Cleat Geeks

Are Good Pre-Season Tours A Sign Of A Good Premiership Season?

The well worn and often used phrase “it’s not over till the fat lady sings” fits a myriad of situations in life. Whether its own roots lie in misogyny, sexism or people (ladies) who have weight problems, seems irrelevant in its overall usage.

Where football is concerned the fat lady breaking into song might be used as a metaphor for the fast approaching season, the ’endgame’ of this summer’s transfer market and the start of real football. On Friday 11th August Arsenal play Leicester City in the opening match of the new Premiership 2017-18 season.

The fat lady I presume will at least be clearing her throat by then. Her voice will be a little louder and clearer for Manchester United supporters on Sunday afternoon when West Ham United visit Old Trafford.

However, her voice will not be in full bloom, at its loudest, so to speak, until the end of August when the transfer window finally closes at least until January. While the window remains open it is still possible that United will add to their numbers, Jose Mourinho is still chasing another one or two. Who they might be is the stuff of tabloid newspapers with the exception of Gareth Bale, where the Welshman is concerned the fat lady has already sung on his behalf. The chase to sign Bale is over for at least another year.

Image result for Gareth Bale

The opening of the Premiership season comes after a pre-season tour of many highs and a few lows. Has this Manchester United tour of 2017 been the best? A look back at recent history suggests maybe not, which raises the question of how much relevance should the supporters put on them.

It is arguable that Manchester United have never had a better pre-season tour than in the early days of Louis Van Gaal’s management, season 2014-15.

Then, as now, the preliminary premiership tour took place in the United States. When it was over it left most Manchester United fans with a feeling of great optimism for the approaching premiership season.

LA Galaxy, Roma, Internazionale, Real Madrid, Liverpool and Valencia were all defeated. United scored 18 goals (5 more if you count a penalty shoot-out), and conceded 5 ( 3 more if you count the penalty shoot-out).

Everything looked good for the start of the Premiership season and the home match with Swansea City on the 16th August 2014 seemed a heaven sent opener. However, Swansea’s 2-1 win, their first league win at Manchester United’s Old Trafford ground, vanquished the embryonic hopes of the previous summer.

The reality, as they say, set in quickly and the Louis van Gaal era with its baffling philosophy and sideways, backwards football had arrived not to everyone’s liking. Mr Van Gaal’s tenure was going to last for two seasons before the Dutchman was ousted from the job, arguably on the day of his greatest triumph, winning the FA Cup against Crystal Palace at Wembley.

Fast forward to present day July – August 2017, and the latest tour of the USA and Europe under Jose Mourinho has also gone very well, very well indeed.

Wins against LA Galaxy, Red Salt Lake, Manchester City, Real Madrid, Valerenga and Sampdoria with a solitary defeat against Barcelona has one presumed, given the team confidence.

Image result for Victor LindelofAlthough a 2-1 defeat against Real Madrid in the UEFA Super Cup on Tuesday evening showed a certain lack of communication across United’s untried backline and sharpness up front, United under Jose Mourinho is improving and look a stronger unit than last season.

As in the days of  Louis Van Gaal, with the Premiership season only a few days away, all the omens look good. Of the new signings Victor Lindelof has not settled in as well as United fans would have hoped but it is early days and Lindelof must be given time to get used to the club, his teammates and the premier league.

Romelu Lukaku is scoring goals, and missing chances, but he is also getting behind defenders and widening up the pitch for others to exploit. Whilst Nemanja Matic silenced some of the doubters in his first 45 minutes debut against Sampdoria in Dublin.

Matic who also had an excellent game against Real Madrid seems to have hit the ground running in his Manchester United career. Perhaps not such a coincidence having already played under Jose Mourinho at Chelsea. Matic is a player Mourinho called a Mourinho player if that makes sense. Affirmation if it were needed of the value Mourinho sees in the signing of Matic.

Of the younger element in the squad, the stand out player was Andreas Pereira who has surely convinced Mourinho that he is good enough to be part of the main squad thus ruling out another loan move.

Image result for andreas pereira 2017

After the 2014 tour Louis van Gaal looked forward to what he hoped would be a three-year contract at the greatest club in the world. Alas the fat lady sang in his second year and his time at United was over, all too soon van Gaal would say, but that is football at the top table.

Jose Mourinho now enters his second year in the hot seat but the omens are far more favourable for him. The fat lady’s appointment book should not have her visiting Old Trafford any time soon, except, hopefully, for celebrations in the near future.

Mourinho, apart from being sacked in his second year of his second term at Chelsea, has a habit of winning the league in his second season at a club.

After winning three trophies in his first season the chances of keeping up with that record are good if Mourinho has the players he required to do the job.

Perhaps the fat lady should leave 13th May 2018 open for a guest performance, United’s final game in the Premiership at home against Watford and a possible premiership trophy.

Will United’s good pre-season tour be a foretaste of the season ahead? Or, as with van Gaal’s tour of 2014 will it remain a pleasant passing memory in the next few months? The wait is over and United supporters will soon have answers to those questions.

Manchester United: Young Players In Search Of A Dream : From Starlets To Forgotten Men

A lot of funny things have been happening in the transfer market recently especially around and about Manchester United. Perhaps ‘funny’ is not the right word, maybe ‘perplexing’ would be more appropriate. Not a day goes past when Manchester United are linked, not linked, linked again, not linked again etc, etc,  with players mainly from foreign lands with strange sounding names (with the exception Burnley and Micheal Keane).

