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Chelsea v. Aston Villa

Blues win Barclay’s Asia Trophy with 2 – 0 victory over Aston Villa

1st Half Highlights/Commentary

-1st min:  Amazing start for Chelsea… Bosingwa made a great leading pass to Anelka who raced into the box and shot, but was blocked by Villa GK Shea Given.  Ball deflected to Malouda who shot, but Given saved it again.  This time McEachran slammed the rebound into the net!

-Aside from the obvious early goal, Chelsea began the game very strong, perhaps even stronger than the Kitchee game.  The passing was precise and had a quicker tempo than we saw in the first two Asian games.

-Competition for starting forward spots seems to have inspired everyone to step up their game this preseason (except Torres – yet).  Anelka and Sturridge had a sharp first half against Aston Villa, both carrying the ball confidently into space.

-Commentator Martin Tyler again talked about the “ageing” Chelsea stars.  The problem in bringing this up so often during this preseason is that age doesn’t appear to be a factor for Chelsea yet.  Next year, or two seasons down the road, it will probably be something to talk about.  But right now you can’t say Terry, Lampard, Malouda, Anelka, or Drogba are struggling because of their age.

-Good to see Chelsea dominate a Premier League side, looking very comfortable in the first half.  Minor quibble with the fact that Chelsea’s scoring threats dried up in the last 20 minutes of the half.

2nd Half Highlights/Commentary

-Great to see Alex on for the first time this preseason!  He replaced Ivanovic to start the second half.

-55th min:  Fantastic dribble run at the top of the box by Sturridge, who slid it to Malouda on the left.  Malouda made an excellent cross to Lampard who headed it on goal.  Given made a diving save, deflecting it out to Sturridge who blasted it over the goal.  Great sequence, though Lampard and Sturridge should’ve scored.

-57th min:  Van Aanholt on for Zhirkov, Torres on for Sturridge, and Drogba on for McEachran.

-58th min:  Shocker – Torres’ first touch of the game is a goal!  Malouda took an overly ambitious long-range shot, which Torres calmly glanced on the run and into the goal.  2 – 0 for Chelsea.

-72nd min:  Benayoun replaced Anelka.  Anelka had the best game I’ve seen him play in quite some time.

-Chelsea wasn’t able to get Drogba involved at all in the second half.  Perhaps it was just too crowded up top with Anelka, Drogba, and Torres in at the same time.  Great to have a hungry offense – they’ve just got to figure out how to share the creative space.

-84th min:  Kalou came on for Lampard.  Chalobah entered for Terry in the 89th minute.

-Overall, Chelsea worked hard, demonstrating very positive progress from the earlier games of their Asia tour.  Chelsea looks confident and fans have adequate reason for optimism about the season’s start in two weeks!

What positives/negatives did you notice from Chelsea against Villa?

Mostly Quiet on the Chelsea Front

The latest and greatest from Camp Blues

It’s been a slow news day ahead of Chelsea’s Wednesday game against Kitchee.  In related news, Kitchee is fun to say.  According to manager Andre Villas-Boas, we can look forward to seeing a core unit on the field for an hour or so as the team continues honing fitness and cohesion.  Players that appeared late in the game against Thai All-Stars will be staying on the longest tomorrow.

Unfortunately for Torres, that means he’ll likely spend most of the game on the bench.  I read a good article today exploring why Torres has struggled to shine at Chelsea.  I have been tough on Torres since his arrival, but only because I want him to succeed.  Plus, it’s confounding (and frustrating) as to where the Liverpool Torres went.  That guy was slippery and had a real knack for being in the right place at the right time to score goals.  My theory is that he’s never fully recovered from his pre-World Cup ’10 knee injury.  A lack of physical confidence has led to the shanks (consult non-soccer movie Tin Cup for shanks info).  Anyway, perhaps his lack of form will cause the media to give up and get off his case, thereby allowing him to fully regroup and play to his potential.

