By, Ugo Nwogwugwu


Arsenal 1-1 Chelsea (Arsenal win the penalty shootout 4-1)

In the weeks leading up to the 2017 Community Shield clash between Arsenal and Chelsea, the media focus had not been on the clubs’ pre-season preparations, but on one of the craziest transfer windows in football history. Both this fixture’s competitors broke their transfer records this window, to make strikers Alexander Lacazette (£52m) and Alvaro Morata (£58m potentially going up to 70m) the most expensive Arsenal and Chelsea players ever.

Both clubs had also experienced problems holding on to key players. Chelsea top scorer Diego Costa and midfield linchpin Nemanja Matic were out of the squad, one waiting to be sold the other transferred to a direct rival. The club had also sold and loaned out eighteen other squad and youth players, but with only four replacements signed by kick off for this game. Arsenal had their own problems getting top players Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil to commit to new contracts.

Arsenal started without Sanchez, Ozil, Laurent Koscielny and Aaron Ramsey for the Community Shield, while Chelsea were without Eden Hazard and Tiemoue Bakayoko, recovering from injury and surgery respectively. Arsene Wenger picked new man Lacazette to start up top, but Chelsea manager Antonio Conte continued to show an ability to make the hard choices, leaving Alvaro Morata on the bench for the first significant tie of the season.

Arsenal Team

Cech, Bellerin, Holding, Mertesacker (Kolasinac), Monreal, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Elneny, Xhaka, Welbeck, Iwobi (Walcott), Lacazette (Giroud)

Subs Ospina, Kolasinac, Maitland-Niles, Willock, Nelson, Walcott, Giroud

Chelsea Team

Courtois, Moses, Azpilicueta, Luiz, Cahill, Alonso (Rudiger), Fabregas, Kante, Willian (Musonda), Pedro, Batshuayi (Morata)

Subs Caballero, Christensen, Rudiger, Boga, Scott, Musonda, Morata

Big Moments

Arsenal tested Chelsea’s defence quite a few times early on in the game. New man Lacazette narrowly missed a low Iwobi pass just across the face of goal. Danny Welbeck headed another great cross straight at Chelsea keeper Courtois. Cesar Azpilicueta got caught in possession by Welbeck, who then went down under pressure from the full back, earning Azpilicueta a yellow card on thirteen minutes. Bellerin was also booked shortly after for a late, studs up challenge on Marcos Alonso.

Chelsea weathered the storm though, and began to make a few opportunities themselves – Pedro, Batshuayi and Willian getting into good positions but being crowded out by Arsenal’s defence, not quite getting their shots off. Arsenal then hit back on the counter, creating their best chance of the first half. Bellerin found Welbeck out on the left with a cross-field pass. Welbeck advanced and should have cut in and taken a shot himself, but unselfishly laid up the ball for Lacazette, who curled a shot round Cahill and Courtois, but only struck the post.

During a Chelsea corner about halfway through the opening period, Gary Cahill unintentionally caught Mertesacker in the face with an elbow. After some treatment for a bad cut above his eye, Mertesacker came off the pitch for new signing Sead Kolasinac.

On 35 minutes Chelsea almost caught the Arsenal defence off guard, Willian finding “lone ranger” Pedro unmarked out wide on the left. Rather than squaring for Batshuayi though, Pedro decided to try for goal himself, but only forced a save from Petr Cech. In the next exchange Willian intercepted the ball twice in Arsenal’s last third but got booked for simulation after appearing to trip over his own feet in the box.

After one final counterattack from Arsenal, Iwobi’s shot well saved and held by Courtois, both teams went in goalless at the break. It had been a good first half of football, but both sides were quite clearly suffering the absence of their best players. Overall, Arsenal had edged the first half of play, mostly negating Chelsea’s efforts by crowding the box when out of possession, then breaking forward at speed.

Arsenal 0 – 1 Chelsea

Knowing Antonio Conte though, the Chelsea players would come out of the break with a flea in their ear. And so it was that they blazed into the lead just 49 seconds after the restart. Sead Kolasinac had put the ball out, and Arsenal thought they had cleared the resulting corner. The ball fell to Gary Cahill however, who headed it back into the box. Victor Moses then got to the ball first, beating Arsenal’s offside trap, and rounding former teammate Cech to make it 1 – 0.

Just two minutes later, Chelsea threatened again off another corner. Fabregas put the ball over Cech from the by-line, but there were no Chelsea players at the far post to finish. Arsenal cleared to Batshuayi, but was obstructed by Welbeck and could only hook a weak shot straight at the keeper.

On fifty-five minutes the medical team were called on again, this time after a worrying clash of heads between Chelsea defenders Cahill and Luiz, off a Granit Xhaka corner. Both players were cleared to play a couple of minutes later though. Soon afterwards, Courtois made his first major save of the second half. Mohammed Elneny crossed from the right for Welbeck, but the ball curled dangerously inward towards the net. The Chelsea keeper had to make an acrobatic save to knock it over the bar. On sixty minutes, Elneny was involved again. This time he threaded a through ball past Chelsea’s defenders to Lacazette, but nothing came of his effort as the French striker was offside.

As play went back and forth, both Rob Holding and David Luiz did well to cut out crosses from Willian and Welbeck at either end. Azpilicueta also intercepted to divert another Arsenal cross towards Courtois, and the Belgian keeper had to make a hurried clearance to prevent Welbeck from taking advantage.

With twenty-five minutes of normal time left, Arsenal made a double substitution, Giroud and Walcott coming on for Lacazette and Iwobi respectively. Lacazette had played well to that point, but frankly Arsenal’s play had been crying out for Giroud’s height and finishing. Eight minutes later, Alvaro Morata made his competitive Chelsea debut, replacing Michy Batshuayi as central striker.

Arsenal continued to press hard, with Walcott making an early cross in from the right. The ball evaded Welbeck and almost made it all the way across to a waiting Giroud, but Moses cut it out to prevent a certain goal. Xhaka also forced another superb Courtois save with a thirty-yard howitzer. Chelsea got forward themselves on the break, Willian haring down the middle of the pitch, before making an outside-foot curler of a cross to Morata wide right. The ball was just slightly ahead of the Spanish striker though, and he could not keep his volley down and on target.

On 78 minutes Conte made another change, Antonio Rudiger on for Marcos Alonso. Rudiger slotted in at right center back, with Azpilicueta taking over from Alonso at left wing-back.

Arsenal 1 – 1 Chelsea

It looked like the game was winding down to a straightforward Chelsea 1 – 0 win, when Pedro made a late challenge from behind on Elneny, making contact with the back of the Arsenal player’s leg. The referee chose to show a red rather than a yellow, and Chelsea were down to ten men. As if that wasn’t enough drama though, Chelsea’s defence went completely to sleep on the resulting free kick. Granit Xhaka crossed for Kolasinac, who lost Rudiger on the right, then raced through to head in an 82nd minute equalizer.

Shortly afterwards, Hector Bellerin escaped being sent off as well. He had been dispossessed by Azpilicueta, before hauling the Chelsea left back down to prevent a counter. Up to that point the refereeing from Bobby Madley had been tough but fair, but it was difficult to understand how Bellerin was not sent off. Especially as the Pedro tackle got the strictest interpretation, and Azpilicueta was booked for a much lighter pull-back on Welbeck earlier in the game. Even with ten men though, Chelsea still managed to create one more good opportunity, from a Fabregas free kick in injury time, but Morata’s header was wrongly ruled offside.