Yet for all the excitement of a marquee signing it can be argued that from the days of Sir Matt Busby it has been the youth and youth development that has given supporters much more pleasure. Perhaps the Busby Babes are, for most supporters now, only flickering film images or black and white photographs spoken of in awe and great esteem. However the class of 92 are still clear enough I suspect in the minds of most supporters, if only by watching pundit work on Sky or BTSport, proof that the phenomena of youth still has a strong hold.

The Busby Babes and the class of 92 are exceptions to the rule of youth development in the sense that a club, developing a core of players to take them on to become perpetual winners, is very rare. What is much more likely is that an individual in the youth setup breaks into the first team and has the skill not only to stay in the team but also become a crowd favorite or even a hero. However even at a club like Manchester United does that happen anymore? The answer to that is yes, think Marcus Rashford, but that it does not happen as frequently as it used to, or one could argue as often as it should.

When United or any club sign a youngster with potential, perhaps at age 9 or 10, they are investing in the future and like any investment there are risks. Setting aside serious injury there is a long long road ahead for both the youngster and the club which not every prospect can maneuver.

Even if a player  comes through the youth set up and makes the first team there is always the chance of a new manager not liking what he sees in the player, Louis van Gaal and Danny Welbeck come freshly to mind.

There are a lot of variables no matter how talented a player may be that will eventually see him make it or not. Has he the stamina, is he a team player, how does he live his life or lifestyle and does the manager want to take a risk on him? Manchester United, perhaps because of their history with young players are a seminal club when it comes to the dreams of youth.

You need look no further than the story of Adnan Januzaj who now seems destined to leave Old Trafford this summer. After the pre-season tour of the United States in 2013/2014 Januzaj  finally looked to have achieved first team status and was included in some early premiership matches, scoring the winning goal at Aston Villa under the management of David Moyes.

In his break though year of 13/14, Januzaj started 19 times in the first team, made substitute 16 times making 35 appearances and scored 4 premiership goals. However things did not look so rosy for Januzaj under the authoritarian Louis Van Gaal.

As if by magic or black magic Januzaj was gone, sent out on loan for a season to Borussia Dortmund. To his credit Januzaj vowed to come back stronger and fight for a place in the United team. Yet Jose Mourinho allowed Januzaj to go to Sunderland on loan, where if truth be told, the link up again with Moyes did not do either of them any favors.

Januzaj of course joins many other names that for one reason or another have, after a long apprenticeship, had a glimpse of the fame of being in the first team, only for that promise to eventually become unfulfilled.

James Wilson is another man who having worked his way through the youth system now seems excess to requirement. Although there is as yet no transfer talk due to his injury there will come a time when for the betterment of his career he will move on.

I found it interesting that in the last home game of the season when Mourinho gave the chance to play in the first team to a number of reserves one of them, Josh Harrop has decided to move on. What is unusual here is that if you believe the press Harrop turned down the chance of a new contract to join Preston North End.

Perhaps Harrop a United fan all his life, has read the signs of the times and at the age of 21 recognised that the regular first team football was not about to come his way at United. That United at the moment have enough players to fill his position let alone any new arrivals in the transfer market.

Michael Keane an England international since departing from United and who until the Victor Lindelöf signing had interested United, now looks to be on his way to Everton this summer. It shows that there can sometimes be advantages to a career after what must be a difficult decision to leave the club you joined as a young boy. For those with longer memories Francis Burns, Josh King, Carlo Sartori, Jimmy Rimmer, Alan Gowling and David Jones to name a few have all had various careers after leaving United.

As I alluded to there are so many variable as to why a promising youth player never makes the first team on a regular basis that there is little point in second guessing on an individual basis. It would be difficult to have a sense of the emotion players go through when the realization comes but as supporters it is possible perhaps to feel a little empathy.

MUTV (Manchester United Television) used to have a program, and maybe it still does called “When The Floodlights Fail”.  It was a rare program in the sense that MUTV took the time and trouble to follow up where players went after leaving Manchester United. Its value was not, as far as I am concerned, in discovering if an individual was successful in their later career. It was more that the caring side which developed in the era of Sir Matt Busby and the Busby Babes is still alive at United. That those players whose dream dies a little are not forgotten for the time, in many cases years, they spent at the club they love.

Jose Mourinho’s First Season at Manchester United

It is not everyday you win a trophy, even Jose Mourinho would agree with that. However if one man could at least stake a claim to do so, I suspect it would be Mourinho himself. Having won the EFL Cup for the fourth time in his career in England, Mourinho now equals the achievements of other great managers from the past and surpasses others.

And yet even for Mourinho the season has not been as successful as he and the Manchester United supporters might have hoped. With at least fourth place in the premiership a dreamers wish, sixth place was and is their permanent home for season 2016/2017.

The achievable goal once fourth place was recognised as unattainable was to win the Europa League Final. On Wednesday 24th May amid sadness and unimaginable sorrow Mourinho’s United embraced  the one remaining piece of silverware not on display at Old Trafford. In defeating a youthful but overawed Ajax 2-0 there was a sense of completeness but not closure at the seasons endgame.

