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Dorset

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Dorset last won the day on February 7

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  1. Very talented and one of the best performers at every Academy level over a number of years. Sadly for Kyle, while all of the youth team coaches he has played under have appreciated his ability to control the pace of the game with his one-two-touch metronomic style, it does not catch the eye in the same way as an Ethan Ampadu or Callum Hudson-Odoi. Being slight of build doesn't help either, although it doesn't hold him back... he likes a tackle. The good news is that Conte obviously sees a player who can provide good cover in the middle of the park, speeding up and slowing down the play when in possession and when required. A long way off yet in terms of comparability, but, if there are any similarities with Pirlo, there is nobody better than Conte to both recognise them and bring them out.
  2. Why Conte Must Roll Away The Stone

    The omens were not good, Phillip, as soon as I knew he was a replacement for Craig Pawson. I'm sure too that I couldn't have been the only one to notice he was not only remarkably quick in issuing the second yellow card but it was also strange to see both cards come out of the same pocket. Most referees keep them separate to avoid confusion, but I suppose that doesn't apply if you are eager to give the same player a second yellow inside 30 minutes and before you give one to anybody else.
  3. Why Conte Must Roll Away The Stone

    Thank you moi, much appreciated. Knowing your expertise with these things, can you get Mott the Hoople up on this thread to provide the musical backdrop. Sadly, there will be many on here who will be none the wiser if you cannot oblige!
  4. “We played with fear. To play football in a great club, it means you must have a personality. It’s simple to play when there is the confidence. Especially in this type of moment, you can see who is [ready to play] for a great club, to play with personality and also to risk something.” Antonio Conte's most telling words after the Watford defeat and, perhaps, the first indication that radical change in player personnel will happen if he is allowed to continue in his job. For continue he must, not only to right the wrongs he has openly admitted to regarding team selection, but also to put an end to the continual flow of managerial departures every time the going gets tough at Stamford Bridge. It has become the Bridge of Perpetual Sighs throughout Roman's rule, as we the fans mourn the passing of a managerial loved one far too often for our own good, let alone the well-being of the club. The Guardian's Barney Ronay has already referred to this latest performance as 'a 90 minute Viking funeral for the Conte era' pronouncing death by missing adventure in the rest of his article. Sadly, he is probably right, but if ever there was a reason for breathing fresh life into the boss, as opposed to giving yet another coach a kiss of death call, it is the young talent emerging from the Academy and the mandate he has to get it into the first team as soon as possible. For Conte that time is right now, or next Monday to be precise, against West Brom in what amounts to an archetypal risen-from-the-dead moment when he has to roll away the stone currently blocking the pathway from Academy to first team football and allow some of the kids to venture forth into the cold, unforgiving light of a Premier League match. Much as he might want to send out the same bunch of regulars to redeem themselves, Conte can't, unless he wants to dig his own grave in a sub-plot generously offered to gullible fans by the media in exchange for their loyalty to the Italian. Instead, chances have to be given to as many of the side just defeated on penalties by Lincoln City in the Checkatrade Trophy semi-final as he can justifiably shoehorn into the starting eleven, with at least one other waiting in anticipation on the bench. Suicidal many may say, but surely some sort of statement of future intent is necessary, even if it means leaving a few previously damn near permanent members of the first team out of the picture altogether. Without wishing the current three-day respite to turn into gardening leave longevity, my casualty list has to be headed by Tiemoue Bakayoko, though I have some sympathy for him, confronted by late replacement referee Mike Dean, who as per usual needed no second bidding to make a spectacle of himself by giving Baka two early yellow cards simply for being not very good. Gone are the days, it seems, when you had to cut a player in half 'Chopper' Harris style to warrant a yellow, although I doubt Watford players would have been treated in the same way by this official, who throughout his career has been nothing if not scrupulously unfair and totally inconsistent. Radicalism being the watchword and paying due regard to Andreas Christensen's injury, other names listed should be defenders Gary Cahill and David Luiz, making way for a quartet of Under-21 players who have shown they are worthy of fast-tracking and, while in the mood to cull anybody who didn't perform against Watford, I'm afraid to say a decidedly jaded Victor Moses sits on the bench alongside the following:- Willy Caballero, Reece James, Emerson Palmieri, Cesc Fabregas, Ross Barkley and Willian. Next, the starting X1 that will need a captain and Thibaut Courtois and Dave are the obvious candidates, but, in keeping with the whole Children of the Revolution vibe I want Conte to bring to this table-topping squad, they should both stand down in favour of Ethan Ampadu [deputising for Andreas Christensen] and before the laughter on this site gets too loud let me point out that it will not be too long before this kid proves his leadership qualities for his country, let alone his club, so the sooner we tap into this JT-esque attribute the better. Now for the full team in 3-4-2-1 formation:- Thibaut Courtois; Cesar Azpilicueta, Antonio Rudiger, Ethan Ampadu; Dujon Sterling, Trevoh Chalobah, N'Golo Kante, Marcos Alonso; Edin Hazard, Callum Hudson-Odoi; Olivier Giroud. Such a high level of radicalism is wishful thinking, of course, but it would be nice to know exactly how far in this direction Antonio is prepared to take us, if at all. To give those Watford selections an opportunity to redeem themselves en bloc is in itself bordering on an admission of defeat and would only serve to strengthen the belief that he sees no real alternative to more of the same with, hopefully, a different outcome. That, to my mind, if it proved to be anything other than an emphatic victory, would be a worrying sign - no kick up the backside for the players who thought they were in the comfy seats without competition for them and, perhaps more importantly, no indication that the Conte era can be extended beyond the one season wonders label it will obviously have stuck on it should we not start the development process immediately. Stumbling on in similar fashion after scrapping and scraping a victory against West Brom would be like watching a much-loved boxing champion start to take far too much punishment far too early in their career. Roll those punches Antonio. Risk something. Trust in the enthusiasm and personality of youth and remember how young you were when you made your Serie A debut.. Roll away the stone.
