June 2009

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BBC Chelsea news

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15 June 2009 - 21 June 2009

21 June 2009

Chelsea squad review 08/09: Part III - the forwards

It’s pretty much clear where Chelsea’s weakness – if it can be called that – lies: in attack. After parts one and two of bridgeviews’ squad review, now it’s the turn of Drogba et al to come under the spotlight.

With remarkable consistency, Chelsea scored 64, 65 and 68 in the 06/07, 07/08 and 08/07 seasons respectively. In those three seasons Chelsea scored first 19, then 15, and then 9 goals less than the leading goal scorers. So, in terms of putting the ball in the net, it looks like we’re improving. But are we, and from what base?

Aside from the 05/06 season, when Chelsea and Arsenal both scored 72, the club haven’t been Premier League top scorers in any of the last five years. Liverpool have now outscored Chelsea for two consecutive seasons (who would have thought it?).

To compound a general lack of goals over the past three seasons (and often against the most conservative teams), Chelsea have been overly dependent on the midfield for goals. In 06/07 Drogba and Shevchenko managed 24 (38%) and the next season they contributed even less, 13 (20%). Anelka and Drogba scored 24 (35%) in 08/09. Compare that return to the 01/02 season when Hasselbaink and Gudjohnsen scored a total of 37 league goals, 56% of Chelsea’s 66. Very good players both, but consider their comparatively meagre combined transfer fee of £19m to prices paid for Drogba, Anelka and Shevchenko…

It’s far from a new problem for Chelsea, but despite trying a number of options over the past couple of seasons the club has yet to hit upon the right combination up front, keep them fit when most needed or support them adequately with forwards playing off the wings. It’s been said on this blog before, but renewing our options in that area must be the priority for this summer if we are to continue to compete.

A quick look at each of the players in turn:

Drogba – there’s a little of the angel and the demon in our Didier, and we’ve seen a little of each this season. On form he’s the world’s most powerful lone striker. When not on form however, it’s hard to overlook his petulance, oft-awful first touch and inconsistency in front of goal. Regardless of all that he is probably (along with Lampard and Terry) Chelsea’s most important player. The team is built round him: he moves on, and Chelsea will need to rip up the rulebook and start again. Scored less goals in 08/09 than we might have the right to expect, but played a major part in Chelsea’s revival in the closing months of the season.

Anelka – One of the more successful big-money striker signings of recent years, Anelka ended 08/09 as Chelsea’s first golden boot winner since Hasselbaink. Technically an excellent player, his 19 league goals is an impressive return, especially having been played out wide for large parts of the season. Whilst an important part of the squad and a player that offers something genuinely different from Drogba, some question marks do remain however. Can he play in as part of a front two with Drogba? Does he spend enough of his time in the box? Does he score enough against top opposition?

Time for Kalou to leave Kalou – I’ve always admired Salomon and defended him in debates with other fans. He chips in with a good number of goals and his attitude – both in defence and attack – is unquestionable. But my opinion is changing. Up until now he has been a good squad player that we hoped had the potential to develop into something more exciting. Unfortunately, he simply hasn’t improved enough over the last couple of seasons, and is still guilty of occasional profligacy in possession and in front of goal. His relative youth alone shouldn’t make him invulnerable and, as one of the few players in the squad who could command a £10m+ transfer fee, I’d consider cashing in to help fund a replacement.

Will be most intrigued to see – what happens with Pizarro and Shevchenko. Surely Pizarro doesn’t have it in him to return to England and be a success, but after such a strong season in Germany could Chelsea get a reasonable transfer fee for him? And where will Sheva end up? Last we heard even French clubs were turning him down. How the mighty have fallen.

Biggest disappointment
– Ben Sahar’s recent transfer to Espanyol. Another youth prospect bites the dust.

Look out for
– Di Santo. We didn’t get to see too much of our fuzzy-haired youngster this season, but he did look confident, fast and good in the air. Has scored plenty in the reserves too. Fingers crossed he’s good enough to get more time next season. 

These are my views – but what do you think? Post a comment.

19 June 2009

John Terry named Dad of the year

John Terry dad of the yearResolve, excellence in their position, courage in the face of adversity, dignity in defeat and exceptional leadership – all the qualities needed to be Chelsea and England captain. And, err…the world’s greatest Dad.

Well, this one is a surprise. John Terry has today been handed a ‘Dad of the year award’ following a public poll undertaken by daddies sauce. The Chelsea centre-half won the award having fought off a brave battle from second placed father, Peter Andre. You can get the full lowdown on the Story at the Independent’s website, here.

