Archive for the ‘Chelsea’ Category

You know those pages on Facebook that clog up your news feeds? Annoying aren’t they. Usually pointless advertising and spamming of my own personal social media space (an oxymoron if ever there was one), however in amongst the adverts making me feel inadequate about my manhood (why these are on a Fifa banter page, god only knows) but one fan asked a question that got me thinking, ‘Who is the best left back in the Premier League?’

Firstly let me say, Ashley Cole is not going to be considered because my twenty year plan to make Cheryl Cole/Tweedy my wife will be ruined if she reads this article about what a wonderful left back he is/was.

Jose Enrique appears to be one of the bargains of the season so far at £6 million, with the Spaniard being key in Liverpool only conceding 18 Premier League goals this season, which is only bettered by Manchester City (16). The former Newcastle United player has defended with maturity and attacked with force, encompassing everything the modern day full back is about, however Enrique is yet to make his international debut which is surprising given his form and Spain’s supposed shortage at left back.

Leighton Baines, arguably the most consistent left back over the last two years or so which has started to earn the defender recognition at international level. The former Wigan Athletic man has an attribute that hasn’t been seen in a left back since Roberto Carlos and that is his ability from dead ball situations, which has proved invaluable to Everton with the likes of Louis Saha making Emile Heskey look prolific.

Neil Taylor has been one of several positives from the Premier League new boys Swansea this year, the Welsh outfit have been a great addition to the world’s best league. The Wales international has it all, the pace, the calmness when under pressure and the attacking tendencies; admittedly at 22 the former Wrexham defender isn’t the complete package but given a season or two at the top level and rumours such as the ones linking him with Arsenal will, no doubt be a common occurrence.

Admittedly I started this article thinking there were going to be five or six decent left backs but clearly I’m mistaken.

Overall, you can’t overlook consistency and Baines has been a solid performer for two seasons now. Although the Englishman may not have the Spanish flair or the ability to reach the levels Neil Taylor can, at the moment you can’t look past the Everton man.

Let me know who you think is the best or just give me advice on how to make Cheryl Cole mine on Twitter @DanielTBlazer

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John Terry has looked like Titus Bramble, Frank Lampard has started fewer games than Ali Dia (Google this name if you want a laugh at Graeme Souness…and who doesn’t want to do that), Didier Drogba has been blowing hot and cold more often than Katy Perry and Fernando Torres has just been blowing cold, very cold. What an earth is going on over in the blue half of West London?

Three words, Andre Villas-Boas. Ok, admittedly those words won’t surprise many of you out there and why would it? The former Porto man has come in for more than his fair share of criticism from fans, pundits and journalists alike. Whether it be his confusing tactics, confrontational attitude in press conferences or his choice to defend the impotent Fernando Torres until the cows come home.

So yeah, another generic AVB article right? Wrong. After re-watching the a few highlights from the season so far (because being a student doesn’t allow you to afford a social life on Friday night’s) but this time I was able to watch this time without the bias towards Arsenal, the euphoria surrounding Walcott’s performances and RVP our MVP and as a ‘neutral’ you really do notice a lot more.

I remember Jose Mourinho’s first few press conferences in England and they were very similar to AVB’s confrontational, defensive and borderline aggressive, so perhaps a good omen for Chelsea because the self proclaimed ‘Special One’ achieved great things during his time at Stamford Bridge.

Back to AVB’s press conferences, would a man who should supposedly be scared for his job with Roman Abramovich’s track record really come out and attack the British media and isolate himself further? Whether it be that the Mr Chelski is too preoccupied with his court case, where he stands to lose billions, to really focus on Chelsea but whatever the reason, I can’t help but think AVB knows he has the backing of the 53rd richest man in the world, for this season at least and here’s why.

When a new manager arrives he will obviously want to make his mark and there will be players he will want to move on to pastures new. The problem AVB has is you can’t walk into a club as prestigious as Chelsea and start upsetting the apple cart without good reason,, the Portuguese’s handling of Frank Lampard has caused uproar amongst fans, especially as when the Chelsea ‘legend’ has played this season he has consistently scored and put in some impressive displays. However come January a marquee attacking midfielder signing could finally see AVB get his way with the Englishman.