  5. Back in 2005 both Jamie Carragher and Rafa Benitez came out and said Steven Gerrard made the right decision in turning down a move to Chelsea to remain with Liverpool for the rest his Premier League career, but 12 years on chances are they will think differently if asked about Ross Barkley biting this particular bullet. Scouse centre backs and their cult hero managers may view things differently to the rest of us (special nights and all that) but even they cannot fail to see this was a career-making offer the Evertonian couldn't refuse. The fact that Stevie G chose instead to stay true to one club and wallow in title-free splendid isolation for the rest of his days says more about his lack of nerve back then and everything about Barkley's ambition now. Chelsea's reputed long-held belief in and pursuance of him is also the clearest indicator yet of the club's chosen path post-Conte-driven success and pre-Abramovich-driven Stamford Bridge renovation, that fast-approaching nomadic state during which we will need to be as penny-pinching as Arsenal were immediately after their Highbury move, but hopefully without displaying the same haughty martyrdom that accompanied it back then, a state of mind that has only served to undermine their title ambitions ever since. Remember, Chelsea bid £32m for Gerrard all those years ago and initially offered a mere £35m for Barkley this time around, so our move for him made obvious financial sense and with Antonio Conte also said to be an admirer there were no negatives other than there being nothing not to like. The boss has subsequently shown signs of distancing himself from this comment and perhaps all other deals, but there is no denying the transfer coup when measured against the outlandish sums spent in recent weeks on players of relatively similar age and ability. Moreover, continuing the comparison with his Liverpudlian counterpart, Barkley is thought to fit perfectly into Antonio's preferred 3-5-2 and 3-4-3 formations, much in the same way as Gerrard would have slotted into Jose's 4-3-3 alongside Lamps and Makelele. In the end it was 'The Bison' who played the hoped-for Gerrard role, replacing Tiago in what was a typical Mourinho power-based decision. It goes without saying that Conte would have done exactly the same thing, preferring muscle in midfield himself, and now there is every likelihood we will see Barkley, Kante, Drinkwater, Bakayoko and the one exception to this rule, Cesc, fight it out for three places every week. Like it or not (and, by the look on his face of late, he doesn't) it is clear that the boss sees these players in these formations as the only way forward and is content/resigned to work with them in a somewhat make-do-and-mend attempt at counteracting Pep Guardiola's all-conquering system. As we all know, it will take a shock of seismic proportions to stop Manchester City walking away with the Premier League title this season and, if every fawning pundit in the land is proved right for just once their life, the Champions League trophy and World Club Cup will not be far behind. Antonio's doing his hamstrung best, Jose's being well funded to do his worst, Arsene's done his usual, Klopp's pressing for all he is worth and Potch has strutted his Spursy stuff, yet to no avail. Guardiola is The Man, we are now told in one never-ending stream of print and podcasts, and his team is The Team, not only of the season so far, but also of the rest of it, the next, the one after that, on and on until he tires of world domination and books in for another of those New York sabbaticals. But to be fair, anyone who has watched City play of late could not fail to be impressed and they are undoubtedly the best team we have come up against other than the singularly inspired Roma outfit in that group stage game at the Bridge. Their points record also speaks for itself, so why should there be any doubting their credentials when it comes to predicting an unprecedented decade of domination? Well, have the last few months really been so spellbinding in terms of the football played and the tactics deployed? Has the aesthetic difference been so stark, between Pep's boxing clever style and Antonio's 3-5-2 formative overhaul of last season as to warrant so much effusive praise being heaped upon the Catalan? I think not, though others will disagree and it is, of course, a contentious subject for debate. However, perhaps the more pressing matter for Chelsea fans is not the prospect of City domination, but the ways and means of our suppressing it [ahead of our rivals] should the nightmare become reality. Options are limited, due in no small