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Neil Jensen

Should Chelsea Buy A Striker In January?

By Chelsea News2 Comments

When Chelsea started their golden period of 2004-2007, and even in the Indian summer of 2010, they had options up front, even if they chose not to exercise them. The frontline centred on Drogba and as time goes on, his role in Chelsea’s La Belle Epoch will be seen more and more as highly influential. The fact is, Torres is no Drogba and he’s never going to be. Unlike the great Ivorian, Torres cannot change games. He can – when in the mood – finish off the good work of others, but after almost two years, it just isn’t working, no matter how much Chelsea officials and supporters try to talk themselves into believing it will come good.

And now, it is also apparent that the options Manchester City and United have in the striking ranks is going to outgun Chelsea in pursuit of the title. Look at what’s happened in recent weeks – Hernandez at the Bridge and Villa Park, Dzeko off the bench to inspire City. Both players are not guaranteed starting places at their respective clubs, yet both would grace any top flight Premier club. The fact is, when the title race gets tough and form, suspensions and injuries kick in, Chelsea will not have the flexibility up front. United and City both have around four strikers of quality they can call on.

Opportunities may have been lost in the summer, for while Chelsea packed their midfield with arguably some of the most fleet-footed and nimble talent around – Oscar and Hazard – all the eggs fell into the Fernando Torres basket. You cannot blame Mr Abramovich for wanting to get a return from his £ 50m investment, but the price tag has weighed heavily on Torres’ and indeed, Chelsea’s shoulders. Everyone wants him to succeed, celebrating every Torres goal as if it’s his last – it could well be – and claiming the start of a new personal dawn for the Spaniard. The truth is, Torres’ performances are no better than a handful of average Premier strikers plying their trade elsewhere.

Have Chelsea done him justice? Patience aside, it has seemed as though the burden of expectation has been too much. He’s lacked a partner to play alongside and the singular striker role just might not suit him.

Perhaps it is time to cut the losses on Torres and look elsewhere. They had to give it two years, largely because of the fee, but that time is approaching and the transfer window is starting to creak open. Atletico Madrid’s Rademal Falcao is an obvious target (69 goals in 76 games versus 19 in 80 for Torres) – his mobility, finishing and virtuosity are all qualities that Chelsea lack beyond the midfield. But he won’t come cheap and the fee may approach the £50m tabled for Torres. Chelsea cannot afford to get it wrong again.

What went wrong with Torres? When he arrived at Chelsea, he was not exactly firing all cylinders at Liverpool. In his first three seasons at Anfield, his goalscoring form in the Premier was impressive: 24 in 33 games; 14 in 24; and 18 in 22. In 2010-11, he netted 9 in 23 before joining Chelsea. There was also constant talk of him moving and that he had become a “surly and sulking figure” – something he has often appeared to be at Chelsea. Some said he was past his best, but that a change of club would reinvigorate him.  Despite winning the Golden Boot at Euro 2012, it has not really happened for him at Stamford Bridge.

There’s not a lot wrong with Chelsea’s side that a couple of January acquisitions would not solve. In defence they have to get it right, but that should be in their own hands. Likewise, once they face the truth about Torres, they should put a couple of strikers on their New Year shopping list. Do nothing and the advantages the Manchester clubs have in the “goals for” column may ensure Chelsea’s promise of late summer disappears in the depth of winter.

Thank heaven for Moses. But Champions League Qualification Still In Balance

By Chelsea NewsNo Comments

Chelsea’s Champions League destiny became a little more clearer last night, but there can be no slip-ups in the next two games. If justice is done – and in football that’s not guaranteed – Shakhtar Donetsk will get through to the next stage, but the impressive Ukrainians cannot take progress for granted.

