Saturday, June 1, 2013

Transfer window and what needs to be done

The transfer window is opening shortly and many other clubs seem to be in a frenzy of buying/selling already. AS Monaco have already spent 140M on 5 players before the window even opened. One of them being our long term transfer target Radamel Falcao. In the premier league, Tottenham, Manchester City, Arsenal, Liverpool and United are on their tracks in negotiating with their possible targets too. We seem to be on the back seat in this which is quite acceptable as we have not confirmed our manager yet and are unsure of his plans for the season. Here's my opinion on what we should do in the window and where we can build on to being competitive enough to win the title and also set us up for the future:


Barcelona are very desperate sign David Luiz and it is more than evident why they would want him from his performances this season. Luiz has improved a lot in this Rafa campaign and touted to be the next Blues' captain by John Terry. Around three bids have been made by Barcelona and what bothers me is that Luiz doesnt not completely deny interest in the move. In a recent interview he has said:

My objective is to be happy and this is possible by playing in a team that controls the ball. Barcelona is the team that plays the best football in the last few years.

I know Barca are interested in my services, but I do not have any news.

Although they're probably translated from Portuguese and might not be entirely accurate, it's quite scary that he might consider a move. He's become a good tackler, free kick and long shot taker and also more disciplined in his playing ways than before. Please don't sell him board!

2. Sign Schurrle
German Blitz!

With the transfer in an almost complete status, we have to complete it first things first. Schurrle is proper winger who can play in place of Eden Hazard when needed and will be a direct upgrade on Victor Moses. The most important thing about him is his versatility of position. He can even cover up as ST when required.

He likes to dribble along the wing, cut in and strike from distance. His long shots can help us many a time when we are not able to break some defences with just creative passes. So KDB can be loaned to Leverkusen as part of this deal where he would Champions League experience aswel. WIN-WIN.

3. Sign a striker
With Falcao gone to Monaco, and Lewandowski on his way to Bayern probably, looks like the only high profile option left for us is Edinson Cavani. Even his transfer seems to be quite far with Napoli's asking price being 63M. I would take Lewandowski any day considering his capability, age, price and wages. We cannot afford to buy an average striker and wait for him to settle and perform and risk the possibility of a fail. With a midfield like ours, it can be argued about the need of another striker as the goals are going to come from everywhere and Lukaku in line. Lukaku could do with another season of loan in a bigger premier league club in my opinion unless the manager thinks otherwise. A good striker in form and in his prime can create chances out of nothing and we can be sure not losing out kept down all game against strong opponents. Our other targets are rumored to be Rooney, Yilmaz, Ibrahimovic and Jovetic. Of all which Cavani's statistics are too good and he is a must sign if possible at a lower price tag.

4. Strengthen the DMF

We need to buy a box-to-box hardworking midfielder with good defensive contribution to partner in the pivot or we could promote Chalobah, Ake or McEachran giving them time on the field along with Mikel, Essien and Romeu. The lack of a proper DM partner to Mikel was the main reason our midfield was ripped by teams that play through the centre. If David Luiz is pushed forward to DMF permanently, we might not need a signing. It's a choice between good performances right away to building the future. Some of the possible targets to solve this problem are De Rossi, Paulinho, Fernandinho and Van Ginkel. 

5. Buy a CB

With Luiz fluctuating between CB and DM, Terry struggling to play the offside trap against teams with fast strikers, we have only Cahill and Ivanovic who's recently made it to CB from RB to play centre backs. With Jeffrey Bruma who was on loan at Hamburg also being planned to be sold, we need a proper CB who has more than few years to give. Emenalo's scouting find, Kyriakos Papadopoulos can help solve this issue and be the one for the future.

The 21 year old Greek centre back who plays for FC Schalke 04 is rumored to be the next big thing in that position.

6. Sign Luke Shaw
One for the future!
We will need a another player for depth in that LB role with Cole being 32 and Bertrand showing few signs of stepping up only lately. Luke Shaw is a very good prospect, ardent fan of our club and only 17 years of age now. It would be easier to have him signed now before all the hype surrounds him. Since he has been advised not to choose Chelsea if he doesn't get a main XI role right away, he can be loaned back to Soton for another season or two.

All this done and with 'The Special One' in the dug out for us, I see us being an unstoppable force next season and there on. 

Carefree and KTBFFH.


Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Earning the haters' respect! - A Rafa story.

It could be too short by days to call it an era, but the length of it by number of games surely made it feel otherwise. Rafael Benitez was appointed Chelsea manager on 22nd November 2012, after Roberto Di Matteo was relieved of his duties the previous day. It wasn't even quite a good first day to Rafa, with RAFAOUT banners outside the Bridge and #RafaOut trending twitter wide. Have to admit I was one among them, with jeering every time a line-up was put up or when we conceded. These actions were pretty much justified by some comments he had made on Chelsea and its fans during his Liverpool tenure.
Warm welcome! (NOT)
The previous game for Chelsea was the Juventus away, which was the last game for Matteo. That game was a tactical blunder, playing 5 defenders and Moses as false 9, losing out 3-0. This was the time we were losing out on the table top position and dropping out of the Champions League and needed fresh tactics to bolster our attack. Let's analyse a few key games in the period:

The first game against Manchester City went well to a 0-0, except for the fact that we were unable to score after creating quite a few more chances. Boos and chants echoed around the Bridge against Rafa when Hazard, the best player on pitch till then was subbed off for Moses at minute 71'. After the game Rafa had one of his usual pressers saying "We weren't clinical in the final 3rd.". Not a bad start.

