Tag Archives: Chelsea

Mikel at the centre of controversial United/Chelsea clash

10 Nov

Manchester United and Chelsea met on Sunday in a battle that will be remembered as much for its controversy as for its scintillating action – with incident aplenty, Goal.com picks through the action from Stamford Bridge
It feels like the same old story this Monday, a tale as old as time – a game spoiled, ruined even, by the hands, eyes, and whistle of one man. That poor soul in the middle, the hapless arbiter, the English referee. My father once decreed that being an umpire was possibly the finest way to lose friends, and as the dust settles from Chelsea and Manchester United’s bruising encounter, Mark Clattenburg may well be inclined to agree.
The referee was at the heart of many of Sunday’s flash points, regrettably so, as I have always felt that umpires, like good songwriters, ought to be almost invisible in their influence. Clattenburg, sadly, was not, and the commute’s discussion of the Sabbath’s beautiful game can’t help but bear his name. Indeed, Blues boss Roberto Di Matteo left no doubt as to his opinion of Clattenburg’s officiating, stating bluntly that he thought the game had been ‘ruined’ by poor decision making.
Where to begin? Chelsea have their reputation – the snarling, smug, superior powerhouse of West London, the Roman Empire, the Prem’s pantomime villains; never afraid to ruffle a few feathers, to assert themselves, or to employ the dark arts. Yesterday, the Pensioners were stunned by a five minute period in which they received two red cards – even by their standards this was bad.
First, Branislav Ivanovic was dismissed for a cynical foul on Ashley Young as the midfielder broke through on goal, and minutes later, Fernando Torres was sent packing for a second yellow – received after Clattenburg had identified a Torres tumble as simulation. Whilst Ivanovic’s straight red is hard to contest, opinion has been split as to whether the Spaniard deserved his second caution. It was a bold, brave decision to make, and Clattenburg made it.
As Di Matteo stated afterwards, to make that choice, the ref needed to have been 100% sure – could he have been, truly, sincerely, 100%?
It was only a matter of time before Chelsea’s nine succumbed to United’s eleven, but to add insult to very serious injury, the winner had more than an ounce of dubiousness about it. Another close call from the refereeing team, and another error – Chicharito ghosting in from an off-side position to slip the ball past the despairing clutches of Petr Cech.
The darker allegations came after the match: Chelsea, no strangers to the prescribed mores of racial discourse, allegedly submitting an official complaint against the language used by Clattenburg. Goal’s own George Ankers reported earlier that a formal grievance made by the Blues indicated that the referee used ‘inappropriate language’ towards two of their player, whilst the BBC also referred to a ‘racial’ aspect to the Clattenburg complaint, indicating that John Obi Mikel was once of two players offended by comments made.
Doubtless this narrative will run and run, but whatever becomes of the official charge made by Chelsea, an engrossing weekend of Premier League action has once more ended on a sour note, once more it is gripe and grievance that takes the spotlight from goals and glory.
May justice be done, but may we also be given back our game.
Alas, I am loathe to let controversy and complaint steal all the lustre of what was a pulsating and, at times, mesmerising encounter at Stamford Bridge – well worth its Super Sunday billing.
Chelsea know what they are, apparently, never hesitating to announce to anyone that will listen that they are ‘Champions of Europe’ – everyone hears it, as Shakhtar play hosts in Ukraine: ‘We know what we are’, as Spurs are put to the sword: ‘We know what we are’, as Norwich or Nordsjaelland are taken apart: ‘We know what we are’. Every time, the same song rolled out, a snarling smirk to the opposition, a superior strut…inevitably to victory: ‘Champions of Europe, we know what we are.’
But not this time. To suggest that Manchester United were devastating from the off is almost an understatement. The Reds tore out of the blocks, and seemingly went right for the jugular. Before the rotating choruses had even begun in West London, United struck – David Luiz opened the scoring, but unfortunately for him, the ball was inadvertently turned passed his own keeper. Van Persie doubled Chelsea’s trouble soon after, a trademark strike setting United up with a seemingly unassailable lead.
However, even shorn of their two talismanic figures – John Terry and Frank Lampard missing the match through suspension and injury – this Chelsea team are made of steely stuff. Even with United attacking them competently down the flanks, they managed to first reduce arrears, and then draw level – Juan Mata and Ramires the saviours either side of half time.
The late controversy eventually stole the headlines, before Javier Hernandez’s contentious winner essentially closed the game as a contest. It was engrossing, pulsating, and at times mesmerising, there was finesse and there was power, there was technique and there was trickery, there was genuine passion, and authentic style…not that anyone noticed.
A different day, familiar protagonists, and the same old story in English football.
Ed Dove

