June 2009

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BBC Chelsea news

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1 June 2009 - 7 June 2009

06 June 2009

Kazakhstan 0 England 4

Yet another mind-blowingly entertaining England game. Yes, England did score four goals without reply. Yes, the Kazakhs did put in a fine show of harrying football in the first 45 minutes. And yes, the pitch was woeful. But it was hardly entertaining stuff, and hardly top quality. The beautiful game it was not.

The first twenty-five seconds seemed to set the tone for the first half. Kazakhstan had clearly watched last week’s FA Cup final and Glen Johnson – who will apparently be moving back to Chelsea this month – was on hand to help them in their attempt to mimic Saha’s early goal. Gifting the ball to the Kazakhstan allowed them to burst down the left, cross and shoot, only for Terry to scramble the ball clear.

Two goals from Barry and Heskey towards the end of the first half broke up what was otherwise a perfect example of unblemished turgid football. England’s passing was woeful. Frank Lampard seemed to be sitting too deep, with Gerrard and Walcott hugging the left and right touchlines respectively, and passes were forced and not finding their targets. Amidst 11 average performances, Lampard perhaps just bested the performances of his team mates with a high passing success rate and a nice touch to set up a Heskey shot that struck the post in the 29th minute.

The performance certainly did improve in the second half, when passes started to find feet and Kazakhstan started to tire. The otherwise anonymous Rooney scored a good third before Lampard scored a penalty, striking the ball high into the Kazakh net.

All-in-all – a professional performance and a good win, but serious questions need to be asked of England’s attack. Against weak opposition, the axis of Rooney, Heskey and Gerrard rarely linked up, and it was difficult to see what the plan was. This evening Heskey regularly nodded the ball away from white shirts and there was a lack of presence down the England left. In my view there isn’t enough goals in those three alone anyway (combined they scored 49 goals from 122 premier league appearances last season). Fabio needs to work out a way to make the attack click – and more frequently releasing Lampard might be one route. Against better opposition, England certainly won’t score four.

England games against weaker opposition are typically drab affairs. One wonders if Spain v. Kazakhstan would prove so tedious...

Chelsea player watch

John Terry – solid performance at the back, but did look half a yard short a couple of times in the first half. Arguably might have done better from a free header in the Kazakh box following a drifted Lampard cross to score his seventh England goal

Frank Lampard – Setanta’s man of the match. Came more into the game in the second half and was easily England’s most consistent passer of the ball. Well taken penalty for England’s fourth

Ashley Cole – sound defensive performance but often looked frustrated on the ball when going forward by a lack of options. Having an in-form Joe Cole back in the team could help get more from Cole’s attacking talents. Good strike in the box just head of the award of England’s penalty

Terry and Lampard set to start for England

Chelsea transfer gossip rumbles on today with the blues again linked with a £40m move for David Villa. Meanwhile, John Terry, Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole are the only Chelsea players likely to figure in this afternoon's England fixture against Kazakhstan (1600 BST - you can watch it on Setanta).


LampsandGerrard Famous last words, but it should be a straightforward game for England, with the Kazakhstan coach bemoaning his players' lack of fitness earlier this week claiming they were some 10-15 years behind the rest of Europe. Expect an interesting second half.


Terry - who will probably be joined in defence by Matthew Upson in the absense of Rio Ferdinand, will be playing his 52nd game for his country. Capello has recently played Lampard in a more withdrawn role for England alongside Gareth Barry to allow Steven Gerrard a more attacking position, despite Frank's marginally superior international record (15 goals from 69 appearanes to Gerrard's 15 from 72). Perhaps Fabio feels Frank has greater ability to play a more disciplined role. Ashley Cole will play his 72 game for England, and is still looking for his first goal.


Look out for my report on the Chelsea players' peformances and any other talking points later today. I'll also be making regular updates to my twitter page throughout the game - check it out here.


bridgeviews prediction: Kazakhstan 0-4 England, 0-1 at half time


Pre-match in quotes:


Capello: "Tiredness isn't an excuse. It's a long trip but we must remember that they played well in the first half at Wembley. This is the problem, not the jet-lag and the flight"


Terry: "It's going to be a difficult game. They started the game well at Wembley and made it difficult for us. BUt we find as a country that wherever we go everyone raises their game and Kazakhstan are going to be no different. We know they're going to press us early on...they key is to be organised and keep our concentration".


Kazakhstan coach Bernd Storck: "Our problem is we play like children. The players are flat on their backs. We lost four goals in 10 minutes against Belarus. I've got big trouble with three big clubs because they don't want to do what we do - regular testing, taking blood. They train hard with no rest time. It's the old Russian system"

05 June 2009

The Chelsea week that was

It might have petered out slightly, but what a week it's been at Chelsea football club. Expect more next week...

