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Dorset

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Dorset last won the day on September 10

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  1. Ho hum... another day, another English Football International Break. Two weeks worth to be precise, but not for me Clive, because it's no exaggeration to say that boredom set in early doors and long before England crossed swords with Croatia, yet again. Still, at least the latest of my fortnightly cravings for Chels-related stuff has been somewhat satiated by the guff written about Messrs Barkley, Mount and Loftus-Cheek. Nothing like an unsubstantiated Media gab fest to keep us fans in the paranoid state we have become accustomed to and have been accused of being in since Roman times and the Academy Empire was first built. Fast forward a decade and around this time in 2014 pre-World Cup any impartial punters would probably have glanced at this triumvirate of names and judged them to be a firm of solicitors. But not now, not post-WC 2018, not with the hype surrounding Chels-acquisition Ross Barkley, Chels-stagnating-at-Vitesse-loanee Mason Mount and Chels-wantaway-to-be-a-loanee-again Ruben Loftus-Cheek,.all of whom just happen to be vying for a place in an England team that at the moment is as much in need of a midfield superstar as it is a meaningful fixture. Don't get me wrong, if any of these three had actually starred on that foreign field in front of anything resembling a live audience (FA officials do not count) I would have been the first to shout it from my hilltop, let alone a Croatian one. But they didn't, as only Ross made it to the starting line-up and even though he didn't play badly every expectant midfield hopeful, along with the already ego-bruised Marcus Rashford, must now be prepared to play second fiddle to the new publicity bandwagon that can't wait to churn out Jadon Sancho Ragtime. But such is life for the so-called potential young International stars of the future and ours can still fight for the creative role in the England side, albeit as contenders hamstrung by association with their parent club and the drip-fed media-fostered notion that Chelsea's youth development system has always been a hinderance rather than a help. Indeed, it seems the club still cannot avoid flack even in the most encouraging of circumstances. For instance, I find it quite bizarre that critics expect us to buy into the idea that Ruben Loftus-Cheek's progression into the England team and an appearance at the World Cup is anything other than a great success story. Okay, he may well have to battle for his place in the side with Mason Mount in the years ahead, but this says more about the way Chelsea have developed these players than it does about any perceived deficiencies in our Academy system. Another moot point concerns Man City's Phil Foden and Gareth Southgate's recent comment that he has less experience than Mason Mount, an advantage gained at Vitesse, a club that became the butt of many a joke made by rival fans and pundits alike who see their first team squad as the archetypal graveyard for Chelsea loanees. How ironic is that, especially when you hear the England manager refering (indirectly) to this loan as the main reason for Mount moving ahead of Foden in the International midfield pecking order. And so, belatedly and after years of fake news, we come to the real truth of the matter, which has at last been openly admitted to by one daily newspaper (The Guardian) in an article reviewing young talent worldwide and accentuated in the following quote:- “Mason Mount has become the latest poster boy of Chelsea’s academy, which draws plenty of cynicism but has helped develop 19 of the 128 players picked for England’s representative sides from under 17s to seniors in this international window. No club can match that, whether those kids go on to play for Chelsea or elsewhere.” Nuff said you would think, yet sadly this sudden media epithany arrives at a time when even the most diehard Chels believers in a breakthrough coming at the Bridge are starting to doubt it will ever happen, the catalyst being what looks very much like Maurizio Sarri's cold-shouldering of Callum Hudson-Odoi. Why no appearance in the Europa League or even a cameo in the Carabao Cup? Keeping CHO happy should be of paramount importance at both playing and boardroom level, but it appears there is little appetite for appeasing any youngster with a growing reputation who 'arrives' only to shift restlessly on the bench for a game or two and then disappear from view altogether. We can only hope that the plan for Callum has yet to unfold and is currently wedged firmly in Sarri's back pocket while Hazard performs his miracles and Willian, Pedro and Moses provide backup. Normally, with a first team undefeated and well in contention for the title, this policy would brook no argument, but where is the forward-thinking when you consider Hazard's contractual state and status, Real Madrid's interest in him and the fact that the other three are not getting any younger and will never fill his boots abilitywise anyway. That isn't to say CHO is bolted