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Kevin De Bruyne
He had an impressive pre-season with Chelsea and was named the man of the match in his Premier League debut. A lot of the attention is focused on Eden Hazard, which could allow De Bruyne to perform without pressure. With his pace and aggression I can see him holding down a place in the starting 11 and becoming one of the club’s surprise star players.
The former England international may seem like a new signing for West Ham having been injured for large parts of the previous season. Whether he appears on the score sheet or gets an assist, you can expect to see the midfielder have a significant influence on what I think will be a great season for West Ham.
He came on as a substitute in his debut against Manchester United and managed to grab their only goal in a 1-4 defeat. When he joined the game there was a notable difference in Swansea’s performance, particularly upfront, as the striker seemed to link well with Michu. I expect Bony to be one of the top goal scorers in this season’s campaign.
Providing Chelsea do not sign a marque forward I think the Belgian will be the club’s top scorer. He was only given 15 minutes against Hull on the first game of the season, but his strength and pace made almost an immediate impact to their attack. His West Brom form was carried into pre-season where he scored in almost every game he played and constantly threatened the opposition. If he gets enough playing time I can see Lukaku being one of the top five goal scorers this season.
He was relentless against Stoke in Liverpool’s first game of the season, showing as much promise as Eden Hazard. He had plenty of shots at goal and played various key passes to the forwards. By the end of the year Coutinho will be considered one of the most dangerous midfielders in the league.
Despite missing parts of last season with injuries the Belgian was still able to score six goals and assist five. With the forward fully fit and Everton taking on a more attacking style under Roberto Martinez, I expect Mirallas to have a successful year at Goodison Park.
Written by Chris Edwards
Follow Chris @CyncialCME
Gareth Bale and Luis Suarez are priceless to their clubs, but with the sharks circling both may have to accept that their sale is inevitable.
Usually I would refrain from sharing my thoughts on mere speculation, but I think there’s something far more interesting about the rumors circulating this summer that I just can’t ignore.My silence was ultimately broken by the unavoidable price tag slapped on Gareth Bale’s head.
In my (most likely bias) opinion it is a ridiculous sum of money for a player who has not even come close to levelling himself with Cristiano Ronaldo, however I don’t want this to turn into some sort of blind rant, so I’m going to try and logically assess how clubs come to these astronomical evaluations.
Firstly, £85 million? If I were Spurs I’d be biting Madrid’s hands off. Fair enough they’d lose one of the best players in the league, but with that kind of money they could form a much stronger team. Ibrahimovic, a couple of world-class wingers and a centre back would make them a far greater threat and they’d no longer be reliant on an individual. That’s the argument though. For Tottenham to fill the void of the Welsh midfielder, they’d have to purchase all of that talent.
That’s not to say that he’s actually worth that transfer fee, and I’m not saying he’s worth less either. He’s worth whatever the club need to equal or slightly improve on their current level of performance.
The same can be said for Luis Suarez. He too is worth the entire cost of his teammates and on that basis is priceless to Liverpool. From a Chelsea perspective Juan Mata and Eden Hazard are also irreplaceable. I wouldn’t sell either of them for £100 million at this moment in time because they’re quite simply our best players.
So it seems that financial fair play has not only failed to change the mentality of big spending clubs, but it has also forgotten the basic principle that the best players cannot be reasonably priced.
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Chelsea’s long search for a clinical striker looks set to continue as reports suggest Edison Cavani is close to agreeing a deal with PSG. Having already missed out on Radamel Falcao, this latest news will come as a major blow to the London club. Here are five alternatives that Jose Mourinho may have to consider.
1. Wayne Rooney
It is no secret that Mourinho is an admirer of the Englishman’s ability and recent reports are linking the want-away United player with a move to Stamford Bridge. He played the best part of last season in a deeper role, allowing Van Persie to take on the goal scoring responsibility, but at Chelsea the Liverpudlian could be given a new lease-of-life. Rooney is a proven goal-scorer in the Premier League, and with an array of creative midfielders behind him, he could have the tools to become a leading striker once again.