Jose Mourinho if nothing else is a pragmatist and whilst the Europa League Final was another trophy on his outstanding CV, the main prize was entry into next season’s Champions League. Ironically it was achieved in what was arguably their easiest fixture for some considerable time.

The expectations were high when Mourinho was named the new Manchester United manager last May. Following two seasons of Louis Van Gaal’s sideways, backwards possession football and his confusing philosophy, although to be fair, it ended with victory in the FA Cup Final. The David Moyes regime prior to Van Gaal started with a root and branch dissection of the club, beginning with the backroom staff, arrogance which Moyes never overcame.

A brief interlude of four matches after Moyes was sacked in May 2014 saw interim Manchester United manager Ryan Giggs achieve two wins, one draw and one defeat in his short spell in charge. The Manchester United board deciding in the end to offer the managers job to Van Gaal with Giggs taking on the assistant managers roll.

Mourinho arrived at least as a proven, if somewhat tarnished winner, from his enforced wilderness experience. For many his tenure started three years too late, whist for some, not in the Mourinho camp, it probably should not have started at all.

Supporters who feared that his particular baggage would not suit the Old Trafford club had a point, and perhaps after Mourinho’s recent body language, excuses and expressive antics still do.

Sharing his opinions on Luke Shaw in public for example whether rightly or wrongly, has not gone down well. The flip side of which some argue is the inability of players today to take any form of criticism. In fairness when Sir Matt Busby and Sir Alex Ferguson disciplined players, it was generally behind closed doors, generally.

Add to this the odd curve ball which Mourinho is apt to throw from time to time like naming Marouane Fellaini the Manchester United captain at Sunderland. If Mourinho has a blind spot then it has Fellaini’s name written all over it. In the same vain, for some supporters but perhaps to a lesser degree, you can add the name of Jesse Lingard.

On the plus side Mourinho has become the first Manchester United manager to win two major honors in his first season, three if  the Charity Shield is included.

Mourinho supporters and doubters alike have already had one, two, three days in the sun, something to look back on in the summer months amid the transfer merry go round.

On the debit side of course there has been too many home draws, this coupled with the inability of the team to score goals. An over reliance on Zlatan Ibrahimovic before his injury resulted in the footballing equivalent of putting all their eggs in one basket, the basket of the Europa League.

In the days prior to United winning the Europa League Final at the Friends Arena in Stockholm if you believed the media soundbites, top players would not want to sign for United if they could not be offered Champions League football.

The addition last season of Ibrahimovic and Paul Pogba argued against that but even for United it might still have been a difficulty to overcome. That is now irrelevant and a shopping list complied two months ago, according to Mourinho, can be put into action.

This Mourinho who has now won three trophies within twelve months is the same man who, in his first press conference as Manchester United manager was forthright, focused, determined, passionate and very quotable.

For Mourinho it was not a “dream job”, in the sense that “it is reality”, he said, “I am Man United manager, it is the job everyone wants and not many have the chance to have, and I have it.” When asked what his aim was for the coming season, Mourinho performed a rallying cry for the watching media and the club’s world wide supporters.

He stated, “I want to play well, what is playing well, playing well is scoring more goals than the opponent, is to concede less goals that the opponent, is to make your fans proud because you give absolutely everything, is to make your fans proud because you win”.

“So we want everything at the same time, and again, it is aggressive approach by myself, I want everything. I want to win matches, I want to play well, I want to play young players, I want to score goals, I don’t want to concede goals. I want the fans to be behind us because in the last ten minutes we are chasing a result, I want the fans to be behind us because in the last ten minutes we are defending a result. I want everything, of course, we are not going to get everything, of course, but we want too”

Those desires have not changed but perhaps what has, or is in the process of changing, is the impact on Mourinho personally of being the Manchester United manager. Growing pains should be expected in his transition from the chosen one of Chelsea to the right one at Manchester United.

In stating that he hopes to stay longer than his three year contract at United, Mourinho is recognising perhaps that he needs stability now he has reached a certain age in life and wants it to be in Manchester.

However Mourinho knows in football there are no guarantees and longevity, excuse the pun, is almost a thing of the past. Paradoxically even being a proven winner is not always a pre-requisite for a stable secure football life, ask Claudio Ranieri.

The Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger recently said that for him fourth place in the premiership was like a winning a trophy. Unfortunately that was also a dream too far for the London club which even winning a real trophy, the FA Cup, will not erase. For Arsenal next season lie the uncharted roads of the Europa League and the Thursday, Sunday rotations.

I suspect those words would be anathema to Mourinho and in that sense music to the ears of all Manchester United fans. Even those who are not yet in the Mourinho camp for this season at least.          

Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United

 

It is not everyday you win a trophy, even Jose Mourinho would agree with that. However if one man could at least stake a claim to do so I suspect it would be Mourinho himself. Having won the EFL Cup for the fourth time in his career in England, Mourinho now equals the achievements of other great managers from the past and surpasses many others.

And yet even for Mourinho the season so far has not been as successful as he and the Manchester  United supporters might have hoped. With even fourth place in the premiership looking less and less likely with each passing week, the goal now is to win the Europa Cup. Mourinho if nothing else is a pragmatist while the cup would be another trophy on his CV, the main prize is entry to next season’s Champions League.

