Jun 242013

The 2012/13 season was an exceptionally long and demanding experience for the Chelsea squad, and the players are only now preparing to come back for pre-season training and to begin life under Jose Mourinho. There is still huge uncertainty over which players Mourinho is likely to favour, and in what way will he choose to set up the team for the start of the new season. There have been some indications that Mourinho wishes to give younger players a chance to feature and develop during the course of the season, but one thing that won’t be changing is club captain. Mourinho has been firm on that subject – John Terry will remain our captain. The question that springs to my mind when I hear that is – what’s going to happen to Gary Cahill?

During the course of last season, Cesar Azpilicueta forced his way in to the first team at right back. This meant that Ivanovic was moved to central defence, while David Luiz and Gary Cahill were his most common partners when the former wasn’t playing defensive mid. We saw John Terry struggle for fitness, but even when he became available for selection he was frequently overlooked. The fact that he will be club captain next season implies that Mourinho will be inclined to see Terry as a starting player – and that means one of Ivanovic, Azpilicueta and Cahill will be downgraded.

Azpilicueta is a Mourinho player through and through – his fitness and work rate are exactly what Jose has always liked to see in his full backs. With David Luiz almost guaranteed to be a Mourinho favourite, Ivanovic and Cahill could well be fighting over 3rd and 4th choice. Every top club needs a squad of 1st team centre-halves to compete across a season, but if Cahill was relegated to the bench for much of the season we may struggle to keep him happy. As much as Gary wanted his big move to a big club, he didn’t do it simply to collect his salary every week. He’s in it for the football, and he can’t nail down a position in the national side when he’s not playing.

Cahill could very well start the season as first choice, but with John Terry continuing as club captain, it seems unlikely. If that is the case, we must ensure that Cahill gets enough game time for him to feel valued and motivated. Terry is Chelsea through and through, but for how long can he continue at the top? We must not let young talent slip away simply to appease a legend. If Jose wants to build a dynasty at Chelsea, he must avoid short-sighted sentimentality.

Tell us, what would you do with Gary Cahill next season?

May 162013

For the next ten days, Chelsea will officially be the reigning holders of both the Champions League and the Europa League trophies after a stunning 2-1 win over the impressive Benfica. Fittingly, it was one of the heroes of last year’s Champions League campaign that scored the dramatic 93rd minute winner – Branislav Ivanovic.

It wasn’t all plain sailing for Chelsea though – far from it. In the first half, Benfica were the noticeably stronger team. Chelsea struggled to get hold of the ball and the 63% – 37% possession stats in favour of Benfica told its own story. Both Cardozo and Gaitan went close in the early stages, while Rodrigo fluffed a particularly good chance from six yards after a clever set piece. In spite of this, Chelsea very nearly took the lead when Frank Lampard unleashed a thunderous strike from all of 25 yards. Brazilian keeper Artur looked to be going the wrong way, but he managed to get an exceptionally strong hand to the swerving shot to tip it just over the crossbar.

Early in the second half it looked like Benfica had finally netted the breakthrough, only for Cardozo’s neat header to be ruled correctly offside. Things continued much like they had in the first until the hour mark, when a lightening break from Chelsea saw Fernando Torres round Artur and give Chelsea the lead. The goal was a lesson in direct counter attacking football. A long throw from Cech after a good save – a little flick from Mata and great strength from Torres to muscle past both central defenders and finish. It was the Torres of old, and it was impressive.

It wasn’t long until Benfica were level. Lima tried to play in Cardozo and the ball struck Cesar Azpilicueta’s arm. Cardozo duly despatched the spot kick and the teams remained level up to injury time, despite Frank Lampard smashing a curling 25 yard strike off the crossbar on 88 minutes. Then, when the draw looked inevitable, the somewhat anonymous Ramires chased down a ball to nothing in the corner, and managed to win a corner. There was a certain buzz in the stadium as Mata went over to take what was probably the last chance of the game. The corner wasn’t great, but one man wanted it more than anyone else. Ivanovic tracked 10 yards and, leaping backwards, powered a stunning header back into the far corner. It was a goal worthy of winning any final, and scored by one of the genuine nice guys in football.

There was time for one more scare from the restart, but Gary Cahill saved the day with an incredible slide tackle and hooked clearance from 6 yards out that really justified his selection at the back. Champions of Europe for another season, and a job well done by Rafa Benitez.

Say what you want about us, but we know how to win silver.

May 022013

It has been a long time since Gary Cahill got injured and had to undergo a knee surgery which gave him an extended visit to the treatment table. Although he tried to make his return earlier, he couldn’t, since his knee would keep breaking down in training and obviously there was a serious problem.

Gary expressed his delight on his return to the squad and played for full 90 minutes. The good news is that Chelsea was able to grab all three points against Swansea City with the score being 2-0.

