Sep 042013

After 120 minutes of drama in Prague on Friday, the European Super Cup eventually ended in agonising defeat, but in the fullness of time the result will be more of an irritant than anything else and so should not be of much concern.

The Cup, ultimately, means very little; it is the European version of the Community Shield. Though credit has to go to the players for making such a spectacle of a game that so often descends into pre-season friendly territory.

There were plenty of encouraging performances too, as Jose Mourinho continues to ink his influence back on the team. Fernando Torres reminded us that he can score great goals when not skulking around with a frown on his face.

David Luiz looked solid on his return from injury and reminded us why he should not be sold this transfer window, while Eden Hazard scored what so nearly became the winner.

For many fans of the Premier League though, Petr Cech deserved the plaudits he received from Betfair pundits. The Czech Republic international once again proved his class with a fine display, especially in extra time, when he made four key saves to deny an increasingly rampant Bayern side.

With so many big money transfers coming in and out of Stamford Bridge, it is sometimes easy to forget Cech is still there. But he has been a model of consistency ever since he signed for the club way back in 2004. While the Blues have been linked with players in nearly every position, no one has suggested we need a new goalkeeper, which is telling in itself.

His quiet and friendly demeanour means he does not court controversy either; from the outside, he seems like a manager’s dream.

With Mourinho again looking to rely on defensively solidity this season rather than attacking flair, clean sheets will be even more important, especially if they hope to justify their 9/4 odds for the title with Betfair. Luckily, the Blues have one of the best there is between the sticks.

Jul 042013

The Guardian are reporting that Chelsea are ready to make a second offer for Norwich keeper John Ruddy after The Canaries turned down our initial bid worth a total of £5 million pounds. Ruddy, 26, is being sought as no. 2 to Petr Cech after the departures of Ross Turnbull and Hilario at the end of the season. We here at justchelsea previously discussed the goalkeeping situation, questioning whether Jamal Blackman could be trusted to be Cech’s deputy while Courtois spends another year on loan in Spain. It would appear that is not the case, and Ruddy is seen as the perfect bench-warmer. Ruddy is a fine keeper…and I don’t want him.

I am a Chelsea fan first and foremost, but I’m also a football fan in general, and there are elements of today’s game that I simply cannot come to terms with. Players being only partially owned by the clubs they play for and agents instigating transfers to bag a big fee is the reality of today’s game, and it’s not pretty. The signing of John Ruddy would be equally distasteful. Ruddy has international hopes and dreams, and he can never realise them when he’s sitting on our bench week in week out. £5 million may not be a lot of money these days, but spending it on someone we hope will never play is just silly.

One of the reasons we are going for Ruddy is because he’s English. We need a certain number of homegrown players for Europe and Ruddy fits the bill. Now is a great time to be a cheap English keeper. The move makes sense, but not for Ruddy. I would much rather we sign a young keeper that might develop in to something special. Not only that, but I would love for Ruddy to turn us down. It means we have to keep looking, but it also means that there are still dedicated players out there who aren’t solely motivated by money. Ruddy would do a splendid job for us if called upon, but I’d much rather see him playing regularly at a club he loves.

Tell us, would you sign John Ruddy for £5 million pounds?

Jul 012013

There is so much speculation over how Jose Mourinho is going to line up this Chelsea team, and much of it is guesswork. However, with our pre-season games still a bit away, I thought I would have a look at the team and try and work out who would Mourinho see as absolutely nailed on starters. We know how Jose has always played, and it’s based on a strong, resolute defence that makes it extremely difficult to play against. Jose has always played players on their perceived merit, even if that meant leaving big names on the bench. See Iker Casillas and Pepe. So who will he favour at Chelsea?

In goals, Petr Cech is nailed on. Courtois has already agreed another year at Atletico Madrid so there is little doubt of Cech being dropped. In defence, you could argue that only Ashley Cole is truly guaranteed to be first choice. Ryan Bertrand is nowhere near Cole’s level yet, and his place is not at risk. In the centre and on the right, however, there are fewer certainties. Azpilicueta and Ivanovic will have to earn their place at right back, while Ivanovic, Terry, Luiz and Cahill are all vying for places at centre half. David Luiz is considered by many to be one of their biggest stars of the future, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see Mourinho favour Ivanovic for the coming season. Jose is a huge fan of the Serbian defender, and I expect him to get a lot of game time – either in the centre or on the right.

In midfield, I recently spoke about how I believe Oscar will be a huge player for Mourinho. It would surprise me greatly to see anyone preferred to him in CM. However, I believe that most of the other midfielders will have to make do rotating roles. Mata, Hazard and the incoming Schurrle are huge talents, but Mourinho will want to give Lampard plenty of game time while Ramires is the kind of player Jose adores. Moses works very hard when he plays and we all know how much Mourinho loves Michael Essien. This all combines to an awful lot of rotation, but I would predict Mata to be the other most selected player alongside Oscar.