part to our impending stadium renovation, but nevertheless the first to be considered has to be matching fire with fire, finance with finance. Of course, option A - Financial Doping of the Wenger kind is no longer as effective as it once was, even though it now appears to be the acceptable face of capitalism in some quarters, those Abu Dhabi boys having used it to the fullest effect to get them where they are today while receiving nowhere near the amount of criticism levelled at us in the past. Still, moaning about it does not help the situation, which is summed up by realistic acceptance of the fact that City will outbid any other English club in the transfer market if and when it wants to and the rest of us must put up with what amounts to the second rate from now on. That said, Virgil van Dijk isn't second rate and he chose Liverpool ahead of City, but at a hefty price. Alexis Sanchez is also no second-rater, but in the end his agent drove too hard a bargain for everyone bar United, a club Arsene Wenger has grown to respect as being more like his own, apparently. Turning a blind eye to the hypocrisy of placing clubs with 60/75K capacity stadia on self-sufficient moral high ground whilst at the same time looking down on the rest as either financial dopers or no-hopers, the Frenchman appears only too pleased to do Sanchez business with an Ed Woodward who noodley-doodles all the day in preference to taking twice as much from the coffers of cash rich but classless Man City. Quite frankly, mock though the media may do at our links to Carroll, Crouch, Dzeko et al, Chelsea is better off out of all this tawdry, grossly inflated, double-standard dealing, both literally and metaphorically. A second, far more radical, option B would be to Give the Head Coach Increased Powers, lock, stock and barrel, including sole responsibility for everything on the transfer front. This radical change in policy would find favour with all those fans who continually criticise the board for every failure in the transfer market, but would Conte really want the increased workload and in this day and age isn't the whole concept of giving your manager a free rein an impractical proposition unless you have unlimited funding and can afford to make the occasional £50m mistake? Consider too that a once reined-in Conte may still simply go for highly experienced players rather than make greater use of the Academy, an acceptable strategy for many and not necessarily a bad thing if it meant continued success while we were away from the Bridge, but it is also worth recalling at this point that when Jose had much less on his plate and much greater clout over transfer dealings he chose to sign off on the permanent departures of Kevin De Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku and Mohamed Salah. Suffice to say, this option is fraught with danger and perhaps we would do well to remember the time Chelsea paid £13.2m to bring Andre Villas-Boas to Stamford Bridge to enact his Barcelona-lite ideas that had previously worked for him at Porto - in just over a year AVB was gone, the club having spent an unprecedented amount of time, effort and compensation to achieve very little, the remit being to drastically overhaul the club in a way many feel Conte should be empowered to do now. The onus would be on the Italian to deliver within budget, which in itself might be off-putting, but Conte has recently indicated he accepts the current Mancunian duopoly when it comes to the marketplace, stressing the need to overcome it in the only way possible... work, work and more work. Encouragingly, he has stated he is prepared to do this with the players at his disposal, even going so far as to say that he is happy with the current crop and his presence at both FA Youth Cup and Chekatrade Trophy games is also a sign that he feels there may be more where Andreas Christensen and Ethan Ampadu came from. It is because of this work ethic and an acceptance that, albeit grudgingly, living within our means and making the most use of our own resources is a necessity proving to be the mother of a new invention, a third way emerges which is arguably the only realistic one if the club does not want to forever follow in the footsteps of the North West Wastrels. So, what was already a remarkably fallow field of options is narrowed to just one, option C - An Academy Pipeline Fuelling The First Team Squad and supplemented by the purchase of players on the manager's wish list, over time and whenever financially viable. With a core of Academy players graduating each year, not only becoming part of the first team squad but being regularly