Archive for July, 2011

If someone had told me 24 hours ago that McEachran would score within the first minute against Aston Villa and that Torres would score with his first touch as a substitute, I’d quite gladly admit that I probably wouldn’t have believed them.

However, Chelsea have done it again by catching me completely off guard. After just getting prepared to watch the game, I was instantly shocked/amazed/open mouthed/in awe at witnessing 18 year old Josh McEachran score his first senior goal for the club in just over 30 seconds post kick-off. Undoubtedly a huge day for this English hotshot. Everyone could see the joy on his face and maybe even a hint of surprise to go along with it.

And if that wasn’t enough, the towering figure of one Fernando Torres sneaked himself a goal too; a confidence boost that will no doubt have him scoring freely next season; his body language was far superior than in prior games. It’s there to be said that our number 9 could well be on his way back to stardom in no time. Add in the fact that Drogba was also on the pitch, will have every Chelsea fan dreaming of the type of partnership they could form in the near future.

But let us not forget that Daniel Sturridge is deserving of a chance. Genuinely, I believe that Danny could quite easily be the solution to our right wing ‘problem’ of recent times. Yes, we have Kalou and Anelka (who deserves a mention after a good first half display today) but, as many recent posts on the blog have explained, Sturridge needs his opportunity now. He has worked in a determined and enthusiastic manner, which alone warrants a chance.

Bottom line : Do we ‘need’ big signings? No. Does Andre Villas-Boas need to rotate the squad more effectively than his predecessor? Yes. With all that in the equation, it is only minor tweaking that is needed. The current Chelsea squad is more than capable of challenging for every competition they’re a part of and (fingers crossed) even win.

The type of players that Andre Villas-Boas has at his disposal is enough to frighten any manager, so it’s time to up the gear-stick and utilise every player in the way they were originally intended.

 

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Chelsea’s first real test of pre-season against Aston Villa got off to a great start, with José Bosingwa putting through Nicolas Anelka, who outmuscled Richard Dunne had his shot parried by Shay Given into Florent Malouda who thought he’d scored. Given saved again though, but only into the path of Josh McEachran, who scored his first senior Chelsea goal after only 32 seconds, sticking the ball into the roof of the net.

Two minutes later, once Aston Villa had got over the initial shock of conceding an early goal had to have a stoppage as Stephen Warnock had some eye trouble. On five minutes, Lampard, who won player of the tournament, had a go, which bobbled wide. With a massive following in Asia, Chelsea were certainly the fans favourite, who continued to press with through balls making Dunne run more than he wanted to, having to cover his other defenders.

Villa had a chance of getting back in the game 10 minutes in with a half chance which Stephen Ireland blazed over. The fans thought Anelka had scored in the 13th minute, but he was deemed marginally offside, the wrong decision by the linesman. Another stoppage at 17 minutes as Mark Albrighton took a knock after contending a header with Yuri Zhirkov.

After a slow few minutes, Daniel Sturridge fired a shot high and wide in the 21st minute. More action, as John Obi Mikel latched onto an Anelka ball, but he was offside following a Frank Lampard free-kick halfway through the first half. The first booking of the game went to Albrighton as he chopped down Zhirkov. The following free-kick was punched away by Given. Zhirkov was amongst the action again, after his corner came out to Malouda, whose volley was way off-target.

Throughout the game, it was obvious that Chelsea were playing for each other, passing well and looking to whoever had the best opportunity to get the ball in the back of the net. Bosingwa also, was looking lively and getting up the pitch at every opportunity. That passing play put Anelka through to force a Shay Given save in the 36th minute. There was nothing of note in the final moments of the first half, and the one added minute rounded off a good half for Chelsea.

After a half time substitution each, the second half didn’t start nearly as quickly as the first. Zhirkov was in the wars, taking a knock after falling into James Collins. Aston Villa had the first chance of the second half, with a corner coming out to Stiliyan Petrov, who volleyed it wide. There was a scare a couple of minutes afterwards, as an Alex back pass caused the ball to bobble awkwardly over Petr Čech’s foot, making him dash back to goal in order to retrieve it. Up the other end of the pitch at 55 minutes, Zhirkov forced a save with a left footed effort.

Lampard had an opportunity to be on the score sheet, with a header at Given which should have troubled him more, though Sturridge shot the rebound wildly over the bar from only a few yards out. After three Chelsea substitutions at 57 minutes, fans were given the opportunity to see Fernando Torres and Didier Drogba together for the first time in pre-season. With Torres’ first touch he scored, getting onto a ball through from Malouda, making it 2-0, and setting Chelsea on their way to their second Barclays Asia Trophy. Four minutes later, Patrick Van Aanholt had a good effort that just went wide.

When Darren Bent came on after 61 minutes, Chelsea’s defence were given a little more to deal with. After Torres’ goal, he tried to get on the end of anything he could, showing an improvement in confidence, with two shooting opportunities in as many minutes. On 78 minutes, Yossi Benayoun had an effort after a Lampard corner that went wide. A minute later, Bent, under pressure from Alex stuck the ball wide when he should of at least got it on target. As the game came to a close, players were losing their footing on the cut up pitch.

