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8 June 2009 - 14 June 2009

13 June 2009

Chelsea squad review 08/09: Part I

For all the talk of finances, managers and formations, football basically boils down to eleven men (uniformly dressed in a shade you'd never choose to wear in public) frantically shuffling a ball towards a net suspended between two posts and a bar.  The quality of these eleven players determines how frantically and with what frequency the ball is shuffled over the line.

Long-winded way of saying that football is about players.  So, as part of the series of posts looking back at the 08/09 season, here's the first part of bridgeviews' squad review - a focus on the defence.

Man Utd's impressive new record for most consecutive clean sheets, and the subsequent Van der Saar love-in, contrived to deflect from the fact that Chelsea's defence was the joint-best in the league.

Chelsea's defence was blighted by injury for the third season in a row, depriving us of any consistency at the back, and making the number of goals conceded all the more impressive.  The season also saw the sad departure of Wayne Bridge, the renaissance of Ashley Cole, and the emergence of Alex, alongside different but equally impressive contributions from Bosingwa and Ivanovic.  Terry, who has set such high standards, had his best season since Chelsea last won the league. 

Here's a brief look at each player in turn.

Cech: consistently high performer, a mid to late season blip caused undue scrutiny of his form.  It's difficult to imagine a signing Chelsea could make that would put his place in the side under threat.

Cole: best season in blue by a margin, defensively excellent and back to his attacking best under both Scolari and Hiddink.  With Wayne Bridge's departure his upcoming contract extension becomes all the more important.

John-terry-300x400 Terry: some question marks were raised about Terry's performances last season as he lost some of the composure that had made him one of the best in the world.  Back to his combative best, a handful of his performances single-handedly kept Chelsea in games that we might have otherwise have lost.

Alex: while sometimes guilty of suspect judgement, Alex has been the biggest surprise in the defence this season.  Excellent in the air, a wicked shot, and his reading of the game is much improved.  A good bet to be first choice as Terry's partner in 09/10.

Carvalho: undoubted quality - on his day the best defender at the club.  Injuries have severely blighted his season however, and when coupled with Alex's improvement he must be a candidate for the transfer list.

Bosingwa: such a shame the second half of his season didn't match the first.  Excellent attacking performances dwindled, but he still made an important contribution.  Defensively suspect at times, he's got a lot to learn in the Premier League, but it's only his first season...

Ivanovic: haven't seen much of the Serb, but his performances at right-back against Liverpool in the Champions League proved he has more than enough quality to remain an important squad player.  Versatility is a major asset.

Question marks for next season: a place in the squad for Belletti and Ferreira? Chelsea seem to be collecting right-backs and younger players need to be given an opportunity above ageing third string players.  Sad to see both leave, especially with Belletti's goals this season.  Cash in?

Look out for: Mancienne to make more appearances next season.  Could he be the next Chelsea youngster to make it through the ranks?

What do you think?  Post a comment.

12 June 2009

Top five disappointments of 08/09

Hot on the heels of Monday's top five moments of Chelsea's 08/09 season (take a look at that list here), it's time to briefly abandon positivity. Here's bridgeviews' top five disappointments of 08/09.

5) The unbeaten home record coming to an end

Richardheathcotegetty460All records come to an end, but at times during Chelsea's 86 game unbeaten run it felt almost impossible that we'd lose at home. Of course, the first defeat in four seasons of football would have to come against Liverpool - and a deflected goal at that - but the performance itself probably didn't warrant a loss.

4) Tickets

It promised so much. Back in June 2008, season ticket holders received a shiny new card in the post, complete with the technology for fans to scan their own card to get through the turnstiles. The big hope was that there was now a chance more time might be spent watching the game than queing to get through the three tiny gates at the centre of the Matthew Harding Lower. Net result: longer queues, more staff to get fans through turnstiles. Nice one Chels.

3) Michael Essien and Joe Cole's injuries

Article-0-030F1E61000005DC-489_468x343A lot has been said about Essien's injury - which saw him miss most of the season - and rightly so. On his return he scored two goals, one in each of his first two games, and his energy and dynamism was a pivotal part of the side's rejuvenation under Hiddink. Less is said about Joe Cole's injury however, but I would argue that his availability would have been just as vital as the Ghanain's in the closing months of the season. It's not just about Joe's quality - he also brings something to the side that was otherwise lacking: a different ball, run or trick to add another dimension to the side's play. With both Essien and Cole fit for longer periods, the premiership could have looked very different.

2) Man Utd 3 Chelsea 0

Chelsea hadn't played well for a while, but going into the game there was a realistic hope that our players were good enough to potentially pull off a win that could inspire a renewal of the club's title challenge. Unfortunately, Scolari's side put on one of their worst performances of the season, and Chelsea stumbled to a humiliating three nil loss with a limp display.

