The January transfer window is open and Chelsea changes are afoot
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.
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?
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?
MLS All-Stars beat Chelsea 3-2
They’re still in preseason. They’re still in preseason. They’re still in preseason. That’s what I’ve had to keep telling myself about Chelsea since the loss last night to the MLS All-Stars in Philadelphia. Actually, it wasn’t a poor Chelsea performance. And the All-Stars weren’t particularly starry. It was a decent game with a decent number of scoring chances for both teams. Still, I’d rather Chelsea have won.
Michael Essien was on fire last night. He looked like the pre-2011-injury Essien (which is a good thing). Perhaps he is just now fully recovered from the knee injury that wrecked half of last season for him. Or, perhaps he was just a man on a mission to show Di Matteo that he can still take care of business in midfield. Regardless, he looked great and made a tremendous case for himself. His was aggressive and fast on defense. His passes were back to their old accuracy. It was great to see.
For all the talk about Chelsea’s supposed youth revolution this summer, look who scored the Blues’ goals last night – Terry and Lampard. These guys just keep on ticking. I don’t know how many more seasons they’ve got left in them, but as long as they keep contributing like this, it’s hard to think about replacing them.
New Blues Marko Marin and Eden Hazard didn’t quite click with the team last night. Marin held onto the ball a little too long in the box on several occasions when a quicker shot or pass might’ve been the better option. Unfortunately, Hazard simply didn’t get many opportunities to show his stuff when he came on in the second half.
Lukaku’s effort was decent. I’d like to see him pull the trigger on shots more often. He could be a little more selfish with the ball in front of goal. And we still haven’t gotten a good look at his heading ability. But overall he had a better game than he did against PSG.
One of the trickiest aspects of Di Matteo’s job this summer will be figuring out what the best combination of players is, particularly in midfield. That job is even harder with some key guys like Mata and Sturridge currently busy at the Olympics. I thought the first half offensive group (Lampard, Essien, Benayoun, Ramires, Marin, Lukaku) significantly outperformed the second half group (Mikel, Meireles, Hazard, Piazon, Malouda, De Bruyne).
Last night’s loss was disappointing because you want to see your team dominate in preseason. But it’s not that big a deal. There is a still lot of preseason yet to go. The team is already in Miami for their final U.S. Tour stop where they’ll play A.C. Milan on Saturday.
Your thoughts on Chelsea’s performance last night?
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?
Latest Chelsea rumors and realities
After a slow start to the traditional summer transfer craziness due to the Euro 2012 tourney, things are about to heat up. Now that the Euro 2012 Final is history (congrats to Spain!) clubs will be scrambling in July to assemble their rosters in time for the new season.
Here are some of the latest rumors involving current or potential Chelsea players. These are solely rumors, approximately 99.9 % of which are planted by players’ agents, so all must be taken with a large grain of salt:
The LA Galaxy might offer Frank Lampard a two-year deal to go Hollywood. Not sure how they would cram in another designated player when they’ve already got Keane, Beckham, and Donovan, but if any MLS team can finagle it, LA can. Lampard is such a Chelsea stalwart that I can’t imagine him leaving. If he had to go, it would be fun to see him in MLS, but I don’t want Lamps to leave Chelsea!
Chelsea has supposedly declined an offer from FC Copenhagen to acquire Romelu Lukaku on loan for the upcoming season. Hope this means Chelsea is going to work Lukaku into the lineup more next season. Looking forward to seeing what the Belgian has to offer.
I’ve read a couple rumors about Chelsea being interested in Arsenal’s Theo Walcott. I file this one under “unexciting”. Walcott hasn’t been a consistent starter for Arsenal and I feel like Chelsea already has a similar player in Daniel Sturridge. I’d rather keep Sturridge.
Chelsea seems quite interested in Wigan striker Victor Moses, but their initial offer was apparently laughed off by Wigan. Moses is semi-interesting, but I’d rather see Chelsea give Sturridge and Lukaku a chance to fulfill their potential.
Chelsea may try to get right back Maicon from Inter Milan. Don’t know much about him, but it might be a good idea as Chelsea ended up defensively short-handed late last season due to injuries.
Paris St. Germain may try to pry John Terry away from Chelsea. While Terry’s also a perennial Blue, I actually wouldn’t be too disappointed to see him go. For all his defensive prowess and leadership, he sure has made some boneheaded moves over the years. And there’s still the small matter of his pending racial abuse case involving his on-field clash with QPR’s Anton Ferdinand last season. I seriously doubt Chelsea will let Terry go though.
Finally, Chelsea is not renewing contracts for Salomon Kalou and Jose Bosingwa. Both are players I won’t miss very much. Their Chelsea seasons were a mixed bag of helpfulness and hurtfulness. Still, they’ll always be a part of Chelsea nostalgia for their contributions to the club’s first Champions League title.
Which of these are good ideas? Bad ideas? Feel free to weigh in below…
Why Chelsea’s oldest players aren’t the club’s main problem
The popular jab at Chelsea all season has been the collective age of their players – that they’re too old to hack it anymore and that wholesale changes are needed. Critics may be right about the wholesale changes part, but Chelsea’s aged players aren’t the primary problem.
As I mentioned yesterday, the Wigan and Fulham matches were a real beat-down for this fan even though Chelsea beat Wigan and tied Fulham. I guess having two matches so close together just magnified the aspects of Chelsea’s play – and the players – that have annoyed most of the season. I didn’t have a week between games to forget the team’s problems and become an optimist again.