Emile Heskey then tried to test the Chelsea goal with an effort from outside the box which just went past the post five minutes from the end of normal time. Towards the end of the game, Drogba tried to play through Torres, which many Chelsea fans will hope to see during next season. With three minutes added on, there was nothing to play for, though Malouda got himself in the book at the end of stoppage time for a foul on Jean Makoun, and Lampard was announced as the player of the tournament.

The resulting free-kick led to the final whistle, Chelsea winning the Barclays Asia Trophy after a comfortable 2-0 win. Had it not been for Shay Given in goal, it could’ve been more. The next game is at Rangers on Saturday 6th August at 15:00 BST.

Chelsea: Čech; Bosingwa, Ivanovic (Alex h-t), Terry (c) (Chalobah 89), Zhirkov (Van Aanholt 57); McEachran (Drogba 57), Mikel, Lampard (Kalou 84); Sturridge (Drogba 57), Anelka (Benayoun 73), Malouda.

Aston Villa: Given;Young, Dunne (Clark 83), Collins, Warnock; Albrighton (Heskey h-t), Delph (Makoun 73), Petrov (c) (Gardner 73), Ireland (Bent 61), Delfouneso (Bannan 61); Agbonlahor.

Referee – Mike Dean

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As always, it’s a pleasure to hear views from fellow Chelsea fans. Today, we interview Chelsea Blogger, ‘The Chelsea Chat’, as he shares his views on keeping Hilario, using Sturridge, benching McEachran and our right flank.

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Chelsea Headache: Hello The Chelsea Chat. Thank you very much for your time today as we look forward to hearing some of your thoughts and feelings on Chelsea.

First up, what is your view on our transfer dealings (or lack of) so far in this transfer window? Do you think we really need to be going out for a player like Pastore or Modric when they could be costing in excess of £30m?

The Chelsea Chat: I am happy with the current dealings in the transfer market at the moment. Both Courtois and Romeu look like great signings for the future and it’s great to see Villas-Boas focusing on the youth so much. I do think we need a creative player like Pastore or Modric, but whether they would be worth the money is yet to be seen. I would definitely prefer Modric though; a proven performer at Premier league level. Whereas Pastore looks like he could be too small and weak for English football. I also believe Yossi Benayoun should deserve a go, and with the pre season he’s having, maybe we don’t need a creative player bought.

Chelsea Headache: Some people were shocked, and even angered, by Hilario being rewarded with a contract extension recently. Do you think his collection of stunning saves against the Thailand All Stars has justified why Chelsea did such a thing?

The Chelsea Chat: I didn’t actually catch the Thailand All Stars match myself, but I’ve long been an admirer of the way Hilario has stayed at Chelsea for these years, happy to warm the bench, but reliable and calm when he is needed on the pitch. Yes, he made one error against Man City in the 4-2 loss in 2010, but apart from that he’s been solid, and as we know from many an example, 35 is not old for a keeper. Turnbull doesn’t match up to the standard of Hilario, and has always looked nervous when playing for us. I’m happy to have Hilario stay.

Chelsea Headache: Sturridge impressed a lot of people against Kitchee the other day. Andre Villas-Boas will be all too familiar with his situation at Chelsea and what he’s capable of in the long run. Could this season be his chance to shine in the first team?

The Chelsea Chat: Sturridge is clearly a player with immense talent, which has been brought to the public’s eye with the loan spell at Bolton, and the under-21 European Championships. Villas-Boas has looked like he’s going to focus on youth much more than any of the recent Chelsea managers, which should be good for Sturridge. I believe he should get a lot of games in the first team this year, if Villas-Boas rotates the squad correctly. He is being played in the right position of an inside forward on the wings, which is where he flourishes and he should be a star this season, if he gets the right amount of game time.

Chelsea Headache: Everything has a weakness. Where do you believe Chelsea’s to be? Many believe our right flank to be a bit understrength. Do you agree?

The Chelsea Chat: The right flank isn’t weak, but it is just has a lot less width than the left one. With Ashley Cole and Malouda being very much a wing-back and winger combination. On the right we use Ivanovic and Anelka, Kalou or Sturridge, which is a full-back and inside forward relationship which cuts down on the width, hence the less chances created from the right side of the field. The main weakness on the pitch in my opinion is the lack of a genuine playmaker, with Benayoun being inconsistent in recent seasons for Liverpool. I also believe we could use another defensive midfielder due to Essien’s injury, and the doubt in his long term future at the club.

Chelsea Headache: Recent rumours have been linking Scott Dann with a move to the Bridge. Yes, he’s an English player but with the likes of Ivanovic, Terry, Luiz and Alex all challenging at centre back, surely this is just a rumour and nothing else? What’s more Chalobah will be looking to get some first team game time this season after a nice few run-outs in pre-season. What are your thoughts on this rumour?

