Old Torres or New Torres? – My Account of El Niño (Part 1 of 3 – Fernando Torres, Chelsea’s Number 9!)

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We’ve said it season after season, “Torres is finally back. This is the Torres we saw at Liverpool.”

He’ll probably never read this, and I’m sure someone will tell me that. But this is an account of my experiences supporting Fernando as a Chelsea player.

He’s a likeable guy, off the pitch he hangs out with his Chelsea teammates, he’s a popular figure at Cobham, and he comes across as this really down to earth person, despite the millions of things he does with his hair.

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My confidence and faith in him has returned, and before I tell you how, why or when, I have to admit I was one who gave up on Torres and here’s why:

He arrived with this huge price-tag over his head, and he suddenly looked a different player. Formations aside, it’s impossible to change your technique overnight, but Torres no longer looked like Torres. He looked like an ‘Average Joe’ who tried too hard.

That wasn’t really my problem with him.

I felt having Drogba and Torres in the same side would hurt us. There can only be one main man, and that man was always going to be Didier.

No, my problem with him was far worse.

AVB arrived and we were all given fresh hope. “Yeah, this is who Torres needs” was the only topic of discussion when it came to Chelsea. Then we brought in Juan Mata from Spain, the nation known for possession, passing and assisting on a football pitch. “That’s who Torres needs, see, AVB knows, he knows Torres needs someone to feed him, he can’t score with crosses coming in from out wide.” This was it, this was Torres’ year. And Torres played. He played, and played, and played. And Mata fed him.

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But nothing happened.

A goal against United, a spectacular display against Swansea ending with a red card, and Torres still didn’t seem like Torres.

What was happening? Why won’t this guy score? What’s he missing?

The answers to these questions were worth £50 million each.

Having Didier at the club wasn’t a bad idea after all. He started playing. Mata started assisting. Didier starting scoring. Before we know it, it’s January 1st, we’ve qualified out of our Champions League group, we’re 3rd in the league, and everything seemed fine. Torres was on the bench, he looked like he’d been locked up in jail for a crime he hadn’t committed. Confused, lost.

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He would come on for his 10-20 minute shifts, and this geezer wouldn’t move a muscle. He suddenly went from being that toy we loved playing with most, to the toy that was missing parts and one that required one of those inconvenient oversized batteries to work.

He still didn’t bother me, if anything, it seemed like he had hit his all-time low, and what he needed was support. I still supported him when the doubts were starting to appear.

We all know what happened in 2012, it went from gloomy to glorious at the flick of a switch, Robbie Di Matteo appearing from the cloud of disappointment Villas-Boas left behind leading us to success we could only dream of having.

Torres then went into one of those patches of form which forced us to believe he was back to his best, putting in good performances in the Champions League against Benfica. Finally we were beginning to count the 1st pound of his £50 million return.

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At that point, I felt my faith in him had grown a significant amount, he started to play like he cared again.

But things were going to take a turn for the worse. Part 2 up soon.

@SahilSW6

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Jose Mourinho to Chelsea link – Why it will/won’t happen.

So we’ve seen the most part of Jose-mania lately, and to a lot of Chelsea fans’ delight, we’re seeing him linked with a return to Chelsea.

It’s always nice reading positive news when it comes to our club, and the Jose to Chelsea link is gaining weight, day by day. It’d be a logical appointment, it would make fans happy and it’d make the media even happier. He IS the world’s best manager, considering he’s lead 4 huge clubs over Europe to major success, and let’s face it, he’d walk into any job in the world, given the opportunity.

However, it’s not as simple as, “Here’s the link, this is happening”, for Jose, as we know, loves the limelight. He loves toying with the media, with senior club officials and the football world in general. He is the boss. He has everyone wrapped around his little finger.

Why it will happen:

Jose’s certain to leave Real Madrid, so sources like Guillem Balague and Pedro Pinto, who have close connections within the club, claim. Of course, if they are that certain, their names do take a blow if they’re wrong. So let’s assume they’re right for a moment.