used, we would in one fell swoop reduce the need to buy to merely satisfy squad depth requirements. No more short term fixes, the Drinkwaters, the Zappacostas, the hulking centre forwards Plan B-ing their place in the squad when Tammy Abraham does the job just as well, if not better, it would be a clear policy change and a pathway for Academy players. And to answer those sceptics who believe that the quality simply isn't there to call on, I would ask them to take a quick look at these recent Development Squad teams and their achievements:- FA Youth Cup - Chelsea 4 Sc**thorpe United 0 (Man City go out 6-5 on penalties and Man Utd go out 3-1 on penalties) Chelsea team (4-diamond-2) Jamie Cumming, Reece James (c), Marc Guehi, Ethan Ampadu, Juan Castillo, Conor Gallagher, Tariq Uwakwe, Billy Gilmour, George McEachran, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Martell Taylor-Crossdale. FA Youth Cup - Chelsea 7 West Brom 0 Chelsea team (4-2-3-1) Jamie Cumming; Tariq Lamptey, Marc Guehi, Jon Panzo, Juan Castillo; Conor Gallagher (c), George McEachran; Tariq Uwakwe, Tino Anjorin, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Daishawn Redan. Checkatrade Trophy - last 32 MK Dons 0 Chelsea 4 (Man City went out 4-3 on penalties to Chesterfield and Man Utd did not put a team in) Chelsea team (3-4-3) Eduardo; Reece James, Ethan Ampadu, Jake Clarke-Salter (c), Dujon Sterling, Trevoh Chalobah, Kyle Scott, Kenedy, Charly Musonda, Michy Batshuayi, Callum Hudson-Odoi. Checkatrade Trophy - Quarter finals Chelsea 3 v Oxford Utd 0 Chelsea team (3-4-2-1) Marcin Bulka; Dujon Sterling, Reece James, Ethan Ampadu, Trevoh Chalobah, Juan Castillo, Kyle Scott, Ruben Sammut (c), Harvey St Clair, Callum Hudson-Odoi; Daishawn Redan Some names appear repeatedly, others forever to be referred to as World Cup winners and six of them, Ethan Ampadu, Reece James, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Dujon Sterling, Kyle Scott and Trevoh Chalobah, having all been involved with the first team squad already. The link established, these players train exclusively to mesh with the playing style of the first team and here is the first core of graduates ready and waiting to fulfil their roles at the highest level next season. This half-dozen includes 17/20yr-olds, but age should not be a factor any more (the Oxford United team average age was 28yrs, Chelsea's was 18yrs) just bring them in and concentrate all financial resources set aside for transfers on world class players in the next age bracket of 21/25yr-olds. The loanees could also play their part, Tammy Abraham having already been mentioned and guaranteed to return to stake his claim alongside the likes of Charly Musonda, Kenedy and Jake Clarke-Salter. The mantra should be 'if you are good enough, you are old enough' and in this new environment no position, save that of a Hazard, a Kante or Courtois, would be safe from the threat of a young usurper like Callum Hudson-Odoi or, as has already occurred, Ethan Ampadu Over the next few months Chelsea's priorities under Antonio Conte are the duel challenges of Barcelona in the Champions League and the need to consolidate our position in the top four of the Premier League. Failure on the first is acceptable and to a certain extent anticipated, but to end up fifth or lower in the league would signal the end for Antonio, a situation that may be more of an inevitable and acceptable way out for the Italian (who would obviously cite a falling out with the board as a major factor) than a failure on his part to shape our future after winning the title in his first season. The man may well be jockeying for position right through to the summer, and who can blame him given the club's record on managerial appointments over the last decade, but if he genuinely wants to stay, to work and work with this squad, he does have this third option. Giving a longer rein to the kids means a longer reign for Conte and the Abramovich hobby horse is there for someone, at some stage, to ride for all it is worth rather than be continually confined to the stables. Imagine a Premier League five years from now in which the same top six clubs are fighting for the title with squads assembled at vast expense and there in amongst them is Chelsea, primarily an in-house creation constructed at half the cost, containing younger, hungrier players, all of them on long term Mino Raiola and Jorge Mendes-free contracts, the Academy pipeline fuelling the system and setting an example for the rest to follow. It could happen, it should happen... and if Antonio doesn't want to spearhead it, then Roman should bring in someone who will.
