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.

Jan 27

What’s Up With Drogba?

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The only news of the day from the African Cup of Nations, where Drogba had an assist for Kalou’s goal in the Ivory Coast’s 2-0 win over Burkina Faso. Unfortunately, Kalou got subbed out in the 2nd half with an apparent muscle pull. With the win, they secured qualification to the quarter-finals of the tournament. Read a bit more on chelseafc.com if you like.

That brings me to another point. But first, watch this video:

Drogba is a beast, no question about it. And he is certainly still getting it done with his national team. But his production is down for Chelsea this year. Carefree Chronicles did a piece yesterday about Chelsea’s offensive corner statistics, and it was a bit surprising for the Ivorian (read it yourself for the stats, worth it, I promise). And it got me thinking about Drogba again, which admittedly, I haven’t done much of since he left the team for Africa.

Something doesn’t appear to be there this season. Drogba hasn’t been his usual beast-self in the box. Sure, he still is doing decent hold up play. And he is still arguably the best striker at trapping long balls with his back to the goal. But he disappears during games. Here’s the influence chart for the December 3rd match against Newcastle (our highest rated EPL start for him):

To help read that if you aren’t familiar with FourFourTwo’s Stat Zone app: the larger the name, the more influence they had on the match. No it’s not a perfect way to measure his influence on the game. But according to FourFourTwo, the only people less influential for Chelsea were the substitutes.

The real stats show something isn’t quite right either. In his 13 starts and 4 substitute appearances in EPL and CL games this season, he’s completed only 63% of his passes. That’s the worst on the team. Even the much-maligned (at least by the media) Torres is doing 12% better. Sturridge is doing almost 20% better. He still has been scoring some goals, but 6 goals and 2 assists is down from what he has produced over the past couple of seasons. Think about these numbers from EPL and CL:

  • 2010-2011: 13 goals and 15 assists in 43 games (35 starts).
  • 2009-2010: 32 goals and 10 assists in 37 games (36 starts).

It does not appear like he’s going anywhere this transfer window, whether any of us want him to leave or not. If he brings his national team form back with him, we could have an interesting competition for the starting spot as Torres has been holding it down moderately well (except for goals, of course. Maybe next match…).

If he doesn’t… would you all want to sign him for another season or two? Or let him leave over the summer for free?

Nov 29

Drogba – On his way out?

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Everyone else seems to really be jumping in on this Drogba-agent talk, so we better strike while the iron is hot.  If you haven’t heard, here is what Drogba’s agent (Thierno Seydi) had to say today:

Didier has had the offer of a one-year extension from Chelsea. That does not suit us.  We know what we want, where we want to go and what offers we have. 

AC Milan came in for Didier on loan with an option to buy but I said ‘No’ straight away. Their offer did not interest us.  At Didier’s age, he has nothing left to prove as a player.

He will go where he is offered the most money.  It could be the United States, Russia, Qatar or somewhere else in Asia.  Once you are well into your thirties you have to go to a club where you can be certain you’ll be able to pay your bills.  LA Galaxy are a possibility among many others.  He has been linked with Anzhi Makhachkala in Russia, as they pay well.  But neither Didier nor I have had an offer from them.

Source: The Sun

The problem with all of this contract talk is that no one outside of the agent or the club really knows what is going on.  It has been widely reported (and his agent says it), that Drogba is seeking a 2 year contract extension while Chelsea’s policy is only to offer players over 30 a 1 year extension.  However, salary definitely plays into the decision as Thierno states himself “He will go where he is offered the most money.”  For all we know, Chelsea offered Drogba a 1-year deal for £40,000-a-week in which case it is no wonder they rejected seeing as he is on £120,000-a-week now.  Chelsea could counter with £180,000-a-week for 1 year and they may accept.  It would be a terrible decision for Chelsea, but it could happen.

Even though these are just rumors and quotes at this point, they are making me rethink what I said earlier about Drogba and this upcoming window.  It is looking increasingly likely that Drogba will not back down and sign a 1-year contract which would put Chelsea in a predicament that they don’t necessarily have control over.  Would it be better to sell Drogba this winter and lose depth this spring, or keep him hoping he will help get us into the Champions League and then let him leave for free?  If it was my call, I would look to offload him this winter.  I think it would show that AVB means business about clearing out the club and could spark life into some of the other “old guard”.  Of course it is entirely possible that it would cause more disrupture in the Chelsea locker room and AVB would be in the midst of a full blown crisis at that point. 

