June 2009

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BBC Chelsea news

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25 May 2009 - 31 May 2009

31 May 2009

Ballack stays and Carlo quits

Breaking news this afternoon: Michael Ballack has signed a one year contract extension at the club. A slight surprise, this one: there’s been plenty of speculation that 08/09 might be his last year at the club. He certainly hasn’t had his best season – from my perspective he’s always looked half a yard off the pace – but I think on balance he’s worth another year. On song he’s the footballing equivalent of a Rolls Royce but, aside from his ability, I’d like to see him get another chance at winning the Champions League. For a player of his quality to have missed out on the biggest trophies in football is a travesty.


More significant, Carlo Ancelotti has left AC Milan ‘by mutual consent’. Technically I suppose he could still join another club (Real Madrid?), but I’d lay money on the journalists being proved right and him being unveiled as Chelsea manager tomorrow.


I’m no expert on Italian football, but he would seem a strange choice for a number of reasons:

  1. One Scudetto during his tenure isn’t a good enough return for a club of Milan’s stature and with the players they’ve had available – points deductions or no. Making a more effective challenge for the premiership is what the fans will prioritise next season – if not Abramovich

  2. Roman supposedly wants the team to play more attractive football. Italian teams and coaches aren’t renowned for their style and flair, and Ancelotti’s Milan have been criticised by fans this season for their negativity

  3. The importance of speaking English – does Ancelotti speak it well enough and does it matter?

  4. The comments he made in his autobiography. Leaked last week, Ancelotti's comments seem both unprofessional and misguided. Surely it's a gross misjudgement to reveal the club's negotiations with prospective managers? Worse still, he states that during discussions Roman Abramovich said the team had no character or 'identity'. How will this make the players feel? Does the boss want this in the public domain? Furthermore, no openly slate Mourinho won't help him win over the fans. Good start, Carlo. The Telegraph wrote a good overview of all these autobiography comments - you can read that article here.

Of course, he has won two European Cups – something not many others have achieved. Sure I’ll post more on the subject if and when his appointment is announced...

30 May 2009

Chelsea 2 Everton 1

FA Cup winners again! I said it would be 2-1, didn't I?! If only I'd put a bet on it...

FROM GETTY IMAGES There are going to be umpteen match reports out there but thought I'd add a few short views to the mix.

A solid, classy (if not magical), performance from Chelsea saw them past Everton this afternoon at Wembley. Saha gave us all a heart attack after 25 seconds (destroying Di Matteo's record in the process), but a superior performance from the Blues - aside from one or two five minute spells from the toffees - saw us through eventually.


Drogba equalised after twenty minutes with his first meaningful touch (he improved dramatically in the second 45), a powerful header following a pinpoint cross from Malouda, who was impressive throughout. Lampard scored the winner with a trademark shot from twenty-odd yards on 72 minutes. Probably slight question marks over Tim Howard's inability to keep the winning shot out having reached it, but certainly no complaints from all in the Chelsea end.


It could have been more, too. Anelka nearly crafted an exquisite lob following a great exchange from Cole and Lampard, and Malouda's dipping shot from thirty yards struck the underside of the bar before crossing the line, but somehow neither the referee nor linesman managed to see it. I'm sure I'll feel compelled to write more about that later...


It is fitting that Lampard's goal proved to not only be the winner, but also the team's last of the season and his 20th. Lampard was exceptional today - the one player in the midfield who consistently looked to play the more dynamic pass and take individual responsibility for prizing Everton open . Mikel's distribution seems to be improving game on game and he expertly anchored the midfield, and the left-side duo of Malouda and Cole weren't far off being the best players on the pitch. Essien toiled, and we would have liked to have seen more from him on the ball, and ideally Bosingwa will improve next season.


But it was by no means our best display of the season, but it was comfortable enough and in the end Everton didn't carry too much of a threat. In fact, 3-1 might have better represented the play. All in all though, it was the best possible way to see Guus' off - hats off to John Terry and Ray Wilkins who, during the post-match celebrations - made sure the Dutchman took the credit he deserved.


All in all, a great day out and a much-deserved trophy for the team. Well done JT, Guus and the boys.


Bridgeviews' player ratings: Cech - 6; Cole - 8; Alex - 7; Terry - 7; Bosingwa - 5; Mikel - 8; Lampard - 9; Essien - 6; Malouda - 9; Drogba - 7; Anelka - 7

Subs: Ballack - 6


Don't agree with my ratings? Post a comment.

One more goal for Frank, please

Frank Lampard was awarded the player of the year award last week, courtesy of the fans vote. In a year of uneven performances from the team, Frank has been the epitome of consistency. 


