Dec 112014
 

Chelsea is yet again linked to Croatian and HNK Rijeka forward Andrej Kramaric. The young Croatian who returned to the club in 2013 after a one year loan at Lokomotiva has been in sensational form since and this has seen him linked to host of top European clubs lately.

The 23-year-old forward has been in a form of his life this season and that has seen him average almost a goal per game in the Croatian top division league. He has score 37 goals in 41 appearances in the league since moving back to the Stadion Kantrida in 2013.

It is believed that Chelsea is already queuing to snap up the prolific striker especially with his current contract with his club set to expire at the end of current season. The player also has refused to sign a renewed contract prompting speculations he might be eyeing a move to pasture greener.

Chelsea is already snapping up young talents around the world and Kramaric could be one of the few that could yet make their move to Stamford Bridge anytime soon.

Mourinho will be keen to reinforce his attacking options with Didier Drogba likely to retire from playing football and join the coaching staff in the summer. The prospect of joining the attacking bands at Chelsea will be a big attraction for Kramaric who will also see the move as a big step towards fulfilling his football ambitions.

Kramaric would be a good replacement for Drogba as his physique and technique looks to fit the Premier League. His low price tag especially as his contract is set to expire soon will be pocket friendly to Chelsea bearing in mind the Financial Fare Play rule.

Andrej Kramaric has represented Rijeka 63 time since joining the club in 2013 and has score 55goals in all competition for the club. He has scored 21 times in 17 league appearances for HNK Rijeka this season.

The former Dinamo Zagreb youth prodigy has also represented his country Croatia at all youth level starting from the U-14 through to the U-21 with 53 appearances and 23goals to his credit. He was part of the Croatia U-19 side that reached the semi-finals of the Uefa European U-19 football championship in 2010.

He has also represented the Croatian senior side four times scoring two goals after making his senior debut this year.

He will be a good buy for Chelsea and will not have any problem being the third striker at the Club at least for the moment. He will also have opportunity to learn from the likes of Diego Costa and Remy. He is a versatile striker who can play anywhere along the front line though his preferred position is as a lone striker.

His versatility means he can also play behind the main striker as a second striker. He is very mobile and can run behind defence and cause oppositions all sort of problems. He will make a good signing if he decides to join Chelsea say in the summer.

Dec 112014
 

The major complain that Louis van Gaal has had since he assumed managerial responsibility at Manchester United is that the injury scare ravaging the team has left him with no other choice than to field the players that are available for selection. At some point in this season, he handed debuts to three of the reserve team players not because they were really ripe for such promotion but because they were the only options left to salvage the dire situation. Many pundits have found it difficult to assess Louis van Gaal’s ability since he is yet to have the luxury of harnessing the full strength of his squad. I will attempt the strongest possible starting (4-3-3) line-up which the manager will deploy given a squad of fully fit players.

Goalkeeper: The choice of David De Gea is a no brainer in this position. His performance this season alone has seen the club offer him a £120k/week deal and although he is yet to accept it, the management are willing to do everything to keep him from the clutches of Real Madrid who have been lurking around him. He is miles ahead of Anders Lindegaard and even if Victor Valdez gets a deal, De Gea will still maintain top spot.

Full-Backs: Right here, things will start to get a bit clumsy, the standard guess is Rafael on the right and Luke Shaw on the left. However in their absence, Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young have been doing a great job but if the manager has a fit squad, he’d most likely favour his natural full-backs.

Centre-Defence: Another tough decision, there are about four players who will keenly contest for the two available slots but Louis van Gaal loves dynamism, versatility and resilience and the guys that have continuously shown these traits are Marcos Rojo and Phil Jones. Chris Smalling comes very close to displacing Jones but a fit Jones is a beast that no manager will like to bench.

Defensive Midfield: Darren Fletcher, Oliveira Anderson, Daley Blind…. And it is the Dutch midfield maestro, Blind! The former Ajax man’s style of play gives an astute reminder of Roy Keane’s reliability in the heart of the midfield. Blind realises that his duty his to retrieve the ball once his team loses possession and also do his best to break the wave of opposition advances and he does that judiciously.

Attacking Midfield: Deciding who gets the slot in this position will be the most difficult for the manager. Louis van Gaal will have to choose between the aerial presence of Maroaune Fellaini and the sleekness of Ander Herrera. This decision will mostly depend on the nature of opponents that they are facing but with Fellaini’s recent form, a beast in the middle of the park seems very tempting. He will partner Angel Di Maria who is clearly the most creative player in the squad. Blind and Fellaini will do the dirty work leaving the Argentine enough space to work his magic. Linking up with the attack will require extreme discretion and Mata looks more that the best fit.

Striker: Radamel Falcao has never been really fit to fully assess him but with the way things are, Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie will get the nod.

By Tomilayo Alapinni

Dec 102014
 

Ahead of the crunchy tie between Manchester United and their arch-rivals Liverpool this weekend, reports have confirmed that the Red Devils will be without Chris Smalling in the defence. The former Fulham man has been one of the most consistent for the club this season and except for the match against city rivals, Manchester City where he allowed exuberance to mare what could have been a great game. The Red Devils eventually lost the game after Smalling had been expelled but other than that, the defender has been quite enterprising in the other games.