Mourinho was quoted saying, “There will be movements in the summer. Let’s see.” Of course, if summer moves relied on quotes, Robinho would be at Chelsea, Drogba would be at AC Milan, so on and so forth. However, the fact that he’s unclear, or at least wants to show that he’s unclear, means that his job is up for a review, whether it’s being reviewed by Florentino Perez or Mourinho himself. 

One thing’s for certain, he already knows where his future lies. If he’s not at Real Madrid next season, for me, I’ve maintained that my head says PSG and my heart says Chelsea.

It was apparent after he won the Champions League in 2010, that Jose knew his next destination well in advance. He did the same at Porto, announcing that he’d be joining Chelsea, while he was still in charge of the newly crowned Champions League winners. So it’s clear that he knows his next move.

Another point he made was that his daughter will be studying in London, come September. Jose’s known to be a family man, and he’s always been where his family is. He’s had a house in London for 10 years, and he can’t stress enough how much he loves London. He’s pretty much ruled out Manchester at this point, Arsenal and Mourinho doesn’t seem like a match and Brendan Rogers is in the middle of a project with Liverpool. 

Therefore, all the signs inevitably pointed towards us, with our loose hiring and firing policy. At this point, if available, he’s the best option we would have if we needed a new manager – And we do!

Why it won’t happen:

While it is great to pick out signs and links from every possible pit, it is also possible that he’s using all this attention as a smokescreen to, anti-climatically, get what he wants at Real Madrid. 

The fact that he’s demanded all this attention throughout the season may just be a way of letting the biggest club in the world know that they’re in possession of the best manager in the world, and that they should step up and understand that he can put them back where they belong – Winning league titles, which Barcelona have gotten so used to doing in the last decade.

As a neutral, you can’t see why Jose would want to leave Madrid. He’s one of the best paid managers in the world, he gets to wake up and go to the best training facilities in the world, he gets to coach players like Cristiano Ronaldo, Xabi Alonso, Mesut Ozil, Iker Casillas, he has an unlimited transfer budget, he gets all the attention he wants now that Guardiola has departed Spain, and more importantly, now that Guardiola HAS departed Spain, he has a golden opportunity to get Real Madrid ahead of Barcelona. The only reason he hasn’t won the league this season is purely because of the nonsense that has gone on between him and a few of his players, as well as not receiving the backing of Perez and other board members.

What he clearly wants is the backing of the seniors at the club to say to the disruptive players, “Look, he is the manager. What Jose says goes, and whoever doesn’t agree with it can leave.” That’s what he’s looking for, and something we haven’t seen happen at Real over the years. 

We can even compare this to our own club, but it would be a never-ending story if I went into that now!

So for these reasons, I don’t believe he’ll move just yet.

Having listed why he will and why he won’t, it’s clear that we can’t treat this story in the same nature we treat player transfers. It’s a delicate situation for all involved, and it’d be a shame to raise hopes, just for them to be dashed to the ground.

After all this is Jose we’re talking about, the master of manipulation, and I suggest we all just wait for 2 months to see what happens. We have the FA Cup and Europa League to look forward to, as well as a potential 2nd place in the league – More than enough to look forward to till then!

Leave your comments below.

I hear Glenn Hoddle has found God, that must have been one hell of a pass – Jasper Carrott

It’s all Blueish Red…


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Seeing as we’re taking on arguably our biggest rivals from up north today, I thought it’d be interesting to draw up a mix of both teams’ greatest overall 11 since 1992, the start of the Premier League era.

Obviously not everyone will agree with it, but that’s where you get to yell at me, in the comments section below! So without much further ado, here goes.