And so it went to penalties. Arsenal took their penalties coolly and well, Walcott, Monreal and Oxlade-Chamberlain all placing their goals perfectly. Chelsea struggled badly though. Team captain Gary Cahill scored their first penalty, but Thibaut Courtois blazed over, and Morata sent his own attempt wide. Arsenal were 3 – 1 up and only needed one more goal to win it. The decider fell to Olivier Giroud, who made no mistake, scoring to his right as Courtois went in the opposite direction.

 

Thumbnail image courtesy of: Barrington Coombs/EMPICS Sport

 

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By, Ayodeji Itasanmi (Twitter: @Aryhorblueblood)


Wembley Stadium/August 6, 2017

After being involved in the last game of the 2016/2017 Premier League season, it’s only fitting that Arsenal vs. Chelsea gets the honour to usher us into the 2017/2018 Premier League season. The Community Shield is the traditional curtain-raiser for the English season and this year pits Chelsea against Arsenal, the League and FA Cup winners respectively from the previous campaign. The FA has announced that should the game go into a shootout the ABBA shootout system would be introduced for the first time so I guess we might see how that plays out. These two locked horns recently, albeit in a preseason friendly, that took place at China’s Bird Nest Stadium with Chelsea running out comfortable 3-0 winners; Willian and Batshuayi (2) with the goals. The Community Shield represents the last opportunity for both Antonio Conte and Arsene Wenger to drill their squads into shape in readiness for the new season with as many as six substitutions allowed.

History

This fixture has come about just twice before, first in 2005 and the last just two years ago in 2015, with both teams having a victory apiece. In August 2005, after Chelsea’s first League title for fifty years and Arsenal’s triumph in the FA Cup against Manchester United, Chelsea faced Arsenal at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff with Mourinho’s Chelsea coming out tops through two poacher’s goal from the scourge of Arsenal, Didier Drogba, with Cesc Fabregas getting what proved to be a mere consolation for Arsenal . Arsene Wenger got a measure of revenge back from Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea in the 2015 edition with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain getting the match winner in the second half of an uninspiring game for the neutrals. The only thing of note in that match at Wembley was that it was the first time Chelsea Legend, Petr Cech lined up against the Blues.

Team Breakdowns

 Chelsea

Antonio Conte will surely be having a rethink about some of our loan contingent that was in the squad that traveled to Asia for our preseason tour, because I think some of them have played themselves into contention. Jeremie Boga, Lewis Baker and Charly Musonda surely took their chances in Asia and I wouldn’t be surprised if the trio were to stay on with the squad for the season and not go out on loans. Pedro was back in training, albeit with a protective mask, after his multiple fractures against Arsenal in China and might get a run out against Arsenal on Sunday. However this game will come too soon for the duo of Eden Hazard and Timoue Bakayoko who are still on the road to full fitness. With Conte stating that Alvaro Morata needs to improve his fitness he might decide to give Michy Batshuayi the chance to continue his hot streak in front of goal with support from Willian and one of Morata/Pedro/Boga and Musonda. The rest of the team should be straight forward enough with the only exception being where and how Antonio Rudiger fits in. With Victor Moses set to miss our first Premier League game against Burnley, Rudiger might get the chance to replace him at wingback while Azpilicueta keeps his place at RCB or maybe Dave will deputise at wingback with Rudiger coming in at RCB/LCB.

Injuries: Eden Hazard (Ankle) – Out; Timoue Bakayoko (Knee) – Out; Pedro (Facial Fracture) – Doubt.

Last 5 matches: LLWLW

 Arsenal

Arsene Wenger will surely welcome the chance to play Laurent Koscielny even if he won’t be able to call on his best CB for the first two Premier League games. Shokdran Mustafi will also be in contention for a place in the team even though he’ll be short on match fitness having been given an extended leave after his involvement in Germany’s Confederations’ Cup triumph. Arsene Wenger seem very confident about Alexis Sanchez remaining at the Emirates Stadium by the close of the transfer window but I’m sure he won’t be as confident about starting him against Chelsea on Sunday, the Chilean having only retuned to training on Wednesday following his involvement in the Confederations’ Cup and a bout of flu. With record signing Alexander Lacazette sidelined, Wenger will be forced to turn to one of Olivier Giroud, Theo Walcott and soon-to-be former Arsenal striker Lucas Perez. Wenger has stated he’ll continue with the three at the back set up with which he finished last season, whether he has the team to sustain that system over the course of a full season is yet to be seen.

Injuries: Santi Cazorla (Ankle) – Out; Gabriel Paulista (MCL) – Out; Jack Wilshere (Ankle) – Out; Francis Coquelin (Muscle Strain) – Doubtful; Mesut Ozil (Thigh) – Doubtful; Aaron Ramsey (Muscle) – Doubtful.

 Last 5 matches: LWLDW

3 Matchups to Watch

Cesc Fabregas vs. Granit Xhaka

Fabregas has been involved from the start in all of our four preseason games so far and will likely continue to partner N’Golo Kante in midfield, and if that’s the case he’s going to be up against the tough-tackling Swiss. Cesc always has an assist in him if given the chance and space to pick his passes but Xhaka will be looking to deny him the space needed to operate. This should be an interesting duel.

Victor Moses vs. Mesut Ozil

Victor Moses will have one of the most difficult tasks of the Chelsea players on Sunday which is limiting the impact of the German maestro. Wenger usually plays Ozil at the left of his front three in his new found 3-4-2-1 formation. Ozil is not the fastest player around but he’s one of the most dangerous with the ball at his feet. Moses will have to pay close attention to him because Ozil has been known to drift in-field to wreak havoc if it becomes necessary and he has a killer pass in him every game.

David Luiz vs. Olivier Giroud

With Lacazette side-lined Wenger will be looking up to Giroud for goals on Sunday and David Luiz must be at the top of his game because the Frenchman is out to prove to his coach that he still deserve a place in the team in spite of the addition of his record-signing countryman.

Conclusion

If the FA Cup final is anything to go by, then Arsene Wenger might decide again to cede possession to Chelsea and look to catch us on the counter but I trust Antonio Conte would have learned one or two lessons of his own from that game in May. I expect this to be an open but tactical game with it coming so close to the beginning of the season. Fringe players will see this as an opportunity to impress ahead of the new season while established players will be looking to avoid any injuries that might disrupt their seasons. In all, this should be an exciting and interesting game of football for the neutrals which. I think Chelsea will have enough in them to get the piece. The first piece of silverware of the season is coming to Stamford Bridge! Until next week, Keep The Blue Flag Flying High Blues!