The expectations were high when Mourinho was named the new United manager last May. Following two seasons of Louis Van Gaal’s sideways, backwards football and his confusing philosophy and the previous David Moyes regime with its root and branch dissection of the club, beginning with the backroom staff, Mourinho arrived at least as a proven winner.

For many his tenure started three years too late, whist for some not in the Mourinho camp, it probably should not have started at all. Supporters who feared that his particular baggage would not suit the Old Trafford club had a point, and perhaps after recent events still do.

Sharing his opinions on Luke Shaw in public for example whether rightly or wrongly, has not gone down so well. The flip side of which some argue is the inability of players today to take any form of criticism. In fairness while Sir Matt Busby and Sir Alex Ferguson disciplined players, it was generally behind closed doors.

Then there is the odd curve ball which Mourinho is apt to throw from time to time like naming Marouane Fellaini the Manchester United captain at Sunderland which few if any would have seen coming. Or the post match press conferences when non-sensible questions are not batted away as well as they could have been.

On the plus side having become the first United manager to win a trophy in his first season, discounting the Charity Shield, supporters and doubters alike have already had one day in the sun.

On the debit side too many home draws coupled with the inability of the team to score goals and an over reliance on Zlatan Ibrahimovic have resulted in football’s equivalent of putting all your eggs in one basket, the basket of the Europa League. The first leg of the quarter-final away at Anderlecht on Thursday 13th April, with the return a week later, seems appropriate over the Easter season.

Mourinho still argues that while it is mathematically possible United are still chasing a top four spot even if that is what he is expected to say. After his post match interview following the Sunderland match and his insistence on how vital the 3-0 win was, it is easy to suspect that in his heart of hearts Mourinho must fear that fourth place is almost over.

Whether United win the Europa League or fall short of their objective will impact drastically on next season if you believe the media because they preach top players only want to move to a club in the Champions League. Ibrahimovic and Paul Pogba might argue against that trend but even for United it is still a difficulty to overcome.

Mourinho who is possibly on the verge of his second trophy is the same man who, in his first press conference as Manchester United manager last May, was forthright, focused, determined, passionate and very quotable.

For Mourinho it is not a “dream job”, in the sense that “it is reality”, he said, “I am Man United manager, it is the job everyone wants and not many have the chance to have, and I have it.” When asked what his aim was for the coming season, Mourinho performed a rallying cry for the watching media and the club’s world wide supporters. He stated, “I want to play well, what is playing well, playing well is scoring more goals than the opponent, is to concede less goals that the opponent, is to make your fans proud because you give absolutely everything, is to make your fans proud because you win. So we want everything at the same time, and again, it is aggressive approach by myself, I want everything. I want to win matches, I want to play well, I want to play young players, I want to score goals, I don’t want to concede goals. I want the fans to be behind us because in the last ten minutes we are chasing a result, I want the fans to be behind us because in the last ten minutes we are defending a result. I want everything, of course we are not going to get everything, of course, but we want too”

Those desires have not changed but perhaps what has, or is in the process of changing, is the impact on him personally of being the Manchester United manager. Growing pains should be expected in his transition from the chosen one of Chelsea to the right one at United. In stating that he hopes to stay longer than his three year contract at United, Mourinho is recognising perhaps that he needs stability now he has reached a certain age in life and wants it to be in Manchester. However he knows in football there are no guarantees and longevity is almost a thing from the past, that winning is not always a pre requisite to a stable life.

Recently Arsene Wenger the underfire Arsenal manager said that for him fourth place in the premiership was like a winning a trophy. I suspect those words would be anathema for Mourinho, and in that sense music to the ears of all United fans, even those not yet in the Mourinho camp.

Follow Cleatgeeks on Twitter for more soccer coverage and for MU follow Jim  @1211plussubs

 

50 Shades of Blue

Well it’s getting to the squeaky bum time of year. The league should be done and dusted when you think of the loss to Palace, the draw to a shocking Swansea side and then the Costa penalty miss against Liverpool. But here we are 7 points clear and another tricky scalp taken at the weekend against Bournemouth.

Here are the player ratings from our 3-1 win in which Hazard and Alonso scored and also an Own goal:

Chelsea: Courtois (7), Azpilicueta (7), Cahill (7), Luiz (7), Alonso (8), Moses (8), Matic (7), Kante (8), Pedro (7), Costa (7), Hazard (9).

Subs used: Fabregas (5), Willian (n/a), Zouma (n/a).

Man of the match: Eden Hazard.

 

Well the talking points.

Costas form is horrible, and being on Twitter is really dividing the fans. Some our saying we should forgive his form because of how he was before Christmas, where as others are saying he should go to China. I have to admit I would like him sold in the summer. Costa last season was poor as was a lot of our squad and wanted to leave in the summer, but Conte made him stay and he was on fire. However since January Costa not only has dried up with the goals but his selfish play and lack of energy is making us play with 10 men. Poor Batshuayi must wonder if he is actually made to play football because some of Costas performances make you wonder if Michy is actually that bad that he isn’t being given a chance. Costa is 30 next year and if we can get over 50 mil for a player whose head can be easily turned and only turns up for half a season then we should take the money and run.

Hazard or Kante!!!!!