The three points were important for the Blues as they’re chasing the Top Three position which shall enable them to book an automatic spot in the Champions League’s next season, leading by only a single point from the Gunners.

With the kind of calibre and temperament that Cahill has, it’s hard to sit out and watch the game, but coming back strongly is every player’s wish and that’s exactly what Gary Cahill did against Swansea. It was a great game for him and he looked determined to carry this form to the next few games to finish the season on a high note.

With Arsenal and Tottenham drawing both their games over the weekend, Chelsea is now in a position to cement and finalize their position as the third team entering the next season of the Champions League, with a game in hand even though the next match is against the Champions Man United.

The last few games are very important since they will decide the players, the squad and the decisions to be taken in the summer transfer.

The teams are high in morale, with players determined to end the season by registering wins in the last few games.

Apr 242013

Chelsea have still got eight games to play this season. That includes the Europa League final at the Amsterdam Arena in Holland on May 15th. To get there, the Blues have got to get past the Swiss side Basel that knocked Tottenham Hotspur out in the last round. They are a good side, but Chelsea are better and have got the added bonus of Gary Cahill and Ashley Cole returning from injury.

With those eight games being squeezed into the next three weeks, Rafa Benitez is having to manage the squad very carefully. The Spaniard is well aware that the fans and the club see finishing in the top four of the Premier League as the most important objective, with the Europa trophy being a nice cherry on top. The manager may feel differently, though, as he knows he will be moving on at the end of the season.

We have a game against Swansea at Stamford Bridge on Saturday, so Cahill and Cole will be unlikely to play in both. The centre of defense is not such a problem, with John Terry, Ivanovic and David Luiz doing well. The left back situation is more tricky, although Ryan Bertrand has filled in admirable for Cole. I would prefer to keep Cole for the league games, at least as he is just coming back but expect Cahill to play tomorrow as we try to keep a clean sheet and set up the home leg nicely. That game next Thursday comes just three days before a trip to Manchester United, a game that could have a massive say on the top four, so we do not want to have too hard a game and certainly not extra time.

Apr 192013

The 27-year old central defender Gary Cahill seems to have been out of the Chelsea team for ages following a minor knee operation, but he is on the verge of returning. That is great news for Chelsea, as there could still be nine games to play if we reach the Europa League final by beating Basel in the semi.

There is an outside chance of Cahill making the match at Liverpool on Sunday, but if not then he will ready for the first leg against the team from Switzerland. He has already won the FA cup and the Champions League in his short career at Stamford Bridge and does not hide the fact that the group stage exit as holders of the European cup, along with exits from the English cup competitions were disappointing.

It is next season’s Champions League that is the real priority now, though. After a fantastic start in the league, we should not be in the position of fighting Arsenal and Tottenham for a top four spot and he knows that failure to do it is unthinkable.

“I do not think we are contemplating it,” said Cahill. “The expectation for us is that we are in that competition next year. It is down to us as players to make sure that happens. We have got six games to do that and we have got to fully focus on making sure we are in that competition next season.”

One thing is for sure, Chelsea have a much better chance of doing it now that Cahill is back.

Apr 022013

There was just one thing that put a negative on yesterday’s win over Manchester United. With the mammoth fixture list facing the club, the sight of Ashley Cole limping off holding his hamstring was the last thing we needed. The injury is not as bad as first feared, however, and the England left back should return in a couple of weeks.

It seems unlikely, though, that Cole be able to take part in the next FA cup game, against Manchester City at Wembley stadium on Sunday April 14th for a place in the final. Gary Cahill is also likely to miss that match, but both players should be back around that time or soon after.

We must pray for no more injuries now, especially not to Ryan Bertrand. The 23-year old is a capable replacement at left back and is used to pressure situations, making his Champions League debut in last season’s final. Bertrand has already made 20 starts and 12 appearances as a substitute this season, but if anything happened to him we could be in trouble.

The Premier League game against Tottenham has been postponed because of the FA cup game, which means that Cole and Cahill should be available for that. It could be a huge game in the race for the top four and next season’s Champions League, so having those two players rested and fresh could be a blessing in disguise.

Feb 152013

John Terry sat on the bench last night as Chelsea beat Sparta Prague 1-0 in the away leg of the Europa league tie. It seemed like the perfect opportunity for the captain to get a run out, because Gary Cahill had been booked and seemed to be on his last waring with 30 minutes to go, but Rafa Benitez left Cahill on, and has explained that Terry suffered another setback to his recovery this week.

Terry has hardly got started this season, following the freak injury to his right knee caused by a collision with Luis Suarez in November. Benitez described Terry’s problems as a `vicious circle` because he needs to play competitive games to get his match fitness back but needs to be fit for the manager to play him. Benitez said that he had suffered a little setback during training this week.

