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Chelsea to splash the cash this summer: All change in the Roman empire

A win against Bayern Munich in the Champions League final will be vital in deciding who Chelsea will attract when the transfer window reopens, but what does the summer look like for the west London club?

Out with the old

Didier Drogba

For the fans at Stamford Bridge, seeing 34-year-old Didier Drogba leave the club will be devastating, as they saw him lead the Chelsea front-line to victory in the FA Cup final. The Ivorian veteran is still a world-class striker, using his physical strength and experience to get those vital goals needed to win trophies. Since joining in 2004 from French side Marseille, Drogba has scored 156 goals for the club and is the highest-scoring foreign player ever to have played for Chelsea. There is no doubt the African target man will be a key part of the Blues’ season-defining game against Bavarian giants Bayern Munich, but after refusing to sign a new deal at the club, his future is doubtful.

Florent Malouda

The French winger has been a great asset for the west London side over the past few years but the 2011-2012 season has seen a rapid decline in playing time and quality for Florent Malouda. With his contract expiring in the summer, a departure from England seems very likely. The 31 year-old has been on the bench for the majority of the campaign, under both Chelsea exile Andre Villas-Boas and interim first coach hero Roberto Di Matteo, but has been particularly of use when resting the first-team before two important Champions League games. If there is one place that Chelsea are lacking, it is deadly wingers – so making space for new blood out wide, will be a priority for Abramovich.

In with the new

Kevin De Bruyne

The 20-year-old attacking midfielder looks a bright prospect for Premier League football and after signing from Belgium champions Racing Genk, Chelsea fans are optimistic that De Bruyne will add that vital creativity and wing play that the Blues really need at the moment. The Belgium international plays predominantly on the left of midfield and looks talented and creative, bemusing defenders with his dribbling skills and has a good eye for goal.

Marko Marin

Nicknamed the German Messi, Marko Marin has suffered a shaky season with German side Werder Bremen, but a £6.5m move to Chelsea could jump-start his career. Much like Belgium counter-part De Bruyne, the 23 year-old German plays predominantly out wide or as an attacking midfielder using his speed, agility, and skill to bring the individual quality that every Premier League side needs. Although scoring few goals for his team, Marin creates chances and has never recorded less than ten assists in a Bundesliga season.

Transfer targets

Willian

Although not as famous as other players linked with a move to Stamford Bridge, Willian is a player of extreme quality and skill. Spending the last five years playing for Ukrainian side, Shakhtar Donetsk, the young Brazilian has come out of obscurity after increasing rumours over a move to the west London club. His dribbling skills are superb and he will hope to form a partnership, if joining Chelsea, with Brazilian comrades Ramires, David Luiz, and youth superstar Lucas Piazon.

Edinson Cavani

The Uruguayan hitman has been quite the star for the last number of seasons at the San Paolo, and at the age of only 25 the future looks bright for a player who has shone not only in Italy but also in the Champions League. A player who dominates not only in the air but also on the ground, Edinson Cavani could be described as an all-round striker – able to keep the ball, play the ball, and most importantly, score goals. Napoli’s 25 year-old forward could be a perfect replacement for departing Drogba, but whether he would adept to the Premier League is hard to tell.

By Jacob Tucker

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Chelsea’s FA Cup triumph: The collapse of King Kenny as the Blues ride their luck

A resilient backline and a spectacular attacking force made a wonderful day for Chelsea fans and club, as the Di Matteo turn-around was finally credited with a domestic trophy, leaving Kenny Dalglish’s management, once again, under huge criticism.

If there was one way to describe the FA Cup Final this year, it would be a game of two halves, as we saw the first half dominated by the men in blue, until the 60th minute when substitute Andy Carroll scored a revitalising goal that transformed the Anfield outfit into a dangerous attacking force. The first 45 minutes held a sense of déjà vu for Liverpool fans, as they saw a performance lacking creativity, chances, and momentum. Not only were the forwards under-performing, but another weak defensive performance was to blame, when Ramires slotted a strike home in the 11th minute, beating Spanish goalkeeper Pepe Reina at the near post, who was once again to blame with poor judgement and positioning.

More chances came from the Blues after Salomon Kalou made a steaming run through Liverpool’s defensive third but was stopped by a desperate Martin Skrtel tackle inside the box. Early into the second half another goal came for the west London side as a beautifully measured pass by Frank Lampard saw Drogba into a dangerous position, who in turn hit it perfectly into the far right corner of the net. A few minutes after Chelsea had a great chance to finish it off when a fluid attacking move from the Stamford Bridge outfit saw Kalou into a dangerous position, but the Ivorian put it high and wide, leaving him hoping that he wouldn’t come to regret that opportunity.

