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Yellow and Black Attack

Chelsea unveils 3rd kit

Chelsea trained in Miami for the first time yesterday evening in preparation for their final U.S. preseason game against A.C. Milan Saturday night.  The Blues will undoubtedly be antsy for a win after tying Paris St. Germain in New York and losing to the MLS All-Stars in Philadelphia.  Should be a fun one against A.C. Milan.

Yesterday Chelsea unveiled the all-important (not really) “third” kit – an interesting yellow and black number inspired either by Tron or 80s big-hair metal band Stryper.  I’m not sure which…

I’m not a big fan of this 3rd kit, though there are far worse jerseys to be featured in the Premier League this season (for proof check out this and especially this).  Chelsea has also had worse 3rd kits in the past, although I liked last season’s 3rd (which has sentimental value as the kit worn in that historic win at Barcelona to reach the Champions League final).  Generally, I prefer jerseys that aren’t too busy, and this new kit has a little too much going on for my taste (particularly those ab-highlighting lines).  But the 3rd is usually just a cameo jersey, so we probably won’t see it very often.

As a side note, Chelsea wore their new away kit for the first time against the MLS All-Stars the other night and I thought it worked well.  The previously bashed sash on the jersey didn’t bother me that much.

Some Blues-related news I’ve seen today includes Benayoun possibly being loaned to Fulham, and Marseille possibly selling defender Cesar Azpilicueta to Chelsea.  I like Benayoun, but at 32-years-old, I don’t expect Chelsea will keep him this season.  Fulham would probably be a good gig for Benayoun.  As for Azpilicueta, I don’t remember much about him from watching Marseille in the Champions League last season, but I welcome the signing of another defender.

What do you think of Chelsea’s new 3rd kit?

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Post-All Star Game Thoughts

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 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 @ 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?