Archive for the ‘Chelsea’ Category

Chelsea v Paris Saint-Germain - UEFA Champions League Quarter Final Second Leg

First, a reminder that football can be fun, as if last night’s fixtures weren’t enough to convince you. But here in the face of our own understanding of the game in which players and managers are in perpetual show down over rivalries, playing opportunities, perceived snubs and all the rest of it, a pleasant moment between two monsters of the game:

Second, do we need to haul out the small sample size song again?

Demba Ba likely felt this was his moment after he had secured Chelsea’s future in the Champions League by scoring Chelsea’s second, knocking out PSG last night. In response to Mourinho’s remarks after the 3-1 result in the first leg, in which the Chelsea manager claimed his side don’t currently have any “real” strikers, Ba said:

“I wasn’t out for revenge. Maybe he [Mourinho] doesn’t have the strikers to his liking, but I know that we have three great strikers and I think that a lot of clubs would like to have them. I’m happy to have liberated us. I haven’t been given my chance much this season, but I’ve taken this one.

And yet this year’s tallies remain on the books, and it shows a club in which Eden Hazard is the top scorer and the only Chelsea player on double digits. Samuel Eto’o, brought in as a stop gap, is second on 8, tied with Oscar. Compare to City with Aguero and Dzeko on 15 and 11 goals respectively, both trailing Yaya Toure’s 18.

So good on the night, but it would seem that Mourinho may be onto something. Quite whether Diego Costa is the solution is a topic for another post…

Paris St Germain's Patore celebrates with team mates after scoring the third goal for the team during their Champions League quarter-final first leg soccer match against Chelsea at the Parc des Princes Stadium in Paris

Devang Desai and Richard Whittall sit down to discuss the U.S – Mexico friendly, this week’s Champions League action and Jose Mourinho’s striker problem.

You can download the podcast here and subscribe on iTunes here. You can also find the RSS Feed here.

Liverpool's Sturridge celebrates with teammates Gerrard and Henderson after scoring a goal during their English Premier League soccer match against Sunderland at Anfield in Liverpool


Devang Desai, Richard Whittall and James Bigg sit down to talk about another Manchester Derby dominated by City, the future of Arsene Wenger at Arsenal and Bayern Munich’s latest triumph.

You can download the podcast here and subscribe on iTunes here. You can also find the RSS Feed here.

Paris St Germain's Zlatan Ibrahimovic celebrates after scoring against St Etienne during their French Ligue 1 soccer match at the Parc des Princes Stadium in Paris

Devang Desai, Richard Whittall, James Bigg and Gianluca Nesci sit down to talk about the Champions League quarterfinal draw. Can Manchester United channel the magic of 1999, Borussia Dortmund look to do the impossible and who is the favorite to win it all — all this and more in the latest edition of the Counter Attack Podcast!

You can download the podcast here and subscribe on iTunes here. You can also find the RSS Feed here.

Chelsea's Terry applauds after their Champions League soccer match against Galatasaray at Turk Telekom Arena in Istanbul

Last night Chelsea travelled to the Türk Telekom Arena to face Galatasaray in the first leg of their round of their 16 Champions League tie. The result was a 1-1 draw, with goals from Fernando Torres and central defender Aurélien Chedjou.

Here, again drawn at random, is a ‘match report’ assessment of Galatasaray’s goal:

Chelsea should really have built on Fernando Torres’s early goal but they suffered a lapse in concentration, a rare mistake by John Terry, and yielded to pressure from a Galatasaray side who responded well to Roberto Mancini’s tactical tweaks.

Here is the danger of match reports. Because they stand in for the actual game, the writer, under the veneer of informed expertise, gets to write history. But despite the insatiable need for some writers to affix blame for every single conceded goal on the field, the fact is Chedjou’s set piece goal was not a Terry ‘mistake.’

Here for reference is the goal in real time:

Now in the silly world of football punditry, Terry should have some how either got his head to the ball before it landed at the foot of Chedjou, or at the very least Petr Cech should have stayed on the goal-line to make what would have been an insane save. Neither scenario takes into account how good a delivery Wesley Sneijder made on the corner kick itself.

So let’s break it down a little further.

Chelsea Screen Shot 1

In this first image above, Sneijder has just taken his kick. Though you can’t see it here, a second before Chedjou pulled at Terry as if to get in front of the Chelsea defender, but then feinted to instead go behind him. Terry doesn’t mind losing his mark because he has his sights on getting his head to the ball first. If Terry can simply get his head to the ball first, he’s done his job. Cech is also coming out to see if the ball will dip toward him for him to grab it.