So the 34 year old’s ‘tactics’ to remove Lampard are still a work in progress however with John Terry the former British Virgin Islands’ manager has managed to achieve want he wanted, and that is for the England international to look vulnerable and replaceable. Twelve months who really could have imagined that Alan Hansen and Gary Linekar would be highlighting a weakness in John Terry’s game on Match of the Day (well maybe Wayne Bridge had hoped.). The high line utilised by AVB has caused nothing by problems for the defensive line of Chelsea and this allows AVB, probably not in January, but in the summer to bring in players he wants, to play the style of football he wants without there being too much uproar due to the inconsistencies in Terry’s performances throughout this season.

A slight kamikaze mission from AVB but sit tight Chelsea fans, twelve months of major overhaul and you could have a man who outstays Sir Alex Ferguson. AVB has a plan and is the man to finally end player power at the Bridge and no doubt bring Mr Abramovich his Champions League.

Wait. I know you want to close the page already because it is another article about Fernando Torres and we all know the internet is now 99% El Nino articles and the other 1% is articles about Lindsay Lohan’s latest arrest.

When searching through the plethora of articles on the Chelsea striker from newspapers to blog posts the usual conclusions were being drawn; being played out of position, formation doesn’t suit the Spaniard and lacking in confidence. Probably all valid and, to a certain extent, truthful statements however after nearly twelve months on from the £50 million move surely a player of Torres’ reputation could have rediscovered his form? At what point does a player stop being in a bad run of form and just become a poor signing?

What has become plainly obvious to me, yes another ‘armchair pundit’, that the World Cup winner clearly has fallen out of love with the game. Admittedly the time of footballer’s playing with an Ian Wright-esque smile has long gone but the former Atletico Madrid forward cuts a forlorn, disinterested and passionless figure not only for ninety minutes but in all aspects of a modern footballer’s week (press conferences etc.)

Today AVB came out and said that Torres isn’t for sale after rumours suggested that the striker could be available for the knock down price of £20 million but surely saving face and sticking with the 27 year old will continue to add to the media circus that surrounds Stamford Bridge.

The former Porto boss also went on to say that he would wait another year for Torres to recapture his form, waiting 24 months for a player who three seasons ago could have walked into the Barcelona side shows how far El Nino has fallen.

Despite all these positive comments from AVB the former Porto manager hasn’t started Torres since the club’s 1-1 draw with Genk in the Champions League on 1st November. These comments lack substance and perhaps AVB now accepts Torres is a lost cause, I mean Carlo Ancelotti also failed in getting the best out of the Chelsea man so there must be a point where you have to start blaming the player.

Loan signings are cheating.  I mean how can Emmanuel Adebayor transform Tottenham Hotspur’s season and perhaps in the long run cost his parent club Manchester City the Premier League title?

For all of the praise the Premier League receives for being the best league in the world, it is fundamentally flawed in that it allows loan deals internally within the same league.

Jamie O’Hara last season joined Wolverhampton Wanderers on loan from Spurs and was a major influence in keeping Wolves in the Premier League. When the tenacious centre midfielder joined Mick McCarthy’s side were languishing in 19th position and eventually avoided relegation by one place and one point. Although you can’t say single handedly that the Englishman pulled Wolves from the brink but you could definitely argue that would have David Edwards and Karl Henry impacted as much in the middle of the park as O’Hara did?

Birmingham City were the team to take the unwanted final place back in the Championship but not because Wolves squad was better than theirs it was because Tottenham Hotspur’s reserves were. How can Spurs influence both ends of the table?

If you can’t loan out players between one Premiership team and another, then league’s such as the Championship are the next best option. The benefits of sending the likes of Adebayor, Jamie O’Hara and Yossi Benayoun out on loan to the lower leagues of English football are huge. Players of clubs such as Cardiff, Bristol City and Watford would learn and gain so much from having players who have Champions League, Premier League and World Cup experience within their team.