It was however disheartening when he was substituted during the match against Southampton after he appeared to be in some sort of excruciating pain. His removal after playing for barely 20 minutes uttered the game plans of Louis van Gaal who had to shove in Jonny Evans who has just returned from a long injury spell and had not even attained match fitness. His inclusion made the visitors defence look frailer than it probably is and the Saints made dashing runs at Evans each time he had the ball.

As much as the fans and coaching staff would like to concentrate on the on-going match, they could not but cast their minds back to the Smalling case knowing ful well how sorely he will be missed in their next game where they will be facing Brendan Rodgers’s men. Reports from the Mirror have claimed that results from the scan carried out show that the England defender suffered a minor groin tear and further claimed that the injury might keep him out for at least two weeks – which means he will be unavailable for the game against Liverpool and the trip to Villa Park. However, if the recovery process is quicker, he might be fit in time to face hard fighters, Newcastle on Boxing-day but the fact that he won’t be up for selection against the Merseyside giants has dealt Louis van Gaal a huge blow.

Since his arrival at the club, Louis van Gaal has had to endure about 43 injury cases most of which affected the defence section. In fact at the moment, Rafael, Luke Shaw, Phil Jones and now Chris Smalling are out of action due to injuries and even Jonny Evans that had to be forced on against the Saints glaringly showed that he still has a lot to do if he is to contribute significantly against Liverpool by the weekend.

With the status quo in the defence, unless the coaching staff feels that Jonny Evans is fit enough, Michael Carrick might have to assume back defensive duties in the interim to partner Marcos Rojo at the centre-back position. Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young will retain the full-back/wing-back positions. In the midfield, depending on what the manager decides, Ander Herrera and Maroaune Fellaini will play in a deeper role with either of Darren Fletcher or Angel Di Maria completing the trio. In the attack, it will most likely be the combination of Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie and Juan Mata except Louis van Gaal decides to hand Radamel Falcao a start.

On the overall, Manchester United will still be able to parade a solid team thereby paving the way for their sixth consecutive wins.

By Tomilayo Alapinni

Dec 102014
 

Report filtering out of Old Trafford reveals that former Barcelona goalkeeper, Victor Valdez might be open to contract talks with the Manchester based club. Many media outfits have suggested this possibility a while back but both Valdez and Louis van Gaal were quick to rebuff the news. It was however surprising when the manager allowed the Spaniard to come recuperate at the AON training centre earlier this season.

After refusing a contract extension with his former employers at Barcelona, he automatically became a free agent and it even appeared that he would have moved to French outfit, AS Monaco however, for some weeks now, the veteran safe-hands has been training at Old Trafford. Now that his contractual dispute with Monaco has been ironed out, it is only normal for the Spaniard to secure his future and being a floating player at Manchester United, it is logical that he looks up to Louis van Gaal for succour.

The boss had explicitly rebuffed the issue and even gave a robust explanation on why he allowed him to use the club’s facilities. He recalled a number of player both known and unknown to whom he had extended such magnanimity. He included Manchester United’s very own, Robin van Persie, who enjoyed similar treatment when he was allowed to use the Physio facilities of the Dutch national team to advance his fitness level without an on-going international commitment.

David De Gea who is the club’s first choice safe-hands has been very prolific this season and has stated several times that he doesn’t feel threatened by the presence of such an experienced goalie at the club. With his performances so far, he has exuded the kind of brilliance that supersedes what the second choice, Ander Lindegaard can even dream of and as such, the manager might be considering an option in Valdez who will not cost him any transfer fee to bring some competition to De Gea. While it is true that David has saved his side countless times this season, in fact many believe that the club owe their keeper about 9 of the 25 points that they have garnered so far this season, but to ensure that the goalie continues to churn out such performances, he needs to have the feeling that if anything goes awry wrong, the manager has another option who can do even better than what he has been doing.

Whatever the deal is with Valdez, it will depend on the outcome of the talks between the club and Lindegaard’s agents. If Ander decides to stay then Van Gaal will have no logical reason to hire Valdez who will then be a luxury that he cannot afford but if the reverse is the case and the club’s second choice does leave, then his exit will create space for the ex-Barcelona man. Valdez has extensive experience while he was with the Catalan giants and for all his troubles, he won about 3 Champions League trophies, and a host of other impressive laurels. Such an experience could be useful in the rebuilding process that Louis van Gaal has going on at the club.

By Tomilayo Alapinni

Dec 082014
 

Manchester United were frail, it seemed like they came into the match to earn a draw at most and the fact that they had boiled through four teams before their trip to the St Mary stadium makes it more difficult to comprehend. The victory wasn’t because they were lucky as the word luck has been greatly undermined in recent times. Louis van Gaal’s side ran off with their first fifth consecutive victories since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement because the Saints couldn’t take their chances and in fact presented on a platter of gold, the two goals with which the game was won. At the moment, the Red Devils are third on the log and here are five things we learnt from Monday night:

Poor play, Great win: agreed, the Red Devils were below par and in fact were frustratingly lethargic for most parts of the game. The Saints came at them waves after waves but Manchester United still held their ground to secure the win. David De Gea once again produced fine saves, Ashley Young showed some wonderful displays last seen when he was at Villa Park and Robin van Persie also put up quite a show.