2. Zlatan Ibrahimovic
If Cavani does move to PSG then Ibrahimovic could become available. He would be the ideal replacement for Didier Drogba with his strong style of play and he could bridge the gap until Lukaku breaks into the first team. A younger signing might see the Belgian condemned to the bench, preventing him from developing his game.
3. Romelu Lukaku
Chelsea could place their faith in the young striker at an early stage and make him their main man. It seems unlikely that Mourinho will place so much weight on his shoulders (not that he could reach them), but if he can replicate the form he had at West Brom then it could impossible to ignore the option.
4. Robert Lewandowski
His more agile style of play could suit Chelsea’s new, attractive approach to the game. Reports are suggesting that the Pole is most likely to join Bayern Munich, but should that fall through, he could be a great alternative for Jose Mourinho.
5. Stay put
They currently have Fernando Torres, Demba Ba, Romelu Lukaku and Andre Schurrle who can play as a centre forward. While there may not be an obvious choice there Chelsea could benefit from rotating them all. Without the pressure on a singular man, they will all have the chance to contribute goals and compete for a starting place.
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The football season is fast approaching and excitement is starting to build as the rumour mill goes into overdrive. For Chelsea fans this usually spells a great deal of activity, but what does this mean for the existing players and how will the side shape up for the next campaign?
After the additions of Andre Schurrle and Marco Van Ginkel the midfield has to be the most uncertain area of the pitch. Frank Lampard is likely to be rotated and the ‘Three Amigos’ are constantly fighting to solidify their place in the first team, so choosing a starting eleven could prove to be problematic for Jose Mourinho.
For me the missing ingredient is pace. Eden Hazard is currently the only fast player utilising the wings, but now Chelsea have the speed of Schurrle who can play on both sides. This could provoke the Special One to give the German regular playing time, which might see the likes of Oscar dropped to the bench.
Oscar in himself is another matter (no pun intended). He performed brilliantly in the final of the Confederations Cup, helping his side to a 3-0 victory over Spain. In a high-tempo game, Juan Mata failed to produce the same standard, which raises questions as to who should be in the middle of our attacking midfield.
Michael Essien is also making his return and based on the amount of playing time Mourinho gave him at Real Madrid, it seems likely that the Ghanaian will feature regularly. If that is the case, there could be repercussions for David Luiz who at the end of last season took to his new role in holding midfield. Mourinho will have to decide if the Brazilian is disciplined enough to be part of the back four, and that would subsequently lead to a reshuffle of the defence.
In terms of striking options, it’s anyone’s guess how it will shape up. Edison Cavani certainly seems to be the ideal option and the fans’ number one choice, but if they don’t manage to acquire his services they may have to consider other alternatives or even stick with the current three forwards.
Potentially there could two or three more signings before the start of the season, but this is what I think the starting eleven will look like.
The last couple of weeks have been too much. I’ve barely settled down after screaming my heart out against the Basel fans last week, and the week before that I was nervously clenching my girlfriend’s arm in the hope of beating Swansea. Those are the only two games I’ve been able to watch at the Bridge this season, but they’ve proven to be vital in our quest for a successful campaign. Since then, we’ve also beaten United, gained a crucial point against Spurs and learnt that Mourinho’s return is now even more likely… Allow me to catch my breath.
Let’s start with the Swansea game. I was fortunate enough to meet up with a Chelsea legend who took me under his wing for the day and made sure I got the best possible experience (as part of a birthday present). If that wasn’t already enough, the seats turned out to be the finest I’ve had in my many years of visiting Stamford Bridge. There’s something about being there that allows you to analyse the game properly.
Subsequently, my verdict is that Lampard is Jesus. Seriously though, when you watch that man live, it really is something else. This was also my first sighting of Hazard, who again looks incredible on TV, but even better in the flesh. I’d go as far to say he’s the best dribbler in the league. As for Mata, I saw him play one of his best games in a Chelsea shirt last season when we thrashed Spurs 5-1 at Wembley, so I was pleased to see him a year on – even better.
