Posts Tagged ‘chelsea’

Football

Jose Mourinho could be Chelsea manager this month if Man United win tonight

By Stefano on March 5th, 2013

Some fantastic mischief making from The Daily Star which has today run the story that Chelsea’s favourite son, Jose Mourinho, will be back running the Blues this month if Man United knock Real Madrid out of the Champions League tonight.

It is no secret that the ex-Blues man is unhappy at the Bernabeu and is angling for a return to the Premiership. None of the other big jobs in the league are likely to be available which makes a reunion with Roman and the squad most likely.

Well that’s the theory. Could it happen?

Mourinho has got unfinished business in Spain. Real might be 13 points behind Barca in the league but they do have a Spanish Cup run to continue. And can you imagine Jose ending a season without any silver ware?

Also it doesn’t feel like it is Jose’s style to leave a club mid-season.

Chelsea, well the fans at least and quite possibly the owner and the players, are however a club that would welcome his return. If they drop any more Premiership points then Arsenal would be breathing down their necks for that last Champions League place. If that happens and Roman pulls the trigger on Benitez then Chelsea will need a manager quickly and ‘The Special One’ would be an obvious choice. Maybe Roman would make Jose a deal he couldn’t refuse.

As The Daily Star reports Mourinho has bought a home in London and his daughter, Tita, 16, is attending Camberwell Arts College, as he appears to prepare to work again in the capital.

This is one of those moves that seems unlikely – but who knows circumstances might end up dictating that it happens.



Football

Why Chelsea need to bring back ‘The Special One’

By Stefano on March 1st, 2013

Mourinho_CSKA_Moscow_05042010_2

Simon Poulter of What Would David Bowie Do has a cunning plan for Roman

As every fan knows, the range of tunes on which football chants are based is limited.

You have Go West, the paradoxically camp 70s disco anthem by the Village People which becomes repurposed as “Crap, and you know you are!”. There is the traditional hymn, Bread of Heaven (“Are you Tottenham in disguise?!”); a cheesy Italian Eurovision Song Contest entry from 1958 – Volare (“Vialli – wo-oh, Vialli – wo-oh-oh-ohh”); and a Cuban folk song about a saucy señorita from Guantanamo Bay – Guantanamera (“Sacked in the morning, you’re getting sacked in the morning”).

Frankly, I wish football fans would broaden their base of references. We Chelsea fans, for example, should pay attention to Steely Dan. The arch-70s pedlars of smart arse jazz-rock-soul have within their impressive oeuvre the perfect song on which to base a chant – The Boston Rag, with its chorus “Bring back the Boston rag/Tell all your buddies that it ain’t no drag” can easily be restyled as “Bring back the Special One”.

Because, let’s not kid ourselves, it is José Mário dos Santos Mourinho Félix we want to see back at Chelsea, not some lesser European careerist, or another former Stamford Bridge playing hero who will break our hearts when the inevitable phone call of dismissal comes from Roman’s office.

Life is more fun with Jose

Life was more fun with Jose around. True, the football may not necessarily have been, but no one went wanting for things to talk about. This week we’ve had a timely reminder of just what made Mourinho so special to begin with: it wasn’t his own inflated self-opinion, but his ability to disrupt – in the positive sense.

He’s had a difficult season at Real Madrid, but then life at the top clubs in Spain and Italy is rarely easy for anyone. But Real’s 3-1 Copa del Rey victory over Barcelona the other night was one to savour, not lest of which for the way it has set up the next El Clásico this Saturday night.

The irony is that it should come in the same week as Rafa Benitez – Mourniho’s sparring partner when they were rival managers in England – should emotionally implode once again as journalist bating and fan abuse got to him. But, here, the song should be “Rafa Benitez – we’ve been here before”.

Not for the first time, Benitez allowed emotion to get the better of him when he was interviewed on BBC Radio 5 Live last night. “At the end of the season, I will leave,” he heaved, adding sarcastically “[The fans] don’t need to be worrying about me”. To be honest, we weren’t. What Chelsea fans are worrying about is who comes in next – and when.

Countering fan hostility is one thing, but then openly criticising Roman Abramovich for naming him “interim first team manager” was downright stupid, and typical of the half-baked bombast Benitez is, sadly, capable of.

So, rather than facing the prospect of looking for a new coach at the end of the season, it is quite likely that Chelsea may be looking to appoint an interim-interim first team coach more immediately. Of note. come Monday it will be exactly a year to the day since Andre Villas Boas was relieved of his duties and Roberto Di Matteo appointed on an interim basis as well. Still following this?

The timing is certainly unfortunate, yet again: with the Blues facing Manchester United next in their defence of the FA Cup, and through to the final eight of the Europa League, not to mention still chasing the cherished top-four league position, the team focus shouldn’t be getting distracted by speculation about the next Chelsea manager.

Mourinho – who has expressed a desire to return to English football and is expected to leave Madrid in the summer – is currently odds-on favourite to return to Chelsea, although there is fairly decent betting currently on former Chelsea players like Gus Poyet (currently second favourite) and Gianfranco Zola, David Moyes, Cesare Prendelli, Michael Loudrup, even Avram Grant and Carlo Ancellotti (who could also be replaced at Paris-Saint Germain by Mourinho) getting the job.

Russian Roulette

The question is, who would be mad enough to take on the game of Russian Roulette that is managing Chelsea? Mourinho could do it with his eyes shut and we fans would love to see the capricious old sod back at the club. But would he want to go through all that personality nonsense with Abramovich again?

There is also the view that, as in life itself, in football you don’t go back a second time – “I don’t do sloppy seconds”, as Gareth Keenan so gracefully put it in The Office. He had a point. Second time around rarely works – there’s always a reason why it failed in the first place. So, if Chelsea do bring back the Special One, is it destined to end in tears?

Deep within our hearts, we know it would be right. Jose did become a monster of his own creation. He not only challenged Roman Abramovich’s authority but also his place in the pecking order. But, man alive, wouldn’t it be fun to have him back? Wasn’t football an insanely entertaining circus when Mourinho was patrolling the touchline, sliding to his knees when Chelsea scored, or scowling in the stands under UEFA sanction again?

Article originally published here.



