscoring form for the UEFA Europa League. Moses scored in 50% of his European appearances, including crucial goals in both legs of the semi-final success against FC Basel 1893. He was bitterly unfortunate to miss out on a place in the squad for the victory in the final over Benfica.

Mourinho’s second coming as manager though spelt the end of Moses’ time as a first-team player at Stamford Bridge as he went on-loan for the next three Premier League campaigns. First stop was Liverpool FC in 2013-2014 and although he scored on debut against Swansea, the form of Raheem Sterling restricted Moses to a handful of appearances. He only made nine Premier League starts for the Reds.

Next port of call was Stoke City for 2014-2015 and again, there was a positive start. A Man of the Match performance in the home win over Newcastle United and a goal in a draw with West Ham United indicated he could flourish at Stoke. Unfortunately, he sustained a thigh injury in a shock home loss to Burnley in November 2014, keeping him on the sidelines for two months. He never regained his early-season form and even rejected the opportunity to go back to Chelsea when Mourinho tried to recall him after selling Andre Schurrle to VfL Wolfsburg and loaning out Mohamed Salah in the January transfer window.

In September 2015, he made another loan switch, this time to West Ham United who were about to embark on their final season at Upton Park. This time, the loan had a purchase option at the end of it and once again, Moses started well. He was the first player in the 2015-2016 season to score past Joe Hart as West Ham picked up an impressive 2-1 victory at early season pacesetters Manchester City. Moses made 21 appearances for the Hammers but again had injury issues, with a hamstring injury meaning he missed two months of the campaign and West Ham elected not to take up the option on making the loan move into a permanent switch.

By now, Mourinho had gone and after impressing Antonio Conte in pre-season, it was decided Moses would remain around the Chelsea squad for the 2016-2017 season. When Conte switched formation to a 3-4-3 following back-to-back league defeats to Liverpool FC and Arsenal, Moses was one of the main beneficiaries. He started playing a regular role as a wing-back and seemed to have discovered a new-found confidence with the knowledge he would be starting on a regular basis for his parent club. He scored goals in wins over reigning champions Leicester City and Tottenham Hotspur; the goal against the latter ending their unbeaten start to the season. He ended the campaign with 34 league appearances, three goals and a title winners’ medal. Moses had been one of the revelations of the season. It did end on a sour note though, becoming the fifth player to be dismissed in an FA Cup final after being caught diving in an attempt to win a penalty against Arsenal.

Moses remained a regular fixture in 2017-2018 and matched his goal tally from the previous season and he won the FA Cup but Conte’s departure has led to him falling again to a peripheral role under new manager Maurizio Sarri in the early weeks of this season. This summer, he also represented Nigeria at the 2018 World Cup finals and scored an equaliser in the group stage game against Argentina. Marcos Rojo’s late winner though knocked Nigeria out of the tournament and in August 2018, he elected to retire from international football after winning 37 caps for the Africans, scoring 12 goals.

Victor Moses has proved that even though barriers can sometimes look permanently shut, they can be brought down through hard work, persistence and desire to prove people wrong. His efforts in achieving this mean he has a Premier League title winners’ medal safely stored in his honours roll.

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Seasonal Stories: Chelsea (1997-1998)

Sackings and cup glory

Having been a mid-table team in the early Premier League Years, Chelsea were beginning to make an impact on the top-flight in the late 1990s. The 1997-1998 season saw the Londoners record their first top-four finish and experience cup glory, with victories in both the League Cup and UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup under the guidance of Gianluca Vialli.

This was despite having almost as many defeats as relegated Bolton Wanderers and the controversial sacking of Ruud Gullit as first-team manager in February 1998.

Continental knowledge

This was Chelsea’s ninth successive season in England’s top-flight and they went into the 1997-1998 season looking to build on the previous season’s sixth-place finish, as well as victory in the FA Cup final over Middlesbrough.

It was Ruud Gullit’s second season in the dugout at Stamford Bridge and his continental knowledge saw more foreign players recruited in pre-season to add to the depth of the squad. Gus Poyet, who had been part of the Real Zaragoza squad that defeated Arsenal in the 1995 Cup Winners’ Cup final, arrived on a free transfer.

Graeme Le Saux returned to the club after a four-year stint at Blackburn Rovers which had yielded a Premier League title winners’ medal in 1995 with Chelsea paying Rovers £5 million for his services. Nigerian full-back Celestine Babayaro from Anderlecht and a new first-choice goalkeeper in Ed de Goey were among the other new arrivals.

Setting a high standard

Despite an opening day defeat to Coventry City thanks to a Dion Dublin hat-trick, Chelsea made a brilliant start to the season, winning five of their first eight games. This included an excellent 2-2 draw at Old Trafford with reigning champions Manchester United.

In August, they handed Premier League newcomers Barnsley a lesson in how tough life is in the top-flight. Gianluca Vialli, keen to start more matches in this campaign, scored a stunning four goals at Oakwell as the Tykes lost 6-0 on their own patch. By the end of September, Chelsea had already scored 22 goals and were averaging three goals a game.

Expansion to The Shed End and The West Stand meant Chelsea played their first three matches of the league campaign away from home whilst the redevelopment work was completed. Southampton were the first visitors to the modern-day Stamford Bridge and lost 4-2, with all of Chelsea’s goals coming in the first half.

Champions-elect Arsenal were the only side to win on their visit to The Bridge before Christmas and only away form was harming a serious title tilt from Gullit’s men. By the turn of the year, five of Chelsea’s six defeats had come away from home, including disappointing 1-0 defeats to Southampton and Bolton Wanderers. Nevertheless, they still put in some wonderful away performances and the 6-1 humbling they dished out on Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane was one of the best team displays of the entire campaign. Another summer recruit, Tore Andre Flo scored a hat-trick.

