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Dorset last won the day on February 7

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  1. Ever since he was an old man He's played the Serie halls From Sorento up to Naples He's hardly played them all But you ain't seen nothing like him With or without a trophy haul That eff'n'blind smokin' banker Sure plays a mean Sarriball Well, that didn't take long, did it? And no Pauly, it is not without fully appreciating the irony that I've adapted Elton John's lyrics in the above introduction, but when all is said and (often little of it) done we have to start as we mean to go on, by tackling the facts and fiction unflinchingly:- in short, our new-coach-to-be, Mauricio Sarri, reportedly courts controversy at every turn, as does CFC, as did assorted managers of CFC over the years and if by now we the supporters cannot get used to this backdrop and the Fourth Estate fabrications that always accompany it then we never will. That said, his imminent appointment appears to have divided opinion more than most in recent times, primarily due to him still having a trophyless cabinet on fast approaching his sixtieth year, an unsightly Zorro zed of a zilch etched deep into the very heart of the man, though one that seemed no more than a mere distinguishing mark on the avuncular Claudio Ranieri way back in the early Noughties when the Chelsea bar was set nowhere near as high as it most certainly is now. So, significantly, no such largesse oiling the wheels of Sarri's coaching career to date, but to his great credit he has sought to make a virtue out of the type of tightwad financial situation many a trophy-hungry managerial big beast would not even countenance, Guardiola, Mourinho, Zidane, to name but three of the bigger bear marketeers to be scooping out of wealthy club honeypots on a regular basis in the last decade. During that self same period Sarri made it abundantly clear he regarded spending vast sums on players as something of a cop out on the coaching side, a stated position that must come as music to Roman's ears, albeit a somewhat obvious stance to take when you are forever strapped for cash in the transfer market. Align this with the Italian's reputation for bringing in numerous youngsters at Empoli, improving them out of all recognition, before melding them with more established players and you sense that now might be just the right time to get the best out of Edin Hazard in a front three with the likes of Callum Hudson-Odoi and Tammy Abraham willing runners intertwined in supporting roles. Indeed, the same opportunities for mentoring mergers like these are available in almost every position except that of goalkeeper where, with due respect to Willy Caballero, it is Thibaut Courtois who reigns in supreme, if sometimes uncertain, isolation. Yet even here we have seen a vulnerability when it comes to comfort on the ball and distribution under pressure, so personnel change under Sarri may well start between the posts and could be by design rather than the player merely wanting away for personal reasons. Either way, resolution will be easier under a new regime as a new broom always sweeps clean but, if Sarri turns out not to be as radical as many observers believe, that first team selection of outfield players currently at his disposal for the opening game of next season might easily be fashioned into the following formation, familiarity having bred a certain amount of contempt for Bakayoko amongst the fanbase and now set to be sensationally replaced by a Sarriball lynchpin called Jorginho:- Azpilicueta, Rudiger, Christensen, Alonso, Jorginho, Kante, Fabregas, Moses, Giroud, Hazard. Cue disbelief and Manc snubbery all round and I would even go so far as to say 'might easily' advisedly because I doubt the team will look anything like this once a suitable technique-seeking Sarri [wrecking] ball thuds into its facade and reveals the current Conte-suffering, shabby-chic look that's decidedly unfit for purpose in its present distressed state. After such a demolition job a better stab at a starting line-up might well be:- Azpilicueta, Rudiger, Rugani, Emerson, Jorginho, Kante, Golovin, Bailey, Martial, Hazard. Hey big spenders, happy days!! Then again, I say 'might well' advisedly because, at the risk of repeating myself twice over, I doubt the team will look anything like this once financial restraint in the form of FFP and a certain Russian's current quick-on-the drawn purse strings puts a curb on any easystreet spend up. After that, the appliance of Sarribal science, the concurrence [at last] with Roman's youth progression obsession and the answering of my own prayers on the matter, another stab at a starting eleven [with either/ors thrown in for good measure] might visionarily be:- Azpilicueta/Aina, Rudiger/Rugani, Christensen/Ampadu, Emerson/Alonso, Golovin/Scott, Jorginho/Mount, Kante, Loftus-Cheek/Hazard, Giroud/Abraham, Martial/Hudson-Odoi. By all means dissect and deride my teams as you think fit (yes big blue, we know, you don't think that Kyle Scott, the Alexandr Golovin look [and play] alike, will make it here) but constants are there for all to see in Dave, Tony, N'Golo and Edin and the rest, though a mix of pure speculation and wishful thinking on my part, have grains of truth sown into the very fabric when choosing players best equipped to play the type of Sarriball that our limited conceptual knowledge initially allows us to make a call on. Naturally, snap decisions are bound to be made on the ability of other players to meet basic Sarriball requirements and also judgement calls made on the levels of burning desire to adapt when other career paths may look more inviting. I'm no exception, as can be seen by my leaving out David Luiz, Gary Cahill, Davide Zappacosta, Danny Drinkwater, Ross Barkley, Pedro and Willian from the above line-ups. In some instances old dogs may not want to learn new tricks, in others the spirit will be willing but the flesh weak and finally there will be those bargaining chip individuals who see the light of a brighter future or a bigger payday elsewhere. Whatever the reasons, this summer's comings and goings could and arguably should be cull-like in severity, with the structure and business plan template willingly accepted by all parties, overseen by new manager and board in tandem, with the ultimate aim of providing first team places for far more Development Squad players and returning loanees than ever before. Hopefully, a