Archive for August, 2011

Midfield Options

Posted: August 30, 2011 by callummaclean in Chelsea, midfield, Transfers, Youth

Over the summer, the main subject of Chelsea Football Club’s rumours have been linked to Luka Modrić and various other midfielders, such as Samir Nasri, Scott Parker, Eden Hazard and Juan Mata to name a few. The general consensus is that Chelsea need a midfielder to create, but do they?

Looking at their current squad, it wouldn’t seem as if they do. The first team boasts many midfielders already; Florent Malouda, John Obi Mikel, Yossi Benayoun, Frank Lampard, Ramires and Michael Essien, although he’s out until the new year.

When Essien’s back at full fitness, which hopefully will happen, he is unstoppable. Nicknamed ‘the Bison’ for his strength, his other qualities include simple passes to build up play, box-to-box running and the ability to score some cracking goals.

Ramires, since Christmas, has really started to prove his worth with tough tackling, strength and stamina. He’s also been making his way through defences with some mazy runs too.

Mikel, although not a play-maker, is another top midfielder, with tackling abilities and the ability to keep a cool head, as has been shown recently, making himself available for Chelsea despite the kidnapping of his father.

Malouda, who is usually a winger can operate as a midfielder too. Top scorer for The Blues last season, and also having an ability to assist. His form varies throughout the season however, and many think this could be his last season at the club.

There’s also Yossi Benayoun, who in pre-season, has looked like he has a point to prove after missing most of last season due to a ruptured achilles that he suffered last September. Many believe he is the key to Fernando Torres’ form, and it’ll be interesting to see how much game time he gets this season. However, at 31, his time at Stamford Bridge may be limited.

Frank Lampard. Before last season, he had scored 20 goals or more for both club and country for the seven seasons previous to it. Even last season he still managed 15 goals. A slow start to pre-season, but if he can recreate the form of any of the past eight seasons Chelsea will be on for their fourth Premier League title, though as with Benayoun, time isn’t on his side.

But then there are two players who have plenty of time on their side – Josh McEachran and Gaël Kakuta. McEachran looks the more promising of the two, but if Kakuta can fulfill his early promise, he’ll be one for the future too. New signing Oriol Romeu, who has taken the number six shirt for the season is also being billed as one for the future, and only time will tell to see whether he can live up to what is being said of him.

There are also reserve players who are yet to break into the first team. Conor Clifford, whose form whilst on loan at Plymouth Argyle and Notts County earned him a call-up for the Republic Of Ireland. Jacob Mellis, has made one appearance for Chelsea, though has since been on loan to Barnsley and has a contract with the club until 2013. Two players featured in the pre-season friendly against Wycombe Wanderers, Billy Clifford and attacking midfielder Aliu Djalo. Both could be important in the future.

Nathaniel Chalobah, who is only 16, has a future ahead of him at Chelsea or so it seems. He was part of the pre-season tour in the far-east, and many think he’ll be included at points within the first team this season. He is primarily a defender, but can play in midfield too.

Then there’s also academy players. Reece Loudon, a left midfielder, Ali Gordon, a defender/holding midfielder, Archange Nkumu who is a holding midfielder, George Saville, Nathan Ake, James Ashton, Amin Affane, Anjur Osmanovic, Buomesca Na Banga or John Swift could be part of Chelsea’s midfield future between five and ten years, maybe less.

With Juan Mata being a Chelsea player too, and the possible addition of Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard, along with the Modrić rumours not going anywhere fast, Chelsea’s midfield future has the possibility of being a bright one. The youth players are reaching the latter stages of the cups now, and what many fans want to see is young players eased into the team throughout the season. This is more likely to happen if Chelsea are playing well, but with a few days left of the summer transfer window I wouldn’t doubt at least one more signing to strengthen the midfield for the near future anyway.

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There are shades of Arjen Robben, who scored 15 goals in 67 matches for Chelsea, in the Blues’ new boy Juan Mata. The Spanish 2010 World Cup winner also scored on debut in Chelsea’s 3-1 home win against Norwich. Mata came on in the second half to add some excitement to what was rather a dull first half by Chelsea, bar Jose Bosingwa’s fifth minute goal. There’s no doubt about Mata being a regular at Chelsea after the dream debut, that player is the real No. 10 (I apologise to Yossi Benayoun, who I think is a good player, but just hasn’t done enough at Stamford Bridge). There will be question marks for the next two league games, and some cup matches, as to who has to sit out to accommodate Mata.