Sitting in a family area with my girlfriend meant I wasn’t able to vent my frustration at Oscar, who for some reason winds me up. I don’t think he’s quite there yet, but he’s certainly coming along. Anyway, he scored, and he’s making a habit of that lately. I’m going to put that down to quality service. Speaking of which, his assister, Lamps, made my heart flutter once again as he scored on my birthday for a third consecutive year. Up the arms went. 3 points in the bag. Easy.
A few days later I’m back at the Bridge for the Basel game. Shed End this time – right next to the Basel fans. Safe to say, the seats were nowhere near as good as the previous ones, but being alongside the away fans made for an entirely different experience, and an atmosphere that eclipsed the Swansea game.
I wasn’t too worried when they scored first. I knew we’d win it eventually, but I just wanted to wave them goodbye as soon as possible. It had gone beyond pointing and laughing when David Luiz’s wonder goal went in. Instead I was screaming “Did you see that?!” They knew enough English to chant “You only sing when you’re winning”, so I’m pretty sure they could understand me. I had two hotdogs after the game to celebrate…
Now on to more recent affairs. A hard-fought win against United saw me run out my bedroom screaming and jumping in the hallway, and I smacked my head into my hands about as hard as Ramires’s fall when he failed to convert a counter attack against Spurs. I think we’ve done enough now. Villa won’t be easy and Everton will want to give Moyes a proper sign-off, but I’m confident we have the quality to find at least one more win.
If all this wasn’t enough to bugger my blood pressure, we’re now agonisingly close to bringing back The Special One and consequently agreeing a contract renewal for Frank. If we win Europa and manage to finish in the top 4, the players, manager, club and fans will breath a sigh of relief, as this has been one of the hardest campaigns in the club’s history. When it’s all in the past, we can look forward to the presents the future may bring – hopefully spelt F.A.L.C.A.O.
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It has been a while since my last post and as expected there has been much development in the world of Chelsea during my absence. We’ve knocked Manchester United out of the FA Cup, progressed to the semi-final of the Europa League, seen a slight change in mood towards interim manager, Rafa Benitez, but perhaps the best news of all has been Fernando Torres breaking his nose.
No matter how busy my schedule might get, I will always find time to watch The Blues, and the less attractive fixtures like Steaua Bucharest serve as no exception. In that particular game Fernando Torres got his head kicked in, which evidently didn’t go down too well with the Spaniard, as he proceeded to angrily charge around the pitch until someone let him score a goal.
In actual fact, he played very well. A crooked nose, two blood-covered shirts, including one with no name or number on it proved to be a far more effective combination than a long haircut and a bottle of blonde bleach. Regardless, a change of shirt for every game just isn’t a sustainable method of keeping a striker firing. Instead the kit men would have to come up with something far more feasible.
Admittedly, it might have had something to do with the broken nose, but they decided on a rather stylish, Dark Knight-esque mask, and since putting it on, Torres has become a new man, assertive, determined and most importantly, clinical. Such a surge in form can only lead us to question if the accessory has transformed him.
I’ve always thought Torres was a very human player, one who thrived on confidence rather than raw talent itself, but just like Batman, he now has something to hide behind. I’m insinuating that the mask has quite literally made him feel like a superhero.
Now this would suggest that there are serious psychological issues influencing the Spaniard’s game, as most players only impersonate a superhero after they’ve scored. What we get is the reverse. For a brief moment we can see the Torres of old when he celebrates scoring a goal with his trademark slide of the knees and out-stretched arms. His human side is accompanied by a huge sense of relief every time he does something right for Chelsea, which for me, clearly says that he is a man battling against his own insecurities.
For the fans it is understandably hard to come to terms with, and in such a demanding position, the club can’t really afford to rely on him. I for one can’t help but sympathise for our number nine, and would take great pleasure in seeing him resolve his issues, if not for the club, then for himself as a professional. I fear that a move abroad could be imminent, although I’d happily see him move to another team if it meant the revival of his career.
In the meantime, we can enjoy the persona he has taken on in the mask and hope that Spanish bones don’t heal in a rush. Keeping it on could make all the difference as we challenge for yet another FA Cup and European title.
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It’s the standard set up for most Premier League teams now, and I can understand why. It provides cover for the defence whilst 3 players have the freedom to support the attack and play the wings. I prefer the central attacking midfielder to have a striking role though – much like Rooney. I think Mata has emulated that for us this season although I thoroughly believe that two strikers can make a significant impact. This would take more of a 4-4-2 shape.
