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?
It’s been quite a month for the Blues
My how much can change at the ol’ Chelsea Football Club in such a short amount of time! You go a month without blogging about the Blues and look what happens. Benitez becomes the new coach… Fans repeatedly boo Benitez… Chelsea gets bounced from the Champs League… Chelsea gets bounced from the Club World Cup… Torres struggles at striker… wait, that last one’s no different from any other of the nearly 24 months since Fernando became a Chelsean. Anyways, very eventful weeks since I last updated this blog.
My soccer-coaching season is in full swing and life has been hectic, so that’s my excuse for the silence on all the upheaval at CFC – that, and the fact that I’m still disappointed by the Di Matteo canning. The coaching carousel at Chelsea has become so absurd that you really just have to throw up your “whatever!” hands. I guess if you buy a pro soccer club with your bazillions, you can do whatever you want with your club, even firing beloved managers.
Getting rid of Di Matteo was dumb, and Chelsea fans’ negative reaction to Benitez’s arrival has been humorous, but in the spirit of Christmas, it’s probably time to get o’er it, stop badgering Benitez, and get back to cheering on the Blue boys. After all, they’ve got Europa League to play for, and Capital One Cup! Yes, I’m being sarcastic, but it’s just because I’m so disappointed that Chelsea’s out of the Champs League. I haven’t even checked this week’s draw for the knockout round because it’s just not the same without the Blues. The day Chelsea got eliminated (thanks to Shakhtar’s sudden, complete soccer ineptitude – at home no less!), a package actually arrived at my house containing Kings of Europe, the Chelsea Champs League-winning commemorative hardcover book I’d ordered for my birthday. I was left thumbing through the pages with the hollow knowledge that Chelsea are the first Champs League champs in history not to make the knockout round the following season. The book is terrific by the way and would make a great last-minute Christmas gift for that special Chelsea fan in your life. But it’s kind of a sad gift now, what with all the full-color pics of Di Matteo and Drogba celebrating with the big-eared trophy. Sniff, sniff. There are even some shots of Michael Essien. I miss those guys. In today’s soccer world, it sure doesn’t take long to seriously alter a team’s identity!
On the plus side, Chelsea is still a good team. The new guys are doing well: Hazard, Oscar, Moses. Lamps is back from injury. And who knows, maybe the lack of Champs League travel and distraction will help Chelsea claw their way back into Premier League title contention. Here’s hoping anyway.
Merry Christmas to all and thanks for reading this year!
Thoughts on Chelsea’s busy month? Feel free to share below…
Chelsea continues their boneheaded ways with managers…
I woke up this morning contemplating Chelsea’s recent awfulness and what, if anything, original could be said about it. That led me to thoughts about Roberto Di Matteo, that maybe I’d write a little something in his defense since I was slightly surprised to hear commentators emphasizing how under fire he is after Chelsea’s poor Premier League form and Champions League struggles. These were my pre-morning coffee thoughts, but then I flip on the ol’ internet machine and the first thing I see are the Di Matteo’s-been-fired headlines. What? Seriously? What?
I’m actually shocked by the news that Di Matteo’s been given the boot. I shouldn’t be of course, given Chelsea’s managerial revolving door the past few years, but I’m still kind of shocked.
Chelsea’s current performance problems are player-related and not Di Matteo’s fault. The timing of this firing is very poor. Who are they going to get to replace him at this point in the season? Is another “caretaker” really a better idea than just sticking with Di Matteo for the rest of the season? I don’t think so. Managers have to do the best they can with the players they’re given. Di Matteo has done that. It’s not his fault that Torres can’t score, or even hold onto the ball for more than 0.5 seconds (and Chelsea’s woes aren’t solely Torres’ fault either – I can’t remember the last time the defense had a shutout).
By firing Di Matteo, Chelsea are seriously impeding their long-term progress and unnecessarily complicating this season’s quest for success. A team’s fortune can change pretty quickly – if Chelsea had given Di Matteo just one more week, Chelsea could potentially beat Premier League leader Manchester City this Sunday, and qualify for the Champions League knockout stage with a win next week. It’s hard to imagine them canning Roberto in those circumstances. Alas, we’ll never know. At some point Chelsea is going to have to learn real patience with managers or the club will be in a perpetual state of rebuilding.
What do you think of Di Matteo’s firing?
A Special Invitation from Chelsea* to Drogba…
How’s life in China? How’s the food? The weather? How’s your Chinese coming along? Hope all is well.
Here’s the deal, Didier, we miss you at Stamford Bridge. We really need you to come back. Like this week. I know we parted ways on great terms, with you having just won the Champions League for us and all. If you were going to leave the club, it was the perfect time to do so. We were all very understanding, but let’s face it, our Champions League-winning high clouded our judgment. Now that we’ve had time to ponder… we think we made a big mistake.
