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Sep 182014
 

In a hard fought 1-1 draw, the Blues looked disappointing in a match they were expected to easily win. With match day one at Stamford Bridge out of the way, let’s look at 5 things we learnt from the exciting match in England;

  1. DIDIER IS PAST HIS BEST

One thing that stood out throughout the entire 72 minutes the Ivorian was on the field, was his thoroughly awful forward play. The Big striker though he was brought into the game for his experience in the competition, didn’t offer any visible advantage.

We knew the former Galatasary man had lost his speed and most of his agility. So a lot people weren’t surprised at the lethargic way he was playing. However, what did surprise football fans all over the world, was that Drogba didn’t even perform averagely in certain plays that were supposed to be his bread and butter.

The 37 year old didn’t hold the ball well enough to bring the wingers, Willian and Hazard into play and at some point was getting in the Belgian’s way.

Minutes before the Ivorian was eventually substituted, he missed a one on one chance to extend the Blue’s lead.

  1. FABREGAS HOLDS ON TO THE BALL FOR FAR TOO LONG

In a match that should have been a defining moment in his Chelsea career, Cesc Fabregas made a fatal mistake of holding on to the ball for far too long against a team that had been pressing the Blues like hound dogs the entire match. It is a mistake that has been prevalent so far in his short stint with the London club. The Spaniard is often guilty of wanting to deliver the perfect pass, which leads him to dawdle on the ball for far too long in search of it.

  1. REMY IS SHOWING THAT HE’S THE REAL DEAL

The Frenchman impressed greatly, in a match that saw him play on the left and right of the attacking midfield position and through the center. Remy showed in his admittedly very short cameo on the pitch, that he should have started in place of Didier Drogba. The former Newcastle forward even had an effort cleared off the line in the latter stages of the tie.

  1. JOSE MOURINHO MADE 2 UNCHARACTERISTIC MISTAKES

The Portuguese is unquestionably one of the best around, but even he can make mistakes. The first error was starting a Didier Drogba who had just recovered from an ankle injury. As a rule, when players return from injury lay offs, they are not supposed to take part in matches of such importance. This is coupled with the fact that at 36 years of age, the Ivorian’s needs a bit more time to fully recover from injuries.

The second mistake from the special one, was his removal of the engine room, Ramires. The Blues in an attempt to throw everything at Schalke, lost midfield solidity and could have even conceded, were it not for the heroics of Thibaut Courtious.

  1. CAHILL’S DEFENSIVE WEAKNESS

A fine defender no doubt, Cahill does have a problem dealing with attackers running at him. In the first half Schalke’s Draxler almost scored because the England international kept backing off him. In the later stages of the second half, an almost identical threat from the same player no less, leads to the equalizer.

 Posted by at 5:26 pm
Sep 172014
 

With both Premiership and Champions league fixtures coming in thick and fast, most top clubs around Europe are careful not exhaust their players by playing them in midweek and immediately again at weekends. Clubs with a robust budget usually acquire depth players to fill the roster, in other to be provided with security when a first team player needs a bit of rest.

One problem that spending on depth might cause, is the fact that many players who are purchased with a secondary role in mind are usually not good enough to fill in, when any of the original eleven can’t play. If a substitute represents an enormous drop in quality, then the team will do badly when he plays.

One team that obviously doesn’t have this problem is Chelsea, who has managed to acquire good quality depth. This is sure to come in handy on Wednesday night as they face Schalke 04 in the Champions League.

Wednesday’s clash is crucial, not because Schalke will present that big of a problem, but because the Blues have a title defining clash against Manchester City on Sunday. If Chelsea were to lose any of its key players to injury, then the match against City may tilt towards the noisy neighbours.

Jose Mourinho has the luxury of preserving his key players by replacing them with other capable members of the team. We will first identify the players that the Chelsea boss needs to rest for the match against Manchester City.

Diego Costa has netted seven goals thus far including a hat trick in the last game against Swansea. Cesc Fabregas has assisted six times for the blues, while Ivanovic despite being a right back has also scored twice and assisted once.

Either Loic Remy or Drogba can replace Costa, while Filipe Luis can take Ivanovic’s place. Cesc Fabregas on other hand has multiple deputies in Willian who can replace him in the No. 10 role, and Mikel who can fill in for him in the pivot.