This pretty much goes without saying. Hopefully we have many more years of Petr in goal, but it’s great to know our future rests in the capable hands of Courtois.
Right back: Azpilicueta
Ivanovic has been one of our best players in this position at times, but Cesar has really come along since finding regular first team football. His pace, crossing and defensive qualities make him a complete fullback, and personally I think he’s been one of the best signings this season.
Left back: Cole
An obvious choice, although I’m excited at the prospect of Bertrand who when called upon has really impressed.
Centre back right: Cahill
For me Cahill is a must. He’s everything Terry used to be, but faster and younger. If anything he needs to develop his voice in the back four and become one of our new leaders.
Centre back left: Luiz
This is where it gets difficult. This choice is more for the future as there’s still some room for improvement. I’m basing this purely on his potential and obvious talent. Until recently I would have placed him in defensive midfield, but Luiz is a leader and his partnership with Cahill proved its worth in the Champions League final. The most important factor for me is his pace. Formerly, when a striker like Suarez or Aguero sidestepped Terry, there was no way the skipper would catch them. Luiz is a different story. Just because he’s beaten doesn’t mean he won’t come back to win the ball.
Right midfield: Moses
I’ve been calling for a proper winger for years. Most top sides utilise the flanks and it’s been the key to United’s success. Victor has incredible pace, supports both the attack and defence, he’s competent in the air, strong and possesses a powerful shot. It’d be great to see one of our cheaper signings making regular appearances in the first team.
Left midfield: Hazard
Hazard has to become our best player. Mata is our main man at the moment, but we need an explosive player to become the centre of our performances. Mata’s build up play, creativity, and scoring ability has been second to none this season, but we still need someone who can take the ball from one end of the pitch to the other and score. Hazard has to become our Bale.
Centre midfield right: Ramires
He’s a workhorse in the middle. He can defend and attack for 90 minutes – the closest thing to the Essien of old. Paired with Lampard, he’s more likely to sit back, although they’re great at taking it in turns. Their partnership is the perfect example of how two similar centre midfielders can play together if they have an understanding.
Centre midfield left: Lampard
He’s Lampard. I don’t need to justify this choice. The best player in our history, and If he leaves at the end of the season the heart of Chelsea will die.
Attacking midfield central: Mata
He’s been our best player this season without doubt. Assists, goals and man of the match performances galore. He tends to play on the right although his success has come from behind the striker. This is where he needs to play.
Next season I want it to be Lukaku, but for now Ba is the best striker we have. As much as I’d love to see Falcao next season I really don’t want us to spend £40 million plus when we’ve already spent 18 on a 19 year-old who looks like he can be even better than Drogba. Ba gets the job done though – which is more than I can say for a certain blonde-haired Spaniard. I’d also like to see Ba and Lukaku in a partnership. There has to he goals in that combination.
The omission of Ivanovic, Terry, and Oscar is admittedly controversial even if I have justified my selection. This team does however give consideration to current form and functionality – particularly for the wide position. Ivanovic was the hardest player to leave out. He’s worked incredibly hard for us over the last couple of seasons, but I think he makes one too many mistakes. Our centre backs have to be completely reliable. It was also difficult to leave out Oscar, although he is very similar to Mata except the Spaniard is more consistent and evidently more capable of producing goals.
Written by Chris Edwards
Follow Chris @CynicalCME
This will be the umpteenth time I have called for calm from Chelsea fans, as I remind them that we are in a transition period. Considering the squad is in a state of rejuvenation it must be stressed that our current league position is truly commendable. The £32 million spent on Eden Hazard, and the £25 million on Oscar has undoubtedly aided the cause, but with talent such as Romelu Lukaku, Thibaut Courtois, and Kevin De Bruyne out on loan, Abramovich has no reason to reopen his chequebook.
