With Manchester United poised to face Chelsea on Sunday, I posed several questions to members of the Shed End forum. As well all know the game was postponed. Some of the answers provided was prior to the match being officially called off.
Stretford End Arising: What are your thoughts on Sunday’s game, how important is it for Chelsea to claim maximum points?
Chippy: Important but not imperative in my opinion, a good performance regardless of points gained or lost could help shape the rest of the season for us, I think there will be more strange results for the top teams and it won’t be decided in December.
Ruh Buh Juh: I think it’s definitely our biggest match of the season. Our rough patch has hit us hard; we’re 4th now, when at one point we were 5 points clear. I genuinely believe a draw won’t do in this match, a win is a must to get us back on track, and also for a much much much needed confidence boost.
mad_mac: Well now that it’s been called off it’s a bit of a downer. However, assuming it were going ahead, I would rate it as very high in importance. I don’t think it would be season ending if we lost, but I don’t want Man Utd getting too far out in front. The way we’ve been playing, I’d be happy with a draw.
geezer: I think it will be postponed and neither side will get any points. Why was it postponed? Because of modern day Health & Safety madness – nothing more, nothing less despite what the Daily Mail may be suggesting.
SEA: Frank Lampard is expected to start, how big is his return for Chelsea?
Chippy: You only have to look at Franks record to see how important he is to the way we play, his Goals from midfield are testiment to that but by no means the whole story, I expect Carlo to Start Frank with Essien and Mikel, Mikel has been a bit out of sorts of late but I expect him to be back to his best for this game, Anelka Drogba and Malouda likely to play although Anelka has suffered like Mikel of late, Ferreira (Bosingwa if fit) Ivanovic Terry and Cole in front of Cech.
The moos: Lampard returning means alot. We can go a few games without him and win, but in the end we seem to rely too much on him (apparently he’s only midfielder we have that can run against the opposing defence). He gave us a boost against Spurs and he will surely do the same against Man United.
Ruh Buh Juh: Lamps coming back is absolutely huge. We’ve definitely missed his presence, I think it was taken for granted that he is the main point of communication between defence and attack, such is his box-to-box abilities. It seemed for a little while that it wouldn’t be his goalscoring we would miss the most, Malouda seemed to be doing just fine filling that role, but it became clear that we needed someone that can just pop up from nowhere to deliver a vital touch, Essien, Ramires and certainly not Mikel were never likely to be able to do that.
SEA: Do you know the reason why Ray Wilkins left Chelsea? Would you care to speculate? Frank Arnesen is leaving when his contract expires at the end of season and Ancelotti appears to be a lonely figure. What is happening behind the scenes at Chelsea?
Chippy: No idea why Ray went, I liked him but to be honest I’m unsure what hi exact role was, coincidence I feel had us on a poor run, not to say he couldn’t have helped had he still been here, Arneson seems to have been thinking about his future for a while, dont really know what to make of it if anything. Carlo has looked a bit forlorn of late but that could just as much be down to results as anything behind the scenes.
Hutch: Not as much as the media would have you believe. I also think that Ancelotti’s “loneliness” has been vastly overstated. Of course he’s under pressure, it goes with the job. I think it was Bruce Buck who said that Arnesen’s forthcoming departure came as no surprise. He’d already stated, apparently that he wanted to move on to a fresh challenge. I don’t know why Ray Wilkins left. According to Ray himself “Mr Abramovich had decided it was time for a change”.
Mad_mac: No idea why Wilkins left, but all the crap about him being linked with the club for 30 years is nonsense. He was off playing for you lot, and all other places between stints at Chelsea. I don’t care to speculate as that’s what the press do. Arnesen has done what he came to do, I can see him being scooped up by Man City in the summer to try and replicate his job there. I suppose we’ll never know what goes on behind the scenes at our club. This is what we have to deal with in having a “shadowy figure” of an owner. Also, your lot are in a very unique position in having Sir Alex having as much control at the club as he does – and rightly so, he’s one of the greatest managers in the history of the game.
Geezer: Yes I do (why Wilkins left Chelsea). No I wouldn’t (like to speculate). That’s for me to know and for others to find out but Carlo is definitely NOT a lonely figure.
SEA: If everyone is fit Chelsea have a very strong starting XI. However, is there an over reliance on younger players if first regulars are unavailable? Is Chelsea’s squad lacking strength in depth?
Chippy: I think the plan of cutting down the wage bill was always going to leave us tight squad wise and the young players although looking exciting are still very young to bring into the team at the same time as losing more experienced players…ok one at a time but its not ideal to put them in next to fringe players rather than next to established players. It has bit us in the bum a bit losing players like Carvalho and Ballack but the injury to Benayoun was unlucky as was the unusual occurrence of Lampard missing three months.