Rumors are still dangling about various potential signings, but nothing concrete yet.  The most out-of-left-field recent rumor I’ve heard is Chelsea interest in Kaka.  I’ll believe that one when I see it.  Honestly, I don’t know how Chelsea could possibly fit half the players they’re rumored to be interested in into the lineup unless they cut loose several players (which would be a bad idea).

Speaking of bad ideas – whose was it to give Salomon Kalou a video camera and let him roam the Chelsea cabin during their flight to Hong Kong?  Just kidding, Kalou actually avoids too much shaky-cam and gives a humorous behind-the-scenes look at his fellow Blues.

Check back here tomorrow for a rundown of Chelsea v. Kitchee…

Will Torres find his footing in time for the EPL season start?  Should Chelsea sign anyone else before the transfer window closes?  Should Kalou-Cam be a regular feature on the club’s website?

Chelsea: The Age-Old Question

Villas-Boas defends Blues veterans

I saw a few stories this morning about Sir Alex Ferguson’s jabs at Chelsea, basically saying the Blues haven’t done much to alleviate their ageing problem this summer.  Andre Villas-Boas responded by pointing to the squad’s past success and reiterating his belief that they are still strong contenders.

First of all, Fergie is a master of the mind game sound bite (covert trash-talking).  Man U’s currently rolling across America, full of confidence, toppling MLS teams left and right.  So with the EPL season just a few weeks away, Fergie figures it’s time to launch a strategic barb, aimed at the club he must know will be Man U’s primary title competition next season.  With all the talk of Chelsea’s “struggles” last season, it’s easy to forget that they finished a not-too-distant second (and that was with all their supposed geezers in the lineup).

Secondly, Fergie is hardly one to talk about ageing players.  Ryan Giggs is still a regular starter for goodness sake.  And what about the recently retired Neville and Scholes?  I guess they weren’t playing as regularly as Chelsea’s core group of vets, but still.  Sir Alex seems to believe in keeping vintage players around and the past few seasons I’ve thought him wise to do so.

Andre Villas-Boas is taking the right approach with the Chelsea roster.  People are too quick to write off players over 30.  Any other EPL team in their right mind would start Terry, Lampard, or Drogba as often as possible.  And those who say Chelsea is just relying on the same old squad haven’t been paying much attention.  What about Luiz, Ramires, Mikel, Kalou?  And this preseason has shown significant youth promise for the club with McEachran, Bertrand, Van Aanholt, Sturridge, and Chalobah.

Don’t be fooled by Fergie’s mind tricks, Chelsea fans – AVB’s got a strong mix of veterans and youngsters brewing.  In the end, I think it will make an exciting, winning combination.

Do you think Chelsea needs more youth in the starting eleven?

Chelsea @ Thailand All-Stars

Blues look a little better in 4 – 0 win

1st Half Highlights/Commentary

-First 10 minutes were once again sluggish for Chelsea.  They were firmly in control of possession, but the build-up was slow, with no real speed in the final third.

-17th min:  Some good action from the forwards for a change.  First Sturridge sent a floating cross from the left, Torres settled it, tried to move into the box, but cut it back to Anelka who got a shot off at the top of the box, but it was snuffed out.

-Anelka found a lot of space in the first 20 minutes, but his shots and passes weren’t sharp enough.

-32nd min:  Best shot of the game so far was by one of the Thai all-stars.  Cech had to make a good save.

-34th min:  Three Chelsea players (Anelka, Torres, Van Aanholt) touched the ball in the box but couldn’t get a shot on goal!

-37th min:  Van Aanholt made a great pass into the box to Torres who made a very poor left-footed shot across the goal that missed wide right.

-37th min:  Fortunately for Chelsea, Lampard took one of his classic worm-burner shots from the top of the box to score (Anelka set up Lampard with a short pass).

-First half negatives:  Corner kick finishing was dreadful.  Chelsea did not seem interested in connecting via headers or otherwise.  The corners were simply wasted.

