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Happy Blue Year

The January transfer window is open and Chelsea changes are afoot

Rah, rah, sis boom Ba!

Rah, rah, sis boom Ba!

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.

Seriously, who would let this guy go?

Seriously, who would let this guy go?

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?

Chump-ions League

Chelsea continues dreadful form in 3-1 loss at Napoli

I thought the 2-0 loss at Everton a couple weeks ago was the low point of Chelsea’s season.  The team looked absolutely lifeless.  Most disturbingly, they showed no fighting spirit.  Everton looked exactly the way I wish the Blues would – aggressive, hungry, and energetic.  After the Everton match, the rumor mill kicked into high gear about Chelsea locker room turmoil and especially how long it would be until AVB gets shown the door.  I was going to explore all that in the wake of the Everton match but it was too depressing.  Chelsea looked so bad it was hard to know where to start.  Plus, I had my hands full at my day job as my soccer team made it to our state’s final four playoffs (alas, we lost in the championship game).  So I decided to wait it out, hoping for a Blues turnaround in the FA Cup against Birmingham City and in their Champions League visit to Napoli.  Guess I shouldn’t have waited it out.

For now, I’ll skip over the 1-1 draw with Birmingham in the FA Cup.  I mean, it’s bad enough, but at least they get to try again in the replay.  The Napoli game this past Tuesday was terrible.  Except for the few minutes Chelsea was up 1-0 in the first half, they never looked like they might win.  What is it about every team Chelsea faces this year getting one or two players to slip in behind the Blues defense?  It happens every game, usually more than once.  It’s maddening!  Even worst, Chelsea very rarely generates similar opportunities.  To be sure, Chelsea still owns the middle of the field, but in the final third, the Blues are completely predictable.  Savvy opponents just cram the box and are content to let Chelsea pass around the perimeter until someone gets impatient and lobs a ball into the middle where one or two Blues are surrounded by an army of defenders!  Even the slippery Sturridge who was so effective earlier in the season is going through a dry, bland spell.

Some pundits are questioning AVB’s starting lineup choices against Napoli, but that’s not the reason Chelsea tanked.  The Blues just didn’t play well.  They haven’t played well for about two-thirds of the season.  Champions League play was the last hope for Chelsea to take this season’s lemons and make lemonade.  Now they’re hanging on by the thinnest of threads in all competitions.  Poor AVB is probably on his way out, and like Carlo Ancelotti last season, it’s not all his fault.

With each week of the season my expectations for Chelsea slip further.  Now it’s starting to look like the most they have to play for is a Champions League slot for next season.  It’s a grim time for Chelsea fans, but tomorrow’s a new day.  Maybe a big win over Bolton will bring some much-needed hope!

Is AVB to blame for Chelsea’s woes this season?

Blues Cruise

Chelsea enjoys 3 – 1 victory over Everton

It was good to see the Blues back in action after the lengthy international break.  I’m not much of a fan of the international breaks by the way.  I understand their necessity and I don’t have a better solution to offer, but I’d rather not have them interrupting the season.

Chelsea put in an excellent performance against Everton yesterday.  It was a mostly comfortable victory – one that actually reminded me of the ‘09/10 EPL title winning Blues.  This season’s Sunderland, Bolton, and Everton wins are reminiscent of Chelsea’s more dominant phases of the past several years.  Things are looking up.  If only they hadn’t let Man U get the better of them!

Conceding a late goal to Everton slightly marred the day.  Defensively, sometimes it’s easy to be lulled into a false sense of security with a three-goal lead, but Chelsea really needs to seal those leaks in preparation for tougher days ahead.  Petr Cech must be banging his padded noggin against his locker lamenting the lack of clean sheets this season.

One major confidence booster for Chelsea and its fans is the current lineup depth.  It sure is heartening to see the likes of Malouda and Anelka warming up as substitutes!  It’s an embarrassment of riches really.  I think Chelsea has the best depth in the league right now.  Look at the guys who weren’t playing yesterday:  Torres, Luiz, Alex, Meireles, Lukaku.  The TV cameras even gave us a glimpse of Michael Essien in the stands, still out with his knee injury.  Here’s hoping Essien can rejoin the squad for the second half of the season!

Other thoughts from the game…

Bosingwa has surprised and impressed me this year.  He has been quite a reliable right back from preseason on.  However, if I’m being picky, his crosses into the box, or pass selection at the end of positive runs down the wing, are often hasty and sloppy.

Hope Ramires’ knee injury suffered when netting Chelsea’s third goal just turns out to be a knock.  He has been Chelsea’s Energizer bunny this season and would be missed if he has to sit out long.  Ramires could turn into a long-term star for Chelsea.Juan Mata is looking like a genius signing thus far.  He is all over the field, offensively innovative, with great passing and deft ball handling.

Likewise, Daniel Sturridge continues to impress.  Chelsea needs to wrap him up with a long-term contract.

Drogba had a bit of an off day, but he’ll come around.  He was still involved through his strong physical presence and made several key passes.  I still think he should start alongside Torres once Fernando returns from his three-match red card ban.

It was a good weekend for Chelsea fans and a positive primer for Wednesday’s Champions League match against Genk!

Thoughts on Chelsea’s performance against Everton?  Feel free to share below…