on as Hazard's natural successor, but he is the closest we've got in terms of potential and by now he should be a lot nearer to achieving full recognition than he seems to be. Moreover, if he can be likened to anyone in the England young gun armoury at present it has to be Jadon Sancho, both flair players who buck the typically English playing trend in so many ways, but the last thing we would want is for Callum to buck it further by copying Sancho's brave Euro route to the top. Truth be told, the more he is ignored the more obvious it becomes that he has no natural home in any of our Development Squads, having outgrown them quicker than any of his predecessors, and if he doesn't fit in the first team setup he doesn't really fit in at all, no matter the pre-season game time he had, the impression he made and the amount of praise heaped upon him to date. The boss has a major problem here, the forerunner to it being RLC and Andreas Christensen's current unrest and their gentle rocking of our boat in what are otherwise seen as calm blue Premier League waters. Make no mistake, this will be nothing compared to the tsunami should Callum decide to seek pastures new. Maurizio Sarri has been something of a magician for us so far this season, but, even though he's got the smokes, I'm not sure he has the mirrors to distract the critical gaze for too much longer when it comes to the kids and their first team opportunities. Introducing them with a flourish is one thing, putting them in a substitutes box and then making them disappear is another, but getting them to come back for the briefest of recognition cameos becomes as boring as an International break. Let's face it, an audience soon grows tired of seeing the same trick performed repeatedly and after a while begins to wonder what it is, if anything, these magiciian's assistants can actually do on the big stage.
  2. “In February, FIFA president Gianni Infantino said "it is important to establish a few rules as a limitation of squad sizes or the number of players out on loan." If the establishment of new rules was so important back in February why has nothing been done about it in the last nine months? And, perhaps even more to the point, what is it that is so wrong with a system that seemingly satisfies all parties? Sky Sports News tackled this issue yesterday, no doubt in advance of putting Sarri under the press conference spotlight today, and their reporter was quick to single out Chelsea as the main culprit and [would be] ultimate loser should action be taken. The general tone adopted was one of sage agreement with a FIFA president not previously noted for his wisdom, the outrageous analogy was then made with that of a landlord/tenant relationship, presumably where the nasty owner does nothing about squalid conditions whilst charging an extortionate rental in circumstances where there is no alternative but to pay. Of course, nothing could be farther from the truth when it comes to club/loanee agreements and it is difficult to see, in a situation where all sides apparently benefit and are happy with their lot, why limitation of squad sizes is such a necessity. On the Guardian podcast yesterday Chelsea were cast in a similar role alongside Man City, as having a higher number of loanees is deemed to make 'the crime' that much worse, and even here Philippe Auclair got carried away as he told of how at these two clubs loanees had to accept a future in this environment or they 'were told to b****r off'. Yet surely part of the problem, as many pereceive it to be, is that far from telling these kids to b****r off, the more family-minded club keeps them on, thereby inflating the numbers, openly inviting criticism and frustrating those fans who simply can't see the point of hanging on to what they regard as dead wood. To my mind, having a ceiling of 8 loanees over the age of 21 will only serve to increase the b****red off brigade anyway, for no good reason, even though I appreciate that others believe the club should cut its losses rather than continue to provide a homely cushion to fall back on until a sale of the player can be made that suits all parties.
  3. Act 1 - Huddersfield As scene-setters go this one told us very little about the Sarri-ball play in general and even less about the plot, the home team offering no more than token resistance and allowing Jorginho to take centre stage and steal the entire show. If Chelsea fans learnt anything at all regarding the coming season as a whole and how it will unfold it was that this late acquisition from Napoli is going to be an integral part of it and we had better get used to seeing him constantly on the ball over ninety minutes, passing more times than it was ever thought humanly possible before his arrival. Indeed, such is his overiding importance N'Golo Kante has had to change role, our steam-driven engine room now futher forward and distinctly fresh air and open plan in outlook. Like it or not (still not sure either way) both players scored and Sarri has deemed the switch necessary, thereby emphasising an uncompromising need to accommodate Jorginho at all cost. In other Huddersfield news, Sarri's 4-3-3 appeared slower