Chelsea would also benefit from the money, probably somewhere in the range of £8-12 mil.  However, this is where Chelsea loses control over the situation.  1) Is any club willing to offer that much money for a 33 year-old with high wages? and 2) Would Drogba accept the personal terms with this club?  If Galaxy lose Beckham, they would have the financial ability to pay for him, but then again why wouldn’t they wait until the summer for free? Anzhi obviously has the money but the same question exists.  Chelsea will be hard pressed to find a club desperate enough to pay Drogba’s worth this winter.  It seems that the end is near for the 7 year Chelsea-Drogba relationship and both parties will need to move on.  At the end of the day, I think a departure in January would be best for both clubs*.  Chelsea would get money, Drogba would get more playing time, Lukaku will get more playing time to progress until he can be loaned out next fall, and AVB will show that he is in charge of the club, not the players. 

*Although I still don’t think it is likely.  A bosman transfer is what I would put my money on right now.

What do you WANT to happen?

Nov 25

Return of Drogba: Return of the Long-ball

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Did anyone else take a really long look at the sideline on Wednesday’s game to see if Mourinho was sitting on our bench?  I’m not positive what AVB said to the side before they took the field but if I had to guess it would be this: “Let’s attempt to be sound at the back and whatever you do, try to get the ball to our defenders to pass around the back.  We really aren’t looking for attacking third passes but if you absolutely have to play a ball there, make sure it is a crazy long ball played from deep in Drogba’s triple covered area.”

Chelsea was out-possessed 54.4% to 45.6% and only completed 82% of their passes.  It wasn’t particularly due to good defending by Bayer, rather an odd game plan that seemed to set Chelsea back 5 years.  Here is the passing chart from the game, courtesy of FourFourTwo:

As noted a couple of times before, Chelsea was EXTREMELY reliant on square passes in the back between defenders.  A complete lack of attacking passes and/or possession in Leverkusen’s half is shown clearly in the figure.  The Blues were a pathetic 54 of 96 on attacking third passes and a further dissection of the passes shows why:

Wow.  I counted 19 passes prayers that started inside our own half and did not find their way to a single Chelsea player.  What happened to the short, attacking possession game AVB was trying to bring to Chelsea?  Didier Drogba. I am not sure if AVB instructed Chelsea to play this way or if the team just fell into old habits with the lineup, but the one thing that is clear is that this is not the answer.  Drogba up top is not the answer.  Didier played a very typical game for himself over the years.  He played horrible the entire game, except for the 5 seconds where he scored.  His movement was pathetic, his first touch was similar to that of a brick wall, and his effort was close to non-existent.  Then again, what did we expect?  When all he wants and all Chelsea does is float the ball in this direction, regardless of if there are three defenders on him, the end result is going to be what we witnessed Wednesday.  Mourinho-style play…without the good defending.  We saw a strange blend of Mourinho and AVB style soccer and not only did it fail, but it didn’t make sense.  It is no wonder that our best player, Juan Mata, was unable to have any sort of effect on the game.  He was being bypasses by long balls and no one on Chelsea seemed to want to keep the ball on the ground and knock it around.  Involving Mata should be the first priority and it seems that when Drogba is on the field, he becomes the top dog automatically.

Benching Torres for 3 games may be a tactic to get into his head and force him to work harder (although he was already working harder than Drogba), but it is setting Chelsea back.  The Blues will not play the style of soccer he wants while Drogba is on the field, end of story.  If AVB intends to “stick to the plan” like he has said all along, then stop playing Drogba.  Drogba is not the forward for the future.  He does not play the brand of soccer AVB wants to bring to Chelsea and there is that tiny caveat of the fact he has been on the planet for 33 years now.  It seems I’m not the only one that thinks that since over 50% of you all want him gone in January and only 18% want him around for 2 more years.  I loved him as a player and there has been no one more important to Chelsea over the years, but the end is here.  I have said that I believe he will sign on for one more year, but I’m not sure if I want that.  If someone comes calling with a decent check in January, I say we thank Drogba for his services over the years and wish him the best.

Nov 17

Selling/Loaning/Resigning: Chelsea Transfer Window Part I

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This is Part I of a two-part post regarding the potential transfer dealings for the upcoming January transfer window.  Part I will look at selling/loaning/resigning while Part II will solely look at transfer targets.