  6. “Football, from its birth as a Victorian leisure product, has always been, at bottom, a business. But this is something else. When the variables of league positions and on-field glory are increasingly narrow, when signings are cheered like goals by the digital diaspora, when having a “good window” is a season’s goal, commerce really is beginning to intrude inside the chalk markings.” Barney Ronay (The Guardian, 2nd Sept, 2017) Admit it. Deadline Day is meant to end in the blues for us Blues. Reportedly flush with net spend cash and hell bent on consolidating our position at the top of the Premier League money tree, it was ever thus and whether it be under Jose, Carlo, or as now seems to be the case with Antonio, we simply cannot make the required transition when actually in transition. But, as Barney Ronay points out above, in this paragraph from his latest article, are we really surprised that this relatively straightforward act of progression is beyond our club's capabilities, individual great managerial abilities or, of late with stadia costs looming, Roman's sensibilities, and especially when the commerce, the hype and all the excess has become even more important than the game itself? Logic suggests that it shouldn't be like this, but we are going way beyond financial sense now, heading deep into Ronay's diaspora territory where the scattergun rules and even Arsene Wenger bids £93m for a player. In truth, this transfer window has not so much been about the story, but the telling of it. For example, when we land a big fish like Alvaro Morata and comparison is made with Romelu Lukaku the media men and pundits emphasis is immediately placed on Premier League experience rather than Champions League appearances, thereby toeing the it's-my-party line and I'll-buy-if-I-want-to attitude that now pervades PSG, Manchester and, since Philippe Coutinho became a wanted man and Bill Kenwright got into bed with Iranian billionaire and ex-Arsenal shareholder Farhad Moshiri, both red and blue halves of Liverpool as well. Of course, I hear you say, the Fourth Estate was bound to peddle the pro-Mancunian argument that Rom was worth the extra money whereas Alvaro is no more than an untried and untested risk, yet by stark contrast and fast-forwarding to Deadline Day you will hardly hear mention made of Danny Drinkwater's league-winning 'experience' above the babble of criticism based on him being over-priced, over here and unworthy of a supporting actor's role in our line-up, even if it does now mean that he is reacquainted with N'Golo Kante, last season's Chelsea star of the Premiership show. No, apparently this counts for nothing in a print world that would have us believe our constant fears of a sterile Matic/Kante midfield were completely unfounded and still periodically panders to Jose's mock astonishment that we should ever have let the Serb go, to him of all people and United in particular. How silly we were to shoot ourselves in the foot in this way and how regretful we will be whenever he makes an interception, sets up an attack, shields the defence, or merely turns up wearing a red shirt. Moreover, Drinkwater's arrival means comparison with Matic is an easy one to make, assuming him to be his replacement rather than Bakayoko, whereas anyone who watched Monaco last season knows we have upgraded on Matic with this signing and Danny has been brought in specifically to partner Kante in a 3-5-2 formation, or be the insurance man from the subs bench when 3-4-3 is deployed. Whether Chalobah or Loftus-Cheek could have performed this role is a debate for another day and another forum, but for the moment I think it safe to say that the outlay is justified, if for no other reason than our net spend figures are good when compared to those of the northern juggernauts. However, not so when it comes to 'gross splurge', as Ronay puts it is his piece, which is why he is one of many telling the story in such slanted terms. Here there is an overall rise of 23% on last year’s spending in the Premier League with Manchester City the biggest gross spenders on £215m, followed by £180m from Chelsea, then Manchester United and Everton on £145m. This is the less acceptable face of football capitalism as far as Chelsea is concerned and it will also be the one that is most repeated, but it hides a multitude of cold, hard facts and figures that make a mockery of the contention, for instance, that United has had by far the better transfer window. Even using gross spend [cost of moves in] as the common denominator, Chelsea achieved the following:- Álvaro Morata Real Madrid £58m; Tiémoué Bakayoko Monaco £39.7m; Antonio Rüdiger Roma £29m; Davide Zappacosta Torino £25.8m; Willy Caballero Manchester City free, whereas, for only £35m less United merely acquired Romelu Lukaku Everton £75m; Nemanja Matic Chelsea £40m; Victor Lindelof Benfica £31m; Zlatan Ibrahimovic free agent. So, to suggest that we did so poorly in the marketplace compared to United when we brought in these five players and they ended up one player less, even taking into account the hokey-cokeying Zlatan, is to stretch credulity to incredible lengths in most peoples worlds, but not, it would appear, in our footballing sphere. Indeed, even Ronay's curiously dampened down verdict on both clubs dealings seems to confirm the media myopia that surrounds the game at present, with efforts [ours and theirs] assessed as follows:- “Chelsea kept missing out on their man, no doubt leaving Antonio Conte tearing out his chestnut-brown nylon weave at times. But Danny Drinkwater is a good signing and Tiémoué Bakayoko a fascinating one: Bakayoko is a convincing midfield cruiser, although the Premier League may ruffle that splendid strolling style. Manchester United have handled the window well, buying early then getting out. Romelu Lukaku seems a much better deal now than he did at the start of the hyper-inflationary summer. No goals conceded in the Premier League, no pieces to be integrated through the autumn: this is a damage-free window.” Strange, is it not, that in the space of just two paragraphs Chelsea move from missing their men to finding both a good and then splendid one, while United shift uneasily from having a well window to one that is merely damage-free. Distortion is clearly the order of any Deadline Day and the assessments subsequently hang on its coattails, but when brought into sharper focus, Chelsea have made good signings and now have this strong squad:- Goalkeepers: Thibaut Courtois, Willy Caballero, Eduardo CBs: David Luiz, Cesar Azpilicueta, Gary Cahill, Antonio Rudiger, Andreas Christensen, Jake Clarke Salter WBs: Davide Zappacosta, Victor Moses, Marcos Alonso, Abdul Rahman Baba, Kenedy CMs: Cesc Fabregas, Tiemoue Bakayoko, N’Golo Kante, Danny Drinkwater, Kyle Scott Wingers/Forwards: Eden Hazard, Pedro, Willian, Charly Musonda CFs: Alvaro Morata, Michy Batshuayi Only time will tell whether this squad is good enough to defend the title and also have a half-decent shot at the Champions League, but it is far from the shambles some would have us believe and quite close to the finished article that might emerge after the January window opens and an additional big striker signing is made to offset Diego's departure.