It seems strange that so much negativity can exist when we have such a positive future ahead of us. The only problem we might face is the deciding when to bring the Belgian players back. Lukaku is performing brilliantly for West Brom, but next season could be too soon. The same can be said for Courtois who has taken Chelsea by surprise and surpassed all expectations with his fast progression at Athletico Madrid. Plus Petr Cech is still playing to a high level and is unlikely to make way any time soon.
So does this mean another two seasons before we can see the Belgains playing in blue shirts? If so then Roman will feel compelled to bring in another marquee signing, and the most likely candidate is Falcao. Now, whilst I’m a huge fan of the Colombian, and would love to see him at Chelsea, I can’t bare to see us fork out another £50 million for a single player. If Lukaku is ready, and the club finally makes the right decision to sell Torres, why not start the 19-year old up top? We’re already in a transition period, and what better way to integrate a young striker with a team that’s growing anyway.
We have to remember we paid £18 million for Lukaku, and it’s an investment that we really should see through. From what I’ve seen at West Brom he could be worth even more one day, so further spending really isn’t necessary. We got Courtois for a fair price, but again, we should consider the position of goalkeeper filled, and not turn to bigger names.
Falcao could be the answer to our problems, but he could also be seen as a short-term fix. He’s 27 and currently at his peak, so Chelsea would be lucky to get an extra three years of his best. If we must re-enter the transfer market then I would like to see yet another Belgian added to the squad. Marouanne Fellaini. His physical presence and aerial ability could replace Didier Drogba’s, and he could be purchased for a fee in the margin of £15-£20 million.
So with Hazard already in the team, Lukaku, De Bruyne, Courtois coming back from loan, and the possible addition of Fellaini, we really could be looking at a Belgain revolution at Stamford Bridge.
By Chris Edwards
Follow Chris @CynicalCME
Chelsea simply wouldn’t be in the top four this season if it weren’t for Juan Mata. That’s something we can all agree on. If you’ve chosen the Spaniard for your fantasy league team you’ll really understand the impact he’s had, scoring and assisting in almost every game. In fact the number ten’s reputation has grown so much that even supporters of other clubs are praising him, and when a Chelsea player gets recognition like that, we know we have something special on our hands.
So where has all this form come from? When we signed him he was foremost a left-winger, but his main threat has come from the centre of an attacking midfield. He rarely finds himself on a flank beating fullbacks and crossing it in, instead he conducts the attacks by picking a pass and running into the box for any late opportunities. That’s not to say that he’s not capable of taking on a defence, or launching a screamer into the top corner of the net, because he’s been doing that too, and that’s what makes Mata such a special player. He’s a shinning example of the modern footballer, fully embracing the development of the game and a style of play that is required in the current era.
I can actually see a lot of similarities between Mata and Rooney. Neither of them are blisteringly fast, they’re not physically intimidating, but they both play in a similar position and create the same amount of chances. For me, the biggest difference is that Mata is quite simply better. We’re all fully aware of what Wayne can bring to the game, but Juan has only just turned 24, and he’s already carrying a top Premier League side. Baring this in mind, I see no reason why Mata can’t go on to be the next best player in the competition. He’s even remained as consistent as the top goal-scorer, Robin Van Persie, and he’s the most likely candidate to be named the best in England.
What’s even more important is that Mata’s style of play can be maintained. When wingers like Eden Hazard reach the end of their prime, it’ll be much harder to impact the game in their usual way, but the Spaniard’s approach allows him to think, pick the pass and move into space, which will allow him to score and assist well into his 30s.
A similar point could be made for Manchester City’s David Silva, but as far as I’m concerned, Mata has already eclipsed him in just his second season in the Premier League. Silva is like a set of taps, blowing hot and cold far too often, but Mata is a hot one that just keeps pouring.
You have to be consistent to be the best, and that leaves just two names. Robin Van Persie, and Juan Mata. These are the players that have really brought the Premiership to life this season, but with Van Persie already at his peak and Mata still having a long career ahead of him, the Spaniard is surely set to be the next best player in the league.
Written by Chris Edwards
Follow Chris on Twitter @CynicalCME
There’s no real secret behind the success of the Manchester sides this season, they’ve simply played their best eleven players and racked up the points they deserve. They’ve also had a key characteristic in common – a powerful striking partnership.
