If you’ve read this blog on a regular basis, you’ll know I’m the resident soccer fan here, and an ardent supporter of Chelsea FC. Last years second half collapse in the EPL, followed by our shocking exit from the Champions League at the hands of Barcelona was a tough 3 months for Blues fans to endure. Before the offseason had even really begun, Chelsea’s swoop of Carlo Ancelotti seemed like the perfect transition from Guus Hiddink…With Manchester United loosing Ronaldo and Tevez the stage seemed relatively set for Chelsea to reclaim its title as the best team in England.
Fast-forward to December 1st , after four months of results, Chelsea fans were bullish that the season was shaping up to be one of the most successful in club history. Easy Champions League qualifications and massive wins over Manchester United, Liverpool, and Arsenal made Chelsea seem almost invincible. Two weeks later Chelsea head into……..(shall I really say it? Okay here it goes)…..a must win game against Everton to stem the tide of three miserable results. A 3-3 tie with Blackburn, a 2-1 loss to Manchester City, and a hapless high scoring 2-2 draw at home against Apoel Nicosia was a flood of goals and equally bad results. Is this the opening for Manchester United was waiting to exploit? Is the loss of form a flash back to the rein of Luiz Felipe Scolari and his sudden turn of fortune in 2007?
Sure maybe I’m totally panicking for no reason, three games in a row in such a long season is nothing, right? I’m not so sure……..
I’ll argue that this weekends match against Everton is a must win affair not because three points are simply at stake, but because Chelsea’s next 7 EPL opponents are equally as bad if not worse (Burnley, Portsmouth, Hull, Birmingham twice, Sunderland, West Ham). Getting three points this Saturday sets up a run of opponents we should being taking maximum points from, dropping points at the start to a depleted Everton team would make it officia, Chelsea are in trouble.
In the end however, Look for Chelsea to win 3-0 this Saturday, as well as take 25 points out of a possible 27 over there next 9 games…..United better be spot on…Chelsea aren’t going anywhere!
Short and to the point for this post….Once again the future of Chelsea FC is at a crossroads. With one of the most anticlimactic managerial appointments in recent memory wrapping up today, Carlo Ancelotti takes the helm at Chelsea. As a long time supporter of Chelsea I have mixed feeling about this announcement. First on the positive side, Carlo’s European pedigree is first rate. Taking any club to three Champions League finals is no small task, and his ability to build cohesive teams with diverse world backgrounds is with out question. I’m particularly happy that the Chelsea hierarchy moved quickly and with great purpose to get Ancelotti on board as quickly as possible. With the news coming only two days after the FA Cup final (I almost called that score line in my previous post….anybody think goal line technology isn’t a must in football anymore?) maximum time is now given to Ancelotti to begin his squad shaping. Minimal moves are required really (let’s just assume right now Deco and Carvalho end up at Inter shall we?), the squad is strong up top, and has one of the fiercest center midfield’s in the world. Our back-line was tied for fewest goals conceded in the Premier league which suggests the continued partnership of Alex and Terry will be fine, the emergence of Branislav Ivanovicwas also a nice development towards the second half of the season. The immediate focus for Carlo should be addressing an attacking wing position; Malouda, Cole, and Kalou are solid pieces but a world class winger preferably with a strong left foot would be an ideal addition.
As for the negative side of this hire? Didn’t we just go down this road with a foreign coach less then a year ago? Who also lacked strong English skills and came from a completely different background of football? I know all about the argument of the differences of national team management compared to that of club, and how the comparisons between Scolari and Ancelotti really shouldn’t be drawn…..but I don’t care, this hire seems a tad to close to same mold and style of coach for me to be comfortable with. Marcel Desailly one of the legends of Chelsea is on record as early as last week voicing his concern on the potential hire that now has become reality. How quickly will Ancelotti adapt to the massive differences of Premier League play? How will he build a flowing brand of football that Roman Abramovich demands? Anybody who’s watched an AC Milan match quickly recognizes a methodical, build up style of soccer that may not be ideal for the fast paced, end to end action of English football. Which brings me to Ancelotti’s domestic league record. In eight years at AC Milan he can only point to one league title? With several second place and third place showings maybe this isn’t a huge deal, but is worth noting as a possible concern.
The Chelsea nation will be eagerly awaiting the launch of the World Football Challenge in July. Only questions and conjecture are left to ponder, as once again, Chelsea have a new face at The Bridge trying there hand at living up to the lasting impression of “The Special One” who still looms large. With Hiddinks recent successes, that task maybe impossible.
As the curtain comes down on another fantastic Premier League season, we are treated to the final act of the domestic season with the FA Cup final. As any soccer fan knows the FA Cup is the longest running tournament in world soccer, and with it brings considerable accolades should you hoist the trophy. It has an odd way of turning around a truly awful or disappointing season in 90 quick minutes. Just ask Portsmouth last year, or perhaps Arsenal in 05’ as the failed to win the Premier League but ousted Manchester United to pull a dismal season back on track. Over the last 20 years the list of finalists seems to drum up the same familiar names of English power houses. Manchester United lead the way with 9 final appearances, Arsenal 7, Liverpool 6, and Chelsea rounding out 5.
This year’s final brings back a familiar face with Chelsea FC looking to grab its sixth title in as many appearances, taking on a resurgent Everton football club who would love to stamp there emerging authority in English football with a trophy. In many ways this final represents two polar opposites within the Premier League. On one side you have mega rich Chelsea with resources and cash to address any need or desire. And on the other Everton, who with a lack of a large bank roll have had to grind away with smart buys, solid loans, a fantastic youth system, and gut wrenching sales (17 year Wayne being the most obvious example). This years Everton side although lacking in depth is full of talent we have been unaccustomed to seeing with past squads. Leading the charge is English work horse Leon Osman, swash buckling Tim Cahill, excellent Marouane Fellaini, and oft injured Louis Saha, and holding down a very impressive back line Joleon Lescott and Joseph Yobo (Phil Jagielka sits because of injury). If ever there was an Everton side ready to take home silverware and create a massive upset this just might be the team. On the opposite side towering Chelsea, brimming with confidence under the guidance of Guss Hiddink (SIGN HIM UP ROMAN!!!!). Still aggrieved over the stunning loss at the hands of Barcelona in the Champions Leagues semi’s, the FA Cup stands as the last opportunity for redemption in a other wise tumultuous season. Chelsea would appear to have a full squad at there disposal, with the only real question being the formation. Will Hiddink roll out a traditional 4-4-2 to accommodate both Anelka and Drogba upfront? Or will he continue to employ a 4-3-2-1 that might shift Anelka to the bench leaving Drogs up front? Both formations for Chelsea over the last three months have wielded tremendous results and neither can be faulted at this point.
With a wave of momentum that has out played Barcelona, Liverpool, and Juventus in Europe, and a 11-2-2 league record since February, Everton will have a massive mistake free 90 minutes to handle if they want to take a result. With a makeshift attack and Jo cup tied. Everton seem to be a player or two short for this match up. With a valiant effort and a short lived lead in the first half, Chelsea stretch there class in talent out to a 3-1 win, to take home there sixth FA Cup in six attempts.