  7. According to Spurs chairman Daniel Levy, the current astronomic rise in transfer fees worldwide is 'unsustainable' and he's not going to play ball when it comes to paying through the nose, though he is quite happy to participate in the bidding process and reserves the right to hop on the bandwagon just long enough to trouser £54m for a suitably sustainable Kyle Walker. Presumably he will now lie low for a while, refrain from mocking those afflicted with buy-at-any-price-itis, before rising like a Phoenix and striking when the market collapses to get Neymar in for a mere pittance. Of course, that wont happen and we, like Levy, are deluding ourselves if we think it will. Indeed, our very own Antonio recently spoke to Martyn Ziegler (The Times) on this subject and, unlike Levy and translating his opening remarks into full fifties Lionel Bart broad cockney, he readily accepted that fings ain't what they used to be. He then went on to say the following:- “Every team has to understand what their ambitions are. If their ambitions are to win or fight for the title or try to win the Champions League, you must buy expensive players. Otherwise you continue to stay in your level. It’s simple.” Get the message Daniel? Forget the subsequently headline-grabbing comment about forking out £100m for Harry Kane, dismiss the praise lavished on the quality squad that Potchettino has at his disposal, it's all secondary to the Italian's unsubtle put down. In short, if Spurs don't end up participating on both sides of this big bucks bonanza they reveal a singular lack ambition and by ramming home the point [that Levy was quite happy to drink up the Walker draft while not being prepared to stand his round when it came to his turn to pay] Conte made it abundantly clear where he stood on the matter. Moreover, he went on to say it was “a miracle” Chelsea, and before them Leicester City, were able to win the Premier League due to the size of their squads and now that Chelsea are back in the Champions League it is a different ball game [because] to bring in four or five “average” or “normal” players would still cost the club £200 million. But much more importantly, Antonio's conversation with Ziegler confirmed his intention to continue spending at the top end of the market, no expense spared, rather than make compromises, and this leads me [somewhat belatedly I know] to the main point of this post, which is to suggest that we now have a very good idea of how Conte envisages the make-up of his squad given the unfair crack of the whip, otherwise known as financial clout, he has at his disposal - a mixture of expensive top quality imports, bolstered by development squad players at a certain level who provide cover in the short term that never manifests itself into potentially disruptive claims for more, unless excellence is shown when performing that role. In his interview Conte was equally as revealing on this particular aspect too:- “Sometimes young players lose their patience very quickly, a lot of the time because of parents or the people around them. Trust the club, work very hard because to play at this level you must be stronger and very good. Sometimes young players think that they can play easily in the first team but that’s not true.” Bearing this in mind, it is interesting to look at the emerging talent taken to China with those currently in a first team squad that could be down to just 19 players if, as anticipated, Costa, Matic, Remy [perhaps Kenedy] move on. This would leave us with a pool of 25 players, to which will be added a further 3 or 4, should Conte get his way. If press reports are to be believed, the positions Conte wants to strengthen are both FB/WB positions, another CM and a front man. Working on the principle that he will require two players for each position [plus three keepers] and that this will necessitate specialists for both 3-5-2 and 3-4-3 formations (6 CBs and 4WBs) the existing group plus new players and anticipated signings could be paired off as follows:- GKs - Thibaut Courtois, Willy Caballero, Eduardo, CBs - Gary Cahill/Jake Clarke-Salter, David Luiz/Andreas Christensen, Antonio Rudiger/Fikayo Tomori FB/WBs - Cesar Azpilicueta/Victor Moses/?Marcos Alonso/? CMs - Cesc Fabregas/Mario Pasalic, N'Golo Kante/Kyle Scott, Tiemoue Bakayoko/Jeremie Boga WMs – Willian, Pedro Edin Hazard/Charly Musonda Jr CFs - Alvaro Morata, Michy Batshuayi The blotting of Kenedy's far from copybook start to a Chelsea career means that he is unlikely to challenge Alonso and that makes it an even more massive question mark to set beside Marcos name, but whoever the player bought turns out to be the odds are he's going to fit the 'expensive' template Conte referred to above. The right side requirement seems not so pressing and in China we have seen the boss give Tomori an opportunity to stake a claim here. He did well against Bayern, but whether it is enough to make Conte think twice about splashing out on a more 'expensive recruit (a Kyle Walker clone anyone?) well, your guess is as good as mine. Likewise with any additional purchase made in the CM position, where we are said to be interested in taking the 19yr-old Renato Sanches on loan. To my mind, in view of how little of it there would be, we would be better off giving the game time he would get to Lewis Baker, Jeremie Boga, Kyle Scott or Mario Pasalic, rather than let Bayern play our loan game against us in what is bound to be a contractually restricted period geared towards ensuring Sanches couldn't hurt them in the Champions League. Okay, Sanches has had more big game experience than our three, two of whom [Baker and Pasalic] are already three years older, but it really would be ironic if we ended up with him in our ranks, playing a handful of games before toddling off back to Germany, while our two 19 and 20yr-olds looked on from the bench, or even further afield. And so, at last, we've reached the heart of this matter, the tipping point you might say between Daniel Levy's short-arms, deep-pockets approach and Antonio's buy and fight, simple but costly, two-step guide to ambition fulfilment. The fulcrum is, of course, Roman Abramovich, major benefactor of this parish and holder of the purse strings. The next few weeks will tell us which way and exactly how far he is prepared to lean in order to sway the balance in our favour and against the financial wind of change that's blowing through the Premier League. We've already changed a hell of a lot, full scale from local Palais into bowling alley, onwards and upwards, with cathedral high expectations over the next few years - how much more can we expect from the man?