Petr Cech, one of the best goal-keepers in the world can fill in for Courtios, and even Kurt Zouma can give ‘old man’ Terry a rest.

If Chelsea’s starting eleven were to be rotated for Wednesday’s match against Schalke, it would look like this;

Cech, Cahill, Zouma, F.Luis, Azpilicueta, Mikel, Ramires, Willian, Salah, Schurrie, Drogba.

The above team in my opinion isn’t any worse than the team that played Bayern in the Champions League final in 2012. That team had the likes of Kalou and Betrand playing both wings and the aging Lampard pairing with Mikel in the pivot.

Although Chelsea risk losing the match if they play with a weakened side, the injury stricken Schalke 04 side, who have also just lost their captain Howedes to injury today, won’t pull an upset.

It is my opinion that Chelsea have a lot to gain and very little to lose. You can always come back from a first game defeat in the Champions League (they did it just last year) but a loss to your closest rival for the league title, has both psychological and table defining effects.

 Posted by at 9:37 am
Sep 162014
 

A product of the Lille academy, Eden Hazard had always been too good for the French league. In his first full season as a starter he won the National union of professional footballers (UNFP) – young player of the year award and did it again in the 2010-2011 season. He also bagged the Ligue 1 player of the year award as the youngest ever to win it, before departing the French club after 8years.

He’s move to England was not one free of controversy, as 3 of England’s top clubs namely Manchester City, Chelsea and Manchester United had reportedly all met Lille’s asking price. In personal negotiations with the player, the three clubs were deadlocked again, as all 3 had met his 175,000.00 pounds a week asking salary expectation.

Eden Hazard had his pick of England’s finest and made his choice on twitter of all places. He chose the just crowned Champions League winners, Chelsea. In his first interview, Hazard revealed his initial desire to go to Spain but said he had decided against it for fear of being benched. He subsequently, cemented his position as arguably the best attacking midfield player under 25.

Over at Spain however, Real Madrid had just spent a boat load of money on the best player at the World Cup. Apparently, James Rodriguez had just achieved Galactico status, by being the best player at the mundial and for the meantime, the combination of Gareth Bale, James Rodriguez and Cristiano Ronaldo seems to be going strong. Though the first few matches have seen Ronaldo struggle with a knee injury and with the Portuguese soon approaching the wrong side of 30, a successor is needed.

When analyzing attributes like playing position and style of play, only Eden Hazard and the German Reus seem big enough to fit the Real profile.  And with Reus recently showing how susceptible he is to injuries, Eden Hazard seems in pole position to replace Ronaldo, when his contract eventually expires.

The current employers of the Belgium wonder kid are rich and have shown that their very best players will leave for nothing short of the prices they have valued them for. The cases of David Luiz and Juan Mata, spring to mind when trying to remember the few times the blues have sold star players.

Hazard is still yet to take the next step in his evolution as many are still waiting for him to announce his presence as one of the top 3 players in world football. At age 23, both Messi and Ronaldo had already proven this. At the moment however, it seems like Hazard might go the way of the inconsistent Ribery.

The Belgian’s inconsistency is probably the reason that Real Madrid are yet to come calling. As it is clear that in some games, Hazard can steer his side to victory all by himself, while in others could be totally anonymous or dribble into a sea of defenders every time he gets the ball.

One thing’s for sure, If Hazard reaches the potential we know he has, then Real will come calling. In the event this happens, Chelsea are probably going to make sure that the Spanish side break the record transfer fee for the third time running.

It’s a win for all parties involved.

 Posted by at 1:10 pm
Sep 152014
 

England’s vice captain and Chelsea centre back Gary Cahill according to reports emanating from England, is close to a new Chelsea deal.

The hard tackling centre back signed, for the Blues in early 2012 for 7 million pounds and quickly went on to impress, helping Chelsea lift both the FA cup and the Champions League trophies in his first season at the club, putting up very impressive performances against Barcelona (before he was substituted) and later on against the Germans Bayern Munich.

Cahill received lots of praise for his performances in the Champions League, which was very surprising to a lot of people because he moved to the London Club in January and had never played at such a high level before. Many times players making the transition from relegation battles, to competition for titles always seems to have an adjustment period. The England international was an exception, as he played his football as if he had been competing on that level for years.