 

Thumbnail image courtesy of: Pinnacle Sports

 

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By, Ugo Nwogwugwu


Fourteen goals scored. Seven goals conceded. Two good wins for Chelsea this pre-season, but also two humbling defeats. They say pre-season doesn’t matter and it’s probably true, but there were a few interesting points to note amid all the experimentation:

  • Chelsea scored lots of goals and comfortably won their first two games against English opposition. They then conceded five goals themselves, on the way to losing both games against European teams.
  • The one goal margin in both losses masked the fact that Chelsea were badly exposed against both Inter and Bayern. They could have lost by two or three more goals each game.
  • Two of Chelsea’s top scorers the last three seasons, Eden Hazard and Diego Costa were not available – injured and on their way out of the team respectively. The Matic-Kante combo, formed of the two best defensive midfielders from the last three title winning EPL teams, has also been broken up.
  • The alternate midfield partnership of Kante and Fabregas looked great against weaker opposition (sorry Arsenal). Fabregas was especially brilliant, quarterbacking like nobody’s business to set up his teammates. Against tougher teams though, they lacked the required speed and defensive presence to control the opposition.
  • Chelsea looked extremely vulnerable on the counter, particularly in the defensive areas vacated by their attacking wing backs. Again and again, Bayern and Inter used their central attackers to narrow Chelsea’s center backs, or pull them out of shape on the break, so other players could attack the posts or the center unhindered. Mr. Conte will need to look at the positioning of his full backs very closely, and find a solution for the upcoming season.
  • Players were recovering fitness, young players were tried out in key positions, new partnerships were being tested, new players were still finding their place in the team – but that was true for Chelsea’s opponents as well. If you’re league champions with European ambitions, you’re still expected to show a level of strategy, depth and quality, even when you don’t win.
  • Yes, the team travelled over fifteen thousand kilometres, and played three big games in the space of just seven days. But if tiredness was a factor in the last two losses – and it sometimes looked the case against Bayern and Inter – then that’s a worry. Those will be the conditions for a lot of next season, because Chelsea are back in the Champions League now.
  • Morata needs games to gel with the team. He might labour a little bit under his 70m price tag, but he should do OK at Chelsea. Batshuayi is ready to play now though, if the manager will trust him. 5 goals and 4 assists in just four games must put him in contention to start, even if they were just pre-season goals.
  • This pre-season may see Pedro out injured or below his best for a few weeks, as he recovers from facial fractures sustained v. Arsenal. Brazilian full back Kenedy also went home early, and might even see his time at the club cut short, due to some major mistakes on social media while on tour. Which would be a shame – he could be a real prospect at LWB / LW.

The Games

Eight Past Fulham

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The first game of pre-season was played behind closed doors, and saw the Premier League champions crush neighbours Fulham FC. The separation between these two teams was one football division and twenty-five league places at the end of last season. The difference showed in the result.

Basically, the score was 5-1 in the first half and 3-1 in the second. Willian scored a double off two unselfish Batshuayi assists, before an Azpilicueta own goal gave Fulham some hope. It wasn’t to be though. Batshuayi scored two goals himself, then Willian cut in from the right to complete his hat trick.

Kenedy conceded a penalty in the second half, from which Fulham scored. He then remedied his error with an interception and tenacious dribbling down the left, before giving Loic Remy an easy tap in for goal number six.

Jeremie Boga, who’s been one of Chelsea’s most promising young players this series of games, then won a penalty, from which Azpilicueta converted to remedy his earlier O.G. Remy then won and converted a penalty of his own to wind it up.

Final Score: Chelsea 8 – 2 Fulham

Blitzing Arsenal

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The next game was against Arsenal at the Bird’s Nest stadium in Beijing. Arsenal chose to start a couple of their younger players, but paid the price as Chelsea were not in the mood to reciprocate. Conte named the strongest line-up at his disposal, and they blew Arsenal away in a furious first half.

It was counter after counter, Ospina somehow managing to keep the scores level for most of the first period, saving shots from Batshuayi, Willian and Moses. Michy then had a legitimate goal ruled out for offside on thirty-five minutes. Four minutes later though, he rolled a sliding tackle and passed to Willian, who curled in off the right post for the opener.

Within a couple of minutes they were two up. Arsenal’s Bramall was dispossessed, before Batshuayi took advantage of a bit too much space from Per Mertesacker, to score a curler of his own in the opposite corner.

Early on in the second half, Marcos Alonso sold Oxlade-Chamberlain a vicious dummy, putting him on his backside in the grass. Alonso then teed Batshuayi off perfectly, who scored with a rising shot from outside the area. There were a few half chances from Ramsey, Coquelin, Giroud and a few others, but it just wasn’t going to be Arsenal’s day.

This game was something like the revenge win Chelsea fans were looking for against the Gunners, but at the end it’s a non-competitive game. The real thing’s coming up on Sunday.

Final Score: Arsenal 0 – 3 Chelsea

Ancelotti’s Bayern

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On to Singapore and Bayern Munich! The National Stadium in Kallang was packed to the rafters, providing a great atmosphere for Chelsea’s second International Champions Cup fixture.

The manager started Willian on the right, with Boga on the left wing in place of the injured Pedro. He also started Andreas Christensen at the center of the back three. The choice might have been made based on Christensen’s Bundesliga experience with Borussia Monchengladbach, but Bayern Munich did seem a big challenge for a young player’s first start in a new squad.

In fact looking at all the starters player for player, Chelsea seemed a little outmatched in some positions, at least on paper. Christensen vs Lewandowski. Kante & Fabregas vs Tolisso, Sanches & Muller. Alonso & Moses vs James & Ribery. All the same, the first goal for Bayern came from a long distance, speculative shot from right back Rafinha. Courtois might have been positioned better, but shot was a bit tricky the way it bounced off the pitch.

From that point though, Bayern just sat back and took advantage of Chelsea’s high line to hit them on the break. For Bayern’s second goal, their front men countered in a four on three overload against Chelsea’s center backs. Chelsea’s full backs were out of sight high up the pitch, so Ribery easily made it to byline to cross for Muller, who volleyed in unmarked at the far post.

Their third came on 25 minutes and showed unbelievable quality from Muller. He was given too much space by four retreating Chelsea defenders, and he used it to whip an audacious twenty-five yard curler around Thibaut Courtois.

Chelsea started to pressure Bayern more after that, and Alonso pulled one back just before half time with a diagonal strike off a Moses cross. Both teams continued to create opportunities in the second half, with Bayern still slightly edging it overall. David Luiz struck the post off a deflection, then on 84 minutes new boy Alvaro Morata headed a Fabregas corner to Batshuayi’s feet. Michy side-footed in for a more respectable scoreline, and 3 – 2 was how it ended.

Final Score: Bayern Munich 3 – 2 Chelsea

An Own Goal vs. Inter

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The final pre-season game was against Inter Milan, and was also played in Singapore. Typically, Conte’s Chelsea show a strong positive reactions after a loss. And you’d expect they would have been able to do so against Inter, who had three different managers in a twelve-month period, and finished seventh in Serie A last season.

Chelsea started with their strongest available team, injuries and transfers considered. In fact, they played the eleven you’d expect to start against Arsenal in the Community Shield next Sunday: Courtois, Moses, Cahill, Luiz, Azpilicueta, Alonso, Kante, Fabregas, Willian, Morata, Batshuayi. Yet they lost without scoring a single direct goal, against an Inter team that included quite a few backups and young new signings themselves.