I hate to pick on Fernando Torres first (because he has been drubbed by critics throughout his year and a half at Chelsea) but my fan patience has expired with him. I like the guy, have rooted for him to succeed, and wish he would be a Chelsea superstar. But if it hasn’t happened by now, it’s probably not going to happen. His is a particularly frustrating case because you can see potential there, but it’s never realized beyond occasionally sharp passes and crosses. He works hard, but the effort rarely pays off with shots on goal (or goals period). Torres takes overly long strides with the ball, predictably barreling straight at defenders, in a halting style that yields constant turnovers. Didier Drogba on the other hand, while not having his best season, is much more threatening with the ball (he’s also Chelsea’s second highest scorer this season). He still causes problems for defenders – Torres does not. Drogba has been woefully underused this season, presumably in an effort to get Torres out of his slump and fully integrated with the team. It’s not working. Drogba needs to start every remaining game. I don’t know what he’s being saved for at this point, as every game is critical. Torres seems like a decent guy, but for the club’s sake he should be sold.
While I’m thinking about forwards, it’s also time for Salomon Kalou to go. Kalou has never quite clicked over to the consistency Chelsea needs. I appreciate that he has earned some extra late season game time by virtue of his Champions League goal at Benfica, but he’s done nothing since to merit this much pitch time. Kalou makes too many ill-timed passes and often holds onto the ball too long.
Daniel Sturridge should start every game at forward with Drogba. Sturridge has been the victim of too much lineup tinkering the past few months, which stifled the hunger and goal-scoring savvy he demonstrated early in the season.
At midfield, critics have been cranky toward Frank Lampard because of his age (33) but Lampard is the team’s top scorer this season! That despite playing less than he ever has at Chelsea. Lampard has occasional giveaways and unwise fouls, but he isn’t the weakest link in the Blues’ midfield. Raul Meireles is. I’ve never been thrilled by Chelsea’s acquisition of Meireles. His passing is average, he fouls too much, and his shooting is atrocious (no, I’m not forgetting his end-of-match blast against Benfica). He’s just not reliable enough. I’d much rather see Michael Essien (who’s still only 29) back as the consistent midfield commander.
Ramires has also annoyed lately. He’s in danger of falling into the Kalou category of not quite good enough. I love his tireless hustle, but it doesn’t make up for his awful amount of turnovers! I’m not ready to throw in the towel on him yet, but he needs some goals or assists to boost his stock.
It’s time for Chelsea to revamp, but getting rid of Terry, Lampard, and Drogba isn’t the answer. Those three are no longer in their prime, but Chelsea is still better when they’re on the pitch (or at least no worse). Why would a team get rid of those assets (their top two scorers this season in Lampard and Drogba) as long as they’re still healthy?
When this season began, it seemed Chelsea was in the process of integrating young players with the “old”. What happened to Romelu Lukaku and Oriol Romeu? We saw Romeu quite a bit before Christmas, but I don’t understand why the heavily touted Lukaku hasn’t been granted more run-outs.
This off-season, Chelsea needs to take the long-haul approach to rebuilding, which means no more mid-career, Torres-type acquisitions. Instead, they need to milk the remaining seasons from their veterans while weaving in dynamic youngsters. Youth is the ticket! That strategy may not yield immediate trophies, but the delayed gratification would be worth it.
What players do you think Chelsea should relinquish this summer?
Chelsea looks terrible in 2 – 1 Champions League loss to Bayer Leverkusen
This is going to be a bit of a rant. Can’t help it. I’m a fed up fan. Also a spoiled fan, I realize. After all, lots of teams lose a lot more often than Chelsea. But Chelsea is so much better than this! At least I thought they were. Today’s 2 – 1 loss to Bayer Leverkusen, on the heels of Sunday’s 2 – 1 loss to Liverpool (which was similarly flushed away late in the match), was absolutely ridiculous.
There I was, trying to enjoy a much-needed Thanksgiving break; all settled in to watch Chelsea take on Bayer Leverkusen live (from my living room couch). I was still smarting from that annoying Liverpool loss, but had been pumped up for the Bayer match by all the tough talk emanating from the Chelsea camp the past couple days. AVB defending his defense. Malouda saying “excuses are for losers”. Exactly the sorts of things fans need to hear after a miserable loss.
Then, Chelsea comes out completely flat against Bayer. Fortunately for the Blues, Bayer was also flat; otherwise the game might’ve been out of reach for Chelsea by halftime. After the Liverpool humiliation I expected Chelsea to open with guns blazing. Instead, they could barely string together a pass in the first half. I haven’t looked up any official stats to prove it, but it seemed like Chelsea had more giveaways than any other first half this season. Chelsea showed no fighting spirit out of the gate. Where was the hunger?
Chelsea had several shots toward the end of the first half with no heat on them and each right to the goalkeeper. The Blues’ vibe about such chances seems to be that the misses are no big deal, that plenty more will be created. But these missed opportunities can’t be shrugged off – they are repeatedly preventing victories! Chelsea demonstrated a complete lack of urgency today. You knew one goal would not be enough to hold off Bayer on their home turf, and yet Chelsea played like one goal was plenty. Daniel Sturridge was the only Blue who showed steady energy and desire. He initiated Chelsea’s best scoring chances of the match.
I understand it is AVB’s job to take a level-headed, measured approach to “fixing” things. Managers can’t react like fans. But where is the passion on the field? It’s time for the players to get a little mad and not take it anymore (losing that is). I wish AVB would do something unexpected and unconventional, like start benching some veterans in favor of hungry youth (bench Torres and Drogba and give Lukaku a shot). Things just aren’t working right now. The season is quickly slipping away on the two primary competition fronts. It’s time to shake things up!
The current slump is officially worse than last season’s. This is the Blues’ moment of truth. Chelsea must respond in a big way Saturday against Wolves (multiple goals and a clean sheet would be great place to start) or the Premier League season truly will be over for them!
What should Chelsea do to climb out of this slump? Feel free to offer advice below…
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…