The 28 year old is known for his technical ability, heading prowess, volleying and good tackling. He is one of the few England internationals in the Chelsea set up till date and has brought a lot of fight into the team since arriving.

The former Aston Villa and Bolton man also has a decent scoring record for a central defender and isn’t a bad tackler by any stretch. Also, seeing as he is one of Chelsea’s most consistent and hardworking players, settling his future by tying him to a new long term deal, is a smart move on the part of Chelsea football Club.

If Chelsea is to fulfil their title wining potential this season, both Gary and his centre back partner, England’s John Terry will have to be in fine form. Another day like the one against Swansea or Everton is one they cannot afford to have too often.

The Cahill and Chelsea relationship is one that clearly works and an extension of that relationship is only but a matter of time, as Chelsea will surely be looking to secure one of their youngest and most effective defensive players to a long term deal.

 Posted by at 2:50 pm
Sep 152014
 

Days ago, the internet was agog with excitement at the news that one of football’s best ever players, Cristiano Ronaldo could be heading to the premier league. The particular club he was rumoured to be heading to, was a source of chatter amongst football fans because instead of the coming home story to Manchester United, he’s rumoured destination, was Chelsea.

This rumour left some Manchester United fans fuming, as they always assumed that if the time ever came when he chose to leave Real Madrid, the famous number 7 would consider Only Old Trafford. This situation raises the question; does loyalty exist in football anymore?

When Romelu Lukaku, former Chelsea striker visited Stamford Bridge for the first time, he shed tears of joy. He had finally visited the home of his dream club. Almost a decade later, he had signed for them, rarely ever played for them, and eventually signed on to another club in a space of just 3years.

Cesc Fabregas was at Arsenal at age 17 and already in the first team, captained the side for years and then later forced a move to Barcelona and even offered to pay a portion of the transfer fee to facilitate the move.

Frank Lampard received threats from a couple of Chelsea supporters after his loan move to Manchester City was announced. He is arguably Chelsea’s most decorated legend. In his first interview after joining the ‘noisy neighbours’, he stated that he loved Chelsea but was however now a committed City player.

Is this situation a case of players thinking too much of themselves and less of the club? In a sense, that’s exactly what it is. However the question to ask is; why wouldn’t they? Most fans are invested in football on deep emotional level. More than any of them are in their day to day work. I think what most fans fail to realize is that for many of these players, football is a job and nothing else.  Spurs Full back Asou Ekotto gave an interview stating that he only plays football because it pays well. He added that he didn’t particularly like it.

Another question to ask is if an average employee who’s been with an establishment or many years is offered a better working environment and two times the pay check, would he take it? The answer, nine times out of ten is a yes.

Haven said this; loyalty in football still exists albeit in a few players. Steven Gerard got a mouth watering wage offer from Chelsea which he turned down, while Gary Neville, Ryan Giggs and Jamie Carragher, stayed with their respective clubs for their entire football careers.

So the questions to ask are;

  • Would Christaino Ronaldo go to Chelsea to instantly become the highest paid player in the world? Yes.
  • Would Real Madrid sell a 3oyear old declining player, now riddled with injuries and then much later snap up Eden Hazard or Marco Reus? Yes.
  • Would Chelsea buy ‘CR7’ the most famous footballer still playing football, to boost their brand, attract more lucrative sponsorships and still get some world class performances? The answer is of course yes.

The potential Ronaldo deal makes sense for all parties. I see no reason why it can’t happen.

 Posted by at 2:24 pm
Sep 152014
 

After being dropped from Saturday’s squad to face the Welsh side Swansea, due to an injury picked up in training, the prolific Ivorian is set to start his first game for the club since his return. Speaking with Journalists on Saturday, the Portuguese tactician hailed the former Galatasary man as a ‘box expert’ ahead of their crucial European clash on Wednesday, with Schalke 04;

“…We have a guy like Didier who is a box expert, a kind of striker that the box is his natural habitat”Mourinho

Indeed, he’s credentials in front goal is unquestionable, especially for the Blues for whom he’s scored more goals than any other foreign player, whilst also being their fourth highest goal scorer of all time.

If and when the big striker is eventually utilized by Jose, every supporter of the London club can be sure that Didier will give a superb account of himself.