29TH DECEMBER 1997 TABLE

POS TABLE P W D L F A GD PTS
1 Manchester United 21 14 4 3 49 16 +33 46
2 Blackburn Rovers 21 11 8 2 38 21 +17 41
3 CHELSEA 21 12 3 6 46 21 +25 39
4 Liverpool FC 20 11 4 5 36 19 +17 37
5 Leeds United 21 10 5 6 30 23 +7 35
6 Arsenal 20 9 7 4 35 23 +12 34

Gobsmacked Gullit

Although there was a disappointing 3-1 defeat away at struggling Everton in January 1998, Chelsea sat in second position when Gullit took his side to Highbury to face Arsenal on 8th February. The Dutchman was greeted warmly by Chairman Ken Bates when he arrived at the ground and everything seemed rosy in-terms of the relationship between manager and owner.

Two Stephen Hughes goals consigned Chelsea to their seventh away defeat of the campaign but they were still leading the chasing pack behind Manchester United and just five points away from the Red Devils too. Discussions were well underway regarding a contract extension for Gullit. Yet, there was to be a sensational story that broke from west London four days after the Arsenal loss.

Chelsea’s hierarchy held a news conference to confirm Gullit had been sacked. Bates said at the press gathering: “We were unable to meet his financial demands.” Managing Director Colin Hutchinson backed this up, adding: “There was no further scope for future negotiations.”

24 hours later, a rather stunned Gullit held his own press conference, claiming he didn’t know why he’d been sacked and demanded to know the real reason for his sudden departure. He dismissed the board’s claims that his wage demands were too high and confirmed he had been ready to sign a new deal to stay on as the club’s manager. Bates later admitted “I didn’t like his arrogance – in fact I never liked him.”

Even more surprisingly, Vialli was immediately appointed as his successor in a player-manager capacity, despite having no previous managerial experience. With Chelsea second in the league and into the semi-finals of the League Cup, plus a European quarter-final, the timing of this managerial change did have a detrimental effect on the rest of the Premier League season.

Hanging onto fourth

Chelsea’s Premier League campaign crumbled after this decision. Vialli lost his first three matches in-charge, including a 1-0 home defeat to Manchester United which saw many bookmakers deciding not to take anymore bets on where the title was going. However, United were about to be humbled by a team from London. However, it was Arsenal who went on a devastating run of form to snatch the Premier League title.

The players had seemed just as surprised as anyone by the board’s decision to dispense with Gullit’s services, plus the fact that one of their teammates was now their boss. Vialli still got the side playing some attractive football and this was demonstrated when Liverpool FC were well-beaten 4-1 on their visit to Stamford Bridge in late April. A final day victory over Bolton Wanderers ensured a fourth-place finish. However, there was a sense from within the fans that an opportunity was missed to launch a serious title challenge. Although they finished second highest goalscorers with 71 goals, Chelsea lost more games in the season than Wimbledon, who finished 19 points adrift and in 15th place. Relegated Bolton only lost one more match than what Chelsea did

There was a silver lining to the season though with double cup glory. For the second successive season, Middlesbrough were beaten in a cup final, losing 2-0 in the League Cup final. Right at the end of the season, Gianfranco Zola came off the bench to score the only goal in the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup Final against VfB Stuttgart.

FINAL 1997-1998 TABLE – THIRD TO EIGHTH

POS TABLE P W D L F A GD PTS
3 Liverpool FC 38 18 11 9 68 42 +26 65
4 CHELSEA 38 20 3 15 71 43 +28 63
5 Leeds United 38 17 8 13 57 46 +11 59
6 Blackburn Rovers 38 16 10 12 57 52 +5 58
7 Aston Villa 38 17 6 15 49 48 +1 57
8 West Ham United 38 16 8 14 56 57 -1 56

Shock Results: Chelsea 0-3 AFC Bournemouth (January 2018)

Goalscorers: Callum Wilson 51, Junior Stanislas 64, Nathan Ake 67

Teams:

Chelsea: Thibaut Courtois, Cesar Azpilicueta, Davide Zappacosta, Gary Cahill, Andreas Christensen (Antonio Rudiger 28), Marcos Alonso, Tiemoue Bakayoko, N’Golo Kante, Ross Barkley (Cesc Fabregas 54), Eden Hazard, Pedro

AFC Bournemouth: Asmir Begovic, Nathan Ake, Steve Cook, Charlie Daniels, Simon Francis, Lewis Cook, Dan Gosling, Ryan Fraser, Jordon Ibe (Marc Pugh 83), Junior Stanislas (Josh King 71), Callum Wilson (Lys Mousset 90)

Referee: Lee Probert, Attendance: 41,464

Two seasons earlier, AFC Bournemouth had stunned Chelsea in their dreadful title defence, winning 1-0 at Stamford Bridge. Now, Eddie Howe’s side were keen to repeat this success as they were enjoying a five-game unbeaten run which had included victories over Everton and Arsenal in this period.

Chelsea themselves had no chance of defending the title they’d won in 2016-2017 but were in an eight-game unbeaten league sequence of their own and among the challengers for a top-four finish. They were also able to parade Olivier Giroud at half-time. The Frenchman had been prized away from Arsenal in a three-way deal which saw Michy Batshuayi go to Borussia Dortmund for the rest of the season and Arsenal break their club-record to snap up Dortmund marksman, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

Chelsea were missing Alvaro Morata and Willian to injury with Ross Barkley making his first Premier League start for the club since joining from Everton earlier in the January transfer window. The home side dominated possession but failed to create clear-cut chances in the first 45 minutes. Bournemouth were able to smother Eden Hazard, whilst defensive resources were stretched further for Antonio Conte when Andreas Christensen limped off after 28 minutes to be replaced by Antonio Rudiger.

