Mails: Chelsea, Conte, winter breaks, weird transfer XI

Date published: Tuesday 6th February 2018 9:40

Keep those emails coming to…


Chelsea’s failures vs Conte’s failures vs player failure
Looks like our season is falling apart. Only a month ago we looked ready to challenge Man Utd for 2nd place and were still in all four competitions. It feels like a good time to sum up who is responsible…

The board’s failures:
– Selling Matic

– Pursuing quantity over quality. The likes of Zappacosta, Barkley and Drinkwater seem unlikely to significantly improve the squad, compared to existing Chelsea players who could have been kept at the club rather than loaned out.

– Signing a number of players who have experienced major injuries or surgery. E.g. Barkley, Palmieri, Bakayoko, Rudiger.

Conte’s failures:
– Persisting with Bakayoko. This one is just baffling and makes me wonder if he might genuinely be trying to get himself sacked, or wants to repeatedly make the point that he didn’t want Matic to leave. Only 4 other Chelsea players have played more Premier League minutes than Bakayoko – that is simply an absurd fact.

– Getting rid of Batshuayi when he was finding form, as he showed in his last couple of Chelsea games and Dortmund debut. Conte’s dislike of Batshuayi seems excessive and it has left us without a striker for the last two games, in which we have been utterly toothless. The dramatic downturn in the last two games now makes a top 4 finish start to look unlikely.

– Starting Barkley against Bournemouth. It was plain to see that he wasn’t ready. Again, is Conte just doing this to provoke the board? Even 17 year old Hudson Odoi looked miles better when he came on – surely this is also apparent during training?

– Alienating David Luiz. When you have a small squad, it doesn’t help to reduce it further. Though he is back in the team now, having him as an option in defence and centre mid in the last few months could have helped alleviate the pressure on the squad and perhaps avoid some of the many injuries we’ve been having. Whatever he did, a bit of forgiveness could have been for the greater good.

– Failing to identify his best team. This was a key part of winning the title last year with the fabled switch to 3-4-3 and very consistent team selection. Clearly more rotation would be needed this team, but he is still no closer to finding a line-up that really works, and the constant rotation in defence probably hasn’t helped our defensive organisation.

The players’ failures:
– Poor discipline. Bizarrely we now have the fewest yellow cards in the premier league and the most red cards. This is an ongoing problem and ultimately I think the players need to be held responsible – it has cost us points on many occasions. In the FA Cup, Morata’s red card for diving and then protesting was particularly embarrassing.

– Lack of concentration. The frequency of defensive lapses has been unforgivable considering the quality of defensive players at our disposal. Most often this has been down to individual player mistakes and Conte can’t take the blame for that alone.

– Lack of creativity. While Conte might face some criticism here e.g. for under-using Willian, certain players like Pedro and Fabregas simply haven’t produced what they are capable of. Azpilicueta is still our king of the assists with his 6 assists from early on in the season. Alonso is our 3rd highest scorer in the league. These stats speak volumes.
James Bruschini (glad I got that off my chest…)


Watching the post match coverage of Chelsea loss to Watford, speculation is abound that Conte would be sacked shortly.

I feel it will be both hasty and disrespectful if true. The club to be honest has not backed Conte with transfers of his choice. It appears none of the players bought were his first or even second choices. We are stuffed with defensive mids and center halves but lack quality on wings and creative force apart from Hazard. Hazard can do only so much and he is not Messi.

Conte won PL and promptly lost top center forward (mostly his own doing) and club replaced Costa with a emerging talent Morata. He lost Matic who club replaced with Bakayoko…a decision appearing like a disaster with each passing day.

I think we need to buy top players on top of their game apart from emerging talents if we want to compete at top level for trophies. Currently we are either interested in young players or cheap injured players which is not helping the manager. I thought Enemalo was the reason for our transfer disasters for last 2 seasons , now appears it was Marina’s doing instead.

We should back Conte till end of the season and trust that he gets us into top 4. Maybe then get him few real quality players for next season.

And another detailed one on Chelsea
Last season, at a similar juncture (give or take), Manchester City were at a real risk of losing out of the top 4. Thrashings at Goodison park, Leicester and losses against Pool (along with generous silly points dropped elsewhere) meant Pep and co were really at risk of losing the coveted CL places. PFMs and armchair pundits were calling Pep’s head for being arrogant, tactically rigid and not respecting the English game laughing at the fraud he was.