good World Cup for Ruben Loftus-Cheek, one that might have been even better had he got on in the latter stages of the semi-final, will cement a place for him in the first team and provide an early platform of justification that Sarri will clearly need if he is going to bring in any more youngsters rather than have the club forever splashing the cash on another of those Next Best Things since sliced Fred. That's not to say Sarri should not have funds at his disposal, but simply to limit the amount on a sell-before-buy basis. After all, are we not dealing here with a banking man who understands the need to budget and appreciates the value of money? I do hope so, because nothing would give me greater satisfaction than to see miserly Sarriball suceed at the expense of much-hyped and misconceived Mancunian loadsa-moneyball, if not next season then in the not too distant future. But in the meantime our new boss must be allowed time to settle in, preach the gospel according to Sarriball and sort the wheat from the chaff playerwise. His arrival could herald a bright new dawn that fulfills the current needs of club and manager, both seemingly having patented a cure for the persistent ills of the other. So, let me provide the pre-partytime introductions - Chelsea, bad boy serial trophy winners, meet Mauricio Sarri, desperately seeking silverware. Mauricio Sarri, fashion football designer to the stars, meet Chelsea FC, identity crisis incorporated and much in need of a makeover... I'm sure you two have got lots to talk about.
  2. Dorset

    Next Chelsea Manager

    My guess is an announcement on ChelseaTV, maybe 5pm, but more likely on Blues News at 6.30pm
  3. Dorset

    Next Chelsea Manager

    There are two more you may care to run the rule over:- Kyle Scott, a 20yr-old who is technically very good and also likes a tackle. He strikes me as being a typical Sarri player, quick one-two touch midfielder who likes to dictate the play and also has an eye for a pass. At 5ft 8in he is slight of build, but this would not appear to be something that bothers Sarri that much. The other is Ethan Ampadu who at 6ft and 72 kg is bigger and can also play in defence. He would definitely be deep-lying midfield material and at only 17 years of age and a full international Sarri could shape his long term career in either a defensive or a midfield role.
  4. Dorset

    Next Chelsea Manager

    An out of breath bottler sounds like a crap player to me.
  5. Dorset

    Next Chelsea Manager

    Brilliant post Argo! Agree with every word.
  6. “Conte has spent large parts of the season in the familiar posture of wronged superstar manager, another Chelsea coach whose only failing is the failure of others to spend adequately on his command, betrayed by the human clay at his disposal.” Barney Ronay (The Guardian) If ever there was a sentence that sums up Antonio Conte's end game stance on all matters Chelsea this surely is it. Frankly, he has worn the mantle of wronged superstar manager for far too long and for many of us Shed Enders it has begun to wear a little thin. His own truth of the matter, which has been given media airings at every opportunity, often when we as a club were at out lowest ebb, is that the team have sadly reached the level at which it deserved to be. Hmm, no thoughts then as to how we got there or who might be responsible, merely a resigned acceptance of the situation and an undercurrent of defeatism engendered before players even step on the pitch for the next game. Should he now up and walk, as is widely predicted, blame will fall on many but few will be as guilty as the man himself who has glowered us into this depressive season-long state of limbo. Yet is it really all down to a sullen mix of lacklustre management, or erratic performances on the pitch intermingled with boardroom intervention of the worst kind? As, hopefully, wholesale change now fast tracks us into a self-fulfilling prophecy my take on the primary reason for our decline has fluctuated between all three wise-during-the-event conclusions, but I've settled on something completely different as the catalyst for it all, epitomised in that irksome parrot-fashion homage always paid to 'the importance of the team', a mantra mouthed by all the usual suspects, trotted out as a The Great Need To Have regardless of whether it has just referenced a below par performance or fine individual goal scored, yet repeated ad nauseam and without any true understanding of the meaning of the words. Let me explain. When JT left for the Villa true leadership went out transfer window with him and try as good servants might, notably Gary Cahill and Dave, nobody has stepped into his shoes with any degree of purpose or assuredness. Hardly surprising really, so good a leader by example is he and therefore it may seem odd to begin my reasoning with an admittance that we were clearly going to struggle in his absence whoever took over. But throughout his career it has been JT's ability to unify the team in ever-changing circumstances that made him stand out from the crowd. As a young captain he earned the respect of more senior world class overseas players in his midst than he had a right to and as he grew into the job from 2004/5 onwards he oversaw and kept control of a number of factions within the various groups of players under his command. The early Italian and French influence of Gianluca Vialli, Gianfranco Zola, Marcel Desailly and Frank Leboeuf stood him in good stead and latterly, when the Brazilian, Spanish and Belgian contingents held sway, he gained their respect and marshalled the spirit of camaraderie and teamwork that is acknowledged as the hallmark of his captaincy and is currently evidenced in his leadership of Villa to the brink of a Premier League return. With hindsight it can be seen that his final year with us, albeit not on the field of play but behind the scenes, was just as pivotal as those that went before and the part he played in our last title-winning season should never be underestimated. To be fair, Antonio was at pains to point this out as he took his own plaudits, but more significantly it soon became clear that without his unifying presence those factions were going to grate, like tectonic plates prior to a quake. And let's face it, Diego Costa could grate with the best of them, at any place and at any time, so whether you believe that he, along with several others, simply stopped playing for Jose it matters not because he wasn't