Early on, Inter caused panic with a fast break down Chelsea’s left flank. It took a number of saves and last ditch tackles to stop an early goal. Just before the break though, another long Inter pass down Chelsea’s left caused confusion in the box, and although Azpilicueta cleanly got the ball off Jovetic, he was considered by the ref to have fouled him. Courtois saved the initial penalty, but Jovetic converted off the rebound for Inter’s first goal.

Straight off Inter’s kick off for the second half, Chelsea intercepted, but then gave the ball away again on the edge of their area. Jovetic scored, but the goal was ruled out for offside. Inter still got their second eventually, off one of many counter-attacks in the second half. Perisic rounded Azpilicueta with too much ease, and put the ball across Courtois into the far corner.

Chelsea later got one goal back, off a crazy 40-yard backpass from Kondogbia into his own goal. Michy Batshuayi also had what would have been the equalizer and his sixth goal in four games wrongly disallowed for offside, but I have to admit Inter deserved the win. They simply showed more desire, and the tactical ability to exploit every weakness Chelsea had exposed against Bayern Munich.

Final Score: Inter Milan 2 – 1 Chelsea

Pre-season might not matter in terms of results, but there were definitely some lessons to be learned here. If Chelsea are lucky they’ll learn them quickly, and make improvements before other teams use similar tactics against them. In actual competitive matches.

 

Thumbnail Image courtesy of: ESPN FC

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By, Aldemaro Narvaez


We all do it.  We all feed the irrational fear of chance and circumstance every time we sidestep walking under a ladder or avoid opening an umbrella indoors. It doesn’t hurt anything to knock on wood or wear those lucky socks to keep bad juju away. But what happens when bad luck is more than some minor “disturbance in the Force”, and we are staring down the deep, dark eyes of what can only be described as a full-blown curse?

Sports fans are some of the most superstitious people on Earth. From the Curse of the Bambino, famously named after the 86-year championship drought of the Boston Red Sox that coincided with the sale of “Babe” Ruth to their New York Yankee rivals, to the old 1970 Socceroos who managed to reverse jinx themselves by bringing in a witch doctor to cast a hex on their World Cup qualifier opponent of Rhodesia (present day Zimbabwe) and then did not pay the priest his fee of £1,000, sports curses seem like a very real thing.

Chelsea are not immune to this phenomenon, and, although we do not have former boss Avram Grant clothed like a Shaman in the Shed End stands hurling evil looks at opponents, the irrational and coincidental circumstances that follow are sometimes whispered and bemoaned as Chelsea curses.

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The Curse of the FA Cup at Wembley

Six Chelsea managers have managed to lift the FA Cup high above their heads at Wembley, and all six of their heads rolled off the chopping block the following year.  Ruud Gullit in 1997, Gianlunca Vialli in 2000, Jose Mourinho in 2007, Guus Hiddink in 2009 (Guus Hiddink was only caretaker manager and was set to leave in 2009 to continue as Russia National Football Team coach), Carlo Ancelotti in 2011, and Roberto Di Matteo in 2012 all failed to finish the season in charge of the club after their FA Cup victory at Wembley.  If two is an anomaly and three is a trend, are six occurrences a curse?  There’s your silver lining on last term’s FA Cup loss to Arsenal, Antonio Conte.

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The Curse of the Chelsea Red Kit

Chelsea have splashed red in several of their blue kits over the years; a total of fifteen times. In each of those years, including the year of “palpable discord” where red accents were present in the sleeves and collar, the club did not cover itself in glory.  Only once, in 2009/10, did Chelsea play with a kit tainted in red and managed to lift a trophy, but that kit was only worn for the FA Cup Final against Portsmouth. The club used that red-cursed kit for the 2010/11 season in which we went trophy-less.  In that January transfer window, we spent £50 million on Fernando Torres. Yup…red.

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The Curse of the no. 9 Shirt

We all know this one.  When Jose arrived for his first successful spell at Chelsea, he purchased Mateja Kezman from PSV to carry on scoring as many goals as there are Dutch tulips.  However, Kezman went from the height of expectations to forgotten obscurity in less than a season while wearing the Blues’ No.9 shirt. Kezman only found the back of the net four times in 25 appearances while in London; alternatively, he scored 105 goals in 122 appearances at Eindhoven.

Jose was once again in need of a striker to push Drogba and he remembered that he exiled Hernan Crespo to Milan ahead of buying Kezman. Crespo’s time on the red side of Milan yielded a respectable 7 goals in 18 loan appearances, but he returned to the No.9 shirt at Chelsea and never seemed to settle at the Bridge. Several loan spells to AC Milan and Inter served as Crespo’s parole from the No.9 shirt.

Like a cursed monkey paw, the No.9 shirt found its way to Khalid “The Cannibal” Boulahrouz.  Even the attempt to circumvent the Curse by giving the shirt to a defender, who doesn’t need to score many goals, crashed and burned as Boulahrouz hopscotched from knee to shoulder problems and never lived up to his Jeffrey Dahmer-ish moniker.

The next unlucky recipient was Steve Sidwell.  You know…Steve Sidwell.  Anyone remember Steve Sidwell?  No? That’s the power of the No.9 shirt Curse, we all completely forgot a full-grown person.

Franco Di Santo never knew what hit him.  Youth can at times serve as the great equalizer to cursed odds, but the Argentinian kid with great reserve team promise only managed guest appearances while wearing No.9. Loan spells followed until he departed Chelsea to Wigan Athletic on a three-year deal.  Some of the Curse must have rubbed off on Di Santo as Wigan began the fall from the Premiership to the Championship to League One after Di Santo was purchased.  The Curse is strong.

Two words: Fernando Torres.

One word: Falcao.

CURSED!!

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Hopefully our new No.9 goal-scoring threat, Morata, can break the curse.  To help him in this crusade he has a good set of players around him and one of the best managers in the world.  Which brings me to…

The Curse of Conte Cup Finals

Champions League, FA Cup, League cup, coffee cup, protective athletic cup, Cup-O-Noodles…all seem a bridge too far for Don Antonio.  Also known as “The Curse of Copa Italia”, this nugget of unexplainable misfortune has already managed to rear its ugly head last term in the FA Cup final against Arsenal.  As stated before, I guess this cancelled out The Curse of the FA Cup at Wembley.  However, with plenty of competitions on the way for 2017/18, something has got to give for Conte since Abramovich has not been the most understanding person when it comes to reasons that keep the club from Europe’s elite; superstitious or otherwise.

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I wonder how much it would cost to purify Stamford Bridge by Witch Doctor Avram Grant? I’ll start the pot at $20.

 

Thumbnail image courtesy of: Gianluca Fabrizio/Vetta/Getty Images

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By, Jordan Harbin


As the final true Bastion of Chelsea slowly paces through the corridors and dons the claret and blue, we look back at the generation that was and those who have risen to take their place.

Some called them the “Golden Generation”, and boasted that their shoes would never be truly filled. Are we then left to hang our heads on the mediocracy that is current footballing? Or can we see a new generation taking their rightful place? As current football supporters and fans we are observing a massive shift in the footballing world. This forward movement is not without it’s growing pains, but is steadily bringing progress towards a new generation.