The turning point of the game was the substitution of Andy Carroll for Jay Spearing, and many will be wondering why the huge powerhouse did not play from the start. Chelsea’s first scare came half-way into the second part of the game, when the substitute scored a reasonably lucky goal after a tackle by Stewart Downing swooped the ball out from the feet of Jose Bosingwa and favourably into the path of the £35m target man, who converted with an unstoppable shot above Petr Cech. For the last 25 minutes, the Blues were once again playing a back-against-the-wall performance, suffering wave after wave of attacks from a newly-revived Liverpool side. Countless crosses were delivered into the box before another great chance came when Carroll got his head onto a back post ball and thought it was in, but the Liverpool forward was denied by Petr Cech, who made a fantastic goal-line save to keep Chelsea in the game and allowed them to go on and secure their victory.

There is no doubt, Kenny Dalglish will be harshly criticised for picking a very wrong starting XI – playing an inexperienced Jay Spearing at the important role of holding midfielder, and assorting themselves in a 4-5-1 formation with Luis Suarez playing a very isolated role upfront. When Carroll came on, it allowed the Uruguayan to drop deeper and play a creative role as a second striker, as well as having the danger-man in the box waiting on those vital crosses – all in all giving Liverpool an eye for goal. Taking nothing away from Chelsea, Didier Drogba had a particularly good game, and was crucial in holding the ball up and bringing the midfielders into play with his awareness and experience; complemented by the creative Juan Mata, and speedy wingers Salomon Kalou and Ramires, the Chelsea forwards were a force to be reckoned with. Their sturdy defence should not be overlooked, with captain John Terry putting in a stunning performance to keep the Blues in the game.

Dalglish will be worrying about his future with the Reds, whilst Di Matteo will be over the moon with his team. Chelsea fans will be hoping that the Blues can ride their luck to Munich in the Champions League final, which will surely be the deciding factor in the Italian’s chances of landing the manager’s role on a permanent basis.

By Jacob Tucker

Bayern Munich v Chelsea – the road to the Champions League final

An unlikely Champions League final of Bayern Munich vs Chelsea is set to be played at the Allianz Arena on May 19th, as the sides have both proved their worth to overcome underdogs tags to make the final. But how have these two sides managed to get to the final?

Bayern Munich

After the naming of the Allianz Arena as the venue for the 2011-12 final, all Bayern eyes have been on this campaign, which has been rightly earmarked as a potential opportunity to end their 11-year drought in winning Europe’s top tournament. With the Bundesliga also a priority but now conceded once more to Borussia Dortmund, the chance of becoming European champions has the ability to redeem the club’s season.

The German team were drawn in the ‘group of death’ along with Manchester City, Napoli and Villarreal, but stellar home form saw Die Roten top the pool. A 2-0 win over the Premier League team set the tone for the group, whilst a hard-fought 3-2 victory over Napoli ensured that the Germans would be dominant. Despite losing their final game at the Etihad Stadium once qualification was already ensured, Bayern’s professionalism and quality in the pool must be admired.

After flexing their European muscles in the pool, the knockout stages has been a story of the club’s determination to reach the final. After a 1-0 defeat to Basel in Switzerland in the first leg of the last 16, doubts over Jupp Heynckes’ men’s credentials were raised and duly squashed with an unprecedented 7-0 triumph in the reverse fixture. The Germans were drawn against an underperforming Marseille in the quarter-finals, and despite the mediocrity of the opponent, a 4-0 aggregate win must be admired.

Real Madrid in the semi-finals was the Bundesliga team’s real test, and over 210 minutes of football and penalty kicks, Bayern proved that they wanted victory more. An attacking outlook in the first game at home had Los Blancos on the back foot, and a plucky last-minute Mario Gomez goal gave them an advantage at half way of the tie. Within 14 minutes of the game at the Santiago Bernabeu fixture the Bavarians found themselves 2-0 down, but the side fought back to 2-1 and eventually won the tie on penalties.

All-in-all, Bayern are a more assured and rounded team than last season, and have had to fight back from difficult positions at times throughout the campaign. In Mario Gomez the side have a forward always liable to pop up with a goal, especially given the quality supply of Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben. The main development from last term however has been a steadying of the backline, with the summer additions of Jerome Boateng and Manuel Neuer now looked like excellent business. Add this all-rounded team to a frightening home record (they have won every game this season at the Allianz Arena) and Bayern will take some stopping.

Chelsea

Chelsea have been two contrasting teams in the Champions League this term; one under Andre Villas Boas and one under Roberto Di Matteo. The Italian has rekindled the side’s belief, and ultimately been the man responsible for getting the west Londoners to the final hurdle.

