Wednesday, February 24, 2016

What's next?

What's next?

    Last week it was Allegri, yesterday it was Simeone, today it's Conte and tomorrow it's Sampaoli with a hint of Pochettino. The race to manage Chelsea Football Club seems to have gathered momentum. I have a perfect solution. The club invites the five men into Cobham HQ and sets out challenges to test the character of these five masterminds. The one who wins must have the key to unlocking Eden Hazard.

   Dear oh dear.  

   I made a somewhat foolish bet with a friend of mine, which stated, that Eden Hazard will score in either of the PSG games. Substituted after 58 minutes for Oscar in the first leg, was not in my plans. Roll back the clock twelve months ago and Eden Hazard was tearing teams apart. A great mystery of the declining Eden Hazard. Having said this, he did score a beautiful goal against Man City, curling a free kick into the bottom right-hand corner, a little reminiscent of Frank Lampard's goal against Tottenham in the 2012 semi-final of the Fa Cup.

   In terms of the manager front, Italy national coach, Antonio Conte seems to be the front runner for now. Having stated that he will step down from his national duties after Euro 2016, Conte will be free to find a job elsewhere. Chelsea, want to announce the manager in March, allowing them preparation ahead of the summer transfer window and a settling down period.

   I think most of the Chelsea faithful, see Diego Simeone as the ideal replacement for Jose Mourinho. However, the Argentinian seems to have found a home at the Vicente Calderon. There will need to be a lot of convincing involved to lure him away from Spain.

   As for second choice, Antonio Conte has my vote. The Italian revolutionised a lacklustre Juventus side, transforming them into a formidable force, which had bite, panache and adaptability in different situations. In his three seasons in charge of Juventus, he won the Serie A title, thrice. His feat in the Champions League however, is somewhat worse, only reaching the quarter-finals on one occasion. This would need to be improved as Mr Abramovich does not hold out for long. Never the less, Conte seems to have the edge on other managers. Allegri and Pochettino, like Simeone have contracts with clubs and that would mean paying compensation fees, Sampaoli, although in the frame, is a big risk, having never managed in Europe. I personally, would be hesitant to employ a manager with no experience in the top flight.

   In terms of summer arrivals, a combative centre midfielder is needed to replace Ramires, who recently departed to China. Radja Nainggolan, Arturo Vidal and Blaise Matuidi are the names being linked. Any of three would be perfect to shore up a deflated midfield, which has lacked their defensive abilities of last season.

   Other areas of strengthening would need to need to be looked into, after the imminent departures of the few, who only crave Champions League football.  

   A bright spark, that I would be grateful to see get opportunities next season at Stamford Bridge, is Charley Musonda Jr. The on-loan Real Betis midfielder has been in good form for his current side and would provide much needed competition for the attacking midfielder role.

   However, this is all planning for next season, there is still three months to go in this campaign...and Chelsea could still end the season with a trophy!

Top left: Simeone  Top right: Conte
Bottom left: Sampaoli Bottom right: Allegri

Thursday, December 17, 2015

A dark day

                                                       A dark day 

   Here we have it. Jose Mourinho has today (Thursday 17th December 2015) been kicked out once again. Music to every non-Chelsea fan. Arsene Wenger is dancing, Branislav Ivanovic is crying and the Chelsea fans cover their eyes in horror once more. Let us raise a glass for more years of insecurity, doubt and spineless uncertainty. Waving goodbye to a man who led Chelsea to the Premier League title on seven months ago. Disgraceful Chelsea Football Club.

  It was evident Jose Mourinho had lost his spark at the beginning of this campaign. From the first game, Chelsea were a shadow of themselves from last season. In fact, in January 2015, Chelsea showed signs of fatigue, disinterest and a lack of penetration in the final third. What did the board do in the summer? Sign a man who used to be incredible in 2012. No, the board did not re-sign Torres. Radamel Falcao was the player to be brought in to replace club legend Didier Drogba. I'll let you in to a little secret, it was not worth the hassle. I look at FC Barcelona who, even with winning La Liga, Copa Del Ray and the Champions League and despite their transfer ban, still sign two players who will add quality, strength in depth and stability to an already exhilarating team.