At a time where the gulf between Premier League and the Championship is currently criticised as being too big of a step up, surely an influx of experienced international footballer’s within the lesser ranks of English football will help bridge that ever increasing gap?

If we ban in the Premier League surely you’d have to prevent loan deals to teams with the same tournaments too? Adebayor couldn’t join Real Madrid, Quaresma couldn’t join Chelsea and Tevez couldn’t join AC Milan on loan (If the rumours are true). However we would expect Andy Carroll to score for Liverpool before we see a swift decision made by the footballing bodies.

The conflict of interests between loan deals is massive and yet in an era that has seen Serie A basically closed down due to match fixing, the most obvious form of ‘influencing’ games is a legitimate rule within football.

Overall if the rules were to change and internal loans were banned, the team that would benefit the most is Sunderland…as they’d get to send Nicklas Bendtner back.

This season will be remembered for the emergence of Jack Wilshere, Gareth Bale and Javier Hernandez and quite rightly so, all three players were in inspired form the whole season and became pivotal to their respective teams achievements. However you can be forgiven for thinking these three players were the only three to play well last season, such was the media frenzy surrounding them. There were several players who finally proved their worth after a couple of poor seasons or finally lived up to their price tag or billing.

Here are my Top TEN most improved players

Rafael (Manchester United)

When Gary Neville announced his retirement there wasn’t a worrying look on United fans’ faces like there is now after Paul Scholes announced his retirement, and that is all due to the improved performances of Rafael. The Brazilian was always renowned for his energetic runs up and down the right hand side flank but his defending left a lot to be desired, but this season saw Rafael become a stronger tackler of the ball and just an all round more composed defender.

Joey Barton (Newcastle United)

Love him or hate him, there is no denying that the former Manchester City player has been instrumental in Newcastle’s successful first season back in the Premier League. The Englishman’s range of passing has been his one stand out improvement, with Barton displaying the ability to find that defence splitting pass either from the centre of midfield or on the right flank.

Ben Foster (Birmingham City)

We all (quite rightly) wrote Foster off after Paul Robinson’s goal kick goal against him in 2007, but the former Manchester United keeper has come back fighting. Foster has been named man of the match on several occasions this season, most notably the Carling Cup final, where he made several world class saves to help Birmingham win the trophy. With the burden of being Edwin Van Der Sar’s under study off his back, the Englishman looks to finally be the goalkeeper we were all promised back in 2005.

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Leighton Baines (Everton)

How Fabio Capello must be regretting the decision to take Stephen Warnock instead of Baines to South Africa last summer, after the Englishman’s inspired season for Everton. The former Wigan defended strongly and looked composed on the ball, however it is his attacking exploits that have caught the eye of Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City with the Englishman helping his team’s cause with 11 assists this season.

Samir Nasri (Arsenal)

Major transfer activity is expected at the Emirates this summer but maintaining Nasri’s services should be Wenger’s priority after the season the Frenchman has just had. Outshining captain Cesc Fabregas and making Arsenal fans realise there is life after the Spaniard, Nasri’s goals’, trickery and all round work ethic have made him a joy to behold this season, a different player from the previous two rather mundane and uneventful campaigns.

Dimitar Berbatov (Manchester United)

Two years of criticism, abuse and ridcule from the Red Devils faithful, the former Spurs front man has come up with the ‘goods’ without really altering his playing style. Leading the Premier League goal scoring charts for the majority of the season is no easy feat, especially when you rarely start games, but the Bulgarian managed it and despite this is still rumoured to be on the move (how’s that for gratitude).

Johan Elmander (Bolton Wanderers)

The £8.2 million spent by Bolton to acquire the Swede’s services looked better served being spent on Michael Ricketts after a rather bleak start to Elmander’s career. However the beginning of this season saw the former Toulouse striker in free scoring form, including a contender for goal of the season. The goals dried up in the second half of the season but Elmander’s influence continued with his fantastic work rate, as well as forming a successful understanding with striking partners Kevin Davies and Daniel Sturridge.