Saturday 30 May - Chelsea go behind thanks to a record-breaking Saha goal but fight back to win their fifth FA Cup. Frank Lampard scores the winning goal - his twentieth of the season. Highlights from the game can be seen here

Sunday 31 May – the plaudits roll in for Hiddink as the Dutchman leaves Chelsea. Speculation that Carlo Ancelotti will be named the new manager reaches a crescendo as it’s announced that he has left AC Milan after eight years. The club announce that Michael Ballack have signed a new contract


Monday 1 June – Carlo Ancelotti is named Chelsea manager


Tuesday 2 June – the transfer gossip starts. Chelsea are linked with a swathe of top European talent from Kaka and Pirlo through to Ribery and Villa


Wednesday 3 June – rumours fly that Chelsea have outbid Real Madrid with a massive offer of £73.5m to Milan for Kaka’s services. The club quickly moves to quash the rumour, denying they’ve ever made an offer for the player on chelseafc.com


Thursday 4 June – both John Terry and Frank Lampard are quoted discussing their excitement at the prospect of working with Ancelotti and the potential for new top-class signings


Friday 5 June - The transfer gossip dies down (Glen Johnson being the only name consistently linked with a move), Lampard suggests he’ll consider management when he retires from playing football. He and John Terry are expected to line up for England tomorrow

One Italian in England: Ancelotti lays into surly Capello

 Last week a series of quotes from the new Chelsea manager’s autobiography about his negotiations with the Abramovich hit the headlines – you can read what I thought about them here.


This morning – quite conveniently timed ahead of England’s World Cup qualifier tomorrow – more quotes from his autobiography have been plastered all over the back pages, this time about England Manager and compatriot Fabio Capello. A choice excerpt:


"Capello read games brilliantly that was his best quality. From that point of view, hats off to him. On a human level…he was surly, he didn't have a dialogue with the players, above all he didn't like to talk to us about technical issues. The discussion on certain questions was not relevant to him - it didn't exist."


An article on the Guardian website – published a week ago today, I might add - takes his quotes further, adding:


Unsurprisingly, he fell out with many players. For example, I remember Ruud Gullit pinning him up against the wall”.


Nice one, Ruud. From a Chelsea fan’s point of view, it’s interesting that Ancelotti once again talks up the importance of man-management and ‘getting on’ with players – he spoke on Chelsea TV about the importance of creating a ‘group’. Turning back to the story though: the media love to stoke up a rivalry as it sells papers. But one thing looks certain: Ancelotti will be a bit more outspoken than we thought…

04 June 2009

FA campaign launched: kick bullying out of Spurs

The web is awash with rumours that, following the success of the ‘Kick Racism Out of Football’ initiative, the FA is about to launch a new campaign targeting the elimination of all bullying at Tottenham Hotspur.


The news comes after Michael Dawson revealed that he has been on the wrong end of bullying on the White Hart Lane playground (I first read this story on the Off The Post blog). It is alleged that witty Spuds team-mates fooled recently-signed Dawson into making a presentation during a team talk ahead of a game against his old club Nottingham Forest, before laughing cruelly at him. Rumours that they also put drawing pins on his chair and called him names haven't been substantiated.


A source close to the club said: “Michael is a great sport but can’t take all this on his own – he’s only small. Just because he only gets in the team because the better players are never fit is no reason to call him names.”

Can Ancelotti emerge from Mourinho’s shadow?

I read a post on a Guardian blog recently that suggested Ancelotti ‘must’ step out from Mourinho’s shadow. It made some interesting points, but drifted somewhat to the conclusion that he stood more chance of succeeding in doing so than Grant and Scolari because he has increased backing in the transfer market from Abramovich. You can read it here.


The real, most immediate and interesting question however, is actually: should he try to?


This isn’t about whether Ancelotti will achieve the successes needed to make Chelsea fans loosen their talon-like grip on the Jose era. More pressing, is how Ancelotti will go will go about targeting success: rip up the rulebook and start again, or tinker at the edges of an already successful team? Everything starts with this question – transfers, sales, training and tactics.


Scolari tried to ‘emerge from Mourinho’s shadow’ with the new rule book approach. He adopted a more liberal style on the pitch and even his demeanour off it portrayed a more widely appealing image to non-Chelsea fans. But he failed.

Inter-coach-Jose-Mourinho-001 Conversely, Grant and then Hiddink both achieved success, but they remained within the safe confines of Jose’s tactical shadow. Hiddink achieved success through upping fitness, organising the defence, employing tighter tactics and working with players to increase the team ethic. Credit is due to Hiddink for being so successful in these respects, but these are all hallmarks of Mourinho’s Chelsea.  