I fail to understand, however, why he was on the bench if he was not fit, and if he was fit, why he didn’t come on to replace Cahill. Rafa was full of praise for Ivanovic and Cahill, and they are both good defenders, but Chelsea are lacking a bit of expansiveness in their play from the back, and Terry’s leadership qualities are also a huge loss for the team.

With a tough Premier league run in, Chelsea could really do with Terry being available, but there is no sign of when that will be.

Oct 212012

The direct translation of Juan Mata from Spanish to English is John Kills, leading to his nickname with his Chelsea team mates, Johnny Kills. He certainly put Tottenham to the sword with a fantastic two goal display at White Hart Lane yesterday. Another tough fixture negotiated by Chelsea who are still unbeaten and have only dropped two points.

Roberto Di Matteo is very pleased with his new look Chelsea who retained their four point gap at the top of the Premier league table. We also have the best goal difference, having scored 19 and let in just six goals. Even if Manchester United win at Stamford Bridge next weekend, Chelsea will stay top, but the way we are playing it is Alex Ferguson who has more to worry about.

Torres did not score but he provided the focal point of the attack, with Mata, Oscar and Hazard behind him. All of the players are getting more and more used to each other and have the potency to score against anyone. United are struggling in defence but have managed to outscore their opponents so far, but they will face a much tougher test against the Blues.

Mata was the outstanding performer yesterday and took his two goals with great skill and a cool head. If United decide to try to mark him out of the game, it will just leave more space for Hazard or Oscar to feed Torres. There are goals all over the Chelsea team, as Cahill and Sturridge showed, and we should be too much for United next week, as long as we do not let Rooney and van Persie have too much of the ball.

Jul 122012

There is some good news and bad news for Chelsea fans today. Two players who were doubtful for the start of the new season should be available to Roberto Di Matteo. Daniel Sturridge should be joining Stuart Pearce for the Olympics and Gary Cahill  has returned to training after missing Euro 2012 with a broken jaw picked up against Belgium in an international friendly.

“Gary is fine and we are expecting him to be back in good form.” said Di Matteo.

Sturridge only had a mild form of Meningitis and has recovered well and will, hopefully, have a good run out at the Olympics and be raring to go for Chelsea.

Chelsea youngster Oriol Romeu has indicated that he would be keen on a return to Barcelona after reports claimed that the Spanish club were interested. Romeu was released by Barcelona from their youth system and obviously still harbours ambitions to be a part of the club. Chelsea want him to go on loan to gain experience but do not want to sell him.

Benfica midfielder Axel Witsel and Porto striker Hulk look set to remain in Portugal as their clubs have resisted efforts to sign their players. The noises coming from the clubs are not very encouraging to Chelsea and we may have to accept that they will not be coming to Stamford Bridge this summer.

Finally, former Chelsea boss Andres Villas-Boas has suggested that Chelsea’s cup double last season was partly down to him. I had to chuckle as I read the report as AVB blames Roman Abramovich for not keeping faith with him. Yes it’s true that Chelsea were still in both cups when he was sacked but they looked like they couldn’t beat an egg. Di Matteo turned the team into winners but AVB thinks that it was the squad he put together that won Chelsea the silverware.

Jun 042012

Chelsea defender Gary Cahill will miss out on Euro 2012, due to a fractured jaw. Cahill suffered the injury during England’s friendly against Belgium and Saturday, after Dries Mertens pushed the 26-years-old defender into Joe Hart.

After the match, Chelsea’s centre back underwent a scan which revealed that he has a double fracture of his jaw, one on each side. Gary Cahill joins Frank Lampard and Gareth Barry in being forced out of the Euros, so England manager Roy Hodgson called up Liverpool’s Martin Kelly to complete the squad.

After losing Chelsea’s stopper, Roy Hodgson received better news about John Terry, who seems to get better after a hamstring injury against Belgium, and he will remain in England’s squad.

An FA statement read: “Gary Cahill has been withdrawn from England’s Euro 2012 squad following the injury he suffered in the match against Belgium.”

“The Chelsea defender has two fractures of his jaw, one either side. The England medical team have been in close contact overnight with Cahill’s club doctors who will treat him moving forward.”

“Liverpool defender Martin Kelly will be called into the squad – subject to agreement from UEFA’s medical team. Kelly trained with the England players last week and was part of the group that travelled to Norway.”

“John Terry has been scanned this morning and given the all-clear. He will be re-assessed on Tuesday when the team regroup.”

Chelsea’s Gary Cahill managed to reach 18 appearances for the Blues this season, and he was on a good form lately. His injury is certainly a big loss for England, but it was not hard for Hodgson to come up with another solution, as England has plenty of good quality stoppers.