to slip into gear than most optimists anticipated while Alvaro Morata struggled to link up with his team-mates, as most pessimists predicted. He often cut an isolated figure in the final third, but if you are an Alvaro fan this could conceivably be put down to rustiness whereas, if you're not and set in your ways, well, he's rubbish and the sooner Giroud hits the ground trundling the better. So, apart from these two continuing debates and Sarri plumping for Pedro and Barkley in supporting roles, that was about it from the northern outpost, with those soothsayers who thought that the Arsenal game would reveal a great deal more than this lame yorkie capitulation soon to be proved correct. Act 2 - Arsenal Even if we were to emerge from the eargerly anticipated London derby a little less sure of ourselves and still pretty much in the dark as to how streamlined Sarri-ball can actually become, the game itself had absolutely everything, However, despite taking all 3 points it was impossible not to feel anything other than a sense of relief at the final whistle. It was therefore fit and proper that Sarri, much to his credit and in circumstances where he could easily have lapsed into full-on Jose smug mode, to dissect the rollacoaster ride of a match in this insightful summation:- “We have to improve in the defensive phase and I’m not talking about only the defenders. I mean the defensive phase of all the team, all the players. If we press very high, we are able to do well. But when we are not able to press in the other half, we are in trouble. We did very well for 75 minutes of the 90. Inside there were 15 horrible minutes. We lost distances, we were not able to press.” Heart on sleeve honesty from the boss when for many it was just happy days, maximum points, sticking it to a London rival,what could possibly be better than that for even the most cynical glass half-full Shed Ender? Well, truth be told, nagging doubts still existed in many a Chels fan's mind and here was the inventor in his match confessional giving a brief of glimpse of the Sarri-ball highs and lows that will inevitably be a feature this season. His quote says it all and his actions on the touchline at the time, those frantic gestures to advance as a two goal cushion disappeared, suddenly became an awful lot clearer to fans who might otherwise have thought that he was recklessly directing his troops to go over the top, like some gungho First World War general urging his men on by means of a brief and dramatically chorographed appearance from the safety of his heavily sandbagged, smoke-filled dugout. No, this was certainly not one of those into-the-valley-of-death moments but more a for-christ-sake-close-ranks plea that spoke volumes to both the uninitiated supporters and those on the pitch who had been vigorously drilled in a defensive art and had suddenly forgotten how to carry out the practice without dropping their rifles all over the place. Two goals up, pressure eased, did Sarri detect a slight deleliction of duty in the ranks, specifically the back four? You bet your sweet Sky sponsorship life he did! Yet defensively, this is not about the debunking of basic Sarriball principles,his shutting down of passing lanes centrally and the forcing of opponents wide, but all about distances. As he was quick to point out, losing focus on distances meant we were not able to press properly and whenever a midfielder or a winger stepped up [to force the press] even though the shape was always the required perfect 4-4-2, the space in between was too wide for the whole process to be effective. Moreover, when it failed, that space was filled with Arsenal midfielders, the ball played out wide, and the subsequent pullbacks cut us to ribbons. Yet for the first quarter our attacking counter-press worked a treat, so where did it all go wrong in the second and why did it take a halftime team talk refresher course to put it right? The answer to the first part lies in those two telling words 'lost distances' and I believe the reason for the second is that the inexperience of our back four, together with a certain amount of complacency brought on by that early two goal advantage, led to the midfield space stretching from an acceptable and manageable 15 metres into a gap almost double the size. Quite simply, Arsenal's players suddenly had room to move. Add to this the fact that, three men or four, Kante is no longer our gatekeeper for the defence and you have a plausible and hopefully repairable cause for what might otherwise be regarded as a serious spanner in the Sarri-ball works. Still, it is good to know that spanner isn't David Luis or Tony Rudiger, nor on this occasion was it anything to do with faulty full backs. But, that said... Act 3 - Newcastle Unsurprisingly and unhelpfully (another Arse-type approach would have tested metal as opposed to merely tempering it) Benitez posed a totally different set of problems for Sarri-ball to solve. Sarri-ball versus sorry-ball (to quote Henry Winter of The Times) and this time the space might as well have been as wide as the Spanish waiter's midriff because it was never going to be occupied by Geordie hoardes who were otherwise