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Renewed Blues

Chelsea’s preseason ends on a high note

Chelsea won their last preseason match, defeating Glasgow Rangers 3 – 1 on Saturday.  The victory capped an undefeated preseason and confirmed that Blues fans have reason to be very positive about the upcoming season, which is now one week away.

Chelsea is flying under the radar to start the new season, which is a great place to be.  While all the attention has been on the Manchesters and Arsenal’s will-they-or-won’t-they-lose-their-superstars soap opera, Chelsea has quietly gone about their business in a methodical, un-glitzy fashion.  Aside from the summer-long Modric question, even Chelsea’s transfer dealings have been pretty quiet.  The deals that have been made are smart – the most recent being Oriol Romeu and (just Saturday) Romelu Lukaku.  Unfortunately, Yury Zhirkov is departing the team, presumably to make room for these new signings, however, if you had to lose someone, Zhirkov is a smart choice.  Not that he isn’t a top-quality player; he just never quite became the regular starter (partially due to injury) that might have been expected when he came to Chelsea two years ago.

The addition of Romeu and Lukaku – both still teenagers – is exciting, particularly when considered alongside the other Chelsea youth that was on fine display throughout

the preseason.  You can really see the future Chelsea squad taking shape, and yet, the veteran favorites are still in great form.  This blend of youth and experience will make for an exciting season.

Speaking of exciting, Daniel Sturridge scored two goals Saturday against Rangers.  He has surely earned a starting forward spot with his preseason fireworks.  Problem is, he was red-carded during the final game of last season (while on loan with Bolton) and is therefore suspended for the first three matches of this season.  Tough break for Sturridge – and Chelsea.  The other forwards might want to use the first few games to make a case for themselves because Sturridge’s case is currently the most convincing.

What do you think of Romeu and Lukaku – smart acquisitions or wasted transfer opportunity?

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Modric Money

Why Chelsea should forget about signing Modric

Chelsea will be in the race to win the Premier League this season whether they sign Luka Modric or not.  I like Modric.  He would strengthen any team he’s a part of, including Chelsea.  But Chelsea is good enough right now without him.  “Good enough?” some might say, don’t you want to be better than good enough?  Not when acquiring him might cost some £30 million or more.  It’s just not worth it.  Save the money and reassess in January.  There might be a more pressing personnel need at the season’s mid-point.

Chelsea currently has multiple midfield options.  I understand the risk involved in whether or not Michael Essien will be able to get back to his former playing self at all, let alone be back before this season’s over.  But Chelsea has more than enough to get by at midfield this season.  In fact, they’ll have at least a couple of very talented midfielders on the bench every week.  They don’t need to further complicate the rotation with Modric (at least not at the price Tottenham wants).

Teams need time to develop chemistry.  Chelsea just returned from a long Asian chemistry-building trip.  If the Aston Villa game is any indication, Chelsea is really starting to solidify.  Trying to suddenly incorporate a new star in an already crowded lineup just a few days before the season begins isn’t ideal.  Not impossible, just not ideal.  Just ask Fernando Torres.

What do you think – should Chelsea continue pursuing Modric?

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?

Modric & Nasri… Still on Chelsea’s Radar?

Both players seem to be staying put, but rumors persist

Lately the transfer rumor mill has been buzzing about Chelsea’s interest in (and apparent bid for) Tottenham midfielder Luka Modric.  There have also been murmurings about potential Chelsea interest in Arsenal’s Samir Nasri.  As of today, both players have reported to their teams’ respective preseason training and any transfer deals appear to be off.  Tottenham in particular has insisted Modric is staying.  Arsenal’s stance on Samir appears less adamant, but he’s supposedly sticking around for the last year of his contract.

 

Still, both situations seem less than cemented.  I saw a brief interview with Luka Modric on Fox Soccer Report last night and he gave the impression things are still up in the air.  He also seemed slightly disappointed about returning to the Tottenham camp.  Some reports say Nasri really wants to leave Arsenal, but the club is understandably reluctant to let him go.  Or, maybe they’re just holding out until someone ponies up super megabucks for Nasri.  Might that someone be Chelsea?  Is Nasri Chelsea’s plan B since a Modric deal now seems unlikely?

I admire the way Modric and Nasri play.  Either would be excellent additions to the Chelsea side, though I’m not sure there’s adequate room in the squad at the moment.  Which Blues midfielder would get squeezed out if Modric or Nasri arrived?  There’s a lot of eagerness to point out Lamps’ age (implying his star is fading), but he’s got a lot of good soccer left in him.  I certainly wouldn’t want to see Lampard, Essien, or Malouda get more bench time.

If Chelsea could get either Modric or Nasri, I’m not sure which one I’d prefer.  Here is an interesting statistical comparison between the two from last season.  Judging strictly by the numbers, I might actually choose Nasri.  I have a feeling there are further developments in store between Chelsea and one of these guys.  July is still young, so stay tuned!

Would Modric or Nasri be a better Chelsea choice?  Feel free to weigh in below…