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“A bugger’s muddle is a colloquial military term for a disorderly group – either assembled without formation or in a formation that does not meet the standards of the commentator” – and the only way Dorset farmer Tim Gelfs could describe the current egg producers market, but it reminded me of a couple of London football teams and, well, here we are …..

On 30th September last year I wrote my second Tottenham preview in four and a half months and decided to look back to see how things had changed. Earlier, in May last year, we were hoping for a final flourish to the season to take us into fourth place, at Tottenham’s expense, and back to the Champions League. The optimists among us – Lee Dixon on TV and me included – were looking at the league table and convincing ourselves that Chelsea’s third place, and not Tottenham’s fourth, should be our target. 

That’s right, Chelsea were in third place less than a year ago but things didn’t quite work out the way we hoped, as we all know only too well.

I now find myself writing my second Chelsea preview within a year, and it’s been a year of amazing transformation. We sat, until yesterday, on top of the league, a quite remarkable and, in all honesty, unexpected improvement, with Chelsea in 12th place and 36 points behind us and with Tottenham in 5th place, 21 points behind and in utter disarray. 

The Opposition
I titled that first preview “Ch-Ch-Changes at Ch-Ch-Chelsea” as they were trying to sort out the mess created by the effective removal of Roman Abramovich from the club. The title alluded to the Bowie song and I reproduced a few lines of it in the piece – 

“Ch-ch-ch-ch changes

Turn and face the strange

Ch-ch changes

There’s gonna have to be a different man……”

Well, there has indeed been a new man – in fact, there have been quite a few new men. Abramovich was replaced by eventual new owner, American billionaire Todd Boehly, whose modus operandi appears to be to inflate the transfer market to a level where no-one else can compete. Well, we don’t appear to be able to compete, but one wonders if during his due diligence, Boehly picked up on the fact that he would be taking on the nation states of Abu Dhabi and, even more impossibly, Saudi Arabia. He may yet be having to add Qatar to his list of adversaries if they are successful in their bid to buy Manchester United.

Thomas Tuchel, Boehly’s first manager, soon departed after disagreements about playing personnel. Boehly likes to get involved in playing matters and wanted Cristiano Ronaldo as his first statement signing. Tuchel was having none of it, however, so Boehly flashed his fully stuffed wallet in the direction of Pierre-Emerich Aubameyang, who had ceased performing for the Arsenal and was looking for someone who would be prepared to pay him even more for his lack of effort. Aubameyang’s and Tuchel’s fortunes plummeted simultaneously and “hinaus!” went the German. 

One thing that Boehly had noticed was that down in Brighton, manager Graham Potter and his coaches had developed the knack of turning unknowns into very good Premier League players, so he went and recruited the lot. Six of them altogether, manager, coaches, scouts – the whole blooming shebang. Unfortunately, what happened was that they turned very good Premier League players into unknowns, because Boehly had bought so many of them that Potter couldn’t fit most of them into his team and they gradually disappeared out of sight on the bench, or worse. 

Chelsea fans moaned that Potter didn’t know his best team, or best formation – little wonder as he probably hadn’t met half of them, so many had arrived in Boehly’s £600 million spree since the summer. As an illustration, there are 13 players vying for 3 forward positions. Potter seemed unable to reverse the downward trend in results and after less than seven months was the next to depart through the revolving door that is Stamford Bridge. In their desperation to find an excuse for the continuing malaise, Chelsea even sacked the groundsman (true story), just in case the grass on their pitch was too long, too short, too wet, too dry or just too damned suited to the way everybody else was playing.

And then the real magic happened. Erstwhile player and one time manager Frank Lampard dropped in to watch an evening game at the bus stop in Fulham and was spotted in his box by celebrity fan, James Cordon, actor, comedian, chat show host and, reportedly, friend of Todd Boehly. Cordon, realising that Boehly was short in the management department to the tune of one, recommended his unemployed, spectating hero for the job and, hey presto, the genie of the Lamps was appointed. Oh yes he was ! And thus far no-one has come forward to deny the veracity of this tale.

The search is already on for Lampard’s successor after something less than a calendar month, in which time he hasn’t managed to improve them at all. So far, they have played five and lost five and even die hard Chelsea fans have been bemused at the reappointment of a man who has failed to make any kind of positive impact on any of the clubs, including Chelsea once already, he has managed to date. That bus stop in Fulham is one where no self respecting football manager should ever alight. At least not without an onward ticket. 