4 defender strategy: when will Louis van Gaal realise that the 3 defender formation is too frail to be continuously deployed in the Premier League. It is understandable if he uses such when the defence was in disarray due to injury but how about now that he has few more options? The Saints knew that there were 3 guys at the back and all they needed to do was so spread the ball to the wings, our centre-backs will then be forced to split leaving the goalkeeper without adequate protection.

Robin Proves doubters wrong: the Dutchman has been hapless since last season but after some flashes of brilliance at the World Cup, many believed that he would be able to replicate such form when the league commences, unfortunately, the former Arsenal man made himself the subject of heavy criticisms when he reduced himself to a passer-by during games. If it wasn’t for the incessant injury crisis affecting Radamel Falcao, perhaps poor old Robin would have been shipped off to some Turkish outfit by now. However, he came in strong against Southampton on the south coast and showed the Old Trafford faithful that he still got few tricks left up in his sleeves. The brace took his goal tally to 7 this season.

He is Young and Awesome: Ashley Young has been an outcast for so long at Manchester United. Many felt he didn’t live up to the expectations that made Ferguson splash the cash to price him away from Aston Villa. But the Englishman has been great of recent even in the unnatural position of a wing-back to which he is been currently displayed. He put up some outstanding performance last night.

Manchester United makes it five: away from the criticisms, let us enjoy the frenzy at least for the moment. This time last season, the Red Devils were plummeting down the log like a deflated parachute but now, despite their mediocre performances, they have recorded five straight wins and are now third on the table. For me, I think I’ll drink to that!

By Tomilayo Alapinni

Dec 082014
 

Manchester United full back Guillermo Varela might be moving on a temporary deal to Spanish giants Real Madrid very soon. As early as August, Tuttomercatoweb reported that the Old Trafford club will not stall on the deal if the offer comes through. The United faithful have not been really fond of the Uruguayan since he arrived at the club basically as he is yet to impress on the big stage. At this moment in Varela’s career, a loan deal out of the club to another where he would be getting more game time would be the best move.

It is a known fact that the player loves Manchester United will all his heart and even in his first interview as a Manchester United player, he revealed that: ‘I am very pleased to be a part of this club, one of the best teams in the world, as everyone in the world knows, this is a huge club that has won everything and I hope that continues.’

As of last season, everyone including the player hoped that he would settle in quickly to the squad because of the Spanish speakers that were plying their trade at the club. The 21-year-old said; ‘It will certainly help me settle in’

Unfortunately for Varela, his settling process hit a stonewall which could not really be attributed to his lack of ability but due to the fact that the manager that signed him, Sir Alex Ferguson announced his retirement in the first week of the Uruguayan’s arrival at the club. It got so tough that Varela couldn’t make an impact and Italian outfit, Torino came offering a loan deal with a view to making it permanent depending on the player’s performances but the terms became complicated so the full-back had to return to Old Trafford to play for the Under-21s.

Now Real Madrid are also offering him a loan deal but reports claim that Manchester United are requiring a fee of about five million Euros to release Varela permanently. If Real Madrid sanctions an outright purchase, Manchester United will be welcome the possibility of cutting their loss on the South American who unlike Rafael Da Silva has been a failure at the club. Many pundits warned Ferguson back then when they invited Varela to Old Trafford for a two-week trial, the analysts argued that the player who as of then was preparing to represent Uruguay in the FIFA Under-20 World Cup in Turkey had not broken into his former employers Penarol’s first team yet. They wondered how he would fare when faced with stiff competitions from the array of stars already embedded in the Old Trafford club. However, Manchester United went ahead to hire him.

It is possible for Real Madrid to consider this move as Zinedine Zidane has quite an admiration for the talented defender. The former French international was quoted as saying: ‘I knew there was a Uruguayan fullback at Manchester United, I asked to see him and loved him. Luckily we could add him to Real Madrid, where I see a huge future.’

By Tomilayo Alapinni

Dec 052014
 

Enzo Perez has longed been linked to Manchester United and there are more speculations now that the Argentine midfielder may leave Benfica for Manchester United in January. Perez has also been linked with a move to Valencia CF of Spain but not has been confirmed yet. The will of Louis van Gaal to add another midfielder to his team has linked him to the transfer of many midfielders with Perez among the many. However, Benfica will hope to receive a buyout clause of £24 million if the midfielder will be allowed to make a move away from Portugal. Manchester United never made an official statement about their interest in the midfielder but it is believed the club have a long standing interest that could result in the midfielder’s future move to Old Trafford.

Manchester United doesn’t have an urgent need to supplement their midfield except they sell some of the players from the current squad. This may be a stumbling block for the transfer of the midfielder to Manchester United. It is believed nothing will make Louis van Gaal spend such an amount on Perez with recent acquisition of Ander Herrera, Daley Blind and Angel Di Maria in the midfield position. The exit of Anderson, Darren Fletcher or Juan Mata may pave way for the 28 year old midfielder. Despite past interest, it’s believed van Gaal will prefer Kevin Strootman to the Argentine and the speculations may end up in nothing as the midfielder is gradually getting to his thirties.

Perez may find it difficult breaking into the first team in Manchester United with the current crop of players. This may be another stumbling block as the likes of Blind, Herrera and Di Maria may be preferred choices. However, Manchester United may need to bring in some quality signings in January if they are to keep competing for a top four finish. The main point of reinforcement is expected to be the defence with a commanding centre back needed as the Red Devils have struggled in recent months to get a defensive balance with the exit of Patrice Evra, Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic at the end of last season. With speculations and reports suggesting the availability of Vlaar, Shaw, Cross and Godin, Manchester United is expected to add more quality to their defence in the coming month as they will want to wait till the summer to sign long term target, Matt Hummels.