At age 36, Drogba is getting to the end of his illustrious career and it is clear that millions of aspiring footballers will have a lot to learn from the exemplary way that he has plied his trade.

Studying accounting in the university while struggling to become a professional footballer, it took the Ivorian four years to be capable of training everyday and playing every week according to his then manager at Le Mans, Marc Westerloppe. Such determination to succeed became a recurring theme in his career, and younger footballers will do well to emulate such dedication.

Outside the football pitch, Drogba has also been credited with accomplishments such as his role in bringing peace to Ivory Coast, being appointed a Goodwill ambassador and the creation of the Didier Drogba foundation that helped build hospitals in his home country.

Didier’s taste for success and his determination to work towards achieving it, as well as his self sacrifice has made sure that the man fondly called ‘The drog’ by his teammates and friends alike, will at the end of it all, be known for much more than just being a football player.

The role he played by making a plea to the combatants and subsequently helping to move a nations cup qualifier to the Rebel stronghold of Bouake that helped him confirm the peace process, coupled with his joining and association with the Truth, Reconciliation and Dialogue committee as a representative, saw him recognized by the Times as one of the world’s 100 most influential people.

It is clear in a way, that footballers like him are a dying breed with the younger generation of players more focused on what they can get for themselves in today’s financially charged football. How many footballers today, will give up a signing fee of over 3 million pounds so that others less fortunate can get assess to good health care?

When the 36year old time in football has ended, both Chelsea and non-Chelsea supporters will look back at his time in English football, and be grateful that the DRUG was here.

 Posted by at 1:46 pm
Sep 152014
 

Following an inspiring victory at Stamford Bridge on Saturday, the Blues face a midweek test in the Champions League against a very familiar Schalke 04 side. The high flying Chelsea side will be relishing their clash with the Germans on Wednesday on the back of their very good performance against Swansea on Saturday.

Integral to the performance was the Chelsea front man Diego Costa, who has banged in 7 goals in the league so far. Although the London side will need the very efficient services of the talented Spaniard, they should be mindful of how much time he gets on the pitch, following his latest injury scares.

Costa was rumoured to have picked up three separate injuries since his move to the Bridge. And his history with niggling muscle injuries prior to the move has been well publicized. Although the Champions League is a priority for Chelsea, the game against Schalke 04 is still just one game amongst many.

A scenario in which the London club loses their talismanic striker in a group stage Champions league tie against a team they beat comfortably in last year’s competition, would be a silly mistake indeed. Even though Diego is needed by his team right now, he will be needed even more when the latter stages of both the Premier League and the Champions League are coming thick and fast.

Despite the Spaniard’s strong performances so far, the game on Saturday showed that even in Costa’s absence, the Blues latest signing Loic Remy could do an adequate job of filling in. The French striker peeled off the Swansea defenders and curled a powerful shot past Fabianski and into the net.

In a worst case Scenario, in which both Costa and Remy are absent from the action due to injury, Chelsea’s third striker Didier Drogba is more than capable of replicating his formerly world class form. Irrespective of the striker situation at the club, Chelsea should easily progress from a group that in addition to Schalke also includes teams like Sporting Lisbon and Maribor.

At the end of the day, despite injury reports surfacing before every match he plays, Diego Costa has never missed a match for the club that invested 32 million pounds to acquire his very unique services. Only time will tell if the 2012 Champions League winners will take the risk and rest their best player in the League thus far.

 Posted by at 12:25 pm
Sep 152014
 

The Brazilian flair is an age long attraction in bringing the South Americans to Europe. They are supposedly fast, skilful, and unpredictable in the way they played football. The world cup they won in Japan raised their profile, and prices for Brazilian players rose to an all time high. However as their success in international competitions decreased, Brazil became much more in need of players who did more than just pick a good pass and an amazing dribbling.

This brought about the era of hardworking and workaholic Brazilians in both the National team and in Europe. Amongst this new type of Brazilian players are Chelsea’s attacking midfielders Oscar and Willian, who are considered amongst the most industrious players in the English Premiership.

It is the norm in football, that after every few years, a new skilful player emerges and dazzles the world. Making clubs lust after their eye catching ability, while attempting to dispose of less glamorous players.