Football

If Chelsea lose to West Brom history tells us that Rafa will get the boot

By Stefano on March 1st, 2013

Andre Villas-Boas was sacked following a defeat to West Brom, Roberto Di Matteo was sacked following a defeat to West Brom… so Rafael Benitez would do well to avoid an embarrassing result at home to the Baggies this weekend.

Di Matteo based his Chelsea side around the creative trio of Oscar, Eden Hazard and Juan Mata earlier this season, but Benitez has favoured a more cautious starting XI. Ramires was used on the right of midfield against Manchester City last weekend, in order to bring balance to the side; but City actually attacked predominantly down that flank, with Ramires also failing to provide any attacking inspiration.

A home match against West Brom seems the perfect opportunity to use Oscar, Hazard and Mata together behind Demba Ba (Fernando Torres has managed just one goal in his last 15 appearances). After all, since Benitez confirmed he won’t be manager of Chelsea next season, his strategy will probably change. He appeared to be favouring initial caution before gradually becoming more attacking, but with only eleven games of his Chelsea career remaining, there’s no point building for the long term.

Chelsea need points, and with Ba yet to become prolific in a Chelsea shirt, they need goals from the attacking three behind him. Chelsea will certainly dominate possession, and fielding the talented trio of playmakers maximises the Blues’ chances of scoring.

Victor Moses will probably feature at some point, but selecting Abramovich’s three ‘marquee players’ seems natural if Benitez wants to keep his job until the end of the season… which isn’t necessarily the case.

This post courtesy of Pick Our Team is by Michael Cox. PickOurTeam is a new type of football community giving fans an opportunity to have a meaningful say on the formation and selection of their team. PickOurTeam is the voice of the fans – collecting views on who should play where and ratings on how the players, manager, and referee perform each week. Every match the findings are compiled and presented back to the fans. The article was originally posted here.

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Football

Benitez has a go at Chelsea fans, says Abramovich made a mistake and confirms he is off at the end of the season

By Stefano on February 27th, 2013

In an extraordinary post match interview after watching his team put Middlesbrough out of the FA Cup,Chelsea manager Rafa Benitez has

* Said that the clubs made a mistake by calling him an ‘interim manager’

* Attacked Chelsea fans who sing songs like ‘Rafa Out; saying that they need to back the team and if they don’t they will be watching Europa League football next season

* Confirmed that he would be leaving at the end of the season leaving the manager’s job open to a new boss.

To be honest listening to the interview he gave to BBC Radio Five Live it sounded more like a resignation speech than anything else. This was man who was clearly fed up by the cards he had been given by both the club and the fans.

The interview comes on the back of ongoing rumours about splits in the Chelsea dressing room.

So will Benitez be manager of Chelsea football club tomorrow. I am beginning to think he might not.



Football

Arsenal update: Goalkeeper gossip, Wilshere on Chelsea and why Wenger might drop Giroud

By Stefano on February 18th, 2013

There’s lot of Arsenal news this morning with the papers dominated by recriminations over the defeat to Blackburn and previews of the game on Tuesday against Bayern Munich.

Jack Wilshere has been talking eloquently about both subjects.

On the Blackburn game Wilshere said

“It’s obviously disappointing to go out of the FA Cup. We know what this trophy means in England and we wanted to go all the way.

“We created a lot of chances we’re just disappointed we couldn’t put it in the net. “They probably created one chance and they got a lucky goal but that’s the FA Cup. Giantkillings going on all the time in this cup and it happened today.”

On the game against Bayern, Wilshere said that he hoped the Arsenal team would find inspiration from an unlikely source – their West London rivals Chelsea

“They weren’t having a good season and ok they got a bit lucky in some games but they showed great character and we need to do that now. We need to come together as a team. We’ve got good leaders here we’ve got a good team atmosphere and I think that’s going to help us now.

Meanwhile Bayern Munich’s Bastian Schweinsteiger has tackled the Chelsea issue straight on saying that the German side are much stronger this season. He told The Daily Mail.

“We are hungry to win the Champions League. This team have been to the final twice and didn’t win. We have more experience and we’re moving towards our aim. Compared to the final against Chelsea, we are stronger. We have more good players and we are stronger on the bench. This is a crucial point.

“In the final, Chelsea brought on Fernando Torres and Florent Malouda and that helped them win the game. That’s a big difference to last season. We have more options to change.”

The Guardian has a round up of all the latest Arsenal related transfer news. Not that any of it is what you would call proper news. The big issues seems to be around the future of Wojciech Szczesny. Is Arsene in for a new keeper? Well according to The Guar the main names in the frame are Barcelona’s Victor Valdes and Liverpool’s Pepe Reina. Both of which seem pretty unlikely.

Finally Goal has an interesting take on who might play for The Gunners against Bayern. It is pure speculation of course but the website thinks that Wenger might drop Olivier Giorud, who had a turkey on Saturday, and play Theo Walcott down the middle.

Its rationale is this

Arsene Wenger believes his strongest offensive weapon in the last-16 first-leg encounter is a pacy, mobile front three that can hit the runaway Bundesliga leaders on the counter-attack. The Arsenal manager is believed to be leaning towards starting with a front trio of Theo Walcott, Lukas Podolski and Santi Cazorla, although he could revise his plans following training on Monday.

Goal also thinks that Aaron Ramsey will get a start too which would explain why he didn’t play on Saturday.

I think there might be legs to this one. Bayern are probably more susceptible to pacy players who catch them on the break rather then old school strikers like Giroud who could be easily marked by their superb defensive paring.

We will find out soon enough.



features, Football

Why Chelsea have the best celebrity fans – but Arsenal get the Hollywood A List

By Stefano on February 16th, 2013

noel-640-80

Simon Poulter of the always excellent What Would David Bowie Do? on football’s oddest celebrity fans – not that Noel is odd…

Good Evening…er….Molineux

Shortly before referee Massimo Busacca got the final Group B match of the 2006 World Cup underway – pitching Sweden against Sven Goran Eriksson’s England – I suddenly became aware of having my photograph taken. Quite a lot.

A large number of people in front of my friend ands I at Cologne’s RheinEnergieStadion were snapping away as if we were royalty. Rock royalty.