I guess the sight of him playing football with his kids after the Blackburn game last month really has captured the nation's imagination. Can it really be that the media are finally taking to something at Chelsea, are ready to lavish praise upon its captain, laud him as a role model for millions and, Diana like, clutch him to their hearts?

Expect the Sun headline tomorrow: “John Terry fails to win mum of the year award'”.

18 June 2009

UEFA’s attitude is the real disgrace

In response to UEFA’s ruling yesterday, I posted on how the club should seek to turn the situation to its advantage.

Drogba and OvreboThis is all a very contentious issue. For all Chelsea fans – me included – the injustice of that evening still burns bright. Drogba called Ovrebo’s performance ‘a disgrace’. It was. But turning to look at the bigger picture, the real disgrace is UEFA’s attitude in their running of the game. There has been no public admission that the referee’s performance was sub-standard and no hint that it has (or will) come under review. Which of us, in whatever walk of life, could make mistakes on that scale without serious repercussions?

UEFA is a strange, confused kind of organisation. On the one hand, it seeks to be the stern ruling body of football. Trouble with this is, they accept no accountability for their (or their referees’) actions and punish anyone who dares to criticise them – a very dictatorial style of government.

On the other hand, UEFA sees itself as the ‘protector of the game’, as embodied by the ongoing public ramblings of Platini. But much of this they get wrong. For the UEFA chief to be publically backing teams ahead of the biggest games of the season is misplaced favouritism on an epic scale. Imagine what the reaction would be if, in recent times, Gordon Brown or Barack Obama had publically discussed a private hope that a certain bank would survive the recession because it employed the people wearing the most colour co-ordinated ties and working in the mot stylish offices? Any governing body – whether of a country, profession or sport – must first and foremost be objective if it is ever to gain lasting respect. Unfortunately, and unlike politicians and their governments, there is no comeback against UEFA.

Where am I going with this? In essence, it’s a simple point: there must be parity in football. If UEFA scrutinise clubs like Chelsea for their actions, they should accept a level of scrutiny of their own. They should be an accountable body, open and willing to look at failings and challenge itself to improve. Perhaps a UEFA statement on a review of Ovrebo’s performance will be forthcoming. But I wouldn’t bet on it.

As a final point: most crucially, UEFA’s lack of accountability spits in the face of football fans. When Chelsea went out of the Champions League to that late Iniesta goal, it was after a 12 game campaign that saw Blues fans watching 18 hours of football. Supporters going to all the home games would have paid at least £300 (plus programme, food and travel costs). It is an investment of time, money and emotion that was made redundant by a single inept performance of a referee. UEFA would do well to not take that so lightly.

Have a view on this? Post a comment.

17 June 2009

UEFA’s punishment of Chelsea: is the club’s response the real issue now?

Much will be written today and tomorrow about the punishments doled out to Didier Drogba, Jose Bosingwa and Chelsea by UEFA following the second leg semi final tie against Barcelona in May.

For those that haven’t seen it yet, Drogba has been handed a six match ban (with two of those deferred for a probationary period of two years) and Bosingwa has been banned for two matches (with one of those deferred). Chelsea itself has been fined £85,000.

I suspect that journalists, commentators and fans of all clubs will be divided on whether the punishments are too severe or not severe enough. I’ll leave the intricacies of that debate to other blogs until tomorrow, but my initial reaction is that Drogba’s punishment could have been worse, Bosingwa’s is harsh and £85k is a drop in the ocean to Chelsea.

What I would like to raise briefly is a separate but related issue about Chelsea’s typical response to criticism or controversy. Whether you care about it or not, it our club has a poor external reputation - disliked by UEFA and the refereeing fraternity and seemingly lacking in admirers from other impartial football fans.

This poor reputation stems from Abramovich’s wealth, the club’s recent success, accusations of players diving, our behaviour in the transfer market and of course the antics of people like Didier Drogba. But it also comes from the club’s ‘voice’ – our official responses to developments such as which we’ve seen today – which is regularly aggressive and rarely showing sign of humility or remorse. We’ve seen it on the pitch, but off it too a poor reputation is costing the club.

Was today’s UEFA announcement an opportunity for Chelsea to start to rebuild our reputation with that organisation, to start providing reasons for Platini to embrace the club rather than shun it (as reprehensible as he is it would be useful to have him onside) and encourage them to stop including clips of Chelsea players diving as case studies on their referee training videos?

It most certainly was – and the club (or rather the club’s publicity machine) missed a trick. The statement issued on the website within twenty minutes of UEFA’s ruling merely suggested that the club is considering it’s response, nothing more. At the very least, the statement on the Chelsea adds absolutely nothing and was entirely needless. Surely anyway the club knew what to expect and could have planned it’s position ahead of time?