We have long been told that Roman wants his Chelsea to play more flamboyant football (though of course we’ve never heard it from the horse’s mouth – perhaps he just wants to win). But to rip up the rulebook and start again in the hope of creating a new team that wins while playing differently is risky. Rumours that Drogba will sign a new contract soon seem to suggest that upheaval isn’t in the offing. The way Chelsea play, their attacking style, mentality and approach the game, largely revolves around the Ivorian’s presence in the squad. Without him, Chelsea would need to set up completely differently in midfield and attack and that might take very significant investment in new players.


In my view, the club is actually still in a very similar position now as it was two or three seasons ago: being two or three quality signings short (in the right positions) of being full-time contenders on all fronts again. Having the equivalents of a 2006 Robben and Duff in the squad would see the team take on an entirely new dimension and allow it to play differently – without disturbing the team through too much change.


The only way for Ancelotti to ‘emerge from Mourinho’s shadow’ – in the eyes of fans – will be through renewed success on the pitch. To do that though, Carlo would be best off sticking close to the shade.


Disagree and think more wholesale changes are needed? Post a comment.

How to sign Kaka in four, simple steps

1) Offer huge amounts of cash to AC Milan, Kaka's father, Kaka's Mr. 10%, his wife, brother-in-law and some bloke who works in the corner shop opposite the San Siro. And the player too? Go on then.

2) Appeal to his religious sensibilities. Perhaps get the Pope onboard? If not, stage a photoshoot at Stamford Bridge to photograph a prominent figure from the club meeting figures from the church. I don't know...some nuns perhaps.

3) Encourage the papers to say it's a done deal. If you tell a big enough lie loudly enough, it might just come true. Someone famous said something like that. Think it may have been Hitler.

4) Be Real Madrid.

03 June 2009

Pavel Nedved - he knows

Whilst I have always known what a great player Pavel Nedved is (or was), only now have I realised what a great man he is. In a world that pours scorn on the greatest number 8 in football, old Pavel has taken the time to talk about how Frank is ‘the best midfielder in the world’. Just uncovered these quotes from a couple of months back and felt obliged to post them here:


“He really is a phenomenon. For years (Frank) Lampard I think has been the best midfielder in the world. His level of consistency for club and country is amazing and he scores many important goals in the big games. We will do well to take care of him because he is often like a ghost from the midfield."


I vote we appoint him new Chief Spokesperson at Stamford Bridge. Greenberg, sign him up, Greenberg Greenberg sign him up…

Some tasty-looking friendlies next month...

Chelsea have just announced a pre-season friendly game against the mighty Reading.  Exciting times.

But what had slightly gone under the radar (for me at least) is the two tasty looking friendly fixtures against Italian opposition in July...first Inter (22nd) and then AC Milan (24th). Its almost as if they knew Carlo was coming to Stamford Bridge...

I for one am looking forward to seeing Jose back on our screens for a day or two in and around the Inter game. Tickets to the States, anyone?

Introducing the ‘Guusrate’: a statto’s paen to Hiddink

The statisticians at bridgeviews.co.uk have been frantically working at their abaci (or abacuses – we don’t want to start an etymological argument) over the past few weeks, mining the 08/09 season for figures-based trinkets.

Amidst a flurry of equations, formulae and funny-looking Greek symbols they unearthed a remarkable finding: the ‘Guusrate’. Now, it all gets very complicated from here but the guys from the numbers dept. have broken down some of their key findings for us little people.


Firstly, Chelsea under Scolari achieved a 56% win ratio, with 36 games comprising 20 wins, 10 draws (28%) and 6 losses (17%). This included 25 games in the league, of which 14 were wins (56%), 7 were draws and 4 were losses. This league record added up to 49 points in total, or 1.96 points per game.


Under Guus however, Chelsea achieved a monumental 73.9% win ratio, with 23 games made up of 17 wins, 5 draws (25%) and 1 loss (5%). Again, this included 13 league games, of which 11 were wins, 1 was a draw and 1 was a loss. 34 points in total, or 2.62 points per game.


It’s clearly a flawed measure, but for interest’s sake the boffins worked out that, if Chelsea had scored points at what they came to term the ‘Guusrate’ across the entire season, they would have finished with a record breaking 99 points (well, 99.6, technically), and won the league at a canter.


To conclude the study, the bridgeviews stattos dusted down their solar-powered Casio to take all this analysis and apply them to the two respective halves of the season. So, if one assumes that:


Scolarirate + Guusrate = fleeting hope ending in disappointment atoned for with a glorious FA Cup win

Then one can also assume that:

Guusrate + Guusrate = victory on all fronts


Scolarirate + Scolarirate = total shambles


Of course, you can take all this a bit too far (Hiddink’s reign was very short and you can’t assume results) and I’m obviously writing this post intentionally tongue-in-cheek. But the central point of course is that Hiddink’s record at the club is virtually immaculate, and the turn-around of fortunes he managed to inspire remarkable. Mourinho could only dream of an 86% win ratio in the league.