Petr Cech

Very tough choice, but I’ve gone for Petr Cech purely because of everything he’s had to go through and still managing to be a top-class goalkeeper today. I judge goalkeepers not on the amount of clean sheets they win, but their consistency in games, and the amount of saves they make. Every goalkeeper is prone to making a few mistakes, and can go through a bad patch of form, however, Petr Cech has endured a lot more than just bad form in his career. He’s had his skull cracked, a few ankle injuries, Tal Ben Haim flykick his face resulting in stitches and muscle problems in his leg. However, he does his talking on the pitch, and has saved Chelsea time and time again for most of his 406 caps for the club. He’s commanding, athletic and extremely agile for a man standing at 6’5″. Amazing goalkeeper overall.

Gary Neville

We’ve not seen many great right-backs in our league, you could say. Hardly seen talent like Cafu, Lillian Thuram, Lahm, Sergio Ramos e.t.c. But we do have a Premier League greatest right-back, and that’d undoubtedly be Gary Neville. The player turned pundit and England National Team assistant, experienced an illustrious career at Manchester United, winning 8 Premier League titles, 3 FA Cups, 2 League Cups and 2 Champions League trophies along with 6 other trophies. He’s been in the PFA team of the year 5 times and in the Premier League Team of the Decade twice. His record speaks for itself, however Gary Neville was known for his strengths as a leader on the pitch, the cover behind David Beckham and C.Ronaldo and a scorer of just 5 goals in his 602 appearances for the club! He also made 85 appearances for England, as a youth and a senior. Clear choice for the right-back spot.

Nemanja Vidic

There definitely could’ve been other options like Jaap Stam, Carvalho, Ferdinand and Desailly, but Vidic has my vote as one half of my centre-back pairing. He’s the greatest United defender I’ve ever seen playing for the team. He’s not always been a nightmare for Chelsea to play against, I feel Drogba, and a couple of times Torres, were the only ones capable of taming the very dynamic Vidic. Excellent in the air and great on the ground, Vidic has made a name for himself in England as one of the greats. His heading abilities are second only to John Terry, however it’s the speed at which he intercepts, and overall reads a game which has made him one of the best. He’s also the captain of United, which adds ‘leadership’ to a very long list of his abilities.

John Terry

I could write a never ending book about how good this man is on the pitch. While enduring a kicking by media and non-Chelsea fans, John Terry does all of his talking on the pitch. For me personally, he’s been the Premier League’s greatest ever centre-back. An old-fashioned Terry Butcheresque defender, John Terry was never blessed with speed. What he was blessed with, however, was his ability to lead a team, perfect positional skills to make up for lack of pace, and headers that have been unreal while defending and goal-scoring. He lays his life on the line for Chelsea week in and week out, and did the same for England in all 78 of his caps. He’s scored an incredible 51 goals during his 15 years at Chelsea, a record even a certain current Chelsea centre-forward would swap for his own! Like I said, I could go on forever about JT, but he get’s a guaranteed place in the centre-back spot.

Graeme Le Saux

This is where things get a bit messy! For me personally, Graeme Le Saux beats off competition from Patrice Evra, Ashley Cole and in a very difficult face-off, Dennis Irwin. As  a left-back, or even a full-back, you have a lot of responsibility. Whether it was going forward or back defending, Le Saux made the left-back position look so elegant. He could weave in and out of a defence, attacking and stood solid while defending. He had the perfect cross on him and was overall very effective as a left-back during his 140 appearances for Chelsea and 36 caps for England.

Cristiano Ronaldo

You could argue David Beckham deserves the right-wing spot more than Ronaldo, but I honestly couldn’t bring myself to do it. Ronaldo, in my opinion the best player in the world at the moment, for reasons that have been mentioned before, and is the most complete player this decade has seen. Now at Real Madrid, Ronaldo made a name for himself at United, and what a name he made. Many called him a one-trick pony, but it was obvious that he had more than just ‘one trick’ on him. Blessed with lightening pace, extremely quick feet and a powerful shot, Ronaldo became one of the greatest players to have graced the Premier League. A typical tactic most non-United fans were afraid of was the old ‘Keep Calm and Pass To Ronaldo’. That was literally all you needed to know about the kid. Again, I can’t recall him being a terror as such to Chelsea, but he’d rip teams to shreds with his goal-scoring and goal-making ability. Like John Terry, I could go on forever talking about Ronaldo’s greatness, but his spot in my eleven is undebatable!