The Chelsea Chat: True, there is already a lot of competition at centre back at the club, but this competition is reduced with Ivanovic playing at right back, if he does stay on the flank, I think another centre back would be useful, and Dann is a good player, but the young centre half Rajkovic has shown promise, and if he gets his work permit there will be no need to buy Dann. Chalobah has shown promise, but a loan would be the right move for him at the moment, he is still about a year away from the first team.

Chelsea Headache: It’s always nice to see a player coming through the ranks from the system at Chelsea. McEachran has had a good pre-season and will be pushing for first team action. There are mixed views on whether he should be going out on loan for a season or remaining with the Chelsea squad. If you were Andre Villas-Boas, what would you do with the little English maestro?

The Chelsea Chat: If I were Villas-Boas, I would have McEachran on the bench, with Benayoun, or another creative playmaker signing, mentoring him, showing him the way forward, and having him start the odd league cup, midweek fixture and champions league game, this should help him advance and make sure the team is at the right strength next year.

Chelsea Headache: And now to close. Where will Chelsea finish next season?

The Chelsea Chat: Honestly I believe we will win it. Manchester United aren’t as strong as everyone thinks; they benefited from everyone else being fairly poor last season, City are still a bit behind the pace still, and I don’t believe anyone else has the strength to challenge.

Chelsea Headache: Sounds good to me! Thanks again and I think I speak for a lot of Chelsea fans when I say, I hope you’re right.

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You can follow @thechelseachat on Twitter.

Have you been wondering why Chelsea’s new manager, Andre Villas-Boas, hasn’t said a word about signing a big name player before the start of the season? (Well, apart from a few words here and there about Chelsea target Luka Modric just to give reporters something to chew on). The squad at Stamford Bridge is quite capable of winning trophies and, by no stretch of the imagination, possess great individual players who just let their egos get the best of them when they were close to cutting the three point gap between them and rivals Manchester United last season under Carlo Ancelotti.

Take this bit of rant by Salomon Kalou at the end of the season, where some claim he lifted the lid of the squabbles in the Chelsea dressing room:

“Our players were preoccupied with finding out who was in the side and who wasn’t. This disrupted our progress,” Kalou said, according to The Sun

“It is better to build a team gradually than to bring in players who will pout and sulk.”

In case you missed it, the Ivorian was having a jab at Fernando Torres, who arrived at Chelsea in January after being bought for £50 million – to score goals. But Kalou doesn’t stop there. He goes on: “Our team is used to winning and when we end up losing, things become hard for us.”

For me, among other special memories of this club, that is proof enough that Chelsea, with the current crop of players and not a player more, are unstoppable. Villas-Boas isn’t worried. He might want to inject some youth into the team, as we have seen with pre-season matches, but any manager would be ecstatic to inherit such a team. Despite most of them being older than the gaffer and approaching 35. Look at this team.

1. Peter Cech – of the 38 league matches, you can bet on him getting a clean sheet in just over half those games.

2. John Terry – forever solid at the back when not injured. That’s a pretty solid defender when he is not facing personal issues.

3. Alex/David Luiz/Slobadan Rajkovic – only the last name is untested at central defence

4. Ashley Cole – We all know he is the best left-back in England, if not the world.

5. Jose Bosingwa/Branislav Ivanovic – I thought so.

6. John Obi Mikel/Michael Essien – These tough as soldiers midfielders have more than 10 seasons between them.

7. Frank Lampard – Last chance for Holy Grail.

8. Didier Drogba/Nicolas Anelka – Like Lampard they are thirsty, and have had enough of being called underachievers.

I could go on, but you get the picture. We’re full of geezers, but they can do the job. With a manger as obsessed with details as AVB, expect one hell of a season.

Being manager of a team where your best players are eventually poached for better things must be an extreme annoyance. But after reading Owen Coyle’s recent comments on a potential Gary Cahill transfer, it would seem he is trying to generate some solid interest.

Long has it been known that Gary Cahill of Bolton is a player who has the feet for a bigger club. With Chelsea, Tottenham and Arsenal all rumoured to be interested in the England centre back, maybe it is time for Mr Coyle to let the floodgates open and let the bidding war begin.

Owen Coyle: “I think it is well known the belief I have in Gary Cahill and the quality he has.”

Now in that comment all we are hearing is that Coyle knows the sort of player that Cahill is and the skill he possesses. When you look at his next comment, you will realise that Coyle knows his days with Cahill are coming to an end:

“It only takes a phone call for it to all change but I have said to him he is a Bolton Wanderers player, he is well paid by Bolton Wanderers and he has to make sure he is focused to do the job in hand until something was to change. I know there is interest from other clubs, nothing concrete in terms of offers, but all these elite clubs know he is an outstanding player so we will have to wait and see what happens with that.”

All that tells us is that Owen Coyle is fully aware that Cahill will not be at the club for much longer, if bigger clubs become eager to buy him, and that he is perhaps even keen to get some concrete offers on the table as soon as possible. Wise move? In a sense, yes. By stating such things, he’s basically informing interested clubs that Cahill is available (for the right price). However, I believe that price will not be cheap. If a manager is on the verge of losing a key player, he will juice every penny out of the club that are in for him.