Matthew Etherington (Stoke City)

The former West Ham United player looked a broken man after admitting to a gambling addiction but Tony Pulis showed faith in the winger and is reaping the rewards this season. Etherington’s crosses were almost as valuable as Rory Delap’s throw ins, with his continual supply of pin point crosses to Stoke’s several aerial threats.

Lucas Leiva (Liverpool)

Funny old game football, the Brazilian was deemed useless and a laughing stock at the end of the 2010 season but 38 Premier League games later Lucas is now the midfield lynchpin. With Steven Gerrard out for a fair bit of the season, someone needed to step into the middle and fill the hole the Englishman left and Lucas duly obliged. With consistent and hard working performances throughout this campaign the former Gremio player has shown former manager Rafael Benitez why he was wrong to play him out of position for a large portion of his tenure.

Stewart Downing (Aston Villa)

The former Middlesbrough player looked to be drowning under the expectations that fans’ and pundits’ alike had for him after a poor debut season. However this season the England international has turned his game around, contributing the level of assists’ and goals’ an attacking winger should, as well as forming a fantastic partnership with fellow Englishmen Ashley Young and Darren Bent in the process.

It is that horrible time of year again, when us football fans try to find something to entertain ourselves with for a couple of months while the players have a ‘well deserved’ rest. The transfer window has now kindly reopened in order to give the fans something to talk about down the pub and no doubt there will be ridiculous rumours, surprising signings and barbaric amounts of money spent. However in amongst the forever changing stories, there will be a few things that will no doubt remain, but what are they?

Robbie Keane joins dream team

The Republic of Ireland left Spurs because “Joining Liverpool is a lifelong dream of mine and one I couldn’t let pass me by.” and after rejoining Spurs left again, stating “It’s a dream come true” and This is the reason why I’ve always wanted to come to Celtic.”

So where will the former Inter Milan striker be living the dream after this transfer window?

Harry Redknapp linked with everyone

The Spurs man has a bit of a reputation as a successful ‘wheeler-dealer’ in the transfer market, but also has a reputation that he can’t refuse a ‘bargain’. It is such opinions on ‘Arry that will no doubt, like every transfer window that has gone before, see the Englishman linked with every player including a surprising double swoop for Dion Dublin and Dean Windass.

Arsenal won’t sign anyone…worthwhile

“We have to strengthen the squad where it needs and make the right decision on that front. It is always on my mind, every day. Don’t think it’s not on my mind.” This was Wenger talking on the 26th April of this year, sound familiar? It should do because for the last couple of years the Frenchman has been saying this and as of yet the Arsenal fans have seen several Sebastien Squillaci’s come and go for minimal transfer fees, hardly a signing that will allow a team to win a Quadruple.

 

English talent will move for inflated prices

The rumours have already started surrounding the Three Lions talent, Gary Cahill valued at £15-20 million, Ashley Young £20 million and no doubt the same sort of prices for Jordan Henderson, Stewart Downing and Phil Jones. Are these prices really representative of what these players have achieved or can offer a side? Especially when you consider Connor Wickham of Ipswich is valued at £15 million just because ‘he may become a star in the future’, it is ridiculous but with the likes of Manchester City and Chelsea willing to spend, no doubt these players will move for inflated rates.

Fabregas saga

With each transfer window that passes the ‘Fabregas to Barcelona transfer’ becomes more and more like an Eastenders storyline. Tiresome to say the least, but this episode will no doubt carry on this summer but will it finally end or will it end with ‘continued next time’?

Promoted teams linked with experience

The promoted teams always look to sign much needed experience, usually players who have plied their trade in the Premier League for years and are now looking for a couple of ‘easier’ years. This transfer window could see Joe Cole move to QPR epitomising such a deal.

Absurd transfer rumours

It is dubbed the silly season so you can’t blame the newspapers linking Barcelona’s ‘holy trinity’ with a move to Portman Road. It is just annoying because us naïve and excited fans believe the stories and already plan what our team’s shirt will look like with ‘Messi’ on the back.