Frank Lampard

This is where the stats start to get pulled out. Goals. When you hear the name Frank Lampard, all you can think of is goals. A player that has been a class element from the day he signed for Chelsea, Frank Lampard has gone on to become the Premier League’s, and arguably world football’s greatest ever goal-scoring midfielder. I find myself straining to think of many who could be better than Lampard when it comes to goal-scoring midfielders. A record of 789 appearances, 239 goals and 131 assists for Swansea, West Ham and Chelsea, majority of them coming for Chelsea, it speaks for itself. Lampard has established himself as one of the most consistent players the Premier League has ever seen. He has been made captain on several occasions including 2 major finals, as well as captaining England a few times during his 94 caps for England, in which time he’s also scored 27 goals. Again, his place in the team is not up for debate!

Paul Scholes

I doubt many would disagree when it comes to Paul Scholes. At 38, Scholes is way past retiring, in fact, he’s already done it! But retiring was too mainstream for Scholes, who’s made 713 appearances for United scoring a total of 155 times. He also won 66 caps for England from 1997-2004. Since his retirement from the national team, several efforts have been made to bring him back. And why wouldn’t there be! A playmaking God in the United team, Scholes has been a thorn in most sides. Again Scholes is another player who’s honours speak volumes. 10 Premier Leagues, 3 FA Cups, 2 League Cups and 2 Champions League trophies along with 7 other trophies, Scholes was hailed as a great by a great, Zinedine Zidane. Clear choice for a midfield spot.

Ryan Giggs

932 appearances, 138 goals. Need I say more? Of course I do. Giggs shared a pitch with Raphael Varane the other night – A player that wasn’t even born when Giggs made his debut for United. That says a lot about his ability, but Giggs has established himself as English football’s greatest ever left-winger. He’s scored very important goals during his time for United and holds the record for all-time number of assists in the Premier League, 271. The stats speaks for Giggs, who hasn’t had the cleanest of records off the pitch, but like his off-field record, he’s stayed at United. Some might say he likes keeping it in the family… Apologies, it was too tempting!

Gianfranco Zola

I’m sure people will argue about this, but Zola was a true hero for Chelsea. He was the shine that we desperately needed at the time, and shine he did. He lightened up the League with some amazing skill, goals and brilliant assists. For me, in a team that weren’t quite capable of reaching the potential United or Arsenal had fulfilled, Zola was the one player that could walk into any team in the league. Standing at a mere 5’6″, Zola was known as a little master. For a player like Zola, 80 goals in 312 appearances for Chelsea doesn’t seem great, but he scored the most important ones. It was his all-round play, his amazingly tricky feet, his free-kicks and his moments of brilliance against big teams that won him the official title of Chelsea’s greatest ever player. Again, I could’ve gone with the easy option and chosen guys like Cantona, Andy Cole, Solksjaer e.t.c., but for me, Zola achieved a lot at Chelsea, and his loyalty was something that can’t be swapped for any amount of money.

Didier Drogba

I’m going to get a lot of stick for choosing 2 Chelsea centre-forwards, but I can’t imagine leaving Didier Drogba out of my greatest Chelsea-United 11. He’s done it all really, broken records, won trophies, bullied top defenders and scored amazing and extremely important goals. You can ask any United, Arsenal or Liverpool fan, Drogba was not someone that could be controlled. He’s a nuisance. His strength, and overall rawness is something the Premier League was tired of seeing. But he took it to a new level. He’d pick any centre-back in Europe, and just choose to absolutely batter them legally! He’s faced them all, and it’s obvious he wasn’t their cup of tea at all. Of course, he was prone to making the most out of tackles, I find myself straining to leave the word ‘diving’ out, but I judge a centre-forward on what they do as a centre-forward – And that is score goals and lead the front line. I could’ve gone for Cantona, who I certainly regret not having space for, but you know with Didier Drogba in your team, you were capable of achieving great things. You could pump the ball forward to him, and let him deal with it, and the outcome would result in a goal.