Florent Malouda made way against Norwich, but a more permanent replacement needs to be made. But before dwelling on how we fared in our third Premier League match, let me explore a little bit why Mata reminds me of Robben. Yes, they are both left-footed and are very creative. Mata won the World Cup with Spain, and Robben was at Soccer City in South Africa as well playing for the Netherlands, who lost 1-0 after an extra-time goal from Andres Iniesta. Mata scored 10 goals for former club Valencia last season and we all know that Robben was a 10 goals a season kind of player. So, with this we say hello to creativity and have to confront Frank Lampard to say: something is missing Frank. Had it not been for manager Andres Villas-Boas ‘brave’ decision to pull off Malouda for Mata, Chelsea might have been in trouble against Norwich.

Mata is certainly the kind of player we need and it’s even more exciting to learn that he snubbed both Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspurs to sign a five-year contract with Chelsea. Being able to play as a left midfielder or winger, and even just behind the front men, is an added advantage to see us win the Premier League at the end of the season. It’s early days and I for one don’t want to punt him up as the next best thing at Stamford Bridge, but we all have to admit, he looks a sure bet to help us to success.

This is what the coach thinks about our new man, who faces his former teammates in the European Champions League after Chelsea were pitted against Valencia in the group stages.

Villas Boas: I think all the players are creative, they just express themselves in different ways. Mata is different from other players, and found some good spaces today [against Norwich]. For a player with only two training sessions he showed some quickness.

Villas-Boas’ major headache: If we do indeed get Luka Modric in the final hour of the transfer window, picking his midfield players on match day could turn into a nightmare for the manager. But for now let’s say Modric will stay at Spurs. Then Villas-Boas is still left to making a final decision – possibly on the eve of a big match – on who to bench to make space for Mata. He can play where Lampard and Malouda usually operate. And his best days are still to come at Stamford Bridge. But this is good for rotation. With the FA Cup, Champions League and Premier League matches still to be played, we certainly look to have enough depth to get positive results.

There’s also been criticism about playing John Obi Mikel and Ramires in the starting line-up. Although Ramires can make daunting runs and get us in scoring positions, he can be a bit too defensive – then playing the same type of style as Mikel.

Our manager has some tough decisions to make.

Have Trust In Our Own Grass

Posted: August 25, 2011 by derekorourke in Chelsea, Legends, Transfers, Youth

It’s silly season at the moment as we near the end of the summer transfer window. As usual, Chelsea are a team linked with just about anyone who is half decent. So far we have signed Courtois, Piazon, Romeu and Lukaku and Mata. On top of that, over the last month or so we have been heavily linked with the lavish to the ludicrous such as Modric, Moutinho, Perreira, Parker, Neymar, Cahill etc…the list is endless. If we were to believe all the tales of the tabloids we will have an entirely new squad of players this season.

Call me dull if you like, but I for one do not like to see wholesale changes made to a team. I think teams needs refreshing and rejuvenation rather than re-booting. We already have a new manager and backroom staff to integrate into the club, signing a host of players makes it even more difficult.

Before I ramble on any further, I’m going to get to the point of this article – TRUST. We are being heavily linked with Modric at the moment. A good player? Yes. Needed? Up for debate, but I would say no, especially at £30+ million. He might be very green looking grass to some Chelsea fans but I think the grass we have already planted and laid in SW6 can grow greener and richer. Currently on our books in the Modric style is the experienced Yossi Benayoun and the upcoming Josh McEachran. I like to see a mixture of youth and experience and I feel those two can be a massive influence on Chelsea this season.

Not only would we be dumping another £30m out of the Chelsea coffers but we will also be hindering the development of a potential star in Josh, something I cannot put a price on. We would also risk losing Yossi Benayoun, who looks content to be a squad player and isn’t on ridiculously high wages.

Why do I care? It’s not my money you might argue. Fair enough, but I would like to see my Chelsea go about things the right way, and one of those things is to win trophies with Chelsea players, clubmen if you like. At the moment we could consider Cech, JT, Lamps, Drogs and Mikel as proper Chelsea club men from our first team. After that, looking at our younger players who are around the first team and I only see Josh and maybe Bertrand (I could include Lukaku as he is a fan but you know what I mean) as Chelsea products and people who are proud to represent our great club. What I’m asking and pleading with Chelsea to do is trust them to be not just our future grass but our present grass. Some grass gets very dry and brown once it arrives, why risk that when we have grass grown from our own soil which we know is already green and guarantees richness.

Instant Heroes?

Posted: August 22, 2011 by chelseachadder in Chelsea, Legends, Tales of the Chadder

Every fan wants to see their team’s new striker score on his debut. A goal in your first game is a sure fire way of getting the crowd and the media on your side. But, is a goal on your debut really that important, or is it actually the kiss of death? Let’s take a look at some of the debut goal scorers.

DECO

First Goal: vs Portsmouth (17th August 2008)
Games: 58
Goals: 6
Honours: Premier League, Community Shield

The little Portuguese playmaker joined Chelsea from Barcelona in the summer of 2008. He scored in the Premier League vs Portsmouth at Stamford Bridge in a 4-0 win. A Chelsea career hampered by injury and a less than expected impact limited Deco to just 58 appearances and 6 goals.

Florent MALOUDA

First Goal: vs Man Utd (5th August 2007)
Games: 188 (and counting)
Goals: 42 (and counting)
Honours: Premier League, FA Cup (2), Community Shield

The Frenchman joined the blues from Lyon in the summer of 2007. His debut was against Man Utd in the Community Shield and he scored an equalising goal in the 44th minute. Chelsea eventually went on and lost on penalties. Since joining CFC, Malouda has won the Chelsea Players Player of the Year as well as appearing in a Champions League final and captaining his national side.

Andriy SHEVCHENKO

First Goal: vs Liverpool (13th August 2006)
Games: 77
Goals: 22
Honours: League Cup

Perhaps the most talked about Chelsea transfer of all time. It is widely believed that the Ukrainian hitman was signed from AC Milan by Roman Abramovich himself, and was the main reason why Jose Mourinho is no longer with the blues. On 13th August 2006 Shevchenko opened his Chelsea goal scoring account in the Community Shield defeat to Liverpool. A lack of confidence and managers’ belief along with niggling injuries stopped Sheva from being the player we all wanted him to be. The £30m man played 77 games and scored 22 goals, including a belter against Spurs in the FA Cup. He did play in the League Cup final win vs Arsenal in 2007.

Adrian MUTU

First Goal: vs Leicester (23rd August 2003)
Games: 38
Goals: 10
Honours: None

Mutu scored on his debut vs Leicester City. However, the Romanian is probably best known as someone who has constantly owed Chelsea £16m in compensation after failing a drugs test. The striker is reported to have taken cocaine and was sacked by the club and banned from football for 7 months. In his short Chelsea career he played 38 games and scored 10 goals.

Boudewijn ZENDEN

First Goal: vs Newcastle (15th August 2001)
Games: 59
Goals: 4
Honours: None

After his £7.5m move from Barcelona, the Dutch winger didn’t really have the greatest of times at Chelsea. His lack of form and persistent injuries restricted his chances. Zenden did play in the FA Cup final vs Arsenal in 2002, coming on as a substitute for Mario Melchiot in the 76th minute.

Jimmy Floyd HASSELBAINK

First Goal: vs Man Utd (13th August 2000)
Games: 177
Goals: 87
Honours: Community Shield

“Oh Jimmy Jimmy, Jimmy Jimmy Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink!”. One of my favourite Chelsea strikers of all time. He had two main attributes: his powerful shot and his massive grin. The Dutch hitman was a cult hero at Stamford Bridge due to his goal scoring exploits. My two main memories of Hasselbaink are his ‘perfect’ hattrick vs Spurs (left foot, right foot, header), and his goal against Chelsea for Charlton where he refused to celebrate in front of his loyal blues fans.

George WEAH

First Goal: vs Spurs (12th January 2000)
Games: 15
Goals: 5
Honours: FA Cup

Perhaps my favourite ever debut goal due to the opponents and the story behind the goal. Chelsea signed the former World Player of the Year on loan from AC Milan. He arrived in London on the day of the home game vs Spurs. Later that day the Liberian came on as a 56th Minute substitute for Tore Andre Flo. With the game looking like it would end up 0-0, the striker popped up with a header in the 87th minute, leaving Ian Walker to pick the ball out of the back of the net. Weah only played for half a season, but managed to pick up an FA Cup winners medal later that year after Chelsea beat Aston Villa at Wembley, courtesy of a Roberto Di Matteo goal.

Tore Andre FLO

First Goal: vs Coventry City (9th August 1997)
Games: 163
Goals: 50
Honours: FA Cup, League Cup, UEFA Cup Winners Cup, UEFA Super Cup

The 6 foot 4 Norwegian striker was probably better with his feet than with his head. He had many great games in a Chelsea shirt. It would be hard to pick his best performance; was it his hattrick vs Spurs at White Hart Lane or his brace against Barcelona at Stamford Bridge in the Champions League? He is still one of our highest received transfer fees after his move to Rangers for £12m.

Paul HUGHES

First Goal: vs Derby (18th January 1997)
Games: 23
Goals: 2
Honours: None

Perhaps an unknown to some Chelsea fans, the midfielder didn’t really break into the first team. His debut goal was a surreal moment. A half time substitute for Dennis Wise, the relatively unknown youngster picked up the ball, played a couple of one two’s before scoring. Immediately the crowd started cheering ‘Hughesie, Hughesie, Hughesie’, mainly because that was the chant for Chelsea’s other Hughes, ‘Sparky’. After various loan spells, Hughes eventually signed for Southampton and teamed up with former Chelsea manager Glenn Hoddle.

Paul FURLONG

First Goal: vs Norwich City (20th August 1994)
Games: 85
Goals: 17
Honours: None

Furlong became Chelsea’s record signing in 1994 after Glenn Hoddle splashed out £2.3m on the Watford striker. The tall striker never really lived up to his price tag, but did have some success in the UEFA Cup Winners Cup run. He formed a partnership with Mark Stein. After just two years he left Chelsea and signed for Birmingham City as he found his position under threat by the signings of Mark Hughes and Gianluca Vialli.

Mick HARFORD

First Goal: vs Oldham Athletic (15th August 1992)
Games: 34
Goals: 11
Honours: None

Harford is probably best known to Chelsea fans as the player who scored their first ever goal in the Premier League. Signed from Luton Town for £300,000, he was at the club for less than a season after he was sold to his hometown club of Sunderland for £250,000, despite the fact he was the blues leading goal scorer.

Eddie NEWTON

First Goal: vs Everton (2nd May 1992)
Games: 214
Goals: 10
Honours: FA Cup, League Cup, UEFA Cup Winners Cup

Eddie came through the Chelsea youth ranks with his good friend Frank Sinclair. The midfielder is one of the few people who have scored an FA Cup final goal for Chelsea, which he did vs Middlesbrough in 1997, assisted by a flick from Gianfranco Zola. Newton’s Chelsea career was cut short by serious injuries, but did try to continue at Birmingham City. He has coached at Chelsea and was also Roberto Di Matteo’s assistant at West Brom last season.

Tony CASCARINO

First Goal: vs Crystal Palace (8th February 1992)
Games: 45
Goals: 8
Honours: None

The tall Irishman was signed from Celtic in 1992. He spent a season and a half at Chelsea and picked up an FA Cup runners up medal. After leaving Chelsea for Marseille in 1994, Cas went on to become a radio pundit and a semi-pro poker player.

Joe ALLON

First Goal: vs Wimbledon (17th August 1991)
Games: 18
Goals: 3
Honours: None

Joe signed for Chelsea from Hartlepool United in 1991 for a fee of around £250,000. The striker only managed to play a small number of games, and was even sent on loan to Port Vale before being sold to Brentford in 1992.

Paul ELLIOTT

First Goal: vs Wimbledon (17th August 1991)
Games: 54
Goals: 3
Honours: CFC Player of the Year 1992

The TV pundit was once one of the most promising signings Chelsea ever made, moving from Celtic in 1991. His career was ended in 1992 by a tackle from Liverpool forward Dean Saunders. He later filed a lawsuit against Saunders, although he lost his case after it was decided the Welshman was not at fault. However, in 2003 he was awarded an MBE for his work with young players and anti-racism initiatives.

Kerry DIXON

First Goal: vs Derby County (27th August 1983)
Games: 420
Goals: 193
Honours: Full Members Cup

Chelsea’s 2nd highest ever goal scorer (although Lampard is catching him up quickly). The striker was a gamble signing from Reading for £150,000 (plus £25,000 if he ever played for England). The gamble was to pay off as he scored 2 goals on his debut vs Derby, the last Chelsea player to record such a feat. The England striker was instrumental in Chelsea’s promotion to the 1st Division as 2nd Division champions. He formed a great partnership with short Scottish striker David Speedie. He is also one of the last players to have had a Chelsea testimonial, beating a Spurs XI 5-1 at Stamford Bridge. Dixon would later play against Chelsea at Wembley in an FA Cup semi final for Luton Town. Kerry can often be found on Chelsea TV on a Friday night in the fans live phone-in show.

David SPEEDIE

First Goal: vs Oldham Athletic (18th September 1982)
Games: 205
Goals: 63
Honours: Full Members Cup, Chelsea Player of the Year 1985

The tiny Scottish Forward signed for Chelsea from Darlington for £80,000. Speedie actually scored 2 goals on his debut. He formed a great partnership with Kerry Dixon, aided by Pat Nevin on the wing. Speedie’s greatest achievement was probably scoring a hattrick in the 1986 Full Members Cup final win at Wembley vs Manchester City.

 

Peter OSGOOD

First Goal: vs Workington Town (16th December 1964)
Games: 380
Goals: 150
Honours: FA Cup, UEFA Cup Winners Cup, Chelsea Player of the Year 1973

The King of Stamford Bridge, or Ossie as he is known to some fans, Peter Osgood is one of Chelsea’s greatest ever players as voted for by the fans. In fact, he came second, only beaten by Gianfranco Zola. He is the only player to have a statue of himself at Stamford Bridge. Also, his death saddened football fans in SW6 and beyond. The Legend had his funeral at the home of the blues and laid to rest under the penalty spot at The Shed End. He is also the last player to score in every round of the FA Cup when Chelsea beat Leeds in the competition in 1970. Osgood scored twice on his Chelsea debut vs Workington Town.

Bobby TAMBLING

First Goal: vs West Ham (7th February 1959)
Games: 370
Goals: 202
Honours: League Cup, Chelsea’s all time top goal scorer

Chelsea’s all-time leading goal scorer. He was made Chelsea captain in 1962 and helped the blues win promotion back to the 1st Division, becoming the youngest ever captain to lead a side to promotion. The Striker spent over 10 years at Chelsea and is one of the only players to have scored 5 goals in one game for Chelsea. Bobby won the League Cup in 1964/65 and scored in the Final vs Leicester.

Jimmy GREAVES

First Goal: vs Spurs (24th August 1957)
Games: 169
Goals: 132
Honours: None

Chelsea’s most prolific goal scorer of all time, the England striker made his debut at the age of 17. After spending 4 seasons at Stamford Bridge he left to join AC Milan, although against his wishes as Chelsea wanted the transfer fee he commanded. Greaves holds two goal scoring records for Chelsea: Most goals in one season (41 goals) and most hattricks (13).

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Chelsea Held By Battling Stoke

Posted: August 14, 2011 by callummaclean in Chelsea, English Premier League, Match Report

André Villas-Boas’ first Premier League game in charge of Chelsea finished in a 0-0 draw after a tough encounter against a physical Stoke City side.

The early stages were contested between the two defences, with John Terry, Robert Huth, Alex and Ryan Shawcross all getting involved, with Fernando Torres being on the receiving end of a few tough tackles throughout the game. Torres, starting the game, looked like a completely different player to last season, getting about and trying to get in on goal, leading to a Shawcross booking. There was an early penalty shout, when Salomon Kalou went down under a Glen Whelan challenge, but referee Mark Halsey didn’t give a penalty, which was only met by lighthearted appeals.

Rory Delap was using his trademark throw-ins in the early stages, yet they caused the Chelsea defence, and Petr Čech, little trouble. It was a physical game throughout, and more of a test of strength and power over footballing skill at times, with niggling fouls up and down the pitch.

In the 24th minute, a lapse of concentration from Ashley Cole let Jonathan Walters though, but his effort was parried away by Čech. Seven minutes later, Chelsea made an attack of note, with Ramires making a run through the defence, but his cross wasn’t met by anyone. On 32 minutes, Frank Lampard had a free-kick cleared away on the second attempt, much to Stoke’s disgust.

When Stoke next had a chance to attack, there was an appeal for handball against Terry, though it would’ve been harsh to penalise him for it. With one minute of added time to end the first half battle without any end product, Torres proved it right with a dribble through the Stoke defence, only to scuff the shot wide.

As the second half began, Jermaine Pennant won a corner in a bright start from the home side, though nothing came from it. On 50 minutes, Ramires had a snapshot which was sent wide. Three minutes later, Torres, in a crowded penalty area had an airshot which he then tried to turn into a penalty shout, which wasn’t given. John Obi Mikel, a few seconds later, brought out a fantastic save from Asmir Begović with a dipping volley from the edge of the box, which had followed another penalty shout, this time Frank Lampard thinking he been the victim of a foul.

The second half then evolved into end-to-end football, with each team having a go at putting pressure on the defence one after another, though an injury to Matthew Etherington broke that up, leading to continuous pressure from the Chelsea attack. On 63 minutes, a powerful effort from Malouda was comfortably saved by Begović. Chelsea’s first booking came in the 65th minute, when Ashley Cole was booked for a hard challenge on Pennant, though he seemed to win the ball.

Begović was forced to make another brilliant save on 71 minutes, as Nicolas Anelka attempted a lob which was tipped onto the bar. Kalou was then given space in the box, though his header was saved. In the 74th minute, an Alex header forced another save. Whelan then fired in an effort for Stoke before Torres made Begović make another save, though he was rightly called for offside. On 78 minutes, Marc Wilson was booked for a bodycheck on José Bosingwa. In the 81st minute, Didier Drogba attempted one of his trademark free-kicks, yet his effort was easily saved by Begović. Lampard was then booked in 87th minute.

With five minutes added on at the end on the game, Drogba had another go at a free-kick, but it went into the wall. A Stoke free-kick at the end of the game was cleared by the Chelsea defence as Halsey blew for full-time. A positive showing by both teams, though Chelsea will feel they should of won for dominating most of the second half.

With the new season drawing near, we are all 100% focussed on the Premier League, THE most important trophy to win in my humble opinion. However, there has been a long standing elephant in the room, with two very big ears – The Champions League. Fleet Street’s finest (if there’s such a thing) claim it’s an obsession whilst the players play it down somewhat. We know however, that deep down, the likes of JT, Lampard, Drogba and Ashley Cole will forever regret it if they don’t win this famous trophy.

Fans of other clubs say Chelsea will never be seen as a top club until we have won it, and we all know that Roman has his eyes firmly set on this particular prize. So what are our chances this year? I have picked a handful of teams that I feel will challenge for the title and given my thoughts on how they will fare.

Barcelona:

No better place to start than the champions. Play the most attractive football in the world? Yes. Full of world class players including in my opinion the best ever? Yes. Possibly the best team of our generation? Yes. Can they be stopped? YES.

As good as they are, and as deserving as they are to be the European champions, I think they will come unstuck this season in Europe. I predict they will do well and advance to the semi-final stage before losing over two legs to one of these three teams….

Manchester United:

Yes, they were totally outplayed in last year’s final by the Catalan giants. But I just have a sneaking suspicion that if they are paired up (over two legs) again this year, it will be a different outcome. I feel Man United were a game changing player short of brilliant last season. Rooney may be an outlet but can’t be relied on all the time in every big game. If United secure the services of Dutch magician Wesley Sneijder, then I think he is the added impetus needed to tilt a big game in their favour.

From back to front they are strong but just lack that creative genius in midfield to take them up a level. Added to the fact that Fergie rarely loses to the same team three times in a row (not including the meaningless pre-season friendly), I think United could surprise a few people.

Chelsea:

A poor showing over the last two years by their usually high standards from Chelsea in Europe’s elite competition – Chelsea will be extra motivated this season I suspect. Why? Well as I mentioned, the backbone of Chelsea’s team won’t have many more chances to land the only prize which has eluded them thus far, added to the fact that AVB is a master of the art of motivation and team spirit.

We know Chelsea have the pedigree and the ability to beat Barcelona over two legs, we just need that little bit of luck (or cheating) to go our way this time. I believe we will win it this year; my only worry is if we draw man City over two legs – it’ll remind me of when we beat Arsenal at Highbury in 04.

Real Madrid:

Jose is a very quick learner. Like Fergie, he doesn’t lose to the same team too many times. The last four El Classico’s ended in a win each and two draws – compared to the 5-0 drubbing previous to that…is he turning the tide in the head to heads? Add Nuri Sahin to their squad and possibly Neymar in January and we are looking at a serious squad of players. I think they’ll be well groomed into the Mourinho ethos this season and will not be such a pushover as they were earlier last season.

Barcelona are clear favourites, no doubt, and Guardiola will like to finish with a bang at the Camp Nou this season if the reports of him leaving are to be true. Mourinho is Mourinho and we know Fergie loves this competition. But there’s a new kid on the block now, and wouldn’t it be one hell of an achievement if he wins this competition at his first attempt (Remind you of anyone?).

Just to get the monkey off our backs, let’s win it this season boys!

An Open Letter To AVB

Posted: August 5, 2011 by superjourno in Andres Villas-Boas, English Premier League, Random

Dear Andres Villas-Boas (AVB)

FANS, more especially football fans, are a fickle bunch. In more ways than one, they have a love/hate relationship with managers of clubs they would kill so see win – most of the matches. It would then be to your (our new Chelsea manager) benefit to find out just how “fickle” the Stamford Bridge fans are, with just over a week before the club’s first match. That’s an away clash against Stoke City on August 14 and I know you are aware of this.

A win away from home is still important, but not as crucial AVB’s first league match at Stamford Bridge a week later against West Bromwich Albion.

Managers – they won’t ever admit this – but can’t stand the fans. They feel they don’t have to answer to them, but sometimes they forget that club presidents give the supporters some power to have their say. So, up until now, the fans have loved you and showered you with praise. The more patient of the lot will allow you time to settle in and play around with a few ideas, chopping and changing the line-ups here and there. Fernando Torres or Didier Drogba upfront, it’s up to you, but a few defeats down the line, then you begin to feel the might of the Chelsea fans.

Your predecessor, Carlo Ancelotti, won the double (Premier League title and the FA Cup) in his first season and we absolutely loved him. His second season was marked with major disappointment and a full campaign without a trophy, we still kind of loved him. But the easily heartbroken (and rightfully so) large number of us hated him for allowing us to be the butt of jokes among our friends. AVB, we are just a few years apart and we know some of the players are older than you are. If this was going to be a problem for you at the club, you probably wouldn’t have taken the job and left your beloved FC Porto. Roman Abramovich would not have paid so much money to re-unite you with top players such as John Terry, Frank Lampard, Petr Cech and Didier Drogba. We hope the age debacle doesn’t surface sometime during the season as the reason why you aren’t getting results at Chelsea this season. And God forbid we are lying outside the top four by Christmas.

You have a lot on your plate and we get that, but please deliver us to our Holy Grail – the European Champions League. I doubt many of us were as obsessed with the Champions League as your new (there’s that word again) boss. But seeing our rivals Manchester United reach the finals was a bitter pill to swallow. It all brought back memories of our players being robbed of a victory against Barcelona, John Terry slipping and missing a crucial penalty in Moscow and Drogba, Michael Ballack and Jose Bosingwa being banned by Uefa – not necessarily in that order. I have a mouthful to say ahead for your first official match in charge of Chelsea this season, but let’s hold it right there for now. My last words are: No matter what you think of the fans, don’t hit us or end the season without silverware, heck even the Carling Cup will do.

Yours truly,

Mazola J. Molefe (@superjourno), one of many die-hard Chelsea fans.

Firstly, and I’ve been itching to clear this up for a while now, I can officially confirm that his claimant’s name is John Michael Obi. Mikel, as his shirt is decorated, derives from a typo on a team-sheet when he represented Nigeria U17’s, he consequently adopted the name and, as his father stated, he “considers that his football name.”

With John Mikel Obi’s somewhat controversial transfer to the Premier League well and truly behind him, five years on he has well and truly found his home in West London. But, it has been a far from easy journey for the young Nigerian.

Early life in the capital saw John Mikel Obi fined three times, sent off on a number of occasions and heard voiced concerns about lifestyle choices from both manager Jose Mourinho and his father, Michael – a period which saw the midfielder dropped for over a month as a result. Post haste, Mikel returned to the side after an obvious improvement in his punctuality and conduct.

Since a very early age Mikel had assumed the ‘No. 10’ position for both club and country, he generally excelled in that role, and it was precisely that to which the £16m Chelsea spend was intended for. Although, come the latter stages of the 2006/2007 season, Jose Mourinho took a decision to convert the once attacking playmaker into a defensive midfielder.

As of this transition, it’s fair to say, there has been somewhat of a stigmatism surrounding the Nigerian. Much of Mikel’s attributes had been lost during a transitional period in which many only saw short sideways passes and timid, deep lying movements from what they probably still saw as a pressing midfielder. Since Mikel has been entrusted with the role into which he has grown into progressively, assigned with responsibility during significant matches, even during the early stages of the alteration (Manchester United in the FA Cup Final, and FC Barcelona at the Camp Nou of noteworthy performances.)

Much of the criticism for Mikel derives from the fact that he can be slow and not progressive enough, although this can be significantly attributed to the partnership with Michael Essien [another African attacking midfielder who has evolved defensive tendencies since his arriving at Stamford Bridge, I can see a pattern emerging] who has adapted a similar role to Mikel. The injury and exclusion of Michael Essien could directly aid Mikel’s game. Incidentally, it was in similar circumstances, 2008/2009 season, in which John Mikel Obi arguably had his best season since joining Chelsea.

To understand Mikel is simply to understand the defensive midfielder.

Consistently one of the highest pass completion rates in the Premier League for the past few seasons, Mikel’s ball retention allows Chelsea to feel secure in their own game, translating into a greater disposition throughout the side. This, in turn, allows full-backs the freedom to venture higher up the field, an important element of Chelsea’s attacking properties, whilst the centre backs divide to assign for Mikel. Unlike many fellow defensive midfielders, he also has the ability to play the long ball, to the gratitude of many in recent times.

Mikel has always had the ability to read the game well and this translates particularly well into his adopted position. Sitting in front of the centre backs, his imposing figure has matured to allow for an increasingly developed sense of where to be, this can indirectly be supported by the fact that he’s become the steadily declining recipient of admonition.

With Andre Villas-Boas likely to use a 4-3-3 formation it puts further emphasis on the holding midfielder role, but Mikel, as seen throughout much of last season can solicit the role tremendously well.

An understated role that takes patience, a quality Mikel is consistently developing, the defensive midfielder will prove a vital and necessary role to many teams success in the coming year; however you will be hard pressed to find many who perform it quite as well as the young Nigerian. The fact that he performs the role with such maturing is testament to his solidarity and is even more surprising considering it may not be his natural position.

Mikel has shown himself to be a responsible individual, in an important position, at just 24 years of age, both the additions to the West London side and those who continue to perform alongside him will benefit palpably from his existence.

Only recently has John Mikel Obi’s importance as part of this Chelsea side has been recognised, but he will go into the 2011/2012 season as an integral part of the side.

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

The Kalou Enigma

Posted: August 2, 2011 by GaryCRobertson in Chelsea, Kalou, Random, Rants, Strikers

Salomon Kalou. Loved by some, despised by others. A player who can do all the difficult stuff but rarely pull off the simplest things. In a word: unique.

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The Ivorian forward scored 10 league goals last season (the most he has in a season at Chelsea since joining from Feyenoord) leading many people to believe it was his best season with the blues. The fact of the matter is, Kalou could be scoring a lot more. In his Feyenoord days he scored 20 goals and then 15 in back to back seasons. Obviously the Dutch league is on a different level to the Premier League but it does show that he wasn’t finding it difficult to hit the back of the net.

Positives:

  • Can score vital goals when you least expect it.
  • Has a sense of humour (yes, I know it doesn’t benefit much but it’s still something).
  • Has pace which some other Chelsea players lack.
  • As previously mentioned, he had a good season in 2010/11 with 10 league goals.
  • Can be an impressive substitute option.

Negatives:

  • Does the impossible by missing open goal opportunities.
  • Has the reputation to lose the ball often.
  • Speaks too much to the press in a way which could put players at unease in the dressing room.

Now from those two lists, there are 5 positives and 3 negatives but don’t let that fool you. There’s another negative that I find difficult to put into words. Basically, it’s like there is something missing from Kalou’s game. Maybe consistency would be the best word to use.

Kalou can be a useful player to have in the squad but a key player? Not so much. It’s hard to make a decision on whether it’s wise to keep him or let him go. He’s a player that doesn’t come around too often.

However, if it was between Kalou and Sturridge on the right flank, I’d have to pick Danny boy.

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What are your thoughts on Kalou? Feel free to leave a comment below with your opinions.