The Arsenal 
It’s easy to feel a little deflated at the moment after a run of three draws and a defeat. The media are not unreasonably convinced that our title chances have gone, given the relentless form of Manchester City and the admittedly comprehensive defeat we suffered at their hands last Wednesday. They also seem most unreasonably convinced that finishing second represents failure for Arsenal, having led the league for so much of it since last August.

Whilst there may be a degree of disappointment, the season should not in any way be seen as a failure. I don’t think there is a single Arsenal fan who wouldn’t have jumped at the chance of a second place finish and a return to the Champions League. We have done fantastically well to keep pace with City for so long – and we can still return to the top spot with a win over Chelsea on Tuesday evening. It’s to be hoped, to put it mildly, that City’s continuing exploits in the Champions League will take a toll on some of their league performances and cost them just enough points to allow us the ultimate victory.

Wednesday’s defeat simply confirmed that we don’t have the quality in our reserve ranks that they do. They have been able to rotate with no drop in quality, which is easy when you have £50 million reserves and the wealth of Abu Dhabi behind you. It would appear that they haven’t even been content to use all that backing legally, with the Premier League finding around 120 cases of financial irregularities against them. Whether they can ever get those cases free of the web City’s lawyers are bound to weave, and into court remains to be seen. What is clear is that City’s dominance now requires any challenger to amass a huge number of points – probably 90+ to 100 – to try to take “ their” title off them. It’s to be hoped they will be properly punished and regulated in future because the current situation is turning the best league in the world into a predictable one horse race.

For Arsenal, there is still a significant drop in quality in some positions when we make changes to the first eleven. The glaring and costly one for us has been the loss of William Saliba, whose absence has affected every part of the team. Without him the back four has to play much deeper to compensate for the loss of his pace. This has spread the team out and badly affected our ability to press, win the ball back quickly and control games as we were doing . It has allowed opposition players to get between our lines and create more chances against us – our “xG against” for stats fans, which has gone from 2nd best in the league to 19th best in Saliba’s absence, and led to us conceding 11 goals in our last 4 games.

The Teams
I have no idea what sort of team Chelsea are likely to put out but it will not include Borja, Mount, Cucurella or Reece James. Havaertz and Koulibaly face late fitness tests.

Several of our players have looked tired recently, however reluctant Mikel Arteta is to recognise such things, and maybe the pressure of a young team’s first title challenge and a mid-season World Cup have taken their toll. It does appear that we need a “freshen up” though and while I’m sure many will disagree, I would be tempted to give the following team a try – 


White, Partey, Gabriel, Tierney;

Odegaard, Jorginho, Zinchenko;

Nelson, Jesus, Trossard;

Or, the midfield could be tweaked to Odegaard, Zinchenko, Xhaka.
That would leave Saka, Martinelli, Nketiah and Smith-Rowe as attacking subs, with Turner, Holding and Kiwior as our only real defensive options.
That would hopefully inject some new energy into the side, hopefully reduce the gaps between departments and the players may yet benefit from the relative freedom of being underdogs again.

The Holic Pound
Overall Arsenal against Chelsea have W81, D59, L66.After the earlier Abramovich years our recent history against Chelsea has improved with our last three meetings being won 4-2, 4-0 and 1-0 at Stamford Bridge in November 2022. We are pretty hot favourites for this game – typically 4/6 on for the win, 16/5 against the draw, and Chelsea are 9/2 against to win it. Gabriel Jesus is 11/2 to be first goal scorer but the bookies have clearly not seen my team selection as Martinelli and Saka come next, with Trossard at 13/2.

Match Officials etc
Referee: Robert Jones. Fourth official: Graham Scott. VAR: Andre Marriner. Note to VAR – when judging a potential offside, show a freeze frame that includes the instant at which the ball leaves the passing player’s foot, not some other contrived angle that gives no clue to the timing of the pass – you know, what is known in the trade as “the crucial bit”! (See Man City’s second goal on Wednesday for details)

Kick-off is at The Emirates, Tuesday 2nd May at 20.00 UK.TV coverage is on Sky Sports.

Enjoy the game and be proud. The club and the team have done a wonderful job this season. 

And finally, good luck to the ladies team in front of a sold out Emirates on Monday evening. They take on Wolfsburg in the second leg of their Champions League semi-final after a creditable 2-2 draw in the first leg without 4 of their best players due to serious injuries.

32 Drinks to “Chelsea Look No Better, Frankly … It’s A Bugger’s Muddle”

  1. 1
    Ollie says:

    Cheers Trev! A nice preview, and the Arsenal Women are 1-0 up.

