Feb 27

Post-Match Quotes & News

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After a much deserved victory against Bolton, AVB and the Blues took to the microphones to discuss the result and what it meant to the team.  The press conference was more upbeat than the previous 5, for obvious reasons, but that didn’t stop the media from poking and prodding to find juicy information.  Lampard and AVB were there to provide said information.  Lampard, when asked about his relationship with AVB, had the following to say:

I think, from the outside, you can probably see that it’s not been ideal but the important thing is not to focus on individual relationships too much.  It can only be negative and people do like to play on negatives.  There have been certain issues.  Certain players, we don’t like not to play.  But it’s never a case of players throwing their toys out of the pram to the detriment of the club.  I’ve been here a long time, I’m 33, I’m realistic.  It doesn’t mean I want to play every game but, if I sit on the bench, I want to see Chelsea win.  I’m sure we’re all frustrated at the minute, everyone who’s involved, especially people who have got Chelsea in their hearts, who have been here a long time and want to see us performing as we should do.

Source: SkySports

There are a few interesting quotes in there, but it’s the overall tone of the interview that surprises me some.  AVB has brought  a no-nonsense attitude when dealing with the press and it seems like his players have taken on that attribute as well.  Lampard doesn’t hold back and openly admits that all is not grand between him and AVB.  Although I’m not a fan of stirring the pot and creating more headlines, I do like that there really isn’t an encrypted text here.  Lampard admits that he cannot physically start and play every game at 33, but as usual, it’s all about winning.  If he is sitting on the bench and the team is winning, so be it.  However, when he has to sit on the bench and watch his team lose he is not happy with that.  So in the end, nothing even really worth discussing, just a player that wants to win.

Andre Villas-Boas addressed the media with the same transparency when asked about Lampard and had the following to say:

I hope he will be here but it does not depend on me.  It depends on three parts: I have to want him, the person has to want to stay and the club has to want him.

He went on to clarify about the rumors that Abramovich told him to start Lampard, Essien, and Cole:

I take no instructions from anybody.  The word legend represents exactly that.  He is a player who has been involved for all managers before and played in most of the games – just a couple of games missed through injury.  The only difference this year from the years before is that we have more competition in midfield and things become more difficult for everybody. But Frank is now in the top five of players most used [by Chelsea] so he is up there with the best.

Source: Guardian

I understand the point that AVB is trying to make with his first quote, but it didn’t come out too well.  First he says it isn’t up to him, but then he follows that with “I have to want him.”  I believe he was just missing the word “entirely” when talking about the situation as clearly AVB has a role to play, but so do many other people.  I like his quotes about Lampard being a legend though, they are my thoughts spot on.  Players like Lampard, Drogba, Cole, Terry, Cech, etc. are legends at Chelsea, but that shouldn’t dictate the playing time they receive.  They have done amazing things for Chelsea in the past, but we do not live in the past anymore.  If they are not performing up to standards, they will not maintain their starting positions just because they have a good history.  It is all about winning in the present.

AVB went on to discuss the reasons why certain players were included in the game this weekend and not before:

I think the pressure has been on the team to get results recently. Our run has not been impressive and we wanted to get back to winning ways.  The most important thing is to build from this day onwards, for the FA Cup tie and the Champions League tie, and improve our position in the league.

Whenever we make decisions it is for the benefit of the team, and every player feels disappointed.  You don’t ask me if Raul (Meireles) was disappointed for missing the game today.  It was a different formation, in the game against Napoli we played with two defensive midfielders in the front of the defence.  Today we went back to our normal 4-3-3, three fresh legs on the pitch, Bosingwa was injured from the Napoli game so that was a straightforward change, Lamps has always been competing for a place since returning from injury.

Source: SkySports

This was pretty much confirmed in the post-match press conference after the Napoli loss, but AVB reiterates it again.  He strongly believes in squad rotation and also plays specific players based on the opponent.  While I think he was absolutely wrong to think this, he felt that Meireles provided more defensively (really AVB?) so he played Raul and Ramires in the double pivot due to Napoli’s attacking prowess.  Against Bolton he anticipated a weaker team where a 4-3-3 would be better suited and therefore Lampard and Essien found themselves back in the squad.  Let’s just hope AVB now realizes how terrible Meireles is and simply rotates him to different places on the bench.