  8. Very pleased that Kyle Scott has been given a chance to show what he can do at this level. As many of you will be aware, I have long held this lad in high regard and despite a lot of other comings and goings he has managed to hang on in there through every development stage so far and deserves this opportunity. Mason Mount may have more flair, Charly Musonda more natural talent, but Scott has great technical ability, reads the game really well, can play in a number of midfield roles and, most important of all, he has the ability to control the pace of a game in a Pirlo-esque fashion. Clearly, he has trained well under Conte and I don't think he would let anyone down if the boss used him as cover in any of the CM roles [apart from the Bakayoko marauding one] now that Nathaniel Chalobah has gone and Ruben Loftus-Cheek is out on loan. He only had fifteen minutes to impress yesterday, but patrolled the midfield busily and, whenever opposing midfielders on the ball looked up, there he was ready to dispossess and distribute simply and efficiently. Having said all this, he will probably find himself out on loan with the rest come early August, but I hope not, even though there seems to be changes afoot for the Development Squad players that remain... A quick check on the official Chelsea website reveals that the Academy now currently consists of just an Under-18s group with 19 kids in it and a single Development Squad of a dozen players, the most notable of which are Dujon Sterling, Mason Mount, Kyle Scott and Trevoh Chalobah. This drastic reduction in numbers is due in no small part to a further 12 youngsters having already gone out on loan, namely:- Abraham, Palmer, Kane, Colkett, Collins, Aina, Loftus-Cheek, Piazon, van Ginkel, Ugbo, Zouma and Dasilva. It looks to me like a complete overhaul is about to take place.
  9. Nathaniel Chalobah

    Cannot really answer for him as far as the maths is concerned, but I would assume he is counting Nat's games in Italy and also his previous time with Watford.
  10. Nathaniel Chalobah

    Hard though it may for many of us Academy romantics to accept, the priority this season must be to make a better fist of defending the title than Jose did previously and part of the procedure has to include funding Antonio Conte's bidding for those top quality players he requires. That said, we are seemingly as close as we've ever been to seeing our youngsters make the grade and with that in mind Chelsea's head of youth development, Neil Bath, recently highlighted the changing landscape of academy work, particularly 'in relation to senior football breakthrough and the pathway evolving into a 15-year project'. He believes it is imperative that our programme and philosophy adjusts alongside those changes in the wider game [presumably a reference to massive transfer fees] but the most important thing he said was the following:- "Realistically, to break into a first team like ours you need to have played 150 to 200 games at senior level. Even someone like Edin Hazard had done that in France before coming to Chelsea so the reality is our young players will need to experience the same, which is almost three full seasons out on loan. If a player goes out at 18 or 19 years old, that means they will be 22 years old before being able to really compete for a regular place in the team and you can see that pathway with the likes of Ryan Bertrand and Nathaniel Chalobah.” Reading between those lines, it clearly doesn't matter to Bath whether you end up reaching your full potential playing for Chelsea, Southampton or Watford, as long as you reach it and everyone concerned benefits. Of course, we would all like to see a few repeat versions of JT's homeland route map to success, but it is proving almost impossible in this day and age, even at the culmination of the most perfect of Academy processes. Nathaniel Chalobah didn't quite complete that process, but still came out of it with a 5yr deal at a Premier League club. Andreas Christensen will be next in line to try and take his chance, followed by Charly Masonda and then [next season] Tammy Abraham, hopefully after banging in another 20-plus goals for Swansea this season..
  11. Andrea Belotti

    He does.