going to be given the chance to disrupt Conte's glum iron fist of a second season. Once Diego was done for it was left to others to rumble and grumble in his wake, David Luiz was soon sidelined, Edin Hazard false nined into submission and annoyance, then suddenly all 'the team' talk started to sound trite and hollow, no more than mere froth atop our small beer campaign. We began to drift like a rudderless ship, no JT to knock some sense back into a squad that has periodically shown no real inclination to give a s**t, symbolised in a team seemingly lacking both passion and character. In short, the players appear bored of Conte's methods, lacking the motivation to consistently produce the goods. Admittedly, fragmentation of this kind has gone on throughout the Abramovich years, but tensions haven't surfaced quite so much as in this last post-JT season, when clique bait has been at its most prevalent and even then those incumbent larger-than-life managerial figures, Jose and Antonio, glum and glummer, couldn't stem a rising tide of undermining factions. Sorely missed indeed, Steve Bruce hit the nail on the head at the weekend when he said the following about his captain:- “It wasn't just on the pitch that I needed John, it was to deal with the dressing-room and it has been toxic for years. It was important people like Grealish could see someone: this is how you do it, the way you look after yourself, this is what you prepare for.When you hear [how to do it] from a top pro... it's a cultural change.” And it is at this point that I have somwhat belatedly reached my concluding thoughts, my reasoning to be cheerful and enthusiastic for the future of my club. Subject, of course, to our picking the right coach to put us back on track (Powers That Be please choose a Jardim or a Sarri and not another superstar manager) the opportunity is there for the right man to take full advantage of what will be our own unique set of circumstances when you compare us to our domestic rivals next season .... Not since Fergies Fledglings has a Premier League club had such an abundance of young talented players within Chelsea's Under-18s, Development Squad and Loaned Out Army, all predominately home grown and crucially faction-free. A comparison made between the makeup of the first team squad and the rest is stark and revealing, not in any discriminatory sense, but purely seen from the point of view of a whole host of young British players brought up as a group from the earliest age and being comfortable playing together in a variety of successful trophy-winning teams over a number of seasons. Fact, as Rafa would say, is that taken as a percentage our first team squad has a meagre 16% British contingent within its ranks compared with the On Loans at 50%, the Development Squad on 77% and the Under-18s at a massive 82%, so whether by luck or judgement the undoubted trend is away from a steady influx of foreign talent and towards that 'importance of the team' mantra as embodied in an almost entirely British player-based future for the club. These percentages provide clear proof of an upward home grown cultural curve that is in complete contrast to the policies pursued by our rivals. Man City may give more than mere lip service to the promotion of youth through an Academy system, but only a lonely Phil Foden looks likely to reach first team status and Jadon Sancho had to move to Borussia Dortmund to fulfill his potential, a job he is seemingly well capable of doing, the 18-year-old having already had four assists in six starts since leaving the Etihad. Meanwhile, over on the red side of Manchester, preference is given to the purchase of Alexis Sanchez at phenominal expense, resulting in an immediate stunting of Marcus Rashford's growth both at club and international level. Only Spurs seem to have paid serious attention to the youth development principle and a completion of its course, yet a lack silverware under Pochettino in the last four years seems certain to undermine a laudable attempt. His latest press offering tells us all we need to know about his frustrations:- “We cannot invest crazy money. It will be important to create a different idea to try to move on and to be closer to winning titles in the next few years.” Chelsea will soon follow them with regard to Wembley residency and should we also pursue a likeminded policy on the introduction of home grown players into the first team squad, then add further layers to it year-on-year (the point at which Spurs are now and look like abononing in principle) we could be in for a similar period of pot poverty, but surely this would be a price worth paying if the long term gains that home grown faction-free team spirit brings enables us to challenge Mancunian dominance. After all, if the future holds nothing for us other than endless seasons in the shade, being continually outspent in the transfer market, snubbed by the superstars, misrepresented by the Media and generally misunderstood by a general public constantly misled by the pundits and gossipmongers aplenty, what other way forward is there? To quote Barney Ronay once again ... “Never before has the gap between the richest and the poorest been so stark. Much hand-wringing has been devoted to this process over the last quarter century but this season feels like a significant point of departure, with the summit that separates the richest and most powerful disappearing up through the clouds and out of sight.” Make no mistake, if City and United are to be the only 'above the clouds' clubs in the Premier League it will be a poorer place for it competitively with the gap between those self-indulgent 'have' twins and the remaining 'have nots' continuing to widen. Something needs to give in order to prevent an impending stasis becoming the status quo. Spurs tried harder than most, but Potch's best laid plans have pooped. It is different at Chelsea, the development pipeline flows on unabated and unabashed, everywhere other than into the first team, but anyone who has watched these lads progress will know that the quality is there, improving all the time and leadership skills are instilled in many, in Reece James and Mason Mount in particular, while the likes of Ethan Ampadu, Trevoh Chalobah, Jake Clarke-Salter, Dujon Sterling, Marc Guehi, Jon Panzo and Callum Hudson-Odoi also have the build and ability to succeed at the highest level sooner rather than later. So please Roman, it is the right time for so many reasons... make it happen.