Chelsea Screen Shot 2

In this next shot you can see Terry leaping thinking the ball will drop closer to him, but is in fact beautifully hangs, curls AND drifts, leading to confusion between Cech and the backline over where exactly the ball will drop. Cech meanwhile sees Terry coming and hesitates, but both Cech and Terry judged the ball would drop in different ways—Terry thought it wouldn’t inswing as much, and Cech thought it would be two feet closer to the near post. It’s worth mentioning that Cesar Azpilicueta also mis-timed his clearing header.

After the goal, Gary Neville immediately points out it was Terry’s job to cover Chedjou. But he also concedes “That’s Petr Cech’s ball, even though John Terry’s got to stay with his man (Chedjou).”

No. Terry’s job is in fact to defend the corner. He believed the ball would drop two feet further out than it did which, if it had, he could have headed it away. Cech also misjudged the ball. So did Azpilicueta. Wesley Sneijder, who received almost no credit from any source I’ve read today, delivered one hell of a good kick, and Chedjou, who also took a gamble in feinting Terry to run behind him, won out.

So was this a mistake, or a misjudgment of a very good free kick? Where does Sneijder’s brilliant delivery end and the Chelsea back-line’s culpability begin? If Terry’s job was simply to cover Chedjou, which presumably means “getting in front of him,” wouldn’t he be equally at risk of scoring an own goal?

Football is a game, of course. But it’s also a method. You prepare your teams, you put out the best players, you practice set-piece defending, you ensure your side creates as many chances as possible in the opposition third. These are all ways to help stack the odds in your favour, but you cannot eliminate the odds. Stuff will always happen, split second judgments will be defied by a ball that drops two feet away from where you want it to.

Thankfully, Chelsea’s manager seems more in tune with this, focusing instead on his side’s inability to put the score out of reach:

“We are not a team who kill opponents. We are paying for that in the Premier League, losing points, and now in the Champions League we might have got a different result. But they all give everything. They fight for each other, work for each other, have tactical discipline. So I cannot be critical. They got a very acceptable result in a stadium where it’s difficult to play and difficult to win. I think they did a good job.”

FC Basel's Mohamed Salah celebrates scoring against Chelsea's during their Champions League Group E soccer match at St. Jakob-Park in Basel

With Chelsea set to add another player (and Liverpool transfer target) in Basel’s Egyptian winger Mohamed Salah, the Ajax and Dutch football dude Mohamed Moallim Tweeted this helpful Wiki screen shot (ht to our very own Gianluca Nesci):

And then it was followed up by this helpful update:

So what’s the deal here?

I already hinted at it this morning, but someone summed it up well in an email exchange with me yesterday. Chelsea is essentially collecting a not inconsiderable group players, many of whom are ending up out on loan, in some cases to particular clubs like Vitesse and Middlesbrough.

Why? While it’s not immediately obvious, the most plausible explanation involves Chelsea acting as a kind of economic third party, letting various prospects increase values with teams not integral for the club’s ambitions and then reaping the potential rewards in order to help meet Financial Fair Play provisions, which require the club to break even (not spend more than they earn, with some important caveats which you can read about elsewhere).

Chelsea in fact have been up front about it. A week ago, Goal! writer Liam Twomey made his own case for the strategy, quoting Chelsea’s technical director Michael Emenalo:

“We are trying to find a way because, given Financial Fair Play stipulations, we need to recruit young and we also need to have a reservoir of talent that we develop,” Emenalo admitted to the club’s official website in a rare interview last September. “This season is a good test for what we’ve implemented with young players given the stipulations of Financial Fair Play, but even regardless of the Financial Fair Play regulations, we think this is the best way to go.”

FFP or no FFP, it is a business model which makes sense. If just one of their 26 loanees reaches a world-class standard – and of the current crop Chelsea arguably boast two such prospects in Lukaku and Courtois – the club will save millions in transfer outlay. If the rest, having rarely burdened their parent club with training or wage costs, can then be sold for significantly more than their purchase price, the Blues can realistically hope to avoid ever replicating the £49.4m annual loss they posted last month.

Twomey goes on to describe the murky personal relationship between Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich and Vitesse owner Alexander Chigirinsky, and other signs of collusion between the two teams which takes away any incentive for player development from the Dutch side whilst giving them a cheap advantage in the league. Similar questions have been raised over Chelsea’s relationship with Middlesbrough.