1) Ovrebo

Tom-Henning-Ovrebo_1401859cI could talk about that Iniesta goal, which is undoubtedly the most heart-breaking moment in football I can remember in recent years. But I'd rather focus on the referee himself, whose performance was so shambolic it caused pandemonium both on the pitch and in the stands after the game. Potentially even more disappointing is UEFA's refusal once again to hold a referee publically accountable for their errors. Strangely quiet on that one, Plantini...

11 June 2009

What does Ronaldo going to Madrid mean for Chelsea?

As I sit in front of my tv watching South Africa take us apart in the cricket, I've begun to wonder about the effect that the sale of Ronaldo (assuming it goes ahead) will have on the rest of the league.  There's been a lot of chat about the impact on United, but it's pretty obvious that this is going to effect the rest of us as well.

Impact on Chelsea's chances in the league:
The Good:  Ronaldo leaving makes Utd a worse side.  In the 08/09 season he scored in the League, Cup and FA Cup at a staggering rate of more than one every two games.  Not such a great record in the Champions League, but four goals in 12 games is hardly disappointing.  And we all know the previous season was even better: he scored 31 goals in just 34 League appearances, and eight goals in 11 games in Europe.  This is a man who will be missed.  Replacing that many goals (not to mention those he creates) is going to be hugely difficult.  Beyond that Ronaldo is a remarkably versatile player to have in your squad - he can play upfront and on either wing. 
The Bad: Ronaldo just
wasn't interested in playing for United any more.  And as Sir Alex has done so many times before, they're going to cash in at exactly the right time, and fill the transfer kitty for probably the next couple of seasons.  Just think of who you could buy for £80M.  Drogba, Anelka, Essien, Cech for instance.  Or, as one newspaper suggested, you could probably get yourself a 55,000 seater training ground in the north-east of England.  The cash is certainly going to help them shore up a couple of weak spots.
Result:  We're going to have to wait to see how this plays out.  For now it's a score-draw.

Impact on Chelsea's chances in the Champions League:
The Good: If United do end up a weaker side that obviously works in our favour, and Barcelona having to concentrate on the League at least occassionally is probably not bad news either.
The Bad:  To state the obvious, Chelsea (and every other side in the Champions League) is going to be facing a significantly improved Real Madrid next season.  We're going to have to see whether they stay true to form and neglect their defence, but no doubt they're going to get goals, and plenty of them.  Jose's going to start working his magic on Inter at some point too.  Good for the Champions League (and no doubt Platini will be thrilled that it's a proper club spending stupid money as opposed to unwanted upstarts like us), but it's gonna get a lot tougher for us to crack this nut
Result:  Uh-oh.  Definitely bad news.

Impact on the transfer market:
The Good:  Difficult to find a single reason for this move to go down as good.  Maybe (surely...) it runs down some of Madrid's cash.  Looking at the Premier League, the transfer might be good news if Utd spend the cash in England.  There are lots of clubs who could use the money if Utd identify one of their players as the next big thing.  Not sure
how likely this is though, at the moment it looks like the money's much more likely to end up at Bayern Munich or Valencia. 
The Bad:  Where do I start?  Madrid are massively inflating prices this season.  Kaka's worth £56M?  Ronaldo's worth £80M?  Well in that case Ribery's worth £65M.  Any wonder we can't afford him?  They're totally pricing us out of the market for players that in the last couple of years (if Roman had wanted to splash the cash) we might have been able to entice.  Then there's the fact that United are now cash rich.  And with the last three Premier League titles and a Champions League trophy from 2008, they've got the pulling power too (unlike their cash-rich neighbours).  As I mentioned earlier, rumour has it that they're now chasing Ribery.  Can we compete?
Result:  Almost as bad as being an Andorran defender...

Inimitable Ronaldo
All in all, not sure this is looking like good news for us.  We can hope that Utd won't spend the money well (or won't spend the money at all), and that Real Madrid will play lovely attacking football every time they play, but always concede four.  But somehow it all seems a bit unlikely.  None of this has touched on the really good news though.  There's a lot we really won't miss about Ronaldo: his preening, spoilt-child imitations, play-acting, show-boating, and that ridiculous run-up for free kicks...  Funny that lots of Utd fans are saying the same thing now he's off...

Abandon 'off the shelf' approach: Chelsea's transfer policy

Robben Everyone has a view on who Chelsea should be signing - or who they will sign (check out what the papers think here). Aside from a few token names, papers and fans alike almost exclusively seem to discuss the biggest names in football - Ribery, Aguero, Villa... This time last week we were buying Kaka for £73.5m.