With Black Friday just around the corner and the snore-fest that is the International Break, it seems like the perfect time to take a sneak peak at the January transfer window and what we can expect from Chelsea.  Perhaps the more intriguing aspect of this January transfer window will be the players we drop from our roster as opposed to the players we add.  Didier Drogba, Nicolas Anelka, Salomon Kalou, Jose Bosingwa, and Henrique Hilario all have contracts that expire at the end of the season, which means these players are under the microscope transfer-wise.  AVB has a fine line to walk when dealing with Bosman transfers, especially when high-profile names are involved.  He has to be able to not upset the fans, while not losing out on millions in free transfers, while also not keeping high salary players on the payroll just because he didn’t want to lose a few million.  It’s a tough call and I’m glad I’m not in his shoes for once.  We’ll examine each case individually:

  • Didier Drogba is obviously the headline name in this group.  Our talisman striker has been the face of the Blues attack force for the last 7 years and Chelsea is really in a no-win situation with the striker.  It is reported than Drogba is demanding a 2-year contract, but Chelsea’s policy dictate that someone of his age will only be resigned on a yearly basis.  This has led to contact talk breakdowns and the fresh rumors that Drogba will be leaving Chelsea soon.  As far as his position goes, it wouldn’t be a huge loss if Drogba were sold during this window.  Milan has reported interest in Drogba and getting money out of a player is always better than letting them go on a free when their contract expires.  There is always the interesting possibility of combining Drogba and cash together to bring Pato to the Bridge (or whatever it will be called).  While this sounds attractive since Pato can play a inside forward on the right hand side (Hulk position), I find this scenario unlikely.  Drogba can’t be valued at any greater than £10 mil at his age and contract length and Milan would demand a sizable cash offer for their young forward.  Not to mention Pato is a fairly injury-prone player.  In the end, I think Drogba wants to stay at Chelsea and Chelsea feels the same.  I expect Drogba to back down and accept a new 1-year contract playing a squad player role/mentor to Lukaku for one last year before he takes off for Marseille.
  • Nicolas Anelka has become considerably less nomad-like since settling down at Chelsea but with his contract ending soon it appears a host of clubs are looking to sign him.  MLS teams, Milan, and Anzhi are just a few of the rumored clubs and honestly I can see Anelka at any of those.  Milan may be a stretch because I don’t see him getting serious playing time there, but he would do well if given the chance.  Anelka has stated he would like to end his career at Chelsea and I think he means that, to an extent.  I think he will end his serious career here, but I really expect to see him in the MLS within a couple years.  That being said, it is a few years off and Chelsea will be his home until then.  Anelka is very useful for AVB because he can play anywhere along the attacking 3 and doesn’t seem to mind being a squad player.  I wouldn’t imagine Chelsea could get any more than £7 mil for him at this point in his career.  This is nothing to scoff at, but also not a reason to thin out our options.  I expect Anelka to sign a new contract and continue with his current role on the team.
  • Salomon Kalou…what is there to say?  He is the youngest member of the expiring contract club at Chelsea so conventional logic would say he is the one to be resigned.  Kalou’s contract is also cheaper than either Anelka or Drogba and he is capable of playing anywhere along the front line as well.  The negative?  He just isn’t that good.  He is an average player, but I do not rate him as a Chelsea quality player.  Anelka is better across the board and the extra money spent on keeping Anelka’s more expensive contract could be made up with a few extra million in the transfer fee from Kalou.  I believe with his age and silky moves, some delusional club could offer somewhere in the region of £10 mil for his services this January.  If this happens, Chelsea must be ready to pull the trigger (just not Ashley Cole), provided Anelka is staying at the club (or someone else is bought in January).  Chelsea cannot afford to spread out front line reserves so thin and losing Anelka and Kalou would leave…no one for right wing backup.  I am optimistically hoping Chelsea finds a suitor for Kalou this January and he is offloaded for a decent chunk of cash.
  • Hilario…I don’t really have time to waste thinking about this one.  Nothing against the man, but he is the third choice keeper at Chelsea and can easily be replaced.  Since I haven’t spent time looking for information, I’m going to guess he leaves on a Bosman.
  • Finally we arrive at the current center of attention (at least in my head), Jose Bosingwa.  The much maligned (at least on ACF) right back for Chelsea has his contract expiring this summer and is in negotiations with AVB to get it extended.  He is 29 and a decent right back.  Not starting quality, but decent.  If no RB is bought this January/summer, resigning Bosingwa is a must.  That’s all there is to it.  Ferreira cannot be counted on for a backup because he is even worse than Bosingwa and after that there is no one else.  He will be resigned because AVB likes depth and even if he loses his starting spot to Ivanovic (please!), he still has an important role to play on the club.  This will also leave the possibility of signing a new RB this summer and then selling Bosingwa for a decent price because we won’t have the expiring contract hanging over negotiations.
  • Josh McEachran has some admirers, but they aren’t at Chelsea apparently.  AVB has been reluctant to play the young midfielder thus far this season but I can’t really pass judgement for that seeing as I’m not at practice and there is fierce competition at the club.  He has Lampard, Ramires, Meireles, Mikel, and Romeu in front of him at the moment and Essien will be back soon as well.  What does this mean for McEachran?  That he needs to be loaned out ASAP so his growth as a player doesn’t stagnate.  We all know what loaning did to Wilshere and our very own Daniel Sturridge, now it is time for McEachran to receive the same opportunity.  Swansea City have shown interest in our young midfielder and it could be the perfect chance for Josh to get some playing time in the Premier League.  Swansea does not have a stacked midfield and McEachran could walk into a situation where he could get serious playing time against some of the best competition in the world.  If Swansea City (or anyone in the Premier League that can promise playing time) come calling, AVB should allow this to happen.  Chelsea will not be left short of midfield options and the long-term gain could be instrumental for our future.
  • Romelu Lukaku will NOT be going anywhere.  Newspapers: Please read the rules before you even mention his name again.