Surprisingly though, he currently sits one goal tantalisingly short of the 20 goal mark for the season - something he has achieved in each of the previous three. He looked like he was desperate to get that 20th goal in the game against Blackburn. Fingers crossed he gets it today - he deserves it.


Lampard's Chelsea record in goals:


01/02 - 7

02/03 - 8

03/04 - 15

04/05 - 19

05/06 - 20

06/07 - 21

07/08 - 20

Chelsea v. Everton: FA Cup Final preview

The sun is shining, so it must be FA Cup final day.


Chelsea-fa-cup I’ll be heading up to Wembley in a few hours to see Chelsea take on Everton as the undeniable favourites: quite the reversal, considering the shape we were in back in February. As a Chelsea fan, it’s hard not to feel like we deserve a win, especially after the disappointments of the Champions League semi final.


But Everton are a very admirable side, with good players and a great manager, and I have to say that their season’s performance probably warrants a win too. I would fully expect them to try and take advantage of our recent lack of composure when dealing with crosses and corners, and they have the players to cause trouble. Watching our 0-0 draw against them at Stamford Bridge last month, it was interesting that Moyes left the aerial presence of Fellaini out. Considering however that their place in the final of the world’s oldest cup competition was secure, he might just have been keeping the Chelsea defence from getting to accustomed to playing what he considers Everton’s greatest weapon.


So John Terry, Alex and Petr Cech will be absolutely pivotal – and aside from couple of wobbles against Sunderland the latter seems to have recovered to prove that his form in mid-April was just a blip. Cahill will be a threat, as will the wide runs of Pienaar, but a bad defensive display won’t be what costs us the FA Cup today.


If I had to identify a reason why Chelsea have failed to win a trophy so far this season it would be an all-too-regular inability to score – or score enough. Drogba has been great – but only in the latter part of the season when completely free from injury. Anelka has scored plenty, but goals have tended to dry up against weaker opposition. And aside from Frank, our other attacking players haven’t chipped in a fair share.


Chelsea struggled to score against a well-organised Everton last month. And we struggled to score against them back in December, too – although an unjust John Terry red card did rearrange our ambitions somewhat that day. We went from being comfortably the top scorers in the league in November (unheard of in the last few seasons) to be a distant second, albeit level with Utd on 68 goals. But we have the attacking players to make an impact this afternoon, and I expect that the result will hinge on how they play.


Hiddink has settled on a midfield trio of Lampard, Mikel and Essien of late and I’d bet on Ballack to miss out again today. It was telling that, in Frank’s absence against Sunderland last week, the manager turned to Beletti rather than the German in midfield. I’d expect Mikel to anchor, Essien to play a controlled game and Frank to be given the freedom to play high up the pitch in support of the front three.


As always, the power of Drogba will be essential. But I can’t help but think that, to break down a well-drilled and deep-lying defence, it will be a moment of quality that will be needed – getting Frank high up the pitch to play Drogba and Anelka in could be our most likely outlet.


Let’s see what happens. Come on you blues!


bridgeviews expected Chelsea XI: Cech, A Cole, Terry, Alex, Bosingwa, Mikel, Essien, Lampard, Malouda, Drogba, Anelka


bridgeviews predicts: Chelsea 2 Everton 1, Everton to score first 

29 May 2009

Most improved Malouda?

To use the tired cliché, Florent has somewhat had a season of two halves.


It’s strange – back in 2007 he joined Chelsea and made an immediate impact in his first competitive game against Utd in the Charity Shield. He looked a typical Mourinho signing: a bit of pace and skill, but with strength as his defining attribute. I very distinctly remember him shrugging off one or two Man Utd defenders to reach the ball first and score his first goal for the club from a tight angle. See it here.



All that proved a false dawn – the rest of the 07/08 season saw him stumble into intense mediocrity and 08/09 under Scolari was no different. As a fan he was beyond infuriating, his stubborn refusal to take responsibility, try and beat a man or even just attempt positive play made him an almost entirely redundant member of the team. By comparison, Kalou’s always positive approach meant I overlooked his limitations.

Six months on, we’re approaching a close season in which we all expected Malouda to be shown the door. But after a reversal of epic proportions it would now be more surprising to see him leave. He hasn’t shown extra skill in my book: but it’s his attitude that’s made him a better player. Now he’ll look forward rather than backwards. Now he’ll make a driving run towards the byline or take a shot at goal. A rush of goals in the last couple of months mean he’s averaged a goal every four games over the season: respectable, and something Joe Cole hasn’t achieved since 05/06. He’s a nailed-on starter for tomorrow’s cup final.


Kalou, on the other hand, has turned suddenly from a player with potential to a player who hasn’t started to deliver on that promise.