The Blues topped Group E, comprising Bayer Leverkusen, Valencia and Genk, despite a number of shaky moments. A 2-1 defeat to the Germans at the BayArena and a 0-0 draw with the Belgians away from home failed to inspire, but the English team did win all three home games, scoring 10 unanswered goals in the process.

A last 16 tie with Napoli, Manchester City’s conquerors, promised to be an exciting match-up and did not disappoint. After being thoroughly outplayed and beaten 3-1 at San Paolo, Villas Boas was replaced by Di Matteo, whose side staged a remarkable and unlikely comeback to beat the Italians 4-1 at Stamford Bridge in the return leg. This was undoubtedly the turning point of the Blues’ season, and the springboard that sees them in the final.

A potential banana-skin tie awaited Chelsea in the quarter-finals, as Benfica, who progressed through their group at the expense of Manchester United, would prove no pushovers. However, an assured performance at the Estadio da Luz saw a 1-0 win for the Premier League outfit, who huffed and puffed to win the return fixture 2-1 also. Brave team selection in the away leg by Di Matteo reaped benefits, and set up a semi-final with Barcelona.

Chelsea had unfinished business against the Catalan giants after previous close calls, and over 180 minutes rode their luck but ultimately did what it took to make the final. Despite being outplayed in the first leg, a 1-0 victory courtesy of a solitary Didier Drogba strike gave the Blues the slimmest of advantages to take to Camp Nou. After 44 minutes of the second leg Chelsea were staring down the barrel: trailing 2-0 and down to ten men after John Terry’s dismissal. However, a deft Ramires chip, stern defensive effort and last-gasp Fernando Torres strike offered up a memorable night for the travelling support.

Over the course of the campaign it is difficult to pick out individuals who have inspired their team to progression, as the upturn in fortunes must be accredited to a collective team effort. Undoubtedly Chelsea’s senior players have led this, and Didier Drogba, out of contract in the summer and facing an exit from the club, must get credit for his goals and leading from the front. Di Matteo’s tactics and man management must also be heralded, and the Italian must surely be given a permanent place on the Stamford Bridge hotseat should his team defeat Bayern in the final.

At times with more grit than guile, Bayern and Chelsea deserve their places in what should be a blood and thunder final. The Bavarians have an exemplary home record, but on current form, if anyone can beat them at the Allianz Arena it may well be the west London outfit.

Published – Soccerlens

The draw of home: Why Chelsea could face losing Oriol Romeu

With Spanish football on an all-time high, there is no wonder that Premier League clubs are eager to bring players from La Liga to England.

With Pepe Reina’s current and Xabi Alonso’s past importance to Liverpool, Juan Mata’s immediate impact at Chelsea, Cesc Fabregas’ legendary status in North London and David Silva leading Manchester City’s title charge, the English top flight has been blessed with incredible talent from Spain in recent times.

However, seemingly more than any other nation, Spanish players yearn for home and have left English teams at the peak of their individual abilities.

An emerging talent at Stamford Bridge is quickly proving his worth and may well one day be added to the impressive list of world-beating Spanish players that have graced British shores.

Oriol Romeu joined Chelsea from Barcelona last summer, and despite only making one solitary substitute appearance for the Catalan giants before departing, he has become a crucial member of Andre Villas Boas’ squad almost instantly. Jon Obi Mikel, Ramires and even Frank Lampard have seen their time on the pitch impacted this season by the Portuguese coach’s use of the youngster, and Romeu is already one of a host of players that Andre Villas Boas is building a new-look Chelsea team around.

Romeu has a great blend of the traditional Spanish qualities, and a battling nature that has suited the pace and aggression of the Premier League. Technically gifted with the ball at his feet, Romeu has an eye for a pass and calmness when in possession that is uniquely distilled through the ranks at La Masia. Add to this his ability to read the game, a keenness to put in a tackle and excellent positional play and Romeu is already at 20 years old an accomplished defensive midfielder.

However, just like in the case of Fabregas and Alonso, the draw of his homeland may hamper Chelsea’s long-term ambitions and plans for the Ulldecona-born man. Reports have emerged that Barcelona have a buy-back option integrated in Romeu’s contract, which can be implemented at the Camp Nou outfit’s request in the summer of 2012 or 2013.

With the abundance of midfield talent currently at Pep Guardiola’s disposal it is unlikely that the European champions will opt to bring Romeu ‘home’ this summer, but given another season of Premier League and European football and it may well be deemed that the starlet could be an asset in the Catalan senior squad.

With Xavi and Andres Iniesta currently at the peak of their powers, Sergio Busquets filling the defensive midfield slot, Fabregas being deployed as a second striker and Thiago Alcantara an impressive back-up, Guardiola’s options in the centre of the park are simply salivating.

