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Dear Didier

A Special Invitation from Chelsea* to Drogba…

Dear Didier,

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.

Love,

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.

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Future Blues

Latest Chelsea rumors and realities

After a slow start to the traditional summer transfer craziness due to the Euro 2012 tourney, things are about to heat up.  Now that the Euro 2012 Final is history (congrats to Spain!) clubs will be scrambling in July to assemble their rosters in time for the new season.

Here are some of the latest rumors involving current or potential Chelsea players.  These are solely rumors, approximately 99.9 % of which are planted by players’ agents, so all must be taken with a large grain of salt:

The LA Galaxy might offer Frank Lampard a two-year deal to go Hollywood.  Not sure how they would cram in another designated player when they’ve already got Keane, Beckham, and Donovan, but if any MLS team can finagle it, LA can.  Lampard is such a Chelsea stalwart that I can’t imagine him leaving.  If he had to go, it would be fun to see him in MLS, but I don’t want Lamps to leave Chelsea!

Chelsea has supposedly declined an offer from FC Copenhagen to acquire Romelu Lukaku on loan for the upcoming season.  Hope this means Chelsea is going to work Lukaku into the lineup more next season.  Looking forward to seeing what the Belgian has to offer.

I’ve read a couple rumors about Chelsea being interested in Arsenal’s Theo Walcott.  I file this one under “unexciting”.  Walcott hasn’t been a consistent starter for Arsenal and I feel like Chelsea already has a similar player in Daniel Sturridge.  I’d rather keep Sturridge.

Chelsea seems quite interested in Wigan striker Victor Moses, but their initial offer was apparently laughed off by Wigan.  Moses is semi-interesting, but I’d rather see Chelsea give Sturridge and Lukaku a chance to fulfill their potential.

Chelsea may try to get right back Maicon from Inter Milan.  Don’t know much about him, but it might be a good idea as Chelsea ended up defensively short-handed late last season due to injuries.

Paris St. Germain may try to pry John Terry away from Chelsea.  While Terry’s also a perennial Blue, I actually wouldn’t be too disappointed to see him go.  For all his defensive prowess and leadership, he sure has made some boneheaded moves over the years.  And there’s still the small matter of his pending racial abuse case involving his on-field clash with QPR’s Anton Ferdinand last season.  I seriously doubt Chelsea will let Terry go though.

Finally, Chelsea is not renewing contracts for Salomon Kalou and Jose Bosingwa.  Both are players I won’t miss very much.  Their Chelsea seasons were a mixed bag of helpfulness and hurtfulness.  Still, they’ll always be a part of Chelsea nostalgia for their contributions to the club’s first Champions League title.

Which of these are good ideas?  Bad ideas?  Feel free to weigh in below…

Loan Stars

FC Dallas’ Brek Shea and George John hone their skills in Britain

FC Dallas standout Brek Shea capped a successful 2011 with a month-long training stint at Arsenal.  Few expected much to come of the opportunity in terms of a loan deal or something more permanent – least of all Arsenal skipper Arsene Wenger who downplayed their invitation to Shea – but it was a great chance for Shea to train with some of Europe’s best during the MLS offseason.  Between U.S. Men’s National Team call-ups and the Arsenal invite, FC Dallas fans were proud to see one of their best get so much deserved recognition.

Then a few weeks ago came the news that defender George John was heading to West Ham United for a two-month loan spell.  Again fans were pleased to see one of FC Dallas’ outstanding young talents validated with such a high-profile opportunity.  Both Shea and John were also invited to the U.S. Men’s National Team winter training camp, though John is unable to attend due to the West Ham loan.

 

The Shea and John opportunities highlight a catch-22 for American soccer as a whole.  MLS is getting better every year and helping produce world-class players, but they’re not necessarily able to keep those players stateside.  On one hand, the more our best players get to play top-level soccer the better – especially for national team purposes.  On the other hand, it doesn’t bode well for the development of MLS if its best prospects get scooped up by foreign clubs (latest example:  Bolton’s snag of Tim Ream from NY Red Bulls).  I don’t blame players at all for wanting to give Europe a go if a club comes calling – it will probably make them a better player (and make them more cash).  But as a fan, I want to see top players like Shea and John don the FCD red and white for the long haul.

For now, we can supposedly look forward to seeing Shea and John in the FCD lineup when the new MLS season kicks off in March (though John’s deal apparently leaves an opening for West Ham to keep him on if things go well).  I hope we do get to see them back in Dallas, as they’re both rising stars playing for a franchise that needs the potential drawing power of stars more than most other MLS teams.  I think the sky’s the limit for Shea in particular.  He could be the U.S. National Team’s best player in a few years.  FC Dallas fans better enjoy these guys while we can, because the reality is they may soon be too good for a club our size to afford to keep.

