Category Archives: Chelsea squad
The January transfer window is open and Chelsea changes are afoot
Chelsea’s post-Club World Cup recovery was going great with a League Cup victory against Leeds, followed by three successive EPL wins over Aston Villa, Norwich, and Everton. Plenty for fans to be enthused about over the Christmas holiday. All that came to a frustratingly screeching halt Wednesday with the 1-0 home loss to QPR – who just happen to be the worst team in the league. Simply unbelievable. The slim hope of catching up to Manchester United by season’s end has all but vanished now. It will be a dogfight just to qualify for the Champions League.
The QPR loss confirms that Chelsea is not an elite team right now. There are currently only two elite teams in the EPL and they’re both located in Manchester. The Manchesters repeatedly demonstrate their knack for winning games they should win, as well as clawing their way back into games when they’re not performing at their best. They always seem to find additional goals, even when they’re letting goals in themselves. Chelsea has not shown the same ability this season.
A team’s fortunes don’t rest entirely on one player of course, but Man U does have the remarkably reliable Robin Van Persie at striker, and Man City has the similarly prolific Edin Dzeko. Chelsea has Fernando Torres. Yeah. I know Torres has scored much more this season, but would anyone really put him in the same league as Van Persie and Dzeko right now? Well, Chelsea may be about to get a lift in that department…
Today Chelsea made it official that Demba Ba is joining the club from Newcastle. Now that the remote possibility of Didier Drogba joining the team on loan from China seems to have vanished, the arrival of Senegalese striker Ba is great news for Chelsea fans. If his Newcastle stint is any indication, he will be a physical handful in the box for opponents – something Chelsea has desperately missed since Drogba’s departure. For all the deft, speedy skill of Hazard, Mata, and Oscar, they are small guys who frequently get muscled off the ball, so having Ba’s strength and nose for goal will be a welcome addition to the offensive mix.
The only things tempering my enthusiasm over Ba are his past knee-injury struggles and the fact that he’s 27-years-old. I’m not saying 27 is old, I just wish Chelsea would find an elite under-the-radar striker at the beginning of his career rather than splashing mid-season cash for perhaps final-third-of-their-career guys. I thought they had done that with young Lukaku last season, but they let him languish on the bench before loaning him to West Brom for this season. Still, getting Ba was much more economical than the rumored move for Atletico Madrid’s Falcao. Overall, I’m quite glad Ba is a Blue. Having lived in Senegal for five years as a youngster, I always root for Senegalese players. Hopefully Ba will accelerate his scoring prowess for Chelsea over the next few seasons.
On the flip side of the January transfer window fun, new arrivals usually mean departures as well. Daniel Sturridge moved to Liverpool this week. I like Sturridge and think he has a lot of potential that was never fully explored at Chelsea. He deserved a lot more playing time this season in place of the bland Torres. I wish him the best at LFC.
The other big name in Blues news this week is one of my favorite Chelsea players (isn’t he everyone’s?): Frank Lampard. It seems unthinkable that Chelsea would even consider letting this legend go and yet that seems to be what’s happening. Lampard’s contract is up at the end of this season and Chelsea doesn’t seem eager to re-sign him. I don’t understand this. Lampard is beloved by fans, a leader on the field, and still produces goals at the highest level. Just look at Scholes and Giggs at Man U – guys older than Lampard who still contribute. Lamps has a few more seasons in him and Chelsea should allow him to end his career as a Blue. He has certainly earned it.
What do you think of Chelsea’s transfer window action so far?
A Special Invitation from Chelsea* to Drogba…
How’s life in China? How’s the food? The weather? How’s your Chinese coming along? Hope all is well.
Here’s the deal, Didier, we miss you at Stamford Bridge. We really need you to come back. Like this week. I know we parted ways on great terms, with you having just won the Champions League for us and all. If you were going to leave the club, it was the perfect time to do so. We were all very understanding, but let’s face it, our Champions League-winning high clouded our judgment. Now that we’ve had time to ponder… we think we made a big mistake.