If Abramovich is prepared to spend the kind of money needed to secure the services of these players, then that's all well and good, and of course exciting for the fans. But an 'off the shelf' transfer policy that revolves around looking for players that are established, world names shouldn't become the norm. We unearthed Robben in 2004. Man Utd found Ronaldo the same year. Barcelona found Messi when he was in his young teens. It can be done and not at such exorbitant cost. Much as been made of Chelsea's world class youth set up (by Chelsea it must be said) but - as Mourinho complained - it hasn't yet delivered. To become sustainable it has to, and the club need to show far greater nous in the transfer market.

Mancienne The likes of Mancienne (who played and scored for England U21s on Monday), Sahar, Stoch and Katuka look promising, but in the push for honours the team hasn't been performing well enough to provide them with opportunities to play. Furthermore, the constant changing of managers over the past few years has left the club devoid of continuity and decidedly short-termist in approach, lessening the chances of these players breaking through further still.  Now rumours circulate that they are up for sale. All of this stands in stark contrast to Man Utd's purchase of Fabio and Rafael (the Brazilian twins) who have made an immediate impact in the first team at Old Trafford.

Of course, there is a balance to be struck - I'm not suggesting reverting to an Arsene Wenger-style policy of only blooding youngsters (which itself is inconsistent - compare the respective chances awarded to, say, Gibbs or Denilson over the past two or three seasons with Walcot, despite the potential of the latter). Some players of this ilk, like Kalou, have been given a chance, but Chelsea have been far less willing to take a risk on a player and have the prospect of a Nani or a Dos Santos on our hands than the rest of the so-called 'big four'.

Arnautovic This summer, Chelsea have been linked with younger, lower profile players - Sturridge and Arnautovic, for example - and perhaps this does suggest a desire to move  to redress the balance. Maybe Ancelotti will achieve success quickly enough to stay in the job and allow the club to follow a coherent transfer and youth policy. But therein lies the problem: purchasing these sorts of players presents risk, and if you set expectations sky high and won't countenance not meeting them, all risks become unnacceptable.

10 June 2009

Match Review: England 6 Andorra 0

"Who we playing again?"  Even Greavsie could beat this lot

What to say?  Always very difficult to evaluate England games against mediocre opposition.  A bundle of goals, and some pretty nice football, but ultimately a pretty meaningless performance that it's hard to draw any conclusions from.  The best part of the evening was seeing the squad members from the '66 England team pick up their medals.

Apparently there are only
11 national teams in the world worse than Andorra.  And tonight it showed.  The part-timers did their best, but frankly never got close to stopping England play, let alone stringing an attacking move together.  Half-way through the second half they'd only had 17% of the possession, a remarkable statistic in an international game.

Lampard_goal_585_571727aEngland eventually won 6-0, a scoreline that could have been even more convincing without a purposeless 20 minute period in the first half, and some wasteful finishing from Defoe in the second.  Rooney got the first, and we'll give him the benefit of the doubt by assuming he meant to head Johnson's cross into the goal.  The second was probably the best of the night: a beautifully weighted pass from Johnson through to Walcott, who pulled the ball back for Lampard to score from the edge of the box.  A second from Rooney rounded out the first half.

At half-time Defoe came on for Rooney and Young for the anonymous Stevie G.  After a long period of utterly dominant possession and wasteful finishing, the flood gates finally opened.  Defoe scored his first after being set-up by, yes - you guessed it, Glen Johnson (some sort of record surely?!).  The night was rounded up with a couple of sloppy goals - another from Defoe and one for Crouch.

A good performance, but through no fault of England, not a great game (I know, I know, some people are never satisfied).  We'll have to wait until this time next year to see what the team's really made of.

Chelsea player watch:

John Terry:  Was he even playing?  He won't have played an easier game in years.

Ashley Cole:  A nice attacking performance, particularly in the second half when supported by Young.  Later substituted for Bridge - poor Wayne, wherever he plays he's second string to Ashley.

Frank Lampard:  Good performance going forwards with a well-deserved goal.  Didn't forget his defensive duties either, tackling back on the couple of occasions it was called for.

Paul Parker: Chelsea 'shown up' by Kaka signing

Some nonsense from that paragon of footballing excellence, Paul Parker, to update you on.

Parker I stumbled across an article on Yahoo/ Eurosport online (
read it in full here) in which England legend Paul Parker (he played for Chelsea don't you know - four times) suggests that Chelsea were 'shown up' by Real Madrid's signing of Kaka.