  7. Dorset

    Antonio Conte - Now Officially Manager

    “Honestly. I think that I’m giving - the players are giving - everything this season. We are working very hard to try to have a good season, but I think that, in the end, we are deserving this season. It means that our value is this.” Antonio Conte (post match press conference) This simple summation is, I would contend, the continuation of a Conte mantra of the last few months. In essence, after applying his work, work, work ethic, you get what you deserve in life and this is where CFC deserves to be under his leadership at this precise moment in time. We have the team we deserve, the ambition levels we deserve and, by the same token, the manager we deserve. Yet in reality I'm sure Antonio doesn't quite see it all in these black and white terms. Certainly not when it comes to his own culpability, his own ever-increasing sulleness and muted contribution to the season's campaign. He believed he deserved more when it came to the board's backing over transfers and in his eyes, without that financial support, his level of ambition was never going to be satisfied, there would be no second Premier League title and no Champions League success story to tell. From the beginning of the year Antonio Conte has had the air of a man resigned to his fate and no amount of fighting-against-the-odds rhetoric was going to dispel the negativity that type of body language brought with it. Indeed, the Premier League form table for 2018 [so far] shows Chelsea in 14th place, level with Crystal Palace, a point ahead of Arsenal and Saints, Stoke, Huddersfield and West Brom bringing up the rear. This is not company we should be keeping, especially when we are being told that it is no more than we deserve, and to suggest that such form is 'our value in this' and is reflective of the whole season is to be about as uneconomical with the truth as you can possibly be. In truth, the team has not been worthy of the name since its manager denounced it as deserving of no more in that Great Scheme of Things otherwise known as the Title Race. Little wonder, if ever we were going to give up on a much treasured home record against Spurs it was going to be in such circumstances, almost as if we should be knowing of our new place in the Premiership pecking order and the fans, along with the board, must accept the situation for what it is - a failure to evolve as a result of our not spending more than we did in the transfer market, at the behest of a manager who, we are told, has already started to look for pastures new. And, lest we forget that this financial route to success is the only way some fans would see us competing against the likes of Man City and United, we then had the rather unedifying sight of Callum Hudson-Odoi being brought on in the 88th minute, as if to emphasise the futility of our even giving a moment's thought to bringing these kids through the system if we want to compete at this level. All so depressing, especially for Roman, who must now ponder over the timescale to bring all this breast-beating to an end. In short, it is all that remains to be done and on this occasion I have less sympathy for our latest managerial fatality than I've had for others over the last decade. I sense he hasn't really been with us for a while now, having assessed our 'value' and our potential to increase it over the next few nomadic seasons he merely waits for Roman to pull the trigger and with it signal a final payoff, the owner for once being loath to maximise his managerial losses quite so readily Nor, unless I'm very much mistaken, is there any likelihood of an FA Cup winning saving grace to salvage this sorry situation, for even if the Saints are unlikely to go marching in against us either United or our newly-created nemesis are more than capable of keeping Conte's beaten cup final record intact. That said, I have it on good authority, regardless of how hard we work... we don't really deserve it anyway.
