ChelseaCFC: 6 Home Truths
Chelsea’s defeat to Liverpool should finally force the club to face some unpalatable home truths. Forget the Premiership title—that is going to Manchester. It is those precious third and fourth spots in the Premiership, which allow Champions League football next season, that are under threat.
Arsenal, Spurs and Liverpool will fight for those places and the way we are playing, we could be out of the running by Christmas.
In interview after interview, AVB appears to ignore what the fans are seeing, or at least gives the impression that he is.
Urgent action is required. The club must face up to some harsh realities.
The ‘Porto’ Style Is Not Working
AVB calls for attacking ambition and much more flair.
When goalkeeper Petr Cech has the ball, the centre halves peel to either side of the 18 yard box to receive it, while the full-backs bomb on into the opposition half to give width and pace to attack and to outnumber the opposition in midfield.
In one sense, it is good to see after a period of ponderous build up under Ancelotti, which allowed the opposition to muster its defenses and block us out.
But, the other side of the coin is all too evident. With full-backs out of position, Chelsea is exposed to swift counter attack. And when Cech and Mikel combine to produce a comedy of errors, all of Liverpool celebrated—the red half anyway.
Let me be honest here. I was relieved when Ranieri left, never thought Grant was up to the job, happy to see Scolari go so quickly and thrilled to see the back of Ancelotti. By that you will quickly see that I was a huge Jose fan and believe the biggest mistake our superb owner has made was to separate the club from our special one.
AVB must face his own truth: He has been naïve in his choices. This is not the Portuguese League. He has to make changes and fast, as the other manager, who I believe was great for us, is now looking over his shoulder—Guus Hiddink.
Say the Unthinkable: JT Should No Longer Be the First Name on the Team Sheet
How sacrilegious! John Terry, icon, legend, charismatic leader and arguably the best centre-back ever to play in blue. All that is true and should never be forgotten. But this season, JT has looked vulnerable.
It does not help that the manager wants the defense to play so high up the pitch, exposing the centre-halves in particular to swift counters. We all know that Terry is not possessed of great pace and that it takes him a few strides to get up to what pace he has. But, it is more than that. Terry is making errors that were not in his game two seasons ago. Has he lost form? Or is this the first signs of age catching up on him?
I would argue that AVB must try some new combinations and that the club should look at bringing in a new, younger centre-half in the next window. There are many outstanding young players to look at, but January is not the best time.
However, with Gary Cahill closing on the end of his contract and wanting to move to a big club, £8 million or thereabouts could well tempt Bolton to sell. With Premiership experience, we get what it says on the tin.
Didier Drogba Is Not Cutting It
I live half my life in Kenya and know what a hero Didier Drogba is to so many young Africans who fill the bars and watch Premiership football week in and week out.
So, I won’t be popular in saying that Drogba has to give way to younger men.
Once the best striker on the planet, Drogba is not the player he once was. Like JT, age has caught up with him—and like JT, he features in my all-time Chelsea Great XI. But his ability to deal with a stationary ball apart, Drogba’s race is run. He was simply not up to par against Liverpool. Age has caught up. Sad but true.
Drogba will be away in January at the Africa Cup of Nations. So in that window, certainly in the summer, he should be offered a 'free' as our thanks to him for such great service.
Torres Must Prove Himself This Season
That Torres miss at Blackburn had me thinking back to another disaster signing. No, not Sheva, but the hapless Chris Sutton who scored just one goal in the league in 29 appearances—Shevchenko at least managed a goal every four games.
Yes, Torres has good pace and movement, has set up a couple for others, but those glaring misses at Old Trafford and Ewood Park are haunting.
Fernando has to play, indeed should have played against Liverpool. He either cuts it this season or Chelsea must face the loss and sell him on. And facing such a massive loss, the team must be set up to accommodate him so as to give him every chance. That may mean an investment in another creative midfielder which many fans argue we need anyway—God help us if Mata gets injured.
Daniel Sturridge also has to be given the chance to express himself. He is the future and regretfully that means that Drogba and Anelka must make way. It is evident that Sturridge is not a winger by nature or choice. He wants to play as a central striker and Chelsea has to give him game time.
We Are in Need of a Top Class Holding Player
If ever a game proved that John Obi Mikel has not made the grade as a holding player, then the Liverpool disaster was it. Mikel wants to take too many touches before releasing the ball. AVB must act.
None of us know whether Essien will come back fit and strong and anyway, is he not better as an attacking midfielder?
I have long advocated—as have many Chelsea observers—that David Luiz might play well in this position. If AVB does not agree, let him come out and say so and tell us what he plans to do.
The Ivorian Tiote at Newcastle is a possible player to look at in January, but Romelu should be given a run first. Romelu plays the Barca way—one touch and into space.
The manager of all people should know that if you are good enough, age should be no barrier.
AVB Must Show He the Man
It's quite a challenge for a 33-year-old to come in and make brave decisions in a dressing room of strong and determined characters. Especially if some of the decisions look like a gamble or are just plain wrong.
Am I alone on wondering whether the senior professionals are unhappy with the present style? That this new high defense is unpopular?
The fact remains that Chelsea got into bad habits under the previous manager, most particularly in the build up play, which became laborious in the extreme.
AVB was bought in to shake the tree. He has to be allowed freedom to do that, within reason. Putting the Champions League place at risk can only mean one thing—a headache for Andre and a Hiddink for the club.