GILES SMITH'S THURSDAY THOUGHTS

Posted on: Thu 29 Aug 2013

Prague-bound Chelsea fan and columnist Giles Smith assesses what was important, what was different and what was hard to understand from the week so far...

I'm of the school of thought that says a 0-0 draw was just what the season needed at this point.

I mean, obviously, 0-1 would have been even better, from the season's point of view, and, more importantly, from ours. And, with about 10 minutes to go, one could easily see it going that way, too.

We had spent 80 minutes making Manchester United look pretty wooden and toothless, all in all, on their own ground, give or take a few cameo moments from a revived Wayne Rooney (who looked to me like he was auditioning for something, although I can't for the life of me think what), and the more the clock ran on, the more the stage seemed to be set for one of the very many attacking midfielders that we had on the pitch to stick a goal away and take all three points.

Of course, it didn't quite work out like that, and, in the end, we had to be content with a draw - which, generally speaking, at Old Trafford, for a visiting team, is quite easy to be happy with, although, of course, recent history has taught us to be greedy and set the benchmark a little higher.

Still, if that goalless draw didn't hurt us, it definitely didn't hurt the season, around which the surrounding climate is spectacularly hot at the moment, to say the least. A number of circumstances seem to have combined, in these early weeks, to crank up the hype around the Premier League to new and unprecedented heights - dangerously unsustainable heights, almost certainly.

The arrival in the marketplace of BT Sport, and the panicked response of almost everyone else, means that television (whose tone is infectious) across the board now seems to treat football as if it were some kind of permanent firework display - all big bangs and colourful explosions, all the time. Which, of course, as all football fans know, simply isn't the case.

You wouldn't want to say it in anything louder than a whisper, maybe, in the present atmosphere; but the odd 0-0 here and there, not least between two title-contending sides in a much-vamped early season fixture, can't do any harm, in terms of calming things down a little and restoring some perspective. You could even feel (and again, better only whisper it) that the odd 0-0 kind of returns the game to the people who genuinely like it.

Well done us, then. That goalless draw at Old Trafford wasn't just a decent point, extremely well-obtained in difficult, early-season circumstances. It was a blow for public sanity

Anyway, perhaps the most unusual thing about last Monday's match wasn't the scoreline (odd though it was) but the extent to which the game lacked moments of genuinely flaming and potentially lasting controversy: no goals scored from possibly offside positions, no surprisingly overlooked sendings-off, no implausibly vast periods of time-added-on.

That, at least, distinguished it from a number of recent encounters between our two sides - and perhaps accounted for a mild sense of disappointment on the night, there being very little like a possibly offside goal against Manchester United for sending one's week along with an extra spring in its step. And that's whoever scores it.

Nevertheless, even this match wasn't entirely without moments that one might have wanted, at the very least, to raise a question or two about afterwards - specifically the short passage of play wherein the excellent Kevin De Bruyne appeared to get booked for getting elbowed in the face by Robin van Persie.

Look at it from any angle you care to, that, surely, was one for the great scrapbook of unfathomable footballing decisions.

You see, I always thought that if a player got smashed in the lip by another player's flailing arm, it was the player with the clumsy limbs who…

Oh, never mind. It's perfectly possible that this area has been made subject to a new-season refereeing directive, and no doubt all will become clear in due course.

De Bruyne Chelsea

In the meantime, I'm sure you'll join me in wishing Kevin De Bruyne's lower lip a speedy recovery.

So, the bag is packed, the passport is on the shelf in the hall and the opportunistically price-hiked easyjet boarding pass has been printed out. This morning I'm joining those among our number who are off to Prague to get ready to attend what is without question the most important European match our club is set to play this week.

Certain acquaintances of mine have greeted news of this trip with what I can only interpret as incredulity. 'What, so you're going all that way for a mere exhibition match?'

To which it seems to me there are two plausible answers:

a) There's no such thing as a mere exhibition match. And

b) Yes, I am.

With any luck, and if the plane works, a full report will follow in this space next time.

Incidentally, I dream of the day that Chelsea get drawn to play in a foreign city and easyjet generously celebrate the inevitable increase in demand for plane tickets out of London by humanely dropping the regular price, rather than quadrupling it. But I know that's just a dream.