So yes, I know I’ve opened up a can of worms with my team, but I want to know what you think. Who would you replace, and more importantly, why?

We’ve been blessed with great talent in English football, and it’s extremely easy picking out the best, but the most difficult compressing them into a team of 11 spaces!

Have a great day, and enjoy the game,

Leave your comments here, or @DrogBOSS.

Best

S

~ “I would not be bothered if we lost every game as long as we won the league.” Mark Viduka ~

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Out With The Old…

Thorgan Hazard, younger brother of Eden, is an attacking midfielder who has represented Belgium at international level.
Thibaut Courtois is a Belgian goalkeeper currently in the midst of a loan spell at Atletico Madrid.
Sam Walker is a Gravesend-born goalkeeper currently on loan at Colchester United.
Tomas Kalas is a central defender from the Czech Republic who is currently on-loan at Vitesse Arnhem.
Billy Clifford can operate in a wide range of positions, but more often than not plays in midfield.
A tall, quick centre-back or right-back, Kenneth is a Nigerian international who has played for his country since Under-17s…
Amin Affane is a Swedish-born attacker currently on-loan at Roda JC in the Dutch top-flight.
Nathaniel Chalobah is equally adept playing in midfield or defence, he is currently on-loan at Watford.
Anjur Osmanovic hails from Bosnia and Herzegovina and is an attacking midfielder.
Ulises Davila can play either as an attacking midfielder or a forward, he is currently on-loan at Sabadell in Spain.
A tall, right-footed striker with good stamina, Jhon has recovered from a serious knee injury that kept him out for 10 months.
Patrick Bamford is an English striker currently in his first full season at the club.
Jeffrey Bruma is a Dutch central defender currently enjoying a second season on-loan at Hamburg in Germany.
Patrick van Aanholt is a Dutch left-Back, currently on-loan at Vitesse Arnhem.
  • 2 Turnbull
  • 24 Cahill
  • 26 Terry
  • 34 Bertrand
  • 12 Mikel
  • 13 Moses
  • 9 Torres

We had a below-average goalkeeper, 2 high quality centre-backs, a young left sided defence minded winger, our best defensive midfielder, our best right-winger and Torres. Less said about him, the better. Arguably, we had our best 11 on the pitch on Saturday. My personal opinion, Azpilicueta is our best right-back, while I suffer gaps in breathing when watching David Luiz in defence. Although we conceded no goals, Luiz was hardly made to work, but I’d still be much more comfortable with him in midfield than in defence.

However, that’s not the point of this article. What I wanted to express was how weak our bench looks when it comes to having game changers. From the youth players on loan (and Essien) I listed above, these are the ones I think can replace deadwood, while actually adding quality:

Thibaut Courtois, Kevin De Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku, Josh McEachran, Lucas Piazon, Nathaniel Chalobah and Patrick van Aanholt.

These are 7 players I can immediately point out that are ready to replace Turnbull, Benayoun, Marin, Lampard (If he leaves), Ferreira, Malouda and Torres at the club.

It’s not being harsh, it’s pointing out the players that have less to offer than the players I have listed out on loan.

At the club already are players like Nathan Ake, Islam Feruz, Todd Kane, who would have no problems adding strength to our first-team. Thorgan Hazard, out on loan, is a player with a lot of potential. A few seasons out on loan, hopefully to English club(s) would do him no harm.

Part of the reason the Manchester clubs have fared so well in the last few seasons is down to having game-changers. Nasri, Tevez, Dzeko, Balotelli, Hernandez and Nani are players that are able to come off the team bench and score winners. This is something London clubs have severely lacked. It’s those 2 players at winning clubs that are shown on cameras about to come on that fans and, inevitably, the fatigued players get nervous about playing against.

In Europe:

Bayern: Toni Kroos, Mario Gomez, Luiz Gustavo.