Maybe Malouda’s revitalisation is down to Guus’ coaching, and there’s a potential worry that he’s only improved as the stakes have got higher on the pitch. Regardless, for me Malouda is the Chelsea player who has improved the most over the last 12 months. Do you agree? Let me know who else might deserve the accolade…


Oh, and Florent, if you’re reading this: no offence, but think the hair through again mate. Just a suggestion.


Malouda in stats:

07/08 – 36 appearances, 3 goals

08/09 – 43 appearances, 11 goals

Yuri blue?

Breaking news from Russia suggests we've signed Yuir Zhirkhov from CSKA for $30m - a Russian tabloid seems to think it is a done deal and he'll join next week. If you can read Russian, read it here. Seem to remember him him being linked with Chelsea for a while - but is this Guus' influence?


Check him out on youtube.


Can't say I've seen him play more than once or twice, but he seems to be the kind of player we need - pace, creativity, willingness to take a man on, and the right age. His scoring record is a little suspect though. Added benefit is that apparently he can also play at left back, and as we need cover for Ashley Cole, his signing could kill two birds with one twenty-million-pound stone.


Time will tell how he does - if he joins of course. Does seem a whole lot more plausible than Ribery for £43m. If he could have half the impact of Arhsavin...

28 May 2009

One night in Rome

I can’t say last night’s result wasn’t the one I was looking for.


Well, I suppose Barca might have stuck a couple more in for good measure. Thankfully, it’s getting some pick-up in the press today (and was pointed out by Ruud and Graham on Sky last night), but what yesterday’s Champions League final really did prove wasn’t that Barcelona are the greatest team on the planet, but how great a performance Chelsea’s was in the semi-final earlier this month.


I won't deny still feeling bitter about that game, but the team and manager were criticised in some quarters for what was considered overly-negative tactics, when in reality it was a ruthlessly executed plan to stop the world’s best footballing side from playing their game.


The simple facts are that, in 90 minutes of football, Barcelona scored twice against a creaking Utd defence because Utd failed to adopt a game plan to contain them. It took Barcelona 184 minutes to score half that tally against Chelsea, by which point they were fortunate to be still in the tie after some lax finishing and some of the most baffling refereeing decisions any of us had ever seen had gone their way.


We didn’t let Barcelona play their tip-tap football and were criticised for it. But where’s the obligation? Last night, Ferguson didn’t learn from the Chelsea masterclass. I’m not actually sure what he was trying to do actually – and maybe the players didn’t either. Might explain their ‘nothing’ performance. But managers, fans of the ‘holier-than-thou’ clubs and UEFA themselves should understand that the first priority in football is winning – everything else is a bonus.


As I said, it was good to see some of the papers pick all this up, including the ever-reliable Martin Samuel (such a shame he’s writing for the Mail), who wrote this morning:


“What else was proven last night? Well, something about Guus Hiddink and Chelsea, that is for sure. Without setting foot in Rome, we now know that Hiddink was even more unfortunate than many believed to have lost over two legs to Barcelona in the semi-final. Their supremacy here simply confirmed Chelsea’s success over two legs in frustrating Barcelona and bringing the carousel to a shuddering halt.


They were never taken for a ride like United and the criticism of their negative tactics now looks even more misplaced. As United chased darting shadows across the pitch, Hiddink’s game-plan appeared smarter by the minute.”


Long live Guus - he got it right.


nb. ok, we didn't win. But if you want to relive that Essien wonder-strike you can see it here

A fresh start, a fresh blog

I have felt strangely compelled to start a blog.


Chelsea have always been one of the most talked and written about football clubs in the country, and interest in affairs at Stamford Bridge seems to have grown relentlessly since Roman’s arrival. From Sven-Goran Eriksson to Ashely Cole, from Premier League Champions to semi-final tantrums, most football fans have had something to say along the way – and that’s just the last five years.


Of course, I’m no different. Like all supporters I have strong views on football and pretty much everything ‘Chelsea’. I’m hoping to use this blog as a place to put these views to paper. Who knows what the blog might become, but I’d like to point out what the media have missed (or have chosen to miss). I’d like to write what I think the fans are really thinking, whether it be about the team, tactics or stadium, and pass judgement on breaking news. I may even pass comment on other teams from time to time.


Hell, someone may even read the thing.


It might seem a strange time to be starting a blog, seeing as the season is running down. But my guess is that we’re in for a few interesting months. FA Cup Final (I’ll be there) on Saturday. Likely a new manager next week. A squad refresh in the offing. Plenty to talk about...


Anyway – this is just the starter-for-ten post so I suppose this will do. Look forward to getting this page started. Any thoughts or views on the blog, the club or football – do post a comment!