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Michael Essien Gets Real

Sad thoughts on my favorite player being loaned to Real Madrid

We’ll miss you too buddy…

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…

Why Always Man U?

Referee assists Chelsea in squandering three-goal lead

It was basically sickening on Sunday.  As soon as Rooney predictably rammed home his second PK of the afternoon I knew the match would end in a draw.  Even though Chelsea still led 3-2 at that point, I’ve been around the soccer block too many times to think that the Blues would actually be able to hold off Manchester United for the rest of the match.  I was right.  Javier Hernandez, that little Man U rascal who is incomprehensibly allowed to wear his cutesy nickname on the back of his jersey rather than his real name, tied the game with a wickedly timed run and header.  I hate that I’ve turned into a Chelsea version of a Chicago Cubs fan this season, but Chelsea has choked a few too many times this campaign to retain much optimism in big games (or little ones actually).

What makes last Sunday’s 3-3 draw all the more painful is that for the first hour or so things were falling into place so beautifully!  Sturridge showing some speedy signs of life and scoring the opening goal (so what if it was officially a Red Devil own goal?).  Then Juan Mata’s hair-raising volley smash on the end of Torres’ cross to kick off the second half!  Then David Luiz’s well-timed header goal just moments later!  It was all too good to be true.

About those PKs against Chelsea…  the first one was probably deserved.  Sturridge got a little over-zealous.  But the second one against Ivanovic a few minutes later was a ridiculous call!  It wasn’t a penalty.  Normally I think Howard Webb is one of the world’s better refs.  And I don’t envy anyone who has to attempt to officiate matches as big as this one.  But Webb had a very off day.  Besides the penalty decisions he was wildly inconsistent all afternoon, toward both sides.  Top-flight soccer simply must have instant replay for calls inside the penalty box.

I saw the Man U game as a last opportunity to rescue Chelsea’s dismal season – that maybe a victory would spark some life into the sputtering squad and help ensure they at least retain a Champions League spot for next season.  Now, the forecast is still very uncertain.  They will have to scrap for every remaining point.

Adding to the on-field woes is the recent chatter about locker room disharmony and players having issues with AVB.  Piled on top of that are the rather ridiculous rumors (or are they?) of Jose Mourinho wanting to return to Chelsea.  What a mess!  It would be a mistake to dismiss AVB this early.  He’s made some iffy calls along the way, but it’s not his fault the season has gone so poorly (just like Carlo Ancelotti shouldn’t have been blamed for last season’s shortcomings).  I don’t know that Mourinho would be able to turn things around any more effectively.  Chelsea needs stability right now.  They should give AVB two more seasons before reassessing.

What do you think about Andre Villas-Boas’ management this season?  Should he be given more time?  Feel free to weigh in below…