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Shield’s Up!

5 questions facing Chelsea as the new season kicks off with tomorrow’s Community Shield match…

This soccer summer has flown by thanks to the Euros, Chelsea’s U.S. tour, and the Olympics.  Chelsea faces Manchester City tomorrow in the mother of all preseason games – the unofficial start of the new Premier League season – the FA Community Shield.  As a new season dawns, here are 5 questions facing the Blues:

1)  Will Fernando Torres be able to fill the departed Didier Drogba’s shoes? 

Unfortunately for Chelsea fans, the answer is no.  But very few strikers could replicate the heroics Drogba produced during his Chelsea years.  Although we may see some short-term improvement from Torres after his positive output at Euro 2012, he has never quite clicked with Chelsea and I’m not expecting many goals from him in the new season.

Now that 19-year-old Romelu Lukaku has been loaned to West Brom for the season, Chelsea may do some last minute shopping for an additional striker.  Lukaku was a hot signing for Chelsea early last season when he was billed as a potential replacement for Drogba.  Instead, he languished on the bench, making occasional cameo appearances in lower profile matches.  I’m disappointed to see him loaned, but hopefully he’ll get some vital experience at West Brom and return to Chelsea a more polished, confident player.

With Lukaku out of the picture for now, the Blues need Daniel Sturridge to have a breakout season at forward.

2)  Who will make up the core of Chelsea’s midfield?

Chelsea is currently stocked up on midfielders:  Frank Lampard, Jon Obi Mikel, Ramires, Florent Malouda, Michael Essien, Raul Meireles, Eden Hazard, Oriol Romeu, Josh McEachran, Marko Marin, and now Oscar (the Brazilian youngster Chelsea signed a couple weeks ago).

It’s a good problem to have, sorting through so much talent, but it’s a problem nonetheless.  Will we see a regular group of starters, or will there be constant rotation?  If rotation is the answer, will the midfield be able to gel?  Even if the club offloads a few midfielders, there will still be a lot of talent on the bench every week.

A lot could change in the next few weeks.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see Malouda and maybe even Meireles transferred before the season kicks into high gear.

3)  Is the defense deep enough to survive another grueling schedule?

Surprisingly, Chelsea’s summer deal making (and attempted deal making) has focused on midfielders and strikers.  But it was the back line that ran low on options at the critical point of last season due to injuries and suspensions.

John Terry will likely continue anchoring the Chelsea defense, but how long can he hold up?  By his own admission, Terry is starting to feel his age.  Who will fill in when Terry needs extra recovery days?  Barring any last minute summer signings, we’ll likely see a lot more of Ryan Bertrand who played very well when called on at the end of last season.

Assuming Branislav Ivanovic, Ashley Cole, David Luiz, Gary Cahill, and Terry are the regular rotating starters, there aren’t many additional bench options.  Paulo Ferreira may have a little left in the tank, but he’s been at the club since 2004 and has had a very limited role the past two seasons.  Sam Hutchinson’s comeback story is inspiring, but he may not be ready for the rigor of weekly Premier League defending.

Chelsea tried to get Marseille defender Cesar Azpilicueta this week, but Marseille rejected the offer.  Now Di Matteo may be looking at Juventus defender Stephen Lichtsteiner instead.

4)  Which loan players should be retained and who should be loaned this season? 

Josh McEachran was being carefully groomed under Carlo Ancelotti two seasons ago, but Andre Villas Boas ignored McEachran at the beginning of last season.  The 19-year-old went on loan to Swansea for the remainder of the 2011/2012 season where he didn’t see much more playing time.  McEachran has a lot of potential but Chelsea’s midfield is so crowded right now, he’ll likely go on loan for another season.

Yossi Benayoun is a talented player who doesn’t seem to fit in Chelsea’s overall plan.  He spent last season on loan at Arsenal where he did quite well.  Benayoun was on the bench for Chelsea’s preseason loss to Brighton last Saturday, but he didn’t play and it doesn’t seem likely Chelsea will keep him much longer.

Further room on the Chelsea bench might also be made by loaning Kakuta, van Aanholt, and even Oriol Romeu.

5)  Will Roberto Di Matteo make it past Christmas in charge of Chelsea?

When Di Matteo was finally offered a two-year contract earlier this summer after his stint as Chelsea’s interim manager, it seemed only fair.  After all, Di Matteo earned the opportunity by leading the club to the FA Cup and Champions League titles.  The contract offer showed promising (and rare) open-mindedness about manager selection from owner Roman Abramovich.  It will be interesting to see how the new season tests Abramovich’s patience.  Will he be willing to weather the season’s storms with Di Matteo at the helm or will he fire him at the first sign of trouble?

As usual, there are a lot more questions than answers.  One thing’s pretty certain though:  it won’t be a boring season for Chelsea!

What do you think about Chelsea’s prospects this season?

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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?

Blues in the News

Rounding up the day’s miscellaneous Chelsea info

The Blues are still working hard in Seattle ahead of tomorrow night’s preseason friendly against the Sounders.  If you’re a Chelsea fan living in the Seattle vicinity you’d be crazy not to attend the team’s open-to-the-public training session at CenturyLink Field tonight at 6:00.  It’s free of charge!

Player news and rumors today include the possibility of Fulham acquiring Romelu Lukaku on loan for the season.  I would frown on that move.  After much hype surrounding his signing last season, Chelsea didn’t give the 19-year-old much of a shot.  Though he’s below Torres and Sturridge on the depth chart, I’d like to see what he could do.  Let’s face it, we still don’t know which Torres will show up this season, so the club could potentially use a tall, strong, hungry striker like Lukaku.