Three minutes into the game, Peter Crouch came on to replace the already-crocked Michael Owen. From behind me came an explosion of Mancunian fury: “What the fook is ‘e doing?!”. It was Noel Gallagher. For the next 30 minutes, up until Joe Cole settled everyone’s nerves with a quite spectacular goal, almost every England touch was described invariably by the guitar god to my stern as “shite”.

As every football fan knows, The Bloke Behind You is always the best source of entertainment. And thus Noel proved to be. You sort of wished he could be behind you at every match. Except that would mean taking out a season ticket at Manchester City.

Raquel Welch and Chelsea?

Chelsea regulars like me rarely go long without a celebrity sighting: I recently had a ‘moment’ when Mick Jones (the punk icon, not the lead singer of Foreigner) pitched up two rows behind me in the Upper East Stand of Stamford Bridge. During Chelsea’s ‘Swinging London’ era, it was commonplace for the ultra-fashionable to fit in an afternoon watching Chopper Harris kick lumps out of Billy Bremner’s shincaps (reciprocated in kind, of course).

It was rumoured that Sophia Loren was a fan, that Raquel Welch had shown up during shooting of One Million Years B.C. (hopefully not in the chamois bikini she wore for that film), and that even Steve McQueen had once paid a visit.

Today you will most certainly see the likes of Suggs (supplier of Chelsea’s 1997 official FA Cup song, Blue Day), Tim Lovejoy, Johnny Vaughan, David Baddiel, Fiona Phillips, Alec Stewart, Sean Locke, Phil Daniels and, occasionally, Damon Albarn shuffling out of (and into) the Bridge with the rest of us mere mortals. Lord Dickie Attenborough remains the club’s Life President, and he has certainly not been alone in the luvvies patronising the club.

Canadian rocker-come-photographer Bryan Adams, who lives on the Chelsea Embankment, is also an occasional patron of Chelsea. The diminutive Canadian once stood in front of me at an FA Cup Final involving Chelsea, trying to disguise himself with a fishing hat and a trenchcoat, while oblivious to the fact the six-foot blonde he was with was drawing attention his way in any case. Still, hats off.

From Madonna (Guy Ritchie allegedly introduced her) to presidents (Clinton, while an Oxford Student) and prime ministers (John Major), Chelsea has attracted plenty of celeb interest over the years. But the club is far from alone.

The FA Cup usually flushes them out. Sometimes, without any effort. The BBC’s traditional pre-Cup Final coverage always includes awkward interviews with scarfed-up TV personalities desperate to appear down with the beautiful game.

Chirpy Scouse comedians

If Liverpool are involved, you can bet the house on Jimmy Tarbuck tearing himself away from the golf course to ‘ho-hoh’ his way through a few gags about Bill Shankly and John Lennon.

Speaking of the latter, conspiracy theorists have noted that, for a city like Liverpool, with two major football clubs separated only by Anfield Park, The Beatles were clever enough to avoid swearing any allegiance to either the Red or the Blue team. George Harrison was once quoted as saying dryly: “There are three teams in Liverpool and I prefer the other one.”

Pop and football have, at times been strange bedfellows. While Paul Heaton’s patronage of Hull City should never been in doubt, Michael Jackson’s support for and even vice-presidency of Exeter City is one of the more bizarre tales of music and the beautiful game coming together. Jackson was once paraded at half time at Fulham by his friend and club proprietor Mohammed Al-Fayed. Curiously it prompted a verse of “I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles”. Can’t possible imagine what they meant.

Perhaps the most famous – if unlikely – rockin’ football fan has been Elton John. At various times, Sir Elt has been chairman and proprietor of The Hornets, though today he is a happily settled Life President alongside Graham Taylor, his team manager during his periods of proprietorship.

Another unlikely club boardroom visitor is Robert Plant. Percy is a lifelong Wolves fan, and, since 2009, a very involved club vice-president. Odd to think that he has no interest in reuniting Led Zeppelin permanently, but he’s happy to administer the half-time tombola at Molineux.

Strangely, though, for what is to be considered the national sport, football has not been as prominent in the lists of pop star likes and dislikes as one might expect. There is, of course, Rod Stewart and his tearful support for Celtic (mostly manifested from a distance, seeing as Rod lives in Los Angeles for most of the time), while there is the dubious example of Chiswick-born Phil Collins supporting QPR in the 70s (though Brentford would have been closer) before pitching up at White Hart Lane some years later as, apparently, a Spurs fan.

London clubs, in generally, have rarely struggled to attract the great and the good to their terraces.

Chas’n'Dave and co

Spurs have been spectacularly blessed with famous supporters, ranging from the hardcore like Bruce Forsyth and cockernee-kneesup merchants Chas’n'Dave, to actor Warren Mitchell (whose TV character Alf Garnett was, famously, an ‘Ammer), the Colombian literary giant Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Patsy Kensit, er…Ray Liotta and Norway’s King Harald V.

White Hart Lane could also easily open a musician’s enclosure, where you could expect to see Jeff Beck (even though he comes from Chelsea country, Carshalton), Adele (well, she’s everywhere else), the former S-Club 7 person Rachel Stevens, Andrew Ridgeley, The Jam’s Bruce Foxton (Paul Weller, for the record, is a Chelsea boy), All Saints’ Shaznay Lewis, Emma Bunton and Paul Young, clearly defying the attention of his hometown club, Luton. Somewhat disturbingly, Status Quo’s Francis Rossi is a Spurs fan, despite coming from Crystal Palace territory.

Hollywood A Listers at The Emirates

Across north-east London to the Emirates Stadium, Arsenal boasts a very different celebrity clientele altogether. You could start with the unexpected – Dale Winton (although with his skin hue, he’d be a better fit with ‘The Tanners of Leatherhead FC) – before noting Arsenal’s affinity with the North London literary set (obvious example being Nick Hornby, on whose football obsession formed the basis of an entire writing career) as well as decidedly un-blokey media types like Sir David Frost and Piers Morgan (the target of much Twitter sledging by Lord Alan Sugar).

The problem with Internet-based research is that you never know what is merely plausible and what is utter nonsense. With Arsenal, there’s a thin line between the two. Because, if you were to believe it, the club has a solid following of Hollywood A-listers: Demi Moore, Matt Damon, Spike Lee, Sarah Michelle Geller, Kevin Costner, Keanu Reeves, Jackie Chan, Owen Wilson.