Up front is anyone’s guess, but I would imagine the starring role could very well go to a player currently plying his trade elsewhere. Torres, Lukaku and Ba can all make a case for their inclusion, but none of them overly convincing. There are simply no guarantees up front.

Based on this, I am predicting that Cech, Cole, Ivanovic, Oscar and Mata (narrowly edging out Ramires) will be Mourinho’s Famous Five; the players guaranteed of their place when fit. Tell us, who would be in your Famous Five?

Jun 232013

Following the release of back-up goalkeepers Ross Turnbull and Henrique Hilario, there were rumours that Jose Mourinho might look to keep Belgian starlet Thibaut Courtois in London as second choice keeper behind Petr Cech.

However, it seems that short-term reliability has been sacrificed for long-term gain, and Courtois has been allowed to return to Atletico Madrid for the third season running. Courtois is seen as the long term successor to Petr Cech, and at 21 he has already impressed fans and managers across Europe with some incredible performances in Spain. He will be allowed to continue his development on loan for the 2013/14 season.

Courtois has been a resounding success at Atletico, and he has already won the Europa League, the UEFA Super Cup and the Copa Del Rey. This coming year will see him afforded the chance to play in the Champions League as he helped Atletico qualify for Europe’s premier competition for the first time in four years. It will give Courtois tremendous experience and bodes well for Chelsea in the coming years. Last season, Courtois earned the Zamora trophy in Spain as he conceded the fewest goals out of all the top keepers, letting in just 29 goals in 37 appearances, and the player himself is excited to return for one more year.

Speaking about the news, he said: “I am very happy because it was what I wanted. I have always said that I wanted to continue at Atletico next season and take part in such an important competition as the Champions League after we qualified for it in such a brilliant way. I am only thinking about continuing to enjoy the incredible support that we have and I hope we can continue to bring them a lot of happiness.”

While the decision is the right move for Chelsea long-term, it does mean that Mourinho has a decision to make over his goalkeeping options for the coming season. With Turnbull and Hilario released, the next in line to deputise for Cech should he become injured is Chelsea youth keeper Jamal Clint-Ross Blackman. Blackman has already featured on the bench for much of 2013, but it would be a huge risk to thrust him in to important games should Cech be unable to play. The question that Mourinho must answer is whether to trust the young inexperienced keeper or whether to buy a slightly more experienced keeper who is happy to sit on the bench for much of the season. The player himself is eager to prove himself, telling media recently: “I am well equipped to deputise for Cech following the release of Ross Turnbull and Henrique Hilario as I have learnt a lot. I was on the bench for most of the tough games in the FA Cup and the Europa League and I have understudied Cech so well. I will deliver when I am called.”

Much is likely to depend on how Blackman performs in training in the coming months, but it will be interesting to see whether he is given his chance or whether we buy a stop-gap keeper to see out the season.
Tell us, would you sign a new back-up keeper or would you place your faith in Blackman?

Apr 232013

Petr Cech was very disappointed to concede the equalising goal to Liverpool on Sunday, especially as we were leading until the 97th minute, but he says that now the Chelsea players need to relieve the ongoing pressure ahead of every game by taking a relaxing break in between matches.

Cech said: “‘We are in a position where we are fighting for everything,”

“There’s a lot of pressure in the Europa League because we want to win it and we are in the semi-finals.

“Every league game we have to fight for the top four and it’s very tight, so there is pressure, and you have to find time to relax and make sure you are mentally fresh for the next game.

“We had a disappointing end to this game but we have another massive game to come on Thursday so we must forget about this one and concentrate on the next match.’

“Just one point is better than nothing, but in added time when you are defending a lead it’s disappointing we couldn’t see the game out.

“We had a good reaction to their first goal, we didn’t panic and the second goal made a big difference.

“We more or less had control of the game in terms of not giving them too many chances but we ended up too deep and they scored with the last action of the game.”

It was heart-breaking to see that animal Luis Suarez score that last-gasp goal, but Cech is right. We just need to put it behind us and prepare for the big game on Thursday. It is Chelsea’s last chance of a trophy this season and we must go for it, but without putting our Top Four League challenge in danger.

Relax now, then come back and win in style!

Apr 182013

Because Chelsea were playing their third big game in six days and the fact that it was a local derby against Fulham, it was expected to be a tough test for Rafa Benitez and the Blues at Craven Cottage last night. It turned out to be anything but, as we eased to a 3-0 win with John Terry marking his 21st start of the season with his first brace of goals in eight years.

Fulham started okay, but had no real cutting edge and Petr Cech was alert to save well from a deflected shot. Chelsea shook off the tiredness quickly to come back into the match, but nobody was expecting David Luiz to score one of the goals of the season out of the blue. The Brazilian was more than 30 yards from goal, but his piledriver with swerve and dip gave Schwarzer no chance. See highlights below.

The captain stepped up with two headers to seal the points, giving the Premier League table a healthy look for Chelsea fans. We are back in third spot, a point above Arsenal and still with a game in hand and three points above Tottenham. We also have better goal difference than both of them, so things are looking good.