Having kept Chelsea at bay, Bournemouth turned in a clinical 16-minute spell in the second half as they dismantled the reigning champions on their own patch. In the 51st minute, Tiemoue Bakayoko was caught in possession and from this error, the Blues were brutally punished. Jordon Ibe slipped an inch-perfect pass in-between the centre-backs Rudiger and Gary Cahill and Callum Wilson timed his run perfectly to slip the ball underneath the advancing Thibaut Courtois. It was the first goal in the Premier League Chelsea had conceded at Stamford Bridge in 489 minutes.

13 minutes later, they had conceded again. This time, Wilson had turned goal provider, sliding a pass inside Cahill and Cesar Azpilicueta for Junior Stanislas to fire home. Chelsea looked like a broken side and three minutes later, Bournemouth had scored again. From a corner, Stanislas’ effort which looked to be sailing wide of the post was steered into the net by ex-Chelsea defender Nathan Ake.

On the bench, Giroud sank further beyond his training jacket. 24 hours earlier, he’d made his farewell appearance for Arsenal off the bench in a humbling defeat at Swansea. Now, it seemed like he’d joined another London sinking ship. It was defeats like this that cost Chelsea a place in this season’s Champions League and would ultimately cost Conte his job. Bournemouth finished 12th with what was their finest result of the 2017-2018 season.

Premier League Rewind: 24th February-1st March 2018

Results: Leicester City 1-1 Stoke City, AFC Bournemouth 2-2 Newcastle United, Brighton & Hove Albion 4-1 Swansea City, Burnley 1-1 Southampton, Liverpool FC 4-1 West Ham United, West Bromwich Albion 1-2 Huddersfield Town, Watford 1-0 Everton, Crystal Palace 0-1 Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester United 2-1 Chelsea, Arsenal 0-3 Manchester City

This particular Premier League round of matches was stretched over five days due to Arsenal and Manchester City’s participation in the League Cup final at Wembley Stadium. It meant Manchester United had the opportunity to narrow City’s lead in the table to 13 points for a few days at least. They came up against Chelsea at Old Trafford in the first match between Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte since a bitter war of words had exploded in the media between the pair at the start of the year.

Chelsea started the brighter side and led after 32 minutes thanks to Willian’s goal on the counter-attack. However, Romelu Lukaku equalised seven minutes later and as Conte decided to sit back, Mourinho saw the opportunity to expose this flaw. 15 minutes from full-time, Lukaku’s cross was met by the head of substitute Jesse Lingard. He found the net and that spearheaded United to a 2-1 victory. It was Chelsea’s third defeat in four matches and saw them slip outside the top four. It was a position Conte and his side would never regain for the remainder of the season.

Tottenham Hotspur replaced them in the top four after snatching a very late win away at Crystal Palace. Once again, it was Harry Kane who delivered for Spurs. His header from Christian Eriksen’s corner in the 88th minute took Spurs to a vital 1-0 victory. It looked like it was going to be a frustrating afternoon for the visitors who dominated throughout but wasteful finishing and an inspired Wayne Hennessey display looked set to deny them the win. That was until Kane came to the rescue with his 102nd Premier League goal.

Liverpool FC consolidated their position in the top four after breezing past West Ham United 4-1 at Anfield, repeating the scoreline they’d achieved earlier in the season against the Hammers at The London Stadium. Liverpool’s goals came from Roberto Firmino, Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane plus a header from Emre Can. It would turn out to be the German’s final goal for the club. He would leave in the summer on a free transfer for Juventus. Can’s header was also LFC’s 100th goal in all competitions for the campaign.

Liverpool weren’t the only 4-1 winners. Brighton & Hove Albion also achieved this scoreline in their triumph over Swansea City. Glenn Murray scored twice and Jurgen Locadia came off the bench to net on his Premier League debut. It was the first taste of Premier League defeat for Swansea boss Carlos Carvalhal and kept Swansea inside the drop zone on goal difference.

They were above Stoke City, who drew 1-1 at Leicester City in the first game of the weekend. Leading just before half-time through Xherdan Shaqiri’s fine strike, an error from Jack Butland allowed Marc Albrighton’s cross to sneak in at his near post. West Bromwich Albion remained bottom of the table after another damaging loss. Beaten 2-1 at home by Huddersfield Town, they had now lost four games in a row and slipped seven points adrift of safety. Rajiv van La Parra clearly had taken a liking to the Baggies. Having scored the winning goal when the sides met in November at The John Smith’s Stadium, Van La Parra struck the first goal in the victory at The Hawthorns that took Huddersfield 10 points clear of their opponents.

Four days after their resounding League Cup final success over Arsenal, Manchester City would repeat the triumph in the Premier League. They crushed the Gunners on their own turf by the same score as they’d managed at Wembley. Bernardo Silva, David Silva and Leroy Sane all found the net on a freezing Thursday night in the capital as City won 3-0 to regain their 16-point advantage at the top of the table.

What else happened in February 2018?

  • After nine years in power, Jacob Zuma resigns as South African president.
  • The UK’s largest toy retailer, Toys “R” Us, goes into administration.
  • The 2018 Winter Olympics are held in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
  • Saratov Airlines Flight 703 crashes shortly after take-off from Moscow, killing 71 people onboard.
  • Another school shooting in the United States, this time at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida injures 17 and kills 17 people.
  • Trinity Mirror purchases Northern & Shell, chaired by Richard Desmond, for £126.7 million.
  • Dua Lipa and Stormzy are the big winners at the 2018 BRIT Awards. Both win two awards at the ceremony, hosted by Jack Whitehall.