   I question the board, who in the summer of 2014, got their business completed in super quick time. However, in 2015, left it till the last minute to pursue Jon Stones and ended up with Papy Djilobodji aged 27, plying his trade Nantes. Frankly the teams linked to the player were Championship side Fulham, Premier League survivors Sunderland and Turkish giants Besiktas. With all due respect to the three clubs mentioned, Chelsea Football Club have to be searching for young, exciting and upcoming talent. Marquinhos of PSG and Laporte of Atletico Bilbao were also mentioned.

   The sale of Andre Schurrle to Wolfsburg, played a role in the decline of the football club. The German, who would be predominantly used as a substitute,  was an exciting and ever present figure, who would capture the imagination of the Chelsea faithful. His replacement, Juan Cuadrado, looked like Bambi-on-ice, with a Chelsea shirt, dancing around, trying to dodge flying centre halves like Ryan Shawcross from breaking his small frame. Unsurprisingly, the Colombian Cuadrado was shown the exit door, albeit on loan, and back to his favoured Italy, this time with Juventus.

Onto the next one.

   It is a bright summer morning in the Mourinho household. The sun is shining, the birds are tweeting  and the Chelsea choir are loud and clear. Jose walks to the fridge and sees a note on the door. ''Reminder, Andre Schurrle still needs replacing'' it says. Of course he thinks to himself, a fast player, who is down the pecking order. Strongly linked with Manchester United, it has to be Pedro Rodriguez. In steps the little Spaniard, all smiles as he arrives in Cobham and then Stamford Bridge to seal the deal. I am yet to be convinced by a 28 year old Spaniard, who I don't believe is an upgrade from Chelsea-favourite Andre Schurrle. Dear o dear.

What next you ask?

   My opinion, bring in stability. Inevitably, the great assumption will be, Chelsea will look for yet another interim manager in the short-term, till the end of the season and then search for a world-beater. Guus Hiddink short term replacement? Where else is there to go? As for the long term, Diego Simeone is the solution to this ever-present problem. The man has long-term aspirations as opposed to Pep Guardiola, who enjoys signing one-year contracts and extending them if necessary. Rumours circulate, he will not extend his stay at Bayern Munich. Which rich-kid will throw more money to the baby sitter? The kid in North in light blue? His next door neighbour in red? Or will it be the boy who wears navy blue and lives in the capital?

Goodbye Special One.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Stick or twist?

Stick or twist?

    Various media outlets have touted Jose Mourinho to be relieved of his duties if a loss to Liverpool (in the early lunchtime game) occurs. Personally, I think this is the wrong attitude to have to a man who guided Chelsea Football Club to the Premier League title and Capital One Cup success last season.    

   Whenever somebody questions my thoughts on Mourinho and whether he should be sacked, I always give the same answer. Sir Alex Ferguson, almost was sacked by Manchester United for his run of form early in his reign. In terms of a football manager, how is he regarded witin the footballing community? Their reply, speechless. 

  The same goes for 'The Special One.' I fail to find a manager who had mediocre sides, and turned them into world beaters. Before the name of Pep Guardiola is mentioned, at FC Barcelona, he had, in their prime, Lionel Messi, Andreas Iniesta, Xavi, Carlos Puyol and so on. Arguably at FC Bayern Munchen, in terms of the Champions League, the team has fallen. Finalists in 2012 and winners in 2013, Pep Guardiola has only managed to get his German giants to the semi-final spot in the past two seasons.

   Back onto 'The Special One.' I have a theory. Although outlandish and strange one, there is a possibility this could be true. Since his rise to world football in 2004, Jose Mourinho has not stayed at a football club for more than three years. Does he think other managers understand his approach, analyse his methods and deploy tactics to outshine him? Mourinho's second year has always been crucial, winning the domestic league. The third season, he either suffers a dip in form or leaves before the season begins. I think he knows the third season at a football club for him is crucial. My theory is that he pushes the players in season two of his reign, to the absolute maximum. Working the players until all they think about is... success. He tells them ''give me 100% this season and next season, I will take the pressure, I will face the media and the critics.'' I repeat, this is just a theory and I have no inside information from the football club. I am almost adamant Chelsea representatives have watched Mourinho closesly and have seen the third season remains a mystery. 