On the injury front, AVB described Drogba has having taken a “big, big knock” and is doubtful to report to Ivory Coast duty and could potentially miss a match or two.  I guess the good news is we will have a fresh (and potentially more motivated?) Torres to replace him after he was dropped from Spain’s squad for the upcoming friendly.  It’s not a surprise that Torres has been dropped since he has been pretty close to terrible for a while now, but it will be interesting to see how his play responds after being out of the team for the first time in over 5 years.   John Terry also said that he is sad to be missing out after getting knee surgery but hopes to be back “sooner, rather than later.”  Aka, no details there.

Lastly, it’s definitely relevant to mention that Arsenal thrashed Tottenham 5-2 yesterday to reclaim 4th place.  I hate Spurs as much as the next Blue, but a Tottenham win was really in our best interest.  Arsenal jumped above of us on goal differential  and Chelsea are finding themselves in quite a battle to qualify for Champions League play next year.  The next 3 months are massively important for the club, players, and manager and all we can do it hope that they are up to the challenge. 

Mention that Arsenal beat Tottenham and what the means for Chelsea’s CL chances.

Feb 23

Match quotes, injury news, and passing analysis (not by us)…

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There is a lot of news, and much of it isn’t that great… Let’s start with post Napoli quotes.

Villas-Boas on the match:

It is a negative result of course, but a result we are sure we can turn around at the Bridge due to the amount of chances we had during the game.

Being more clinical in front of goal was the difference, both teams with the same amount of opportunities, a very open game for the Champions League, end to end but Napoli found that efficiency we didn’t find. We had big chances with Ramires, David Luiz and Didier in the end and we paid the heavy toll of a couple of mistakes that we did, while Napoli made the most of those opportunities.

AVB on the technical decisions and formation:

Ashley was a difficult decision taken yesterday. I am sure from tomorrow’s training onwards he will continue to fight for his position as he normally does. It’s his position to take and nothing else.

[Lampard and Essien] was technical decisions. In the end it would be fantastic if we win the game, any explanation is useless given the result of the game.

Regarding the formation and introducing Mata behind the striker, with the two sitting midfielders we had, they were chosen on the basis of two hard-working midfielders sitting in front of the defence. Lamps can do it but it’s the decision we took, not with the objective of goals but on the other side, covering for the attacks Napoli have.

Those on the pitch have been doing magnificently well and that’s why the choice was taken. We can continue to count on these players to help the team. They will be up for selection like any other time.

We had a conversation, with Ashley and Frank. Normally through the players they are and the experience they have, they felt they could help the team which is perfectly understandable. Ashley had the opportunity to come on through Bosingwa’s injury and Lamps later on in the game. They were disappointed but it’s a decision they have to accept and we move on. (source)

There’s obviously some coach-speak there, but at least he addressed changing from his 4-3-3 and why a few players were chosen over others. Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean that I agree with who he chose (COUGH Meireles COUGH) but at least he mentioned it. Of course he is positive that the Blues can achieve a 2-0 (or equivalent) result at the Bridge, but I want to see some better results before I feel as confident as he appears to be.

Now to the good and bad of the injury news and whether they are available for this weekend’s game against Bolton. In list form!

  • Juan Mata broke a bone in his finger shortly after scoring at Napoli, but is available. Yay!
  • Torres is a game time decision after not training today because of an illness. I still think at the moment that Drogba should get the start (or even a younger player! C’mon AVB!!) so if he manages to make the sub bench, that’s fine with me.
  • Bosingwa is definitely out with a muscle injury.
  • Terry “is going to be out for five to six weeks, hopefully sooner. There is a possibility he can be back sooner so he starts his rehabilitation today.” This could be a big blow as he has certainly been a stabilizing influence on the back line (our defense in January wasn’t actually that terrible…).

AVB did have a few things to say about potential defensive lineups because of those injuries:

At the moment it is a new partnership. We lost Bosingwa to a muscle injury, and we have Ivanovic and Paulo at right-back. We have used Ivanovic more often which means a new pairing with Gary and David Luiz which we are trying to fine-tune to be more stable like we were in January.