What’s more, Owen Coyle will no doubt be alert to Andre Villas-Boas’ enthusiasm about getting his hands on an English defender.

The fourth and final part of my Chelsea squad assessment will see me look at the state of our attack and then briefly summarise the entire squad. You can see all other assessments here:

Goalkeeper

Defence

Midfield

Didier Drogba:

Still our main man. He suffered with malaria throughout last season and as a result his goal tally was lower than usual. However, he came back strongly towards the end of last season and when the chips were down, not to mention a £50m striker in his position, he proved to everyone he is still number one. No defender wants to play against him; he is strong, powerful, energetic and technically gifted. Drogba started his top flight playing days relatively late at 23 years old and I feel as a result has longer left in him than people think. He is the only player in the squad who can take a set piece, but he’s the one player who we want on the end of them! Can he be cloned?

Rating: 8.5/10

Fernando Torres:

This is difficult to assess. Towards the end of last season I lost faith in him. He was feeling sorry for himself and it looked like his effort was waning. However, he has looked sharper this pre-season, albeit without a goal. The summer rest should do him no harm and we have to remember how good he was. I don’t buy the ‘he got no service’ argument – yesterday’s article would claim the contrary. What I do believe is that he maybe isn’t 100% suited to our current style and is taking time to adjust. Am I confident he will fire them in this season? No, but I am hopeful. I think a marquee signing this summer might take some pressure away from him also. He seems to be making the right runs again but is just let down slightly by a mixture of his touch and luck – which I’m not worried about because both will improve with games. He needs two goals in two games consecutively and he will be a 9/10 again.

Rating: 6/10

Nicolas Anelka:

A genius on the pitch. Nico is as graceful as a swan when he is on the ball. He rarely loses possession and if he is given a chance he is likely to find the net. He gets a hard time for dropping deep and slowing the game down, which I agree he does do. However, let’s remember he is a striker – not a winger, he never will be either. If we stuck Nico up front all season he will score close to 30 goals – put him on the wing and he won’t be entirely natural there and as a result the team concedes it’s shape and an outlet on the right. Many people have been calling for his exit this summer but unless he is going to be replaced with a world class winger I think those calls should fall on deaf ears. He is an experienced and proven goalscorer who is helping the team out by playing out of position. World class centre forward but unfortunately I’m rating him as a stop-gap winger.

Rating: 6.5/10

Salomon Kalou:

And we thought Mikel was an enigma?! Sala, Sala, Sala – what can I say that hasn’t already been said. Yes he’s frustrating, yes he lacks decision making nous, yes he loses the ball a lot… now I’ve finished picking his bad points; let’s see what he has to offer Chelsea. Goals, important goals at that, dribbling ability (about the only squad member with that talent right now), speed, width and the right attitude. While he’ll never be a world beater, he offers our team good depth and cover. He scored 10 league goals from the wing last season – that is unlikely to be beaten by a back-up winger in any league. Another one who people want out, and for the aforementioned reasons, I disagree.

Rating: 6.5/10

Florent Malouda:

All I can say is let’s hope it stays sunny all season because Flo seems to hibernate during the winter months. He was the best player in the Premiership from August to October and again one of the best from April through May. Not sure where he was from November to March, although that can be said of a lot of Chelsea players last season. He was our top scorer last season in the league with 13 goals and with the right shape he will flourish once again. A game changing player on his day – he just needs more days.

Rating: 7.5/10

Daniel Sturridge:

Well hasn’t this boy got a thing or two to prove, and isn’t he doing just that. Along with Yossi he has been our shining light this pre-season so far. He’s young, home grown, fast, a natural goalscorer and most of all he’s hungry. Come on AVB, trust him! He is showing such determination to get into the Chelsea side and I know this is slightly contradicting what I said about Anelka, but play Studge on the right wing. I know he’s a natural centre forward but he shows plenty of ability to play the wing too. Let him build up a year or two’s experience of playing regularly there before he’s ready to take up the central role. He can also play centrally from time to time this season in certain games I’m sure. If given the opportunity, he’s the one to watch this season.

Rating: 7/10

Overall rating of Attacking Positions: 7/10

Again I must stress that this rating is a CURRENT rating. 7/10 may seem harsh but it has potential to be a 9/10 by Christmas if Torres re-finds his form and Sturridge is trusted. It will be interesting to see what happens formation-wise, will it be Drogba or Torres, or even both? AVB has some very difficult decisions to make over the next few weeks but I trust they will be the right ones. Overall, I’m very happy not only with the striking options we have but with the squad overall.

I don’t think we NEED to sign anyone to win the league next season, although if I was pushed it would be a winger who can dribble and cross. Sanchez is gone, Neymar is gone – let’s make a move for Afellay or Mata. If the right players aren’t available then we shouldn’t buy the wrong ones who will hinder the chances of our own young stars.

