By, Ayodeji Itasanmi (Twitter: @aryhorblueblood)
We all have different reasons for supporting but whatever the reason for which you chose Chelsea Football Club as your number one football team, one thing that all of us have in common is that we suffer as much as the team when things starts to go wrong, and that’s certainly been the case since the calendar changed from 2017 to 2018.
One thing I’ve come to identify with Chelsea since I decided to start supporting the Blues is the fact that we’re not used to washing our dirty linen in the public eye and that’s what has become a thing of a theme in recent weeks with Antonio Conte choosing to criticize the club’s transfer policy in the media every chance he gets, something that hasn’t gone down well with the Stamford Bridge hierarchy. This begs the question, where do we go from here?
We haven’t started 2018 very well with five consecutive draws in the first five matches of the new year even though we have got some wins since then. Chelsea fans of any generation will find it hard to live with back to back losses to both Bournemouth and Watford especially if the manner of the defeats is considered after we scored just one goal and conceded seven in those matches. It comes as no surprise that the press has been full of speculation about Antonio Conte’s future at the Chelsea helm especially considering how the Chelsea owner has handled situations such as the one the club is currently undergoing in the past, but the Italian remains defiant in the face of all the speculations saying in his post-match interview, when asked if he was worried about his future,
“No. it’s not my problem. I try to do my job. I try to put everything in my job. If this is enough, it’s okay. Otherwise they can take their decision”-Antonio Conte
Personally I think Conte’s general disposition has changed from last season and I think that’s the genesis of the problem presently facing the team as a whole. I could still picture in my mind even as I write this how the Italian celebrated Diego Costa’s winner against West Ham in his first match at the Chelsea helm, throwing himself into the fans, but that seemed like eons ago now with him hardly celebrating anything in recent matches. For example, we scored three goals in our recent FA Cup match against Newcastle United at Stamford Bridge and all Conte did in the form of a celebration was applause as soon as Marcos Alonso’s free kick found the net and I believd that will tell on the team sooner or later, and now that it has it’s helping to pile the pressure on the Italian and his team with the poor results not helping. I have said it before and I’m going to say it again, it’s going to take a miracle to see Antonio Conte retain his position come the end of this season (if he makes it there) because the relationship between the Italian and the Chelsea board is so strained that I don’t see a way back for the pair. Call me a pessimist but that’s just the way I see it.
I’ve been working on this article for some days now and in that time I’ve come up with different titles before finally settling for this one after watching another less than inspiring performance from my beloved club on Monday night at Vicarage Road against the Hornets. This year has certainly not started the way any of us hoped and the run of bad results has failed to abate with the return to the Champions’ League only a few days away. Blues, all over the world, are of divergent opinions as to why we’re in the predicament we now find ourselves. While some believe it’s because the board has not backed Antonio Conte enough to bring in his kind of players, others think the impeding rebuilding of Stamford Bridge is making the Chelsea board reluctant to spend big in any one transfer window. However I think the ‘problems’ we’re facing in the transfer market is as a result of both the Chelsea board and Antonio Conte failing to agree on which transfer policy is ideal for the club. On the one hand, the board is so keen to reduce the average age of the squad which is why they are trying to buy young and promising stars as against their previous policy of breaking the bank to get the desired quality needed to take the club forward, but Antonio Conte on the other hand seem to favour deals for established, mature and often expensive players, and that in my opinion is the conundrum that we now find ourselves. Until both parties find a compromise I don’t see an immediate end to our free fall down the Premier League table especially as Antonio Conte is hell bent on continuing with his 3-4-3 formation, even when he doesn’t have the necessary ingredients to make it work. Like the average Chelsea fan, I want the best for the club so it’s my hope that an immediate resolution is found to the current predicament that we now found ourselves, so we can move on to greater things because we still have the Champions’ League and the FA Cup to fight for, and there’s the matter of finishing in the top four and qualify for the Champions’ League next season.