  8. First the pleasantries. Can a person ever have too much of a good thing? Well, it was Shakespeare's Rosalind who first posed the question in 'As You Like It' and I would like to ask again, sans Carra, MNF's match and Sky Sports coverage of those remarkably 'good things' otherwise known as Manchester City FC. Frankly, when it comes to these good things in particular, I stopped 'as you liking it' long before this game took place, having felt that the media outlet had gone all pschophantic over the team and their manager way too early in the Premier piece and to an extent unparralled in the League's history. Even Fergie's fledglings never had it so good this early in proceedings and the old boy's rise to messianic status took an age by comparison with the unseemly haste surrounding Pep's ascension, a journey still to be completed in terms of English domestic titles and Champion Leagues won, incidentally. Okay, you may be forgiven for thinking that there is an element of sour grapeiness in the opening paragraph in view of our recent defeat at their hands, albeit by the narrowest of margins, but in my defence I will offer up the following gem from Antonio Conte's pre-match press conference, when SSNews reporter Ian Bolton chipped in with this question:- “As a coach, when you watch Manchester City, do you admire what they do... do you go WOW!... or do you, as a coach who has to play against them, do you [go] OH NO IT'S THEM!?” Not only did Ian's oiliness remind me instantly of The Fast Show's 'suits you sir' sketches - do you like them Antonio, do you, do you? - but it also revealed the extent to which these Sky guys will now go, a previously untapped base level of fawnication, in order to illicit the answers they want. Just try responding to this unctious approach without either sacrificing yourself on the altar in Pep's ever-broadening church or sounding like a non-believer who well and truly deserved to be burnt at the Etihad stake. No surprise then that Conte didn't fancy being severly singed, or even flambed, as a certain Frenchman was twiceover. Instead he tried what can only be described as a typical Jose Mourinho park-the-bus job on the opposition. It almost paid off, but in the end only really succeeded in pissing off the broadcasters to such an extent that Gary Neville and Jamie Redknapp lost what little reputation they have for calm professionalism, growing more exasperated and frustrated with each passing minute of the ninety and subsequently declaring the play to be 'disgusting' and likening the overall performance to 'a crime'. To be fair to co-commentator Martin Tyler, he did on occasion try to rein Neville in a bit, but there was to be no stopping him or Redknapp. Indeed, Tyler has become Sky's one and only wise head with doyen status and he was also at the pre-match press conference waiting in the wings with a couple of follow-up long hops for Conte to belt out of the park, but neither were seen on SSN throughout the evening and all viewers were left with was the impression that Antonio was, like everyone else, in awe of the Champions Elect eleven and their coach. Indeed, awestruck we all must be in this season's Sky Sport's excessively packaged Premier League, it's compulsory and almost heretical to dare to disagree when pressed to comment, though Sean Dych might, if any of the Sky pre-primed reporters ever pluck up enough courage to ask him to eulogise. By contrast, Antonio's approach was subdued to the point of sulleness and he carried this through to the actual game with his tactics on the pitch. Truth be told, he could have played this formation with a few more youngsters in the side, they would have closed down quicker and shown less sign of disgruntlement at having to roll up their sleeves and defend from front to back. Not that I am in agreement with the way we played, far from it, but I can see no sense in merely adding to the mountain of meme that surrounds Guardiola and his City team these days and,, much to Sky's displeasure, neither could the boss. But more importantly, where does all this leave Antonio Conte now that we are also out of the Champions League? In short, I'm not sure he wants to stay anymore, the tide of criticism, poor performances, daft questioning and downright stupidity in TV studios having taken its toll. Sadly, he has been under pressure since the very first, scarcly believable, loss to Burnley and the subsequent defeats against all of those so-called smaller teams. He has the body language of a man who wants out of a Premier League whose main paymaster dearly wants in on a top-of-the-bill Mancunian double act, buttressed by an entertaining supporting cast currently made up of Liverpool and Spurs, neither of whom are guaranteed their billboard status, but nevertheless will do for the time being. Chelsea from Day One this season and Arsenal since they draped Wenger like an ablatross around their own neck are both seen as yesterday's clubs with no future other than as mere roadies loading the trailers and parking the buses for the forthcoming Pep and Jose Travelling Circus and that is exactly what we are in for over the next few seasons, or for as long as it takes Jose to realise he really isn't very good at continually playing second fiddle in Sergeant Pep's No Longer Hart's Club Band. Yet somewhat surprisingly, after yesterday's twelve minute press conference rant,it would appear Jose is going nowhere (probably in more ways than the one he intended) and has decided instead to defy his critics and justify his playing style as only he can, a stance Conte has taken too, but with hardly any panache, knowing full well pretty much everything is resting on our next two games. Not that Sky gives a damn as, without a coverage foothold in either Champions League or FA Cup camps, they have no meaningful football until the end of the month anyway. And we all know what I mean by 'meaningful' when it comes to this broadcaster - excess and plenty of it, great dollops of Gary, Carra and Jamie telling it like it is, extolling the extraordinary talent to be found in the best team on the planet, perpetuating the myths surrounding all those great teams and managers from the northwest and highlighting the crimes against footbal perpetrated by those down south that have fallen from grace. Which brings us full circle to Carra and 'Gob Gate' as Shed Enders have so descriptively dubbed it. In different circumstances, the Saturday Soccer crew would doubtless give any rival high profile pundit disgracing himself in this way a right pasting, but with Carra being a one-of-our-own of Harry Kane proportions this will not happen today and should the matter even be discussed the mood will be reverential, Phil Thompson will be saddened, Merse amazed, Charlie Nicholas astonished and Le Tiss quick to stress how much out of character this out of body experience was for their colleague. What is certain, however, is that there will definitely be no excess on show, no disgust, no over-the-top effrontery culminating in schoolboy batz, nor any 'He's got to go' viewpoint expressed. And this is very much my point - if it takes an in-house fall from grace to bring Sky Sports excess down a notch or twenty it can only be a good thing. Therefore, with this in mind, I would have no objection if those who dictate policy and standards at Sky, now they have something really Disgusting to get their teeth into, take this as an ideal opportunity to begin the curbing of undue excess that has become the hallmark of their Premier League coverage, the Super this, the Sensational that, the Criminal this, the Disgraceful that, they should all be confined to history and replaced by at least some semblance of much needed Martin Tyleresque decorem. At the end of his suspension Jamie Carragher could well become Sky's first Ex-spat, but if he were to continues he would be a constant reminder of what excess ultimately brings to any confrontational situation, his vulnerablity being the brake that is now permantly applied to his criticism of others. Sky's intention appears to be to counsel and retain, the mantra being that lessons must be learned, so having the Scouser on board might just have the stabilising effect required, both for the individual and the organisation. The alternative does not bear thinking about - just imagine the post-sacking press conference, with an Ian Bolton lookalike from the BBC asking “As an angry pundit, when you watch someone spit, do you admire what they do... do you go WOW!... do you Jamie, do you?!”