Things went downhill for us at West Ham after drawing 0-0 with Fulham, taking the lead early as usual with a Juan Mata goal, we started the second half complacently, conceded early and couldn't work out a Plan B. Again the best players on the pitch were subbed of to no effect but conceding two goals in the late minutes. The line-up was a rotated one and that's what was to blame. Our position on table dropped to 3rd with a larger margin. 

Our first win for Rafa came at the Bridge with a goal rout against Nordjaelland. Thought not a good start to the game with penalties missed on both ends, David Luiz opened scoring from the spot kick and we built on the momentum with a Torres brace controlling the game completely. This game saw one of the best performances of Oriol Romeu for Chelsea being in control of the midfield. Though not something to brag about, the win was necessary to fight for CL knockout stage qualification. Something was starting to build.

The most dreaded of the losses of this season, losing out on the final of the tournament to call ourselves Champions of the World. Yet again, squad rotation took its toll, with Moses being in the line-up and having his worst game in a Blue shirt. So many chances let go cheaply, Cahill sent off in the dying minutes, Torres missing a sitter to draw level. This game is one to forget. Disappointment at the trophy loss.

That's how we comeback, because we are the Chelsea FC! Bemoaning the loss at the CWC, we were back with a bang thrashing Leeds 5-1 in the FA cup and Aston Villa 8-0 in the PL. This game saw David Luiz with his remarkable performances at DMF solving our pivot worries. We broke down Villa's game completely scoring at every break and scoring goals in a 'each one take one' way. The beast of Eden Hazard had settled well, and our days were just beginning, with the title race was slipping out of hand.

This was the game I saw the tactical genius in Rafa the Liverpool fans talk about, at Chelsea. The starting XI was much to the despise of all the fans with Hazard dropping out for rest, Moses-Mata-Oscar behind Ba and weak Lampard-Ramires pivot. As always, the game went haywire in the first 15 minutes with us going 2-0 down. Then we managed to gather up the defence and hold on to the same score until half time. There were no subs at half time to no surprise from Rafa. As the things went no better, Rafa made 2 substitutions at his earliest of unforced ones. Eden Hazard and Mikel came on for Moses and Lampard. The jeering increased as Lampard was taken off much to the disappointment of himself. And then the game changed, Hazard ripped the United defence along the Rafael flank and brought us back in the game with a beauty of a curler from outside D-box. Then Ramires levelled for Chelsea, and Chelsea couldn't snatch the winner by a Mata goal owing to a brilliant save from De Gea. The actual reason behind the turn around was the Mikel sub rather than the Hazard one. Until then our midfield was being ripped from the middle with both Ramires and Lampard in a attacking mindset. Mikel held the back with the defensive four while Hazard caused destruction in the front. Credits to Rafa on that. 
After the 1-0 win against Manchester United which was such a game fully controlled by us from minute one. I havent seen a game with them like this since the Mourinho era. Tactical brilliance and vigor from an eternal rivalry with the opponents from Rafa kept the United attack at bay and a goal from Mata got the much required win. Then the fans gave a standing ovation to Rafa as he walked out. The man earned the respect. 
There is only JUAN Mata!
After the 2-1 at Aston Villa, where Frank Lampard broke Chelsea's top scorer record we had the big game up, the Europa League final. This game ended a milestone for us, the players and Rafa. Finally, a trophy! Taking the lead with a goal from a Fernando 'I always score in the final' Torres goal, we gave the lead up to a penalty as usual in the Europa League. Ivanovic brought home the glory in the last minutes of the game by a header from a Mata corner. It was later revealed the corner was practiced tactically knowing Benfica and their GK's weaknesses from insights from David Luiz and other ways. Mata said, "Rafa told us we had to aim to the far post, because it was Artur's weakest place. I just tried to put the ball there and Ivanovic did the rest." David Luiz had his share of praise "He changed some of our positions in the second half. That's why we played better and won the title. He spoke a lot to us to change the intensity." Cheers were then for Rafa as it was Mission accomplished with Champions league qualification and a European trophy win. 
Deserved to lift it
There.. To here..
Rafa Benitez leaves the club as promised, completing the main objectives given to him. The tenure could've been better with a CWC or FA cup or both wins but it was not the worst nevertheless. He helped us sail through the dreaded fixture conjestion towards season end where we had to play about one game every three days. I have nothing but respect for him now.

First half of the tenure rating: 6/10
Second half of the tenure rating: 8.5/10

Players who benefited most from the Rafa era: 
1. Fernando Torres - Found his scoring form to an extent. Performed well in European games. 22 goals. Decent season.
2. David Luiz - Rotated between DMF and defence. Adapted well to pivot role. Increased attacking contribution. Improved free kick taking.
3. Cesar Azpilicueta - Replaced Ivanovic in the RB role. Improved forward runs/crossing. Best in tracking back.
4. Yossi Benayoun - He got to play.

Players who benefited least from the Rafa era:

1. Marko Marin - Dint get any playing time owing to the rotation policy followed.
2. Victor Moses - Forced to change his style of play from dribbling to passing which did not work well for him.

Congratulations to Rafa on landing the Napoli job, we thank you for everything and wish you good luck in the Serie A. (Dear UEFA, now dont draw Napoli and Chelsea in the same group). 

Thank you Rafa!