What the hell is this twitter debate. Some of our fans disgust me and they don’t support clubs they support the player and the team of where ever he goes. I am furious that I see Kante play well and I see some of our immature fans claim Kante is overrated just because he stole the headlines of their beloved Hazard. True fans would embrace any of their players being given praise, they wouldn’t slate them because their fave player isn’t getting a mention at the time.

Marcus Alonso is not the quickest and isn’t the cleverest but he gives 100% and has chipped in with some vital goals and for that I am grateful. Some of our fans are so spoilt they have no respect. Everyone has to be world class at everything they do for our fans to appreciate them. Tottenham don’t have a world class player  in every position but they are still doing well and giving us a run for our money and the fans appreciate even when a player like Kieran Trippier comes in and puts in a performance, but our fans are relentless in abusing our own players and even when they put in a good performance they still slate them. This is why we are known as a plastic club because a lot of our fans show disrespect to their own. It needs to stop. There is being unhappy with a players form and voicing your opinion and there’s slating a player just because you don’t like him.

Conte.

I love Conte, I love what he has done at Chelsea and I love him as a person but his methods baffle me. He rectified his error against City and it was good to see but he is a very stubborn man. Conte seems scared to rotate players and scared to change anything and it will be his downfall when we are back in Europe next season. Why bring Ake back and not play him? The kid was doing wonders at Bournemouth and instead of allowing him to continue to develop Conte has bought him back and halted the development. Zouma is rusty  but he is the best defender at the club, Calamity Cahill has not captained us to a clean sheet in weeks and Zouma should be given a run to get fit so we are not running round the transfer market making pointless signings when what we need is already within our ranks. I hope Conte realises this and starts playing some of the quality we have rather than spend on madness.

 

In Other News:

Loan news and Van Ginkel is killing it out in Holland, he netted his 16th goal in just 24 starts at the weekend. His Chelsea career was cut short due to a poor injury but has shown in Holland and at Milan that he possesses quite a lot of talent and his goal scoring exploits from Midfield are better than a certain Dele Alli that everyone is raving about.

Tammy Abraham netted his 24th goal of the season this week and has missed 6 games with injury too which makes you wonder how prolific he would’ve been, makes you wonder also how many goals he would’ve scored at a side who is battling to stay in the league. What will be the stupid thing is that the Chelsea board will see this and go and splash 70 odd million on someone stupid when we have a prolific young man in our own ranks. Someone tell me how these men became millionaires again because their decision making on business deals seems that of amateurs.

Andreas Christansen set a record in Germany at the weekend by completing over 98% of his passes. The youngster oozes class and it will be disgusting if he isn’t integrated into the first team next season. Our defence has been leaky as of late and needs to be reshuffled with our youngsters. However as previously stated Conte doesn’t seem to want to make any changes incase he gets exposed!!

 

Pit of the Week:

Another shocking performance, how many more of these will Conte allow before he gives someone else a chance.

Peak of the week:

Marcus Alonso, many thought Hazard was great and yes he was but Alonso was up and down and scored a brilliant free kick and has really showed stability in a position that hasn’t been stable going forward since the Ashley Cole days.

 

Next Fixture: Man United (a)

 

Until next time………KTBFFH

 

50 Shades of Blue

Well well well, the Blog has returned and after a little absence I am still pleased to say that we are top of the league, and 10 points clear of the Spurs.

On the weekend we had a potential Banana skin against Stoke away. Now Stoke will either be amazing or poor but either way they love to be physical. Eden Hazard was ruled out due to an injury picked up in training, so the unfancied Willian started as well did the equally unpopular Matic in place of Cesc.

Here are the match ratings:

Chelsea: Courtois (7), Azpilicueta (6), David Luiz (7), Cahill (7), Moses (6), Kante (8), Matic (7), Alonso (7), Willian (8), Diego Costa (7), Pedro (6).

Subs used: Loftus-Cheek (6), Fabregas (6), Zouma (n/a)

 

Chelsea ran out victorious in a 2-1 Victory with goals from Cahill and Willian. Chelsea were not every really in danger in this game and even without the Belgian magician we seemed comfortable and I always felt during the match that we would get the 3 points.

 

However I want to address a few things some may be controversial.

I think we should sell Costa in the summer. He has been a good player for 3 seasons and has bagged a huge amount of goals, but he is getting older with 30 being breached soon and with the fee that China is willing to pay we should snap their hands off. People will think I am mad, but when Costa isn’t scoring or looking happy what does he actually bring to our game? I am sick to death of watching him pick the ball up and get his head down and just try and run towards goal, he is beyond greedy and his play looks as though he cares more about him getting the praise rather than the team.

Lukaku debate!!!

Some want him back, some want him to stay away, some call him a stat padding donkey, some call him a goal machine! The fact is at 23 he is a goal scorer. He divides opinion so much that I’m not even sure myself what I want. All I know is the lad has a very impressive goals record and he has banged in goals for West Brom and Everton, if given a chance at Chelsea could he soar to the next level?

We seem to be being linked with a lot of Monaco players I will happily take their attacking players, however the defenders I am not so keen on and don’t see them improving our side. Watching them defend against Man City made me cringe and at some points I saw Man City on the break and Monaco defenders Sidibe especially, just walking back as though it didn’t matter if city scored. I am not sure why scouts would see that and think  “OH YES”.

Alonso still getting stick from some Chelsea fans does get my back up. The guy gives 100% effort every week, chips in with goals and assists but because he gets beaten through his lack of pace, some fans say the most awful things about him. Some of our fans really need to grow up.