London, it would seem, holds a disproportionate dominance of clubs with celebrity support, or at least clubs with prominent celebrity support. For every singular Sean Bean supporting Sheffield United, or Stephen Fry following Norwich, Arsenal could – like Spurs – fill an entire section with thespian talent: Colin Firth, Gillian Anderson (well, she did grow up in North London), Saffron Burrows, Hugh Laurie (oh, don’t you pray for the day “Is there a doctor in the house” bellows from the Emirates tannoy system?), pasty-faced vampire Robert Pattinson, national treasure and Bubbly Blonde™, Barbara Windsor, Idris Elba (who grew up in West Ham country with a Manchester United-supporting father). Music is no stranger to the Gunners, either, with Roger Daltrey (despite hailing from QPR territory), Roger Waters, Mick Jagger, Kemp brothers Gary and Martin, and John Lydon old holding a candle for the Gunners. Preposterously, Jay-Z and Sean ‘P-Diddy/Puffy/Puff Daddy/Whatevernext’ Combs are all said to be a fan of Arsene Wenger’s red-and-white army, though what evidence exists to support this claim remains to be seen.

I started this section on famous Arsenal fans by mentioning the bizarre notion that Dale Winton is amongst their number. Let me close with the equally strange by suggesting that there is some evidence, somewhere, that Arsenal have drawn the support of both the Queen (yes, she of the Olympic parachute stunt) and her Action Man grandson, Harry. Making no leap whatsoever between the Prince and this next example, it is also understood that Osama Bin Laden was a Gooner. And, no, I didn’t mean “goner”.

Around London, there are obscure pockets of celebrity club endorsement: Leyton Orient, so often the forgotten son of London football, claims the comedian and Fighting Talk regular Bob Mills as it’s most prominent fan; Crystal Palace has David ‘Kid’ Jensen, while Fulham has ‘Diddy’ David Hamilton, who also works as the club’s half-time announcer.

Beyond London, beyond even the Midlands (Frank Skinner, Adrian Chiles at West Bromwich Albion, Jasper Carrott at Birmingham), we return to the north-west.

Madchester

Manchester’s two main teams have enjoyed no end of attention from celebrities, ranging from the genuinely passionate (Gallaghers Liam and the aforementioned Noel – who now must have separate boxes at Manchester City) to the suspiciously arriviste (Justin Timberlake, once photographed in a Man U beenie hat).

Compared with Arsenal, Manchester United doesn’t fare as well as you’d expect for celebrity fans, or at least fans who are out in the open. Prominent supporters include Ian McShane, whose father played for the club, Angus Deayton, the Guildford-born smart-arse, Sweden’s Ulrika-ka-ka-ka-ka-ka Johnsson, chirpy Oxford musical contrarian Thom Yorke, and Eammon Holmes. Man U’s celebrity ranks were recently augmented by Usain Bolt, who regularly tweets manically about the Reds, and was – possibly jokingly – offered a trial by Sir Alex Ferguson, presumably eyeing fastest man on the planet as a long-term replacement for Ryan Giggs.

So, with the FA Cup stirring back to life this weekend, with clubs like Luton (former TVam presenter Nick Owen and, famously, Eric Morecambe), Millwall (principally, Danny Baker) and Barnsley (Darren Gough, Sir Michael Parkinson) entering fifth round ties, be on the lookout for ITV cameras hunting high and low for bescarfed, rosette-adorned celebs, and be waiting, equally, for unfunny comments from Messsrs Chiles, Dixon and Southgate in the studio as a consequence.

To discover which teams British Rock Royalty,  from The Beatles to Coldplay, support go here



Football

Chelsea’s Frank Lampard – should he stay or should he go?

By Stefano on February 10th, 2013

Simon Poulter of What Would David Bowie Do? ponders Frank’s future

Plenty in life baffles me. Like, why it is that, at the slightest outbreak of anti-American snippiness, freshly-minted US flags are set alight in market squares througout the West-hating world. What efficient supply chain ensures this? Is it un-advertised inventory of the Mailboxes Etc. chain? Does every branch keep folded, fresh and flammable Stars & Stripes flags under the counter, next to the porn, just in case someone comes for a protest?

Then there’s Frank Lampard. What is it about one of the most successful, prolific and naturally gifted midfielders England has ever produced that draws scorn from opposing fans and blinds his own club management to the value he can still bring to the game, even four months shy of his 35th birthday?

Is it is Lampard, himself? Perhaps each morning, on his 40-minute drive down the A3 from Kensington to Chelsea’s Cobham training ground, he is playing The Clash’s Should I Stay Or Should I Go? over and over again on his Ferrari’s 1000-watt JBL sound system.

The vexed truth of the matter is, no one seems to know. In any given week for the last several months, at least one newspaper has claimed, exclusively, that Lampard may sign an extension to his Chelsea contract, while in the same week, at least one newspaper has claimed, exclusively, that there will be no extension and Lampard will be free to take his current superb form elsewhere at the end of the season.

In January, Steve Kutner, Lampard’s agent, made it clear that Chelsea had told him his contract would not be extended under any circumstances. Last week, Kutner was saying that there had been no change in the situation. And still, the claims of an Abramovich U-turn go on.

Depending on who you read or who you believe, it’s either Lampard’s fault for wanting, allegedly, a two-year extension, or Chelsea’s fault for wanting to prune it’s expensive roster of over-30s. Take another view, and he’s been offered a one-year extension, like Ashley Cole (who accepted), but has rejected it wanting the 24 months.

Either way – and who am I? – there should be some grown-upness injected into these proceedings. Lampard’s strike against Brazil on Wednesday was no fluke, but an example of the sublime quality Lampard has been demonstrating for Chelsea in recent weeks, a goal-scoring form that has only been undermined, seriously, by the general malaise surrounding the club under Rafa Benitez.

A couple of months ago, Daniel Finkelstein, The Times’ political leader writer and hobbyist football statman, calculated that Lampard was, de facto, the Premier League Player of the Decade. His methodology, which involved correlating various parameters of in-game performance, calculated a league table of individual players, based on their contributions to the games they figured in. Cutting a long – and, admittedly, mind-boggling story short – Finkelstein’s conclusion was that, ahead of players of positional consistency (led by the base of Chelsea’s spine, Petr Čech), or points generated for each minute they were on the field of play (Cristiano Ronaldo), general excellence (Steven Gerrard) or game-changing impact (yes, Darren Bent), there could be only one ‘Fink Tank’ Premier League Player of the Decade: Frank Lampard.

