International Break Update
With the last international break of the season in effect after the weekend’s round of fixtures, I’ve decided to write about every other thing Chelsea and take a break from the first team for a bit, at least until after this coming weekend’s internationals. Just a little bit of first team news to kick things off.
Eden Hazard was missing from the team that traveled to Stoke at the weekend after picking up a calf strain in training on Friday. A prognosis was made on the injury and the good news is that he’s only going to be out for between ten to fifteen days. So, I’d say he’s facing a race against time to be fit for our next Premier League assignment at home to Crystal Palace but it wouldn’t be the end of the world if he were to miss that as long as he’s fit to face Manchester City four days after the Palace game. Before I sign off on the first team, I just want to say this bit: Michy Batshuayi who was MIA again at the weekend. I don’t know everything that goes on behind the scenes at Stamford Bridge or Cobham for that matter but I know enough to suggest something really is going on between Batshuayi and Conte for his situation to have deteriorated to this point. After coming on as a 93rd minute substitute against United in the FA Cup one would expect to see him take the pitch at some point against Stoke especially with the way the game played out, switching to a back four and all. Earlier in the season, against West Ham and Watford to be precise, when Conte wanted to trade one point for three. Batshuayi was his go-to guy and he recorded a goal and an assist in both those games. The obvious question now is what went wrong along the way? This situation needs to be remedied and the only way I can think of right now is for him to move on and seek first team football elsewhere because his international career is beginning to suffer as a result of his lack of match action. Enough said about the first team.
Chelsea Ladies F.C.
The Chelsea Ladies FC kick started their season with a resounding victory over Doncaster Rovers Belles in the women’s FA Cup, 7-0 the final score line. After losing their WSL Women’s title to Manchester City women last season and the FA Cup to Arsenal Ladies, Emma Hayes had reiterated her desire to win both trophies back by the end of the Spring Series and her quest could not have started any better. More than domestic titles however, Hayes also desire to see her side go far in the Women’s Champions’ League and she seemed to have the team to do too having recruited during the off season with that in mind. She brought in Norwegian captain Mjelde, Switzerland international Ramona Bachmann, Crystal Dunn of the United States and youngster Erin Cuthbert of Scotland. The FA is using the Spring Series to bridge the gap between seasons in order to have a more traditional football calendar for the WSL from the 2017/18 season. This series is a scheduled to run from late April to early June in order to leave ample preparation time for the Women European Championship in July and the more conventional league format that’s to start in September and run till May of 2018. The Ladies start the Spring Series with a visit to defending champions Manchester City on the 23rd of April.
Chelsea U-18s made it through to the FA Youth Cup final for the sixth consecutive season and they are bidding to win their fourth title in a row when they come up against Manchester City (for the fourth consecutive time as well), who holds a 6-0 first leg advantage over Stoke. I think the team as a whole deserves commendations for them to have recorded such consistent success in this competition with changes made to the team and the coaching set up along the way. In the competition this season, they have won all of their games scoring an astonishing 24 goals and conceding just two. They’re also trying to win the U-18 title for the first time after dominating the South Section for the last three to four seasons. They have some exciting talent to look out for in the future. Mason Mount, the team captain, the defensive triumvirate Reece James, Josh Grant and Trevor Chalobah; Dujon Sterling, Tariq Uwakwe and Ike Ugbo, who’s the leading scorer in the Youth Cup this season with eight goals. Having lost the last three finals to the Blues, Manchester City would be gearing up for this one but this Chelsea team is capable of beating any team on their day. We wish them the best of luck for the Youth Cup and in their bid for the title.
One thing that the club is doing that continues to bring smile to my face is the fact we’re accommodating as many as our former players as can into the Chelsea set up. Jason Cundy, Clive Walker and Pat Nevin are working for Chelsea TV, the latter doubling as a website columnist. Eddie Newton, Paulo Ferreira and Tore Andre Flo are given roles in the academy, the former pair being saddled with handling the loan army. Jody Morris is the current U-18 team manager. Henrique Hilario and Carlo Cudicini are part of Antonio Conte’s backroom staff. Ron Harris, the captain of the all- conquering team of the early 70s works in the hospitality section. The club is also trying to create a Barcelona-esque club wide football philosophy with almost all the teams, including the Ladies, having used the 3-4- 3 formation at some point this season with the Youth Cup team and Ladies deploying the formation for their most recent demolition jobs. What this means is that there are communication between the coaches irrespective of the teams they are managing and this bodes well for the future of the club. As fans we’ve been clamouring to see more of our Academy players incorporated into the first team set up like other top teams are doing. I think the club is taking these steps to make that possible on a more regular basis in the foreseeable future. And the step up would not be too hard on the player because he’s already familiar with the playing style of the first team from the Academy hence he knows what’s expected of him even before he arrives. That’s what has made the La Masia academy of Barcelona so successful and if you ask me it’s a step in the right direction for the club and I’d like for them to continue.