  9. Thanks for this very good article, one that tells a few home truths about youth development squads at the highest level in this country. The following paragraphs caught my eye:- “In his teenage years, McGuane was regarded as one of Arsenal's brightest prospects. Yet English football has a profound development problem between the ages of 18 and 21, when opportunities are restricted by Premier League clubs choosing to spend fortunes on ready-made talent. To make matters worse the Under 23 Premier League is deemed uncompetitive by many clubs and young players.” “McGuane has seen the English talent in his age group close up. He has represented England at U17, U18 and U19 level and stresses the importance of offering chances to young players who lifted World Cups for England last year. 'Every manager has huge pressure to win trophies or you are gone. But we can't be too scared to give youngsters opportunities.'” “McGuane's path should become more familiar in the coming years. He points out that his generation have grown up worshipping players and clubs from abroad. His ex-Arsenal team-mate Chris Willock moved to Benfica. Manchester City lost Jadon Sancho to Borussia Dortmund.” What is noticeable about the tone of the piece as a whole and these paragraphs in particular is that there is none of the usual Chelsea Academy and loan system bashing going on as a base narrative. On the contrary, the emphasis is placed on Arsenal's failures first and foremost, quite naturally in view of McGuane's career path so far, then his team-mate, and finally Man City's Jadon Sancho provides the example of another club's loss of talent abroad. Perhaps Chelsea have been exempted from naming and shaming criticism and comparison of any sort this time because there has been no real evidence of similar brave intent to leave our shores and go to a European club shown by any of our youngsters, only Solanke, Bamford and Chalobah venturing north of Watford, and in Nathaniel's case only to the border. In the main, assurances given or not, the Academy boys must like it at Cobam and feel they have a good chance of making the grade irrespective of what that grading may amount to - Premier A, Championship B, or League C. That said, whatever it turns out to be, I'm sure some fans will still feel we should be spending a fortune on ready-made talent regardless, dismissing the vast majority [if not all, McGuane included] as being bang average at best, only to want the club to fork out millions for one or two of them when they are proven and are flavour of each season's open-for-transfer months.
  10. I was hopeful when he arrived (although not favour of buying him ahead of blooding one of those named as 'the future' by Conte) but this was based purely on his partnership with Kante at Leicester and the renewal of it. With hindsight and not having checked their passing stats during the Leicester title winning season so I cannot say for sure, I doubt either player provided what I'm after as Claudio's strategy, winning or losing, was always to get through midfield as quickly as possible to give Vardy and Mahrez maximum opportunity in the last third. What I'm looking for is long periods of ball retention in the opponent's half, even recycling it ad nauseam if needs be, rather than passing neatly from the back, not making much headway, then hitting it into the channels for Morata to constantly go down under pressure, but with no resulting free kick. When in possession our players, Willian, Hazard, Pedro, Moses, are better equipped to attack facing the opposition's penalty area and from just outside it, so the midfield must push up, press if you like, and try to encamp in this area. I sense Drinkwater wouldn't be able to resist having a dig from the 30/35 yard region, sooner rather than later, which is fine if you are leading and in control, but releases the tension otherwise. A player like Kyle Scott will simply make himself available on either side of the pitch, take in the pass and recycle it elsewhere, time and again, until the edge of the box is reached and someone like Hazard will make his run into it. Mason Mount would be more inclined to take responsibility on himself in this area, the fetch and carry passing game not being his forte. For me, Drinkwater is better suited to the out of possession defensive role, but here again I may be influenced by the assistance Kante provides when they play as the holding two. If it were Scott, he would always be the first in-your-face-foot-in type of player, the closest I've seen to your avatar for a long while and a right pain of a player for the opposition! Of course, he would not be everyone's choice and too artisan for many, but, in my opinion, if we are talking about game management, he would be the stand out candidate in our current squad to set it all in motion.
  11. We shall agree to differ, Sindre, but before finishing perhaps you could give me your opinion on Scott McTominay's sudden rise to first team status at United.... surprised or fully justified, a star in the making?
  12. Certainly. My preference would be a 3-5-2 formation, the five being Moses, Ampadu, Scott, Kante and Alonso, but in circumstances where we need to be more attacking, I'd go 3-4-2-1, with the four being Sterling, Chalobah Fabregas and Alonso. My two would be Willian and Hazard, with Hudson-Odoi as the impact player, replacing either if required. Ampadu would go back into the three, leaving Christensen out and keeping Dave [who would interchange with Sterling] and Rudiger either side. The choice between Christensen and Ampadu would be a difficult one, but Ampadu is the more confident at the moment and is, in my opinion, the better player coming forward from the back. Incidentally, the only reason our competitors are not afraid to spend upwards of £100 million on a single player is that they've got money to burn and between them have become embroiled in some sort of Mancunian wad-waving competition that has got totally out of control. Quite frankly, anything we spend will be very little by comparison with their self-indulgent can't-have-too-many-fullbacks profligacy so we might just as well keep a tight grip on the purse strings while the Bridge gets a new lick of paint.
