Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Let's change managers again!

A football team is like a stock on the equity market - when things are going well, analysts are always bullish and gloss over the odd indiscrepancy... when things are not going so well suddenly those who were so eager to back the stock become extremish bearish and trade with hindsight. So it was with Chelsea fans, some of whom disgracefully booed the team off at half-time. There is no doubt that there has been a lot of discontent from the fans with the club in recent years - never really replacing our most successful manager of all time adequately and finding it hard to encourage players to perform better when you would have thought it was a given considering their vast salaries. On top of that you have an influential media which easily sways the opinion of a minority of fans when things aren't going so well. Whereas I understand the frustrations of some Chelsea fans, booing the team will not help. Again, Mikel seemed to get the most stick when Cole, Kalou, Ballack and Lampard produced far inferior performances.
There is no particular reason why Chelsea should be playing any worse than they did since the team's annihilation of Arsenal, but the general lack of confidence in the side since the exit in the League Cup to Blackburn should be blamed squarely on the shoulders of Ancelotti who again made some strange tactical decisions.
I am one of Paulo Ferreira's biggest fans - whenever he has had to come in for injured players he has been exceptional - but to start with him instead of the generally impressive Ivanovic was puzzling. Even more peculiar was leaving Ashley Cole on the bench and giving Zhirkov a run on the left - the Russian looks promising but was afraid to take on the Fulham defence.
With Anelka out it was odd that the manager did not revert to the 4-5-1 formation that was so successful under Mourinho - maybe he could have dropped Kalou-less and played both Ashley Cole and Zhirkov on the left with Ivanovic and Joe Cole on the right leaving the midfield with some room to push up... or maybe with Mourinho in attendance he was afraid he might have been sued for copyright.
The first half was truly desperate with uncharacteristically poor defending for Fulham's goal and Chelsea limited to only a few chances from outside the box. Although Fulham had just three chances on goal all game  they could have easily scored with all of them and it is extremely worrying to see how shaky we are at the back when a ball is pumped into the box.
Drogba reverted to the mean as he does when Chelsea go through a bad patch. Back came the falling over from every tackle (especially poor when at one stage the side was gathering some real momentum to square things up before half time) followed by a typically brilliant goal set up by Ivanovic. Drogba will unfortunately never be seen as a legend at Chelsea despite the best striker I have seen to play for us... neither will he gain the same plaudits reserved for the likes of Messi and Ronaldo who also embellish any small challenge against them; perhaps it is because he plays for Chelsea and not a traditional, established powerhouse in Europe.
Fulham played well although they will probably regret their naivety by not holding the ball for longer when they had possession. Chelsea were rejuvenated in the second half and deservedly won.
The next four league games on paper look like three point bankers... but that is what I thought all our games over the Christmas period would be. Although it looks like the league champions this season will struggle to gain even 80 points to win it, Chelsea should be sprinting far ahead by now especially considering how much we will miss the ANC players. Ancelotti needs to be more flexible with his team formation and with Sturridge realistically likely to play the sole striker role until Anelka returns to full fitness means we need to revert to Mourinho tactics in order to obtain maximum points from our league games in January. The manager has lost some of the fans and he needs to regain their confidence quickly.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Toothless Chelsea miss Drogba and Essien

Sometimes when you go through a bad patch you simply need one of those games where you get the three points and forget about the performance. This was one of those games. The statistics will show that Portsmouth only had eight attempts to score all game compared to Chelsea's thirty but how they made us sweat.
O'Hara looked extremely dangerous and after conceding the equalizer Chelsea were very lucky not to concede again when the bizarre Clattenburg overruled an offside decision from the linesman when Portsmouth had three players on their own on the edge of the box. He also seemed to have invented a new interpretation of the advantage rule more akin to rugby union that football.
How we missed Essien and Drogba last night - Kalou was ineffective up front on his own and Ancelotti understandably began the game with no wingers due to the lack of height in attack.
Mikel had a woeful match following the inexcusable abuse he received from some our so-called fans during the Everton debacle... he suddenly looks like a player short of confidence despite his majestic performance against Arsenal. Applauding his substitution will not help, although I still don't understand why he doesn't go up for corners being one of the tallest players on the pitch!
Despite Joe Cole's recent performances I would have him in the team any day instead of Deco - in fact I would prefer Malouda over either of these two players at the moment.
The heads are down but the only bit of cheer during the match was Lampard counting all the empty seats in the Portsmouth sector just before he took a corner towards the end of the first half - although he would have looked like a right idiot if he had missed his penalty!
I couldn't bear to be in the stadium when they tried to rouse some applause for the back stabber Grant but last night he looked far more tactically astute than he ever seemed to be at Chelsea and on that performance you would think Portsmouth stand a good chance of staying up.
It's not all negative. Ashley Cole was world class and Borini's performance as a sub was encouraging - he did more in his few minutes on the pitch that Kalou did throughout the whole of his appearance. But the face the first goal was set up by a cross from our centre back who was on the right wing tells its own story.
So more doubts over the manager and some real worries about the strength of the squad... West Ham on Sunday which feels like a match that will be another struggle.

Monday, 14 December 2009

Carlo Ancelotti uses the second of his nine lives

Not a woeful performance by any means but let's pray Ancelotti learns quickly from his mistakes.
He needs to take some serious criticism for recent team selection: playing a weak team in the League Cup (it may be a blessing in disguise to be knocked out but why aren't we fighting for every trophy?) and messing about with starting line-up from the side that annihilated Arsenal.
Not sure quite why Mikel gets so much flak from the stands compared to Lampard and Cole who have put in some weak performances recently, but how we missed Essien who strangely was picked to play in a dead rubber against Apoel Nicosia. For games like our last one in the Champions' League Carlo needs to take a leaf out of the book of Arsene Wenger - if you lose a game playing mainly youth then just put it down to a lack of experience... if they win then wax lyrical about how well your academy is and wait for the media to get sucked into this false footballing philosophy that has yielded the Gunners zero trophies in five years. Instead a key player in our squad was missing against Everton.
Carlo has had a bit of luck where it has mattered this season - the win against Manchester United was fortuitous (although United were lucky to finish with all their players on the pitch) and the fact they lost to Villa for the first time since the 1980s must surely provide some optimism that finally our luck will turn this season. Those balls that never crossed the line, the many penalties not given as well as sendings off that were later rescinded must surely play on the traditionally pessimistic Chelsea fan's mind as we approach the halfway point of the season.
Conversely the game against Everton was filled with unfortunate incidents - Cech will not score an own goal like that again this season and nor will we see such a fluke as Everton's third goal... nevertheless, again we look vulnerable against set pieces; Moyes' side looked dangerous every time they attacked and resembled that side that managed to finish fourth in the league only a few seasons ago. What a difference a couple of games makes for them after their away win in the Europa League and their comeback against those underachievers from North London.
Every team will go through a rocky patch such as ours but the knock-on effect from the Blackburn defeat certainly seems to have dented some of that invincibility that permeated throughout the team at the Emirates only two weeks ago.
Now onto Avram Grant and Portsmouth, a man who I detest for being instrumental in the removal of our greatest manager but also a man who fluked his way to two major finals with a world-class side... and lost. I don't really want Portsmouth to go down as it is such an easy away trip - less than two hours from Clapham Junction - but with Grant in charge I hope they get trounced this week and we restore some confidence in a side which theoretically has an easier run during the Christmas and New Year period than its peers.