Barcelona: David Villa, Thiago Alcantara, Pedro, Cristian Tello, Alex Song.

Real Madrid: Varane, Coentrao, Varane, Kaka, Higuain, Modric, Callejon

We have game-changers at Chelsea in players like Hazard and Mata, but they are starting players, not bench starters. Youth players would have no problem starting on the bench for the first-team, and if we have the quality we need, there’s no reason to spend £50-60m on players per season. Players we have on the bench at the moment offer hardly anything, and it’s something that has let us down since we had big squads with Jose and Carlo.

Just a thought.

Best

S

~ Sir Bobby Robson (WMY) : “The first 90 minutes are the most important.” ~

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Spectacular Spectator Spectacle

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Went to my first game at the Bridge since December, on Sunday. Weddings, birthdays and mainly University work had me restricted. Finally, I decided I need to put my priorities aside for 2 hours and enjoy watching my team play at my favourite stadium of them all. Pre-game excitement had taken over my normal emotions when sitting down to watch Chelsea on telly, and I could feel what I’ve always felt before going to the Bridge – Energy.

Little did I know that this was about to be a completely different experience. We all get the pre-game jitters. And with these jitters, my brother and I arrived at Stamford Bridge, half an hour before kick-off. Something had changed though. As we walked down Kings Road, there would always be singing, kids running around, flags being waved. Store owners would scream at the top of their lungs to have a look at their Chelsea merchandise. The we’d get to the entrance, outside Marco’s, and security would always have the biggest smile and enthusiasm to help first timers around the Bridge. We’d get into the stadium, and the sight would be majestic. Green pitch, blue seats and a sense of confidence around the ground. We’d kick-off, and the songs would start. “Carefree” would ring around the Bridge, shut the away fans up and would make us look like we were in control. We’d get to half-time, we didn’t boo the team if we were losing, we’d cheer loud if we were winning. The 2nd half would begin and we’d carry out the same procedure as the first. We’d exit the ground, and immediately we’d start the songs. “Greatest team, the World have ever seen” would be among the dozen songs sung by happy fans.

Not a shade of any of this was experienced by anyone yesterday.

Granted this was an FA Cup fixture – Some may say even more reason to be merry – the experience was not a Chelsea experience. We walked down Kings Road, and fans were silent. Groups of young and old Chelsea fans walked towards the Bridge minding their own business. Shopkeepers looked fed up and would strain to welcome people into their shop. We got to the Bridge, security didn’t look interested, and it felt like they were doing first-timers a favour by directing them around the ground. We got inside, still no noise, while a fair few thousand had taken their seats. Immediately, it felt like we were out of our comfort-zone. There was a definite tension, a feeling that we could potentially lose the fixture that should’ve been put to bed over a week ago. We kicked-off, and that’s when I realised that something had definitely changed. Matthew Harding seemed to be the only stand that attempted to make any noise, that too, groups of the stand. Brentford completely outsung us, something I never thought I’d say. Yes, we’re Chelsea, so we did try our best to build a Chelsea atmosphere, but it was nothing like the atmosphere we’re used to seeing.

I took this whole experience and came to the conclusion that we are not happy fans. We didn’t win the Champions League for the right reasons, we hadn’t gotten rid of Robbie, Andre Villas-Boas, Carlo or Mourinho for the right reasons. We hadn’t appointed Avram, Scolari or Rafa for the right reasons and we’ve been forced to see people we love, depart the club. We’re now facing the prospect of losing our greatest ever player, Frank Lampard. We’ve suddenly become prone to knowing the Premier League rests in Manchester for the next few years.

Why you ask? Easy. The board.

While making a few fantastic calls on sponsorship deals, bringing in quality youth talent and generating our name in continents like Asia and North America, they’ve forgotten what really matters – The football. They’ve forgotten that in order to attract the big boys of the corporate world, we have to have an identity, something we’ve lost since Jose left us. Guus began re-building our image and Carlo polished us up. We played some of the best football in England and fans of opposing clubs showed us the respect we craved. John Terry’s case hadn’t really helped, but Chelsea carried on gaining respect from outsiders just by playing quality football. We enjoyed going to the Bridge and singing our hearts out, we loved bantering when we went away and most importantly, we created our own identity.