Memorable Matches: Arsenal 2-2 Chelsea (January 2018)

Goalscorers: Jack Wilshere 63, Eden Hazard 69 PEN, Marcos Alonso 84, Hector Bellerin 90

Teams:

Arsenal: Petr Cech, Calum Chambers (Theo Walcott 88), Rob Holding, Shkodran Mustafi, Hector Bellerin, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Jack Wilshere, Granit Xhaka, Mesut Ozil, Alexandre Lacazette (Danny Welbeck 80), Alexis Sanchez

Chelsea: Thibaut Courtois, Cesar Azpilicueta, Gary Cahill, Andreas Christensen, Marcos Alonso, Victor Moses (Davide Zappacosta 56), N’Golo Kante, Tiemoue Bakayoko, Cesc Fabregas (Danny Drinkwater 71), Eden Hazard (Willian 82), Alvaro Morata

Referee: Anthony Taylor, Attendance: 59,379

One of the final matches of the 2017-2018 festive period saw two of the London giants come face-to-face at The Emirates Stadium. Arsenal and Chelsea faced each other, shared four goals, 33 chances and a point apiece in an absorbing and entertaining contest.

It was the home side’s sixth game in 19 days and injuries were starting to take their toll on Arsene Wenger’s side. Having lost Nacho Monreal to injury in the first game of the Christmas fixtures against Liverpool FC, Wenger had seen Laurent Koscielny and Sead Kolasinac both join the treatment table in the New Years’ Eve draw at West Bromwich Albion. This meant Rob Holding made a rare start in the back three.

Chelsea looked to punish the inexperience in the Arsenal defence and inside 10 minutes, should have been ahead. Alvaro Morata had a golden opportunity but one-on-one with Petr Cech, he squandered it, putting the ball well wide of the post on his first-ever visit to The Emirates. It started a miserable evening for the Spanish forward who missed some guilt-edge opportunities throughout the contest.

Both goalkeepers were incredibly busy and in fine form. Chelsea’s Thibaut Courtois made an outrageous save in the first half to deny Alexis Sanchez with the ball bouncing off both posts but incredibly not crossing the goal-line. Mesut Ozil, Alexandre Lacazette and Tiemoue Bakayoko also forced the respective keepers into fine stops. The form of Courtois and Petr Cech in this game was amazing to witness.

0-0 at the break, the breakthrough finally came in the 63rd minute. Via a deflection from Morata, the ball fell into the path of Jack Wilshere who smashed a shot beyond Courtois to score his first Premier League goal since May 2015. Six minutes later, the visitors were back on level terms. Hector Bellerin tripped Eden Hazard in the box and Anthony Taylor awarded the penalty. Wenger, facing the possibility of a touchline ban for comments made about Mike Dean at The Hawthorns days earlier, was fuming with this decision too, calling it “farcical.” Hazard picked himself up and scored from the spot, sending Cech the wrong way.

With six minutes left, it looked like Antonio Conte’s side had sneaked all three points. Substitute Davide Zappacosta worked his way beyond Ainsley Maitland-Niles. He drilled a cross across the box and fellow wing-back Marcos Alonso made a decisive run, taking advantage of static defending from the centre-backs to find the back of the net. However, Chelsea were to be denied in the second minute of stoppage-time. Bellerin levelled the match with a convincing strike on the half-volley after Alonso had failed to clear his lines. There was still time for Zappacosta to hit the bar in stoppage-time but in the first of three meetings in January 2018 between the sides, a point was quite rightly a fair result.

Memorable Matches: Chelsea 4-2 Watford (October 2017)

Goalscorers: Pedro 12, Abdoulaye Doucoure 45, Roberto Pereyra 49, Michy Batshuayi 71, 90, Cesar Azpilicueta 87

Teams:

Chelsea: Thibaut Courtois, Cesar Azpilicueta, Marcos Alonso (Willian 68), Gary Cahill, David Luiz, Antonio Rudiger, Tiemoue Bakayoko, Cesc Fabregas, Eden Hazard, Pedro (Davide Zappacosta 86), Alvaro Morata (Michy Batshuayi 61)

Watford: Heurelho Gomes, Miguel Britos, Christian Kabasele, Adrian Mariappa (Andre Gray 90), Kiko Femenia, Jose Holebas, Tom Cleverley, Abdoulaye Doucoure, Roberto Pereyra (Andre Carrillo 65), Richarlison, Troy Deeney (Ben Watson 80)

Referee: Jon Moss, Attendance: 41,467

By mid-October 2017, defending champions Chelsea were already off the pace being set by league leaders Manchester City. Antonio Conte’s men were nine points adrift and went into this match against Watford below their opponents in the table. Marco Silva’s side had just beaten Arsenal a week earlier and arrived at Stamford Bridge in confident mood. They were unbeaten on their travels, with 10 points collected from four away games. If it hadn’t been for a couple of vital substitutions and wasteful finishing, they could well have added to their total in an end-to-end contest.

Having lost their last two league matches to Manchester City and Crystal Palace, the pressure was on Chelsea to revive their fortunes and they made a brilliant start. Pedro opened the scoring after just 12 minutes, bending in a magnificent strike from 25-yards out that struck the post on its way past the helpless Heurelho Gomes. However, the defensive backline which had been so strong in their title-winning season was being opened up much easier in this campaign.

Right on the stroke of half-time, Watford equalised. Abdoulaye Doucoure smashed a shot into the back of the net after David Luiz failed to get enough distance on his clearing header from a long throw-in. It kept Doucoure’s impressive record up of 100% accuracy from shots on-target. His four shots on-target had registered four goals so far in the season for the impressive midfielder.