Did you see our draw today against a very beatable Liverpool? Their striker Suarez saved the day for them again – a lot like you used to for Chelsea. We need a big time lethal striker again. That’s where you come in. We’ve got some great new guys this season we think you’ll really dig – guys like Hazard and Oscar. They’ve been creating great ball movement with Mata, but the problem is they need a real strongman in the box to feed the ball to. No one wreaks havoc in the box like you do. We really miss your ability to hold the ball and invent crazy-angled shots out of nothing. In case you’re wondering about Torres, well, we’re not exactly sure what to do about that yet. But it probably involves selling him for as much cash as possible come January. Look, Fernando’s a great guy and we wish him well, but he’s no Drogba.
Now we know you left Chelsea primarily because Shanghai-whatchamacallit offered you a bazillion dollars. Very understandable. We didn’t think we could match their bazillions. But this week we found out we actually made a profit for the first time in something like a decade (thanks to the Champions League riches you helped us get), so, since we’re not used to operating in the black anyway, we thought we’d just give you all that excess profit if you come back.
By the way, in case it’s not all about money, you saw where Chelsea fans recently voted you one of the greatest Blues players in club history, right? That’s pretty sweet. The fans would welcome you back in a heartbeat. Just sayin’. We know you have a soft spot for Chelsea in that lion heart of yours, so we want to remind you that John Terry got knocked out of the Liverpool match today with a potentially season-ending injury, Lampard is still out with a calf thing, and we loaned Michael Essien to Real Madrid for reasons we’re still not entirely sure about (okay, we brought that last one on ourselves, but we’re just pointing out the dearth of Blues vets currently on hand).
Just in case you feel a little weird about the idea of coming back to Chelsea so soon after leaving, it’s not unprecedented. Paul Scholes returned to Man U after retiring for a while last season. Thierry Henry even went back to Arsenal on loan earlier this year. It’s obviously not our first choice, but we’d settle for you returning to Chelsea on loan whenever the Chinese league’s over (sorry, we’re not sure when their season ends – until you went there we didn’t even know China had a pro league). Whatever it takes, Didier, that’s what we’re saying.
Admit it, you miss the Premier League. The high-pressure matches. The packed, historic stadiums. Cup finals. Champions League nights around Europe. Eccentric gazillionaire Russian owners. Causing Sir Alex heartburn. Democracy.
We don’t want to pressure you too much, but we have slipped from first to third in the table within a couple weeks, so we kind of need an answer ASAP. Only you can help prevent one of the Manchesters winning the league again. Chelsea’s fate is in your hands. Okay, that may be overstating it a bit, but come on man you’re playing in China for goodness sakes! No one watches Chinese soccer!
Come home, Didier, come home. You know you want to. We can have a jet there in a matter of hours.
Chelsea Football Club
P.S. Say hello to Anelka for us.
*Unfortunately this letter does not represent an actual invitation from Chelsea Football Club to Didier Drogba.
Chelsea topples Tottenham 4–2
So far this season I’ve enjoyed Chelsea’s undefeated run and top place in the table with fingers crossed behind my back. Things have gone very well of course, but there have been a few shaky moments and based on the past two roller coaster seasons, I’ve kind of been waiting for the other shoe to drop for Chelsea, you know, like a multi-match losing streak and a late-season fight for the last Champions League spot.
After yesterday’s defeat of Tottenham at White Hart Lane however, I’m starting to believe. I don’t want to jump to any conclusions – it is still very early in the season, and if nothing else Chelsea still has four Manchester (United and City) showdowns to contend with (those four matches alone could determine the title). But Chelsea hasn’t looked this poised and confident since the last time they won the Premier League in 2009/2010. They’re constantly a scoring threat and the defense, while still occasionally leaky is playing quite cohesively. Cole and Ivanovic are even supplying regular attacking options down the wings.
Chelsea showed positive mental toughness in not only recovering from the second half Tottenham onslaught that put the Spurs up 2–1, but recovering with authority by scoring three second half goals. I still miss Drogba in attack – he would add strength, aerial threat, and finishing power to a physically small offense. To my surprise though, the Blues are getting the job done without him (and in spite of a still so-so Torres).
