Chelsea issued just one programme for their four home Premier League games during ‘Project Restart’.
Events at Stamford Bridge were never going to determine the team’s Premier League fate and it was always going to be a big ask to come away with something from a venue where the Hornets have won once in 34 long years. It’s just that a point, one similar to the one the team chiselled out here in 2015, would have been lovely, such a boost not only to the scoreboard but also to morale and not left so much riding on back-to-back home games against Norwich and Newcastle.
An Olivier Giroud goal and a Willian penalty had the hosts firmly in control in the first-half, before Ross Barkley’s finish in stoppage time sealed a miserable evening out for the Hornets, who remain teetering precariously above the relegation zone, after once again struggling to cause significant problems for their opponent’s goalkeeper.
The silence inside the stadium produced its usual revelations. Deeney really does spend a lot of time talking to, bonding with, and generally getting to know the linesman. Foster does a lot of shouting about metres and distances when the opposition has a free-kick near his goal. And Giroud’s agonised howl of pain on being fouled outside the box, a howl so loud you half expected to look up and see him holding his foot in one hand, was enough to draw an actual laugh from Frank Lampard.
Watford were so deep it was hard to see how they might be any threat to the Chelsea goal, and indeed, Pearson did eventually frontload his team and urge them forward. Deeney, who would only last 64 minutes before he was replaced, flew into a few challenges to set the tone at the start of the second half. It was still 75 minutes before the substitute Adam Masina struck Watford’s first shot on target of the game.
For all that the games are on top of each other, there’s something painfully drawn out about this narrative. Watching all of The Games That Matter means that we’re generally watching a lot of football matches, and a lot of football matches involving at least one terrible football team, what with lockdown and that making limited teams less fit, and less mobilisable by the presence of a crowd. The number of teams involved and the low success rate of the protagonists so far means a lot of this is reasonably enjoyable nonetheless, what with schadenfreude and so on. Man United toying with Bournemouth earlier was a popcorn event for all, surely, of a Watford, or Villa, or West Ham persuasion complete with mildly threatening twists and turns that briefly teased before the inevitable happy ending.