Did you see our draw today against a very beatable Liverpool? Their striker Suarez saved the day for them again – a lot like you used to for Chelsea. We need a big time lethal striker again. That’s where you come in. We’ve got some great new guys this season we think you’ll really dig – guys like Hazard and Oscar. They’ve been creating great ball movement with Mata, but the problem is they need a real strongman in the box to feed the ball to. No one wreaks havoc in the box like you do. We really miss your ability to hold the ball and invent crazy-angled shots out of nothing. In case you’re wondering about Torres, well, we’re not exactly sure what to do about that yet. But it probably involves selling him for as much cash as possible come January. Look, Fernando’s a great guy and we wish him well, but he’s no Drogba.
Now we know you left Chelsea primarily because Shanghai-whatchamacallit offered you a bazillion dollars. Very understandable. We didn’t think we could match their bazillions. But this week we found out we actually made a profit for the first time in something like a decade (thanks to the Champions League riches you helped us get), so, since we’re not used to operating in the black anyway, we thought we’d just give you all that excess profit if you come back.
By the way, in case it’s not all about money, you saw where Chelsea fans recently voted you one of the greatest Blues players in club history, right? That’s pretty sweet. The fans would welcome you back in a heartbeat. Just sayin’. We know you have a soft spot for Chelsea in that lion heart of yours, so we want to remind you that John Terry got knocked out of the Liverpool match today with a potentially season-ending injury, Lampard is still out with a calf thing, and we loaned Michael Essien to Real Madrid for reasons we’re still not entirely sure about (okay, we brought that last one on ourselves, but we’re just pointing out the dearth of Blues vets currently on hand).
Just in case you feel a little weird about the idea of coming back to Chelsea so soon after leaving, it’s not unprecedented. Paul Scholes returned to Man U after retiring for a while last season. Thierry Henry even went back to Arsenal on loan earlier this year. It’s obviously not our first choice, but we’d settle for you returning to Chelsea on loan whenever the Chinese league’s over (sorry, we’re not sure when their season ends – until you went there we didn’t even know China had a pro league). Whatever it takes, Didier, that’s what we’re saying.
Admit it, you miss the Premier League. The high-pressure matches. The packed, historic stadiums. Cup finals. Champions League nights around Europe. Eccentric gazillionaire Russian owners. Causing Sir Alex heartburn. Democracy.
We don’t want to pressure you too much, but we have slipped from first to third in the table within a couple weeks, so we kind of need an answer ASAP. Only you can help prevent one of the Manchesters winning the league again. Chelsea’s fate is in your hands. Okay, that may be overstating it a bit, but come on man you’re playing in China for goodness sakes! No one watches Chinese soccer!
Come home, Didier, come home. You know you want to. We can have a jet there in a matter of hours.
Chelsea Football Club
P.S. Say hello to Anelka for us.
*Unfortunately this letter does not represent an actual invitation from Chelsea Football Club to Didier Drogba.
Chelsea topples Tottenham 4–2
So far this season I’ve enjoyed Chelsea’s undefeated run and top place in the table with fingers crossed behind my back. Things have gone very well of course, but there have been a few shaky moments and based on the past two roller coaster seasons, I’ve kind of been waiting for the other shoe to drop for Chelsea, you know, like a multi-match losing streak and a late-season fight for the last Champions League spot.
After yesterday’s defeat of Tottenham at White Hart Lane however, I’m starting to believe. I don’t want to jump to any conclusions – it is still very early in the season, and if nothing else Chelsea still has four Manchester (United and City) showdowns to contend with (those four matches alone could determine the title). But Chelsea hasn’t looked this poised and confident since the last time they won the Premier League in 2009/2010. They’re constantly a scoring threat and the defense, while still occasionally leaky is playing quite cohesively. Cole and Ivanovic are even supplying regular attacking options down the wings.
Chelsea showed positive mental toughness in not only recovering from the second half Tottenham onslaught that put the Spurs up 2–1, but recovering with authority by scoring three second half goals. I still miss Drogba in attack – he would add strength, aerial threat, and finishing power to a physically small offense. To my surprise though, the Blues are getting the job done without him (and in spite of a still so-so Torres).
The new recruits, particularly Hazard and Oscar, are already clicking with the team. I didn’t expect results this good so early in the season. These new guys are still gelling with the team, so imagine where they could be in a few months as long as everyone stays healthy!
Chelsea is fun to watch again…
Any thoughts on the Blues’ win at Tottenham? Feel free to share below!
