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On January 4th, after the league game vs Chelsea, I suggested Jack Wilshire needed to continue playing and keep increasing his levels to make his way to Russia. We are now 23 appearances, 17 starts, this season and thought I would review how his season has gone and whether he is the midfielder England need, or indeed want. This was brought on after I saw the stats for yesterday’s game:
100% (6 dribbles) Dribble Completion – one more than Hazard
93% Pass Accuracy
3 Tackles won
His last ten games read: Chelsea x3, West Ham (MoM), Newcastle, Liverpool, Palace x2, West Brom, Bournemouth (WhoScored 7.18) . Pretty average opposition generally speaking. In these games he made about 0.8 tackles, so not really a defensive midfielder. He has scored 2 goals and made 3 assist, so he is not the guy to bang them in or create.
Where Wilshire shines is in the transition from defense to attack and thus creating space. Wilshire average 3 dribbles per game puts him 3rd in the Premier League and he does this from Central Midfield. With a drop of the shoulder and a quick dribble, WIlshire consistently finds himself between the midfield and defense. He can also pass to make the most of these situations. Anyone watching him play can see he offers something a little different on the pitch. Its no coincidence that Arsenal have struggled without Cazorla but as Wilshire gets back to fitness, we finally have someone back in the team that can weave his way through a tight defensive position.
The question is, do England want/need a player like this? The most recent F365 ladder had Eric Dier, Dele Alli, Jordan Henderson, Harry Winks, Ruben Loftus Cheek and the Ox in the top 30 as midfielders. Of those players, I would argue that Ali, Wilshire and the Ox are players that can perform the role of transition from defense to attack from midfield and I would take all 3 as they are game changers.
Does Gareth want him though? Are we even going to play 3 in the middle? He isn’t the best midfielder in the world but I know if I was Gareth, I would know he is a consistent performer on an international stage and, if fit, he would be up on my WC ladder. We will see…
Rob A (admittedly Chelsea weren’t amazing in those 3 games) AFC
Conte deja vu
As a Juventus fan I am following with interest Conte’s reign at Chelsea. There do seem to be a lot of parallels with his time at Juventus. In both cases he started out with a squad that most people thought would challenge for Champions’ League places, and took them to the title at the first attempt. In both cases his charisma and tactical knowledge was a deciding factor in the win. In both cases the owners and/or fans are asking for more and better results, maybe without appreciating the effort it took to win with the resources he had in the first place.
At Juventus the expectation after 3 ‘scudetti’ was to compete in the Champions’ League, except Juve didn’t have the resources of Barca, Real or Bayern. In Chelsea’s case there is the insistence to compete both in the Champions League with the aforementioned trio (plus PSG now), and domestically with the Manchester clubs. He famously said: you can’t go to a 100 Euro restaurant with 10 Euros in your pocket, (also, less famously, you can’t build a skyscraper with a bucket and spade). Now he has 100 Euros in his pocket but the fancy restaurants are charging 200.
Conte has certainly improved many players at Chelsea, but improving payers and innovative tactics can only get you so far when your competitors are also doing those same things AND outspending you in the market. I don’t hink any of Drinkwater, Rudiger, Zappacosta etc were Conte’s first choice, and I’m not sure about Morata and Bakayoko either. But I don’t think he has the same power at Chelsea, as say Klopp at Liverpool to say “It’s Van Dijk or nothing”, so he has to make do. It’s not his fault if he asked for players ABC and Chelsea spaffed 300 million on players XYZ and told him to make do.
Having said that I am rather surprised by his odd use of 3-5-2. At Juve the key of this formation was the midfield 3 with a low playmaker (Pirlo) and 2 all-action midfielders who got forward and scored lots of goals (Vidal and Marchisio, and later, Pogba). That’s impossible to replicate at Chelsea as none of his all-action midfielders are very good at getting into dangerous areas and scoring a lot, while Fabregas has Pirlo’s skill and vision but not the temperament to sit back in position and calmly dictate play. He is probably much better off sticking to 3-4-3 to which his midfielders are more suited.