Manchester City will buy everyone

Roberto Mancini has come out this week and said he feels he will need to make five big name signings…FIVE! Absolutely crazy claims when you consider the wealth of talent at Eastlands already, but no doubt it will happen, especially when you consider they paid over £20 million for Joleon Lescott.

Always that one surprising deal

Despite all the media coverage there is always one deal that escapes the rumour mill and then BAM, at two minutes to deadline it is announced and the world of football is rocked. I remember it happening with Ashley Cole’s move to Arsenal and last year it was Rafael Van Der Vaart’s move to Spurs for a mere £8 million, I wonder who will surprise us this window?

Liverpool will sign an expensive flop

It is usually around the £20 million region, first Robbie Keane and then there was Alberto Aquilani…whose next?

This season, like every Premier League campaign, saw the emergence of world class players, that the season before were just up and coming hot prospects; Jack Wilshere is this season’s stand out example. The Arsenal’s ace rise to prominence, has already got me thinking what talent will be uncovered next season, Manchester United’s ‘kids’ emphatically won the FA Youth Cup in recent days so it is only a matter of time before they begin making a push for the first team and Liverpool have reaped the rewards of their youth set up this season, and no doubt will again next campaign. But who will be the ones to watch next season?

Manchester United

Ryan Tunnicliffe is a central midfielder, who has already earned comparisons to United legend Roy Keane, for his powerful midfield performances. In January 2010 the Englishman signed a three year contract with the Red Devils, a huge show of faith from Sir Alex Ferguson and his staff, that they think the midfielder has what it takes.

Chelsea

Gael Kakuta is an attacking winger, signed illegally by Chelsea, however with such reviews as “Perhaps one criticism was that he didn’t try very hard sometimes in training – because he didn’t need to! He could already do everything.” (Lens Scout) who can blame them? Very much of the Florent Malouda mould and with Malouda rumoured to be part of the reported squad overhaul at Stamford Bridge this summer, the Frenchman could add considerably to his appearance tally of six.

Manchester City

Alex Tchuimeni-Nimely, commentators everywhere will be hoping I am wrong about this City striker as his name is impossible to pronounce. However the twenty year old is rated highly by the staff at Eastlands. Having progressed well in the reserves, with ten goals in all competitions Tchuimeni-Nimely was awarded a four year contract in April of 2010, and went on to make his first team debut the same season. Sadly this season the bright star was lost in and amongst all the pound signs, however with Manchester City having bigger aspirations than the League Cup now, next season may see the forward make a name for himself.

Arsenal

Ryo Miyaichi signed for Arsenal in January of this year and was instantly loaned out to Feyenoord, twelve games and three goals later, the Japanese forward has earnt the nickname ‘Ryodinho’. Enough said.

Tottenham Hotspur

Danny Rose exploded onto the footballing scene with that wonder goal against bitter rivals Arsenal, and after a few loan spells, Rose has returned to the Lilywhites first team squad towards the end of this season, and has put in some assured and comfortable performances. With vital experience under his belt, the midfielder could become an integral part of Redknapp’s side with Niko Kranjcar, Jermaine Jenas and Wilson Palacios, among others rumoured to be on their way out.

Liverpool

Conor Coady will be hoping to follow in the footsteps of John Flanagan and Jack Robinson this season. The Liverpool youngster who has represented England at various levels and can play either centre back or centre midfield, is regarded by the Liverpool staff as an ideal future captain, high praise indeed.

Everton

Jose Baxter can play any attacking position and has been at The Toffees since he was just six years old. The Englishman has made several appearances in an Everton shirt and has broken records along the way, becoming Everton’s youngest ever first team player at just 16 years and 191 days old. Baxter is a player of immense natural talent, this talent saw him named as this season’s reserve player of the season; maybe next season he will be first team player of the season.

Fulham

Matthew Briggs made his Fulham debut at the age of 16 years and 65 days, making him the youngest player ever to play in the Premier League. The defender has captained the England Under 19 side and has made a couple of appearances this season. With Fulham not having the biggest squad, the Englishman could very well become a permanent fixture in Mark Hughes’ back four next season.