Enzo Perez’s link to Manchester United should be purely speculations as there is little or nothing the Argentine will add to the current squad except been a good cover up. Manchester United management know too well that it is not financially wise to sign a backup for up to £24 million. This limits the chances of the Argentine arriving in Old Trafford any time soon or even in the future.

Dec 032014
 

Happy birthday to Chelsea legend, Michael Essien, now at AC Milan and well past his best years but still worth remembering all those moments he was supreme in the Chelsea shirt. On arriving from Olympique Lyon in 2005 for *25m, Essien quickly became a pillar at the helm of Jose Mourinho’s record making 2005 Chelsea side playing around the likes of Frank Lampard and Claude Makelele and quickly became one of the best defensive box to box midfielders in the football.

Essien’s first goal came against Tottenham, and he did net a couple more in his next few seasons but his most popular strike in the league at least came in 2006 when he struck an absolute belter to equalize Arsenal at Stamford Bridge after going a goal down courtesy of Matheiu Flamini. The goal won the Chelsea Goal of the Season award and he was voted Chelsea’s Player of the Year by the fans for some outstanding performances during the 2006-2007 season.

The injuries came in 2008 whilst on international duty for Ghana after having signed a new contract with the club, but he came back to his best self that year, scoring vital goals in the league and Europe. His most famed European goal would be his left footed volley against Barcelona at Stamford Bridge. It was an absolute belter of a strike and was worthy to send Chelsea into the Champions League final for the second year running, but Andres Iniesta’s late strike left the Blues in agony as the Catalans progressed ahead on away goals, the goal however won the Chelsea Goal of the Year award.

Essien scored his first brace against Wolverhampton Wanderers in 2009, he won the Premier League twice with the club in 2005/2006 and 2009/10 with Jose Mourinho and Carlo Ancelotti, he won the FA Cup four times in 2006/07, 2008/09, 2009/10 and 2011/12, the League Cup –Capital One- 2006/07 the FA Community Shield in 2009 and the UEFA Champions League that glorious night in Munich in 2012.

Essien went on loan in the 2012/13 season to join Jose Mourinho at Madrid whom he famously calls ‘daddy’ and re-joined Jose again at Chelsea before departing finally to AC Milan in January. He made 256 general appearances for the club and scored 25 goals, scoring goals was never his strong suit as a midfielder but he was as tough as they came in terms of breaking up attacks, tackling and was an exceptional physical presence on the pitch.

He would always be absolutely loved and cherished at this club as he was always a force to reckon with in Chelsea colours even when he wasn’t in his prime. Michael Essien, Chelsea legend.

Dec 032014
 

Manchester United manager has thrown more light on the injury of Dutch international midfielder, Daley Blind. The midfielder got injured on international duty with Netherlands last month and he is expected to be out till the end of the year. The injury was first feared to be up to six months but was later confirmed as a minor injury. Blind will hope to return soon to fight for his place after starting life at Old Trafford in a comfortable fashion. It is however expected that the midfielder should be fit enough to return by January as hinted by Louis van Gaal.

Louis van Gaal was dealt with a big blow on arrival at Manchester united about Michael Carrick’s long term injury and the Dutch tactician will need to reinforce in that position. Daley Blind came in to Manchester United as speculations surrounded the transfer of Arturo Vidal from Juventus. Kevin Strootman and Arturo Vidal were both not fit enough in the summer and Louis van Gaal was forced to make a move for a familiar face from the Dutch world cup team. The versatile player can play from midfield, left full back, centre back and left wing back. He has however adapted to life in Manchester with solid English Premier League performances for the Red Devils. Daley opened his goal scoring account away at West Brom to get Manchester United a point when he struck late in the game. His adaptability to the league has given Manchester United fans something to savour about him but the injury came as a big blow especially when United are starting to find their feet.

Fortunately, Michael Carrick returned back on time to fill the space left by the Dutch international and Manchester United seem not to be missing the services of the midfielder. The reforming of Belgian midfielder, Fellaini has also added more to Manchester United midfield and Blind’s absence have not been felt. Louis van Gaal may have tough decisions to make when the midfielder returns in terms of selection but the ability of the player to play from various positions will probably be to his advantage. Daley Blind has brought more to the team than many expected and many Manchester United supporters will be hoping the midfielder returns soon as United face tough competition for top four places especially with the busy festive period. The non-involvement in European matches has also helped United in the handling of injury problems this season with the available players staying fresher for upcoming fixtures.

Dec 022014
 

Arsenal’s right back Mathieu Debuchy has indicated that he could be back to play a part in the busy schedule of the festive period. The French international has been side-lined since September with an ankle ligament damage he sustained in the 2-2 draw against Manchester City. Having endured extensive rehabilitation, he is now aiming for a return to training in the coming days. :

“I think I will resume group training next week.” Said Debuchy

“I’ve been side-lined for 10 weeks, but it should go pretty fast now.

“The aim is to be fit for the end of the year and to play again on Boxing Day, or even a little before.”