Torres and Sturridge found some decent openings, but their finishing shots were sorely lacking.  Don’t mean to pick on Torres too much, but when is he going to get it in gear?  He is not a threat to opposing defenses at all.  He is slow, sloppy, seems to give up easily on the ball, and his shots are either too soft or not even on frame.

-First half positives:  McEachran had excellent ball control and impeccable passing.  The Chelsea defense handled the few Thai challenges with poise.  Anelka was more involved with the action than he was against Malaysia XI.  Van Aanholt continuously made contributing runs down the left flank, working several connecting passes into the box.

2nd Half Highlights/Commentary

-The only change for Chelsea to start the second half was Hilario taking over for Cech in goal.

-49th min:  Bosingwa sent in a cross that looked disappointing because it was too close to goal, but the Thai GK appeared to misjudge the ball’s flight and knocked it into the goal… 2 – 0 for Chelsea.

-51st min:  Great sequence from Ivanovic starting the ball forward from the back, played a give-and-go to McEachran, then Ivanovic found himself one v. one with the GK and slid it in to make it 3 – 0 for Chelsea.

-61st min:  Drogba, Malouda, Benayoun, Ferreira, Zhirkov, Cole, Kalou, and Rajkovic entered the game.

-72nd min:  Malouda ran onto an excellent through-ball from Cole and Malouda scored to make it 4-0.

-76th min:  Jamal Blackman took over for Hilario in goal.  Chalobah replaced Ivanovic.

-Second half negatives:  Chelsea’s possession was more sporadic than in the first half.  The defense was a little leaky, allowing several dangerous Thai shots.

-Second half positives:  Though the Chelsea attack wasn’t particularly cohesive, they were much better at finding openings and finishing in the final third.  Villas-Boas talked about wanting to see more “vertical” passing after the Malaysia game and Chelsea finally achieved more successful vertical balls today.

Also, Hilario was fantastic in goal.  I have not been impressed in the past by Hilario’s play (in the very few appearances he’s made), but he looked world class today.

Summary:  It was great to see so many goals, however, the score doesn’t actually reflect much Chelsea improvement over the Malaysia game.  There was still a painful lack of urgency from the Blues in the first half and a very casual pace in the second.  However, Chelsea was much better at creating space and scoring opportunities than in their last outing.  Hopefully, the team will continue looking sharper as they move camp to Hong Kong.

Do you think Chelsea played better today than against Malaysia XI?

Chelsea @ Malaysia XI

1-0 Chelsea win leaves much to be desired from Blues

1st Half Highlights (or lowlights)/Commentary

-Good to see Bertrand and McEachran in the starting eleven.

-Chelsea played a 4-3-3 formation as preferred by Andre Villas-Boas at Porto.

-I’m unfamiliar with Slobodan Rajkovic in the back line (22-year-old).  Apparently he has European work permit issues so he’s getting a look during the Asia tour.

-2nd min:  Benayoun took a giveaway and gave great through-ball to Torres who slid a grounder right to the goalie.  Torres should’ve finished the golden opportunity.

-First third of the game was very sluggish possession-wise for Chelsea.  67 passes in first 12 minutes or so, but in small spurts, often broken up, with very little flow and only a couple chances from Benayoun passes.

-I’d like to see a little more aggressiveness and snap.  Manchester United and Real Madrid look sharper and hungrier for goals in their recent U.S. friendlies.

-17th min:  Bertrand hit cross from left that was mis-cleared, Kalou tapped it to Lampard who missed the goal badly.

-19th min:  Excellent through-ball from Kalou to Torres who couldn’t toe it in from a tough angle.

-Through first 20 minutes, Chelsea defense looked very calm and composed.  No real threats from Malaysia XI.

-Some impressive work from Bertrand passing and dribbling down left side.

-29th min:  Lampard free kick right on edge of box, but he smashed it off Malouda and out of play.

-Torres was static off the ball for much of the half.  Not encouraging.

-Chelsea looked pretty sloppy in the final third, which was a problem for much of last season.