Most players currently are being described as the “next Messi”, the “next Drogba”, and the like. However, these players are consistently breaking these molds. It is almost as entirely pointless as Tottenham’s title chances next season to assume that these players will simply fit into these castes of former icons. Restricting current players to the type and shape of those who have played before them is limiting and self-defeating. No one is stopping to explore the possibilities of something greater than this hallowed generation, something even better than we’ve seen before. With our eyes constantly glued to our screens, we are becoming witnesses to change.

Year after year, major clubs dominated the leagues. Even within those clubs, club figures dominated the line up sheets. These players carried, in Chelsea’s case, their club to great heights. The Blues were making the history that we historically lacked. A top four without Chelsea in it was something no one dreamed of. However, I watched on as Chelsea achingly waved another club legend goodbye, thinking, “I don’t know if we will ever see football like this again”. Even at the mention of their names we felt pride and glory. But all good things must come to an end as they say….

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…or do they?

Chelsea’s apparent decision to push the self-destruct button (but it was just so shiny!) last season started to create voices in the Blues faithful’s heads. Could this be it? A head-forward plunge into nothingness? Surely not! As the sky drew across itself a dark black, then he came, that beautiful Italian. Breathing life into a club who had wandered from greatness, getting lost in it’s own light. He made us believe again. He gave us hope. Sweet hope. He ushered us into this new glory. He made players into club legends. He took those who were not cut out to wipe the dirt off the golden generation’s boots, and he made them into Champions! He saw the potential in those that were left in the wake of the great ones, and saw that all was not lost.

This new project, this is something special.

Conte is shaping and molding these men into something truly spectacular. The long drawn out transfer sagas and clandestine tweets linking us to every player who’s ever breathed will be worth it. Conte is the next generation, just as much as these new players are. This manager is just as important to the Blues as the eleven who will line up together on August the twelfth against Burnley. Thrashing the Arsenal 3-0 is just the beginning. With the ageless wisdom of the great Sir Alfred Lord Tennyson.

We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are; One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield

-Ulysses

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COME ON YOU BLUES!!!!!!!

 

Thumbnail Image Courtesy of: Photobucket (Che-Cheh)

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By, Aldemaro Narvaez


The start of the new Premier League term is literally weeks away, and while the club is expanding its “brand” in Asia and side-stepping questionable delicacies found only in the Arsenal buffet line, the squad is still very much a work in progress.  Some players have departed the club looking for their big chance (Chalobah and Solanke), some found their next opportunity (Ake, Begovic, Cuadrado), and some kept hacking at the problem until they managed to find a way out like the football version of James Franco in 127 Hours…while bleeding and celebrating all over an Atletico shirt.

The transfer window still hangs open and deals—along with some inexplicably long medicals—will be worked out all the way to deadline day.  It is inevitable the squad will continue to change, and the fabric, buttons, and stitching of the suit will once again need to be exquisitely tailored by Antonio Conte and his backroom staff.  Although the ultimate components of the squad, like Bigfoot in the Pacific Northwest, remain a mystery, the cut of the suit—or tactics—that will be deployed by Conte are beginning to take shape.  This is the Italian’s first full summer transfer window at Chelsea and, price gouging aside, the type of targets the Blues are tracking say a lot about what we will be doing on the pitch, the modes of attack, and the shape of the defense that will be used to repel the chasing pack.

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In the words of “Iron” Mike Tyson, “everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” So, what are our plans, how will we punch, and how are we likely to counterattack if the punches come our way? To me, Conte is apt to switch formations at least once in each game, and the players in the squad will need to adapt to their morphing responsibilities without missing a beat (or face the wrath of an Italian’s words and hand gestures).

Spiegheremo le formazioni! Onward to the formation breakdown!

3-4-3 (Or 3-4-2-1): Our Current Significant Other

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Chelsea hobbled with a 4-3-3 for the first few match days of 2016 until the first half of that faithful September 24, 2016 Arsenal defeat.  Midway through the 3-0 loss and with Gooners elated at what they were seeing on the pitch, Conte switched to three at the back and threw caution to the wind. The gamble amassed 27 wins out of 32 games; punctuated by a 13-game winning streak using the 3-4-3.

Most successfully implemented in the 1970s by Ajax, the 3-4-3 focuses on a strong attack and a strong defensive control in the center of the pitch.  This formation benefits tremendously from having a good pair of central defenders (Kante and Bakayoko) and a forward (Morata) that drags defenders into the box to open the flanks for the two wingers (Hazard/Pedro/Willian/Musonda).  The 3-4-3 also requires the fullbacks (Alonso/Moses/hopefully someone else…please…pretty please?) to push up and wide and pin opposition defenders in their half of the so they’re unable to easily bring the ball out and/or cause turnovers.  This formation does require the central midfielders to recover quickly and transition from attack to defense, which is something that Bakayoko may be well suited to perform with the security blanket that Kante provides to the three center-backs.

With regard to the Chelsea back line in the 3-4-3, the three central defenders tend to have good knowledge and feel for the space between them and will plug the center of the pitch in the event a counter comes at the heart of the line.  The CBs may at times spread or shift their defense to adjust to the incoming threats with the knowledge that the wingbacks can provide additional numbers along the flanks. However, as we learned in several games last term, not all is perfect with this formation. With the wingbacks up raiding the edges of the pitch like pirates and privateers, they can leave the back three open for the counter along the wings.  This is even more of an issue if one of the CMs gets caught upfield with his hand in the cookie jar.  Man City had a field day with this during our first meeting last year.  They used De Bruyne and Silva to great effect to carve out our back line, and the game may have turned out a lot differently if the goalpost gods were not on our side that day.

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Outside of tactical concerns, the main issue with using the 3-4-3 again this year will be the fact that several of the main title challengers managed to neutralize the formation by either mimicking, man-marking, or exploiting the weaknesses with their high-quality players during our second meetings.  Still, of all the formations to discuss, there is already familiarity in the 3-4-3 and a high degree of effectiveness utilizing this formation all the way to a championship.  If I was a betting man, I would venture a guess that we will line up in the 3-4-3 on August 12 at Burnley. I would also bet that we will stop relying and drop this formation in the early days of this term.

4-2-4: The Sexy Ex

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Conte likes the 4-2-4. Like, confidently ask for a date, take her to a fine tapas restaurant while flamenco dancers stomp on stage, and then make a move in the cab kind of “Likes”.  It has been rumored that this is what Conte wanted to play at Chelsea all along, and even tried out the formation during preseason in 2016.  Conte has had 4-2-4 success with Juventus and some of his other early charges, and with more of “Conte players” coming in this window, he is likely to be tempted into full deployment of this formation—castanets would be optional for our Spanish contingency.

The success of this formation lies in the fact that most people have played this system.  Don’t believe me?  Sure, when you play with the ball and are attacking the opposition, the 4-2-4 looks to overwhelm defenses with width and speed along the sidelines and strength along the center with two forwards; however, when not holding the ball, the wings race back to the center of the pitch and play your basic 4-4-2.

While in defense, the 4-2-4 looks to take up space in the midfield to win and keep possession, but the intent once the ball is won is to cover space through good passing and move the attack forward (instead of tiki-taka ball possession).  There is some flexibility in how to use central defenders in this formation.  For example, Kante could set as a more deep-lying defender to shield the back line, and allow Fabregas to play to his strength and provide outlet passes to the attack (resembling more of a 4-1-4-1 in some cases).