There is only one Frank Lampard. There is only one player who is just five strikes away from equalling Chelsea’s club record of 202 goals, currently held by Bobby Tambling. And this is a midfielder we’re talking about, not some prolific, hits-’em-in-for-fun show-pony striker.

Equally baffling, and frustratingly so, is the treatment Lampard receives from England fans. It’s to be expected that West Ham fans, in their own little world of bile and steam, still consider it necessary to boo and hiss Lamps 12 years after he moved to Chelsea. But whatever cretinously petty issue exists behind this pantomime animosity, (and it is, sadly, as cretinously petty as the fact that he dared quit the club as it was taking one of its regular exits through the Premier League trap door), Lampard has gone on to be the most consistently effective midfield player in world football for more than a decade.

Yes, some of his England performances – with or without the Gerrard combination conundrum – have been disappointing, but his 94 caps have been totally justified. His goal against Brazil on Wednesday was his 27th in national colours, itself an achievement of prolific endeavour. And he has more to offer: “I understand where I am in my career,” he said after the Brazil game, “but if I can continue playing for Chelsea then I am getting nearer to 100 [England caps]. It’s certainly a target for me and, yes, I will try to keep playing at a good enough level to get there.”

Which raises questions about where he plays next. David Beckham has demonstrated that a move to LA Galaxy, and a move to the US MLS, is the equivalent of dropping a couple of divisions in terms of quality, although it would probably be the equivalent of going up two in terms of wages.

The difference between Beckham and Lampard, however, is that Beckham has been able to build the ‘brand’ to maintain his profile. How else would a 37-year-old whose best years are long behind him manage to sign for Paris Saint-Germain in a blaze of publicity that managed to eclipse PSG’s signing of Zlatan Ibrahimović not so long ago?

Frank Lampard has built a profile to fit Frank Lampard. He’s an eloquent, intelligent footballer. Never the nightclub jockey, and now with a celebrity girlfriend who appears to have successfully mastered the art of being a glamourous WAG and girl-next-door TV sweetheart at the same time.

Privately educated, thanks to father Frank Sr.’s desire for Frank Jr. to have a good foundation, this has been matched by Lampard’s dedication to the game. While still a West Ham apprentice, Lampard was known to take extra training sessions, largely because of the discipline drummed into him by his father, and largely because he felt that with Frank Sr.’s brother-in-law Harry Redknapp in charge of the club, he had more to prove that he wasn’t there through nepotism.

Even today, Lampard Jr. continues to put the hours in on the training pitch. It’s an effort that kept him off the treatment table for successive seasons, a record that has only really started to unravel in recent years as age has inevitably started to catch up. And it is why I’ve never understood the ‘Fat Frank’ barbs: for a football crowd whose diet consists mostly of pies to call Lampard “Fat” is like Kim Kardashian raising questions about Paris Hilton’s career aspirations.

Lampard insisted that he retains the fitness and drive to play at the highest level for another two or three years, suggesting he is not yet ready to accept a lucrative quiet life in America or the Far East. Publically, he has repeatedly stated his desire to end his career at Stamford Bridge. Privately, he may have accepted that if he can’t have the deal he wants at Chelsea, he’ll get the deal he wants at another club. And there certainly won’t be a shortage of offers, be it LA Galaxy, PSG, China or – swallows something hard and jagged – even Manchester United.

“I’m not the kind of player to see out my time and sit with my bum on the bench too much,” Lampard has said recently. “I want to be involved. That’s my character. I will keep trying to do that, whatever the circumstances.”

Which comes back to the Chelsea question. I get the point that with rules on club finances coming in, you’ve got to tighten the belt accordingly. And a £160k a week for a player in his mid-30s is a lot of money. But then so is spending £50m on Fernando Torres, and how’s that working out?

If Ryan Giggs at 39 is young enough for Manchester United, a relative whippersnapper like Lampard should – and obviously does – have a lot to still give Chelsea. Current form and history combined, it really would be madness to let him go. But, then, when has sanity played any part in the revolving door of managers at Chelsea under Roman Abramovich, let alone players coming and going?

Article originally published here.



Football

Man City tracking Edinson Cavani – but likely to face stiff competition

By Stefano on February 6th, 2013

Man City will be looking for a striker to replace Mario Balotelli in the summer transfer window and it seems that their number one target is Napoli’s extraordinary Edinson Cavani, a man who has scored 27 goals in 26 appearances this season.

Blues coach Angelo Gregucci recently told a Naples radio station – which was also reported by the Manchester Evening News - that Cavani was a target for the Blues but he acknowledged that they would face a tough battle to sign him.

Gregucci told the station:

“City will definitely have competition for Cavani, who is dominating the Italian league with his goals and sacrifices for the team and whose contract has a £55m buy-out clause.

“Edinson is scoring a huge number of goals this season, and it will be difficult for City to take him. The ten biggest clubs in Europe all have Cavani in their sights.”

The Blues secured at least £20 million for Balotelli, but will may need in the region of £50 million to land Cavani. Many top European sides including both Arsenal and Chelsea are said to be keeping an eye on the player.

In the past City have also been linked to Atletico Madrid’s free-scoring Radamel Falcao, a player who is also interesting Chelsea.



Football

Asmir Begovic – Are Arsenal, Chelsea and Man United planning a surprise move?

By Stefano on January 31st, 2013

Some really interesting gossip is coming out of The Potteries this morning. Firstly Stoke have apparently bid for Birmingham City keeper Jack Butland. Butland, who is also being tracked by Fulham among others, turned down a move to Chelsea yesterday because he wants to be a first choice keeper.

Stoke obviously know this – so why are they bidding for him when they have Asmir Begovic?

Could it be that the Bosnian is already on his way out of Stoke? Chelsea have been linked with the player while Man United may finally look to replace the error-prone David de Gea.

There’s also Arsenal who might even offer Begovic Champions League football as their first choice keeper ahead of Wojciech Szczesny. The Pole made a couple of serious errors yesterday against Liverpool. And even if Szczesny did remain number one Arsenal are very short of quality in reserve.