  12. Andrea Belotti

    I showed the YouTube clip to my 9yr-old grandson (who has Costa's name on his Chelsea shirt) and his exact words to me were “I want us to buy him if Diego leaves.” Not the most convincing of arguments in answer to your question, admittedly, but I sense he saw immediately that Bellotti has the same fighting spirit as his hero, a quality I've never seen in Lukaku, even when he was being compared to Didier in his pomp. That said, I'm not completely sold on Bellotti myself, although one thing I am pretty sure about is that there is no way Antonio would have had Lukaku on the top of any striker-to-buy list while there was the slightest chance of getting this guy instead.
  13. Romelu Lukaku

    Once impressionable young men like these have joined a religious sect it will be very difficult to get them out for pre-season training.
  14. Romelu Lukaku

    This embryonic Lukaku transfer is already being hailed as a huge coup for United and a major statement of intent, the suggestion now being made that the Belgian was Jose’s first-choice all along, but something about that claim simply does not add up ... Remember United moved for Antoine Griezmann first and when he elected to remain at Atletico Madrid they turned their attention to Alvaro Morata, with no mention made of Lukaku at the time. Then, after a month of negotiations and desperate meetings Real still would not back down on their original €90m valuation. So, bearing all this in mind, was Lukaku really Jose's first choice, or his third? Okay, he fits the Special One's usual template of being a physical presence with the stamina he insists upon, having played 95 per cent of the total available minutes in last season’s league campaign, whereas Morata has never played more than 43%, but it is the damning evidence that stacks up against him to the greater degree:- a) Lukaku has hardly any European football experience compared to Morata and Griezmann, who have both played in Champions League finals. b) his touch and control have always left a lot to be desired. c) he has little of the defensive nous of a Didier or the off-the-ball intensity of a Diego, qualities Jose usually demands of his target man. d) statistics also confirm that he lost possession 584 times last season, whereas for Morata that figure stands at only179, albeit because he played far fewer games, but when adjusted for pitch time Lukaku is still 25% more likely to lose the ball than the Spaniard, doing so every 3.5 touches. e) he requires teams to play to his own strengths, whereas Morata and Griezmann do not. Taking all this into account, it is more likely that any interest we allegedly had in Lukaku was driven by technical director Michael Emenalo right from the outset, with his triumphant return [hopefully] emphasising Jose's error in getting rid of him in the first place. This interpretation of events would go some way towards explaining Conte's distinct lack of enthusiasm for either the ultimate completion of a deal or the positioning of him in the press as the pursuer of Lukaku as his No.1 target. In short, if all this media hype had had any basis whatsoever, why on earth would we not at least put in a bid for the guy at some stage and be seen to be backing the manager? No, what we have done is back him in the right and proper way, by staying well clear of a shabby, stage-managed affair preferring instead to support the boss in his pursuit of the targets he really wants.
  15. Diego "the guv'nor" Costa

    Diego being Diego should not surprise any of us, yet this public airing of dirty linen, unlike the one that took place during the post title-winning celebrations, is not a pretty sight for Chelsea fans. Let's face it, he has always had a penchant for winding everybody up and that includes those of us who would never hear a bad word said against the guy. For many he will always be remembered for revelling in the role of Premier League arch villain, but the fact that most of us will be calling for two strikers to be brought in to replace him says it all about the weight of lone striker load he's carried for the team over the last three seasons. I'll miss him when he's gone and I've got a grandson who will be even sadder to see him go, whenever and wherever that may be. Indeed, timing is everything when it comes to Costa's acting career and he has probably seen fit to give this soliloquy after a textual prompt from a boss who cannot really leave the restless, foot-tapping Lukaku waiting in the wings, a-nodding and a-winking, for much longer. He, understudying alone, will not convince the majority of fans that this is a problem solved and I for one hope our interest in Alvaro Morata is not only genuine, but boardroom-committed enough to see him arrive at the Bridge instead of pitching up at Old Trafford. Both Jose and Antonio will believe they can personally influence the Spaniard's decision-making over and above any financial aspect, so it will be interesting to see if money talks sufficiently loudly at a time when United cannot wait to spend as much of it as it takes to get somebody (anybody?) in to replace Zlatan. It would appear, despite stage right direction from his agent, that Chelsea was Lukaku's preferred choice in a head-to-head contest with United and it remains to be seen if Morata follows suit. Indeed, it seems that gone are the days when Jose could be counted upon to rustle up a Drog or Diego to spearhead a campaign and he will be desperate to show that Zlatan was not the [somewhat ancient] last knockings in that particular line. After an apparent Lukaku rebuff, the need for a Special One transfer coup is undoubtedly greater that Conte's, so it would be a real body blow if the Italian could land a Lukaku/Morata double-whammy.

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