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A word of caution to the use of 4-2-4 or 4-4-2, Jose had a tough time getting Hazard to track back and keep shape along the left side in that disastrous 10th place finish season when we played a 4-3-3.  It is likely that we may revert to expecting more from Eden than he is willing to give—although he is fully capable of playing in this formation as is evident by Hazard’s contributions when he won the PFA Player of the Year Award in 2015.  I would be slightly worried with getting a player like Hazard to chip in defensively on a regular basis.  A leopard don’t change his spots.

Also, these formations can be beat by a good team playing a 4-3-3 as there would be an extra midfielder in opposition to win and keep possession and move the attack along.  Own-goals aside, you can’t score if you don’t have the ball.

3-5-2: Adventurously Bringing in an Extra Friend

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There’s always that one friend.  Sure, it may be a limited time thing and getting permission might be a tall order, but when it’s on…IT’S ON. I can imagine Cesc waiting on the bench and making advances and suggestive innuendoes.  All jokes aside, having that third midfielder in the center of the pitch could yield significant results.

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With two CFs and three midfielders, there would be limited chances of getting overrun in the center of the pitch by the opposition. Great against the 4-4-2 (and the bottom half of the table that tends to turtle in its protective shell), the 3-5-2 neutralizes strikers and wingers alike and allows for a certain passing maestro to wreak havoc along the wings or through the center.  Positional awareness is key to keep the three central defenders as a unit as bombing wingers and false 9 strikers can cause confusion and open spaces by splitting defenders.

For Chelsea, Hazard is likely to play off Morata at the front, and would require a lot of running from our wingbacks (of which we have limited stock), to provide width and balance in attack and defense.  In the midfield, we may be able to open more options with Cesc, Bakayoko, Kante, and potentially Luiz as a CB/CDM hybrid that could drop into the back line to provide numbers in a pinch or distribute the ball out of the back.  It’s an intriguing proposition and one that can look attractive.  Hopefully things don’t get weird afterward.

4-3-3: The Friend With Benefits

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We know this one from the days of Ancelotti (using the more classic version), Hiddink, and Mourinho. It’s the old standby. You can call upon it anytime since it’s always waiting by the phone. Conte tried it. It was too needy. Conte changed it.

On the surface, there’s nothing wrong with this formation as it requires a defensive Colossus in midfield (Kante) with and a couple of attacking cohorts (Bakayoko and Fabregas) to transition from defense to offense.  This jumping in from the attacking midfields along with the wingers and forward, can overwhelm defenses as crosses, shots, and goals seem to come from everywhere.

We have seen a variant of this (4-5-1) during Mourinho’s return and title win in 2014/15 when Cesc was peppering passes to Costa and the Blues steamrolled the league.

The main issue with the 4-3-3 is that the right players are needed.  Hazard cannot be walking back to the center line while the opposition run past him (remember Azpilicueta getting marooned and exploited by multiple attackers on a weekly basis?).  The fullbacks are equally as important on offense as defense.  My concern along the right, if Azpilicueta is manning the station, I that we’d be limited offensively, and along the left, that Alonso—who provides decent offensive and defensive contributions—will be caught out of position or hung out to dry by Hazard.

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The faults, dear Brutus, lies not in our stars, but in ourselves

So…Bachelorette Number 1, Number 2, Number 3, or Number 4?

For me, I think a 3-5-2 or a variant of that formation will be the chosen one. Recent rumors that Cesc will have an increased role in the side just nudges me in this direction.  This also would diminish the roles of the wingers, which we have not been chasing. I have not heard us trying to bring in a Berardi or a Bernardeschi. We have had a very public courtship of Sandro and to a lesser degree Danilo.  All signs point to more emphasis on a solid back line and wingbacks that can move.  In this formation, I would like to see Rudiger, Azpi/Luiz, and Christensen at the back.  I think it is critical for us to get bigger, stronger, and much better at passing from all CB positions.

In any case, I think Conte will also look to switch the tactics of his side as each game wears on. Switching from wingers to midfielders to wingbacks will keep the opposition guessing.  One thing is certain, we won’t remain the same.  In the wise words of “Iron” Mike Tyson, “I ain’t the same person I was when I bit that guy’s ear off” and neither should we.

 

Formations created using: buildlineup.com

Thumbnail image courtesy of: HBO

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By, Navaneeth Ravichandran (Twitter: @navrav28)


It’s officially done, Alvaro Morata is now a Chelsea player. Although a transfer fee (club record 70 million pounds) with Real Madrid was officially reached last week, personal terms still had to be agreed upon. With that process now over, we can now proudly say Morata is a Chelsea player. My colleague, Lukonde Jr., penned an article on the transfer saga surrounding Morata (which you can find here). This article takes a closer look at the actual aspects of Morata’s game, and how exactly he benefits the blues.

Goals, Goals, and more Goals!

Morata is a proven, consistent scorer. He has played for two major European clubs, Juventus and his parent club Real Madrid, and he managed to find the back of the net on a regular basis despite irregular playing time. Last season was a particular achievement, as Morata scored 15 league goals, just second on Madrid behind Ronaldo, despite the fact that he only played 26 games, and only started 14 of them. As the following tweet shows, Morata can score with the best of the best.

All-Around Skill

Lukaku is a clinical finisher, Aubemeyang has incredible pace, Lewandowski is arguably the world’s best poacher; when it comes to strikers some of the world’s best have skills they are known for. It’s the first thing about their game that jumps out, and the first thing that opposing managers try to negate. With Morata, there is no single one skill that jumps out, because he can quite literally do it all. He can play the target man role, holding up the ball and battling in the air. He can play the through man, using his excellent movement and pace to get behind backlines. He rarely gets tired, even with his above average work rate. Morata is an extremely versatile striker, and at 24 years old will likely only get better.

Winning Mentality

Playing the game of football at the highest level isn’t just about having the physical skill to do it. Do be a winner, you have to have a winning mentality. When the game is late, and it’s crunch time, players must have the mental fortitude to not break down. Morata? He’s a proven winner. For a team like Chelsea that have just won the league, and will be looking to make a deep run in Champion’s League as well, Morata will have the opportunity to be a leader on the pitch.

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Ambassador for the Community

A team like Chelsea shouldn’t just be focused on winning trophies, some effort has to be made to be great community ambassadors as well. Millions around the world look up to the team and its players as role models, and in Morata, Chelsea will be getting a fantastic role model. In 2014, Morata shaved his head completely bald, so children with cancer undergoing chemotherapy would be able to brag that they had the same hairstyle as their Real Madrid ideal. It may only be a small gesture, but such moves convey class and integrity.

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Final Thoughts

What I find incredibly ironic is that Morata was actually Conte’s second choice striker. Romelu Lukaku was his first choice. Mourinho, the man who ended up getting Lukaku, admitted that Morata would have been his first choice, not Lukaku. Such is the way football can play out. The battle between Morata and Lukaku to see who will score more goals will be heavily publicized this season, and I have complete confidence in our Spanish striker.