However, somewhere in the deserts of Abu Dhabi, the sheikh was watching all of it nonchalantly, knowing he had a gem of a manager who was clearing out the mess created in seasons gone by. A coach who had a clear footballing vision and was trying it with players who were older or no more capable of adapting to the new methods. What does the Sheikh do? Nothing. Trusts his appointment and assures backing in the summer. Of course, Pep being Pep, turned the season with a strong finishes losing only at Stamford Bridge on his way to finishing 3rd. And he was promptly backed in the summer and we know where City are.

Chelsea, Conte and Abramovich are in a similar (if not same) situation today. The losses to Howe’s Bournemouth and Watford could not have come at a worse time. here are calls within Chelsea support (I am disgusted to even type this), mainly moronic millennials who swarm the twitters and facebooks like weeds growing upon good lands. From day one of the season, pundits and the media try to portray multiple crises within Chelsea. The tension cannot be higher.

In Conte, like I’ve written before, Abramovich has a coach who can get amazing results out of a below par squad like he did at Juve, like last season. Perhaps one of the top 3-5 coaches in the world. Abramovich needs to look at the deserts of Abu Dhabi before he makes a decision soon. Once upon a time, when Chelsea were disposing off world class coaches, they had a team of international captains (JT, Cech, Ballack, Drogba) or characters (Lampard, Essien) to run the team on autopilot to reach CL finals (and even win the damn thing).

Now, Chelsea hardly have world class players (Hazard, Kante, Thibaut and Azpilicueta), let alone great characters (the last being Diego). The problem is, the short term approach of sacking and changing managers to use that new coach syndrome for trophies is done. You can’t keep doing this with an average squad with 3-4 WC players and 3-4 good players anymore. Luis Enrique had that MSN to score goals. Diego Simeone is better off at Spain. Allegri would find better challenges with reasonable ownership elsewhere. For all the awesomeness, Sarri is yet to win a title. So, Mr. Abramovich, I ask this of you – are you going to buck the trend, realize you have a world class coach and just back him or are you going to sack him like you do and see the real ramifications?

I did not like the Jose sacking in December as I believed he won us the title and had the right to finish the season before such decision. I know Conte has also been non-committal to Chelsea, but the man deserves to see of the season before a parting of ways. Conte needs the backing to finish the season. Then we can decide.

Final thoughts, where does this leave the likes of Hazard and Thibaut who are in the peak of their lives and no closer to competing for the CL, let alone winning it?
Aravind, Chelsea Fan. (Oh, now Messi must finally score against us)


Didn’t take long
Maybe just maybe, it wasn’t entirely Jose’s fault after all.
Shivam, MUFC


My conclusions 45 minutes into this match:

Bakyoko may be the worst footballer in the history of football. Ever.

It’s time to say goodbye Antonio. You don’t want to be here anymore, the squad don’t want you anymore and we don’t want to watch this absolute drivel anymore.

Thanks for everything.


Antonio Conte as Axl Rose
Yesterday, a mailbox correspondent compared Jurgen Klopp to the Sex Pistols after the Liverpool manager had correctly accused the assistant referee of taking centre stage when it should always be him. Last night’s game got me comparing Antonio Conte to Axl Rose, with his current Chelsea team in the Use your Illusion/The Spaghetti Incident phase of the Guns n’ Roses discography…

Last season was Appetite for Destruction as he burst onto the scene with a rag tag bunch (Marcus Alonso and Victor Moses as wing backs!) to produce one of the finest debut seasons/rock albums in history. With a retro formation/sound he led a team/band with amazing hair (David Luiz, Alonso) and questionable politics (JT). However, the pressure to repeat the debut success has led to some odd choices.

Few would argue that Alvaro Morata/Matt Sorum is a more technically gifted striker/drummer than Diego Costa/Steven Adler, but something has been missing with the sloppy, brawling style of the latter. He got rid of the most dependable member of his midfield/rhythm section (for Izzy Stradlin read Matic) and has then bloated that area looking for replacements. Contes insistence on playing a stodgy 3-5-2 rather than last season’s dynamic and raw 3-4-3 is the equivalent of all those 9 minute power ballads, with Axl on grand piano, that ruined Use your Illusion.