-36th min:  Bosingwa threw an unusual mini-tantrum, throwing the ball away when he disagreed with a throw-in call.  A few minutes later Kalou protested when he was called for a clear hand-ball.  Both cases showed poor sportsmanship/professionalism from Chelsea, particularly for a friendly!  They should know better.

-37th min:  Patrick Van Aanholt replaced Bertrand at left back.  Not sure if it was planned, or if Bertrand was gassed.  Surprising move because Bertrand looked strong and confident.

-39th min:  Torres made one good move past a defender inside the left side of the box to get a shot off, but once again from a bad angle.

-With 40 minutes gone, one of the game commentators remarked that, “…preseason or not, [he is] exceptionally underwhelmed by Chelsea.  No real movement.  No real desire.”  I couldn’t have agreed with him more!

-42nd min:  Lampard missed another chance in the box, right in front of goal, after a quick succession of nice passes (though he looked to be barely offside anyway).

-45th min:  Great cross from Bosingwa but Torres barely missed getting his head on it and Benayoun’s resulting clean-up shot was blocked by a defender.

Summary:  While you can’t read too much into preseason matches, this was a very disappointing start from Chelsea.  You would expect that competition for playing spots would inspire more aggressiveness and spark from players trying to impress the manager.  Alas, there was very little energy or zip from the squad in the first half with the exceptions of Benayoun and Bertrand.

2nd Half

-An entirely new eleven started the second half.

-47th min:  Mikel made the kind of quality long-range shot that was missing in the first half.

-First 10 minutes of the second half Chelsea showed a bit more desire, but not many scoring chances to show for it.

-60th min:  Good initiative by Terry, taking a ball at midfield and rushing it forward.  Nice leading pass to Anelka who passed it back toward the middle, but a defender cleared it out.

-20 minutes into the second half I was getting restless.  It seemed every Chelsea pass was just out of reach, or intercepted, or headed away.  Far too many long balls.  Little build-up passing.  The initial hope brought on by the second half eleven began to fade.

-69th min:  Zhirkov free kick found Terry’s head but it went a couple feet over the crossbar.  At least Terry was showing some leadership with his aggressiveness.

-70th min:  Sturridge ran onto a ball, took it into the box and hit a nice low shot, but the GK made a great save.

-As usual, Drogba worked much harder off the ball than Torres.  He makes things happen.  He’s a troublemaker for defenses.  Hopefully Torres will learn from Drogba’s wily ways!

-78th min:  Drogba free kick outside left side of the box was a screamer that the goalkeeper barely got a hand on.  The ball bounced off the post, off the GK’s back, bounced on the line, and was ruled a goal by the linesman.  Replays clearly showed the ball did not cross the line.

-85th min:  Malaysia missed an easy goal after an unusual lapse in the middle of the Chelsea defense.

-Billy Clifford (midfielder), Mikel, and Anelka were invisible for the last 20 minutes.  Not good.

Summary:  With the Blues players only having to play one half, we should have seen much more hustle and desire.  Yes it’s only preseason, but Malaysia is a team that lost to Liverpool 6-3 just last week.  That’s the kind of dominating result you want to encourage and reward a team for training hard in preseason.  You want to blaze through these tune-up games, build confidence, and peak in time for the EPL season premier against Stoke.

Overall, absolutely not the energetic, goal-blitz I was looking for from Chelsea.  It was a lackadaisical effort that brought back bad memories of last season.  Andre Villas-Boas couldn’t have been impressed.  Hopefully he’ll light a fire under the team before the next match in Thailand on Sunday!

How do you think Chelsea played today?

Andre Villas-Boas: First Impressions

Grading the new Chelsea manager’s first month on the job

Okay, so it’s not really fair to grade a coach after barely a month at a new job.  Especially since there haven’t even been any regular season games yet.  But I’ve got to blog about something while I wait out the remaining twelve hours or so before Chelsea kicks off against Malaysia XI, so it might as well be evaluating AVB!