It might just be that cash-strapped Birmingham have to cash in on Butland and that he might prefer to join a Midlands club as understudy to Begovic.

Nevertheless this is definitely one to keep your eye on.



Football

Opinion: Wake up Roman! Chelsea are becoming a Pantomime club

By Stefano on January 18th, 2013

Simon Poulter edits What Would David Bowie Do and is more than a little unhappy with event at The Bridge

I can’t verify this, but it is possible that the under-communicative oligarch Roman Abramovich is currently still enjoying the good life on St. Barts. For it is there that the Chelsea Football Club owner has been – and may well still be – enjoying an extended New Year’s holiday with his pregnant girlfriend, Dasha Zhukova. And good luck to him. Everyone needs to take time out to spend with their nearest and dearest every once in a while.

Unfortunately, while Roman has been sunning himself on his Nimitz-class yacht, his football asset – managed by a hapless Rene-from-’Allo ‘Allo lookalike – has acquired the sort of toxicity that turned Erin Brokovich from struggling single mother living in the Californian desert into the subject of a blockbuster movie.

Your season – it is behind you

It is, though, still the pantomime season in Britain, which means that seasonal booing and hissing is a national ritual at this time of year. So, as matinee audiences of Cub Scouts and church outings boo soap stars and game show hosts playing Baron Hardup in provincial theatres, Chelsea fans are booing anything not nailed down at Stamford Bridge.

First, there is Rafa Benitez, the ruddy-cheeked, portly Spanish restaurateur who, despite being as popular as a fart in a spacesuit before he was appointed “interim first team manager”, has succeeded in galvanising his unpopularity via a variety of methods: 1) getting out of bed in the morning; 2) turning up for matches; 3) picking star striker Fernando Torres; 4) not picking club legend Frank Lampard; 5) winning some games handsomely while drawing or losing quite disastrously others.

Is it all Rafa’s fault? Oh no it isn’t

It’s not all Rafa’s fault, of course. The club’s reward for Lampard and Ashley Cole continuing to be, respectively, a prolific goal scoring central midfielder and the world’s still-finest left back, is to show them the door at the end of the season and not extend their contracts. Meanwhile Torres, who these days permanently carries the demeanour of a sulking 15-year-old girl, is not even responding to diagrams of cow’s backsides and instructions on how to hit one with a banjo. Demba Ba, the crock-kneed Senegalese brought in from Newcastle for a fraction of the Spaniard’s money is, however, scoring goals everytime he smell a goalkeeper’s boot polish.

Into this background is the club’s extraordinary approach to fan engagement – i.e. to not have one. This is a club that would rather do its business in private, with the owner “advised” by a coterie of people whom, it would appear, are no more qualified to advise about running a Premier League football club as I would be about running a hospital. Unless you regard Michael Emenalo, the former Nigerian defender and now Chelsea’s technical director as being of distinguished experience in the game.

Thus, the rare on-pitch appearance of club chairman, Bruce Buck, making a pre-match presentation to goalkeeper Petr Čech, results in the sort of sustained and vitriolic booing chancellor George Osborne earned when turning up at the Olympics last summer to give out medals. Booing the chairman may sound like impudence bordering on frustration, but the fact that the fans were bothering to boo a club executive they’d never actually bothered about at all previously says a lot about where fan sentiment at Stamford Bridge is at the moment.

There are those – including club executives – who will continue to dismiss the religious singing of Roberto Di Matteo’s name on 16 minutes each game as rambunctious fandom, even considering it morale-boosting collective sprit. It’s not. Most of us do genuinely regard the sacking of Di Matteo as counter-productive, and the appointment of Benitez as poisonous as opening a Spurs club shop opposite the Emirates Stadium.

The singing for Di Matteo, even the singing for Jose Mourinho, is not just a rallying call. Chelsea – and for that we must assume Abramovich – have miscalculated too often the depth of stakeholder sentiment. It is, of course, a valid argument that Abramovich’s decision to sack managers has often produced the results he’d hoped for – an improvement in form and silverware – but it would appear that with this latest act of petulance, there won’t be a happy ending.

Despite a few impressive results, like the pre-Christmas mauling of a pathetic Aston Villa, who barely seemed to have turned up, Benitez is still struggling to make impact. Torres is a waste of space, although Ba has become a bright spot, but the defensive frailties that Di Matteo was suffering with are still there, if Wednesday night’s embarrassing 2-0 lead turning into a 2-2 home draw to Southampton was anything to go by.

And so, as Chelsea go into a weekend when they face Arsenal at Stamford Bridge – a fixture rich in both turbulent entertainment and sour disappointment over the years – there is a creeping deflation amongst supporters of the West London club.

Most Chelsea fans have never had a problem with the club being unpopular with other fans. We don’t really care. We’ve been perfectly happy with our club long enough – whether courting 1960s celebrities, being seen as a bunch of Fancy Dans in the 1970s, being pretty rubbish in the 80s and almost bankrupt, or being regarded as a home for ageing internationals in the pre-Abramovich, latter Ken Bates era. We have worn the “shit club, no history” goading with good grace. But whereas “shit club, no class” used to wound – but perhaps they have a point.

The constant upheaval, the inability to retain managers, the lack of consistency in player policy (“Will we not buy this summer due to lack of funds and then buy some expensive trinket of a player in the January window as a panic acquisition?”), on youth development and even stadium development.

Every football fan will find fault with their club of choice. That’s why we love football. Football IS chaos! It is still our excuse – and I’ll admit, an almost exclusively male preserve – to have a moan about something. Even if our team is running away with a telephone number-nil win, we’ll find something to niggle.

However, the complaints against Chelsea are piling up and, yes, much has to be directed at Abramovich. Elephant in the room, and all that, but the man who has ploughed an insane amount of personal fortune into the club is also directly responsible for creating the toxicity around it.

It comes from a lack of communication. Yes, we get plenty of communication from whomever is in charge of the team from one week to the next, but do we have any idea about what is really going on at the club? No.