Eden Hazard is Slash: Still able to really play, but performances have become more self absorbed this season/album. Azpilicueta is Duff: The likeable one who seems halfway decent and intelligent despite playing for Chelsea/being in Gn’R.

So, I realise this is quite a forced analogy that fails as soon as Conte gets sacked, no one has managed to sack Axl yet. But it’s helped me forget another abysmal Everton performance at the weekend, and taken nearly the whole bus journey to write this on my phone. And as a leaving remark, I ask, who would be Buckethead?
Matt, EFC, London


Text message banter
Hi Antonio, I hope you are well. Thanks for the season we spent together. Good luck for the next year but you are not in my plan.
Roman Abramovich


At least Eden Hazard continues to be wonderful
What a magnificent footballer Eden Hazard is. I would have him as the most talented (which doesn’t necessarily mean the best) player in the league and quite comfortably so. Yes De Bruyne is fantastic and Salah is a whirlwind but when on top form there is no one to match Hazard. It’s such a shame that he isn’t playing under Guardiola because I believe he is the best equipped manager to bring the best out of him every week. It’s such a shame that we are managed by Jose because he will never come to us while he is in charge. It’s such a shame that perhaps he doesn’t have the desire of Messi and Ronaldo to score every goal in every game because he is more than capable.

Last night he wasn’t fantastic but then pulled that out of the bag. What I love the most though about him is though is he has the ability to make the hardest skill in the game (dribbling past multiple players in a tight space) look incredibly easy. Half of me hopes he stays in the premier league so we can see him every week, the other that he goes to Real so that he has the chance to become the main man at one of the superpowers of football.

Here’s to you Eden Hazard, maybe the last of the luxury players.
Bernard (leave tribalism at the door when it comes to brilliance) MUFC


Extending the season better than a break
I just read on the BBC how the Premier League are considering incorporating a ‘winter break’ into the next tv deal. I honestly don’t think we need one we just need fewer fixtures during this time as playing seven games in 19 days is utter madness. It must affect the players further on in the season and lead to more injuries? Anybody have any stats on this perhaps?

Simple answer: Extend the season by 2 weeks. No winter break, it’s pointless as teams have to play friendlies to stay match fit anyway. The extra 2 weeks just means less messing about pre-season and only an extra week at the end where either they are off anyway on their holibobs or will be joining up with their national teams so need to stay match fit without being dead on their feet.


A winter break makes sense, but…
It’s been reported that the Premier League has referenced a winter break in the tender documents for the new TV rights deal. The break would occur after the first weekend of matches in January and possibly last two weeks.

I know plenty of people get vexed over this. Some think it’s a case of foreign managers / players coming over here and trying to change our traditions (are the amount of games played between the middle of December and start of January really traditional or have they increased dramatically over the last 20 years because of TV?). Some think it will benefit English players in the long run and remove the excuse that the players are tired in the summer during international competitions.

I’m in the camp that thinks we should have a winter break, or just less games between Boxing Day and New Year’s Day – it’s hard enough trying to remember what day it is at that time of year, let alone results and fixtures.

However I think any benefit will be short lived. As we’ve seen with Friday night games, the TV companies pick the teams they want to see and games picked have no real other thought process go into them. In Europe, Friday night games are often used by a team that has a big European game coming up. Bayern, Juve, PSG, Madrid and Barca have all played on a Friday before a big European game to give them an extra day rest. Every little helps.

But in England we have a situation where it looks like Sky will not even use half of the 10 Friday night games this season that it paid hundreds of millions for. We’ve had games like Manchester United at home to Southampton in the first few weeks of last season. This season the Friday night games were West Ham v Brighton , West Ham v Leicester, Bournemouth v Brighton and Arsenal v Leicester.

The point I’m making from this is that Friday night football came about because clubs wanted the league to adapt and give them the chance to play on a Friday and have an extra rest day before they played a big European game. But Sky got the rights and said “nah, you’re alright. We want to show games that have no need to be on a Friday night.”

So what do you think will happen with the proposed winter break? The games that Sky / BT would normally show in that time will probably get sandwiched midweek later on in the season at a ridiculous point and probably cancel out the rest generated by the winter break.