Flexing his intellectual muscle to bring his scintilating wit to bear on an otherwise flawless article, Parker also suggests that the deal represents 'another failure in the transfer market for Chelsea, who have really struggled to make the 'fantasy' signings Roman Abramovich wanted when he bought the club'.

Strangely enough, his wizard-like use of iambic pentameter and the pathetic fallacy almost had me believing him, until he amusingly went on to say 'I think most players would rather sign for Liverpool than Chelsea'. At this point I awoke from my daze and
starting considering the number of levels on which he is entirely wrong. I settled on four:

1) Haven't we actually signed some mighty fine, top-billing players since Abramovich came to the club? Regardless of the extent of their success at Stamford Bridge, one can't argue that the likes of Shevchenko, Crespo, Ballack, Veron, Deco, Makelele - there are more - don't fall into the world class bracket. Yes, we haven't signed a Kaka, but these are 'fantasy' signings for 99.9% of football teams in the world.

2) In the same breath, Paul suggests that Chelsea don't have a hope of signing these sorts of players when up against Madrid. And he has a point - Madrid have a 50 year history of winning things, a prime location in a hot country, a 100,000 seater stadium and truckloads of cash. But if that's the case and we're not in the same league - as Paul argues - how can you also argue that we were 'shown up'? Surely if we'd have signed Kaka from under Madrid's noses then they would have been shown up, but it doesn't work the other way round. In fact, that we've signed the likes of Shevchenko and Ballack pays tribute the outstanding ability Chelsea has found to sign the biggest names in spite of its status.

3) We didn't try to sign Kaka anyway. Read the statement on the Chelsea website. Must be true.

4) Players would rather sign for Liverpool? Err...yes, that's why we were signing Ballack while they were signing Lucas. Or why we hired the services of Shevchenko while they were selling Keane and relying on N'gog (who?) at the close of last season. No top class player who isn't Spanish wants to play for Liverpool at the moment (don't tell me they wouldn't rather pick a nice club in Fulham). Don't believe me? Wait to see who the scousers sign this summer...

Parker's article is certainly nonsense. But there is something in there that is important - Chelsea do need to more generally rethink their transfer strategy, moving more towards uncovering promising talent. I'll post some thoughts on this tomorrow. In the meantime, if you see Paul Parker, don't hesistate to show him this article. I'm sure he'll be interested.

Or is it me talking nonsense? Post a comment

09 June 2009

Devil’s advocate: is Owen really such a bad signing?

Owen Now, I’m not suggesting Chelsea snap him up by any means. But Aston Villa’s recent distancing of themselves from Michael Owen’s signature throws me into confusion. Aside from the obvious, why aren’t clubs of that ilk coming in for him?

His scoring record – at all levels of the game – speaks for itself. At 204 goals from 418 appearances, he scores at one goal every two games, more than respectable for any striker. This includes 30 goals from 76 appearances at Newcastle (not far shy of one in two, and a lot of those appearances came from the bench), an underperforming team playing at the foot of the table. His England record is outstanding too – 40 goals from 89 appearances. Not to be sniffed at.

OweninjuredOf course, his injury record is the major sticking point, and a stretch of fitness problems has certainly taken the edge of his pace. But one could argue in his favour that he has successfully adapted his game from pacey forward playing on the shoulder of the last defender to more of a box player. And who knows, the extra motivation of playing for a team at the right end of the table (he hasn’t won anything for nearly six years) could potentially squeeze another few games a season out of him. Besides which, 31 appearances for each of the last two seasons consecutively is hardly abysmal– it’s as many as Robben managed for Chelsea in 04/05 and 06/07.

Finally – he’d come cheap. Even if he was on inflated weekly earnings, he’d arrive on a free transfer and awarding a short-term contract would minimise the financial risk. Plus of course, still being a big name in football, he’d sell shirts. Back in January I remember suggesting to a Chelsea-supporting friend that he’d be a good signing. Six months on, his horizons might have lowered a little but I’d be surprised if come the start of the season he’s not with a top 10 club. Villa, Everton, Fulham – step up.

Disagree? Post a comment.

The rights and wrongs of international football

Too good not to share. In the wake of Saturday’s fixture against Kazakhstan, the following appeared in yesterday’s Times (UK):

The Times 
“Is it right, in this day and age, for players to be asked to fly 3,500 miles to perform on a pitch clearly unfit for international football, in a supposedly European country where corruption is of widespread concern and the people have no choice in their head of government? But enough of the problems Kazakhstan encountered when they lost 5-1 at Wembley.”