The back end of the horse

We assume Lampard and Cole are being treated shabbily because that is how the press is reporting it, how Lampard and Cole’s people are telling it, and our instincts are receiving it. But we could be wrong. Perhaps a little explanation of the strategy would go a long way. Perhaps Abramovich himself would break cover and speak. After all, it’s hard to really read a man when we only ever see that half grin of his as he stands at the back of his executive box in the Stamford Bridge West Stand, the grin occasionally evolving into high-fives with his sidekick Eugene Tennenbaum, before returning to its bemused state.

Like the wizened old crone that I am, I’d foreseen much of this disease spreading at Chelsea in November when the club’s annual Halloween nightmare rendered Roberto Di Matteo redundant and Benitez installed. I even suggested that Pep Guardiola, the manager coveted by Abramovich more than any other, might be wise to give Chelsea a miss when he chose to come back to football management.

And thus it proved to be so, as arguably the greatest football coach of his generation chose Bayern Munich over anyone else. In so doing, he chose a club with history, with class, with money, with German efficiency, in a league that is quietly becoming Europe’s most exciting. As opposed to a club with history, money and a boatload of dysfunction. Well, maybe an expensive super yacht-load of dysfunction.

Article originally published here.

Image in no way inspired by the era of Dennis Wise and Gianfranco Zola.



Football

Ashley Cole in Real Madrid talks with PSG waiting in the wings

By Stefano on January 11th, 2013

There’s a huge amount of speculation this morning about the next move of Chelsea’s England left back Ashley Cole. According to the Mail he has his heart set on a Spanish swansong.

The paper is reporting that the 32 year old who will not be offered a new contract at Chelsea could be on his way to Real Madrid with his agent already in Spain having talks with the Spanish club. Madrid’s rivals Barcelona are also tracking the player as are big-spending Paris St Germain, which are managed by Cole’s old Chelsea boss Carlo Ancelotti.

The Express says that there is still a lot of ground to cover before Real get their man.

The uncertain future of Real boss Jose Mourinho is a possible complication while PSG, managed by another former Chelsea boss, Carlo Ancelotti, are ready to match any offer.

Several other papers including The Guardian, suggest that Cole, along with his fellow England international Frank Lampard, could be making the journey north to Manchester United. Fergie is also a huge fan of the player and United already has a growing, but influential groups of 30 something players.

I wonder if PSG are actually the perfect club for the player. They would have no problem with his wage, his relationship with Ancelotti was apparently very good and Paris is just a short train ride away from his London base. Also Cole moved from Arsenal to Chelsea at a time when the balance was shifting in favour of the West London club. PSG are in the same situation that Chelsea were half a decade or so ago and with their existing staff, and the resources to add more quality players you wouldn’t bet against them having a very serious crack at The Champions League within the next couple of year.



Football

Breaking: French newspaper says Marouane Fellaini will be a Chelsea player by the weekend

By Stefano on January 10th, 2013

Some bad news for United, Arsenal and, let’s not forget, Everton fans. French newspaper L’Equipe is reporting that the Blue’s talismanic midfielder Marouane Fellaini could be a Chelsea player by the end of the week.

The report, which has also made the BBC sports news , is that that the 25-year old will sign a five-year deal with the club, for a fee of £22m. He will earn £4m a year.

It has been widely reported that the player has a £22 million transfer trigger fee and it seems that Chelsea are prepared to meet it.

Fellaini has made a total of 155 appearances for Everton, scoring 29 goals. His form this year has been scintillating.

Arsene Wenger is known to be an admirer but it seems unlikely that Arsenal would match the asking price. With the move seemingly imminent will Fergie make his move now?



Football

Pep Guardiola says he wants a job. But where will he be next season? Bayern? Chelsea?

By Stefano on January 7th, 2013

Ex-Barcelona boss Pep Guardiola has confirmed that his extended sabbatical in New York is going to come to an end soon and that he is looking for a new job.

The 41 year old told the press conference ahead of today’s Ballon d’Or ceremony that he will be managing again.

Guardiola said

“Yes, I would like to come back [to coaching]. I don’t have a team, I don’t know, but I would like to go back to coaching. My decision has been taken to coach, but beyond that there is no decision taken.”

However Guardialo wouldn’t be drawn as to where he might be in a few months time

“It would be a lack of respect to other coaches to speak about any team that is being run by a coach anywhere in the world.”

There will be no shortage of suitors for the well dressed, uber tactician. Chelsea have long been favourites to land the Catalan, and the fact that they only currently have a temporary manager in Rafa Benitez underlines that they may be looking for a new coach come the end the season.

The key question for Guardiola is whether he would be willing to work for a club that has such a high turn over of managers? If not the two Manchester clubs could be options – though this would require Ferguson to retire or Mancini to end the year with no silverware.

Paddy Power us running a book on his next destination and rates Chelsea of Bayern Munich as his most likely role, followed by Man City.

Where do you think he will end up? We ran a poll on the site a few months back – which you can see here.



Football

Would Frank Lampard leave Chelsea for another Premiership club? Everton? Man United? Arsenal?

By Stefano on January 7th, 2013

So it appears that Frank Lampard is on his way out of Chelsea. The departure of the 34 year old midfielder, who has been at the club for 11 years, has a whiff of ravens leaving the Tower of London about it. But his exit from the Blues was pretty much confirmed at the weekend with the player expected to depart in the summer.

But where will Frank be off to next? According to Goal today he isn’t short of offers. The website says that Everton have already had an offer rejected and that Manchester United, Arsenal and Tottenham are among the clubs who have asked to be kept informed of the 34-year-old’s situation. The Daily Mail is running the story too.

At first glance it seems unlikely that the ultra loyal Lampard would ever go and play for one of Chelsea’s rivals. However, he does want to continue playing and, according to Goal again has ruled out a stint in Italy or Spain.

The obvious destination for the player would then be the MLS following in the footsteps of David Beckham and Thierry Henry.

The key question though is does the player think his carer at a top level is finished? And is now the right time to head west? Given his time again would Beckham have moved to the MLS when he did when he arguably had at least a couple of years when he could have played in a premium European league? Lampard is older than Beckham was when he moved to the Galaxy, but the Chelsea player seems very fit, not too lacking in speed or agility and certainly still has a keen eye for as goal.