    In terms of the game on Tuesday, Chelsea face a tricky way fixture at Stoke. This rough patch has ruined moods across the country. The fans need to taste victory. Mourinho should go to basics and deploy simplsitic tactics rather than try to 'outskill' or 'outshine' any stars. I would rather win ugly, than lose trying to outfox Xherdan Shakiri. The question remains, can they do it on a cold Tuesday night at Stoke?

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Follow the leader

Follow the leader

   I had a dream. More of a nightmare than a dream. Jose Mourinho would be sacked after some abysmal performances by the Blues. The Special One attempt II, was over. This unconscious thought is becoming more and more of a reality if Chelsea do not turn on the engine and start climbing the Premier League table. How many more games, will the man upstairs allow Jose Mourinho to have, before the Portuguese tactician's head is hanging on a stick? My answer can be counted on one hand.

   This enables me to proceed to the player's performance. With the exemptions of Asmir Begovic, Cesar Azpilicueta, Willian and possibly Kurt Zouma, can the real Chelsea FC, please stand up?  Two months have now passed into the new season and the SW6 side are currently languishing in a mere 14th position in the Premier League. I admired the determination in the 79th minute to gain a point in the fixture however, I saw nothing of note prior to the last ten minutes, to even attempt to score. Strange how football can turn with the click of one's fingers. 

   Players such as Eden Hazard, Pedro Rodriguez, Nemanja Matic and Cesc Fabregas really must find another gear otherwise, I see a lovely seat with their names inscribed on the bench.  However, a player who has been getting so much criticism, and still finds his name on the team sheet is vice-captain Branislav Ivanovic. Time and time again, and most notably, the defeat in the Champions League to FC Porto, in mid-week, at the Estadio do Dragao (Dragon's Stadium in Portugal) Ivanovic was caught napping and allowed Yacine Brahimi to cut inside time and time again. The out-of-form Serb surely this time round, must must MUST find his name on the bench. In this current moment in time, I fail to see any positives in the Serbian. 

   The next game is on Saturday 2nd October 2015 against Southampton at home, 5:30 pm UK time  and it is surely time, for Mourinho to bring in the highly rated Baba Rahman to left back, allowing Cesar Azpilicueta to move to his favoured right position. The former, rated one of the best fullbacks in the Bundesliga last term, has barely had any playing time for the Blues. This will surely test him against the pace of Southampton. The last two games ending in 1-1 draw, this time however, I hope Chelsea manage to grind out a win and get the season in the right direction. 


Wednesday, September 16, 2015

All change please, all change

All change please, all change 

   With an upsetting 3-1 loss to Everton in the early kick off at the weekend, Chelsea FC look to rubber stamp their normal selves on the European stage. With both English clubs losing 2-1 last night, the Blues hope to announce themselves on the big stage. Maccabi Tel Aviv, already playing 6 Champions League games to reach the group stages, knocking out FC Basel in the last round, will surely fancy piling more misery on the wounded English side. 

   Eran Zahavi, their star man (who is a midfielder) has already scored 7 goals and 2 assists in 5 appearances, will likely cause trouble for the West London club. He has scored 5 goals in his last 3 Champions League games. Food for thought for Mourinho as he must look for ways to kee Zahavi at arms length at all times. A goal scoring midfielder, I wonder if the Blues fans still remember that type of player.

   Rotation is needed more than ever to ensure Chelsea get a positive result on Match Day 1. Time and time again this season, Branislav Ivanovic has been slaughtered for his lack of defending. Never have I witnessed such a rapid decline in a star performer of last season. The powerful Serb misses cutting edge, power and wit to unease his opponents. The relegation to the bench is unavoidable for the right back. In his place, comes the ever hungry, Cesar 'Dave' Azpilicueta. Deployed at LB (left back) for the majority of the Mourinho era, Spaniard Azpilicueta, hopes to move to his favoured position of right back and therefore Baba Rahman, a summer arrival, is given the chance at left back.