What do you think of offseason loan deals for MLS players?  Does it help or hurt MLS?

Seeing Red

Chelsea’s Premier League title hopes look bleak after loss to Liverpool

I had a bad feeling about yesterday’s game.  Chelsea has looked shaky lately.  The shakiness started with that ridiculous loss at QPR a month ago, then was exacerbated by the Arsenal-supplied thrashing, and followed by the weak Champions League draw at Genk.  All this in a season where Manchester City’s usually reliable meltdowns have yet to materialize, Man U beats everyone at will (except invincible Man City), and even Arsenal is suddenly unbeatable.  String those factors together with the momentum-killing international break and you have the recipe for a disastrous loss against a very tough Liverpool.  That was my fear going into yesterday’s game anyway.  My fear was unfortunately confirmed.

The 2 – 1 loss to Liverpool was one of those absolutely maddening games for fans.  One where you question why you care for any team or sport at all.  Throughout my life, my favorite teams in all sports have been the almost teams – good but never quite good enough.  There are probably some psychological insights to be mined as to why I always seem to favor almost-champions.  Whatever the reason, I’ve never been drawn to the Manchester Uniteds of sports.  I don’t know what it’s like to be able to kick back and enjoy domination.  That’s why Chelsea’s ‘09/10 title win was so fun – it was an anomaly for me as a fan – with goals and wins flowing easily.  But starting about this time last year, virtually every Chelsea game has seemed precarious.  Last season’s slump seemed like a passing storm, but this season’s slump is worse because it seems to be rooted in deeper team problems that I can’t fully identify.  At least with last season’s slump, first place was still in sight.  This season I’m already sweating the unthinkable… loss of a Champions League slot.

Against Liverpool the Blues once again dominated possession, and once again had nothing to show for it.  Possession is virtually worthless if it doesn’t produce legitimate scoring opportunities.  The most frustrating aspect of the match was another hallmark of my favorite teams over the years:  major mistakes (in this case defensive) that never seem to afflict opposing teams.  Defensive errors are killing Chelsea this season!  Liverpool had no such hiccups and therefore earned the win.  Fox Soccer analyst Warren Barton had an interesting post-game Chelsea analysis.  I hope he’s wrong about them, but I fear he’s right.

With things going so poorly for Chelsea domestically, it should be a relief that they’re still atop their Champions League group.  But even that is little consolation this season, because while they’ll most likely advance to the knockout stages, it is very difficult to see them getting past the likes of the Manchesters or Bayern Munich, not to mention Real Madrid or Barcelona.

Indeed, things aren’t looking up for Chelsea at the moment, but at least they – and we, the fans – don’t have to wait very long to begin righting the ship.  Wednesday it’s back to Champions League play at Bayer Leverkusen, then Saturday it’s home against Wolves.  Let’s hope these harsh recent losses inspire new resolve in the Blues!

Will Chelsea finish in the top four in the Premier League this season?

Renewed Blues

Chelsea’s preseason ends on a high note

Chelsea won their last preseason match, defeating Glasgow Rangers 3 – 1 on Saturday.  The victory capped an undefeated preseason and confirmed that Blues fans have reason to be very positive about the upcoming season, which is now one week away.

Chelsea is flying under the radar to start the new season, which is a great place to be.  While all the attention has been on the Manchesters and Arsenal’s will-they-or-won’t-they-lose-their-superstars soap opera, Chelsea has quietly gone about their business in a methodical, un-glitzy fashion.  Aside from the summer-long Modric question, even Chelsea’s transfer dealings have been pretty quiet.  The deals that have been made are smart – the most recent being Oriol Romeu and (just Saturday) Romelu Lukaku.  Unfortunately, Yury Zhirkov is departing the team, presumably to make room for these new signings, however, if you had to lose someone, Zhirkov is a smart choice.  Not that he isn’t a top-quality player; he just never quite became the regular starter (partially due to injury) that might have been expected when he came to Chelsea two years ago.

The addition of Romeu and Lukaku – both still teenagers – is exciting, particularly when considered alongside the other Chelsea youth that was on fine display throughout

the preseason.  You can really see the future Chelsea squad taking shape, and yet, the veteran favorites are still in great form.  This blend of youth and experience will make for an exciting season.

Speaking of exciting, Daniel Sturridge scored two goals Saturday against Rangers.  He has surely earned a starting forward spot with his preseason fireworks.  Problem is, he was red-carded during the final game of last season (while on loan with Bolton) and is therefore suspended for the first three matches of this season.  Tough break for Sturridge – and Chelsea.  The other forwards might want to use the first few games to make a case for themselves because Sturridge’s case is currently the most convincing.