So, the way I see it is, we prove ourselves on the pitch, we can shut outsiders up. But the board are wholly to blame for the way we’ve played our football. They made the wrong call on Fernando Torres, they sacked 3 promising managers who could’ve provided stability to the club in Carlo, AVB and Robbie. Success isn’t achieved overnight. Our Champions League win was just a result of core players trying their best for 8 years to win it. We played good football in the Champions League, prior to what may be said. The problem is our board do not have football minded members, they are money motivated. While important, it’s not the most important. Football is. When managers are sacked we’ll still have football minded members on the board to make calls on the right appointment. If you asked me who I wanted between Rafa and Harry Redknapp, I’d say Harry all day long without a shade of doubt.

What I’d like to see: Yes, it’s all very easy to say Jose will come and solve our problems, and I for one am desperately hoping he considers coming back, purely to re-structure our system, which is severely damaged. However, I’d love for Guus Hiddink to come in and join the board, maybe as a Sporting Director, and I would also love for a manager like Marco van Basten to get the full-time job. He’s Dutch, and if the stereotype suggests anything, it’s that Dutch love promoting youth. We’ve seen what Dein’s departure has done to the Arsenal structure. There is a major gap between players and the board and Dein was that link. Similarly, Guus would be the link between the manager and the owner and board members.

It’s obviously a delicate situation that shouldn’t be treated in an aggressive and gut instinctive manner, but a little logic would go a long way for Roman. If he cared about the £1 billion injected to the club, he’d assess the advice he’s been given side by side with the amount of success we’ve achieved and deserved since Jose left. We all love the  club, undoubtedly, but there are understandably very good reasons we’re not treating each other the way we’re meant to. Everyone’s split, and we rely on players’ performances to bring us together, which hasn’t happened recently. All we can do is not give up hope, and support our team with our hearts. Like a Galatasaray fan said, “We don’t support our team, we believe in them.” I’m hoping that belief returns to every Chelsea fan, including myself.

Argentina won’t be at Euro 2000 because they’re from South America ~ Kevin Keegan

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Midfield Mayhem

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Midfield – An area where players reside in the centre of the pitch. The primary zone which can determine the direction a game is going. Interceptions, switching of play and through balls, a strong midfield is key to any team.

In recent times, we have encountered a few problems in midfield, problems that have, many would say, determined our season.

This is how our midfield has evolved, Post-Roman:

Jose Mourinho: Lampard, Essien, Geremi, John Obi Mikel, Ballack, Lass Diarra, Scott Parker, Steve Sidwell, Tiago, Makelele.

Avram Grant: Lampard, Essien, Obi Mikel, Ballack, Steve Sidwell, Makelele.

Luis Philipe Scolari/Guus Hiddink: Lampard, Essien, John Obi Mikel, Ballack, Deco, Mineiro.

Carlo Ancelotti: Lampard, Essien, Ballack, Deco, Ramires, John Obi Mikel.

Andre Villas-Boas/Roberto Di Matteo/Rafael Benitez: Lampard, Essien, Ramires, John Obi Mikel, David Luiz, Oriol Romeu, Meireles.

Chelsea were midfield bosses, during Mourinho’s reign – Tough tackling, play making, goal scoring midfielders were present in abundance. High quality covers stayed at the club during Jose’s reign. Makelele had created the ‘Maka’ position – A holding midfielder that would cover the back 4. Only a specific type of player can play in the Maka role, as it demands sensational positioning skills. While Makelele covered our defence, players like Lampard and Essien were allowed to push forward and help in attack. Suitable covers were also present – Diarra and Geremi for Makelele, Ballack, Tiago and Mikel were used as cover for Lampard and Essien. Avram took over, and the tactic was simple – Pump the ball forward to Drogba, and let him deal with it. Anelka’s arrival, however, saw us move the ball around, more than we had gotten used to seeing.