The 29 year old has been missed for his contributions offensively and his ability to cover his centre half. Prior to his injury, he had slotted in seamlessly into the Arsenal team providing some defensive balance to the team’s set up. The positive is that he is already targeting a date for his return which is the Premier League match against Liverpool on December 21.

The former Magpies defender was part of a string of players that suffered long term injuries in the early weeks of the season. Oliver Giroud made his return last week against Manchester United after a two months absence, and he came back one month ahead of schedule. Laurent Koscienly that was missing for seven weeks returned last weekend against West Brom. With Mathieu Debuchy now weeks away from returning, it means Arsene Wenger could have his first choice back four available to him for the first time since the match against Manchester City in September. It would be a huge departure from the makeshift defence that the Frenchman has had to field for most of the season.

The Boxing Day fixture that Mathieu Debuchy is targeting is against Queens Park Rangers.

Calum Chambers has deputised for Mathieu Debuchy since he has been out, apart from the odd appearances of Hector Bellerin against Borussia Dortmund and Hull City which were occasioned by an injury and suspension to Calum Chambers, the former Saints defender has been ever present at right back since September. Mathieu Debuchy’s return should give the 19 year old some breather in the coming months.

With the team just weeks away from having its first choice back four available, the good news should be tempered with fears that Arsene Wenger could choose not to sign a defensive cover in January as a result of the return from injury of virtually all his defenders. It would just be like the Frenchman to handle the situation that way as he has done it previously in the past.

However, the injuries Arsenal have had to deal with this season has disrupted the team’s fluidity, and with injured players gradually returning, it should be a platform for more consistent display from Arsene Wenger’s side in the coming weeks.

Dec 022014
 

After our result against Sunderland, the clash between Manchester City and Southampton was the affair to pay attention to, in order to know who would be giving us the real run for the number one spot entering the hectic month of December.

Southampton have been impressive all season long but had no chance but to stumble against star studded City, although when City’s defender, Eliaquim Mangala, got sent off, there was some hope that maybe Southampton could capitalize on that and get some sort of result, but up came that man from the bench, that legend.

Frank Lampard has been known for being exceptional in Chelsea’s blue colours, becoming the club’s all-time top scorer and breaking in a few other records during his majestic period at Stamford Bridge. But having not signed a new contract he looked well on his way to the American Major League Soccer (MLS) in a New York City FC outfit, and there was talk about him going on loan to keep fit for the inaugural season with the club. As a result of the same sponsors and owners, Lampard was shipped to Man. City for a loan period enough to have him and fit for the MLS side.

Lampard’s loan to City may not have hurt the Chelsea fans as much at the time due to his legendary status, but he has been writing large in City’s script for this season. In our clash with City, they were a goal down and upon persuading Manuel Pellegrini earlier not to play him against us, his beloved club, he emerged from the bench and one of the most anticipated goals happened. Lampard earned City a point with that strike, and the Chelsea fans were in mixed emotions. Lampard was received well and after the game also showed his appreciation to them.

That Lampard goal against us made him the first player to score against 39 different Premier league clubs, and that was the beginning of it for Super Frank. He’s been scoring for the in domestic cups, in Europe and in the league, as he should, and every celebration of each must cause some sort of mixed emotions from Chelsea fans peeking. It’s still the same two hands pointed to the sky in acknowledgement of his mum who died in 2008 but there’s no kissing the City badge, like he shouldn’t despite City fans chanting our beloved chant ‘Super Frank’.

Despite helping City’s ship sail on title contention seas, Lampard also has a personal agenda of his own, another record. Already the highest goal scoring midfielder ever in the Premier League, Lampard is just a goal behind Thierry Henry’s 175 on the all-time list, an occasion we would have wanted him to celebrate in our outfit. If City don’t extend Lampard’s contract, his last game before he departs overseas is against us, sometimes I wonder who writes these script to this stuff.

Nov 302014
 

After failing to score in a game for the first time this season, Chelsea drop two points at the top but still six points clear off second position. With Manchester City defeating Southampton 3-0 on Sunday, they do indeed look like our only real threat this season yet.

Here are the reactions of manager, Jose Mourinho and defender, Gary Cahill;

Jose Mourinho’s Reactions

Mourinho said he would rather praise the opposition than criticize the team, stating that Sunderland had a week to perfect their clear strategy. He went on to say ‘many people like to criticize defensive teams and I don’t do that. To be a good defensive team you need to do it well. We always tried to move the ball and get spaces but they defended very, very well, nine guys behind the ball with wingers playing as full-backs. I praise them for their success with the clean sheet.’

He also went on to state the point was disappointing, the team isn’t happy with just one, but they are experienced and mature to know every match is difficult, and in the process repeated the fact that Sunderland were paying for a clean sheet. He said he had no ‘negative words’concerning the game and he thinks the point was fair.

Europe Midweek Effect

Mourinho talks about the reality of preparing for two games in one week, saying ‘The Sunderland guys were watching our game against Schalke at their homes and went to bed at 11 pm. We played 90 minutes against Schalke and we arrived home at 5am. I don’t forget this, I praise my guys. They are doing fantastically well.’

On the Mid Week Game vs. Tottenham and Costa’s Suspension

Mourinho states the fact that the team is still top of the league, and they would move on from the Sunderland game quickly to the next against Tottenham, ‘There is no time to be complaining. We move on.’