What do you think of Romeu and Lukaku – smart acquisitions or wasted transfer opportunity?

Blues Clues

Piecing together the latest bits of Chelsea personnel chatter

Chelsea FC is in Malaysia, training up a storm in oppressive heat, getting ready for their third preseason match this Thursday against Malaysia XI.  By the way, that match will air live in the U.S. on Fox Soccer.  Since arriving in Malaysia, new manager Andre Villas-Boas has talked about “evolution” for Chelsea rather than “revolution”, meaning he is taking a cautious approach to major team alterations rather than having a fire sale and dominating the transfer market.  AVB’s approach is a wise one.  When you’re the new guy, you don’t want to be a smarty-pants who’s going to fix everything with your genius.  Fact is, Chelsea has a roster still loaded with top-tier talent.  The team needs tweaks, not an overhaul.  Having said that, the club is still keeping their name in the transfer hat and here are some recent notes of interest:

Back in June, it seemed Chelsea was ready to sign 18-year-old Bel-gian/Anderlecht forward Romelu Lukaku.  That deal cooled off for some reason, but over the weekend, the buzz was back.  Some reports say Chelsea has the highest bid at the moment, but Arsenal has entered the pursuit as well.  Since we don’t see much Jupiler Pro League stateside (actually we never see it), I haven’t had the opportunity to evaluate Lukaku.  But anyone who is seriously compared to Drogba definitely piques my interest.  Could be an interesting acquisition.

 

Apparently Scott Parker is back on the radar, with Chelsea now attempting to buy him outright from West Ham, rather than attempting a loan deal.  Aston Villa is still the top competition for Parker, but Chelsea’s change in strategy will make things interesting this week.  I’m a Parker fan and would really like to see him at Chelsea.  He could be a solid part of a deep midfield rotation that could come in handy over the long haul of this season’s competitions.

 

AVB says he will take the Malaysian trip to decide what to do with Daniel Sturridge.  AVB insists Sturridge is part of his long-term vision for Chelsea, but is considering loaning him out for another season.  That’s a hard call.  Sturridge is still very young and Chelsea is loaded at forward (it would be all the more crowded with Lukaku), but they should start incorporating him now.  There were many times last spring I wished Sturridge was playing instead of Torres!

 

One final rumor from today involves Chelsea interest in Chilean/Bayer Leverkusen midfielder Arturo Vidal.  Alas, I know nothing of Vidal, so I don’t know what to think about this rumor.

What do you think about Vidal?  Lukaku?  Are these worthwhile pursuits for Chelsea?

Modric & Nasri… Still on Chelsea’s Radar?

Both players seem to be staying put, but rumors persist

Lately the transfer rumor mill has been buzzing about Chelsea’s interest in (and apparent bid for) Tottenham midfielder Luka Modric.  There have also been murmurings about potential Chelsea interest in Arsenal’s Samir Nasri.  As of today, both players have reported to their teams’ respective preseason training and any transfer deals appear to be off.  Tottenham in particular has insisted Modric is staying.  Arsenal’s stance on Samir appears less adamant, but he’s supposedly sticking around for the last year of his contract.

 

Still, both situations seem less than cemented.  I saw a brief interview with Luka Modric on Fox Soccer Report last night and he gave the impression things are still up in the air.  He also seemed slightly disappointed about returning to the Tottenham camp.  Some reports say Nasri really wants to leave Arsenal, but the club is understandably reluctant to let him go.  Or, maybe they’re just holding out until someone ponies up super megabucks for Nasri.  Might that someone be Chelsea?  Is Nasri Chelsea’s plan B since a Modric deal now seems unlikely?

I admire the way Modric and Nasri play.  Either would be excellent additions to the Chelsea side, though I’m not sure there’s adequate room in the squad at the moment.  Which Blues midfielder would get squeezed out if Modric or Nasri arrived?  There’s a lot of eagerness to point out Lamps’ age (implying his star is fading), but he’s got a lot of good soccer left in him.  I certainly wouldn’t want to see Lampard, Essien, or Malouda get more bench time.

If Chelsea could get either Modric or Nasri, I’m not sure which one I’d prefer.  Here is an interesting statistical comparison between the two from last season.  Judging strictly by the numbers, I might actually choose Nasri.  I have a feeling there are further developments in store between Chelsea and one of these guys.  July is still young, so stay tuned!

Would Modric or Nasri be a better Chelsea choice?  Feel free to weigh in below…