Maybe it is due to diet, or better injury management, but over footballers seem to be playing longer and older players are more in demand than they used to be. Van Persie went for £25 million while nudging 30, and Arsenal may be about to spend £16 million on a 31 year old. At United Scholes and Giggs, who are closer to 40, seem to be going on forever.

Lampard might be too ‘True Blue’ to consider signing for one of Chelsea’s direct rivals, but then again he knows he will have one last big pay day and maybe money might trump sentimental loyalty. And would the move to United be so bad? Fergie apparently would sign the player tomorrow and the way in which the United boss has extended the careers of several of his players might swing it.

The other alternative would be a return to his first club West Ham. With Cole now at the club and move to the Olympic Stadium in the offing I wonder if Frank might see the East London club as a project that he could help develop.

Pic Mark Freeman (Wikipedia)



Football

Is Daniel Sturridge the answer to Liverpool’s striking problems?

By Stefano on January 4th, 2013

Our new Liverpool FC correspondent David Owens thinks Sturridge has a role to play, but there is still a lot more work to be done.

There was a time “back in the day” when 15 players was all you needed in a season to win a First Division Championship – kids, ask your dads or check the internet, and you will find that in season 1978/79 the then European Champions Liverpool FC only used 15 players all campaign to win the Championship, and 2 of those players only played 2 and 4 games. This was indeed also a record breaking season of 68 points won (when it was 2 points per win – this would now equate to 98 points), and 16 goals only conceded in 42 games no less. Ah the good old days…

The world has indeed changed in the 34 years since then, mainly that the Championship is now the Premiership. Significantly though, the intricacies of the modern game in terms of club ownership, management structures, agents, player contracts, transfer deadlines all make the game a lot more difficult to run than it should be – a necessary evil sadly. It was this complication that meant that one of the most celebrated and mass supported football clubs in the world were left at the end of the 2012 summer transfer window with an embarrassingly inadequate number of proven quality forwards to cope with the demands of a Premiership season in the modern era.

The specific reasons for this, and where any fault lies is only known by those involved, and could be speculated on until the cows come home – in short a lack of true club leadership, sound advice and very poor planning all contributed – and to be honest, Liverpool FC find themselves lucky to be handily placed in 8th and still with an outside chance of gaining a 4th place Champions League qualifying spot, so coveted by Arsene Wenger each year. Liverpool are fortunate that this is a poor Premiership, that the emergence of Raheem Sterling has been premature, but mainly indebted to the outstanding form of the usual suspects Messrs Gerrard and Suarez.

However, Brendan Rodgers has got his act together, work was done in December and on 2nd January, Liverpool fans received a new year’s gift that was much expected in the form of Daniel Sturridge from Chelsea for the highly common transfer fee of £ undisclosed….. Problem solved?

Let’s look at this question in 3 ways – Player, Team, Squad….

Is Daniel Sturridge the right player? A difficult question to answer because at 23 you can hardly say he has been a regular anywhere – as a kid at Man City he showed many glimpses of his clear talent; at Chelsea initially he hardly seemed to get a kick, yet surprisingly scored 5 in 20 games while winning Premiership and FA Cup winners medals; he spent a successful 6 month loan at Bolton when in most Bolton fans eyes he kept them in the Premier League for one more year – and his goal record of 8 goals in 12 games is indeed impressive – as was his pace and power and clear ability shown in a struggling poor side. He finished last season with 13 goals in total, again impressive given he was third or 4th in line behind Anelka, Drogba and Torres and played many of his games in a wider role under AVB and Di Matteo. His performances for Team GB last summer again reminded fans of his abilities… so based on all that, at 23, Liverpool have spent their cash on an English striker with the best years ahead of him, with experience, with a knack of goals and hopefully a point to prove.

Will Sturridge fit into the current first XI? – Good question, Luis Suarez – the Premier League’s top scorer has been playing fantastic all season as a central striker, Sturridge is a central striker – despite his over-use out wide by Chelsea. Given Brendan Rodgers’s desire to develop a 4-3-3 type system at Anfield it would appear a conundrum – or does it? Teams rarely play the same XI week in week out, so there will be weeks they play together and some they don’t. The key to this question is Suarez. Love him or loathe him you cannot deny him – Suarez is a player, he never gives up, must be a nightmare to defend against, but in truth is a very frustrating central striker. Suarez loves to roam, he goes where the ball is, tries to cause mayhem and make something happen for the team – but there have been far too many times this season when Liverpool have needed a striker to finish off the results of Suarez creative efforts, so there is every chance a place for Sturridge in the first XI will improve the team’s output and results, with him as the central figure of the attack, and Suarez in tandem roaming, creating and scoring.

Where does the Sturridge signing leave Liverpool’s squad… in a word or 2 – still short. Look at Man U – 4 high quality strikers, Man City 3 or 4, Liverpool now have 2. Even with summer 12 purchase, the Italian Fabio Borini nearing fitness after injury, reality is it is still only 2, because even Brendan Rodgers admitted Borini was one for the future. Another “for the future”, Adam Morgan, is being loaned out to Rotherham for experience, and the once “for the future” Danny Pacheco now seems in that bracket of “surplus to requirements”, so the expectation and hope of Liverpool fans is for another signing or loan deal in the forward department – indeed I believe a majority of Liverpool fans would not be unhappy to see Andy Carroll back, although he may carry too much media focus to return just yet. Of course the assumption is that the rest of Liverpool’s squad is up to scratch, which in reality it is not. There is a lack of regular goals from midfield; more creativity is needed in the squad; better defensive cover and despite recent returns to form and promise shown, Messrs Henderson, Downing and Enrique need to show a higher standard more consistently, in more games with more assists and more goals to finally cement a place as first team options who you trust to deliver.

So is Daniel Sturridge the answer for Liverpool FC, not really…. But take yourself back to your school days and those exam questions you’d get which started “this is a 3 part question”… Brendan Rodgers has just answered part “a” pretty well, however answers to parts “b and c” will be tougher, are worth more marks, and so may take more time to solve, and in truth he may need the input of the owners to fully solve them in terms of cold hard cash…. And the ownership situation is one for another day.

However, another run of 8 goals in 12 games from Sturridge, coupled with a better consistent team performance could yet deliver Liverpool some form of European Football next season, and if it is the Champions League, then the Sturridge signing could well be the catalyst to something significant.

Pic from Wikipedia




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