Chelsea’s draw with Juventus and win over Stoke
It wasn’t an altogether happy week to be a Chelsea fan. I guess it sounds ungrateful to gripe about a Champions League draw (against Juventus last Wednesday) and Premier League win (over Stoke yesterday) – particularly if you’re, say, a Liverpool fan – but there are some frustrating aspects to the Blues’ recent performances that have made for some nerve-wracking matches.
Let’s start with that mid-week Champions League season opener against Juventus at Stamford Bridge. Plenty to be excited about in the first half thanks to new Blue Oscar’s two sweet, long-range goals. Plenty to be frustrated about too though, thanks to Chelsea’s ongoing inability to protect a lead.
For all of Chelsea’s intricate passing prowess – and they’ve certainly improved in that area this season – they’ve had far too many giveaways the past few matches. Mikel got a lot of heat for his careless turnover pass that led to Juventus’ equalizing goal, but Ramires has had an alarming number of errant passes recently. As a side note, Mikel’s error was extra painful after watching former Chelsea favorite Michael Essien excel in Real Madrid’s big Champions League win over Manchester City Tuesday. It underscored my feeling that Essien was unfairly (and unwisely) pushed out the door in favor of Mikel. I like Mikel, but I still think Essien is a more complete and reliable midfielder.
Chelsea squandered a great opportunity to beat Juventus and now faces a slightly more uphill Champions League climb than should’ve been necessary.
Against Stoke yesterday, we saw more of the same shiny Chelsea possession that fails to create many actual scoring chances. Hazard continues to provide tremendous spark and creativity, and Oscar continues to show potential. Mata, Hazard, Oscar, and Ramires constantly buzzed around the box, and constantly got knocked off the ball or fouled. These are small guys. Fast guys, but small guys. Chelsea lacks attacking muscle. Chelsea desperately needs a striker like, well, I hate to say it but, like Drogba – someone who can hold the ball in the box, create something out of nothing, or dish it off for another shooter. Torres is not that guy. I’m completely frustrated with Torres. Victor Moses provided much more energy when he entered the game in the 61st minute (though I don’t understand why he replaced Hazard). Moses should start over Torres immediately.
It was fitting that Ashley Cole got Chelsea’s only goal yesterday. He continues to be a bit of an unsung hero for Chelsea, a defensive stalwart whose hustle and drive never seem to waiver.
It’s great to see Chelsea atop the league of course, but they’re barely squeaking by right now. To maintain their position (and control their Champions League destiny) they need more consistency on defense and need to convert their offensive passing creativity into goals.
Your thoughts on Chelsea’s Champions League opener and/or victory over Stoke?
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?
Chelsea wraps up Seattle leg of U.S. tour
Chelsea had one more training session this morning in Seattle before hopping a plane bound for New York City. The club faces their former manager Carlo Ancelotti and his current team Paris St. Germain in another preseason friendly Sunday. It will be the first ever soccer match to be played at the new Yankee Stadium.
While the team trains and tours in the U.S., the deal making for new players continues in London. Here is the latest rumor rundown:
Coach Di Matteo confirmed the club is in talks to get Victor Moses from Wigan. Apparently Wigan wants several more buckets of cash than Chelsea has offered so far. I can take or leave this deal. Chelsea certainly shouldn’t overpay for him. A better striker option would be checking to see if Newcastle’s Demba Ba or Papiss Cisse have any brothers in Senegal.
Thorgan Hazard may become a Chelsea player within a day or two, but nothing official from Chelsea yet. If the deal goes through, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him fairly quickly loaned to another Premier League club given he’s only 19-years-old and Chelsea has a very packed roster right now.
Chelsea may be after Marseille’s 22-year-old Spanish right-back Cesar Azpilicueta. Chelsea could use some back line bolstering, so this deal could be interesting. I bet there’s going to be a whole lotta soccer wheeling and dealing going on with all these under-23 national teams in London for the Olympics!
Check out this New York Times story exploring why some of America’s most famous baseball stadiums are hosting big international soccer club matches this summer. Wondering how a soccer pitch is going to work in Yankee Stadium? Check out the diagram below and these photos of the pitch being prepared.
Apparently starring in a classic soccer comedy like Kicking & Screaming (I’m not being sarcastic – I actually think that movie’s hilarious) affords you lifetime access to Chelsea FC. Check out Blues fan Will Ferrell and comedian Zach Galifianakis chillin’ with Chelsea (and with the European Cup) in Seattle yesterday.
I particularly like the random autographed St. Louis Rams helmet Will and Zach apparently gave Chelsea. I have no idea why it was a Rams helmet, but it’s pretty vintage Will Ferrell. Good times!
Thoughts on the potential Moses, Thorgan Hazard, or Azpilicueta deals?