Lastly. Kante! How on earth I have seen our own fans complain about Kante’s recent hype is beyond me. The guy doesn’t bother anybody he just goes out on the pitch and does his thing, yet we have fans who are disgusted that he is being praised. Why are they disgusted that a player from their side is being praised? I have to ask myself what kind of fans we have, and what do they actually want because I am baffled and lost for words. We seem to have a fan base that like to fight their own fans and ridicule some of our players that are actually doing well. We are 10 points clear it doesn’t mean we are immune to criticism but why cant we be as one when we can clearly see people really making a monumental effort to take us to the title!!

 

In other news:

Youth player Charlie Wakefield bought his dad a sports car to say thank you for being there, and supporting him get to where he is today. A fantastic gesture when you think about how spoiled today’s players are.

Nathan Ake recall was clearly a waste of time but it seems he may be used in a deal when we bid for Virgil Van Dyk in the summer. How we treat are youth is shocking, keep spending millions when we have players of such quality already within our ranks.

Eden Hazard is facing a fortnight out and is likely to miss the next home game against Crystal Palace.

 

Pit of the week:

Costa performance against Stoke was quite embarrassing.

Peak of the week:

Cahill netting the winner to keep us 10 points clear.

 

Next Fixture: Crystal Palace (h)

 

Until Next Time……….KTBFFH

 

José Mourinho’s Cup Dreams

In saying that he was taking the FA Cup seriously Jose Mourinho sent out a warning to their future opponents to expect no weakened teams in the various cup competitions they are still involved in. Perhaps more specifically he said it with his mind on the FA Cup and Manchester United’s next opponents, Blackburn Rovers away, on Sunday 19th February.

At the moment United still have the chance of winning three cup competitions, the EFL Cup, the Europa League Cup and the FA Cup. On Sunday 26th of February Mourinho and his United squad will play in the final of the EFL Cup at Wembley, their opponents will be Southampton.

The respective two legged semi-finals for each team highlighted what seemed a difference in approach. Southampton beating Liverpool home and away, United struggling to get past an out of form Hull City. After winning the first leg United struggled in the second match at Hull losing 2-1 but going through to the final 3-2 on aggregate.

Of late the United team have played reasonably well but perhaps could and should have had more victories than draws in the last few weeks. Their progress has been slow with 6th place in the premiership seemingly United’s home from home at the moment. However cup games are one offs and a dip in form will usually mean exit rather than the chance of getting a replay, certainly in Europe.

In the next week United will play in three different cup competitions and if Mourinho’s words have found good soil there is a chance of progression in two of them and yet another trophy residing in the Old Trafford cabinet on Sunday evening. If they have not there will need to be more work on the training ground if the team are going to match the rhetoric of the United manager.

 

50 Shades of Blue

What can be a better weekend than ruining the gunners title challenge for another year!

I admit when I saw we had Arsenal and Liverpool back to back I did think we would face 2 defeats, but I am over the moon to be proved wrong.

I was a bit frustrated by the line up as I thought Cesc had done more than enough to warrant starting but Conte went with his usual tried and tested line up and the blues ran out 3-1 winners.

Here are the match ratings:

Chelsea: Courtois (7); Azpilicueta (7), David Luiz (7), Cahill (7); Moses (8), Kante (8), Matic (8), Alonso (8); Pedro (8), Diego Costa (7), Hazard (9)

Used subs: Zouma (6), Fabregas (7), Willian (6)

 

Goals from Alonso, Hazard and Fabregas gave us the win, but it could have been so much more if it wasn’t for Costa.

A lot has been written about the forward over the past month or so and we thought his return game back from being dropped silenced the media and showed his love for Chelsea. Since that game Costa has been awful. A very below par performance against Liverpool in which he missed a penalty, and then on Saturday he produced one of the most greediest displays I have ever seen. There were 4 occasions that Diego could’ve laid on passes for players in better positions and on 4 occasions he decided to hold onto the ball and try to score and didn’t succeed. One time you can forgive, but 4? What frustrated me was that he went nuts at Pedro when an attempted through ball by the busy Spaniard didn’t make it through, yet Costa who even looked up and saw his options and still decided to not pass felt his actions were ok. Conte however was on the side line going crazy! Costa had been in superb form this season, but needs to understand the game isn’t just about him and to bring his team mates into the game more. We could’ve really sent out a destructive statement if Costa had laid those chances on as a 5-1 demolition of Arsenal may have just broken the spirits of the chasing pack.

Cesc Fabregas the bench magician came on and buried his old side. Agent Cech laid a pass straight to Cesc and with one calm swipe of his right foot he sent the ball over Cech and into the back of the net. To his credit he didn’t celebrate, although the Arsenal fans booed him and if it was me I would’ve gone all Adeybayor on them.

Arsenal fans have been slating Cech and I said it from day 1 when they signed him. Cech is a quality keeper, however he gets beat at his near post to easy and he doesn’t dive to his full extent and I felt his best days were behind him. Yes he is solid but that wasn’t going to improve, and his recent displays have highlighted my point.