Before we conclude Part I, I’ll briefly talk about some of the other rumors that have gone around some:

  • Lampard will not leave for MLS.  Moving on.
  • Alex and Malouda are both involved in rumors with Juventus, but both are unlikely to go.  Unless Chelsea sign immediate replacements for them, AVB will not let them go and lose depth at those positions.  Alex has been rumored for a while, but he is essential currently.  If 1 central defender goes down with injury Chelsea will be dangerously thin at that position.  AVB doesn’t seem like the risky type so I wouldn’t put much stock in Alex leaving.  The Malouda rumor has a little more steam due the fact that Chelsea are chasing a LW (see Part II), but Malouda is one of the most versatile players on the team and it is always hard to get rid of one of those.  With presumably one of Kalou or Anelka leaving soon, AVB will not want to lose 2 and only potentially gain 1.  Look for Malouda to be here in February as well.
  • Torres isn’t going anywhere, but I guarantee you there will be an article about him being sold.  Resist throwing objects when you inevitably read this.

Final Prediction:  Drogba, Anelka, and Bosingwa go nowhere in January and both sign on for a final year.  Kalou is sold to some poor team (hopefully Arsenal) and Chelsea gain about £8-10 mil out of the deal.  Hilario goes nowhere, but will not extend his contract beyond this summer.  McEachran will be allowed to leave on loan and will hopefully go to a EPL team to get some playing time.  Lukaku will be here and cause many players to do this out of fear.

Part II will be coming before this weekend!

Nov 10

Bieber’s Wednesday Quick Links

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Sorry folks, the bonfire I started to burn Lampard’s jersey for his association with Justin Bieber got a little out of hand and kept me longer than I expected.  I’ll have to make this post shorter to make up the time.

  • Starting with non-Chelsea news, Neymar signed a new contract with Santos today which will keep him there until after the 2014 World Cup.  This, of course, comes less than a week after it was reported Neymar was headed to Real Madrid in January in a massive deal.  This does have a little bit to do with Chelsea because it all but guarantees that we will not see Neymar in a Chelsea uniform, and that is something I couldn’t be happier about.  I never liked him as a player or a prospect for the Blues.  He is a great dribbler and diver, but not a team player and I do not think he would have been successful in the EPL.
  • One person we know can be successful in the EPL is our very own Fernando Torres.  Torres spoke yesterday and admitted he has had problems settling in at  Chelsea.  Wait, how is this news?  I’m pretty sure a 4 year-old could have made that title and reported it.  It is clear that Torres has had a tougher time coming into Chelsea with new teammates, no familiar faces (until Mata and Meireles), and a completely different playing style.  I guess it’s good he can admit it?  Ok, moving on.
  • Oriol Romeu live-chatted over at Yahoo and it was a pretty interesting read.  Gives some insight into one of our newer players as well as some of the “old guard” and how they are off camera.  Romeu also eases our mind by stating that he is not thinking about going back to Barcelona now, or in the future.  He is only concentrating on playing soccer for Chelsea right now and improving.  While this is great to hear, it’s also complete crap.  Of course he isn’t thinking about going back now, he still wouldn’t play!  I love Romeu and want him to stay, but I would be will be willing to bet a tattoo of the young-man’s likeness on my left cheek (I’ll let you guess which one I mean) that he will leave us for Barcelona sooner or later.  It’s just the way it works with Barcelona at the moment and we can’t do anything about it.  What we can do is thank him for his time while he is here, accept the money Barcelona will have to pay out, and carry on with no hard feelings.
  • Didier Drogba has been named one of the 10 finalists for the African Footballer of the Year award.  Didier didn’t have the best of years with his diminishing role in the squad (and Malaria), but could still be in the running just based off his name and reputation.  While I don’t agree with that line of thought, we all know it happens and has probably happened with Drogba before.  Since 2003, Drogba has been in the top 3 every year except 2007.  That is extremely impressive no matter how you look at it and shows how important Didier has been to the African Football community over the last decade.

We are working on some “editorial” type pieces for the next week until games start again, so stick with us with some of the slower news.  In the mean time, scratch your eyes out after seeing this picture (yes, I know this is old news):

Love, Hate. Not in that order.