Brendan back to the Bridge
I would also like to wholeheartedly agree with Daniel Storey’s piece. It seems that Chelsea are caught in a weird middle place. The strategy, as described, is right. We can no longer compete with Manchesters City and United. But it seems that we’re caught between wanting to attract outstanding talents, but knowing that we can’t. If Eden Hazard were to have been born in 1997, rather than 1991, and he were looking for a move from Lille this summer, we would never be able to compete with either City or United for his signature. But this is not the whole story.
The strategy, as it worked a few years ago, seemed to make sense. We bought de Bruyne, Salah and Lukaku and, whilst it is easy to say now, they obviously should have been kept and trusted. The issue, for me, is not so much with signings like Bakayoko, as he’s only 23, but with, as Daniel says, the Drinkwaters and Zappacostas who are a total waste of money. The problem, therefore, is that we have a total aversion towards trusting a young player to fill the roles that the increasingly expensive squad players are currently taking.
The answer, for me, is a left-field one. Rather than appointing firebrands like Antonio Conte who complain when not given the funding they require – let it not be forgotten that Conte resigned from Juve after they didn’t sign Juan Cuadrado, Chelsea should be brave.
The answer is to hire one Brendan Rodgers. A man who is unafraid to play young players and give them a chance. This model, promoting players like Hudson-Odoi (although maybe a bit early for him as he only turned 17 a few months ago, however good he looks), would allow us to create a core of players that grew up at the club – contrary to popular belief, the vast majority of players in Chelsea’s academy are kids from London – and invest in the big names instead of spending tens of millions on your Drinkwaters etc. It would require the club (and fans) to actually back a manager when we inevitably didn’t qualify for the CL, but it would give us such a platform for the future austerity years when we have to pay off our new ground. Rodgers 2018, get on board.
Ditch points for goal difference
In response to Bradley Kirrage’s letter. Simply put, I love it, not least because I’m a Spurs fan and our best team in my memory (I’m 32) would have the titles their last few years of effort have deserved. I’m also thinking about how exciting the last day of the season could be and how much craziness we might see. Relegation contenders needing a +7 GD swing and so going all-out for the big win while hoping their rivals don’t get an easy ride from the mid-table already-on-holidayers.
It wouldn’t just be the last day of the season though, every minute of every game becomes important. Playing a side with a soft underbelly and 3-0 up at half time? Great, go & win the 2nd half 3-0 too!
It would take the gloss off a last-minute winner/equaliser though since ultimately that only means the difference of +/- 1 GD so I’d probably suggest that we return to the 1pt for a draw, 2pts for a win and then add the +/-GD on top of that to keep the drama.
Thom, Bristol-based Spur
…Re Bradley Kirrage’s email on goal difference. Obviously it creates lots of excitement having the table decided exclusively on goal difference. Theoretically, any team in the league could win the title – or even go down – right up until the last day of the season. Teams duking it out for goals, goals, goals…
But surely, conservatism isn’t about the system it’s about attitude. Knowing that a positive goal difference would basically keep you up, surely the lesser lights – i.e. my own West Brom – would focus on keeping their goal difference at +1, and play for clean sheets each week or limiting the damage as much as possible. The moment clubs realise a shoeing sends them down the table, they’d shut up shop, right?
The issue with this attack v defence league we have now isn’t with points and goals, it’s with the imbalance between teams. Half the league has no real prerogative to aim any higher, purely because they can’t. A tweak in system does;t necessarily change that.
The injection of extra TV money of a few years ago initially led to a wave of mid table teams buying exciting players; i.e. Palace buying Cabaye, Zaha, Benteke to name one example – but equally the emphasis then becomes on simply holding onto that cash – survival – rather than jeopardise risking it.
Watford have hired a defensive coach after the dalliance with Silva; Saints have one…Pulis bored me to death for years…half the bottom of the league have one. Keeping hold of the cash is basically all that matters, because clubs are businesses now – with shareholders and debts and boards – rather than a community entity.
Down with the kids
Interesting article about youngsters and digital media.
My own 14 year old daughter is more up to date on La Liga and European football than I am. She supports Spurs (after Daddy of course) and Real Madrid. She was a big Gareth Bale fan when he was at Spurs. At the time she was gutted when he went to Spain but then chose to follow Real as her ‘second team’. The test came last year when Spurs played RM in the Champions League. I even asked her who she was supporting. She didn’t hesitate to say Spurs (thankfully – it would have been the shed for her then). FIFA on the Xbox is also a huge source of information on players as she builds teams with players from everywhere. She usually beats me at FIFA too and is way ahead of me in Fantasy Football (damn you Man City players).