Ngolo Kante is not human. I had to pause the TV and check there was only one of him on the pitch because at one point I saw him clear the ball and be on the end of his clearance. If there was a heat map for his performance then the pitch would be glowing like an Australian bush fire. What impressed me was that further up the field he showed neat footwork and confidence to set up some attacks and hold onto the ball in pressure situations. He really is cementing his place as a true blue and I believe he will go from strength to strength and become a cult hero.

Photo by; ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP/Getty Images

Eden Hazard is a magicians magician!! What an outstanding performance and what an outstanding goal. He teased and tormented the Arsenal defence all afternoon and the goal he scored just embarrassed 3 players to the point 1 got subbed.  Strangely Hazard goes quiet when we play the likes of Hull at home etc but comes alive during the big games, having now scored against Spurs, City, United, Liverpool, Arsenal and Everton in the past 12 months. If only we could see this on a regular basis then Eden would no doubt be on the list for that coveted Ballon D’OR.

 

In Other News:

Fans were making their own headlines as Antonio Conte was at the Juventus vs Inter game at the weekend. Did anyone stop and think that maybe Antonio who had given his players 2 days off just wanted to go and watch the side he represented for 16 years and then managed whilst visiting family? I think we like to think too much into things when we see managers in places or players in places rather than just be logical.

Morata and Isco have both told Madrid they will be leaving in the summer, could the destination be Chelsea? Conte is a huge fan of both players but the recent refusal to spend huge amounts of money could prove to be a huge issue.

 

Pit of the Week:

Costa’s performance at the weekend which stopped Chelsea bagging more goals

 

Peak of the Week:

Beating arsenal 3-1 and creating a nice gap between us and them other clubs.

 

Next Fixture: Burnley (a)

 

Until Next Time……….KTBFFH

50 Shades of Blue

So here we go now on the important part of the season heading into February and with important games to play.

1st game of the weekend was a nice win over Brentford in The Fa cup, which also sadly was the last game for Ivanovic but I will touch on that later.

What we did see though was a  start for Ake and quite an assured performance and we also saw a cameo from Kenedy.

Chelsea were dominant in their victory and goals from Pedro, Michy, Ivanovic and Willian gave Chelsea the victory and a 6th round away to against Wolves.

To the Premier League and a game that bought mixed views from Chelsea fans with a fixture away at Anfield to face Liverpool. Now Liverpool have been on some rocky form but always seem to pick themselves up when they play Chelsea. Liverpool have been looking tired lately but so have Chelsea so I wasn’t expecting a positive result. A lot of our fans on Twitter have a blind faith which gives them meltdown issues when their blind faith gets let down. If they were more realistic it may help matters more.

 

Chelsea: Courtois (7), Azpilicueta (7), David Luiz (8), Cahill (7), Moses (5), Kante (8), Matic (7), Alonso (6), Willian (7), Diego Costa (7), Hazard (7)

Subs: Fabregas (7), Pedro (6), Batshuayi (6)

 

Chelsea drew 1-1 which wasn’t a bad result, infact to go to Anfield and not lose is quite positive, even with Costa missing a penalty. Kante was immense and put in a midfield performance that broke a tackling record with 14 tackles in the game which was only 3 less than the Liverpool team collectively!!

The issue isn’t the result for me it is the players and Conte.

Now many will say I am repeating myself but that is because the same things keep happening.

As always let me break it down.

 

Matic: When he came back and dominated Yaya Toure on his debut, I thought wow we have finally replaced Makele. Matic then went on to dominate Centre Midfield for the next 12 months. Matic then had a rough patch that seemed to have recovered under Conte however his last 7 games have been pretty awful. Fans are saying Conte has won us 9 points clear how dare you question him. That’s the blind faith I am talking about. Having a good manager doesn’t mean he is perfect and wont make errors!! Fergie is the best manager of all time, yet he still made errors with selection that he admits. Fabregas has been excellent when he has come on and instantly lights up and speeds up our forward play. So why is Conte watching this and not doing something about it? The reason why Kante made so many tackles against Liverpool is because he is doing his AND Matic work! How can Kante make 14 tackles and Matic make 2? Cesc made 2 and he was on the pitch for 10 minutes, he also created 3 chances. He needs to play and with Arsenal playing Coquelin and Chamberlain in center mid maybe now is the time to let Fabregas play and cause havoc.

Hazard: There was a debate on Twitter about his input in the game. Some say he was our best attacking player, some say he was awful. Amazing how the game can be watched but seen through so many different opinions. Personally I think Hazard knows he will start and so he plays at a level of whatever he fancies in that game. Ronaldo, Messi had a desire to be the best and trained hard to get their, Hazard wants to be the best but doesn’t have the motivation to do it. His consistency is alarming in the fact that he isn’t consistent and his form is so sporadic. He will show up against Man City but go missing against Hull at home!! Someone explain that to me. Hazard needs to take a long look at himself and think does he want to be a good player or a world class player!

Conte: I have touched on the Fabregas incident but my issue with Conte is one that some fans don’t like. How dare I question the Messiah. Well simply because I am not looking through rose tinted glasses and I can see the car crash happening! His treatment of Batshuayi is awful. Yes Bats hasn’t helped himself but at the same time giving him 4 minutes here and 1 minute there is so confidence destroying that I wonder what kind of man would do that to a player. He gave Batshuayi 30 seconds against Liverpool….Why? For what purpose? I don’t see why treating a player like that is allowed at any club. I honestly believe at some point we need to give them both a go up top with maybe Hazard or Pedro behind them and watch the goals flow. My other worry is Conte is very stubborn he is playing the same line up week in week out. Moses needs a rest he is being exposed now and his defensive frailties are being exposed by sides. Ake is here now and hasn’t  been on bench 2 out of 4 games!! Why bother bringing him back?