In the two games with Chelsea, Shakhtar were the better side. At Stamford Bridge, there were long periods where the home crowd was deathly silent and the only noise that could be heard was the thumping of the ball and the happy, chanting away fans. Their team almost – and the final result forbids me from being more definite –gave Chelsea the sort of lesson that Red Star Belgrade gave pre-conquest Liverpool back in the early 1970s. If Shakhtar had won, few could have complained. They were, at times, really quite outstanding.

If Chelsea, or indeed any of the European leviathans, don’t put a hefty cheque on the table for Willian in the coming months, I will be staggered. He is absolute top drawer, involved in everything and his running off the ball, let alone his use of it, was superb. The second Shaktar goal proved just that.

Chelsea, though, demonstrated the spirit of Munich to get the win, and that characteristic, so often associated with the English game, should not be under-estimated. At times, their football – going forward, I would add –  was quite something, but at the back, it was again a horror story. Ryan Betrand and David Luiz must have been expecting the board to go up signalling their departure from the scene at any moment, but it never came. Instead, it was Oscar and the disappointing Torres who left the pitch, the former after scoring another excellent goal.

And as for the goals, one was a gift, one a sort of gift, albeit executed magnificently, and the other a set piece. Chelsea rarely opened up Shakhtar the way they so casually exposed the Blues. No wonder John Terry was upset at being left to warm the bench!

In the minutes leading up to Chelsea’s winner, I felt they had done well to contain the men in orange and black – a kit that made them appear like an EasyJet XI – so to come away with three points was a massive coup. It is a win that will look better and better as time goes by.

So now Chelsea pack their passports for Turin. This is the not the hurdle it once might have been, but RDM’s men must avoid defeat. Shakhtar could take a grip on the group by beating the hapless Danes, but a draw, followed by a win against Nordsjaelland will be enough to see Chelsea through to the last 16. But they will need to be more solid if they want to make the sort of progress expected by SW6’s favourite Oligarch…..

When luck just ‘aint with you…

By Chelsea NewsNo Comments

As superb the game was for the neutral, Chelsea can feel very aggrieved at the way the first meeting of the season with Manchester United went today.

The Blues went into the game defending a good home record against Fergie’s men, but also with question marks hanging over them about their ability to sustain a title challenge. Given they ended the game with nine men, and fought back from two-down to gain the upper hand, only to be denied by a series of unfortunate events, the questions were answered positively – Chelsea should remain among the challengers.

Not many teams come back against United once they have a stranglehold on the game, but Chelsea did just that. There’s no doubt in my mind that if Chelsea had not been so savagely reduced in numbers, they would have gained a result against United. It’s a bit like saying, “if my brother was a women, he’d be my sister”, admittedly, but at the same time, red card number two looked a bit harsh.

In fact, when Mark Clattenberg brandished the second red, for Fernando Torres, I thought Johnny Evans was the recipient – and so did the United defender! Clattenberg is a card-happy official who has handed out almost 25% of all red cards in the Premier this season – so there may lie the explanation.

Chelsea showed great character today and Mata, Oscar and Hazard all demonstrated why so many plaudits have come their way this season. Circumstances meant that all three had to be subbed at some point, but their contribution was so positive – especially, in my view, Juan Mata, who continues to get better and show real leadership. A Chelsea skipper in the making?

Mata’s goal was superb and the work that went into Ramires’ equalizer was equally impressive. At that point, I would have wagered a Chelsea win, but when Ivanovic was sent to the dressing room – no complaints there – hopes of a win became the consolation of the draw. Then Torres’ sending off started to erode all hopes of getting anything at all.

And so, the winning goal. One word here – offside. Judging by the post-match reaction, United also felt they had been a little lucky. But Chelsea should not be too despondent, they did enough to suggest that the early season effervessence is no fluke and the new wave of optimism that has swept into Stamford Bridge in the aftermath of Munich is warranted.

The two Manchester clubs remain the teams to beat if you want to win a title. It looks like being a three-way race this year, and RDM’s nimble, performing ponies will make Chelsea part of that trio.  Chelsea will be in the mix, make no mistake.