He adds he ‘was told’ Costa was unlucky to receive his fifth yellow card, following up saying Remy or Drogba would play against Spurs, ‘We don’t cry about injured or suspended players. He (Diego Costa) can rest and be fresh against Newcastle. It’s no problem, let’s go.’

Gary Cahill’s Reactions

Cahill stated that the Sunderland game was physical and that is their game, emphasizing that the team players needed to be on their toes. Cahill also said had the team broken through with a goal it would have been a different game.

Nov 272014
 

Arsenal have been involved in several gaffe in the past especially one that involves how a player’s injury was managed. The recent injury to Mesut Ozil was a case in point. The German playmaker was ruled out by its national team medical staff for a period of three months in October. But Arsene Wenger was quick to downplay the injury as he has always sought to do, thereby raising the hopes of fans. He claimed in mid October that Ozil would spend just six weeks out, but as it turned out the initial prognosis of the German team was spot on. He is not expected back until the New Year.

This lack of certainty in which club has developed a knack for not being sure when a player would return from injury could easily be linked to the reason why Oliver Giroud was not registered for the group stages of the Champions League.

The club has taken some flak in recent days for the defeat the team has suffered in the last few weeks, as well as the indifferent form since the season started, but the club could be taken to task as to why Oliver Giroud was not registered in the first place for the group stages. The time scale put for his recovery was three months, and it was thought at the time that he would return to the team’s set up in the New Year. Could the team have taken a gamble in registering him after all in view of the fact that there was a place left to be filled in the UEFA quota?

Assuming it was a match (Borussia Dortmund) that no other striker was fit; it would have been a costly mistake on the part of the club that he was not registered.

Another thing to consider is whether the club got the time frame of Giroud’s recovery wrong? Arsene Wenger claimed in his press conference last week, that the French striker was one month ahead of schedule. Could it have been possible for the club to set the time he eventually spent on the side-lined correctly? Which turned out to be two and half months?

If the history of the club’s past history of getting the recovery time of player’s wrong is anything to go by, then the answer to the above question is that they could have been able to do more to get the actual time frame Oliver Giroud would use to recover from his fractured bone.

It is a situation that beats the club hollow as it inability to be exact when it comes to player’s recovery could have come back to bite the club if other options were not available for the club to use.

Oliver Giroud showed what he was capable of within the short time he was on the field against Manchester United. His first contribution was getting on the end of a corner kick that almost resulted in a goal, while he eventually scored a goal deep into added time.

The club has a collective responsibility to get the actual time of a player’s recovery right. It has affected Arsenal’s season in the past, where two-three weeks layoff became three months.

Oliver Giroud will not play a part against Borussia Dortmund and Galatasaray. While Wenger claimed he returned from injury one month of ahead of schedule, there is no doubt that the club could have done more to get this right in the first place, which could have forestall his non participation in the group stages of the Champions League.

Nov 262014
 

Chelsea surpassed their best ever run of the 2005 season, after the side triumphed against a very Lackluster West Brom side. After goals from Diego Costa and Eden Hazard, the London side was able to coast throughout the second half, exerting minimum effort and keeping the ball for as long as possible, obviously keeping an eye on their crucial Champions League tie against Schalke 04.

With Chelsea topping the Champions League table, they will be wary of being complacent against a side that held them to a surprise draw in the first leg of the tie.

However, Portuguese tactician Jose Mourinho will be very careful of tiring his players out, after what is their best start since Mourinho’s first season at the Bridge.

The London side will be looking for a win to close this group up, whilst at the same time increasing their chances of facing a lesser side in the knockout stages of the competition.

Rotation will be a key factor, as the team will be looking to balance their priorities this season, with at least a treble in their sights.

We look at 5 possible changes to the Blues team, from the one that faced West Brom on Saturday;

CECH FOR COURTIOS

34 year old shot stopper Petr Cech has reiterated his desire to bring about a change in his current situation at the Bridge. After being named in the PFA team of the season, the veteran seemed to be good for another season with the Blues.

The young Belgian’s arrival has relegated the aged Cech to the bench. The good news for the Czech international however, is that Mourinho has never been shy about rotating his goalkeepers… With the veteran starting the last two Champions League encounters.

SCHURRLE FOR WILLIAN

The German has been overcome with illness in recent weeks and has missed out on crucial club and international commitments.

The youngster’s inclusion on the bench for the West Brom game is an indication that he might be fit and ready to go after sometime off due to injuries.

His manager will be aware of the winger’s unique qualities and might be looking to get him fit for future games in the League and Capital one fixtures. While at the same time ensuring that the work horse Willian gets some rest.

REMY FOR COSTA

The Spaniard was declared fit for the tie on Saturday and showed his quality by scoring his 11th goal of the season. However Mourinho will be cautious of the way he plays the former Atletico Madrid forward, who seems to be prone niggling muscle injuries.

At the same time, the Portuguese will be looking to give the Frenchman Loic Remy a run out for the sake of his match fitness, after the striker spent time on the side-lines due to a groin problem.

RAMIRES FOR FABREGAS

The Spanish international bagged his 12th assist of the season, as he supplied Hazard with the 2nd goal in their win against West Brom. The 27 year old overcame a back problem that left him out of international duty to play on Saturday and his manager might want to rest to him.

Ramires is also coming back from injury and will need time on the pitch to gain match fitness.