I liked Carlo Ancelotti.  I thought the club treated him poorly and sacked him prematurely.  So whoever succeeded him would have to win me over as a fan.  So far, AVB has done just that.  He has brought new energy to the club, seems to have a good plan in place, and has hit the ground running to implement it (not that he had much choice, with little prep time before the players returned).  As a detail-oriented guy, I can appreciate his apparent detail-orientedness.  For example, check out this snooping from the Daily Mail, which shows some of AVB’s clipboard diagrams from a recent training session.

I also appreciate the way AVB has tempered the hoopla surrounding his Porto success and megabucks transfer to Chelsea with appropriate humility.  He fully realizes that his Porto trophies got him to Chelsea, but staying past one season in London will require fast results.  Fair or not, that is the scenario.  But AVB seems up to the challenge.

AVB has also made smart personnel decisions, like promoting Steve Holland and Michael Emenalo (to assistant first team coach and technical director respectively), and choosing recent West Brom manager Roberto Di Matteo as his assistant coach.  Di Matteo was a pleasant surprise of a choice.  My impression of him last year prior to his West Brom canning was that he is an intelligent, mature guy with a lot of managerial potential. Player-wise, AVB has taken a careful approach, not getting sucked into the transfer market madness, or trying to flex too much managerial muscle with sweeping changes.

Ancelotti was a good manager, but perhaps his laidback style lulled the largely veteran team to sleep for much of last season.  There is a renewed energy about the team since Villas-Boas’ arrival.  Sometimes, even when the previous coach is well liked, teams need a leadership change to recharge the batteries.  So far, the team is reacting well to AVB’s training.  The players are fired up for the new season.  They don’t seem put off by AVB’s youthfulness either.  In fact, John Terry’s apparently been inspired by AVB to become a Chelsea manager himself someday.

Here’s hoping Chelsea’s perceived reinvigoration translates into some dynamic soccer in Malaysia tomorrow!

What do you think – how is Andre Villas-Boas doing so far?

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?

Blues Buzz

This week’s transfer rumors and signing realities

I’ve followed the daily transfer rumors more closely this summer than I have in past years and it has been quite amusing.  The latest example being Sir Alex Ferguson’s denial that Manchester United are deal-making to acquire Wesley Sneijder from Inter Milan.  It was a pretty firm denial in the face of supposedly serious reports all week that a deal is imminent.  The moral of the story is you don’t really know what’s going on with a player during transfer season until they show up in a new uniform.

I’ve kept tabs on the transfer rumors just to keep up with which Chelsea players are coming and going.  Of course, all the attention has been on Chelsea’s attempt to get Modric from Tottenham.  That deal is apparently deader than it’s been all summer after Tottenham nixed two Chelsea offers and denied Modric’s transfer request.  This mini-circus will likely continue until the season starts and I wouldn’t be surprised if Modric ends up in a Chelsea uniform during the January transfer window.

I think Chelsea should abandon the Modric pursuit in favor of another of this week’s rumors:  trying to get Scott Parker on loan from West Ham.  The times I’ve seen Parker play the past couple seasons, he has displayed the kind of relentless hustle and passion that was missing from much of the Chelsea squad last year.  Because of his age, he may not be a long-term addition, but if one of the primary personnel needs at the moment is a replacement for Essien at midfield, Parker could be just the shot in the arm the team needs.  Currently Aston Villa seems to be the frontrunner to acquire Parker’s services.

The other prominent transfer rumor of the week was Chelsea’s pursuit of Bolton defender Gary Cahill.  Interesting, though Chelsea’s defense seems to be in pretty good shape right now.  If this deal happened, I can’t see Cahill starting over any of the current group very often.

Other quieter rumors this week include Nicolas Anelka possibly returning to Paris St. Germain and Alex maybe heading to Bayern Munich or Real Madrid.  I like both players a lot, but of the two, transferring Anelka might be the shrewder move because of his age (32) and the fact that things are a little crowded at the Chelsea forward position.  It’s time for Daniel Sturridge to see more minutes at forward and transferring Anelka would help facilitate that.