Oh the shame, the shame….
Andy Gilleran, THFC, Dublin
Remembering when football was good
The time I loved football the most was 2008-2015.
In this seven year period, I started going to games and activley supporting my local team in Dublin, Bohemian FC. I felt a much stronger connection to the club than the team I had been supporting in the EPL from afar.
This coincided with a (record points margin) league and cup winning season, 2008, a league and league cup winning season 2009, and the club being on the brink of going bust, every year since up untill 2015. Yes the league and cup wins were great, but I had so much better nights supporting the team in the years after. One memorable night being beating our local rivals and current champions 4-0 with a team of kids, has-beens, never-gonna be’s and the odd aging star. I also loved the ritual, finish work on Friday, into the club bar or nearby pub on away days for a few pints with the lads in prepartion for the 7:45 kick off.
I stepped away from going to games in 2015, and fell out of love with football when the club made the desicion to sign a player with a questionable past (think Ched Evans, but he was acyually guilty).
With the player in question now at another club, our season kicks off with a home game against our rival in three weeks I am ready to fall in love with football all over again. Also, Lloyd I’m ready to be heartbroken.
Andrew (BFC) Dublin
…Great mail by Dave (Arsenal) Hert on why football was so good in the 99/2000.
First of all, of course it was better since we were all younger; but nostalgia set aside, I couldn’t agree more on the fact footballing talent was much more widely allocated than it is now.
Here for a 99-2000 XI with no more than a player per (European) club:
Kahn – Thuram, Maldini, Desailly, Roberto Carlos – Keane, Vieira, Zidane, Figo – Batistuta, Ronaldo
And please welcome on the (very attack-minded) bench the likes of Barthez, Cafu, Mendieta, Veron, Pirès, Valeron, Nakata, Okocha, Hasselbaink, Van Nistelrooy.
A 2017-18 XI wouldn’t too shabby either, but cruelly unbalanced:
Courtois – Chiellini (he played at right-back once), Hummels, Van Dijk, Marcelo – Pogba, Koke, De Bruyne, Ozil – Messi, Neymar.
What about the bench? Hmm: Reina, Bonucci, De Rossi, Fekir, Icardi, Kane, Falcao.
Granted, nostalgia sugar-coats former players with an aura they may not have had at the time, but still – they certainly make them like they used to, with notable exceptions in the heart of defence and in the n.10 role (that has almost disappeared), but they end up in the same clubs.
Just to prove my point a bit more (and dodge the work I’m meant to produce today), an XI made of players from European clubs that finished 4th in their respective championships in 2000:
Peruzzi – Panucci, Hyypia, Carragher, Zanetti – Seedorf, Micoud, Gerrard – Owen, Ronaldo, Milosevi
Same for 2017:
Lopes – Rafael, Escudero, Rami, Milner – Nzonzi, Coutinho, Lallana, Fekir – Mané, Lacazette.
(Make of that what you will about Liverpool over the years).
Raphaël (Olympique de Marseille)
…I may´ve missed it but deduced that someone had posed the question “what was your favourite time to support football ?” It has to be the period from 1977 to 1982. Including two world cups and a European championships in Italy. The English champions conquered europe and Kevin Keegan left for, the then exotic, SV Hamburg.
Scotland sent a proper good team around the world to a wintery Argentina, they were unlucky to be grouped with a very, very good Peru team , who I believe were current Souh American champions and possible winners of the whole thing. Teofillo Cubillas was as exotic as they came for me yet all foreign talents were exotic back then. OK so they messed it up versus Iran but then beat the finalists Holland, who , if they´d had Cruyff would probably have won. Back in England the sudden emergence of Nottingham Forest was out of the blue and an epic league tussle persued, Forest are one of the few clubs to have more European Cup wins than league titles.
The big six then were probably Aston Villa, Everton, boring, boring Arsenal, Man United and Liverpool, plus at that time Forest.(a defender, Kenny Burns, won footballer of the year in England). However…
Bobby Robson´s Ipswich Town were on the rise, winning the FA cup and later the Uefa cup with two exotic imports (from Holland, Arnold Muhren and Franz Thyssen. Remember that Ipswich and Forest were definetly NOT big clubs.