However, given another 18 months, the two current dominant playmakers in Catalunya may well be starting to feel their age, and with Busquets gradually making the transition to central defence, Romeu could be summoned.

This would be a big blow for a team like Chelsea, who are not accustomed to losing key players; anyone who leaves Stamford Bridge is generally surplus to requirements. With Roman Abramovich’s billions, an ambitious young coach in place and an exciting team being built around the Spaniard, surely Romeu would be tempted to knock back Barcelona’s potential advances?

Not very likely. The draw of La Liga’s top sides is huge, not least to those who have witnessed their allure up close. The fact Romeu is a Barca youth product means he has been instilled with the mindset that playing for the Blaugrana is the Holy Grail since the age of 13, and Chelsea now have a problem.

One only has to look at the demise of Liverpool since the sale of Xabi Alonso to Real Madrid to see the potential effect of losing a Spanish midfield general. Cesc Fabregas openly admitted to ‘feeling English’ during his time in North London and frequently spouted his love for the Emirates outfit.

He was part of a team unbeaten for an entire season in England, played in a Champions League final and had the adoration of one of the most respected coaches in world football, his fellow players and fans. Nevertheless, he could not resist the appeal of home.

An equally concerning thought that Chelsea will need to keep in mind revolves around Juan Mata, and like his countrymen, whether or not he would be able to resist either Barcelona or Real Madrid’s charms in a year or two’s time.

Mata is a Madrid youth player who again did not make the first team, and was later farmed out to Valencia. One feels there may be unfinished business at the Santiago Bernabeu for the attacker. Finally, even Sheik Mansour’s unlimited financial resources would probably not stop David Silva doing all in his power to forge a move away from Manchester City if one of Spain’s big two came knocking.

Spain’s World Cup-winning golden generation is currently the best crop of players in the game, with the country’s top two domestic teams the biggest clubs on the planet. For an English side to snag a leading Spanish player must be seen as a massive coup, however it should be advised that over-reliance on this superstar may end in tears; only time will tell in the case of Romeu.

PublishedFourFourTwo

Chelsea to look to McEachran in the absence of the injured Michael Essien?

Chelsea received a setback recently with the news that Michael Essien is likely to face up to six months on the sidelines with another knee injury, with rehabilitation from an operation in full swing. With the latest ailment the third of it’s kind during the Ghanian’s tenure at Stamford Bridge, it may well be wise for Andre Villas Boas to formulate a long-term midfield plan without the 28-year-old in his thoughts.

No doubt, when Essien is fit and raring to go he is one of the most dynamic and explosive players in his position in the country. Despite this, long layoffs and a drop in confidence and form mean that the ex-Lyon midfielder has a lot of work to do to rediscover his former self.

The Portuguese manager has stated that The Blues will play 4-3-3 in 2011-12, with a trio of Frank Lampard, Ramires and Essien most likely in mind. With the African not available, Jon Obi Mikel may step in and play in the middle, but what are the other  options without Essien in the team?

Much has been made of the lack of activity in the transfer window to date, but it is likely that the Chelsea faithful will see arrivals to the club before August 31st. The high profile pursuit of Luka Modric has yet to reach a conclusion, whilst AVB is thought to be keen to add Porto’s Joao Moutinho to the squad. Both, as good players as they are, are more attacking minded and would complement a midfield with Lampard and Essien, with the new man being the playmaker. Without the Accra born man, a box-to-box player is needed; someone who can win the ball as well as distribute it.

Enter Josh McEachran. The 18-year-old impressed in his fleeting first team appearances in 2010-11, and the Young Player of the Year is likely to feature in more than the nine games he appeared in last term. The England under-21 international has great vision and passing abilities, maybe not yet up to the standard of Modric or Moutinho, but the promise is there.

Ideally the Oxford born man would prefer to play in a more attacking role, looking to supply the forwards and get into the opposition box. However Carlo Ancelotti seemed to use the youngster as a replacement for Essien or Mikel last season, and he looked more than comfortable in a deeper role. With enthusiasm and energy to burn, McEacran will not be scared to go toe-to-toe with opponents on a weekly basis, and although still maturing, can read the game well, allowing him to break up opposition play.

Chelsea do need another established central midfielder at the club, and it is likely that Roman Abramovich’s money will be spent to achieve this. However expect to see Josh McEachran playing a more important role in the team in 2011-12, as his talents continue to blossom at the Cobham training grounds.

Published – http://thechelseablog.org/2011/08/01/chelsea-to-look-to-mceachran-in-the-absence-of-the-injured-michael-essien/

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