The ability of Chelsea to essentially speculate on players is both a sign of the problem super wealthy teams can pose to European football as a whole, and a reminder that clubs can and will do anything to skirt break-even provisions if it threatens their dominance. It seems to me there are any number of ways it might be addressed, perhaps by capping the number of players a team can loan (though Italy would be borked). As ever, collusion may not always have the future of some of the world’s most promising talent at heart. But you knew that already…


By Alex Netherton

There are six-pointers, and then there are six-pointers. It’s not really ever been necessary to check what a-six pointer is, because it’s an irrelevant word-jazz bebopped into the mics attached to the oversized, shiny lapels of football-chatting idiots. Football-chatting idiots like Jamie Redknapp, Harry Redknapp, Louise Redknapp, you and, of course, as the quality of the work demonstrates, this author. But what a six-pointer the Manchester United – Chelsea match is. It’s a veritable six-pointer. A real six-pointer. It is a real shame, then, that it will remind us of everything that is wrong with a certain strand of feminist blogging. Hang on, this introduction has come across all Helen Lewis. Let’s get it right – it will be everything that is wrong with some aspects of football.

This is it. This will have all the tired journalistic clichés you could hope to find. Will it have narratives? Will it have tropes? Will there be intriguing and ironic subplots, that are neither intriguing nor ironic? Will a certain writer make the same jokes he does on Twitter throughout the match, all in the dead-eyed chase for more followers to peddle his ever more prevalent guff? Yes, yes, yes and yes, but Ethan Dean-Richards refuses to stop, no matter how much money and threats are alternately offered and promised.

This match sets the standard. The Gold Top of unwarranted fervour and anger. It has so much riding on it, none of which matters. This could be the first chance to put clear distance between the teams. It doesn’t make a jot of difference, it’s so early in the season. While it it will be said that these performances are shows of strength, laying down a marker or psychological dominance, they don’t really. These players have done this hundreds of times before, and if it really affected them that much, they’d be playing for Arsenal.

Chelsea have won the Champions League through sheer personality. Jose Mourinho drove Barca to distraction and intimidated Alex Ferguson. United have extracted the most from their abilities and relatively limited finances in the face of ever increasing demands from fans and other, richer teams. For all concerned, this is not a time they’ll crack for good, but just wait til you hear the papers talking about it. They’ll have to imbue it with meaning, because writers at broadsheets need something to be sesquipedalian about. They need something to render hackles raised.

There will be references to the Wayne Rooney story promising insight and delivering no insight. We’re all aware what will happen. Chelsea won’t bid until after the game, then he’ll either go, or not go. If he stays he’ll continue to under-perform and look resentful, scoring about 20 goals a season but doing little else. He’ll probably get a new contract for his trouble, and football will be just as fetid as ever. If he goes to Chelsea, he’ll have a spark of enjoyment and will become fitter under Mourinho. Just as things are looking exciting, he’ll injure himself again, or self-sabotage with another piece of off-field indiscipline, and he’ll under-perform and look resentful. Exciting? No. Inevitable? Yes. The future is mapped out in a very limited array for this man, yet the indignation keeps frothing.

[Discussion of relative merits of Mourinho and Moyes goes here, and how Moyes is working in both the shadow of Ferguson and of Mourinho’s obvious desire for the job. You can feel the life sapping out of the writer and supporters as they read on. For that reason it has not been written, merely implied in these parentheses.]

And the fans of course will need something to be furious about. It’ll be the journalists, obviously (and please do say hi in the comments) and the events of the game, which will be dealt with in the same irrational manner. There’s nothing like the joy of a big match to be so quickly reminded of just what we were all missing from the partisan amongst us. Typical ABU journalists and typical anti-Chelsea “bias [sic] journos”, all with their minds shot from years of writing the same thing and asking the same questions, far too jaded to summon up any kind of passion, let alone some cock-eyed bias favouring one team or another.

The referee will make a huge mess of something, and instead of treating it as a simple reminder that we all fallible, like a Roman mosaic with a deliberate mistake to assuage the gods, it’ll be all pumps on the radge deck, flinging handfuls of their own anger shit at each other.

As it is, the world will be treated to the #MUFCfamily proclaiming the team is the strongest it’s ever been, and that Michael Carrick is world class. Similarly, the Chelsea massive will be booing Rio Ferdinand for… it’s never clear what, exactly, beyond the fact that some Chelsea fans possibly quite like racism. If they didn’t, after all, they would stridently encourage authorities to tackle it and victims to report it, even if they weren’t John Obi Mikel. An edifying discussion will follow from parties relevant and irrelevant.

All this does a disservice to what might actually be the most interesting thing happening on Monday night. That is a match involving players like Robin Van Persie and Eden Hazard. There will be the excellent David De Gea and the infuriatingly reliable Frank Lampard. On Monday, let’s remember that. This should still be a time of jaunty relaxation. Keep it in mind. It’s still August, the sun is still out and we’re already on the verge of nervous breakdowns and death threats. There’s a place for both psychological disintegration and wishing end times on other people, and that’s April and May.