Another of Watford’s early season stars had been the Brazilian, Richarlison. However, he was guilty of two costly misses in the early moments of the second half. First, he inexplicably missed an open goal from six-yards out after Kiko Femenia had provided the perfect delivery into the box. Richarlison did make amends just over a minute later, when he picked out an unmarked Roberto Pereyra who guided the ball past Thibaut Courtois to give the Hertfordshire-based side a richly deserved lead. However, they should have put the game beyond the home side and again, it was Richarlison who missed another golden chance. He headed wide unmarked after a fine ball from Miguel Britos.

Conte sensed the momentum was with Watford, so threw on Michy Batshuayi and it was a substitution that paid off. With 19 minutes left, Watford’s centre-backs left him completely unmarked to place a looping header into the net from Eden Hazard’s delivery on the right-hand side. Silva then elected to take off his skipper Troy Deeney with 10 minutes remaining and brought on another central midfielder in Ben Watson in an attempt to shut down Chelsea’s threat. This gamble backfired.

With three minutes left, Cesar Azpilicueta arrived unmarked at the back post to nod a header past Gomes. With almost the last kick of the game, Britos was caught in possession by Tiemoue Bakayoko. His interception found Batshuayi who held off the attentions of Christian Kabasele and scored again to close down the match. Chelsea had shown the resilience of champions but Watford did get their revenge, recording a brilliant 4-1 home victory over the Blues in February 2018.

Shock Results: Chelsea 2-3 Burnley (August 2017)

Goalscorers: Sam Vokes 24, 43, Stephen Ward 39, Alvaro Morata 69, David Luiz 88

Teams:

Chelsea: Thibaut Courtois, Cesar Azpilicueta, Marcos Alonso, Gary Cahill (SENT OFF), David Luiz, Antonio Rudiger, N’Golo Kante, Cesc Fabregas (SENT OFF), Jerome Boga (Andreas Christensen 18), (Charly Musonda 90), Willian, Michy Batshuayi (Alvaro Morata 59)

Burnley: Tom Heaton, Ben Mee, Matthew Lowton, James Tarkowski, Stephen Ward, Jack Cork, Steven Defour (Jon Walters 75), Jeff Hendrick, Johann Berg Gudmundsson, Robbie Brady, Sam Vokes

Referee: Craig Pawson, Attendance: 41,616

Reigning champions Chelsea were once again expected to be among the frontrunners for the Premier League title in 2017-2018. On the opening weekend of the season, Antonio Conte’s side faced Burnley, who were starting their fourth Premier League campaign. On their three previous visits to Stamford Bridge, the Clarets had conceded seven goals. So, they were considered major outsiders.

However, the champions imploded in a spectacular first 45 minutes which was to be the story of their season. The first sign of trouble for the hosts came after just 14 minutes when referee Craig Pawson dished out a straight red card to Chelsea skipper Gary Cahill. Cahill, who had taken on the role on a full-time basis following John Terry’s summer departure, made a lunging two-footed tackle on Burnley midfielder Steven Defour. It was classed as dangerous play by Pawson and Cahill could have few complaints. This meant Jerome Boga’s shock debut was over too, sacrificed to make way for defensive centre-back Andreas Christensen.

Nine minutes later, Burnley fully capitalised on the extra man advantage as Sam Vokes fired the visitors ahead with a volley beyond Thibaut Courtois. It would get worse for a stunned home faithful. Six minutes before half-time, Burnley put together a brilliant team move which led to their second goal. It was left-back Stephen Ward who finished the move off, firing an angled drive beyond Courtois’ despairing dive. Incredibly, it was 3-0 just four minutes later. A flying header from Vokes continued his red-hot streak and put Burnley fans into dreamland. The Welshman had now scored seven goals in his last six Premier League matches dating back to the end of the previous season. The scoreline was even more spectacular considering Burnley had won just one away match in the whole of the previous campaign and that had been at the end of April at Crystal Palace.

Conte looked a pale shadow of the energetic character Chelsea fans had seen on the touchline during his debut Premier League season and he urgently needed a reaction from his misfiring players in the second half. The belated arrival of Alvaro Morata in the 59th minute was the galvanising factor in their second half improvement. 10 minutes after his arrival, the Spaniard, who had joined from Real Madrid, had his first goal for his new employers, heading home from close-range.

Any hopes of Chelsea salvaging something from the contest were as good as over when Cesc Fabregas added to Conte’s headaches. Booked needlessly for dissent in the first half, the Spaniard’s clumsy challenge on Jack Cork with nine minutes left to play saw him heading for an early shower and reduced Chelsea to nine men.

David Luiz did pull another goal back just before stoppage-time but it was too little, too late. Burnley held on for a famous victory. Sean Dyche’s side were one of the success stories of the season and will be playing in UEFA Europa League qualifying later this week as a reward for their seventh-place finish. Chelsea’s fifth-place league result was very disappointing and Conte was sacked in July 2018.