The game is lost, an appeal is unlikely to be successful and the reputational pay-off from an alternative response could pay dividends in the long run. Would it have hurt to have immediately reiterated our acknowledgement of some guilt over the whole affair, accepted the judgement and requested an opportunity to move on from the incident? Drogba could even offer 25% of his weekly salary for each game he misses to charity.

The result of such a response? UEFA don’t have any further ‘Chelsea headache’. The newspapers write entirely different headlines in tomorrow’s papers. Rival fans who criticised Drogba for his actions soften their view and perhaps even consider that those actions were rooted in a dire refereeing performance.

Longer term, improving our reputation could have far further reaching impact, helping us both win refereeing decisions on the pitch and fans off it. One can also imagine it would make us a more attractive club for the world’s top players to play for.

Don’t get me wrong: as a Chelsea fan I don’t actually condemn Drogba, Bosingwa or the fans’ actions that night. In the heat of the moment, a big part of me wanted Drogba to thump Ovrebo. There is a time to fight injustice, but what’s done is done, and now thoughts should turn to how we can make the best of a bad situation.

What do you think? Post a comment.

Chelsea squad review 08/09: Part II - the midfield

Following swiftly on from Saturday's first part of bridgeviews' squad review, here's a look at Chelsea's engine room: the midfield.

But has it been the engine room? Chelsea's midfield - from left to right - has for the past couple of seasons been a little bipolar: at once the team’s strongest suit and its Achilles heal.

Lampard Defensively, the central midfield is arguably second-to-none in world football - borne out by the low number of goals conceded in the league and the technical excellence displayed in stifling Barcelona for 184 minutes. It majors in controlling games, dominating possession and disrupting all-comers. In contrast however, has been its form going forward, perhaps partly due to Ballack's stuttering form, Deco's failure and Essien's injury. All-to-often it felt like Lampard was the only attack-minded player willing or able to attempt something different from the centre to try and unlock opposition defences, and free-flowing football has been rare.

Wide of the centre is a similar story. The sale of Arjen Robben and failure to sign Robinho, despite their questionable injury record and temperament respectively, have been the single most damaging developments to Chelsea's challenge for major trophies this year and last. Who can say how the season may have panned out had Malouda turned up between August 2008 and February 2009 or Joe Cole had played ten more games (Joe Cole’s injury against Southend was one of bridgeviews’ five most disappointing moments of 08/09)? Aside from perhaps Liverpool, Chelsea have the weakest wide players of any of England’s big four, and they don’t contribute enough goals. Despite Malouda’s renaissance and the return of Joe Cole for next season, the number one priority for the summer must be the signing of a creative player who can play off the wing, cross the ball, take a man on and shoot straight. Here’s a look at each of Chelsea’s midfield players 08/09 in turn.

Lampard – no real need to write anything new here: simply Chelsea’s most influential player with consistently excellent all-round performances. It’s easy to forget how close he came to signing for Inter – who can say where Chelsea would have finished if he hadn’t signed a new contract.

Essien – we almost forgot how important the Bison is to the team during his lengthy lay-off. Yes, after a 2-3 game burst of impeccable form following his return he did seem to suffer from a lack of sharpness, but his energy and dynamism is invaluable. His goal against Barcelona was worthy of winning any Champions League semi final.

Ballack – an excellent footballer who didn’t hit top form this season. Too often looked a yard short and sloppy in possession. Having signed a new one year deal, fingers crossed the big German’s form last season was more a blip than the impact of age.

Mikel – vastly underrated. At his age he has no right to play with the maturity and quality he has shown in the holding role this season. One of the best players in the squad for the first half of 08/09, his form improved again in the last month following a brief spell on the bench. His distribution could be better (not just sideways please, Obi), but towards the close of the season he started to show potential as a more distinguished passer of the ball. He was expensive, but has been one of the only young players bought by the club to have made it in recent years.

Malouda – you can read what we think of Malouda in-depth here, but suffice to say his renaissance during the latter half of the season was one of the more remarkable developments of the season. New attitude; new player – so that’s why Jose bought him. More of the same next season please, Florent.

Joe Cole – a genuinely massive loss to the side when injured against Huddersfield. A one-of-a-kind player in the squad, the variation he can add to Chelsea’s play really helps the midfield tick. Look forward to seeing him back next season.

For the transfer list – Deco. After a few good performances early in the season, he very soon descended into a period of dire form that saw him all but disappear from the Stamford Bridge scene. Look forward to seeing him play in blue and black stripes next season. Mineiro – who we perhaps saw 20 minutes from – should be shuffled off the wage bill too.