However, what a lot European clubs fail to understand is that football has evolved over the years into a less entertaining and more responsible game. In today’s football, no player plays just one role anymore. For instance, a right winger or even a full back has to be both an attacker and a defender. When a right back defends, he‘s right winger has to fall back and help him out because the other teams left back is sure to overlap and provide a passing option to his own attacking teammate and vice versa. In a situation where an attacking player is too lazy to defend, the other team is sure to take advantage by overloading his flank. Even playmakers in the No. 10 position have to do their defensive duty, as gone are the days were their only job is to give the final pass. They have to put pressure on the defensive anchor man, in other to stop him recycling possession.

Willian and Oscar are players who are capable of playing the role of two players. Oscar has redefined his playmaking role by becoming a box to box playmaker, while Willian is known for being the premier League’s best defensive winger.

At the end of the day, having a player like Eden Hazard that rarely defends, is a luxury. This was proven the case in Chelsea’s semi-final show down against Atletico Madrid, were Eden lost his full back Juan Fran, who ended up assisting the Spanish side’s equalizer. This got him some criticism from Mourinho who accused him of not ‘…laying his life for his full back’.

Chelsea’s boss is regarded as arguably the best manager in the world. He ousted Juan Mata for not having the Stamina and work rate needed to play in his team. It is not inconceivable, that Eden Hazard may go the same way. The Portuguese has always preferred players like Ramires, Willian and Oscar, who are dynamic and hardworking. He’s team selections have adequately shown that.

It is for being exceptional, hardworking and un-Brazilian in their way of play, which makes these players Mourinho’s favorite pets. As long as the special one is at Chelsea, they will not leave the Blues.

 Posted by at 11:11 am
Sep 122014
 

When Loic Remy signed for Chelsea in the final days of the transfer window, there was no doubt he was signed to be a back up to the in form Diego Costa. A couple of substitute appearances and a chance to win silverware was probably all he might have hoped for. Then the international break came along and Costa picked up another hamstring strain, while Remy came on to score a well taken goal for France in a friendly. These events although not necessarily connected, put things in perspective.

Costa’s history of picking up tears and strains was a concern for Chelsea fans before he completed his transfer to Stamford Bridge.

In light of the departures of some of Atletico’s top scorers like Sergio Arguero and the Colombian Falcao, the clubs reliance on Diego Costa tripled. He played almost every match from then on and was rarely ever given a rest. And even when injured, was rushed back before he was fully fit. The most notable example, being how he was picked to play a week  after sustaining an hamstring  injury and had to limp off after 9 minutes due to a recurrence of the injury. This in turn led to the Spanish striker picking up so many muscle injuries in a short space of time.

These niggling fitness problems have now become a much more serious factor affecting his football and it seems like injuries such as, thigh muscle strains and Hamstring strains have come to stay for the 25year old Spaniard.  As with most injury problems, it most probably will get worse with age.

It seems Loic Remy may get his chance sooner than anticipated, with the international break over and the club engagements coming thick and fast, one good performance may turn out to be the turning point for the Frenchman. He’s explosive pace, quick feet and eye for goal has seen the former Olympic Marseille forward compared to French strikers like Nicolas Anelka and the legendary Thierry Henry.

The Rillieux- la- pape born striker has before him, the first test of his readiness this weekend against Swansea, with the first choice striker supposedly out and the other available striker in his late thirties, not what he used to be. The former QPR man has the chance to come into the team and save the day.

With reports of a drunken driving charge and an attempted rape levelled against him, Remy has had to overcome a lot to focus on his football. His failed medicals at Liverpool earlier this season was yet another reason for speculation concerning his ability to play.

Despite all this, Loic Remy has shown that he’s nothing if not a fighter.  When the time comes for him to put his head down and walk hard, the 27year old has shown he will do just that.

One thing’s clear though, when the chance to prove he can be a top striker presents itself, Remy will rise to the challenge.

 Posted by at 4:54 pm
Sep 122014
 

Taken from the Pepsi football academy by Plateau united, one of Nigeria’s top flight clubs, John Michael Nchekwube Obinna was one of Nigeria’s brightest young talents. His immense capabilities however, ensured that he was well sought after by clubs outside the countries shores. Trials at Ajax Cape town of South Africa and a subsequent move to Norwegian club Lynn Oslo meant that his career was moving at a pace that footballers his age only dreamed about.