  13. I do not want us to mimic Pep's possession-based style of football, but what I would like is the option of having more possession and control in situations where we are seeking to influence the game, either by slowing it down when we are ahead or getting from box-to-box quicker without the risk of losing that possession [long ball tactic or slinging in crosses from deep] when we are behind. Essentially, I'm defining game management as I see it and looking at the player(s) we have available who are willing fetchers and carriers... and I certainly wouldn't want to be paying upwards of £150 million for a couple of them.
  14. Okay, I'll bite... name the players and how much you will spend on them.
  15. “After the start we had, we had every chance to get three points towards a place in the Champions League, but again we are talking about another defeat and we must be disappointed. When you have this type of situation, you have to manage the game better and you must be able to use experience and maturity to get three points.” So said Antonio Conte immediately after our loss to Manchester United, the second costly concession to a team after taking a one goal lead in a matter of days and in a manner that is fast becoming second nature to us. The first against Barca, albeit not ending in defeat, told a different story in terms of planning and execution, yet the feeling at the end of both was the same - opportunity missed when well within our grasp. Indeed, Conte described the draw at the Bridge as 'almost perfect' which it may have been, but that's no real consolation, nor no fault of Antonio or the false 9 system he deployed to counter the opposition's passionless possession play. I use the words 'passionless possession' advisedly, because some would say that 70-odd percent of it can never be described in this way for fear of upsetting the staticians, let alone the purists. But let's not be too puritanical about the Catalan's approach and instead admire the control, the denial of time on the ball to others and the maximum amount being given on that selfsame sphere to the best user of it on the planet, Lionel Messi. It is he who provides the passion, the rest is just a means to that end product he provides, those game-winning (or saving) goals. Make no mistake, Andreas Christensen made his as a result of repetitive watchfulness syndrome and, forever having to predict the little man's movement, he switched off with the ball at his own feet for once, thereby turning the perfect into the imperfect in the blink of an eye. Thankfully, at least the vast majority of pundits had the good grace to see the bigger picture for what it was, a Conte masterplan that suffered the single sling and arrow of outrageous fortune, even though most then went completely overboard in their praise of Messi who, for great swathes of play, was made to look mere mortal. Indeed, on BT it was left to Rio Ferdinand, Steven Gerrard and our own Frank Lampard to pinpoint the real hero for Barca, their defensive midfielder, Sergio Busquets, who set a season record by completing 128 passes in the game, Paulino having previously completed 111 against Olympiacos. All well and good, I hear you say, but up until the Andreas fault it was much ado about nothing and I was inclined to agree until I learnt of the most telling statistic of the night - Busquets was the most passed to player, his team-mates found him 119 times, trusting him more than any other to make himself available. In short, he does the donkeywork in a team defying that description His passes against us were 139 in total and a check of the successful ones made in this season's Champions League tells you not only all you need to know about the player but also everything about those who seek to challenge him for the top spot:- S Busquets (Barcelona) 612 M Verratti (PSG) 595 E Banega (Seville) 593 N Otamendi (Man City) 586 I Rakitic (Barcelona) 483 S Umtiti (Barcelona) 477 Fernandinho (Man City) 465 S Ramos (Real Madrid) 421 T Kroos (Real Madrid) 420 D Alves (PSG) 415 Not a single Chelsea, ManU, or Spurs player in the top ten suggests that the Barca stratagem is not for us or them, yet here we were seemingly trying to negate the keep ball in a typically Barca way, one that Jose or Potch would never countenance, though this in part is due no doubt to both teams having focal points up front that are hardly ever going to bow to falsehood. Man City under Pep influence, on the other hand, have two pass masters, though somewhat surprisingly Kevin De Bruyne isn't the man for this particular job in their set-up. He, we must assume, falls into the same category as a Christian Erikson, Paul Pogba or Cesc Fabregas in that they have better things to do on the park than fetch and carry. But this caveat does not apply to Nemanja Matic or N'Golo Kante and they don't feature either, even being out-passed by Samuel Umtiti and umpteen other defenders. Only Marco Verratti, Ever Banega, Ivan Rakatic and Tony Kroos are usual suspects where they should be in the frame and gameplan of their respective teams and how we could have done with someone of similar game-managing ability in the closing stages of the first half, then in second against United. With all this in mind and somewhat belatedly, where does all this information get us in assessing the pros and cons of having this type of player command a place in your team, or even a preponderance of them if you're a Guardiola-phile or ply your trade in La Liga? Well, firstly, I'd like to think Chelsea could find room for at least one trusted watercarrier when the occasion demanded and that may go some way towards explaining our supposed interest in Verrati a season or two back. Secondly, it only takes a cursory glance at that list to confirm a shortage of supply with virtually all the star names bar Verratti happy to be where they are, perhaps through to retirement. Clearly, the Juve Andreas Pirlos and Barca Yaya Toures of this world do not grow on trees and even if they did there is every likelihood they would now be as unsung