  2. 2
    Bathgooner says:

    An excellent preview Trev. I do like your team selection. It is definitely time to ring changes.

    This is yet another of this season’s must wins. We simply must get ourselves back on the winning trail and avoid ending this season in a meltdown. We’ve been off our game for at least part of the last four games and we need to sort that out tomorrow night.

    It’s been a wonderful season. Let’s not end it on a flat note – let’s find our mojo again and beat the blue meanies, keep the pressure on the oilers, not give the teams trailing us any encouragement and finish first or, at worst, second (best of the PL clubs without financial turpitude!).


  3. 3
    North Bank Ned says:

    What Bath said.

  4. 4
    bt8 says:

    Top drawer preview Trev, up to your high standard. Partey in for Holding could be very interesting. Three points to quench the thirst would be quite the thing.

  5. 5
    OsakaMatt says:

    Thanks Trev, great stuff!
    Sadly, the Arsenal women were on the wrong end of a valiant 3-2 though they have done brilliantly to get so far with so many top players out.

  6. 6
    OsakaMatt says:

    I think we do need to see a couple of changes now a la Trev’s team selection though I think MA won’t make quite so many. Trossard and Jorginho for TP / Gabi would be two possibles for me but to be honest I don’t think many players could complain about changes after the Shitteh game.
    The shower formerly known as Chelski are a shambles recently so this is a good chance to stick it to them and get ourselves back on the winning trail, 3-0 to The Arsenal.

  7. 7
    OsakaMatt says:

    And everything Trev said about this season, it’s been a great season. The media pundit crap about missing our big chance is just jealousy. Let’s finish this one well and look forward to next year.

  8. 8
    North Bank Ned says:

    And what OM said, too.

    There is talk that we are looking at Palace’s Marc Guehi, which, along with his likely £45 million-50 million price tag, suggests that Saliba’s injury may be long-term. The two centre-backs have similar stats profiles. Another is Roma’s Brazilian Roger Ibanez but he is likely to be more expensive than Guehi. Plus I am not sure we are allowed to sign Brazilians not called Gabbi.

  9. 9
    TTG says:

    Great preview Trev. That a second place finish could be construed to be failure is utterly ridiculous .A serious degree of health disruption has taken my eye off the ball. I’m actually rather bored by some of the fare and the mediocrity of the relegation contenders and this game tonight hasn’t *it me excited at all.
    We should win and a very embarrassing end of the season which makes Boehly look even more stupid than he has revealed so fat and I hope we can rediscover our mojo. I note we are sell Charlie P but can summon him back with a buy back deal and we are likely to lose Tierney and possibly Xhaka because they aren’t top level and that is where we are competing .
    Money has distorted football and I suspect the impacts will become more and more bizarre over the next few months . But a word for the ladies. To lose arguably your five best players long-term and to get to the cusp of the WCL final was a superb effort . Barca are a shoo in for the final.

  10. 10
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

    Thanks Trev. A comprehensive, well-balanced preview which I thoroughly enjoyed reading. I loved the James Corden story – it strikes me as exactly the sort of ‘process’ employed by the chump Boehly.

    He really is a moron and deserves everything Chelsea are likely to end the season with. He is a numpty for the connoisseur; the idiot’s idiot.

    He looked carefully at every successful Premier League team and how they achieved their success and thought “Nah, I have a much better idea.”

    He has since employed a ludicrous policy of trying to the create the sort of ‘roster’ system used in American sports, which he clearly thinks are much better run than football (I mean the kind of football played with your feet, not with your hands apart from the odd kick here and there). He has envisioned his own glorious triumph, being hailed as a visionary and sparking a revolution in European sport.

    Instead, he has emerged looking like a gigantic cockwart, which is exactly what he is. I wonder what his consortium think of him? No, I don’t. They think he is a gigantic cockwart. Everybody does. It is impossible not to.

    A cockwart in a clown costume with a dunce’s hat. We should put a whoopee cushion on his seat.

    I hope we spank them. 4-0. And, just to wind them up, gift as many pies as Fat Frank can fit in his backpack to take home with him. Long may he reign!

  11. 11
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

    In case I was unclear, I do not have a high opinion of Todd Boehly.

    An idiot’s name rhymes with nod slowly. Just saying.

  12. 12
    bt8 says:

    Re:GSD @ 10&11:

    Why say with one drink what you can say with two. 🤣

    Well done.