I would hate to see Alex go.  When all the Chelsea defenders are healthy, they have a deep, quality bench, which is vital to the long EPL season.  If Alex left, adding someone like a Gary Cahill would be essential to maintaining that bench depth.  Anelka played in the second half of Chelsea’s first preseason game against Wycombe Wanderers Tuesday, but Alex did not.

 

Finally, two young Blues received welcome contract extensions today.  Twenty-two-year-old left-back Ryan Bertrand signed a four-year deal.  Eighteen-year-old midfielder Josh McEachran signed a five-year-deal.  Both signings seem very promising, though I only saw Bertrand for a few minutes in one game last season, so I don’t know much about him yet.  The McEachran signing is great for Chelsea.  Ancelotti worked him into several games last season and despite his beanpole build, McEachran was extremely impressive with his poise, patience, placement, and passing prowess (I got on a roll with the p’s and had to keep it going).  If McEachran can avoid burnout and develop some upper body bulk, he could very well be Chelsea’s Lampard of the future.

Which of these Chelsea transfer rumors is most exciting?  Most disappointing?

 

 

Essien Injury Blues

Bad news for Chelsea fans

Yesterday’s Michael Essien injury report from Chelsea HQ was a grim one for fans.  The right knee injury Essien suffered in training Friday was serious enough to warrant surgery (which he apparently had Monday).  According to the team, his recovery time could be up to six months.

Chelsea has a deep enough bench that they will survive this blow, although when he is fit, Essien is part of the essential core group that really anchors and steers the team.  He is a veteran whose relentless work effort will be missed.  For fans, the prospect of Chelsea without Essien for another half a season is very disappointing.  Even the best-case scenario probably won’t see him playing before February.  That could be just in time to provide a needed boost to EPL and Champions League title runs, but there are no guarantees with knee injuries.

I am disappointed for Essien.  It must be excruciating to have missed so much soccer in the prime of your career, knowing that players have a finite shelf life.  I’m certain it gets increasingly difficult to recover from serious knee injuries, and even when you do recover physically, recovering confidence can take even longer.

Since clubs are in the business of winning games, they often must separate themselves from fan sentimentality in these situations.  No matter how popular a player is, the club must have the necessary personnel available.  There are already reports of an increased Chelsea bid for midfielder Luka Modric that could help fill the void caused by Essien’s injury.

I fear Chelsea may run out of patience having to wait out another lengthy Essien injury and have to make some difficult decisions about his future with the team.  I hope Chelsea will stick by Essien and be quick to get him back on the field once he is ready.

Would Modric make a good replacement for Essien at midfield?

Michael Essien Injured… Again

Chelsea midfielder hurts knee during training Friday

As has been widely reported the past twenty-four hours, Michael Essien apparently injured his right knee during a training session Friday.  Chelsea’s official website confirmed the injury yesterday, but declined to divulge much detail until further tests are conducted this weekend.

This leaves Chelsea fans in considerable suspense, as another lengthy Essien outage would be a real blow to the team before the new season even gets underway.  The Ghanaian has struggled with knee injuries the past few seasons – an injury to his left knee kept him on the sideline for most of 2008/2009, then a separate left knee injury caused him to miss the last half of 2009/2010 as well as the 2010 World Cup.  It seemed most of last season was a comeback year for Essien in which he never quite found his best form.  His usual laser-guided passes were often a hair off and goals were relatively scarce.

Essien is my favorite Chelsea player and it would be extremely disappointing to see him miss the bulk of another season.  It is one of the tragedies of athletics that sometimes, regardless of talent and desire, playing careers can be dramatically reduced by injuries beyond the player’s control.  At 29-years-old, I wouldn’t count out another successful Essien rebound, but after the injuries he’s had the past few seasons it does raise concern about his ability to overcome yet another one.  Here’s hoping this weekend’s tests forecast a short rehabilitation so the Bison can get back to roaming the pitch before too much of the Blues’ season is gone.

How will Chelsea fare if Essien has to miss several months of this season?