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That’s Why We’re Champions?


Dorset
Chelsea Megastore
Chelsea Megastore

Chelsea Megastore

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Let’s forget the Sunderland game (we have all week to stew in its virulent juices if we really want to) and consider the bigger picture for one moment. Okay, trying to be objective after a defeat like that isn’t easy, nor is it something that will be done with any degree of rational thought in the immediate aftermath, or when surrounded by a number of valid reasons for what we hope and pray will be the ‘one off’ bad home result. Whether it be down to injuries to key players, a callow bench or, perish the thought, team selection accompanied by tactical deficiencies, we are in effect looking out at the remaining two thirds of the season, not in eager anticipation, but with worry and apprehension. As current champions and leaders by two points, it should not feel like this, yet it does and the sooner the alarm bells are heard at the highest level the better it will be for all concerned.

For me, a slight ringing in the ears began with the tactically naïve and déjà vu performance against Citeh, closely followed by some real campanology at Anfield, but if we’re being brutally honest you have to go way back to the close season to trace the source of our major problem, yes even before it had time to emerge. In short, we laid waste to valuable Premiership experience in midfield in [what we thought was] the safe knowledge that Frank Lampard and Michael Essien would see us through our new campaign. This has turned out to be wrong on two counts. Firstly due to a misconception that the Bison would have a full season free of injury (hopefully this judgement, in the main, still proves to be correct) and also free of the media and refereeing spotlight forever destined to fall on his tackling. Secondly, and perhaps more pertinently, there was the blithe acceptance that age would not catch up with Frank, whether it be in respect of injury recovery time or influence on his box-to-box game.

The glaring omission made in respect of both, whether it be the ultimate responsibility of Carlo or his medical staff, was their failure after one full season of assessing the situation, to recognise the difference between Serie A and Premiership football - a cultural shock to the system that will always prevent players like JT achieving the longevity of a foreign player like Paolo Maldini, highlighted all the more in this league by officialdom’s perverse logic of persecuting certain foreign players for their tackling whilst allowing a freer rein to the likes of Paul Scholes and [despite his occasional red card] Lee Cattermole. Naturally enough, the expectation was that Mikel would mature into the sort of player who could overcome these obstacles and the irony is that he has done exactly this, becoming our best midfielder, but whilst needing to do so merely to keep us afloat so far this season. The abiding image of Sunday’s game has to be that of Cattermole, late on and card-free, trying to goad Mikel into a straight red card retaliation tackle. Thankfully, he did not succeed and Mikel emerged as our only positive over the ninety minutes, the excellent Petr apart.

This digression aside, the point to be made is surely a valid one, in that our long term midfield planning has been exposed as flawed, an open Premiership door if the opposition pushes hard enough, and despite all the obvious attributes of Ramires, Yuri Zhirkov, Josh McEachran and Jacopo Sala none of them are built to stem an aggressive tide without the services of an Essien or a Connor Clifford injected with instant maturity. Of course, the distinction has to be made between the Premiership and the Champions League, where these type of players tend to flourish and the only refereeing downside is one of selective blindness as opposed to gratuitous leniency. Yet even in this neck of the words there is room for hierarchical complaint as we approach the knockout stage knowing full well that our strikers can’t be compared favourably with either those of Barca or Real and there is no sign of that situation improving in the January window. Carlo makes reference to the odd years being good to him in this competition, but to my mind it would be extremely odd if we reached the final with the strike force as it is at present and unless Didier shrugs off his malaria-based lethargy soon we wont even get close.

Then again, maybe we don’t need to freshen-up things by buying a quality player or two in January, maybe Bruma will be trusted to do the job he’s been promoted to do, maybe either Mancienne or Cork will be recalled to add some bite, maybe Kalou will find a killer instinct and maybe, just maybe, we’ll take a close look at the chasm that’s appeared between promotion to and starts made in the Premiership and decide whether this season we really want to make that final jump or not. Decision time will soon be upon us - we either put up [the cash required to compete on all fronts immediately] or shut up [the shop on this campaign] and get on in earnest with the real business of blooding the youngsters, regardless of the results to come and the risk to status. In truth, having reached this tipping point with commendable bravery, Carlo now appears undecided on the issue…are we getting cold feet too?

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Let’s forget the Sunderland game (we have all week to stew in its virulent juices if we really want to) and consider the bigger picture for one moment. Okay, trying to be objective after a defeat like that isn’t easy, nor is it something that will be done with any degree of rational thought in the immediate aftermath, or when surrounded by a number of valid reasons for what we hope and pray will be the ‘one off’ bad home result. Whether it be down to injuries to key players, a callow bench or, perish the thought, team selection accompanied by tactical deficiencies, we are in effect looking out at the remaining two thirds of the season, not in eager anticipation, but with worry and apprehension. As current champions and leaders by two points, it should not feel like this, yet it does and the sooner the alarm bells are heard at the highest level the better it will be for all concerned.