My first choice Chelsea XI (as of 28/7/2011):

I would involve Benayoun and Torres a lot also. This team is in terms of form and this can obviously change. For those of you panicking, look at what we have in reserve:

Hilario, Bosingwa, Ferriera, Bertrand, Van Aanholt, Mikel, Essien, Benayoun, Kalou, Anelka, Torres (not forgetting the imminent arrival of Romeu and I believe one BIG signing).

I hope that any worriers may be happier having seen the talent at our disposal. We have every position heavily covered and we’re being marshalled by, what I think, is going to be the best tactician on the planet (if he isn’t already). So chins up, buckle in and enjoy the ride this season. In Andre we trust. KTBFFH!

Agree/Disagree? Please comment below or let me know @fattyfoulke

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Article by Derek O’Rourke

Follow me on Twitter: @fattyfoulke

Part three of my Chelsea Squad Assessment sees me look at our much maligned midfield. There have been numerous press reports bemoaning our lack of creativity and pace in the central areas. Let’s take a closer look to see if these ‘experts’ are right:

Frank Lampard:

Super, super Frank; the man is a machine. Last season saw him suffer his first serious injury setback in his whole career, something which took him time to get over. He said it himself, he gets fitter and fitter the more he plays and it took him a few games to get back in the full swing. People criticised his performances last season but I am very strongly opinionated on this issue. Frank was injured for four months of the season and still managed to be the league’s 4th highest midfield goalscorer last season with 10 goals (13 in all competitions). Over the last five years Frank is the highest scoring midfielder and the second highest in the assist chart. He is a Chelsea legend who will never be replaced and he is far from past it. If he stays injury free this season (and depending on AVB’s playing style), expect 20 goals this season.

Rating: 8.5/10

Ramires:

After a relatively slow start where I admit I had him written off, he completely turned it around and was one of Chelsea’s best players later in the season. I will happily admit he made me eat humble pie, and it tasted good. Ramires has speed, strength and incredible stamina. He has become technically better than early last season where he misplaced lots of passes; which could have been down to confidence. He will go from strength to strength and could very well be a star with a year or two. I hope he plays in his natural central position this season.

Rating: 7.5/10

John Obi Mikel:

A bit of an enigma for Chelsea fans. He possesses undoubted talent, he is strong, he reads the game well and he rarely loses the ball. However, he often slows the pace of our game down too much and can dwell on the ball at times when we need to be quick. He can seem a bit lackadaisical at times but that’s just his style. He is a good player but it seems he has potential to be even better. I look forward to seeing him this year under AVB because one of his main promises is unlocking the potential of current players. Come on Obi (or Traci Chapman as his team mates call him), let this year be your year!

Rating: 6.5/10

Michael Essien:

An heroic performer in his prime. Unfortunately for Michael, I can’t see a way back after this latest injury nightmare. This season was very important for him to re-establish his best form. He was below par last season by his standards but that was understable, he needed time and we didn’t have the depth in the position to nurture him back. After serious knee injury number three, I can see it being just too much. It’s not just the physical side, it’s the mental side also. They (whoever ‘they’ are) say that they never get back to 100% after such injuries and I tend to agree. However, that Ramires based humble pie tasted so good I’d gladly have some more at the end of the season courtesy of the Bison. Get well soon Mick.

Rating: 6.5/10

Yossi Benayoun:

Yossi is effectively a new signing. He was unfortunate last season to suffer such a bad injury and I think he will turn out to be a bargain at £6m. He is extremely clever and the best word that describes his style is ‘guile’. He is underrated by the media and only Liverpool fans will know what he brings to the team. I think if he’s given an important role in the team he won’t disappoint and could well be the creative player we so badly desire. He has a great eye for a pass, but more importantly the ability to execute it. Yossi comes up with his fair share of goals also and for these reasons I do not think signing a ‘creative’ player is our biggest priority. You’ll have to check out the Forwards Assessment tomorrow to find out what I think we’re most lacking.

Rating: 7.5/10

Josh McEachran:

Deep breaths everyone… and relax. Thank you. Josh is 18 years old, just remember that. There is no doubt he’s going to be a star, no doubt at all, in fact he is probably good enough to be a regular in this team already. But…yes, there’s a but – look at any talented player who was played a lot and put through the rigours of the Premiership at an early age. Fabregas, Owen, Kewell, Dyer etc. Notice any trend? Injuries at an early age that have ruined season after season for these players. Of course there are exceptions to the rule but Josh has a lot of growing and filling out still to do and I would like to see him gradually nurtured and given the correct amount of game time over the next 2 seasons. Maybe 10 starts this season, 20 the following and so on. I would rather have him for 15 seasons at Chelsea rather than for the next 6/7 before his body collapses. An absolute gem, but lets make sure this acorn grows into the oak tree before he has to be chopped down.