Look out for – Stoch next season. Small and quick, here’s hoping he gets more of a chance to show what he’s made of next year. Who can say if he’s good enough, but his showing against Stoke alone suggests he’s worth another shout. Apparently Katuka’s not had a bad season in the reserves either…

Disagree with any of the above? Post a comment.

Chelsea’s Premier League fixtures 09/10

Premier LeagueSo the fixture list for the 08/09 Premier League season is with us already (quite why it needed to be released so early is a bit of a mystery) and at first glance it looks like it has treated Chelsea fairly well.

Ancelotti will have the easiest start to life in English football he could have hoped for with early games against Hull, Sunderland, Burnley and Stoke punctuated only with a trip away to Fulham. Once again (and as with five of the last six seasons) our first game will be at home.

The first ‘big four’ encounter will come against our old chums Liverpool at Stamford Bridge on 3rd October, with home ties against Manchester United and Arsenal following in November. It’s worth noting that – like last year – all of our home games against our greatest rivals fall in the first half of the season. 

Christmas fixtures don’t look too challenging either, with fixtures against West Ham, Birmingham and Fulham falling on the 19th, 26th and 28th December respectively.

Three tough games against Man Utd, Liverpool and Spurs are scheduled for the last month or so of the season in what is an otherwise simple-looking run-in including games against Bolton, Stoke and Wigan.

What does all this mean? Clearly you can’t read too much into the impact of fixture timings. But the relatively straightforward start to the season is ideal for bedding in a manager new to the league. It’s also a good opportunity to start well and get our noses ahead (Man Utd play Arsenal and Man City before the end of September). 

Results against big four opposition at Stamford Bridge during 08/09 arguably cost Chelsea a title challenge. Once again these all-important games fall in the first half of the season and, coupled with a not-disastrous looking set of Christmas fixtures, we can expect to have a fairly good idea of the strength of Chelsea’s title challenge come 1 January 2010. 

Chelsea’s fixture list will be posted here soon.

16 June 2009

The case against Chelsea buying Tevez

On Sunday it was Aguero, yesterday it was Gattuso and today we’re back to Tevez. Some of this morning’s papers, most notably the Sun, seem convinced that Chelsea are now favourites to land the Argentinean following a personal call made to the forward in Buenos Aires from Carlo Ancelotti. But should Chelsea really consider splashing at least £25m on him?

My gut reaction is no – if Tevez’s purchase would be intended to improve on Joe Cole, Malouda or Kalou we’d be better off keeping the money. He is unquestionably a good player – just not a great player, which is what teams like Chelsea and Man Utd need to improve on already good sides.

The clamour from Utd fans for their club to sign him, and the media’s bemusement at Ferguson’s stubborn refusal to do so (so far), seems to have amplified his supposed worth. The kind of figures being quoted for his signature are hugely disproportionate to his ability and certainly don’t befit someone who is essentially a Utd cast-off (in a normal marketplace – not the Man City/ Real Madrid parallel universe). If Utd aren’t prepared to spend that sort of money on a player they’ve retained for two years then we shouldn’t be either. 

Furthermore, he just isn’t the type of player Chelsea need at the moment: an attack-minded terrier who doesn’t score enough goals. Chelsea need inspiration off the wing, not another grafter.  

Looking over his performance in the league last season (and yes, he did have a better 07/08) the stats support the argument that he isn’t the man to replace players already at the club. Scoring 5 goals and making 3 assists in 1,858 minutes of football equates to a goal ever 372 minutes. Malouda has a superior scoring rate, scoring once every 337 minutes, and made 4 more assists than the Argentinean. Kalou – a candidate for the transfer list having seemingly reached the limit of his abilities - has a vastly superior scoring rate, with a goal every 214 minutes, and made 1 more assist. Joe Cole, who was obviously injured for the large part of the season, had a lower scoring rate than Tevez (1 every 480 minutes) but managed double the number of assists in that time. Hell, even Shaun Wright-Phillips, who Chelsea sold for £10m because he wasn’t good enough, had a scoring rate of one 1 every 487 minutes and managed 2 more assists than Tevez.

The numbers don’t stack up. Chelsea, leave him to Man City. That’s where he belongs. And let’s hope that’s where he does end up – another side rumoured to be interested in his services would be improved by him joining. They play in red…

nb. as a final point:  Tevez scored less points in the official Premier League ‘fantasy football’ competition than Bolton’s Kevin Davies, Fulham’s woeful Bobby Zamora and Aston Villa’s Emile Heskey. Not a perfect scientific measure, but interesting nonetheless…

Disagree and want to see him in Chelsea's blue next season? Post a comment.