The new recruits, particularly Hazard and Oscar, are already clicking with the team. I didn’t expect results this good so early in the season. These new guys are still gelling with the team, so imagine where they could be in a few months as long as everyone stays healthy!
Chelsea is fun to watch again…
Any thoughts on the Blues’ win at Tottenham? Feel free to share below!
Sad thoughts on my favorite player being loaned to Real Madrid
So how ‘bout that UEFA Super Cup, huh? Yeah. Less said about that one the better. Let’s just chalk it up to one of those days when the whole squad wakes up and forgets to play soccer in the actual soccer match. Fortunately for Chelsea, it was a meaningless UEFA money-grubbing match. I’ve never watched the Super Cup before and only tuned in this time because Chelsea was playing. Well, sort of. Atletico Madrid was playing; Chelsea was mostly watching Falcao score goals.
Meanwhile, I was completely distracted by the Friday transfer window deadline rumor that my favorite Chelsea player, Michael Essien, was about to be loaned to Real Madrid for the season. Unfortunately it wasn’t just a rumor. Essien is now on his way to play for his former coach Jose Mourinho. I understand the business realities of big time soccer, but I am bitterly disappointed that Chelsea let Essien go.
Essien has been a favorite of Blues fans since Mourinho brought him to Chelsea from Lyon in 2005. He was a vital component of Chelsea’s Premier League Championship winning teams of 2005/2006 and 2009/2010. In pro sports it’s annoying how quickly pundits and club leadership tend to prematurely write off players. I don’t feel like Essien has been given a fair (and well deserved) chance to earn back his regular starting spot since returning this past January from the second serious knee injury of his career. I like Roberto Di Matteo, but my only major beef with his decision-making since he became Chelsea manager last spring has been his preference for Mikel over Essien. I like Mikel, but Essien at full fitness is a better player. Essien looked fantastic in the MLS All-Star game this summer. I was really looking forward to seeing his first full season since the 2008/2009 campaign. Now I feel cheated since he’s been available but rarely used during his last several months in a Chelsea uniform.
I’m not really sure what Chelsea is saying with this loan. It’s a frustrating tease for Essien fans, because the club is leaving the door open for his possible return, but with so many new youngsters, that seems unlikely. My prediction is that he’ll become the old Essien under Mourinho and kick some major tail in Madrid. Come January, Mourinho will probably snap him up on a permanent basis. Meanwhile Chelsea will still be wasting minutes on Raul Meireles. It would make more sense for Chelsea to loan out someone like the 19-year-old Oscar, and get another solid 4-5 years out of Essien (he is still just 29 after all).
I’ve had an uneasy feeling for a long time that something like this might happen to Essien. The only move away from Chelsea I’d ever be excited about is if he showed up on my doorstep as an FC Dallas Designated Player. But that’s never going to happen. First Drogba, now Essien. It seems the Chelsea brass are conspiring to ship out all my favorite Blues. Who’s next? Lampard?
Chelsea has a good team this season. They would have a better one if Michael Essien were in the lineup.
Sad about Michael Essien’s departure? Feel free to share your cathartic thoughts below…
5 questions facing Chelsea as the new season kicks off with tomorrow’s Community Shield match…
This soccer summer has flown by thanks to the Euros, Chelsea’s U.S. tour, and the Olympics. Chelsea faces Manchester City tomorrow in the mother of all preseason games – the unofficial start of the new Premier League season – the FA Community Shield. As a new season dawns, here are 5 questions facing the Blues:
1) Will Fernando Torres be able to fill the departed Didier Drogba’s shoes?
Unfortunately for Chelsea fans, the answer is no. But very few strikers could replicate the heroics Drogba produced during his Chelsea years. Although we may see some short-term improvement from Torres after his positive output at Euro 2012, he has never quite clicked with Chelsea and I’m not expecting many goals from him in the new season.
Now that 19-year-old Romelu Lukaku has been loaned to West Brom for the season, Chelsea may do some last minute shopping for an additional striker. Lukaku was a hot signing for Chelsea early last season when he was billed as a potential replacement for Drogba. Instead, he languished on the bench, making occasional cameo appearances in lower profile matches. I’m disappointed to see him loaned, but hopefully he’ll get some vital experience at West Brom and return to Chelsea a more polished, confident player.