I don’t think it’s about communication, both are very extroverted, Gary speaks a lot and organises the defence.I think it is just takes time as a new partnership to get used to the person next to you. (source)

I sincerely hope we stick with the Cahill-Luiz partnership in the middle and keep Branislav on the right (where Jared and I think he’s stronger). It seems like AVB has noticed that as well and moved him to RB unless he is needed as cover. The injuries do leave Chelsea a bit thin, with only Bertrand and Ferreira or players brought up from the reserves/youth as cover.

Finally, AVB took the blame for the current form:

There is one direction and one person who takes responsibilities – myself. The players don’t have to take it and they shouldn’t take it. They are top, top players and they know what they can do for the benefit of the team but there is only one person that is responsible which is me. (source)

That’s just coach speak. As Jared has pointed out in more than one post-match, the players have seemed to lack effort, I don’t know that all of that can be placed on AVB’s shoulders.

———-

Finally, check out this article titled (thanks to @CareFreeChronic for pointing it out), “Chelsea’s Non-Existent Midfield” by sc1sports.com. It dives into the passing statistics of the Napoli match and how that passing hurt Chelsea’s attack. I’ll spoil the final line for you if you don’t go read it, just to make you want to go read it if you’re feeling annoyed/angry/antagonistic about Chelsea’s recent form. “Andre Villas-Boas said afterwards that he is going nowhere in a hurry. Unfortunately, neither is his team.”

Let’s hope that the team’s form changes very, very quickly.

Feb 17

Notes from AVB’s Press Conference

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Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas spoke to the media today about a number of issues and we’re here to sum them up for you.  Before we get to the quotes that set the media world ablaze, let’s touch on the more tangible information: Injury News.

  • The best news of the day is that Ramires has recovered from his injury and will be available this weekend.  We cannot underestimate how important Rambo is to this team.  Without him in the side we play slow and lethargic.  He is able to provide Chelsea with the extra gear that we need to be competitive and his work ethic seems to spread all over the field when he is playing.  He is THE most important player on Chelsea right now (yes, even over our favorite hobbit).
  • The bad news is that Drogba, Kalou, and Cole have all been ruled out for this weekend.  Cole’s calf is still injured and it could end up being worse than was originally reported (which was “bruise”).  Drogba and Kalou, on the other hand, just returned to practice from the ACON and will be rested this weekend.
  • Lastly, John Terry is able to play one of the two games this week, but apparently isn’t fit to play both.  I think it’s safe to say that JT will sit out for the FA Cup tie this weekend and start against Napoli, but then again I’ve been proved wrong so many times by AVB that I’m numb to it now.

The team is finally beginning to recover from all of the injuries, suspensions, and players leaving us for ACON and look to be at full strength soon.  With that in mind, what is the best formation for Chelsea?  I can’t believe I’m about to say this, but could it be Kalou’s chance to start a few games?  AVB was heavily criticized for starting Kalou the first two games of the season, but I’m not he can do poorly enough to lower our standards right now.  I think at least once we need to see the Blues in a 4-2-3-1 with Essien and Ramires patrolling the middle of the field and making other grown men cry in the process.  That would require 3 attacking midfielders though and Chelsea only seem to have two competent (on a day when Sturridge isn’t 100% selfish) AM’s available.  I think starting Kalou out left, Mata in the center, and Sturridge out right is worth a shot.  Malouda has been terrible and ruins almost every attacking possession Chelsea has.  Kalou makes some…interesting decisions, but at least he will be spontaneous and quasi-creative, two things Malouda has not been.  As for the back 4, I think it’s safe to say most everyone agrees on a Cole-Terry-Luiz-Ivanovic lineup when everyone is healthy.  It will be interesting to see if Bertrand will get a chance to show how well he can play or if Bosingwa will against reprise his LB role with Ashley out through injury.  Your guess is as good as mine.

_______________

Enough about the other stuff, let’s get to the quotes that set off 23498229 tweets and 3234584 articles across the globe:

They [the players] don’t have to back my project.  It’s the owner who backs my project. Some of them don’t back the project? That is normal. I think the owner has full trust in me and will continue to progress with the ideas that we have.