The first million pound player scored the winner against Malmo in the European Cup final, one of the only live games in those days, this was the first football game I ever bet on – and I won.
On paper Ron Greenwood´s England had a good team going to Italy in the summer of 1980. again perhaps bad luck with drawing the hosts. I started to get used to West Germany being a footballing super power (they always used to lose as my subbuteo team curiously).
After back to back Nottingham Forest European Cups! Liverpool came back stronger and won the big one again , making it four years in a row that English clubs had won. There is quite a bit of evidence that UEFA detested this and did all it could to bring the english dominance to an end. The hooligans were the easiest target. Cyrille Regis´s mate Laurie Cunningham looked as cool as fu%k in the pure white strip of Real Madrid. I´d imagine there weren´t a lot of Madrid supporters who didn´t engage in giving him an incredibly hard time.
Keith Burkinshaw turned Spurs into a good cup team with his two Argentine imports. A man from Rhodesia started to play in goal for the champions, Aston Villa went on a mad streak of winning the league, (although Ipswich were the better team over the season), then the European bloody cup !, probably making the anti-Brit bigwigs over at Uefa spit out their muesli and have steam coming out of their ears, what is more the runners up , Ipswich Town won the other big one !
Terry Venebles was plucked from QPR to go to work at the Camp Nou. He lost the great Diego Maradona, lost out on Hugo Sanchez over at Atletico so decided on Stevie flippin Archibald.
Then on to a tasty World Cup in Europe, in sunny Spain, England drawn to play in Bilbao, how I yearned to go. Did any mailboxers go ?
We were all creaming our pants over the Brazil team, Falcao, Doctor Socrates, Zico, this is when I learnt the word “flair” the Argentina team (holders), but it was West Germany and Italy on European soil who were the best. Big transfers had been Cruyff to Barcelona but also Zibigniew Boniek to Juve, I think Kempes was at Valencia, Zico was at Roma I believe.
Radio 2 had live midweek commentry, Sports Night showed wonderfully exotic European Cup games, The big match (Brian Moore – enormous ears) at lunchtime on sundays followed the must watch MOTD with Jimmy Hill´s outstanding chin.
I used to cut out football articles from the newspapers and put them in a srapbook, plus read Shoot, Match and fill Pannini sticker books. Devour hardback books like The Soccer Tribe and World Football- filled with glossy pictures of incredible stadia and wonderful football kits. A rainbow of Belguim , Holland, Peru, Brazil in a blanco-celeste sky. Stood on grippingly, packed,swaying terraces up and down the country and regularly go to Wembley.
Peter. (Bloody brilliant music at that time too). Andalucia.
Battle for London
Ah welcome back Graham. Nice to see you’ve already been sick all over yourself.
Enjoy losing to City in the final. Will there be a bus parade again where Wilshere sings ‘my old man’ to 10,000 Arsenal fans who dont know the words?
Bless you and your identikit stadium. Spurs are building the exact same toilet seat next to yours except theirs is bigger. And at least we will have an area for our rich w********, rather than an entire stadium of c*****.
Chelsea have cleared the objections of the one family objecting to the stadium, thanks to the neighbouring council. Not sure how you missed that.
Chelsea have also won two of the past 3 titles. All while balancing the books.
In fact, we’ve won five titles since your beloved Arsenal last won one. Plus the one with big ears, not sure you know what that looks like up in Norf London.
And we won more in the 14 years before Abramovich than you have since.
Maybe stick to the cricket, eh?
Harry CFC, Saaf Laandaan
…Okay, regarding Graham Simons – I’ll bite, but first of all – congratulations to Arsenal. Well done on putting the disruption to your squad to one size and getting through to the final. I did however find it amusing to read that our “moment in the sun” was ending. As I have said many times before – I do not expect Chelsea to win all games in all competitions and dominate domestically and in Europe definitively. I expect periods of success interspersed with period of rebuilding and squad development, ideally where we bring some younger players through the ranks. If our “period in the sun is ending”, then let’s look at the two comparative records since the turn of the decade in 2009/2010 :
Arsenal : 3 FA Cups
Chelsea : 3 Premier Leagues, 2 FA Cups, 1 League Cup, 1 x Champions League and 1 x Europa League
It looks to me like Arsenals “moment in the sun” ended an awful long time ago indeed, going all the way back to 2004 for their most recent title.