With Lukaku out of the picture for now, the Blues need Daniel Sturridge to have a breakout season at forward.
2) Who will make up the core of Chelsea’s midfield?
Chelsea is currently stocked up on midfielders: Frank Lampard, Jon Obi Mikel, Ramires, Florent Malouda, Michael Essien, Raul Meireles, Eden Hazard, Oriol Romeu, Josh McEachran, Marko Marin, and now Oscar (the Brazilian youngster Chelsea signed a couple weeks ago).
It’s a good problem to have, sorting through so much talent, but it’s a problem nonetheless. Will we see a regular group of starters, or will there be constant rotation? If rotation is the answer, will the midfield be able to gel? Even if the club offloads a few midfielders, there will still be a lot of talent on the bench every week.
A lot could change in the next few weeks. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Malouda and maybe even Meireles transferred before the season kicks into high gear.
3) Is the defense deep enough to survive another grueling schedule?
Surprisingly, Chelsea’s summer deal making (and attempted deal making) has focused on midfielders and strikers. But it was the back line that ran low on options at the critical point of last season due to injuries and suspensions.
John Terry will likely continue anchoring the Chelsea defense, but how long can he hold up? By his own admission, Terry is starting to feel his age. Who will fill in when Terry needs extra recovery days? Barring any last minute summer signings, we’ll likely see a lot more of Ryan Bertrand who played very well when called on at the end of last season.
Assuming Branislav Ivanovic, Ashley Cole, David Luiz, Gary Cahill, and Terry are the regular rotating starters, there aren’t many additional bench options. Paulo Ferreira may have a little left in the tank, but he’s been at the club since 2004 and has had a very limited role the past two seasons. Sam Hutchinson’s comeback story is inspiring, but he may not be ready for the rigor of weekly Premier League defending.
Chelsea tried to get Marseille defender Cesar Azpilicueta this week, but Marseille rejected the offer. Now Di Matteo may be looking at Juventus defender Stephen Lichtsteiner instead.
4) Which loan players should be retained and who should be loaned this season?
Josh McEachran was being carefully groomed under Carlo Ancelotti two seasons ago, but Andre Villas Boas ignored McEachran at the beginning of last season. The 19-year-old went on loan to Swansea for the remainder of the 2011/2012 season where he didn’t see much more playing time. McEachran has a lot of potential but Chelsea’s midfield is so crowded right now, he’ll likely go on loan for another season.
Yossi Benayoun is a talented player who doesn’t seem to fit in Chelsea’s overall plan. He spent last season on loan at Arsenal where he did quite well. Benayoun was on the bench for Chelsea’s preseason loss to Brighton last Saturday, but he didn’t play and it doesn’t seem likely Chelsea will keep him much longer.
Further room on the Chelsea bench might also be made by loaning Kakuta, van Aanholt, and even Oriol Romeu.
5) Will Roberto Di Matteo make it past Christmas in charge of Chelsea?
When Di Matteo was finally offered a two-year contract earlier this summer after his stint as Chelsea’s interim manager, it seemed only fair. After all, Di Matteo earned the opportunity by leading the club to the FA Cup and Champions League titles. The contract offer showed promising (and rare) open-mindedness about manager selection from owner Roman Abramovich. It will be interesting to see how the new season tests Abramovich’s patience. Will he be willing to weather the season’s storms with Di Matteo at the helm or will he fire him at the first sign of trouble?
As usual, there are a lot more questions than answers. One thing’s pretty certain though: it won’t be a boring season for Chelsea!
What do you think about Chelsea’s prospects this season?
Chelsea unveils 3rd kit
Chelsea trained in Miami for the first time yesterday evening in preparation for their final U.S. preseason game against A.C. Milan Saturday night. The Blues will undoubtedly be antsy for a win after tying Paris St. Germain in New York and losing to the MLS All-Stars in Philadelphia. Should be a fun one against A.C. Milan.