FILIPE LUIS FOR AZPILICUETA

Filipe Luis has been ousted from the squad with the return of the Spaniard Azpilicueta from suspension. Luis is a world class left back that will need playing time, if he is not to become discontent with the lack of opportunities with the first team.

The Blues are locked on favourites to win this game, and is seems very unlikely that the German side will be the ones to ruin the team’s unbeaten run thus far.

Nov 252014
 

Spanish giant Real Madrid are set to scupper Chelsea’s chances of signing German midfield enforcer Sami Khedira by offering the world cup winner another mouth watering contract extension.

Sami Khedira’s contract with the Los Blancos expires in the summer and there have been reluctance on the part of both player and club to renew his contract. This has seen the combative midfielder linked to a host of top European club with Chelsea top of the list.

Chelsea has been seen as the front runner for the German’s signature with many source quoting a pre-contract agreement has been reach between both parties especially as it was Jose Mourinho who brought the 27-year-old from Vfb Stuttgart during his time as Madrid’s manager.

All those speculations will however be thrown out through the window as it has emerged that the player is still highly rated at Madrid and the club will be willing to tempt the player into signing a contract extension by offering him a bumper pay.

Khedira has found game time hard to come by under current boss Carlo Ancelloti who preferred the midfield pairing of Toni Kroos and Luka Modric despite none of them being a natural Defensive midfielder- a role Khedira is known to play to greater effect.

Madrid have looked reluctant in renewing the player’s contract and have in recent time left him out of game to train with reserves thus, hyping the speculation the player could be set for a move away from the club as early as the January transfer window in a cut-price deal.

Real Madrid’s U-turn and subsequent interest in offering the 27-year-old former Stuttgart player a new and improved deal will however be as a result of the latest injury to Croatian Luka Modric.

Modric has been ruled out of action for at least three months after sustaining a thigh injury while representing Croatia in their Euro 2016 qualifiers against Italy during the international break. Madrid’s lack of depth in that position could have a telling factor in their recent interest in keeping Khedira.

Chelsea and London rival Arsenal have been linked to the Sami since it emerge the player is wanted away at the Bernabeu. This recent report will however be a much serious blow to Arsenal than it will be to Chelsea. The Gunners are really short of quality in the central defensive midfield area with the like of Mikel Arteta and Matthieu Flamini not proving good-enough quality for the club.

Chelsea look really strong in the central midfield area with Nemanja Matic and new recruit Cesc Fabregas showing a strong understanding between themselves.

In all fairness, Khedira would have still find it difficult breaking into the current Chelsea’s midfield set-up with Nemanja Matic being in the form of his life. The towering Serbian is currently seen as one of the best in his position in the league. He has been one of Chelsea’s most outstanding performer this season.

His positional play both on and off the ball has been phenomenal. His reading of the game and the way he screens the Chelsea’s back four from opposition attack as well as drive the ball forward has seen him earn accolades from the special one who described the Serbian as a big player not just in size but by everything he brings into the game.

Chelsea missing out on Khedira won’t be a huge blow as the club already has one of the best performer in his postion. There are also quality back-ups in Mikel Obi and Ramires who could still cover up the position to good effect.

Khedira would be a big and good addition to any side in Europe but not one that Chelsea will rarely miss if a deal for him falls through.

Nov 242014
 

Chelsea is set to play the waiting game in their quest to capture the signature of young French central defender Raphael Varane. The 22-year old Real Madrid defender has been linked to the Blues in recent months with many quarters quoting a winter transfer but a January deal may not be possible as Madrid is not set to do any deal for their player this January.

Chelsea is however; ready to wait as far as the summer transfer window if that’s what it takes to get the highly coveted youngster. This is according to reports in the Spaniard media.

Varane has been rightly identified as a possible long term replacement for Chelsea captain John Terry and also as a long term defensive partner to compatriot Kurt Zouma who is already showing his good qualities at Chelsea this season.

Terry will be 34 next month and is almost at the twilight of his Chelsea career and the club has already set out to find the right replacement for the long serving skipper. Chelsea has been linked to a host of young defenders across Europe but Jose Mourinho seems to prefer Raphael Varane whom he brought and worked with while at Real Madrid.

Chelsea will look to move for the player as early as this winter transfer window and the 19million asking price from Real Madrid won’t be a huge problem especially with the Russian Billionaire owner Roman Abrahamovic backing the move. The club will also be willing to wait till the summer to get their man should Madrid show any reluctance in letting the player go this January.

Mourinho won’t have any problem convincing the young defender to move to Stamford Bridge as he has worked with the player before and both have a good relationship till date.

It was Jose Mourinho who signed Varane from French side RC Lens in the summer of 2011 and gave the young prodigy his big break at top flight football at Bernabue benching stalwart like Pepe for the young French defender.

Varane has however find action limited since the departure of the Portuguese manager as new Los Blancos manager Carlo Ancelotti seems to prefer the defensive pair of Pepe and Ramos in central defence.

A move to West London is one Varane would welcome with open arms even as the prospect of working again with Jose Mourinho could be too tempting to turn down.

Varane, a calm and composed figure at the heart of defence is one of the best central defender of his age presently in football. His ability to intelligently read games is such a quality very rare in players of his age. His move to Chelsea would be a huge upgrade to the Chelsea’s back-line.