Rating: 7/10

Yuri Zhirkov:

A tough one this. Yuri is a very very good player but he is always played out of position. I would like to see him deployed on the left wing. He is a great dribbler and he has a very good cross. Just what we need, someone who looks for the touchline. He can fill in at left back (not that we’re short in that position) and in midfield quite comfortably also. If he can stay injury free and is given a run of games we could see the player we all know he is. A good squad player, but I’m not sure he’s happy being that.

Rating: 6.5/10

Gael Kakuta:

When I first saw this kid I thought we had discovered the next Messi-type world star. Now don’t get me wrong, he still has the potential to be a top player but he has taken a step backwards recently. His loan to Fulham last year was iffy at best. I think another loan this season would benefit him, but it should be somewhere where he’ll play regularly. Only then can we assess him properly.

Rating: 5.5/10

Overall rating of Midfield Position: 7/10

Our midfield was not the force it always was last season. I think releasing Ballack was a mistake (and a year too early) as he was a huge presence for us. However, along with seasoned pro and man-machine Lampard, we have serious potential in Ramires and Josh in particular.

We have been heavily linked with big money moves for Pastore and Modric recently but I’m not sure that’s what we need, I would like to see us spend that money elsewhere. Benayoun provides the creativity along with Josh (and let’s not forget Frank’s stats), and Mikel will cover Essien while he’s injured. We have options to go wide with Zhirkov and Kakuta but we still need to add some more wide options, which will be further discussed in tomorrow’s Forwards Assessment.

Agree/Disagree? Please comment below or let me know @fattyfoulke

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Article by Derek O’Rourke

Follow me on Twitter: @fattyfoulke

Daniel Sturridge was amongst the goalscorers as Chelsea beat Kitchee in the semi-final of the Barclays Asia Trophy at the Hong Kong stadium.

Early proceedings were slow yet controlled by Chelsea, and in the first 10 minutes there were only two instances to note, Yuri Zhirkov volleying wide and Slobodan Rajković making a hash of a clearance. For the first half, Chelsea mainly focussed on keeping possession rather than surging forward everytime they got the ball. 16 minutes into the game, and a brilliant Didier Drogba cross was met by Salomon Kalou, who headed into the ground before the ball bounced up onto the bar, followed by Yossi Benayoun attempting a bicycle kick into his own face. Once Kitchee’s first substitution was made, the tempo did slow down, though Chelsea remained the dominant side.

Kitchee’s tactics of defending in numbers kept the score at 0-0. Kalou almost lobbed the ‘keeper Wang Zhenpang with a cross/shot in the 34th minute. Though in the 36th minute, Benayoun was brought down inside the box, with Lampard slotting the resulting penalty down the middle to make it 1-0.

Almost immediately after, Chelsea could’ve doubled their lead but Drogba headed across goal instead of at it and Kitchee were let off the hook. Drogba caused more trouble for the opponents on 43 minutes with a free-kick that forced Zhenpang into making an awkward diving save. Turnbull had very little to do in the first half, and when he did, he was almost caught out with a lobbed shot that ended up going over the bar.

To finish off the half, controversy, as Florent Malouda, as played through from a through ball from John Terry had a shot saved off the line by a defender with his arm, which would’ve resulted in another penalty and a sending off this time for sure.

With only one Kitchee sub at half-time, Chelsea players had more time to impress new boss Andre Villas-Boas. Zhirkov may have been a bit too keen though, as his wanting to impress landed his name in the book by referee Phil Dowd. After Kalou was fouled by Dani Cancela on the edge of the box after 48 minutes, Drogba fired onto the top of the net. A minute later, a Malouda cross was bundled into his own net by defender Ubay Luzardo.

After the second goal, Kitchee tried to press a bit more, but as soon as Chelsea got the ball back each time, normal service resumed. The only time they ventured upfield was around the 52nd minute, but the ball was ran out of play for a throw in. Malouda got another assist on 60 minutes, when his cross was met by a brave diving header by Didier Drogba, who was immediately substituted as Chelsea made six changes in two minutes. One of the biggest cheers of the night came when record signing Fernando Torres came on. As John Terry came off, the captain’s armband was given to Ashley Cole. The first substitute to make an impression was John Obi Mikel with a header from a Benayoun cross that went wide.

The next man to try and make a mark on the game was Daniel Sturridge, his first effort going well wide. However, after a free-kick that went over the bar, on the 77th minute, following lovely footwork he beat the ‘keeper at his near post and got the fourth and final goal. Benayoun won man of the match for his efforts.

Late in the game, even though 4-0 up, players were still looking to impress and put pressure on their opponents. Torres, in the 87th minute had a go with a free-kick, which flew over the bar. Though he improved, as the game reached the end, with a turn and shot hitting the post from a good 20 yards out. With an uneventful final two minutes of stoppage time, Chelsea finished the game like they had for the majority of the game, in possession. Another win, another clean sheet and no more injuries, which should please Andre Villas-Boas and Chelsea fans alike. Chelsea’s next game is against Aston Villa on Saturday 30th July at 13:30 BST.