JANUARY TRANSFER WINDOW REVIEW
The transfer window has come and gone and we have one midfielder, one defender and one striker to show for our foray into the transfer market. As is customary with new arrivals there’s sure to be departures and we lost the trio of Kenedy, Charly Musonda and Michy Batshuayi to Newcastle United, Celtic and Borussia Dortmund respectively. Going into the January transfer window, a left wingback was a priority to provide competition for Marcos Alonso for the left wingback position and we got that in Emerson Palmieri from AS Roma. Then we got a bonanza in the form of a fifteen million pounds purchase of Everton’s Ross Barkley which is a bargain no matter how you look at it, and then the ‘enforced’ deal to sign Arsenal’s Olivier Giroud, a deal which effectively sent Michy Batshuayi to Dortmund. On its own, the deal to bring in Olivier Giroud is not so bad but when you consider what we lost in getting the deal done then for me it becomes something of a bad business with us being on the wrong end of a transfer triangle that involved Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s record move Arsenal and Batshuayi’s loan move to Borussia Dortmund. Even now, I’m still trying to wrap my head around the fact that Chelsea actually traded Batshuayi for Giroud, who has been battling injuries for some time now. Even though I understood the reasoning behind that decision I haven’t yet come to terms with that bit of business considering how prolific the Belgian has been in front of goals when he’s been called on, which was mostly in cup competitions. He has a total of ten goals (only Hazard (14) and Morata (12) has more); 2 in the Premier League, 2 Champions’ League goals, 2 FA Cup goals and 4 in the Carabao Cup. He played in four competitions for Chelsea and he scored in all of them before switching Stamford Bridge for the Signal Iduna Park. I know that Conte seem to fancy tall, lanky strikers because he likes his strikers to hold the ball up and bring others into the play, and I agree that’s not Batshuayi’s strongest points but when you score goals at the rate Batshuayi does then you deserve a chance which Antonio Conte wasn’t willing to give to him because he was unwilling to change his style to accommodate the Belgian. It’ll be such a shame if we eventually lose out on another promising player just because we’re unwilling to do the needful. In his two games for Borussia Dortmund since making that switch, he has 3 goals and an assist, and that, for any striker, are numbers to be proud of and it can only get better for the Belgian over there in Germany. Here’s wishing him all the best and hopefully we’ll see him get his chance next season when his loan expires.
CHELSEA LADIES AND ACADEMY UPDATE
Chelsea Ladies has kept pace with Man City at the top of the WSL table ahead of what’s sure to be a mouth-watering encounter against Man City Women at the Etihad Academy Stadium in the return leg of their top-of-the-table clash, and if the Blues performance in the scoreless draw at Kings Meadow is anything to go by then the Citizens are in for a torrid time. Having lost to the same opposition just a few days prior the Citizens didn’t know what hit them with the Chelsea Ladies dominating the entire match, but still somehow failed to find the back of the net. They did make up for their failures against Manchester City Women by putting ten past an hapless London Bees side in the Women FA Cup fourth round tie. Emma Hayes side are well on course to finish the season with a trophy or two should they keep up their momentum going into the business end of the season and kudos must be given to her for the way she’s made use of the squad at her disposal and managed to bring the best out of each and every one of her players. It’s all poised for the showdown with Manchester Women at the Academy Stadium on the 24th of February which could be the title decider with City having kept a two point lead over Chelsea since early October when the Blues could only manage a draw against their London rivals Arsenal. A win for them against City Women will return them to the top of the WSL table with just a handful of games to be played. Here’s wishing her and her team all the best ahead of the end of the season and best of luck to her personally as she welcomes her twins into the Blues family.
Kudos must also be given to the Chelsea U21s for their efforts in the Checkatrade Trophy where, even though they’ve come up against much older players than them, they came within whiskers of making it to Wembley. Ultimately they bowed out to Lincoln City on penalties in their semi-final match with both Ethan Ampadu and Jacob Maddox missing their kicks. But the team in all deserved a massive commendation for their valiant efforts in the competition especially if you consider we kept the youngest squad in the competition for the most part and yet we made it to the semi-final and almost made to the final. Kudos to Jody Morris and the boys from here for their efforts.
The Chelsea u18s has again dominated the south section of the u18 Premier League after opening up an eight-point lead over second-placed Reading. The Chelsea u21s haven’t fared too badly either with them maintaining a top five status for most of the season. With the Checkatrade Trophy now out of the way they can focus mainly on the league and the FA Youth Cup where they are poised to take on Tottenham Hotspurs in the quarter-final of the Youth Cup on Tuesday. A win against Spurs u18s on Tuesday will keep alive their hopes of winning the Youth Cup for a record-equaling fifth time in a row. Joe Edwards has done quite well since taking over the Chelsea u18s and kudos must go to him as well for playing a role in developing some of our future stars.
We lost three highly-rated young stars during the second coming of Jose Mourinho in Kevin De Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku and Mohammed Salah because the club’s management gave him the free rein to do as he pleases ,and all three of those players are now playing for our rivals. We surely have some promising youngsters in our ranks now and I hope unlike their predecessors they will get their chance to show what they are capable of. It’ll be a massive failure for the club if in another two or three seasons Charly Musonda, Tammy Abraham, RLC, Kenedy and Batshuayi are not regulars in our team because I believe they are first team level players if only we have a coach that will take a chance on them.
I hope Antonio Conte saw what Eden Hazard can do when he isn’t the focal point our attack, the next time Conte uses him as a ‘False 9’ I’ll revolt and that’s a promise. He was by a million miles the best player on the pitch yesternight. West Brom down, Hull City and Barcelona to go, remember to Keep The Blue Flag Flying High!
Thumbnail image courtesy of: Goodfon
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