The Moos: I think we had the right idea when we trimmed the squad, but I do feel we might have trimmed it a bit too much. Would have liked to have someone like Ballack here when Lampard was out. But the injury list we’ve had would have made things hard on any team (apart from perhaps City). And unfortunately the youngsters haven’t really stepped up. McEachran has done really well but I have not been impressed by Sturridge, Kakuta or Bruma. Van Aanholt has been solid, but he hasn’t played much.
Ruh Buh Juh: Maybe not an over reliance, more an over expectance of them. People like McEachran and Kakuta, some have expected them to come on and change games instantly, and it hasn’t happened quite like that. I think strength in depth is an issue, most definitely up front. In midfield and defence we have a very strong set, and players like McEachran and Bruma can slot into it, alongside the experienced JT for example. Up front, it’s definitely either getting on a bit (Drogba, Anelka, Malouda – first choice attack – are all 30+ now), still underachieving (Kalou!) or too young to be relied on totally as yet (Sturridge).
Mad_mac: I think that’s a fair assessment. We are strong when all fit, but we can’t expect the kids to step up and fill the shoes of players like Ballack, Deco, and Belletti in one season. So we are lacking in depth a little. however, I am glad we didn’t go out and spend more money ( a positive trend for us in the past couple of seasons) on expensive replacements, and are looking to give the kids a chance.
SEA: The reason for Chelsea’s drop in form, is it the departure of Wilkins? Or, is it injuries/suspensions to key players?
The Moos: I think our drop in form started before Wilkins departure but it might have made things a bit worse. But as I don’t know what went on there I can’t say if it’s true or not.
The main reason for our drop in form was without a question the injuries/suspensions. I mean, just look at the list: Lampard, Kalou, Benayoun, Alex, Terry, Essien, Zhirkov. Did I miss anyone? As I said before, that list would make any team buckle.
But now as more and more players have returned things have started to look better. So the injuries was responsible. Damn them!
Hutch: Injuries, illness and suspensions. I’ve heard people claim that Ray Wilkins was the real reason for our success last season, which is clearly bollocks. I’m not saying his departure had no effect on the players, but that any effect was minimal and shouldn’t be used as an excuse.
SEA: What are your thoughts on new signing Ramires?
Chippy: I’m quite happy with Ramires so far, he wasn’t bought to be put straight into the first team and has had to adapt very quickly, hes made mistakes but will learn a lot from the games hes started and be an important player towards the end of the season.
The Moos: I think he has potential to become really good, but he hasn’t exactly been great so far. I don’t think the plan was to rush him into the team but the injuries forced us to and I think that wasn’t good for him. And we’ve seen other players needing a season or two to reach their potential here so I think we will see a much better Ramires in the future. Can’t say I knew much about him before he came, but people who know more about players seem to think he’s really good. Still young as well so there’s much time for improvement.
Hutch: I’ve got no time for those Chelsea fans who’ve tried to use him as a scapegoat. I think he’ll be a great player. In fact Id’ say he’s improving week by week. He’s been very much thrown in at the deep end: new team, new league, new country, new culture, new language. Injuries also meant that he’s already had a lot more playing time than anyone expected, including himself.
Ruh Buh Juh: He’s not quite adapted yet to the Premiership, but he’s definitely improving. His energy will be useful, as he just runs and runs and runs, like Park does for you, for example, he doesn’t stop. He was a big help against Tottenham on the weekend too, he was a big factor in stopping Bale.
Mad_mac: Just that, a new signing. If we wrote him off as quickly as some – even on these forums – we’d be foolish. Thankfully we didn’t write Drogba off, or Malouda off, after one season. We have a Brazilian international player on our books…that still amazes me.
SEA: Which Chelsea youngsters are worth keeping an eye on and why? Josh McEachran, Gaël Kakuta and Fabio Borini are names that spring to mind.
The Moos: There are many with potential but few have showed it so far. The big exception is Josh McEachran who has been really solid when he’s played so far. And the kid is only 17 years old! I hope he keeps getting better and better because he has potential to become a really good player. Hopefully we’ll see a new Lampard who will be with us for many years.
Hutch: I’m hoping Borini and Kakuta will both sign new contracts and go on to fulfill their early promise. Borini is currently out having either had or due to have surgery. Previous injuries, have I think, delayed his progress. Kakuta has been going through a bit of a sticky patch this season. He hasn’t looked right, even for the reserves. I think maybe he’s trying too hard at times. Josh is quite simply an outstanding prospect. There are others, including a 15 year old whose name I still can’t spell, and Patrick Van Aanholt is another who looks a very good prospect. Also we’ve got numerous players out on loan. Whether any of them actually makes it at Stamford Bridge remains to be seen.