   Now this maybe a little unfancied by the Chelsea fans but rumour has it, Mourinho is set to axe Nemanja Matic in favour of Ruben Loftus-Cheek. I'd rather see a Matic-RLC pivot than one in for the other. With a huge game and bragging rights coming up on the weekend against Arsenal, I would like to see a strong wall to protect a vulnerable back four. Furthermore, I feel like Nemanja Matic, had a good game against Everton, took his goal very nicely and wanted to motivate his team mates, unlike Fabregas, who is well out of form. This time last year, he already bagged 6 assists, this time round however, he has none. Awful. With Oscar and Pedro out injured, I would fancy a Kenedy-Hazard-Willian attacking midfield with Fabregas, again, relegated to the bench.

   Another rumour circulating is that Gary Cahill will come into the side and deputise for the club captain John Terry. Maybe a rest for the latter, thinking of the game ahead against Arsenal perhaps.

   Lastly, Diego Costa has been nothing shy of woeful this campaign. Certainly a domino effect. If he can't get the ball, he won't score. Fabregas, the main assister to Costa's 20 goals last season, has not found the striker once. Therefore, Costa could well be watching the game from the bench as Loic Remy, who is yet to play this season, is given a run out. Finally, some pace and movement to trouble a team. Radamel Falcao is out with a small injury and should be back in time for the early kick off against Arsenal on Saturday.

 The West London side really need to begin clicking otherwise, Mr Mourinho's job could be under scrutiny. 

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

A distraction or a shining light?

A distraction or a shining light? 

The international break. A sickening thought in a life of a football fan. Very rare, do I find a supporter, who enjoys the words 'international' and 'break' in the same sentence. However, it is a timely distraction from the chaos that is happening with Chelsea football club.

   Week one began with calamitous defending against Swansea City, which ended in a fortunate draw at the Bridge. Thibaut Courtois was sent off as Willian was caught napping, allowing Bafetimbi Gomis to sneak in one on one. The big Belgian had no other option but to try and win the ball with his feet, which he didn't, resulting in him having an early bath. Although, the controversy didn't stop there. Deep into injury time, with the score two-a-piece, Eden Hazard is fouled and looking for medical attention. Naturally, the Chelsea medics are rushed onto the field. Strangely, this angers Mourinho. Why you ask? Good question. With Chelsea already down to 10 men and Eden Hazard gaining treatment on the sidelines, Chelsea are now 2 men down. Fortunately for the Blue supporters, Swansea were not able to capitalise. The game ended two-all. Chelsea medics banned for the foreseeable future of attending football matches. Ridiculous.

   Week two ended Chelsea's unbeaten run of one match. With Thibaut Courtois suspended, up stepped new signing Asmir Begovic. The Bosnian, making his first competitive debut, ensured star striker Sergio Aguero, was only limited to one goal. Matters got worse at half-time as the heart of Chelsea's back line, John Terry, who was never substituted by Jose Mourinho prior to the trip to the Etihad, was relegated to the bench. In stepped inexperienced yet huge potential, Kurt Zouma. Did he manage to nullify the team from Manchester? No. The game ended 3-0 to the hosts. Chelsea football team look a mess.
    Week three. New signing Pedro Rodriguez, pinched from the noses of Manchester red, was making his first debut for Chelsea. He was rightly awarded man of the match as Chelsea hung onto three precious points. With John Terry sent off, early in the second half, after losing out in a foot race with Salmon Rondon, sure put the cat amongst the pigeons. West Brom, 3-1 down at this point, even manage to get a goal back to ensure there are still troubles for Chelsea. The game eventually finishing 3-2.

   Week four. Jose Mourinho suffers only his second home defeat in 100 games as Chelsea tumble to a 2-1 loss at Stamford Bridge. Dear oh dear. Chelsea dominated possession in the first half but were unable to capitalise and ultimately, it was Palace who took the lead, early into the second half. As time ticked, Chelsea got a goal back thanks to loanee Radamel Falcao. His first goal in Chelsea colours. However, as I was celebrating, it was Palace who regained the lead, thanks to absent defending from Chelsea and that was that.

   Am I relived there is an international break before a tricky test at Goodison Park? Or will we fall to a second defeat in a row?

   I am relieved. It gives an opportunity for Jose Mourinho to have more time to plan for this tough test. Everton are no push overs and I have faith the Portuguese tactician gets it right. Last year, Chelsea beat Everton 6-3 at Goodison Park, arguably the best game of the season.