Players compete, in the end, for their place and for their place towards the future in the team. So if you want to be in the team in the future, you are competing to win something against your colleague. I would put it exactly like that: performance to have reward … reward in terms of results and reward in terms of future continuity.

My authority is total because it’s the owner’s authority. I have told you that we set out this team to try to win four trophies, believing in this team. Next year it’s another one because there are different ongoing situations regarding contracts which will have to be addressed so that means different changes. Two players have already departed and further will depart in the future and won’t make part of the project, which more or less they expect but this is the reality of any football team. We prepare to be more competent in the present and we have to prepare the future as well.

They know there is a manager in position holding on for a project of three years so, if they want to be part of that project, [it is about] performance level, or continuity of performance level and display. I think that’s pretty basic of any football team. You don’t contemplate with a reward people who  under perform in any football team.

Source: The Guardian

So there you have it, straight from the manager’s mouth.  He openly admits that not all players are with him, yet he doesn’t care.  This is both brilliant and stupid at the same time.  While I love that he is showing strength (read: stubbornness), his timing could probably use some improvement.  It is true that he has to show he is not afraid to ruffle some feathers and that the Chelsea project is bigger than any individual (or group of players), but he has to be somewhat tactful in the process.  It isn’t too hard to guess that players like Malouda, Lampard, and Drogba are being targeted here, as he is basically saying “I know the older guys don’t like that they are being kicked out.  I expect that and they just have to deal with it.”  There is a lot of season that is left and if he goes and pisses off every player that is older than 26, he is going to run into a lot of trouble.  He still needs some of the players that he is talking about in these quotes and he can’t prematurely cut the chord.  This seems like the kind of talk you would like to keep quiet, but maybe AVB has tried that and it didn’t take.  Some players have gone to the media and perhaps AVB is letting them know that he isn’t afraid to do so either.  I don’t particularly like this public method, but then again we’ve all heard tales of the “player power” in the locker room and how no one has been able to break it.  It sure seems like AVB is either going to make it happen, or go down swinging.

Whether he is right or wrong, AVB seems to have absolutely no fear that he will be fired anytime soon.  He is choosing his words very carefully when he has spoken about the topic and he is making it abundantly clear to everyone that he has Abramovich’s full support.  I think he is being a little coy here because he isn’t really speaking to the media.  Sure, it may help doomsday headlines stay away for a while, but in reality I think this is pointed towards the players as a warning.  He knows that some players don’t agree with his style but he is making them aware that at the end of the day (or season), the player will end up on the losing side if they continue to fight this battle.  Roman is the highest level at Chelsea and he is siding with the manager (says AVB).

There are more quotes in the linked article where AVB states that this is simply his managerial style: 100% open and honest.  He certainly seems like it and he’s certainly given Chelsea fans a lot to talk about for the remainder of the season.  If things go south, everyone will surely point to this press conference to show where he went wrong disregarding his “senior” players.  However, if things turn around they will probably credit this conference as the time when he acted above his age and took control of the team.  Say what you want about the man, but you can’t deny that he is strong (read: stubborn, again) enough to finally make some real changes around Chelsea.  Let’s hope Abramovich gives him time to do so.

Feb 16

On to FA Youth Cup Quarter-finals (and Lamps for fun)!

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The Blues advanced to the quarter-finals in a thrilling match (at least according to the descriptions I’ve read…) where multiple goals were scored in stoppage time and Chelsea finally managed to win 5-4 on penalties over West Ham. The match ended 3-3 after not one, but two goals scored after the 90th minute and it took the last kick of normal time to bring Chelsea level again (and force extra time) after the Hammers scored in the 92nd minute. During the penalty kicks, goalkeeper Jamal Blackman came up big for the Blues, saving 2 spot kicks, allowing Todd Kane to win it on the 6th Chelsea attempt.

Here’s a recap from chelseafc.com.

Here’s WAGNH’s recap.

UPDATE: Here’s the Fulham Chronicle’s recap (c/o @BluesChronicle)

We’ll try to have the highlights posted in the next couple of days on here. Check back later.