Yesterday Chelsea unveiled the all-important (not really) “third” kit – an interesting yellow and black number inspired either by Tron or 80s big-hair metal band Stryper. I’m not sure which…
I’m not a big fan of this 3rd kit, though there are far worse jerseys to be featured in the Premier League this season (for proof check out this and especially this). Chelsea has also had worse 3rd kits in the past, although I liked last season’s 3rd (which has sentimental value as the kit worn in that historic win at Barcelona to reach the Champions League final). Generally, I prefer jerseys that aren’t too busy, and this new kit has a little too much going on for my taste (particularly those ab-highlighting lines). But the 3rd is usually just a cameo jersey, so we probably won’t see it very often.
As a side note, Chelsea wore their new away kit for the first time against the MLS All-Stars the other night and I thought it worked well. The previously bashed sash on the jersey didn’t bother me that much.
Some Blues-related news I’ve seen today includes Benayoun possibly being loaned to Fulham, and Marseille possibly selling defender Cesar Azpilicueta to Chelsea. I like Benayoun, but at 32-years-old, I don’t expect Chelsea will keep him this season. Fulham would probably be a good gig for Benayoun. As for Azpilicueta, I don’t remember much about him from watching Marseille in the Champions League last season, but I welcome the signing of another defender.
What do you think of Chelsea’s new 3rd kit?
MLS All-Stars beat Chelsea 3-2
They’re still in preseason. They’re still in preseason. They’re still in preseason. That’s what I’ve had to keep telling myself about Chelsea since the loss last night to the MLS All-Stars in Philadelphia. Actually, it wasn’t a poor Chelsea performance. And the All-Stars weren’t particularly starry. It was a decent game with a decent number of scoring chances for both teams. Still, I’d rather Chelsea have won.
Michael Essien was on fire last night. He looked like the pre-2011-injury Essien (which is a good thing). Perhaps he is just now fully recovered from the knee injury that wrecked half of last season for him. Or, perhaps he was just a man on a mission to show Di Matteo that he can still take care of business in midfield. Regardless, he looked great and made a tremendous case for himself. His was aggressive and fast on defense. His passes were back to their old accuracy. It was great to see.
For all the talk about Chelsea’s supposed youth revolution this summer, look who scored the Blues’ goals last night – Terry and Lampard. These guys just keep on ticking. I don’t know how many more seasons they’ve got left in them, but as long as they keep contributing like this, it’s hard to think about replacing them.
New Blues Marko Marin and Eden Hazard didn’t quite click with the team last night. Marin held onto the ball a little too long in the box on several occasions when a quicker shot or pass might’ve been the better option. Unfortunately, Hazard simply didn’t get many opportunities to show his stuff when he came on in the second half.
Lukaku’s effort was decent. I’d like to see him pull the trigger on shots more often. He could be a little more selfish with the ball in front of goal. And we still haven’t gotten a good look at his heading ability. But overall he had a better game than he did against PSG.
One of the trickiest aspects of Di Matteo’s job this summer will be figuring out what the best combination of players is, particularly in midfield. That job is even harder with some key guys like Mata and Sturridge currently busy at the Olympics. I thought the first half offensive group (Lampard, Essien, Benayoun, Ramires, Marin, Lukaku) significantly outperformed the second half group (Mikel, Meireles, Hazard, Piazon, Malouda, De Bruyne).
Last night’s loss was disappointing because you want to see your team dominate in preseason. But it’s not that big a deal. There is a still lot of preseason yet to go. The team is already in Miami for their final U.S. Tour stop where they’ll play A.C. Milan on Saturday.
Your thoughts on Chelsea’s performance last night?
Chelsea takes on MLS All-Stars tonight
I’m looking forward to Chelsea’s big clash against the MLS All-Stars tonight. Should be a pretty close game. Sounds like Di Matteo may let several players go the full 90. Doesn’t look like Torres will play tonight at all though. You can hear some of Di Matteo’s and Lampard’s comments about the match and MLS’ development here.
The big player news of the day involves… whom else? Oscar the Brazilian Wonder Kid of course! Chelsea has officially confirmed the 18-year-old’s signing. Increasingly, this is shaping up to be a torch-passing season for Chelsea between the veteran Blues and the brand new youngsters. Chelsea haven’t played it safe with their signings this summer. The moves have definitely been made with an eye toward the long-term future.
