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City of Brotherly Blues

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?

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That’s What I Like About Blues

Chelsea rebound with 3 – 0 victory over Wolves

Whew!  Finally – a nice stroll in the park Chelsea win for a change.  After the tumultuous past two matches, it was a relief for Chelsea fans to enjoy a relatively stress-free match.  In fact, the win over Wolves was precisely what yours truly suggested in my last post – multiple goals and a clean sheet.  Nice to know the club was listening.

The goals came from Terry, Sturridge, and Mata – all in the first half.  Chelsea got off to a more aggressive start than we’ve seen recently.  They looked sharper and more focused overall.  It was gratifying to see them maintain that focus for the full ninety and preserve their third shutout of the Premier League season.

Despite looking better the Blues offensive buildup is still on the slow side.  Generally, they give defenses too much time to settle in, which has often neutralized Drogba and Torres this season.  Speaking of, Drogba had several flashes of brilliance today but still looks a bit rusty.  He even seemed lazy on occasion, when some hustle would’ve yielded better positioning.  As for Torres, his continues to be a very disappointing situation.  The sad and surprising (considering how great he was at Liverpool) thing is that he is not missed when he’s left out of the Chelsea lineup.  They actually don’t need him right now.  Sturridge and Mata excel without him.  I would still like to see Torres become a great Chelsea player, but I completely understand AVB’s reluctance to play him lately.

Two reasons Chelsea looked so much better today were the contributions of Ramires and Ashley Cole.  Ramires was oddly silent during the Bayer Leverkusen game, but was back in form today, creating space and opportunity with his speed and endurance.  Cole continues to be an absolutely essential wingman for Chelsea – very consistent in the back and a constant threat going forward.  He was definitely missed during the Bayer Leverkusen game (due to a minor ankle injury).

It may have been slightly disappointing that Chelsea didn’t convert any of their second half scoring chances, but with no major defensive mistakes, the win will be a good morale booster.  The Blues took care of business today – an absolute must considering all the challenging matches leading up to Christmas!

What must Chelsea do to maintain momentum following the Wolves win?

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?

Stadium of Might (Chelsea’s!)

Blues dominate at Sunderland

The big news before today’s match was that Torres would start… on the bench.  Word is that AVB ain’t all that thrilled that Nando left his magic scoring boots in Liverpool.

On the good news front for Chelsea:  Cech was back in goal today.  It was also great to see David Luiz again, even if it was just on the bench.

Overall, a rather un-dramatic match today.  It was pretty much a walk in the park for the Blues.  But after the last couple nail-biters, this Chelsea fan welcomed the break.  Here are a few of my game notes:

-Early on, some classic Cole runs up the left wing from the back.  Ashley Cole is an unsung workhorse for Chelsea.  He’s so reliable in his position that it’s easy to take him for granted.

-11th min:  Mata made a great run into the box, but Anelka couldn’t do anything with Mata’s cutback pass.  In fact, Anelka was virtually absent for the first 10 minutes.

-18th min:  Fantastic finish by Terry for a Chelsea goal!  And nice cross from Sturridge to kick off the frantic sequence in the box, which led to the goal.

-First quarter of the game was nothing for Chelsea to write home about.  Not bad, but nothing flashy.  Expected a little more precise possession.  Apparently they’re still working out the kinks with new players in the lineup.

-Mata was a very bright spot for Chelsea in the first half hour.  Always moving, trying to make things happen.  Some smart and spot-on passes from him.

-Sturridge was energetic, trying hard to get involved, though he missed a great low-level cross from Bosingwa in the 37th minute.

-By the end of the first half the game was very casual with Sunderland content to let Chelsea bring the ball forward.

-51st min:  Great 40-yard pass from Anelka to Sturridge who then cleverly back heeled the ball into the goal!

-63rd min:  Awesome on-goal half volley from Malouda (in his very first touch of the game), but it was saved by Sunderland’s keeper.

-75th min:  Torres replaced Mata.  Probably a well-timed choice by AVB to get Torres into a low-pressure situation.  Unfortunately, Torres barely touched the ball.

-79th min:  Oriol Romeu made his Chelsea debut, replacing Anelka for the game’s home stretch.  He didn’t see the ball enough to make much of an impression.

-91st min:  Chelsea allowed a very disappointing Sunderland goal to make it 2 – 1.

-94th min:  Scariest minute of the game as Sunderland suddenly sprang to life, launching several balls into the Chelsea box.  Chelsea had a sudden 3-on-1 offensive situation after Cech launched the ball downfield out of danger.  Torres received it and had a wide-open Ramires to his right, but made an absolutely dreadful waste of a pass that went out of bounds.  Fortunately for him, the game was over seconds later!

So, a solid win for Chelsea, even though it wasn’t the kind of commanding victory that the Manchesters have produced.  After Man U thrashed Bolton today, I’m leery of the Blues’ trip to Old Trafford next weekend.  Before psyching themselves up for that one, Chelsea turn their attention to Bayer Leverkusen in Champions League play on Tuesday.  Things are about to get interesting!

What did you think about Chelsea’s performance against Sunderland?  How will Chelsea fare against Bayer and Manchester United next week?

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?