According to theFA.com, the next match will be away at Nottingham Forest on February 25th. Also, they apparently don’t bother with even posting scores on the same day they happen. Even Jared and I are typically better than that, and there’s only two of us. That’s just lazy, FA.

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On a different note, Frank Lampard has a favorite goal he’s scored and a favorite goal anyone else has scored/on which he assisted. Go have a read and watch both of them on chelseafc.com.

That just gives me the excuse to post this again with the requirement that you watch the whole video. Because it’s awesome. But as @CareFreeChronic pointed out a couple of days ago, where has Lampard’s long range shooting gone?

P.S. If you don’t feel like watching 181, you can watch 25 of them

P.P.S. Go read Jared’s opinion on AVB as Chelsea’s manager if you haven’t. Hint: It’s the post before this one.

 

Feb 13

Not-very-positive News of the Day

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No major bad news as it were, but nothing really positive either. I think Lampard’s quote to ChelseaTV sums up what most of us were thinking about the Everton match:

It was a bad performance from start to finish… When you come to Everton, the one thing you know they’re going to do is fight you, press you and make things tough and we didn’t react to that. (source)

Cech added a little bit more, but nothing we didn’t already know:

When you lose a game 2-0 and you are Chelsea Football Club playing for the Champions League and with big expectations, losing is not good enough and the performance was not good enough, that’s why we lost.

We took so many passes side to side and we never really opened them up.

In the second half, we tried to play more direct but they were fighting well and kept organised, and 1-0 up so early became so much more difficult to break. (source)

So, what Lampard said. That it was a bad performance from start to finish.

Chelsea was supposed to have a day off on Sunday, but AVB canceled the leave and made players come in on the day off to train. The not-terribly-surprising-as-of-late guest was none other than Mr. Abramovich (source). From everything that’s out there, it seems that AVB still has the full backing of the owner, though we’ll have to see how this goes in the near future with the FA Cup match this week and Napoli/CL looming shortly after that.

More on the rumor side of things, there supposedly was an argument between AVB and several players in the dressing room and Mr. Abramovich ended up speaking to all of them. Supposedly. I wouldn’t read too much into that unless Chelsea comes out and admits it happens. As of now, “Chelsea did not wish to comment on the dressing room clash” (source).

But it’s not all bad news. John Terry is back doing light training. And Ashley Cole’s injury doesn’t appear too serious as the club described it as, “bruising of the calf.” Good stuff. We need them both back. (source)

Finally, I’ll leave you with one of the better things to come out of the weekend match with Everton. A ball with Marouane Fellaini’s body. Enjoy.

Feb 08

Christensen from Brondby and Lampard

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Well, there really wasn’t much news yesterday, so I propose that we bring back an old system that, while still used today, was far more common a couple of hundred years ago: bartering. I’ll give you a small bit of news and an awesome video that’s been out for a couple of weeks now. What’s your side of the bargain? You have to read the news and promise to enjoy it.

I won’t tell you to enjoy the video because I know you will. Deal with it.

Chelsea signed Danish Under-17 international Andreas Christensen on a free transfer from Danish team Brondby. The 15-year old central defender is apparently “already six feet tall.” Arsenal, Manchester City, and Bayern Munich were all interested in the kid according to Sky Sports. Here’s what Christensen  had to say on the move:

I have chosen Chelsea because they play the kind of football I like. At the same time, they have the best plan for my future in football.

Good stuff. Want a small chuckle? Sky Sports certainly is dedicated to their reporting, even going so far as to find a wonderful picture (click it!) of him to put in their article. Aren’t his shoes wonderful? In their defense, it took at least 30 seconds of Google image searching to come up with at least a couple of possibilities. Here you go: Picture One (from here), Picture Two (from here). For those that don’t feel like clicking, here’s what is behind link number two!

So. To that video. You might have seen it already. If you have, enjoy it again. One of the better ways to use 25 minutes of time. Just don’t get caught by your boss at work.

Oh, and since you made it to the bottom…

Lampard and Mikel are training again and might (<– important modifier) be fit for the Everton match on Saturday (source). Lampard seems more likely than Mikel to make a return. Until next time, friends.