I hope the Premier League has learned from the Friday night scenario and builds in some controls over when broadcasters can schedule those games that would originally be in the winter break, but I’m not expecting them too. Do the clubs have any say in the terms of the TV tender rights?

I hope they get it right, surely we all want to see the England team do well at some point in a tournament during our lives, even if that means not seeing Premier League football for a couple of weeks in the bleakest month of the year… Oh shit.


Weird transfer XI
GK: Claudio Bravo – Barcelona to City
Bravo’s career took an interesting turn when Andre Ter Stegen struggled with his first forays in La Liga, and he was parachuted in to take over as number one after originally signing as the experienced back-up. This in itself is not so strange (see De Gea/Lindegaard or Karius/Mignolet). What was strange is that City saw fit to spunk 17m on Bravo two years later, despite him being 32 and clearly not that great.

RB: Julien Faubert – West Ham to Real Madrid (Loan)
It was only a loan, but it was proper weird. Like West Ham, I’m playing him at right back for extra weirdness.

CB: Christopher Samba – QPR to Anzhi
When Chris “Mu” Samba moved to QPR for 12m, it was strange. When Anzhi were willing to give them their money back for him after a dreadful half season, it was so much stranger.

CB: Sol Campbell – Portsmouth to Notts County
I remember this well, because I still considered Campbell to be a ‘big name’ player at the time, someone barely beyond his prime. A move to a club in League 2 was therefore hard to understand. Sol agreed, and lasted just the one game.

LB: Tyrone Mears – Derby to Olympique Marseille
Famously snuck into the Derby dressing room to fetch his boots ahead of a move to the top of Ligue Un. Didn’t really pull up any trees there, surprisingly. Serves him right for playing with “Ty” on the back of his shirt.

CM: Paulinho – Guangzhou Evergrande to Barcelona
Whenever I get a paycheck, I spend a week or so making various impulsive and unnecessary purchases, giddy on my temporary financial might. I can only guess that Barcelona spending 40m of their Neymar euros on a 29-year-old playing in the Chinese League (and with a mediocre spell at Tottenham under his belt) came from a similar place.

CM: Javier Mascherano – Corinthians to West Ham
Joining along with his compatriot Tevez, Mascherano edges him out for our purposes because he got virtually zero chances on the field. Subsequent spells at Liverpool and Barcelona made that particular decision seem rather foolish.

RAM: Kenneth Perez – Ajax to PSV to Ajax
Surely an obscure one for most readers, but any Ajax fans in the audience will nod in approval. Perez had moved from Ajax to PSV just half a season earlier, having fallen out with basically everybody in Amsterdam (and racially abusing a lino along the way). Then, noticing he wasn’t playing at PSV and looking for a replacement for Wesley Sneijder, Ajax suddenly came back in for their disgraced midfielder. The second spell ended with Perez unsuccessfully attempting to force a first team place through arbitration. That went well.

CAM: Jari Litmanen – Malmo to Fulham (loan)
Mired in a relegation battle, Roy Hodgson’s wiley eye turned to a legendarily injury-prone No. 10 who was fast approaching his 40th birthday. Litmanen didn’t actually play for us, but we stayed up so it must have worked. Somehow.

LAM: Gerard Deulofeu – Doing the Hokey Pokey from Barcelona to and from any and everywhere
Barcelona brings up player. Send him out on loan. Player does well on loan, but has little chance to succeed at Barcelona . Loan club buys player. This time, player doesn’t do so well. Goes on loan somewhere else and does OK. Barcelona buy back player. Barcelona loan out player again. Gerard himself must be fed up with this hot and cold treatment. At some point, he’s going to need some commitment. He’s not getting any younger, after all.

ST: Allan Simonsen – Barcelona to Charlton
The talented Dane sensibly didn’t fancy the competition from new signing Diego Maradona at Barcelona. Less sensibly, he decided to forego an offer from Real Madrid to rock up at Second Division Charlton. It must have been awfully good fun for Charlton fans, even if it was only for one season.

Subs: Julio Cesar (Inter/QPR); Edgar Davids (Crystal Palace); Luther Blissett (Watford/Milan); Taarabt (QPR/Milan); Bojan (Barcelona/Stoke).
Joe FFC (still waiting for the call from Barca)


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