Shock Results: Crystal Palace 2-1 Chelsea (October 2017)

Goalscorers: Cesar Azpilicueta 11 OG, Tiemoue Bakayoko 18, Wilfried Zaha 45

Teams:

Crystal Palace: Julian Speroni, Scott Dann, Mamadou Sakho, Patrick van Aanholt, Joel Ward, Yohan Cabaye (Jairo Riedewald 86), Luka Milivojevic, James McArthur (Timothy Fosu-Mensah 85), Jeff Schlupp (Jason Puncheon 75), Andros Townsend, Wilfried Zaha

Chelsea: Thibaut Courtois, Cesar Azpilicueta, Marcos Alonso, Gary Cahill, David Luiz, Victor Moses (Davide Zappacosta 39), Tiemoue Bakayoko, Cesc Fabregas, Eden Hazard, Willian (Charly Musonda 65), Michy Batshuayi (Pedro 57)

Referee: Andre Marriner, Attendance: 25,480

Crystal Palace looked in dire straits at the start of October 2017. Seven games into their campaign and the Eagles had made the worst start ever in Premier League history. Seven defeats, no points earned and not even a goal scored. Their situation seemed hopeless already. Frank de Boer had been sacked just four games into his reign, replaced by Roy Hodgson. Hodgson had a reputation to repair himself. He had been out of work since England’s humiliating exit in the 2016 European Championships at the hands of Iceland. The chance to revive Palace’s fortunes and put himself back on the managerial map was too good to turn down.

After the October international break, Selhurst Park was packed to welcome the visit of league champions Chelsea. Antonio Conte’s side had recovered well from a shock opening day loss at home to Burnley and were boasting a 100% away record following fine victories away at Tottenham Hotspur, Leicester City and Stoke City. The Blues were widely anticipated to keep that record going.

After 641 goalless minutes at the start of the season, Crystal Palace finally registered a goal to take a surprising early lead. Andros Townsend picked out Yohan Cabaye who showed great persistence in the penalty area, causing havoc which Chelsea’s defenders couldn’t deal with. David Luiz panicked and the ball eventually came off his teammate Cesar Azpilicueta and rebounded into the back of the net. It set the tone for an uncomfortable afternoon for the reigning champions.

Conte’s side were missing the energy of N’Golo Kante, who had been injured playing for France during the international break and it showed. However, his replacement did provide the equaliser. Tiemoue Bakayoko escaped his markers to guide home a corner from his central midfield partner, Cesc Fabregas. However, Chelsea’s front three of Michy Batshuayi, Willian and Eden Hazard failed to seriously test Julian Speroni on a regular basis.

It was another Palace returnee who would ultimately score the winner. Wilfried Zaha had been out of action since the opening day of the season but he returned with perfect timing. On the stroke of half-time, he escaped Azpilicueta’s challenge and slotted the ball beyond Thibaut Courtois.

Despite enjoying 60% of possession and piling the pressure on in the second half, Conte’s side couldn’t find a way through. He experienced back-to-back defeats for only the second time as a Premier League manager. Palace were finally off the mark for both goals and points. Their season finally had lift-off, thanks to the management guile of Hodgson and the skill of Zaha, who proved to be their integral matchwinner throughout the 2017-2018 season.

Iconic Moments: Zola arrives in England (November 1996)

In the summer of 1996, the foreign revolution was starting to arrive in English football. This was none more apparent than at Chelsea where new manager Ruud Gullit was beginning to make his mark by signing players from the continent.

Italians Roberto Di Matteo and Gianluca Vialli had already arrived and a third Italian player would join the Londoners before 1996 was over. £4.5 million was paid to Parma for the small, but technically gifted Gianfranco Zola to arrive at Stamford Bridge.

Zola was a lynchpin of the Italian national side but had become frustrated at being forced to play in a deep-lying role for Parma in Serie A. Wanting to access a new challenge; there was just as much attention from the Italian press than from the English media when he was introduced as a Chelsea player.

He made his debut in a 1-1 draw at Ewood Park with Blackburn Rovers days later and made an incredible impact. Having been in the country for only seven months, he had won over the supporters, the neutrals and the football journalists, who crowned him the Football Writers’ Player of the Year for the season.

 

 

Zola left Chelsea in the summer of 2003, just a week before Roman Abramovich’s takeover of the club. He left after seven seasons of enthralling skills, exceptional goals and a set-piece expertise that was among the best in world football. His final gift was to help the Blues into the Champions League that helped Abramovich towards his takeover that turned the club into one of Europe’s real superpowers.

 

 

Great Goals: Gianfranco Zola – CHELSEA vs. Manchester United (February 1997)

When Gianfranco Zola joined Chelsea from Parma in November 1996, there was as much attention on the transfer from the Italian media as there was from the English press. By the time he left Stamford Bridge in the summer of 2003, he had become one of the club’s greatest-ever players. This was an early sign of his dazzling brilliance against reigning champions Manchester United.

Played in by Dan Petrescu, it looked like Zola was going up a corridor with little options. He had other ideas. He took advantage of Denis Irwin committing himself by cutting inside his tackle. Gary Pallister was beaten by his skill and Peter Schmeichel was beaten at his near post by this tricky, majestic Italian.

It gave Chelsea the lead and although Manchester United did leave the capital with a point by the end of the afternoon, they certainly now knew who Gianfranco Zola really was. He also scored a winner in February 1997 for his country at Wembley Stadium against England and despite arriving four months into the campaign, was voted the Player of the Year by the Football Writers.

 

Seasonal Records: 2010-2011

For all the statistical fans out there, here are some of the season’s records from the 2010-2011 Premier League campaign. Manchester United made history by becoming the most successful club in English top-flight history, achieving their 19th championship.