   In order to get a positive result, I feel players such as Branislav Ivanovic and Cesc Fabregas need to be relegated to the bench and the two to replace them should be, Baba Rahman and Ruben Loftus-Cheek. The latter two, show desire, hunger and energy whereas the former, are out of form and both got given the run around in the first four games. Kevin Mirallas, Aaron Lennon, Gerard Deulofeu and Aiden McGeady aren't going to be waiting for Mr Ivanovic to catch them up. The same can be said for Cesc Fabregas. Ross Barkley will be extremely hard to handle if there is no brick wall in front of the defence.

The early Saturday kick off will surely show if Chelsea football club have any chance of retaining the Premier League title.

I wait with anticipation to see the line up and the outcome of the upcoming fixture. 

Saturday, January 3, 2015

January transfers

January transfers

   Following a nightmare performance by Chelsea FC, one I wish to forget very quickly, I do believe Chelsea need to make a few purchases, while also find a new suitors for certain players. The main positions where Chelsea need to strengthen are; CDM, RM and possibly at CB.

   Let's begin with the CDM role. Nemanja Matic was run rigid at White Hart Lane. When he was suspended against Newcastle, there was no cover. John Obi Mikel is no way near in the same bracket as the powerful Serbian. What answers will Jose Mourinho have if Nemanja Matic gets injured? The Mikel-Fabregas pivot doesn't quite excite us Chelsea supporters as much as when Nemanja plays.

    Potential buys for CDM? 

- Sami Khedira? Rumoured to be unhappy under Carlo Ancelotti and his contract running out very quickly. At the age of 27, he is at the peak of his career too.

- Morgan Schneiderlin? Has proven experience in the Premier League, tabloids reported in the summer that he was seeking a move away and being aged 25, could potentially have room to cement a position.

- Sven Bender? A German CDM who perhaps lacks the publicity that he requires in the Borussia Dortmund side. As Dortmund sit in 17th position (bearing in mind there are only 18 teams in the Bundesliga) Sven Bender could be an interesting option to bring into the Premier League. Also bear in mind, he is 26 year old. 

Let's forget signing Paul Pogba because it simply won't happen. The Blues will not be paying £60 million or anywhere near the same type of money after learning what a certain Spaniard can do. 

   Sell: John Obi Mikel. The big Nigerian simply isn't Chelsea standard. Although he has been popping up with goals of late (3 goals in the last 2 seasons) the man is simply frustrating to watch. Sideways and backwards passing is not always the answer.

Potential buys for RM?

-  Marco Reus? A player who cannot be hated (supposedly). Despite the fact he is injury prone, when he's on form, he is truly phenomenal to watch. When analysing Chelsea games, almost every team doubles up on Eden Hazard, imagine if there was almost a carbon copy who was taller on the other side. This is potentially what each world class team have. Robben and Ribery. Ronaldo and Bale. Messi and Suarez.

- Raheem Sterling? Stalling on his current Liverpool contract, could Chelsea potentially pounce? Would certainly be interesting to watch Hazard on one side and Sterling on the other.

Sell: Mo Salah. I'm not really sure why Chelsea bought him in the first place. I have a feeling it was so that Liverpool couldn't buy him. A waste of money and squad depth in my opinion. He doesn't offer anything different than Willian or Schurrle apart from his blistering pace.

Potential buys for CB? 

In spite of Chelsea's heroic displays at the back (minus the game at White Hart Lane) the one soar thumb this season, is Gary Cahill. Woeful displays of late had me screaming in front of the TV. Normally a very composed, calm and careful defender, he has been costing the West London side vital points. Now, I think he should be dropped until he recovers and Kurt Zouma to fill in for him. This potentially could be tricky because I'd rather see Zouma on loan to a Premier League side for the rest of the season meaning he plays every week.

-  Raphael Varane? Chelsea have been rumoured for 2 years now to make a bid for the young French centre back. Jose Mourinho is a huge admirer and I wouldn't be complaining if the Real Madrid defender found a new home at SW6. The only problem I'd have is where would that leave Zouma, Christensen and Kalas in the long run?