Ruh Buh Juh: McEachran is definitely the one on top at the moment. Every appearance he’s made he’s been nothing short of remarkable for a 17 year old. The videos on YouTube of him should prove that, he should be included more and more; starts in the FA Cup are essential and starts in the league every now and then too, against teams like West Ham or Wolves. Kakuta was one we all had very high hopes for after Kakuta-gate, but since then he’s been disappointing, he definitely has talent, but he’s trying a bit too hard at the moment, trying to run with the ball a lot, dribble past players when passing it to a player in space is clearly the better option. A player that has been getting rave reviews on here is Patrick Van Aanholt, a Dutch left back that’s clearly picked up a lot of tips from Ashley Cole, he played for 90 minutes against Zilina in the Champions League a few weeks ago, and he was excellent, clear Man of the Match. He could step into Ashley’s shoes very easily, although whether he could keep Ronaldo in his pocket like Ashley did when he played for you is another question entirely.
mad_mac: You’ve certainly hit 3 of the big ones there. I’d also look out for Gokan Tore, Lalkovic, Sala, and the 15 year old Chalobah.
Geezer: Josh is way ahead of the rest. Kakuta seems to be stuck in a rut at the moment and needs to take is head out of his butt before it’s too late. Borini has disappeared off the radar. Bruma has had a setback with a couple of niggling but fairly serious injuries. Van Aanholt is a very promising prospect. Watch out for 15 year old Nathaniel Chalobah who looks to be an incredible prospect. Billy Clifford is showing a lot of promise as is Conor Clifford (no relation). The future is looking very bright but these guys need to be mixed in with experience (bit like the golden generation at your place who really came to the fore when Cantona was added to the mix)
SEA: Favourite Manchester United vs Chelsea match and Why?
Chippy: There have been many but I enjoyed last season’s game when Joey Cole scored his last goal for us and effectively made sure the Title came home, I liked Joey and I’m glad his last season for us though a bad one for him still had a stand out piece of skill that I’ll remember.
Hutch: How about … the 3-1 at the end of the 2004-2005 season, the “guard of honour” game. We’d already won the Premiership, and this match I feel, showed more than any other that we were well and truly worthy title winners.
Mad_mac: 5-0 in 99. You were the darling of European Football. And Jody “git” Morris, and Chris Sutton even got on the scoresheet. I’ll even go one better and tell you the worst – 94 FA Cup final, then the obvious Moscow CL Finale.
BlueBeard: 1968/69, Chelsea 3 Man.Utd 2, I was just 11 when I watched that but I’ll never forget it, what a cracking game! Also the 2-3 defeat at the Bridge in 71/72, when George Best (best player I’ve ever seen, by the way) got sent off for throwing a lump of mud at the ref ha ha
Geezer: 72/73 – Bobby Charlton’s last game and Ossie scored the winner off his knee. Not a great game but one that I use to taunt the scousers with to show I was at a game that created a bit of footbal ‘istry!
SEA: Favourite all time Chelsea player and why?
Chippy: Charlie Cooke from the 70s, he had such great ball control and I used to watch him and go into the street and practice his tricks, Zola came very close for me as well.
The Moos: Always a tough one. There’s so many players I love, like Zola, Terry and Lampard (obviously more but I can’t write them all). But there’s one player that I loved before he came to Chelsea and was great here as well and that’s Claude Makelele. So he’s my favourite player ever, I think.
Hutch: Peter Osgood. When I was a nipper, many years ago, Peter Osgood was Chelsea. Ossie was a great player, and a great man, a true legend. To this day you’ll still hear “Osgood, Osgood, born is the king of Stamford Bridge”. There’ll only ever be one Ossie.
Ruh Buh Juh: I’ve always had an affinity to Eidur Gudjohnsen, his class was there for all to see, his bicycle against Leeds is my favourite goal of all time, and he’s an all round nice guy too. He never got the praise he deserved in my book, but his partnership with Hasselbaink was second to none, love the guy.
Mad_mac: Only been following Chelsea since around 94, so I can only talk about those I have seen play: Zola, just a class wee player, and a genius. Also, the way he made Carragher and half the liverpoo squad look like muppets in his final season is priceless. Then I’d say Eddie Newton, Gullit, Desailly, Gudjohnsen, Maka, Lampard, and the very short love affair with Hernan Crespo.
If you wish to discuss Saturday’s game with myself or other members of the Stretford End Arising community, you can do so in the Stretford End Arising forum.