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Thumbnail image courtesy of: Chelsea FC

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By: Ayodeji Itasanmi (Twitter: @Aryhorblueblood)


Venues: China & Singapore

Dates: 22-29th July, 2017

The Chelsea team headed to Asia on Tuesday for the International Champions Cup tournament where they will be up against Arsenal, Bayern and Inter Milan in first China and then Singapore. Although not a lot will be riding on these fixtures, apart from the trophy at the end of course, the players know that now is the time to impress the coach ahead of the start of the new season. The quartet of Diego Costa, Nemanja Matic, Eden Hazard and new boy, Timoue Bakayoko are missing from the party to Asia because both Costa and Matic are most certainly on their out of the club while Hazard and Bakayoko are on the road back to full fitness. A number of academy products made the team to China, hopefully some of them can join the first team for next season since the trio of Rueben Loftus-Cheeks, Ola Aina and Nathaniel Chalobah have moved on (loans for LC and Aina, Permanent transfer for Chalobah).

In the 2016 edition of the International Champions Cup we played three high profile teams; drawing the first game against eventual Champions PSG, beating Italian giants AC Milan and losing to Spanish heavyweights Real Madrid. It’s the same story for this year’s edition having been drawn against Arsenal, Bayern Munich and Inter Milan.

Chelsea vs. Arsenal

Bird’s Nest Stadium, China/July 22, 2017

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Any match Chelsea plays against Arsenal will always be taken seriously whether it be in the league, cup or even if it comes in a preseason tournament with little or nothing at stake. So, I expect this to be a high intensity encounter even though both teams is likely to be a player or two (Or four in our case) short of their first eleven. Arsenal has a slight edge going into this game in that they already have three highly competitive preseason games under their belts, the last of which came against Bayern in their ICC opener on Wednesday afternoon while the Chelsea players have only being involved in a solitary behind-closed-doors friendly against Fulham at Cobham. I expect the Arsenal players to be a lot sharper and fitter than our boys, a point proven by their injury time equalizer against Bayern on Wednesday, but I trust our team to give them a run for their money.

Team Breakdowns

Chelsea

With this match being a somewhat friendly game I expect a lot of our academy products to get a run out, and hopefully some of them will provide Conte with headaches before the start of the season. However the usual suspects will most likely dominate the lineup with the debate likely to be who will lead the line between Batshuayi and the probably soon-to-be former Chelsea player Loic Remy. I’m excited to see what the likes of Andreas Christensen and Lewis Baker can do in a real Chelsea set up having played the last two seasons in Germany and Holland respectively.

Arsenal

Arsenal are well into their preseason program as they have every of their players available except for contract rebel Alexis Sanchez, and the injured Jack Wilshere. But that hasn’t stopped Wenger handing game time to some of his youngsters and I expect that trend to continue on Saturday. Against Bayern on Wednesday, he played quite a number of his academy graduates and they still came up with the win, albeit through penalty shootouts, though on the balance of play Bayern should have been out of sight by halftime, but that’s football. Alexander Lacazette hasn’t set the the net alight with goals as expected, but this is another opportunity to convince the Gunners faithful he is the real deal.

Conclusion

This will likely be viewed by both coaches as a dress rehearsal for the Community Shield, which is also between these two London clubs, hence this is likely going to be cagey for the first half hour or thereabout, but in all I expect to see an interesting game of football.

Chelsea vs. Bayern Munich

National Stadium, Singapore/July 25, 2017

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The last time we faced Bayern in a competitive game was the 2013 UEFA Super cup when we lost following a penalty shootout. This match might not be as important as that night in Monte Carlo but that’s not to say those lucky enough to be at the stadium will regret attending if Bayern’s display against the Gunners is anything to go by. I expect our players to be in a better shape than in the Arsenal game with three extra days of conditioning under their belt. I’m excited to see how a Conte-led Chelsea will fair against one of Europe’s heavyweights in readiness for the possibility of facing them in the latter stages of the UCL.

Team Breakdowns

Chelsea

Although the Arsenal game might come too early for new striker Alvaro Morata, this game is surely a possibility for his first game in a Chelsea shirt, and what a game it’d be to take your bow. Antonio Rudiger will also be joining up with the team after the Arsenal game on Saturday and will likely also make his Chelsea debut against familiar foes. Depending on how the Arsenal game plays out, the team to take to the pitch against Bayern in Singapore should take a semblance of the team to face Arsenal in the Community Shield in August. I’m as curious as every Chelsea fans out there to find out if Signor Conte will keep faith with the 3-4-3 formation that served him so well last season or if there’s going to be yet another evolution and if he does continue if he’ll keep the trident of Cahill, Azpilicueta and David Luiz, or if he’s going to bring in either the returning Christensen or new boy Rudiger. I guess we will have to wait and see how it unfolds.

Bayern Munich

Against Arsenal, Bayern named a strong lineup and I expect Ancelotti will do the same against Chelsea because his team, unlike ours, is already taking shape. They lost two club veterans, Phillip Lahm and Xabi Alonso, at the end of last season but they seemed to have replaced them both with Joshua Kimmich, who’s yet to join up with the team having been part of the Germany team that won the Confederations Cup last month, and new boy Corentin Tollisso whose impending partnership with Arturo Vidal will surely be terrifying. Marquee signing James Rodriguez had a good game against Arsenal and should pose enough trouble for our defenders.

Conclusion

Regardless of the final score line, this match is going to be an entertaining one to watch for the neutrals that’s for sure, with Bayern having much of the possession of the ball and Chelsea looking to hit them on the counter. With the kind of attacking talents in both teams, it’ll be a huge surprise if this game finished scoreless. There will definitely be goals in this one. Kante and whoever gets to be his partner in the middle of the pack will certainly have their hands full containing Bayern in midfield. In all, this should be fun to watch and I personally cannot wait.

Chelsea vs. Inter Milan

National Stadium, Singapore/July 29, 2017

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As far as history goes, we don’t have that many to look back on when we talk about this fixture. I only have a memory of us playing against Inter when they won the Champions’ League in 2010 with Mourinho at the helm, and as far as preseason friendlies are concerned I remembered we played them on our preseason tour of the United States back in 2005. Both teams are sure to be a lot different from the last time we squared up in the 2nd leg of our quarter final match in the UCL at Stamford Bridge back in 2010.  For one, both coaches have since moved on and replaced with Antonio Conte and Luciano Spaletti respectively, Spaletti having taken the job when Conte turned it down. The squads have also undergone various degrees of upgrades over the years with both Inter and Chelsea optimistic ahead of the new season.

Team Breakdowns

Chelsea

With this game coming so close to the Community Shield, I expect to see the exact same team to face Arsenal start this game. The likes of Rudiger and Morata would have gotten at least a week’s training under their belts and they are almost a certainty to start this game. Moses, Willian, Fabregas, Pedro and all the major players in the run to the title last season will certainly fancy their chances. What will be interesting to see is how Conte intends to use both Morata and Batshuayi. Of all the games on the tour of Asia, this is the one I can say we have the best chance of winning owing to the fact that the team will be at its best in terms of their physical and mental shape.

