IT happened, didn’t it? The thing you thought might not happen again, that you’d convinced yourself might be a thing of the past, that you thought had disappeared.
Yeah, that’s right you thought that the brain-fart had been eliminated from Simon Mignolet’s game. But no, oh no, it was back with a vengeance on Saturday. A simple catch in his penalty box from a ball in the air wasn’t clasped to his chest, it wasn’t punched clear, it was dropped at the feet of Alfred N’Diaye and Hull were put into a lead that even a fully grown partisan divvy dressed as a tiger wouldn’t try to justify.
I didn’t think the first half was disastrous on Saturday, we dominated possession and created a few half chances; Philippe Coutinho was unlucky not to score, we could have had a penalty and if we’d have gone in at half-time at 0-0 you’d have been fine with it. You’d obviously be frustrated not to lead, but you’d think we’d have another 45 minutes to go at a very poor side and you’d expect us to break them down.
As it was, we gave Hull a free goal and went from needing to break a stubborn set of bastards down once to having to break them down twice. It wasn’t even like breaking them down once would make it easier because they’d have bitten your hand off for a point. I don’t think they spent more than about 25 seconds in our box in the whole first half and we were going in behind. The regularity with which we do stupid things that impact us negatively is pathetic. We give out more presents than any team I’ve seen.
Hull scored from their only corner. A corner that we gifted to them because Emre Can decided to miss pass it 30 yards instead of a pretty simple five-yard pass to James Milner.
Over the last few years we have consistently put ourselves under unnecessary pressure. We gave Swansea a corner that was completely avoidable as well – they put it in the box and scored.
We appear to not be great at defending corners – so here’s a crazy idea: stop giving stupid corners away that are completely avoidable. If we’re defensively suspect, which it appears that we are, then maybe don’t do stupid things near your own goal and exacerbate the problem.
The problem is cyclical, though. A lot of people believe that a goalkeeper should be there to bailout teammates for their mistakes – it’s not something I really agree with. I actually think it’s the other way round. If you don’t want your goalkeeper to make mistakes, don’t let the ball go near him. As a defender that should be your job. If you’re a defender you’ve had a good game if your ‘keeper could have spent 90 minutes with his feet up reading The Times while he’s wearing a pair of slippers and smoking a pipe.
How many times has Thibaut Courtois had to bail out his Chelsea team mates this season? I don’t know off the top of my head but I don’t remember seeing it very often. However, I did see a statistic the other day saying that David Luiz (who was a laughing stock six months ago) has made a mistake that has been punished once this season. And by punished I mean he’s made one mistake that has ended up with the opposition having a shot, not scoring, having an actual shot on goal.
As a result, Courtois has to do very little. How many mistakes have you seen him make this season? How many great saves have you seen him make this season? I suspect you can probably count both on your left hand and still have enough fingers left to play darts. This isn’t me doing down someone that I think is a very good goalkeeper, but give yourself the best chance of winning. Don’t give yourself unnecessary hurdles to overcome.
Yes, Courtois is a better goalkeeper than Mignolet, but his team help him out. We don’t do that, we put our ‘keeper under pressure and give him the opportunity to make mistakes. And as he isn’t a keeper of the level that we really require it looks even worse. If a goalkeeper’s job is to bail out his teammates when they make a mistake, we haven’t exactly got someone who’s up to the task, have we?
Petr Cech has looked the same since he’s gone to Arsenal, obviously he’s head and shoulders above Mignolet as a goalkeeper and their careers are incomparable, but he gets put in lots of positions he shouldn’t be and then as a result ends up doing things that impact Arsenal negatively. The reality is the problem started 30 yards up the pitch.
I’m not quite sure Hugo Lloris is as good as the common consensus says. But he plays behind a wall that doesn’t let teams go near him, a set of players who don’t indulge in gross stupidity. A top team’s goalkeeper shouldn’t be a last resort in case of stupidity, it should be there when the other teams have managed to get through your midfield and defence. We don’t make teams break the door down, we leave the door ajar. Just push it a little bit and it’ll open.
This isn’t to excuse Mignolet. I wasn’t particularly keen on bringing him back in the first place, and now I think we need to make a change. Our attack is generally good enough to cover any issues – take Crystal Palace in late October for example. Dejan Lovren made a dreadful attempt at a clearance and Palace scored. No problem, we’d finished the game with 20 minutes to go. But you can’t rely on your attack taking care of things for you all the time. Sometimes you have to enable yourselves to grind out a 1-0 win away from home.
Have a look at how many 1-0 wins Chelsea have got this season. It’s a lot easier to win games of football when you don’t shoot yourself in the foot. I’m not going to break them down but I have had a quick look through our goals and reckon somewhere in the region of about 13 goals have been conceded as a result of us doing something stupid. Thirteen. Chelsea have conceded 17 and Spurs have conceded 16. Imagine Sadio Mané had decided not to punch the ball at Sunderland, if Can hadn’t put that behind for a corner on Saturday, if Ragnar Klavan doesn’t attempt to play a raking 40-yard pass to his right back at Burnley. Think how easy it is to claw back points on Chelsea simply by not doing stupid things.
I haven’t even listed all of the stupid things. I’ve listed three. One that gave a team an equaliser and two that gave teams a lead. Two games against promoted sides that we couldn’t win 1-0 because we were thick. It’s infuriating. We can’t really have an off-day and win because when we have an off-day we give a stupid goal away.
I don’t think it’s as easy as just changing the goalkeeper and Loris Karius had a spell earlier in the season when, if we’re being honest, he didn’t look great but I’ve watched Mignolet for four years and I know he isn’t good enough. Persevering with him isn’t going to suddenly change the last four years – if it looks like a duck, sounds like a duck and walks like a duck and it’s been sat down the end of your garden for four years, it isn’t suddenly going to turn into a swan because you want a swan instead of a duck.
I can’t be bothered with him anymore, we’ve got 14 games left this season and we need to see if Karius is actually worth a go or we should put a goalkeeper somewhere near the top of our summer list.
I refuse to believe Karius is of the level he showed us before Christmas. He can’t be – he wouldn’t have got a game at Mainz if he was and therefore we wouldn’t have signed him. Give him a run in the side, let’s have a look at him when there’s a little less pressure, and if he isn’t good enough he isn’t good enough – we can fix that in 14 games time. He certainly isn’t going to be playing instead of someone who’s going to be the difference between Champions League football and Europa League football.
In fact, I’d be inclined to give him the whole of next season on the condition that we spend the summer either signing players who aren’t stupid, or giving some of these idiots a lobotomy.
Stop being stupid, eh Reds? It’s tough enough without giving the opposition a head start.