Its of course a somewhat arbitrary place to draw the line but go all the way back to 2000 or even 20 years ago and you’ll see the same upward trajectory of Chelsea and relative downward trajectory of Arsenal. It may be that Chelsea struggle to win major silverware for a period of time, but I suspect we will continue to remain competitive in the league and, with a bit of luck, compete in the Champions League. I do not however think we’re about to regress to finishing 7th in the league, looking wistfully at the forward line of a certain north London team at the same time losing our best player to Manchester United (again).
On Chelsea – yes we do have problems in the squad but after the relative over-achievement of last year I’d be happy with finishing 3rd or 4th, a couple of good cup runs and maybe – just maybe – getting to the semi-finals of the Champions league to give the squad that valuable experience and build again for next year.
Now then – if only Conte can figure out how to get the best out of Morata….
…Ok ok stop. Yesterday was disappointing from a Chelsea perspective sure but some of the reactions have been bizzare.
First of all moment in the sun ending too soon? Two titles in three years etc etc (hate being the list b*stard).. I don’t think losing a Carabao cup semi final is the final bloody nail in the coffin. This was going to be a season of uncertainty. The younger replacements to Matic and Costa were always going to take time although didn’t think bakayoko was as awful as he normally is yesterday – couple of driving runs interspersed with classic clumsiness. And to you Mr arsenal fan, better moments in the sun than 13 years in the shade.
Storey is firmly back on board the should have kept the youf train. Ok the reason Christensen came back perfectly ready for the first team was because of extended first team experience in the champions league and bundesliga. So, even in hindsight I would’ve sent RLC on loan because he needed lots of minutes with less pressure (than at Chelsea) in the prem. Plus, he’s more attacking midfield than central so he would’ve been competing more with Willian, Pedro & Hazard. In addition to all this he’s had notorious problems handling first team intensity, often accused of fatiguing before the end of games and having chronic back issues – his tragicomic nickname around the academy is ‘stiff’. All these issues were better tested at Crystal Palace first and was going quite well until the impending, sadly unavoidable injuries. It’s not quite as simple as give the youth a chance. It’s more what steps are needed for youth to integrate seamlessly into the first team – which admittedly is not as catchy.
Onto Chalobah – yes he would’ve been a good squad player. But again, even in hindsight, I would take Bakayoko (only 4 months older than Chalobah) and Drinkwater over Matic and Chalobah. Tough call but they are more dynamic and I still think Bakayoko’s upside is greater than Chalobahs. Are they £75m better? No, but they are £30m (net spend) plus Chalobah’s buyback clause better. As for the rest of the signings Storey mentioned – they are either title winners (Luiz, Alonso) or have been written off after half a season (Morata, Rudiger) or less (Barkley)!
Lastly, and I never thought I would disagree with the great Aravind of Budapest, I can’t knock Conte for formations/team selections. Aravind mentioned a while back he thought Conte should be going with 3-4-3 more and I agreed. Even though the 3-5-2 worked majestically against Atletico and Spurs away it was getting stodgy. After the 0-4 against Brighton (amazing stadium and town by the way) playing 3-4-3 I thought we should stick to it against Arsenal especially since Fab was out and he is critical to the 3-5-2. What happens is we play beautifully for a bit and then can’t match Arsenal’s intensity in the second half. Ok yes, Conte’s moaning about transfers is getting a little old but aside from maybe sending in Musonda I don’t know what he could’ve done differently and for the most part his teams and decisions have been solid, and who are we but humble enthusiasts to criticise.
I understand the sadness of effectively being out of the running for silverware this season but perspective please. The defending champs finishing 3rd is the best record for a few years not without mentioning the transitioning 1st XI and the above average injury woes. I’m the type of optimistic fool that believes Conte could stay beyond the end of this season and if he is backed will shine again.
Saaj (congrats if you made it to the end) CFC – always carefree
Analysis: Why Kyle Edmund was toppled in Aussie Open semi. (Tennis365)