 

In Other News:

Chelsea was rumored to have had bits rejected for Gordon, Dembele and Candreva and Biabiany the pace merchant rejected a loan move to us on deadline day. All I can say to this news is thank bloody God.

On loan Striker Tammy Abraham has broke the record for most goals scored by a teenager in the Championship. Tammy with 18 goals has been the one bright spark in an otherwise dismal season for Bristol City.

Sadly we say good bye to Ivanovic, the man who won it all at Chelsea. Now I had an argument on Twitter yesterday with a fan who took shots at me because I was dissing City and he decided to slate me on being 2 faced as I slated our own legend Ivanovic. Yes I slated Ivanovic, because at the time he was performing poorly, I am not going to watch a player play bad and say well he helped win the champions league so I will allow him these 12 months of been awful. No that is not how it works, I am grateful as are all Chelsea fans about what Branna achieved with us and his many heroic moments, but at the end of the day his perfomances were leading to us dropping points so I will remember him as the man who won trophies rather than the man who gave Paulo Montero a new contract when he ripped Ivanovic apart. Farewell Branna and take care on your new journey.

 

News just broken

Frank Lampard has retired from football at the age of 38. I had just submitted my 1st draft of this post and now have just seen the news.

For me Frank is the best Midfielder in Premier league history. Defended, Attacked, scored set pieces, long rangers, tap ins, headers, left foot, right foot all of this while being quite a slow man. Chelsea’s all time record goal scorer, winning it all with the  club and forever being in our hearts. Frank we love you. Build the man a statue!!!

Pit of the week:

Costa penalty miss. For me I could tell he would miss by his run up. It was a very sloppy penalty at a saveable height for a keeper that goes the right way and could’ve given us an 11 point gap going into a run of winnable fixtures. Hopefully it doesn’t play on Costas mind and he is back at his best on Saturday.

Peak of the week:

Leaving Anfield without a loss showed we are firming our grip on that Premier league crown.

 

Next Fixture: Arsenal (h)

 

Until next time……KTBFFH

 

 

Jose Mourinho Reaches The EFL Cup Final Once Again

In the world of football (soccer) there is one word which most pundits agree sums up Jose Mourinho, and that word is ‘winner’. Although he left Chelsea, sacked or not, under a big black cloud, that adjective is still very appropriate for the Portuguese manager. 

In reaching the EFL Cup Final (aka English Football League Cup Final) Mourinho now has the opportunity to win this cup for the fourth time. It is true to say that Mourinho has enjoyed vast success in the competition since arriving in England in 2004, winning it three times during two separate spells as Chelsea manager.

“I have a special feeling for every competition,” Mourinho said. “Every club should enjoy being in big matches, in finals. It doesn’t matter how many titles the club won before”. Mourinho also added “It’s Wembley, it’s a title, it’s an occasion for a demonstration of love for the club with 30-40,000 fans travelling to London.”

Mourinho won the League Cup with Chelsea on three occasions (Photo: AFP/Getty)

Manchester United’ opponents on the 26th February at Wembley will be  Southampton who pulled off one of the results of the round by beating Liverpool at Anfield 1-0. Southampton having already won the first leg of the semi-final 1-0 at home won the two legged cup semi-final tie 2-0.

Mourinho will be very aware that in their cup run Southampton have yet to concede a single goal. This of course must change at Wembley if United and Mourinho are to be successful and win the first silverware of the season.

To win the EFL Cup the United players must change the attitude they seemed to adopt in their second leg semi-final game at Hull City. United having won the first leg 2-0 at Old Trafford and Hull City in all kinds of disarray on and off the pitch, it was generally expected the team from Manchester would sail through to the final.

Whether it was the fact that United had a 2-0 lead or because of the off the field goings on at Hull or that on the night itself Hull made major changes to their first team, United seemed to take the tie lightly and suffered the consequences.

In what seems a generous decision by the referee a penalty was awarded to Hull in the 35th minute and duly dispatched to make it 1-0 to the home side. Dubious decision or not Hull were the better team on the night and when they took the lead it was not against the run of play.

Paul Pogba equalised in the 66th minute effectively putting United 3-1 ahead on aggregate however more sloppy play lead to a second goal for Hull in the 85th minute as they ran out 2-1 winners on the night losing the tie 3-2.

Hull must take something positive in ending Manchester United’s unbeaten run and are now left to continue their fight to avoid relegation. Ironically their fight for premiership survival begins again against Manchester United next Wednesday night at Old Trafford.

A day before the the match at Hull, Southampton’s reaction to their victory at Anfield was wild celebrations, almost as if the EFL Cup had been won on the night. Manchester United’s reaction to reaching Wembley was more muted and almost depressive.

If this loss means anything for Mourinho and his players it will hopefully mean there will be no complacency in the EFL Cup Final at the end of February. For Mourinho to secure his fourth EFL Cup Final win, and to keep the nickname ‘winner’  complacency much be excised from his teams vocabulary.

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