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Stroll in the (Queens) Park

Chelsea dismantles QPR 6-1

It was so fun to watch a non-stressful Chelsea game today.  It’s been some time since Blues fans have been able to kick back and enjoy a Chelsea goal fest.  It was a welcome respite after the ultra tense Champions League semifinal matches against Barcelona the past two weeks.

I was expecting a tense match against QPR since they’re fighting to stave off relegation and with Chelsea coming off the emotional high of knocking out Barcelona last Tuesday.  But credit to Di Matteo for focusing the squad on the task at hand – a loss today would’ve probably ended Chelsea’s bid for fourth place in the Premier League (and thus a Champions League berth for next season).

Daniel Sturridge began the scoring onslaught just 45 seconds into the match.  John Terry added a header goal off a corner kick a few minutes later, then Fernando Torres added two more – all before the 25th minute!  Torres scored another goal in the second half to complete his first hat trick as a Chelsea player (Malouda scored the team’s sixth goal).

Torres’ finishing was so much sharper against QPR, I wonder if his climactic goal at Barcelona last week finally got him over the mental hurdle that has hampered him since joining Chelsea.  He certainly looked a lot more relaxed and confident today.  If he can finish the season looking this strong, I’ll have to recant my post from a few weeks back listing him among those players Chelsea should consider transferring this summer!

Chelsea’s possession and attack hasn’t looked this good in a very long time.  The team’s amazing transformation under Di Matteo is apparently for real.  With Chelsea’s emphatic win over QPR and Newcastle’s surprising loss to Wigan, the Blues are now only one point out of fourth place (behind Tottenham and Newcastle who are tied with 62 points).  Newcastle visits Chelsea on Wednesday in what will be another must-win clash for the Blues in their bid to keep Champions League hopes alive for next season.  No rest for the weary!

What do you think – has Torres fully recovered his old form?

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Blues Soldier On

Thoughts on Chelsea’s 2-1 loss at Man City and 0-0 draw with Tottenham

After the generally dismal season Chelsea fans have endured, the past couple weeks have been a very welcome respite.  Just a month ago, a loss at Manchester City like the one this past Wednesday would’ve seriously irked Blues fans.  But there is enough positive afterglow from the Champions League comeback against Napoli to outshine the disappointing loss at Manchester City.

This EPL season was a lost cause for Chelsea long ago.  It’s all about Champions League survival now – advancing in the current tourney and qualifying for next season’s edition.  It doesn’t render EPL games unimportant of course – a win Wednesday would’ve been very helpful, but yesterday’s clash with Tottenham at Stamford Bridge carried the most significance.  Even interim Chelsea boss Roberto Di Matteo admitted a loss to Spurs might have put next season’s Champions League berth out of reach.

Chelsea and Tottenham played the whole match Saturday like they were afraid to lose.  Mission accomplished as neither team scored.  The goalless draw was more disappointing than the loss at Man City since no progress was made toward reducing the five point gap separating Spurs (in fourth place) and Blues (in fifth).  It was a disheartening missed opportunity for Chelsea.  Though there are eight league games remaining, it is a very tall order for Chelsea to overtake Tottenham.  Failure to qualify for Champions League play next season would be a huge disappointment.  It’s hard to imagine that competition without Chelsea!  Still, there are eight games left.  Chelsea must take care of business and hope Spurs sputter badly.

Meanwhile, there’s the little matter of Chelsea’s trip to Benfica Tuesday for the first leg of their Champions League quarterfinal.  Can’t wait for that one.  It’s going to be a suspenseful April for Blues fans!

What do you think – will Chelsea earn a Champions League slot for next season?

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?

 

 

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…