08 June 2009

Poor stewards at Wembley put fans’ safety in jeopardy

The most exciting moment in England’s game against Kazakhstan last Saturday might well have been when an over-excited local rushed onto the pitch in the closing moments of the game. After a short, zigzagged burst for freedom, he was brought down with a thump by three rather large men in full camouflage army gear. He was dragged off and probably hasn’t been seen since.

We’ve seen similar incidences at Stamford Bridge (and other grounds around the country) in the stands. Many times over the years away supporters who have parked themselves in amongst Chelsea supporters have cheered away goals, only to find themselves escorted out of the stadium by stewards faster than you could say ‘I say, that was a bit of a foolish move old chap’.

3B46E391-D324-F291-A07B2016A59A86B5Now of course the Stamford Bridge stewards aren’t dressed in fatigues or brandishing firearms (more typically they hang around looking sheepish in luminous vests) but, like their Kazakh counterparts, they seem to know how to deal with fans that step out of line. In the case of overzealous supporters sitting in the wrong places, these stewards act in the interests of everybody’s safety.

Watching the man getting walked off the pitch via military escort on Saturday, I cast my mind back to Wembley and 25 seconds into last weekend’s FA Cup final, when Saha’s goal sent small pockets of Everton fans sitting misguidedly in the Chelsea end into raptures. Clearly any plan to keep quiet had gone out the window half an hour before as these idiots downed their seventh pint of the afternoon before making a quick dash to be in their seats in time for Abide With Me.

IMG_4834Amidst the quiet as we reeled from conceding so early, we all looked round expecting these fans to be shunted out the ground in the normal fashion. But not one steward moved. A minute later – literally a minute – still no-one had moved. One minute later, tens of Chelsea fans – now obviously having had the time to feel affronted – made their way over to these fans to make their feelings known. Punches were thrown, blood spilt and kids were crying before finally the stewards got involved.

Not being a ground that exclusively hosts one sport or team, I assume the training and job spec for stewards at Wembley are very different from what the stewards and Stamford Bridge experience. But safety of both sets of fans (don’t get me wrong, I’m not condoning the stupidity of sitting in the wrong end or indeed violence against those people) is paramount and the security staff should act more decisively. The FA – sort it out next year, please.

Top five moments of 08/09

With Ancelotti joining the club and a plethora of transfer rumours filling the back sheets last week, posts over the last few days have mostly been looking to the future.

Time to take a deep breath and take a look back over last season. The full, month-by-month, blow-by-blow bridgeviews Chelsea 08/09 season review can be read
here (settle down with a cup of tea).

In the meantime, we’re also pulling together a series of ‘top fives’. First up – the top five individual moments of Chelsea’s season. So, in reverse order:

5) Lampard’s winner against Stoke 

0,,10268~5276657,00Approaching the 89th minute at home to Stoke and still one-nil down. Plenty of fans had left and the atmosphere had turned distinctly sour. Stealing a goal back to level the scores lifted the crowd but wasn't good enough. Then up stepped Frank to slam the ball into the net for the winner. Magic. Check out our link to Phil Thompson’s reaction to the goal in our season review here.

4) Scolari sacked 

Might seem a bit mean spirited, this (and it probably is), but quite simply results and performances hadn’t been good enough. The team looked rudderless,  we were sliding down the table towards fifth position and you think Clownio’s substitutions made no sense... Even on hearing the newsit seemed sudden, but of course in hindsight we know that Abramovich got it right.

3) That quarter final

Actually, maybe it should be the 3-1 win at Anfield…or maybe it should be Lampard’s second and Chelsea’s fourth at the Bridge. Who cares? Let’s defy convention and put the whole 180 minutes down as one moment. You’ve seen the goals a thousand times before – but take a look at Thompson and Hasselbaink reacting to the second leg’s events on
Sky Sports News. We didn’t know you cared, Jimmy.

2) We want you stay… 

Football can be exciting, frustrating, heart-stopping and thrilling. But the Chelsea fans at final game of the season against Blackburn, and Hiddink’s reaction, showed that it can also occasionally be touching. Again, read more about this in our season review.

1) Lampard’s winner in the Cup final

frank-lampard-cele_1413473iAs Lampard hit the back of the net from 25 yards with his ‘weaker’ foot to put Chelsea 2-1 up in the FA Cup Final, it felt like the fans’ excitement was almost balanced out with relief. After the disappointment in the Champions League and our terrible mid-season performances in the league, lifting the FA Cup was a fantastic consolation and a great send off for Hiddink.

What moments have I missed? Frank’s genius chipped goal against Hull? Beletti’s thunderbolt against Middlesborough? The moment when Malouda decided to become a footballer, or Zola’s refusal to celebrate a West Ham goal at the bridge? Post a comment.