For me, a slight ringing in the ears began with the tactically naïve and déjà vu performance against Citeh, closely followed by some real campanology at Anfield, but if we’re being brutally honest you have to go way back to the close season to trace the source of our major problem, yes even before it had time to emerge. In short, we laid waste to valuable Premiership experience in midfield in [what we thought was] the safe knowledge that Frank Lampard and Michael Essien would see us through our new campaign. This has turned out to be wrong on two counts. Firstly due to a misconception that the Bison would have a full season free of injury (hopefully this judgement, in the main, still proves to be correct) and also free of the media and refereeing spotlight forever destined to fall on his tackling. Secondly, and perhaps more pertinently, there was the blithe acceptance that age would not catch up with Frank, whether it be in respect of injury recovery time or influence on his box-to-box game.

The glaring omission made in respect of both, whether it be the ultimate responsibility of Carlo or his medical staff, was their failure after one full season of assessing the situation, to recognise the difference between Serie A and Premiership football - a cultural shock to the system that will always prevent players like JT achieving the longevity of a foreign player like Paolo Maldini, highlighted all the more in this league by officialdom’s perverse logic of persecuting certain foreign players for their tackling whilst allowing a freer rein to the likes of Paul Scholes and [despite his occasional red card] Lee Cattermole. Naturally enough, the expectation was that Mikel would mature into the sort of player who could overcome these obstacles and the irony is that he has done exactly this, becoming our best midfielder, but whilst needing to do so merely to keep us afloat so far this season. The abiding image of Sunday’s game has to be that of Cattermole, late on and card-free, trying to goad Mikel into a straight red card retaliation tackle. Thankfully, he did not succeed and Mikel emerged as our only positive over the ninety minutes, the excellent Petr apart.

This digression aside, the point to be made is surely a valid one, in that our long term midfield planning has been exposed as flawed, an open Premiership door if the opposition pushes hard enough, and despite all the obvious attributes of Ramires, Yuri Zhirkov, Josh McEachran and Jacopo Sala none of them are built to stem an aggressive tide without the services of an Essien or a Connor Clifford injected with instant maturity. Of course, the distinction has to be made between the Premiership and the Champions League, where these type of players tend to flourish and the only refereeing downside is one of selective blindness as opposed to gratuitous leniency. Yet even in this neck of the words there is room for hierarchical complaint as we approach the knockout stage knowing full well that our strikers can’t be compared favourably with either those of Barca or Real and there is no sign of that situation improving in the January window. Carlo makes reference to the odd years being good to him in this competition, but to my mind it would be extremely odd if we reached the final with the strike force as it is at present and unless Didier shrugs off his malaria-based lethargy soon we wont even get close.

Then again, maybe we don’t need to freshen-up things by buying a quality player or two in January, maybe Bruma will be trusted to do the job he’s been promoted to do, maybe either Mancienne or Cork will be recalled to add some bite, maybe Kalou will find a killer instinct and maybe, just maybe, we’ll take a close look at the chasm that’s appeared between promotion to and starts made in the Premiership and decide whether this season we really want to make that final jump or not. Decision time will soon be upon us - we either put up [the cash required to compete on all fronts immediately] or shut up [the shop on this campaign] and get on in earnest with the real business of blooding the youngsters, regardless of the results to come and the risk to status. In truth, having reached this tipping point with commendable bravery, Carlo now appears undecided on the issue…are we getting cold feet too?

Good write up as always Dorset. I saw some of the more negative posts on the Chelsea website chat suggesting that perhaps Carlo wasn't such a big proponent of pushing the youth through. They feared another Jose situation where he might get pushed out over this (politics behind the scene largely revolving around the Arneson factor). Some of these theories no doubt built around the sudden departure of Wilkins. I don't really buy into that but I can see some similarities in place between the way we approached yesterday's game and Jose's decision to play Essien/Paulo at DB when we went to Anfield in his penultimate season. I think and hope that the decision to play Paulo over Bruma was largely based around the sudden loss of JT. But we will know for sure if JT is still out in the next game and Paulo keeps his place. Interesting days ahead no doubt.

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We're still top, and qualified from the Champion's League Group Stage, so shutting up shop on a campaign in November I disagree with. We're not far away from where we were at this stage last season, and for a team in a stage of transition so to speak that's great going. I think wait till the end of January, once we've got Christmas out the way, before we start judging on whether this campaign is a success or not.

I do agree that injuries have forced our hand to an extent in midfield, but I don't blame Carlo for any of this. He said at the start of the season that he was going to blood the youngsters, and that is not going to give us immediate success by any stretch of the imagination. A lot of people on here where encouraging this but it seems were quite naive. Personally I'm delighted that we're looking to the future, and some youngsters are getting a fair amount of first team action, which hasn't really happened since the end of the 90's with Dalla Bonna and Jody Morris. A team can still blood youngsters and be competitive, look at United with Rafael, Evans and to a lesser extent Gibson.

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