engaged in keeping a strict 5-4-1 formation intact and in their own half for as long as it took to stop us scoring and ruin the game as a spectacle. In such circumstances space was not a concern, although pace obviously was and no matter how much Hazard magic survived the [unpunished] buffeting it got we conjured up precious little of it to break through the lowest of low blocks and somehow (Geezer on his heels) even managed to concede an equaliser that could have been so costly, but ultimately only provided the stat of the day - Joselu's goal was Newcastle's first on target since the sixth minute and their only shot on target in the second half!! So much for the Geordies being described (on Sky) as 'unfortunate' not to pick up a point. Still, never mind, defensive aberations and burrowing through low blocks can be remedied in the fullness of time... about a month or so Sarri informed the media and then, once up to speed, there should be no stopping us. In the meantime Bournemouth would provide further opportunity to measure Sarri-ball in a toe-to-toe contest against another footballing side, or at least that was the script we expected to follow... Act 4 – Bournemouth … sadly, it was to be rewritten for the Cherries by Eddie Howe, no doubt to prevent them from becoming, for want of a better phrase, easy pickings. Chelsea had 81 per cent possession in their previous game against Newcastle and it was a similar story as Bournemouth decided to go defensive by ditching their back four principles in favour of a three and compromised even further by making it a five at the first sign of pressure, of which there was plenty. The result, other than being a hard fought 2-0 win, was probaly best summed up by a single statistic - Chelsea had exactly 24 shots in both of their Premier League home games. Little wonder, then, that eventually the Howe Blues Plan failed and, like the Python's Norwegian Blue parrot, it ended up not fooling anybody, not just sleeping, just dead from the 72nd minute onwards. Again, Sarri summed things up perfectly:- "This kind of match usually you can win in the last 20-25 minutes. The match was very difficult against a very organised team. They defended very aggressively and the situation was not so easy." All very gracious, but I'm guessing that Maurizio is looking forward in the future to much stiffer Sarri-ball examinations than this turned out to be, when any ghosts in his machine loom larger and are either busted or end up busting us. Another example of the [as yet] unknowns that make this season such a fascinating one was touched upon by Chelsea TV's Ben Andrews during commentary when he confessed to Jason Cundy, during a lull in the play shortly after Hazard had sewn the game up, that he was still none the wiser as to whether Kepa was a good goalkeeper or not. Not a clue, because he has hardly had a save or a sweeper-keeper manoeurve to make. Sarri must feel the same about that cliché otherwise known as the last piece of the midfield jigsaw. Is it to be Kovacic, Barkley or Loftus-Cheek? These are the questions the boss must be asking himself four games in, while up front it certainly would not have escaped the been-there-done-that expert attacking eye of Giafranco Zola that (Hazard apart) we lack a world class goal poacher capable of tucking away chances on a regular basis. The goals have tended to arrive when Giroud comes on, but he is our impact player and if Morata does not find form soon and the back of the net consistently there has to be a Sarri-ball accommodating argument in favour of Hazard playing as a false nine at some stage in proceedings. Finally, no review would be complete without a selection of Sarri-ball pros and cons over this shortest of four-game courses, so here are mine, together with a couple of outside bets to make a breakthrough:- The Pros:- Marcus Alonso - dynamic and a major Sarri-ball surprise, but his defending still needs working on. Mateo Kovacic - could be the perfect foil for Kante. Pedro - taken to Sarri-ball like a duck to water. The Cons:- David Luiz - some teams have a back four player who is the glue that holds everything together, Geezer is a marmite equivalent and you either love or hate the cavalier talent he brings to the party. Alvaro Morata - Sarri-ball is all about pace going forward and he must learn to play better on the half-turn to achieve this or his days will be numbered. N'Golo Kante - not really a 'con' in the truest sense here, but there can be no question that what we have gained on the swings of his newly-acquired attacking play we have lost on the roundabouts when it comes to his covering in defence. Potential Breakthroughs;- Ethan Ampadu - pure guesswork, maybe, but I wont be surprised if he emerges as either the cover for Luiz in the Europa League games or challenges for that last piece jigsaw place in midfield. Callum Hudson-Odoi – and if Ethan was guesswork Callum must really be wishful thinking on my part, but Sarri has already been very complimentary about the kid, the Europa League will be a showcase and I'm backing him to be, at the very least, back on the first team bench regularly by Christmas at the latest.
  4. Dorset