Despite the workload, Chelsea keep getting the job done and a win away at Liverpool on Sunday would almost seal us a top 4 spot and probably automatically Champions League spot for next season.

Mar 202013

The story that hit the papers this week about Chelsea possibly listening to offers for the Czech international keeper Petr Cech always seemed hard to believe. Arsenal were reportedly interested and have been keeping an eye on the situation with Courtois at Atletice, but Cech has spoken about the story and it is clear that there is not a scrap of truth to it.

“It is an interesting piece of news but it is such speculation that I think it’s not even necessary to comment on it,” Cech said.

“I know of nothing, nobody has contacted me and, to be honest, I can’t even imagine it.

“I don’t even normally notice such rumours. But when it does get to me, I naturally look at it to know what to say about it later. There are players who read newspapers.

“Some players read match reports to know what was written about them and where. I don’t do this, I don’t read newspapers because of such things. I don’t take rumours like this seriously.”

30-year old Cech has plenty of years left at the top of the game, so Chelsea would be crazy to even consider letting him go. There may be an issue about what to do about Courtois, because he has developed quicker than the club expected and is drawing interest from clubs all over Europe. He is already too good to warm the bench at Stamford Bridge, and will probably gain valuable Champions League experience with Atletico next season. Then there may be a real fight for a place at Chelsea between the two, which can only be good for the club.

Mar 132013

Chelsea have a fantastic keeper in Petr Cech, and the Czech international does not miss many games. 30 years old is not much for a keeper either, so the decision to let Thibaut Courtois go out on loan has made perfect sense. The young Belgian keeper has gained valuable experience playing for Atletico Madrid, and he has let it be known that he is happy to stay where he is for the time being.

“I am happy. I like my life here, my team mates. It is not just my decision, Chelsea and Atletico also have to talk,” said Courtois.

“But everyone knows I like it here and, if I can, I want to stay.”

It is coming up to the time when Chelsea need to decide what to do with the 20-year old. Courtois is a hugely talented keeper, so there is no way that Chelsea want to let him go anywhere permanently. Maybe there is a worry that he will get too settled at Atletico and want to stay forever. He will be in his third season at the club next year.

Having already become first choice keeper, Courtois is playing regularly and getting better all the time. He has had experience in the Europa League, even winning it last season. Next season, barring disaster, the Spanish club will be in the Champions League, giving valuable experience that the keeper would not get if he returned to Stamford Bridge. There is a possibility that the keepers could share the duties at Chelsea. This would promote competition between them, but it would not give the defenders the same stability they currently have with Cech.

I think he should stay with Atletico for next season, to experience the Champions League and hone his skills further, but should then come back to England, either at Chelsea or on loan to a Premier League club.

Mar 082013

There is no getting around the fact that Chelsea were well below par against Steaua Bucharest in Romania last night. Having said that, the home team needed the help of a generous refereeing decision to give them the win. The result was disappointing, but it was only 1-0, and Chelsea should easily be able to turn the tie around at Stamford Bridge next week.

Fernando Torres again did his impression of a man suffering from amnesia, because he looked like he had never seen a game of football before. With Demba Ba cup tied in Europe, the Spaniard is our only striking option, so it is a good thing that the players behind him are able to find the back of the net, although they also had a bad night.

Oscar was probably the best of the bunch, with Hazard generally ineffective and Benayoun looking very rusty. Mata was no better when he came on, but Marko Marin did add some zip at the end and he produced the best piece of play from us on the night, with a good run and decent effort at goal.

The whole team was sluggish, and Bertrand was caught out of position from a free kick, but the decision to award a penalty was harsh, and Cech almost saved it. It was a poor night, but should not matter too much in the scheme of things. We must be much better at Old Trafford in the FA cup on Sunday, and I’m sure we will be.

Mar 042013

Chelsea will definitely have a new manager next season. Rafa Benitez even admitted as much in his much publicisedrant last week. The fact that his job title was interim manager was a bit of a clue as well. The question is, who will it be. Earlier in the season it was widely thought that Roman Abramovich had arranged with the former boss of Barcelona to come to Stamford Bridge after his year away from football. Pep Guardiola surprised everyone, however, by taking the job at Bayern Munich.

There are lots of reports in the media about possible replacements for Benitez, but there is also a belief that some managers are wary of taking the job because of the recent history at the club. Abramovich is seen as way too keen to wield the axe, especially after the Di Matteo scandal. One man who has the confidence in his own ability not to worry about that, is also the man who most Chelsea fans would love to see back at the club, Jose Mourinho.

Petr Cech has been speaking about the possible return of the special one, and it is clear that the keeper would be delighted to see him take over again.

“We had fantastic success with him, so why not? He is a fantastic manager.

“Of course the fans sing his name. Jose Mourinho did a fantastic job for the club and people loved him, so he rightly deserved that.”

PSG are apparently trying to persuade Mourinho to move to France at the end of the season, but I am sure Abramovich could convince him to come to London instead. Will it happen, and if not, who should be the new boss?