One of Chelsea’s brand new youngsters, Kevin De Bruyne, may be headed on loan to Bundesliga club Werder Bremen for this season. De Bruyne showed a lot of life in Chelsea’s first preseason game against the Sounders, though he was less visible in the PSG game. With so many midfielders to choose from, sending De Bruyne on loan may be the first of many tough personnel decisions Di Matteo has to make over the next few weeks.
Who do you hope to see play for Chelsea tonight?
Torres joins Chelsea teammates in Philadelphia
Fernando Torres returned from his post-Euro 2012 vacay yesterday, getting back to work with Chelsea as they prepare for the MLS All-Star game tomorrow night. MLS.com has video coverage of Chelsea’s training yesterday and here’s a brief video update from the team’s training today. Torres is not expected to play until Saturday’s match in Miami against AC Milan.
Today Chelsea officially announced that they’ve signed Eden Hazard’s younger brother Thorgan. If things work out for these young Blues brothers, we could be making Hazardous puns for years to come.
Oscar the Brazilian Wonder Kid must have an amazing agent because Oscar has somehow managed to be in the headlines for nearly two weeks in a row. Signs continue to point toward this deal happening, perhaps as early as Friday.
How excited is Philadelphia about hosting the Chelsea v. MLS All-Stars match tomorrow night? Judging by the Philadelphia Inquirer Sports home page, less-than-thrilled. Though the game’s a little over 24 hours away, there’s not a single item about it on the home page!
What do you think of the Thorgan Hazard signing?
Chelsea head to Philadelphia for MLS All-Star Game
Chelsea tied Paris St. Germain 1-1 in last night’s match at Yankee Stadium. It was a ho-hum game for the most part – not bad by any means, just a little stuck in lower gear. PSG was definitely a step up competition-wise from the Sounders game. Some better finishing might’ve garnered Chelsea the victory, but it was still a good battle back to tie the game. Today the team travels by train to Philadelphia for Wednesday’s clash with MLS All-Stars.
I still like the promise displayed by Hazard and Marin in last night’s game. They could make a big impact for Chelsea this season. I was less impressed with Lukaku and De Bruyne last night than against Seattle. Hutchinson also looked a little shaky on defense and too hasty with several passes. I wish McEachran had seen more of the ball when he came on in the second half. I also wish Malouda would regain his former sharpness in the final third. He had one of Chelsea’s best scoring opps of the match but smacked it directly at PSG’s keeper.
But these are small criticisms considering it’s preseason with lots of player rotation. And considering there are so many young players on this tour. Speaking of – how ‘bout 18-year-old Brazilian Lucas Piazon’s second half goal? Ramires (also Brazilian!) slipped Piazon the sweet pass that led to the goal. Earlier in the game I complained aloud about this whippersnapper Piazon who seems to have a penchant for trying to dribble around defenders instead of passing. Equalizing goals have a penchant for shutting me up. Piazon’s probably too young to earn a spot with Chelsea this season, but perhaps we glimpsed a bright future Blue last night.
Today’s Oscar the Brazilian Wonder Kid update swings back in the direction of him actually joining Chelsea. What that means is, nobody really knows for sure.
There are a couple items today about expensive German club players that Chelsea has tried to get – Andre Schurrle of Bayer Leverkusen and Robert Lewandowski of Borussia Dortmund. That’s the downside of being one of the world’s moneybags clubs, everyone tries to fleece you.
There’s also much chat today about Frank Lampard’s potential MLS future. I think it’s a non-story. The guy is committed to Chelsea to the end of his contract. Sounds like he answered reporters honestly after last night’s game because his future beyond this season really is up to Chelsea. They may decide not to renew, but I think that would be the only scenario that would send Lamps to MLS. By the way, if that does happen, FC Dallas wants you Frank!*
*I have no authority to speak on behalf of FC Dallas. But I’m inviting you to join the club anyway!
Your thoughts on the Chelsea/PSG match last night?