Inter Milan

Inter Milan has gradually fizzled into European obscurity since their unexpected treble in 2010, but their new owners seemed determined to return them back to the glory days which was why they were hell bent on prizing Conte away from Stamford Bridge before eventually settling for Luciano Spaletti, who himself is a very good coach if what he did since returning to Roma is an indication. For this game, they are likely to be without Manchester-bound Ivan Perisic, but other than that they should have all their key players ready for this big one. If they want to be taken seriously again then this is the sort of game they need to be winning so it should be another entertaining game for the Singaporean public.

Conclusion

With Arsenal having started preseason a week before Chelsea, and are also likely to return to England a couple of days before us, Antonio Conte might be tempted to give rest to some of the senior players in the latter stages of this game, so I’m predicting a very youthful Chelsea team finishing this game. This way the more established stars will be refreshed ahead of what is sure to be another thrilling and exciting and hopefully a rewarding season of football. Thanks for taking the time to read and remember to Keep The Blue Flag Flying High!

 

Thumbnail Image Courtesy of the International Champions Cup

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By: Lukonde Jr. Davies (Twitter: @lukonde_jr)


In its formative days, the summer transfer window did look like a Chinese fire drill for the fans; City’s early assault on the market and the thought of the club repeating the same attitude/posture that has ensured every title winning campaign got to the hearts of many fans. The supposed ‘1st July’ cipher didn’t help either. In fact, the signing on that much raved about date was a free agent from our rivals, Manchester City, Willy Caballero.

After missing out on Romelu Lukaku, the club has expedited their transfer dealings with German defender Antonio Rudiger, and a standout in last season’s Monaco’s odyssey in Champions’ League and French Ligue 1, Tiemoue Bakayoko, both added to the roster. Latest in line to add to the new arrivals is Real Madrid’s Alvaro Morata. The move is expected to smash the club record fee  paid to Liverpool for Fernando Torres in January 2011 thanks partly to the inflated market and lack of options after United gazumped us to the Lukaku deal. So, have we got the best man?

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Best man for the job or a Conte frontier move? This should be the main question about this transfer.

There is no doubt whatsoever that Morata’s bromance with Conte is one that borders on mutual admiration, and the Italian’s belief in the talents of a player who he once signed without coaching him. In the past, and just recently after Madrid and Chelsea agreed terms for the striker, the Spaniard, 24, did allude to the confidence that Conte has in him and the length at which the club under Conte’s reign have gone to chase for his signature. As far back as February, the Spaniard did predict that he would play for Conte sooner or later.

Solely on that account, the Zeitgeist is that finally, the Italian has gotten his man after the club flirted with the idea of bringing him to the club last summer. And a sign of relief for some of the Chelsea votaries who thought the deal was going to slip through especially after United; Chelsea’s fate-mate this summer received some ludicrous demands from Madrid when they tried alluring the 24 year old.

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What does he bring to the club?

In Morata’s rollercoaster career where he has already played for two of best performing European teams, he’s not exalted himself as a talisman or the fulcrum of a team in that time. His best goal return up to now has been the 15 goals last season that aw him finish as Madrid’s second top-scorer behind Ronaldo in a season where Morata was sparingly used.

But its Morata’s other side of the game that should enthral the fans more. Unlike Diego, Morata is the technical striker the club has been looking for to complement the technicians behind him and take the club to the next level. Yes his goals have not come with the same volume as the leading strikers or forwards, but if last season is to go by, we are getting a player who’s only improved with time and more likely to improve further.

Thumbnail image courtesy of: The Metro

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By, Jordan Harbin


BREAKING: Former Chelsea Loanee finds permanent deal elsewhere…with no buyback clause attached!!!! (Eeeeeek!)

Loans…who needs ‘em? Am I right? I feel a large consensus of Chelsea supporters postulating this weighty conundrum throughout their frontal lobes. With the influx of Chelsea click-bait tagging “Sold Chelsea XI: What Could Have Been”, what is even the point of having an academy/loanee army one may ask? Most of them get sold to the clubs they were loaned to anyways, right? Wrong.

Chelsea’s dubbed “Loan Army” are just that. Trained militants with a blue purpose. A purpose which has been lost by some of it’s defectors, however, it is a purpose nonetheless. These boys are brought into the club as pimple-faced noobs but leave as broad-shouldered warriors poised for action at a moments notice. The long unheard cry (which albeit feels more like a faint whimper) of “let the kids play!” seems even outright ignored at times. So, why is it important to have an army waiting in the wings? Because armies are cool….duh…

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More importantly though, it is because Chelsea understands the importance of youth. Obviously, the application of this understanding can seem to be presently lacking, but the club comprehends their value. Our youth team has won the FA Youth Cup the last four consecutive years and a total of six times since 2009. These kids are good. So, it goes without saying that they would get noticed by clubs throughout Europe and abroad to test their metal and prove their worth to the Great Italian General. It is this very next step from Chelsea’s youth academy to prospective loans where the real action takes place. The long training sessions, the countless numbers of “keepie uppies”, and the endless snapchat stories all pay off. Blue militants take to the battlefields and fight to spread sweet, sweet Chelsea glory to all lands and peoples. Keep your wits about you though, not all who take this perilous journey are successful! It takes patience, strength, and adaptability to adjust to playing styles in a few weeks time. It should be stated that a majority of these soldiers are victorious in their conquests, and some even more victorious than they should be! So why can’t they cut it back in the Motherland? Risk.

The calculated risking of elite clubs to balance new and young players with those who have already proven their worthiness. Some tempt this fate with fielding all youth, others with none. Chelsea find themselves, somewhere in the faint middle with a heavy lean to the latter. Are there youth present in the Chelsea squad? Yes. Do they receive a lot of playing time? No. This balance is important though. This point was clearly seen in the stylish yet starkly out-classed Monaco versus Juventus of this years Champions League semi-final. The sheer experience and know-how that Juventus displayed (which notably did not carry over into the final) proved that it was Men vs boys. Does that mean that youth are to never be played at the expense of experience? Simply no. After watching countless reports of young former Blue soldiers being sold into slavery….I mean…other clubs. It pangs deeply into the heart of a concerned Chelsea supporter. These boys now men have by in large far exceeded expectations at their loan clubs and still cannot find themselves featuring in the ranks at The Bridge. So why then do we even loan players? Because these trained militants are itching for a fight and gnawing at the chance to show their value, and when they return….they return as men. They return prepared to face the truth, because yes, they can handle the truth! With every somberly written Instagram post to the Club that taught them everything, shows a true love that could be but for now just isn’t. These men, now returning from their study abroad programs have decisions to make. Some choose the lonely path less trod to profess their undying love to the club that made them who they are, others choose to fan the brief yet hot flame they had with their foreign flings.

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It is to this point though that I draw my conclusion. Chelsea creates men from boys, trained militia from tiny tykes, and gives them opportunities. Opportunities that no other club could give the way that Chelsea gives, and we dare not withhold that beautiful gift from those who are worthy of that task. From those who will always secretly wear Chelsea pajamas to bed, get Chelsea crest tattoos in unforeseen locations, and carry their Chelsea approved lunch boxes to work!!! So, take courage Chelsea faithful and embrace the Blue Way!! KTBFFH

Thumbnail Image courtesy of: The Building Academy

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