of their specialist skills as these two were lauded for them back in their 2007/2011 pomp. Nowadays it is, of course, more a role for the bland workaholic than the blindingly gifted, but its importance cannot be denied if you want to play in a manner that will both control and kill a game according to circumstance. That is what Barcelona did so effectively under Guardiola and, looking at the stats above, he now seeks to do again with Man City using Otamendi and Fernandinho, thus rendering Yaya surplus to requirements and, lest we forget, mirroring Busquets ousting of the same player from Pep's team nearly a decade ago. But that is the nub of the matter... do we as Chelsea fans really want our team to excerise this amount of control as part of a Conte 3-5-2 or 3-4-3 system, or are we going to accept paucity of possession as a fact of Man City modern day living? Personally, I would like the versatility a Marco Verratti would give us, but have to accept as laudable our newfound status as a club exhibiting self-restraint in a transfer market showing the first signs of complete and utter madness. Such a pity we have not seen fit to cultivate this type of player within our youth development squads over the years. Except that we have. I count as many as four, with ages ranging from 20yrs down to 16yrs, all with differing abilities that could see each and every one of them cement a place in the first team squad over the next five years. Here are their names, together with the club's offial website [rather understated] resumee in each case and beginning with the only current first team squad player:- Kyle Scott (20) joined the club as an Under-10 from Southampton. A technical player who is adept in a number of midfield positions, he made his youth team debut as an Under-16 at the start of the 2013/14 season. Mason Mount (19) has been training at the club since he was six years old and signed at the Under-8 age group. He has always been an attacking midfielder, capable of playing in any of the central midfield roles and is particularly strong at going from box-to-box. Jacob Maddox (19) signed from Bristol City at the end of his Under-14 year. He is an attacking midfield player who can play in the ‘number 10’ position but mainly features slightly deeper and enjoys running forward with the ball at his feet. Billy Gilmour (16) is a midfielder who joins us this summer from Glasgow Rangers, where he has been since the age of eight. He is a technical individual with good game intelligence and awareness who creates plenty of goals and chances for his team-mates. Probably the nearest thing to a home grown finished article, Kyle Scott has received the added boost of a debut against Hull in the FA Cup and an endorsement from Conte who referred to him Ampadu, Sterling, Hudson-Odoi and Chalobah as 'the future of the club' though just how this pans out should Antonio leave is another matter - nobody wants a Pogba situation in which Scott pops off to Juve for a pittance and is then bought back for a paultry £93 million under the pretence that his Italian finishing school made the whole process a viable proposition. To my mind young Kyle is already more steeped in our style of play than the prodigal Pogba is in Jose's latest creation - a technocratic time lord who, as a team mate, wants the ball when you dont and as an opponent is always in your face when your are after a bit of look-at-me time on the ball yourself. Having grafted for the likes of Dominic Solanke,Tammy Abraham, Ike Ugbo and even the 16yr-old Daishawn Redan, he is a unique link to past, present, returning and future strikers as well as those defenders and midfielders praised by Conte and referred to above. All that is lacking is, perhaps, that eye for a goal or a specialist free-kick attribute that others have cultivated, but.... … Mason Mount has both. Currently on loan at Vitesse Arnhem, he captained the Youth Cup side to a fourth consecutive success last year, netting a hat-trick in the fourth-round win at Birmingham and he also set up the winner in the final as England won the Under-19 European Championship. Doesn't have the street[Dennis]wise mentality and tackling ability of Scott and his rivals for a first team spot are more likely to be the faster-tracked Casey Palmer and Lewis Baker, but he is versatile enough to set his sights on the pass-master role if the competition further forward proves too great. Conversely, Jacob Maddox prefers to make runs from deeper positions and, of the three, carries the ball forward with the most confidence. This leaves Billy Gilmour who, somewhat stragely, is the most welknown of all the contenders, being a Scotland Under-17 international at the tender age of sixteen and our first signing from north of the border for a number of years. It would be a miracle if he were to 'do an Ampadu' and move ahead of all his previously mentioned rivals for this passing post, but he is by far and away the best creator of the bunch and, as any multi-talented midfielder will tell you, assists have taken on a whole new and improved persona in the modern game. And there you have them - the future four who could all provide the platform to play Pep at his own game over the next 5 years. But, as we have seen in the last two matches, the problem is the present and having identified game management as the issue to be resolved, how does Conte deal with it right here, right now? Ironically, Jose was faced with a similar situation when the so called crowd-pleasing Paul Pogba went off the boil a few weeks ago and, breaking a habit of a lifetime in football, the Special One turned to Scott McTominay instead, which was a bit like dumping your dabbing, high maintenance wag for the younger, gangly girl next door. Yet it has worked and, as yesterday's game proved, they can now go around quite happily as a threesome as though there was nothing unusual going on at all. Time to think outside the box too, Antonio... just outside it, where the control can start and those possession stats can be improved out of all recognition.