Another 19-year-old, Josh McEachran, is supposedly meeting with Di Matteo this week to discuss his role (or potential lack of a role) in the lineup this season.  McEachran is a tricky case because he has tons of potential (his passing and positioning abilities are fantastic) but he’s still green, and it’s hard to see him getting many minutes in Chelsea’s currently stacked midfield.  You don’t want to let a guy like that slip away, but how do you incorporate him enough to keep him content while he continues maturing?  Loaning him out for another season may be the best option to keep him in the fold while getting him the top-level match experience he needs.

Several news outlets are reporting the deal for Oscar the Brazilian wonder kid has been finalized.  Still no official word from Chelsea FC though.

On the rumor front, rumblings have resumed that Chelsea are after Napoli’s striker Edinson Cavani.  Could be an interesting move.  He certainly terrorized Chelsea’s defense in the Champions League last season.  If this deal happens however, my bet is Lukaku will have to pack his bags for Craven Cottage.

Finally, Frank Lampard was a guest on Dan Patrick’s radio show today.  It was a fun interview covering an array of topics from Beckham’s Olympic snub to Wayne Rooney’s hair plugs.  You can listen to the whole segment here

What should Chelsea do with Lukaku and McEachran?  Does Chelsea need Cavani?

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?

Chelsea v. Kitchee

Blues roll to another preseason victory

1stHalf Highlights/Commentary

-Chelsea sported their new black away kit for the first time in a match.  Looked snazzy overall.

-Chelsea came out looking confident and enthusiastic with a lot of immediate possession.  Much more energetic from Chelsea than their previous two Asian games.

-Chelsea didn’t get the ball to Drogba enough in the first fifteen minutes.  He wasn’t a threat.  Granted, it’s not easy to crack the goal with eight or nine Kitchee defenders cramming the box.

-16th min:  Drogba finally found some space and served a great cross from the right to Kalou who connected with his head, but the ball bounced off the ground, then off the crossbar.  No goal.

-A primary difference between Drogba and Torres – Drogba usually fights to win back the ball when he loses it.  Torres often lets it go.

-Thirty minutes in, Chelsea still looked better than previous games, but for all their possession, still not enough shots on goal to show for their effort.

-Chelsea had plenty of room on the flanks, as they often do, but they’ve got to figure out a way to deal with these defenses packed in the center of the box, because they’ll be facing similar strategy all year against EPL teams.

-36th min:  Benayoun made a great cut into the box.  One touch too many took away his shooting opportunity, but he was hacked down, and the ref awarded a PK which Lampard put away to make it 1 – 0 for Chelsea.

-43rd min:  Great free kick by Drogba from about 35 yards out.  Kitchee GK had to make a good save.

2nd Half Highlights/Commentary

-49th min:  Great grounder cross from Malouda on the left.  Drogba made a good run to tap it in, but didn’t have to as the Kitchee defender knocked it into the net.  2 – 0 for Chelsea.

-60th min:  Deflected cross from Malouda was knocked in by an aggressive Drogba header (once again the kind of hustle I’d like to see from Torres).  3 – 0 for Chelsea.

-61st min:  Torres, Sturridge, McEachran, Ivanovic, and Mikel entered the game for Drogba, Malouda, Zhirkov, Terry, and Lampard respectively.

-Sturridge was off target with a distance shot and a free kick just a few minutes after entering the game, but it was good to see his hunger and enthusiasm for goal.

-72nd min:  Sturridge made a nice leading pass down the right to Fereirra who crossed it right across the goal and past Torres who seemed to jog toward it.  For some reason, commentator Martin Tyler immediately came to Torres’ defense, saying “at full throttle – and he [Torres] shouldn’t be expected to be at full throttle at this stage of the preseason – that would’ve been a goal.”  I disagree.  Why isn’t Torres digging deep to try to win a starting spot?  Torres didn’t seem to be expecting the cross.  I don’t get it.  Drogba would’ve gone all out trying to get the ball in the net.  Torres was hesitant and slow and it was entirely typical of his play since joining Chelsea.  I’ll try to take a break from Torres-bashing, but I just can’t believe we haven’t seen any change in his effort.

-Rajkovic has potential.  He’s a tall, intimidating presence in the back line.  He did have a few awkward touches on the ball today, which he probably would’ve paid for in an EPL match.  Shortly after one such touch late in the second half, Nathaniel Chalobah replaced him in the game.

-77th min:  Sturridge showed tremendous skill in the box, getting by two defenders and rifling in a smart shot from a tough angle on the right side.  4 – 0 for Chelsea.

Sturridge is making a strong case for himself to be a regular starter.  At the moment, if there are three starting forward positions open, Drogba and Sturridge deserve 2 of the 3 slots (with Kalou and Malouda neck-in-neck for the 3rd).

-The “Barclay’s Man of the Match” was Yossi Benayoun – a deserved honor for a player who has looked aggressive and hungry throughout the preseason to win a regular starting spot.  After struggling with injury last year, it’s good to see him fit and contributing.

-90th min:  Torres took a strike from 30 yards out that hit the right post.  It was a good idea.  Here’s hoping we see more of that assertiveness from him Saturday against Aston Villa.

Who are the top three Chelsea forwards so far this preseason?

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?

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?