United have Robin Van Persie and Wayne Rooney with a considerable amount of back-up, whilst Tevez and Aguero have fronted City, and have been able to call upon Edin Dzeko. Meanwhile, Chelsea has stuck with Fernando Torres as a lone striker for the majority of the season.
Until the signing of Demba Ba, Torres was practically unchallenged in the position, but simply fighting for a leading role is not something Chelsea should be encouraging. Instead we should be considering the possibility of playing both Ba and Torres together. The two are unlikely to be paired, but just recently we’ve seen what they can produce when combined. Besides, it doesn’t take a genius to work out that more strikers equals more goals.
It’s always been my philosophy that you should optimise your goal-scoring opportunities with your strongest eleven, and that usually includes at least two men whose job is to do nothing more than produce goals. We know that Ba is a beast in this area, and for £7 million he’s proving to be an absolute steal.
Torres on the other hand has vast become one of the most embarrassing aspects of Chelsea Football Club, however, I remember those brief minutes that the Spaniard shared with Didier Drogba on the pitch last season.
Despite playing out of position, Torres showed so much enthusiasm and desire to score and create goals, and at times I often found myself hoping for his name on the team sheet ahead of Didier’s, but now I realise it was their combined abilities that produced such a great final product. This can and should be achieved again with Demba Ba.
The football world might think that Torres plays best as a lone striker, but during his time at Liverpool he had Steven Gerrard behind him, a player who approaches the game with aggression and directness, practically turning him into a second striker.
Baring this in mind, our new number 9 was never really a lone striker – he needed powerful assistance. At the moment we have an attacking midfield consisting of three extremely capable players, but they are also small and agile, nothing like the Liverpool skipper. It’s clear to see that the strength and height of Demba Ba benefits Torres, and this is what we need to get the Spaniard firing.
There’s no escaping the fact that Roman Abramovic wants this team to work around Fernando, and that won’t change. The only thing we can hope for is that our management can find a way to make him work, and for me, this means playing two up front.
Putting Torres aside, the real combination I want to see in the future is Ba and Lukaku. Watching Romelu at West Brom this season, teams like United and City must be quaking at the prospect of his return to the Bridge. Both players are in excess of six-foot two, they’re strong on the ground and air, and are reasonably fast considering their size. It’s a possibility that’s got me salivating with anticipation.
If we are to play two up top then we also have to consider back-up. Manchester United and City’s success hasn’t come from just one combination, but two. I don’t think there’s a single team in the Premier League that wouldn’t want Javier Hernandez in their starting line-up, but the little Mexican has happily served in a rotation role for the past three seasons now. Of course, it helps to have a player like Van Persie, but not even he can score every single game.
What Chelsea need is someone of a similar class – Radamel Falcao for example. After we’ve found someone who can deliver nine out of ten times, then we need that Hernandez type striker to come in and make sure it’s ten out of ten for Chelsea.
Personally, I was gutted to see Daniel Sturridge go. We couldn’t have asked more from the young Englishman, who scored practically every time he was given a chance. Again, the problem was that we wouldn’t play two upfront, and Sturridge quite rightly demanded first team football. Now we have lost a huge talent to a rival club who are already getting the best out of him.
On the subject of Liverpool, look at the partnership they have now. Suarez and Sturridge. The way I see it, Chelsea are even behind them in terms of striking capability.
Too much emphasis seems to be on formation and not function. It’s plain to see when the majority of teams are using this 4-2-3-1 system. Even though teams like Manchester United occupy this, they have natural goal-scorers like Wayne Rooney to play in the space between midfield and defence to cause havoc. For Chelsea this wouldn’t work the same way, but as we’ve already seen, Torres and Ba can take turns in the advanced role.
Our record signing hasn’t been able to convert many chances, but he certainly seems to have developed his playmaking ability, which could be beneficial for a striking partner, and with Demba Ba’s aerial presence he too could serve a fellow forward. The bottom line is, we’re more likely to score with both these men on the pitch, and until this is realised Chelsea simply won’t be able to compete wit the Manchester sides.
Written by Chris Edwards
Follow Chris Edwards on Twitter @CynicalCME