    Wilfred Zaha

    The exact quote was “I talk with the club about the market but only one or maybe two times, not more. I spoke about positions and characteristics but no names. So, I don’t know. I think we need something, but maybe only a player. We have very good midfielders, but maybe a midfielder with different characteristics [would be a good fit].” Those different characteristics can be interpreted in many ways, but, on the assumption that Kante and Jorginho are permanent fixtures and Hazard is the only player in a similar situation up front, my guess is that he's after another option on the right of the front three. No surprise there then, bearing in mind the rumours surrounding Willian leaving, but if he stays a 'different characteristic' to his might well be that the player concerned has the versatility to play in the central role as well as compete for that right-sided berth. To my mind, that rules out Zaha, who by [almost] common consent is another who is more comfortable on the left, along with Hazard and Hudson-Odoi. If this speculation is correct [it wont be] the best available option is undoubtedly Martial, as he ticks all the boxes, whether Willian goes the other way or not. Alternatively, the only black cloud on my horizon and one that I hardly want to mention but will, is that Sarri remains unconvinced over RLC, believing him to be too much like Barkley and Bakayoko and in need of yet another loan spell. Hodgson would love to have him back at Palace and his only bargaining chip is a certain Wilf Zaha, who definitely has 'different characteristics' to both Rueben, Ross and Baka, mores the pity. Perish the thought Sarri doesn't give RLC a fair crack of the whip, though stranger things have happened to the lad under our last two managers, but other Academy green shoots are there to be seen in Ampadu and CHO and Rueben has reportedly laid down the law regarding game time recently, so it isn't as if this scenario wont have been considered by the hierarchy.
  5. Dorset

    Anthony Martial

    You too DB. The Shed End is a much more interesting place post Conte and it could get even better if Sarri kicks one of our habits (failure to play youth through fear of failure full stop) well before he's likely to kick one of his own. Conte ended up being just a big drag, but as far as I'm concerned Sarri can have as many as he wants if he gets the likes of RLC, Ampadu and young Callum performing regularly in the first team. Have you seen CHO's first 45 minutes of Sarriball? - the kid is the real deal no doubt about it. There aren't many who go back as far as me, but if they are on here they may well have spotted that Callum plays a lot like Bobby Tambling with a few modern day tricks thrown in for good measure. The same slightly hunched shoulders, rolling gait and directness that scares the life out of defenders. Tambling made his debut aged seventeen, just after I started going to the Bridge and all he had back then that Callum isn't gifted with now was a rocket shot with his left foot after going past his man either on the outside or cutting in.
  6. Dorset

    Anthony Martial

    The evidence is there - Jose appears somewhat scared by the prospect of Martial joining a rival Premier League club, a clear indication that he believes the boy has talent aplenty and it would probably surface pretty quickly if he is sold and then played in his preferred position of central striker by his new club. Imagine a Chelsea front three of Hazard, Martial and Hudson-Odoi…. that really would be a scary prospect!
  7. 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.
  8. Dorset

    Next Chelsea Manager

    My guess is an announcement on ChelseaTV, maybe 5pm, but more likely on Blues News at 6.30pm
  9. 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.
  10. Dorset

    Next Chelsea Manager

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

    Next Chelsea Manager

    Brilliant post Argo! Agree with every word.
  12. “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.
  13. 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.
  14. 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?!”
  15. 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.

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