Attendance – 33,900

Chelsea – Turnbull (Hilario 63); Ferreira, Rajković (Chalobah 76), Terry (c) (Ivanovic 63), Cole; Lampard (Mikel 63), Zhirkov (McEachran 61); Kalou, Benayoun, Malouda (Sturridge 61); Drogba (Torres 61).

Kitchee – Wang Zhenpang; Dani Guerrero, Fernando Recio, Ubay Luzardo (c), Dani Cancela; Jordi Tarrés (Lo Chi Kwan 21) (Ngan Lok Fung 78), Huang Yang (Lo Kwan Yee 72), Gao Wen (Dean Evans 53), Tsang Kam To (Liu Quankun 85), Liang Zicheng (Chu Siu Kei 58), Roberto Losada (James Ha 82).

Referee – Phil Dowd

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Match report written by Callum Maclean. You can follow Callum on Twitter @callummaclean91

The schools are out for summer now which for many parents means are trying to find things to keep their children entertained for 6 weeks. I’m not a parent myself but I can imagine it is a lot harder to manage than you think. Well, unless you don’t mind your children staying in and playing computer games non-stop.

When I was 14 (many years ago) my parents faced a similar situation. What could they arrange for me to do during the summer weeks? To be fair it wasn’t that hard. They gave me a football and said why don’t you go and play with your friends. I spent most of the summer playing football for hours on end. A game of headers and volleys for hours on end was the only entertainment I really needed. If you haven’t played this game you are really missing out!

Anyway, one day I returned from playing football when my dad said he had a surprise for me. What could it be? He showed me a bit of paper. It was a registration form for a week long soccer school at Battersea Park, run by Chelsea Football Club. I think it was from 9am to 3pm each day. Brilliant!

Now, I live about 60 miles away from London so it would mean getting up really early to get there in time. No problem. The only challenge was convincing my mum that I was grown up enough to travel on the train each day on my own. The compromise was that I would always sit in the carriage where the ticket collector was based in case something happened.

Anyway, I ended up going to the soccer school and had so much fun. What I found a bit strange was the number of other Chelsea fans that were there. I suppose it’s fairly common if you live near Chelsea, but I didn’t. I lived near Brighton and so most children (circa 1995) obviously supported Man Utd!

Each day we did all kinds of drills in the morning and then played a big tournament in after lunch. I was surprised by the standard of the players, but not in a good way. To me, they seemed as if they had never played the game before or were missing a football brain.

My favourite moment was playing in defence. The opposition had a shot which my goalkeeper saved with his legs. The ball went straight up in the air. I headed it clear and chased after it. I managed to head it again before it touched the ground, and then again and then again. Before I knew it I was up the other end close to goal. I took one look at the goalkeeper and then volleyed it passed him. What a goal! Perhaps the best goal I have ever scored!

Friday afternoon came quicker than I could believe. My dad had turned up near the end as he worked in London at the time. I’m glad he did, especially considering what happened. Each age group had to sit in lines as the end of week presentation was about to begin. I was in the oldest group and so had to wait until the end.

Finally it got round to be my group’s turn. I was looking around me to see who I thought was likely to win the Player of the Week trophy. Before I knew it, Laurence Batty (former Fulham and Woking goalkeeper) announced that I was the winner. I was so pleased. I walked up in my Chelsea shirt with Wise 11 on the back. This was the best trophy I had ever won. In fact, it’s still my favourite.

A few months later I went to another Chelsea Soccer School at Battersea Park. This time I had a different coach, but the outcome was still the same. I was given the Player of the Week trophy. What did this mean? Was I better than I realised? What should I do next? The answer to that question is below.

Just like Peter Bonetti, I wrote to Chelsea asking if I could have a trial. The head of Youth Development at the time was Bernie Dixson. In fact, I wrote to all the London and South Eastern clubs. The only team to write back to me was…Chelsea. It was a letter from Bernie Dixson himself. He asked if I could send him a list of my fixtures and he would arrange for a scout to come and watch me. Wow! I was so excited. This could be my big chance. I could be playing alongside the likes of Frank Sinclair, Gavin Peacock and, of course, Dennis Wise.

Sadly, this is where the story ends. I sent my fixture list to Bernie, only for him to reply saying that their scouting network did not stretch as far as Brighton and so wouldn’t be able to send a scout down. Oh how things have changed! As you know, Chelsea’s scouting network now spans the whole world looking for the best talent there is to offer. I’m glad this is the case. I love Chelsea and want to see them bringing through the next superstars, or at least my heroes!

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If you liked this story then follow me on Twitter: @ChelseaChadder

Here at Chelsea Headache, we love to hear your views on many different aspects regarding the club and it’s players. Today guest writer Ben Pinkney, shares his thoughts on our £50 million man.

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The capture of Fernando Torres from Liverpool back in January was unquestionably a further illustration of narcissism on Roman Abramovich’s part. The Spaniard evidently was no part of the Carlo Ancelotti blueprint and left him struggling to incorporate the striker into what was already a dithering side [Chelsea’s worst run of form in the winter months in their entire history], ultimately Ancelotti was sacrificed as ‘The Blues’ succumbed to their least successful season since before the Abramovich era. So, the much loved Italian departed from Stamford Bridge leaving Fernando Torres remaining as the satirical figure in West London.