Perhaps more impressive, Hiddink took a side that couldn't buy a win against top half of the table opposition and nabbed victories against Villa, Juventus, Man City, Liverpool, Arsenal (twice), Fulham, West Ham and Everton. 


It’s mathematical nonsense, but thank you Guus – you saved our season. For heaven’s sake though, please no-one mention Ancelotti’s win ratio of 57% at Milan…

02 June 2009

Déjà vu: silly season again

Evening Standard, 13 June 2008

“Scolari, 59, who will take charge of Chelsea…has been promised a massive transfer budget by owner Roman Abramovich”

The Times, 13 June 2008

"Luiz Felipe Scolari has been presented with a list of targets by Chelsea that features Fernando Torres, Robinho and Franck Ribery. The Brazilian...will be given an unlimited transfer budget by Roman Abramovich...(who) has proposed signing Kaka and Deco"

Sunday Telegraph, 15 June 2008

“Talk of a pounds 100 million transfer budget for next season is interesting. I wonder if it includes the pounds 16 million already paid…for Jose Bosingwa”


Daily Mirror, 19 June 2008

“Owner Roman Abramovich is backing boss Scolari with an unlimited transfer budget as the Blues bid to bounce back from last season's failures in the title race and the Champions League Final”


Any of these sound familiar? Once again, this summer Chelsea are being linked with pretty much every player out there – from the sublime suggestions (Kaka, Villa) to the more ridiculous (Alonso). I would think that the chances of us signing Kaka this year are as strong as our chances of bagging Torres last – nil.


We can therefore read very little into much, if not all, of the transfer speculation that’s doing the rounds in the papers at the moment. There is one key difference this year however, and that’s the way the club itself is discussing its transfer policy publically. Last year Kenyon did talk openly about the prospect of buying Robinho (a debacle in itself), and he did pay homage to recent Chelsea mantra of adding to the squad sparingly and only if the right player becomes available. This year, the noises have been different: there has been talk of a number of players arriving to replace a similar number leaving, and the possibility of one, high value addition to the squad funded by Abramovich himself.


So suggestions that Ancelotti will have a £100m transfer budget are almost certainly wide of the mark - not that £100m would go very far with the players we're being linked with anyway. Nevertheless, we can expect the transfer speculation to rumble on until 1 September – Chelsea is just too good a story for red tops and broadsheets alike. Perhaps we should just try and enjoy it...

Just for fun, I've started to keep a list of all the papersthe papers tell us Chelsea will be buying with their £100m, and the REAL chances of them playing in blue next season. Take a look at it here.

I'll keep adding to the list, but post a comment if there's any transfer gossip I've missed.

We’re in the league too, Carlo

I’m steadfastly reserving judgement on Mr. Ancelotti. Or rather I’m trying.


Over the past few weeks as the rumours about him joining Chelsea have intensified, I’ve found it hard to overlook his poor domestic record or his one-dimensional experience (where he clearly suffers in comparison with, say, Hiddink).

But I have to say that as a supporter of the club I find the focus he has placed on the Champions League in all his interviews to date a little disconcerting. During his interview on Chelsea TV – the transcript can now be read at chelseafc.com - he barely registers the existence of the league, rather waxing lyrical about the ‘beauty’ of the Champions League.

I fully understand Abramovich’s supposed desire to win Europe’s premier cup competition, and lord knows it would be great to put the disappointments of the last five years to rest by lifting the thing. But I would suggest that the team’s first priority should be to tackle winning the league head on, not least because winning the Champions League relies not only on ability but also on luck.


It is interesting that, in complete contrast to his new manager, John Terry’s end of season message to the fans doesn’t even mention the club’s prospects in Europe next season. Instead, he focuses purely on third place not being good enough, placing emphasis on improving that next season. And I think the fans agree with him.


Who's right - Ancelotti, or Terry? Let me know, post a comment

How many Evra's does it take to change a lightbulb?

Well, none...as it happens, according to some amusing revelations from the misfiring Manchester Utd left back this morning printed in that great bastion of journalism, the Daily Mirror.


Apparently he calls out the Player Liaison Manager, Barry Moorhouse, whenever there is an emergency – for instance a lightbulb needing changing – any hour of day or night.


Poor Barry.


01 June 2009

Carlo confirmed

So, as we all expected, Carlo Ancelotti is the new manager.


There will be plenty written about his appointment across the board, and I'll add my humble thoughts to the mix, but in the meantime, check out this video interview with the new manager that was posted on the Chelsea website in the last ten minutes here.


Those web editors and cameramen must have had a busy evening/ morning...


Fingers crossed this is the man who can kick-start a new period of success for the club.