Aston Villa

Jonathan Hogg, was widely tipped to join the likes of Ciaran Clark and Marc Albrighton in making the breakthrough into the first team, however the midfielder didn’t. However after an impressive loan spell at Portsmouth, the Englishman no doubt next season will stake a claim for first team football.

Sunderland

Billy Knott was signed by Sunderland after his release from Chelsea and made an instant impact in the reserves with five goals in his first eight games. The creative wingers good form caught the eye of Steve Bruce and was drafted into the first team squad in February, with Sunderland losing Bolo Zenden and Sulley Muntari there is definitely room in the midfield next season for the former Chelsea trainee.

West Brom

James Hurst progressed through the Baggies academy set up and then joined Portsmouth at 16, however two years later he was back at The Hawthorns. The defender has made his debuts’ in the league, Carling Cup and FA Cup this season, and impressed greatly, so much so that in January West Brom offered the Englishman an improved two and a half year contract.

Newcastle United

Sam Ameobi, third Ameobi to play at Newcastle United, made his Premier League debut in the recent 2-2 draw with Chelsea this season. Much like his brother, the striker poses an aerial threat and with Newcastle needing a target man after the sale of Andy Carroll, could the Nigerian be that man next season?

Stoke City

Ben Marshall is a nineteen year old striker who has spent the season at Northampton Town, earning valuable experience at a competitive level. The Englishman impressed Stoke City’s staff is the pre season before this current campaign and will no doubt be used in the up and coming pre season, and if Marshall continues to impress, next season could be a big one for the striker.

Bolton Wanderers

Temitope Obadeyi is (according to Bolton’s official website) “an exciting young striker with a bright future in the game”. Having gained vital first team experience on loan at Swindon and Rochdale, the big forward has started to break through into the first team squad as has come off the subs bench on a couple of occasions, but with Daniel Sturridge returning to Chelsea and Johan Elmander’s leaving the club, the English striker could get his chance next season as a regular.

Blackburn Rovers

Grant Hanley made his PL debut on the final day of the 09/10 season and this season the defender has made seven appearances in all competitions. With Chris Samba constantly linked with a move away, the Scottish Under 21 player could very well become a prominent fixture in Steve Kean’s side next season.

Wigan Athletic

Victor Moses has spent most of his fledgling Latics career coming off the bench, but despite this the former Crystal Palace man has showcased his talents enough for me to be excited about him next season. Lightening speed, quick feet and excellent finishing, all traits we love to witness and see in a player. The Englishman can play on the wings or up front, and after finishing 16th in the league this season, what has Roberto Martinez got to lose in using Moses more frequently?

Wolverhampton Wanderers

Nathaniel Mendez-Laing has earnt a reputation as an accomplished midfielder who has an eye for goal. The Englishman has made a handful of pre season appearances for Wolves but in his first competitive match in the Carling Cup against Swindon for Wolves, he secured the Man of the Match award. Mendez-Laing has been on loan at Peterborough this season making nearly forty appearances and notching five goals.

With regards to the promoted teams, I have decided to choose three players that will excel beyond expectation, such as Charlie Adam of Blackpool this season.

QPR

Throughout this season, I have continually said that Adel Taarabt has just found his level at the Championship, but after watching a Youtube compilation of the Moroccan’s best bits, I now understand that it is a bit more than media hyperbole. The former Spurs man is a joy to behold on the ball and the Premier League is in for a real treat.

Norwich

This season the Canaries forward Grant Holt has been stealing all the headlines at Carrow Road, however for me it will be Wesley Hoolahan who makes a name for himself in England’s highest tier of football. Used predominantly at the tip of a diamond formation, just behind the strikers, the Republic of Ireland international has an eye for goal and is very much the ‘heartbeat’ of Norwich City’s attacking play.

Swansea

I wanted to avoid going for the obvious answer of Scott Sinclair but having just watched the former Chelsea man score a hat trick at Wembley in the play-off final, I cannot wait to see him in the Premier League. Skilful, pacey and prolific in front of goal, a neutrals dream player when watching Match of the Day.