Going into the 2011/2012 season the emphasis will still be on Fernando Torres. His unconvincing first 18 games for Chelsea will have left eyes very much on seeing whether he can produce; mark my words the expletives will still be very much at the ready come August. In fact, already this pre-season we have seen Andre Villas-Boas trying to deflect focus away from the Spaniard.

Going into this season there are a number of positives and negatives to consider in relation to Fernando Torres.

We’ll start with the positives:

In the last couple of years Torres has seen the underside of the operating table far more than he would ever have liked; hernia, knee, hamstring all troubling the striker, and for the most part he would return right back into full programme football. This summer is the first in 3 years since he has been able to enjoy a proper summer break; the European Championship, Confederations Cup and World Cup all interrupting what could, and should have been vital rehabilitation periods. Hopefully this year’s off season will have provided the much needed break to propel the once formidable striker into gear.

The arrival of Andre Villas-Boas has provided a resounding sense of optimism around the Cobham camp and the team has gone into a pre-season in which they have scored nine goals, conceding none. Yet, more comparisons can be made here with Jose Mourinho; although that is both for another day and in my opinion not how we will see the team unfold in the coming season. This fresh start and change of management should have aid with confidence issues that have Torres of late.

The negatives comprise of the following:

Going into the 2011/2012 season, which in my opinion looks to be built upon further malaise for Fernando Torres, means still having to deal with the £50m price-tag hanging above his head and for a player whose confidence is wanting, it comes as a superfluous requirement.

It has been well documented that Fernando Torres performs to his best ability when played as a lone striker. This has been justified during Euro 2008, post David Villa injury when Spain switched from a 4-1-3-2 to 4-1-4-1 formation resulting in a much improved performance toward the end of the competition. Furthermore his most formidable season in the Premier League, in 2007/2008 with Liverpool, was when he was deployed in a 4-2-3-1 formation with Kuyt and Riise in the wide positions and Gerrard in behind. Throughout last season we saw the incessant use of 4-4-2, to the persistent exacerbation of Torres’ situation. Torres does not and will not perform without the continuous supply and creativity of those behind him.

The team as a whole last season didn’t seem to suit any individual in particular, not least Torres. Frank Lampard remained lost in a system that doesn’t give him the opportunity to push forward into the positions he has been so used to in the previous seasons and Fernando Torres has been subjected to the half-hearted attacking wingers of Florent Malouda and Nicolas Anelka, who rarely seek the touchline more than a handful of times every match. More often than not it is the wing-backs of Ashley Cole, Branislav Ivanovic, Jose Bosingwa and Yuri Zhirkov who provide the width a Stamford Bridge, a systemic movement which only concludes in the further restriction on Torres’ style of play.

Ancelotti spent much of last season exchanging the subject with Didier Drogba. With the Ivorian set to sign a one-year extension it looks as if once again Torres will have immediate competition for a place, Andre Villas-Boas himself has already stated that he is unlikely to play them both as a partnership, and quite rightly so. The fact remains that they are both lone strikers and the removal of a winger to accommodate for one just does not work. Torres himself has the pace, physical strength and movement to house this position on a world-class level himself, though it works in a very different manner to Drogba.

The Spaniard is most potent when racing into the space between centre-halves and full-backs onto balls slipped forward into areas which are exploited. It’s these through balls and deftly delivered passes over the top of opposition defences which Torres thrives upon, observed from the modest amount of opportunities we’ve see him play with Yossi Benayoun last season and pre-season this year. This need for creativity is, as everyone knows, exactly what lacks from the current Chelsea side and the pursuit of Luka Modric from Tottenham could be the answer. However, with the prospective capture of the Croatian dwindling the need to bring in a comparable player in remains ever more important to the Fernando Torres cause.

It seems the prerequisite that Chelsea themselves are presenting will continue to restrain Fernando Torres from his true devastating potential, collectively with excuses the Didier Drogba presents.

The hyperbole continuing to surround El Niño will maintain the expletives that Fernando Torres, coupled with past injuries, lacking confidence and loss of half-a-yard has resulted in a player who may, in fact never return to previous form. This barrage of ambiguity is though I feel, for the most part, unfounded. Fernando Torres has not been sited into a team which conform to his attributes; it remains a team fabricated upon the backbone of the Jose Mourinho era. Structure and creativity must form the defining factors in the 2011/2012 season if we are to see the best from this once world beater.

A great deal faith and sanguinity has been placed in Fernando Torres, however many teammates have distanced the striker from comparisons with the disastrous Andrei Shevchencko, stating that unlike the Ukrainian, improvements have been seen continually and that ‘his time will come.’ When this time will arrive however, remains to be seen.

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Written by Ben Pinkney. You can follow Ben on Twitter @benpinkney42