Scolari wanted to make Deco the player who was central to every attacking move. This did not happen – Instead, Lampard and Ballack carried on doing what they did best – Power themselves through and score goals. The clash of ideas between players and Scolari lead to a very limp midfield, and Scolari’s preference of Anelka over Drogba, didn’t help him much either.

In came Hiddink. Once again, Lampard and Ballack were central to Hiddink’s plans. Hiddink, while Essien was out injured, had introduced Mikel to a defensive midfield role. Mikel had been shifted all round midfield, before Hiddink came in. Hiddink saw the potential and advantages Mikel had to be a defensive midfielder – Height, strength, quick feet and quick passing. MIkel’s brilliance as a defence minded player were apparent in the Barcelona fixture at Camp Nou.

King Carlo inherited a lot of these midfielders, and added one himself – Ramires. Initially opting for a 4-4-2 diamond shape with Lampard at the top and Deco at the bottom, the formation started to slightly wear out as teams found space inside the diamond to work their way forward. Again, we shifted into a 4-3-3 with Ballack, Lampard and Mikel once again. Our 4-3-3 in 2010 saw us win our first ever League and Cup double. Ramires’ arrival saw Mikel’s presence in the team under threat. Ancelotti saw Ramires as a defence minded, box-to-box player. However this was short lived, as Carlo shifted Ramires to the right of a 4-3-3 formation where he his pace and drive was a lot more effective. Lampard and Mikel were central to Carlo’s plans in midfield, Ballack less so.

Then came a manager who’s midfield idea at Porto was to use a 4-3-3 in a different manner. Villas-Boas preferred playing a driving defensive midfielder in Freddy Guarin, while Joao Moutinho and Fernando Belluschi were the patient playmakers, relying on Hulk and Varela to make forward runs. However, our team had no players with these qualities, and Villas-Boas had to settle with using Ramires as a right-sided midfielder, Mikel as a defensive or holding midfielder and Lampard as a forward moving, goal-scoring midfielder. This was also proving to clash with his ideas, and saw our midfield extremely open, allowing oppositions to break through and go at our defence.

Roberto Di Matteo took over as interim manager, and changed the formation with immediate effect. 4-2-3-1 was his preferred formation, one he used during his managerial reign at West Bromwich Albion. This worked out to be very successful in the Champions League, however less so in the Premier League. Di Matteo shifted Ramires to the right-wing, as his pace and ability to help our right-back was highly useful. Again, this tactic only worked in Europe and not in the Premier League. Mikel and Lampard were the central figures in the midfield pivot while Meireles and Essien were very useful covers. Our formation won us the biggest prize in Europe, but saw us finish 6th in our domestic league.

This season saw Robbie use the same formation. At the start, it was apparent that using just two players in midfield saw us leak multiple goals in a similar fashion. This lead to Robbie’s sacking, and with Rafa choosing to use the same formation, we have endured further problems leaking goals, while our attack saves us, whenever they do save us.

What I’m trying to get at is simple – Numbers, and quality numbers, in midfield contribute to a winning side, and without a solid midfield, the link between defence and attack is weak. For this reason, I strongly feel we desperately need to revert to a 4-3-3, a formation that has seen us achieve most of our success. The need for quality covers is also crucial. A  manager that is given time to implement his own ideas will also give our midfield the chance to produce the goods and play in a way most teams are uncomfortable playing against, as we saw when Jose was in charge. A 4-3-3 supplies good cover for our defence, as well as allowing 2 of the 3 to drive forward and help our attack. The team I want to see us playing looks like this:

Cech

Azpilicueta Cahill JT Ashley Cole

Ramires/Lampard David Luiz Oscar

Mata         Ba     Hazard

Let me know what you’ll think about our midfield situation. If you have any thoughts about how we need to change up the midfield, I’d love to read them.

 

– “I couldn’t settle in Italy, it was like living in a foreign country.” Ian Rush. –