  13. 13
    Uplympian says:

    An excellent preview Trev full of good information & sense.
    We find ourselves in the unusual position of these latter years of looking a long way down at the teamfrom the bus stop in Fulham and we have a good opportunity to further kick some dirt in their face. To do this we need to get out of our mini funk and as other notable denizens of this bar have suggested maybe a little freshening up of the team could assist. It would be double galling to give them and Lumpard their first points under his skilled tutelage. A win will keep going our champion aspirations so let’s just do it gunners.

  14. 14
    Doctor Faustus says:

    Excellent preview Trev! Thank you.

    Let’s just get back to the winning ways.
    Come on Arsenal!

  15. 15
    bt8 says:

    All eyes on Kiwior and Jorginho. COYG

  16. 16
    bt8 says:

    9Gabriel Jesus
    10Smith Rowe
    21Fábio Vieira

  17. 17
    OsakaMatt says:


  18. 18
    Trev says:

    Thanks fellas,
    Mikel going with two left footed CBs then, Jorginho and Trossard.

    I wasn’t a million miles away but I don’t care a jot as long as we win.
    Any win is good – Come on You Reds !

  19. 19
    OsakaMatt says:

    1-0 Ode!!
    Held his run well and then finished nicely from the edge of the area

  20. 20
    Gooner_KS says:

    Did the useless VAR even check the handball?? FFS

  21. 21
    OsakaMatt says:

    3-0 before I even had time to write 2-0 hahaha
    Get in Ode and Jesus

    Good save from Aaron earlier to keep it 1-0

  22. 22
    OsakaMatt says:

    Ode’s 2nd similar to the first, bit nearer the goal. Good ball in from Xhaka (again I think) and nice finish.
    Bad defending really for the 3rd, but smartly converted by Jesus…

  23. 23
    OsakaMatt says:

    3-0 at half time, playing really well and punishing their crappiness.
    North of £450 million païd for the Chelshit shambles on the pitch
    and managed by the clueless Lumpard, the idiot’s idiot was spot on
    from Dino.

  24. 24
    bt8 says:

    What must Mudryk be thinking?

  25. 25
    ATG says:

    Great half, Odegaard running the show, Xhaka with two lovely assists. Kiwior had a good first half as well. More of the same in the second please lads 👏👏👏

  26. 26
    OsakaMatt says:

    @24 i really hate my agent?

    Auba got dragged off at half time.

  27. 27
    OsakaMatt says:

    Fingers crossed for Gabriel’s injury. Wouldn’t like to lose him too before a trip up North

  28. 28
    OsakaMatt says:

    3 points and back to the top, great first half
    Gabriel the worry.
    Always a good day when they are sent back to the bus stop with nothing.

  29. 29
    OsakaMatt says:

    Been reading round the goonerverse today, some of our more entitled supporters made me laugh out loud though not for the reasons they intended I suppose.

    If Wham beat Shitteh today I may adjust my set. Stranger things have definitely happened at sea though.

  30. 30
    Bathgooner says:

    A lovely morning after a glorious evening at TNHOF. The Arsenal were imperious in the first half against the buggers’ muddle described by Trev pre-match. In the first half Chelsea demonstrated how, no matter the technical qualities of individual players, organisation is a critical requirement in all departments of the team.

    We should have scored another couple of goals to rub in our superiority and our loss of control of the game from about the hour mark was disappointing as it echoes recent performances where we let teams back into a game that should be done and dusted. I don’t know whether that was the result of our substitutions (I don’t think so), tactical tweaks by Lampard (?) or tired legs and minds. Zinchenko, in particular, seems to be unable to keep his focus and energy going for more than 60 minutes and the price of his peripatetic contributions when we are in possession is certainly an increased vulnerability on our left flank. The changes that Mikel made to his starting eleven all worked: Kiwior looked solid, swift and a good distributor of the ball (albeit against a very poor attack), Jorginho was quietly efficient all night though I thought Trossard was less influential than he has been recently.No doubt the retrospectoscope will be busy this morning.

    Nonetheless, this was an excellent front-footed performance in the first half which effectively won the game by half time and moreover a critical win to keep up the pressure on Shitteh and be in a position to take advantage of any slip ups. Come on you Irons!

  31. 31
    Trev says:

    Bath, a pretty spot on summary of a very satisfying result and a great performance that did get a little bit worrying towards the end. No complaints about that victory in those circumstances though.

  32. 32
    Bathgooner says: