Archive for the ‘Goalkeeper’ Category

Another season, another new manager at Chelsea but just how much have things changed? It’s quite clear from who Chelsea have signed in the transfer market that the defensive style of football we saw at the end of last season, will not be seen again this season as Roberto Di Matteo tries to put together a Chelsea team that will play the ‘sexy football’ that owner Roman Abramovich has apparently always craved. What can we expect from this current Chelsea side though? Seeing as Di Matteo isn’t quite set on his strongest starting XI, here is who I believe should be in Chelsea’s starting XI;

Petr Cech: Untouchable. Heroic performances throughout last season’s Champions League campaign showed the world that he is still one of the best goalkeepers in the world. I’m pretty certain that Cech will be Chelsea’s no.1 for many seasons to come.

Cesar Azpilicueta: I can’t say I know much about ‘Dave’ as he has been nicknamed by some Chelsea supporters but he wouldn’t have been signed unless he was going to be the first choice right back at the club. Despite Ivanovic starting the season strongly, he defensively remains quite poor and struggles to move the ball quickly which will no doubt be a key figure in how Chelsea play this season. Let’s just hope Azpilicueta settles quickly like his countryman Juan Mata did.

David Luiz: Mr erratic himself. I like Luiz as a player and a person (judging from his twitter and instagram antics) but he really needs to chill out when he’s playing football. He will be needed to cover in behind John Terry a lot this season but at the moment his positioning is all over the place. I’d feel a lot more comfortable if he relaxed a little bit whilst on the pitch and was always read to slip in behind Terry when we’re being attacked down the left with pace.

John Terry: Whilst Terry certainly is our ‘captain, leader, legend’ it wouldn’t surprise me if Terry’s place in the starting XI came under serious question this season. Firstly, if he receives an 8 game ban like Suarez did and Gary Cahill and Luiz impress, then I think it would be hard for him to dislodge the ever improving Cahill. Whilst Cahill isn’t quite at Terry’s level yet, I think the majority of Chelsea fans have been surprised by just how good Cahill is; certainly looking a steal for the £7M we paid for him. Secondly, Terry has an unfortunate habit of ending up on his arse. His lack of pace is a serious hindrance in my opinion but fortunately for him, the defensive line shouldn’t be too high up, unlike under AVB. Terry is obviously still a great defender and he certainly is ‘Mr Chelsea’ but I think this season will be first where his place comes under serious question.

Ashley Cole: Easily still one of the best left backs who seem to be teaching Ryan Bertrand a thing or do. His place should be safe for this season but the ever improving Bertrand will no doubt provide him with great competition.

Mikel: The first of two defensive midfielders. Whilst still not being a ‘fan favourite’, most fans know that does a great job for the team, most of the time. He does sometimes have the odd game where he seems to hide and the play just passes him by but he’s improved massively under RDM. His performance against Newcastle was a great example of how he shields the defence in a similar way to how Makelele used to do it.

Frank Lampard: Big Frankie Lampard. Another Chelsea legend but how long can he remain a starter? Obviously Lampard can still a decent job in the midfield for Chelsea and despite having the nickname ‘Fat Frank’, he keeps himself in great shape. The signing of £23M Brazilian prodigy Oscar, will further put Lampard’s place under pressure. It’s easy to forget Raul Meireles as well. Meireles’ performance against Newcastle was very impressive, he kept the ball moving quickly which is I imagine what RDM wants from the player who plays in the position. I suspect there will be a lot of rotation in this position throughout the season; hopefully RDM selects the right player for the right game.

Eden Hazard: Three games in and it’s already looking like we’ve got an absolute star on our hands. Whether he will play on the left of the three of in the middle, I’m sure Hazard will destroy most defences in the league. He’s already suffered from some rough treatment but hopefully he’ll be able to cope with it and continue to dazzle us in the fashion he has so far.

Juan Mata: The little Spanish wizard. Whilst not being able to dribble past players like Hazard, Mata remains a key part to our team. He’s looked absolutely exhausted though for the past eight months and I struggle to understand how to club hasn’t found two weeks for him to have a proper break so he can refresh his batteries. No doubt Mata will provide multiple assists against this season, probably from the central position behind Torres and hopefully many assists for Torres himself.

Ramires: I’m not quite sure what Ramires’ best position is. Would it work if he played alongside Mikel? I don’t think so. He put in numerous good performances on the right of the attacking three last season so it wouldn’t surprise me to see him continue there again this season. He may lack that bit of magic in the final third but his energy and occasional dazzling runs are sure to trouble enemy defences. I’m sure Moses, Marin and Oscar will offer something else on the right but I think RDM will use Ramires there for the majority of games.

Fernando Torres: Is he back? He probably will never reach the same heights he reached at Liverpool but he’s certainly looking better. I still find it very frustrating watching him. He often seems to make pointless runs and when it looks like he should be making a near post run or trying to lose his man in the box, he stands still whilst Hazard or Cole runs towards the corner flag with the ball because they have no options. I’m glad he’s looking sharp and scoring goals but there’s still a lot more I feel he could bring to the team. When Luiz or Lampard pick up the ball, Torres should be on the shoulder of the last man, pointing to where he wants the ball, he might not be as fast as he once was but he could still outpace most defenders in the league. I’ve wrote thousands of words in the past discussing Torres and it’s hard not to go into too much detail so it’s best if I just leave it. There is the possibility that Torres gets injured this season and what do Chelsea do then? Is Sturridge good enough to lead the line? It certainly is an issue; I just hope Torres remains fit for the majority of the season.

This season is the first time in many years where Chelsea has a really strong bench. With people like Moses, Marin, Oscar, Sturridge, Meireles, Cahill, Bertrand and Ivanovic on the bench, Chelsea certainly won’t be short of options if they need someone to change the game or step into the side for an extended period of time if someone suffers an injury.

It’s hard to predict where Chelsea will finish this season. If Mata, Hazard and Torres all click then Chelsea’s attack will be arguably the best in the league which they will need as the defence hasn’t looked great, so I believe it will be a case of conceding two but scoring three for Chelsea this season. Will they win the league? Probably not but there will certainly be up there. Will they retain the Champions League? Again probably not but I’m sure they will put up a good fight to hold onto their crown.

Feel free to follow me on Twitter: @aidansweeney_

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Aiming For A Trophy

Posted: January 19, 2012 by GaryCRobertson in Cech, Chelsea, English Premier League, Essien, Goalkeeper, midfield

Chelsea have never gone two successive seasons without winning a trophy since Roman Abramovich bought the club all those years ago. Cech believes we can keep that trend up:

“We set a standard in recent years, and that’s the way it is at a big club – especially here. We want, ourselves, to win something. We don’t want to go another season without trophies, so our aim is to end this season with silverware.”

Brilliant attitude.

Despite this season being of significant change and alteration under the reign of Villas-Boas, Cech still believes it’s no excuse for not winning any silverware. The addition of Gary Cahill from Bolton and Essien back from injury is giving the squad a strong look as we enter into the second half of the season.

Obviously it’s unfortunate Essien couldn’t make the African Cup of Nations however it’s nothing but excellent for us. Our first team central midfield choices now consist of Lampard, Romeu, Ramires, Essien, Mikel and Meireles (with McEachran now on loan with Swansea until the end of the season). Pretty good, eh.

Cech is also conscious that it will not be an overnight job to make the “new” Chelsea a success:

“You can see this team, there have been changes in recent years because you can’t stop players ageing. It’s normal in a top club that people change. We changed the manager and a bit of the philosophy, so it needs time.”

After all, patience is a virtue.

@GaryCRobertson

Petr Cech is supposed to be getting better with age. At 29, he still has at least 10 more years to play at the highest level just like many top goalkeepers have done in the past. Cech can still take part in two more Fifa World Cups. As a Chelsea fan, I think he is probably having a bit of slump in form because I know his true worth and what he is capable of.

Saturday’s 5-3 thumping by rivals Arsenal exposed a few holes in our defense, but more so, the fact that our number one goalkeeper was getting a tad lazy. I rate Cech highly. We were all worried when he got injured early in the season and Hilario had to be our man between the sticks – that was nerve wrecking. But I can’t help but think the desperation to have him back also proved that Chelsea do not have a challenger to Cech’s position as our first choice goalkeeper.

More clean sheets please: Cech has now conceded 13 times in eight games this season. And to top if off, all three Chelsea defeats have come with him in goal. Not that Hilario is a better goalkeeper, although he let in two more goals during Cech’s absence, we just happened to win when he was playing. I still believe Cech adds more value in that department, but he needs to get a wake up call.

On Saturday, Cech made some pretty costly decisions. He can’t be blamed for some of the goals scored in the 5-3 loss, but his positioning can surely be questioned. Like, how does a goalkeeper of such top quality get beaten at near post? And how did Robin van Persie’s third and fifth goal for Arsenal go in, when it was most probably a routine save? Chelsea have let in more goals than the other teams that make up the top four in the Premier League this season. That is worrying.

Cech needs competition: Signing another top goalkeeper to sit on the bench just isn’t going to work. But our number one needs to regain form because he is the last line of defence. While Hilario is a good enough stand-in, he is sometimes erratic. And Ross Turnbull , 26, just doesn’t look ready to displace Cech this season.

Our central defence isn’t helping matters either. John Terry, Branislav Ivanovic and Alex are all fantastic defenders, but a bit of pace wouldn’t hurt. It is all part of Andre Villas-Boas’ learning curve, but lets hope it doesn’t become a learning cliff and he jumps over it when we are 25 games in and have conceded the most goals in the league at that point. Chelsea have only managed one clean sheet this season – the 0-0 draw against Stoke City in our opening match.

David Luiz would play more if he wasn’t so clumsy and prone to mistakes at the back – typical example being giving away a penalty away to QPR when he could have just protected goal side. But, with that said, we still have a good team and can only improve. With Fernando Torres back from suspension, we are good and ready to go. Go Chelsea!

(This was written prior to Chelsea’s game against Blackburn)

Over the next week I will be assessing each position on the pitch, aiming to give us some perspective as to how our squad looks and what we really need to add or get rid off.

Naturally, we start with the goalkeeper.

Chelsea have traditionally been very strong in this position throughout the years with such greats as Peter Bonetti, Eddie Niedzwiecki, Carlo Cudicini and now Petr Cech. Chelsea currently have six goalkeepers on their books who can be seen as either first team squad members or potential first team squad members; all of which I will review here.

Petr Cech:

Starting with the main man, Petr is one of the leading goalkeepers in world football. Signed in 2004 for £7m he has gone on to break just about every Chelsea and Premier League record since. After a near faultless first few years, Petr suffered a career and indeed life threatening skull injury in 2006 which has been well documented. His form suffered after this injury but he has gradually regained his best form and is once again amongst the world’s elite keepers. He was Chelsea’s player of the year last season after putting in a number of top class performances. He is a big presence in goal, a strong voice, a leader and most of all a technically gifted goalkeeper. There aren’t many better, if any at all. Truly world class, and at 29 years of age, has at least another 6/7 years at the top.

Rating: 9/10

Henrique Hilario:

Ok, he may not be everyone’s cup of tea but I beg to differ. Hilario hasn’t really done much wrong when trusted to mind the Blues’ net. Besides one memorable blooper against Man City a couple of years back, he has been safe enough. He kept a clean sheet at the Nou Camp and to my recollection has had a number of good games in the Chelsea colours. His pre-season has started excellently with a penalty save against Portsmouth and three stunning saves against Thailand All-Stars. Certainly not a world beater but I am happy enough with him as Petr’s back up.

Rating: 6.5/10

Ross Turnbull

Here’s where it gets depressing. The lad is just not up to it. He looks like a scared rabbit being hunted by a pack of ravenous foxes when he puts the gloves on. I have seen him on numerous occasions for both the first team and the reserves and not once has he gone through a game without making a complete mess of something. He doesn’t exactly fill the defence with confidence either, forcing them to drop deeper which alters the entire team’s approach. Not good enough even to be our third choice, sell!

Rating: 3/10

Matej Delac:

The young Croatian has a bright future ahead of him. At 20 years old, there are very high hopes for him in his homeland. He has the ability but it’s a bit early to say how he’ll develop. The recent signing of Courtois may suggest the Chelsea coaching staff don’t share my optimism but only time will tell. He has a disastrous loan at Vitesse last season, warming the bench all year long and not making a single appearance. He will never have a better mentor than Cech and let’s hope he pushes on over the next few years.

Rating 5/10

Jamal Blackman:

Jamal is a very tall and athletic keeper who has just completed his first year with the academy. The 6foot5 stopper is currently on tour in Asia with the first team and even played for almost twenty minutes against the Thailand All Stars. He impressed me last season when promoted to the reserves but is still a long way off a first team spot. Might not be a Chelsea future star but certainly will make a career for himself in the game.

Rating: 3.5/10

Thibaut Courtois:

Chelsea’s newest signing is fresh off the back of winning the Belgian league and the Belgian player of the year. He is a very tall and hugely agile keeper who is touted to be an absolute star in a couple of years. He will spend next season on loan in La Liga with Atletico Madrid, a huge step up for him. It will be interesting to see how he fares. Certainly one for the future and will have Petr cech looking over his shoulder within two or three years. If reports and ‘experts’ are to be believed, we have a gem on our hands. Belgian Football expert John Chapman (@BelgoFoot) even went so far as to say that he is the signing of the century so far. Lets hope he’s not far off the mark.

Rating: 7/10

All in all we are in good shape in the position. Along with having one of the world’s best goalkeepers, we have depth and we have a bright future. All ratings I have given are indicative of their current ability and may increase over time.

Overall Rating of Goalkeeper Position: 7.5/10

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Keep an eye out for the upcoming Chelsea Squad Assessment Defender edition.

Agree/disagree? Leave a comment and vote in the poll below.

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Article by Derek O’Rourke

Follow me on Twitter @fattyfoulke