FINAL TABLE

Position Team P W D L F A GD PTS
1 Manchester United 38 23 11 4 78 37 +41 80
2 Chelsea 38 21 8 9 69 33 +36 71
3 Manchester City 38 21 8 9 60 33 +27 71
4 Arsenal 38 19 11 8 72 43 +29 68
5 Tottenham Hotspur 38 16 14 8 55 46 +9 62
6 Liverpool FC 38 17 7 14 59 44 +15 58
7 Everton 38 13 15 10 51 45 +6 54
8 Fulham 38 11 16 11 49 43 +6 49
9 Aston Villa 38 12 12 14 48 59 -11 48
10 Sunderland 38 12 11 15 45 56 -11 47
11 West Bromwich Albion 38 12 11 15 56 71 -15 47
12 Newcastle United 38 11 13 14 56 57 -1 46
13 Stoke City 38 13 7 18 46 48 -2 46
14 Bolton Wanderers 38 12 10 16 52 56 -4 46
15 Blackburn Rovers 38 11 10 17 46 59 -13 43
16 Wigan Athletic 38 9 15 14 40 61 -21 42
17 Wolverhampton Wanderers 38 11 7 20 46 66 -20 40
18 Birmingham City 38 8 15 15 37 58 -21 39
19 Blackpool 38 10 9 19 55 78 -23 39
20 West Ham United 38 7 12 19 43 70 -27 33

 

THE BASIC STATS

Goals Scored 1063
European qualifiers Manchester United (UEFA Champions League)

Chelsea (UEFA Champions League)

Manchester City (UEFA Champions League)

Arsenal (UEFA Champions League)

Tottenham Hotspur (UEFA Europa League)

Fulham (UEFA Europa League)

Stoke City (UEFA Europa League)

Birmingham City (UEFA Europa League)

Longest winning run 5 games (Chelsea)
Longest unbeaten run 24 games (Manchester United)
Longest winless run 10 games (Blackburn Rovers)
Longest losing run 5 games (West Bromwich Albion, Bolton Wanderers, Blackpool & West Ham United)
Highest attendance 75,486 (Manchester United vs. Bolton Wanderers)
Lowest attendance 14,042 (Wigan Athletic vs. Wolverhampton Wanderers)

 

AWARDS

PFA Players’ Player of the Year Gareth Bale (Tottenham Hotspur)
PFA Young Player of the Year Jack Wilshere (Arsenal)
Football Writers’ Award Scott Parker (West Ham United)
PFA Team of the Year Edwin van der Sar, Ashley Cole, Bacary Sagna, Vincent Kompany, Nemanja Vidic, Jack Wilshere, Nani, Samir Nasri, Gareth Bale, Dimitar Berbatov, Carlos Tevez
Manager of the Year Sir Alex Ferguson (Manchester United)
Premier League Goal of the Season Wayne Rooney (MANCHESTER UNITED vs. Manchester City)

 

HAT-TRICK HEROES

Player Teams Score Date
Didier Drogba Chelsea vs. West Bromwich Albion 6-0 14th August 2010
Theo Walcott Arsenal vs. Blackpool 6-0 21st August 2010
Andy Carroll Newcastle United vs. Aston Villa 6-0 22nd August 2010
Dimitar Berbatov Manchester United vs. Liverpool FC 3-2 19th September 2010
Kevin Nolan Newcastle United vs. Sunderland 5-1 31st October 2010
Dimitar Berbatov (5) Manchester United vs. Blackburn Rovers 7-1 27th November 2010
Mario Balotelli Manchester City vs. Aston Villa 4-0 28th December 2010
Leon Best Newcastle United vs. West Ham United 5-0 5th January 2011
Dimitar Berbatov Manchester United vs. Birmingham City 5-0 22nd January 2011
Robin van Persie Arsenal vs. Wigan Athletic 3-0 22nd January 2011
Carlos Tevez Manchester City vs. West Bromwich Albion 3-0 5th February 2011
Louis Saha (4) Everton vs. Blackpool 5-3 5th February 2011
Dirk Kuyt Liverpool FC vs. Manchester United 3-1 6th March 2011
Wayne Rooney West Ham United vs. Manchester United 4-2 2nd April 2011
Maxi Rodriguez Liverpool FC vs. Birmingham City 5-0 23rd April 2011
Maxi Rodriguez Fulham vs. Liverpool FC 5-2 9th May 2011
Somen Tchoyi Newcastle United vs. West Bromwich Albion 3-3 22nd May 2011

 

TOP SCORERS

Position Player Teams No of Goals
1= Dimitar Berbatov Manchester United 20
1= Carlos Tevez Manchester City 20
3 Robin van Persie Arsenal 18
4 Darren Bent Sunderland & Aston Villa 17
5 Peter Odemwingie West Bromwich Albion 15
6= Javier Hernandez Manchester United 13
6= Florent Malouda Chelsea 13
6= Rafael van der Vaart Tottenham Hotspur 13
6= Dirk Kuyt Liverpool FC 13
6= Andy Carroll Newcastle United & Liverpool FC 13
6= DJ Campbell Blackpool 13
12= Clint Dempsey Fulham 12
12= Kevin Nolan Newcastle United 12
12= Charlie Adam Blackpool 12
15= Wayne Rooney Manchester United 11
15= Didier Drogba Chelsea 11
17= Frank Lampard Chelsea 10
17= Samir Nasri Arsenal 10
17= Roman Pavlyuchenko Tottenham Hotspur 10
17= Salomon Kalou Chelsea 10
17= Fernando Torres Liverpool FC & Chelsea 10
17= Asamoah Gyan Sunderland 10
17= Johan Elmander Bolton Wanderers 10
17= Maxi Rodriguez Liverpool FC 10
17= Steven Fletcher Wolverhampton Wanderers 10

BIGGEST VICTORIES

Manchester United 7-1 Blackburn Rovers 27th November 2010
Chelsea 6-0 West Bromwich Albion 14th August 2010
Wigan Athletic 0-6 Chelsea 21st August 2010
Arsenal 6-0 Blackpool 21st August 2010
Newcastle United 6-0 Aston Villa 22nd August 2010
Manchester United 5-0 Birmingham City 22nd January 2011
Manchester City 5-0 Sunderland 3rd April 2011
Liverpool FC 5-0 Birmingham City 23rd April 2011
Newcastle United 5-0 West Ham United 5th January 2011
Newcastle United 5-1 Sunderland 31st October 2010