Things got even better for the Nigerian, who got an unexpected name change when the Nigerian football association submitted his name as ‘Mikel’ instead of Michael for the tournament in Finland. A name he kept and has now made famous. An amazing tournament at the 2005 world youth championship, in which he was second only to Lionel Messi, saw his stock rise and he’s signature courted by two of England’s elite clubs in Manchester United and Chelsea. A public tussle for his signature and a drawn out legal battle saw Chelsea football club finally win the race to sign the highly rated Nigerian International.

Mikel was rated at this time, as having the potential to be amongst the playmakers in the game of football. It was whispered in some quarters that the Manchester United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson had chosen Mikel Obi to eventually be Paul Scholes successor at the club (Scholes eventually retired in 2013).

John Mikel Obi was a natural No.10. His long and short range of passing was impressive to say the least, and when in a tight corner could beat his man and take the ball forward into space. Every Nigerian was optimistic of having found the natural successor to the midfield maestro Austin ‘Jay Jay’ Okocha. No one, not even the best scouts in the world saw any potential in the young lad as a defensive midfielder.

This perception was not improved by the red card Obi was given in one of his earlier matches for Chelsea against Reading in the premiership for two ill-advised tackles.

Due to certain absences in the squad, Jose Mourinho tried out the Nigerian in the defensive midfield holding role against Tottenham hotspur in their FA cup sixth round replay in which he impresses greatly. Displaying competence in his defensive positioning, ability to track or mark his man in a zonal system, and an above average strength. His long range of passing also proved surprisingly useful, in recycling possession to the attacking players. His ability to also slow down the tempo, when his team needed a break from attacking pressure was praised very highly. More impressive defensive displays in subsequent games, led to his being assigned the role full time, when Makalele left for Paris.

Subsequently, John Obi’s attacking impetus seemed to have suddenly disappeared. Except for the few times he appeared for Nigeria. Rumor had it that Chelsea boss, Jose Mourinho eliciting the help of Claude Makalele, had given the Nigerian certain tips about how to effectively play his new position.

  1. Rarely ever give a risky pass or Gallop forward

A defensive midfielder is supposed to be the defensive anchor. And with fullbacks usually overlapping, the anchor man should always be ready to slot into central defense were one of original centre backs goes to cover a full back. Where he isn’t a hundred percent sure that a pass he’s about to give will get to its destination, the rule is never to give it. This was rumoured to have been the reason Mikel rarely made forward runs and rarely gave a risky pass.

  1. Rarely ever shoot

Every time an outfield player shoots the ball, there’s always a possibility of a block from the opposition team. The only exception to this rule in football is a penalty shootout. Now if a player who’s supposed to be a defensive shield, breaks the second rule and gallops forward, he should rarely shoot at goal as a block could rebound of a defender and a counter attack could be in full flow, with an out of position Anchorman to compound things.

Evidently Mikel listened and adapted to his situation and has been at Chelsea for 10years and counting and making over 400 appearances for Chelsea, in an Era were supposedly better players have been replaced by someone better. Jose Mourinho might have deprived Nigeria of a potentially lethal, attacking juggernaut. But in a club that are known for purchasing a host of attacking players that they rarely ever need, would Mikel still had been at Chelsea, if he was an attacker? Would he have beaten out the likes of Frank Lampard, Juan Mata and Oscar?

At the end of the day Mikel’s career has been well served by Jose Mourinho’s decision to switch his position. He’s not one of the best players in the world and in my humble opinion he was never going to be. Coming 2nd in a youth tournament was never a guarantee of that. At the end of the day, John Mikel Obi would if given a choice beforehand, have settle for being one of the best and most decorated players in African football history.

To further portray my point;

John Mikel Obi Honours:

  • Premier league (1)
  • FA cup (4)
  • League Cup (1)
  • Community shield (1)
  • Uefa Champions League (1)
  • Uefa Europa League (1)
  • Africa Cup of Nations (1)
  • African young player of the year (2)
  • 2nd best player of the world youth championship 2005.

So to answer the question; Did Jose Mourinho kill Mikel’s game by changing his role?

The answer is a resounding No. he brought about its evolution.

 Posted by at 12:47 pm