His qualities will make him a good and perfect fit to replace Terry at the heart of Chelsea’s defence hence, should be a prospect the club should pursue with every sense of purpose.

He will make a good partnership with Gary Cahill when John Terry calls it quit in football at Chelsea, and having him and already-impressive Kurt Zouma lead the line from behind for Chelsea in the nearest future means the club can look into the future with great optimism.

At just 22, he has shown a good composure and great understanding of the game. Mourinho is known to be detailed and meticulous when choosing his defenders and has shown over the years that his judgement can be trusted to a greater degree. His choice of Varane as the future John Terry replacement wouldn’t come as a surprise as the Frenchman has shown that he really has what it takes to be a top defender in years to come.

Nov 242014
 

Alexis Sanchez has been Arsenal’s most impressive performer of the last two months. He has virtually carried the team with six goals in his last seven games; he also scored two more during the international break. Since he failed to start in the North London derby, he has gone on to start every game after that, and his overall contributions does not stop at scoring goals, rather his work rate, speed of thought and closing down of opposition players are hallmarks of his game. However, one area of his game that still need refining is his pass completion rate, against Manchester United on Saturday, his passing was largely off colour, and one of his passes that went astray to the opposition led to the second goal United scored off a counter-attack.

The 25 year old has played lots of football since his arrival in July, with few periods to recharge his batteries, and over the last three months, he has had to travel on long haul flights to international matches for Chile. In the last round of internationals, he played the almost the entire matches against Venezuela and Uruguay, and he only arrived London on the eve of the match against Manchester United, it was no surprise therefore that he did not display the usual high standards he has become known for on Saturday, yet it was a situation that sources in the Chilean media saw coming, the press in his home country has wield into his private life and they claim he is at a risk of burn out in the coming weeks.

La Cuarta (via daily star), who is reputed to be one of Chile’s biggest media outlets, had claimed that he could become ineffective as a result of excessive football, and his sex life.

While there is nothing Arsenal can do about his private life as that is exclusive to him, however, there is something Arsene Wenger can do in respect of the excessive football he has played in the last few months.

Going by his performance against Manchester United, the fears raised by the Chilean media outlet were justified. The long flight through the Atlantic after the international break seem to have made him heavy legged, he still showed some of his usual closing down of defenders, like the pressing that led to the chance Jack Wilshere failed to score, as well as several chances he created on the day. He played mostly from the wings, which meant he did lots of tracking back, a situation that affected his contributions in the final third.

The only way Alexis Sanchez can avoid burn out is if he is rested. But that outcome seems out of the question for now due to the fact that the team is struggling at the moment plus the fact that he is the only player in the team that can conjure up a moment of brilliance to win a game for the club in the absence of Mesut Ozil.

The atmosphere at the club is toxic at the moment because of the team’s bad form, and Arsene Wenger would not want to risk more backlashes by resting one its better players in Alexis Sanchez. He is getting to a time in the season that would be strange to him as there is no winter break in English football, which only means he has to be managed carefully.

Nov 222014
 

The future of Chelsea’s goalkeeper Petr Cech has once again come to the fore after he was linked to Arsenal. According to reports, Arsenal is planning to move for the Chelsea goalkeeper in the January transfer window.

The report claims that the Petr Cech would be granted a move away from Stamford Bridge as a way to reward him for his services to the club.  The 32 year old lost his place to the young Belgian Thibaut Courtois this season.

With the January transfer window approaching, the possibility that he could be available for transfer in few weeks’ time has alerted several clubs who could be interested in signing him.

Arsene Wenger has been thrown in the hat as one of the managers that are interested in moving for the Czech goalkeeper, including Real Madrid and Liverpool.

However, the former Rennes shot stopper, has been quick to mention that any decision about his future lies with Chelsea which could point to a situation that he could still remain at the West London club with 18 months left in his contract.

With his link to Arsenal, is there a realistic chance that it could happen?

The obvious answer is a no. Arsenal have Wojciech Szczesny who is just 23 years old, and he signed a new long term contract just a year ago, and Colombian goalkeeper David Ospina, 25 was signed this summer from French side Nice, plus there is Emiliano Martinez who is available as the third choice goalkeeper. With this situation, it is very unrealistic that the club would bring another goalkeeper that would increase the goalkeepers vying for the first position at the club to four. Arsene Wenger would not bring in another experience goalkeeper to the squad, not in a million years would such a thing happen with the current goalkeeping situation at the club.

Wojciech Szczesny’s form has been called into question several times this season. The Polish international goalkeeper’s form has been erratic at times, and he has only really kept Arsenal in games on few occasions this season. But the closest person to have run him close during his time at the club was Lukas Fabianski. But the present Swansea goalkeeper struggled with injuries. David Ospina is currently injured. And the Colombian has not had a sustained time to stake a claim to the first team shirt since his arrival because of an ongoing thigh injury. The Colombian international showed glimpses of his potential when he produced strings of saves in the match against Galatasaray, which was the last match he played before he got injured.

The Petr Cech to Arsenal link is another one out of the media hat as Jose Mourinho is never going to sanction a move for a Chelsea player to Arsenal. It was only last summer that he blocked a loan move for Demba Ba last season.  While the world class abilities of the Czech goalkeeper are not in doubt, his attributes would continue to be one that fans of the club would admire from afar.