 

HIGHEST SCORING GAMES

No of Goals Teams Date
8 Manchester United 7-1 Blackburn Rovers 27th November 2010
8 Newcastle United 4-4 Arsenal 5th February 2011
8 Everton 5-3 Blackpool 5th February 2011
7 Fulham 2-5 Liverpool FC 9th May 2011
7 Manchester City 4-3 Wolverhampton Wanderers 15th January 2011
7 Wigan Athletic 4-3 Blackburn Rovers 5th February 2011
7 Blackpool 4-3 Bolton Wanderers 14th May 2011
6 Chelsea 6-0 West Bromwich Albion 14th August 2010
6 Wigan Athletic 0-6 Chelsea 21st August 2010
6 Arsenal 6-0 Blackpool 21st August 2010
6 Newcastle United 6-0 Aston Villa 22nd August 2010
6 Newcastle United 5-1 Sunderland 31st October 2010
6 Bolton Wanderers 5-1 Newcastle United 20th November 2010
6 West Ham United 2-4 Manchester United 2nd April 2011
6 Sunderland 2-4 Chelsea 1st February 2011
6 Aston Villa 2-4 Arsenal 27th November 2010
6 Tottenham Hotspur 4-2 Blackburn Rovers 13th November 2010
6 Sunderland 4-2 Wigan Athletic 23rd April 2011
6 Bolton Wanderers 4-2 Tottenham Hotspur 6th November 2010
6 Manchester United 4-2 Blackpool 22nd May 2011

 

YOUNGEST PLAYERS USED

Player Teams Age at the time Date
Josh McEachran Manchester City 1-0 Chelsea 17 years, 6 months, 27 days 25th September 2010
Jack Robinson Arsenal 1-1 Liverpool FC 17 years, 7 months, 16 days 17th April 2011
Louis Laing Sunderland 1-3 Wolverhampton Wanderers 18 years, 2 months, 8 days 14th May 2011
Abdul Razak Manchester City 3-0 West Bromwich Albion 18 years, 2 months, 25 days 5th February 2011
Jon Flanagan Liverpool FC 3-0 Manchester City 18 years, 3 months, 10 days 11th April 2011
George Thorne Newcastle United 3-3 West Bromwich Albion 18 years, 4 months, 18 days 22nd May 2011
Phil Jones Blackburn Rovers 1-0 Everton 18 years, 5 months, 24 days 14th August 2010
Jack Wilshere Liverpool FC 1-1 Arsenal 18 years, 7 months, 14 days 15th August 2010
Jonjo Shelvey Liverpool FC 2-1 Blackburn Rovers 18 years, 7 months, 27 days 24th October 2010
Chris Wood Liverpool FC 1-0 West Bromwich Albion 18 years, 8 months, 22 days 29th August 2010

 

OLDEST PLAYERS USED

Player Teams Age at the time Date
Jens Lehmann Blackpool 1-3 Arsenal 41 years, 5 months 10th April 2011
Edwin van der Sar Manchester United 4-2 Blackpool 40 years, 6 months, 23 days 22nd May 2011
Brad Friedel Aston Villa 1-0 Liverpool FC 40 years, 4 days 22nd May 2011
Mike Pollitt Bolton Wanderers 1-1 Wigan Athletic 38 years, 10 months, 7 days 5th January 2011
Mark Schwarzer Fulham 2-2 Arsenal 38 years, 7 months, 16 days 22nd May 2011
Marcus Hahnemann Blackpool 2-1 Wolverhampton Wanderers 38 years, 5 months, 5 days 20th November 2010
Kevin Phillips Birmingham City 0-2 Fulham 37 years, 9 months, 20 days 15th May 2011
Carlo Cudicini Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 Birmingham City 37 years, 8 months, 16 days 22nd May 2011
Robert Pires West Bromwich Albion 2-1 Aston Villa 37 years, 6 months, 1 day 30th April 2011
Ryan Giggs Blackburn Rovers 1-1 Manchester United 37 years, 5 months, 15 days 14th May 2011

 

CLEAN SHEETS

Position Player Teams No of Clean Sheets
1 Joe Hart Manchester City 18
2 Petr Cech Chelsea 15
3= Edwin van der Sar Manchester United 14
3= Pepe Reina Liverpool FC 14
5 Mark Schwarzer Fulham 11
6= Tim Howard Everton 9
6= Ben Foster Birmingham City 9
8= Simon Mignolet Sunderland 8
8= Asmir Begovic Stoke City 8
8= Paul Robinson Blackburn Rovers 8

Iconic Moments: Fernando’s horrendous miss (September 2011)

Fernando Torres cost Chelsea £50 million on transfer deadline day in January 2011 when he elected to join the Blues from Premier League rivals Liverpool FC. It is fair to say that Chelsea supporters rarely saw the best of the Torres that haunted defenders throughout the world from his Liverpool days.

The lowest point of his Chelsea career came in September 2011 at Old Trafford against Manchester United. Having scored his first goal of the season early in the second half, the Spaniard got the perfect opportunity to double his tally with seven minutes left to play.

Played through by Ramires, Torres beat the offside trap and rounded goalkeeper David de Gea. The goal was gaping infront of him. Somehow, he managed to slice his shot wide into a delighted Stretford End. Cue a serious amount of laughter from United supporters and Liverpool fans who had never quite forgiven Torres for his transfer.

Sky Sports analyst Jamie Redknapp said: “To use a golfing term, it was almost like a yip.”

It remains one of the worst misses we’ve ever seen in the first 25 years of Premier League football.