André Villas-Boas adds an extra dimension to Tottenham and Chelsea’s Premier League Clash

10 Nov

Goal Nigeria’s Ed Dove runs the rule over Saturday’s London derby between Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea at White Hart Lane – despite a storied history of competition, this clash may just be the most monumental yet. Former Chelsea boss André Villas-Boas is the current centrepiece of a rivalry that has both an enduring past and a vibrant future.
One of the most beautiful things about the many derbies that litter the English top flight is their continued renovation. The frequency of these matches, and the proximity between the belligerents means that these fixtures are constantly imbued with deeper meaning and finer subplots. The North London derby between Arsenal and Tottenham for example, was taken to another level by Sol Campbell’s treachery, the West London derby between Chelsea and Q.P.R. has become synonymous with pre-match ritual and racism, whilst England’s major fixture, between Manchester United and Liverpool, continues to generate its own dirty little headlines and animosity.
Tottenham Hotspur v. Chelsea, a derby once classed as London’s faded glory versus its nouveau-riche, has taken on an extra dimension due to the insertion of one André Villas-Boas – sure to be one of the key protagonists in Saturday’s clash.
It took Tottenham Hotspur 15 long and arduous years to secure their first Premier League win against Chelsea. Since the league’s re-branding in 1992, Spurs had endured a decade and a half of anguish and hardship before finally, on November 5th 2006, a Michael Dawson equaliser, and an Aaron Lennon winner secured the victory for Tottenham. The elation was abounding, and the scenes that greeted the final whistle will live long in the hearts of the White Hart Lane faithful.
Reading that paragraph, you could be forgiven for thinking that Chelsea had always been the dominant party in the pair, whilst Spurs had played the role of gallant underdog – hoping for victory but ultimately, frequently, falling short. It hadn’t always been that way. The 1967 FA Cup Final saw Tottenham beat Chelsea to lift the trophy, whilst they also eliminated the Blues en route to winning the competition again in 1982. In 1975, a relegation scrap between the duo also ended with a Spurs win, a result which went a long way to casting Chelsea back down into the depths of the second tier.
Football historian Brian Glanville suggested that the Spurs side of 1961 was the greatest double winning team he had ever seen, whilst until the changing pace of the Abramovich regime, it was Tottenham, and not Chelsea, who were by far the more celebrated of the pair. Spurs, after all, are one of only two English sides to have won a competition in each decade for the last sixty years.
Many in London choose to paint the rivalry in a certain light, that of Chelsea as the new blood, the nouveau-riche, keen to finally put down the faded glamour of Spurs. Others suggest that jealously plays a part for both sides; Tottenham hatred fuelled by fans’ desire to enjoy Chelsea’s riches and their current place among the European elite; the Blues, on the other hand, envious of Tottenham’s history and a club identity which oozes charm and class.
Whilst Chelsea could be accused of buying success and status, throwing money at a club simply can’t buy the class exuded effortlessly by the Lilywhites. Many Tottenham fans, however, have to face the hard reality that modern status and success are a profound part of the game’s currency, and Chelsea’s Champions League win last summer, making them the first London club to do so, has left an indelible mark on the capital’s hierarchy.
And so to this weekend, where Roberto Di Matteo’s European Champions, currently topping the table, head to White Hart Lane. In the past, it’s been hard to have confidence in Tottenham in this kind of match, against this kind of opposition, but today, it’s perhaps hard to write them off, despite their opponents going into the game on top of the pile.
That conviction is due, in no small part, to André Villas-Boas – the erstwhile Chelsea manager, currently overseeing a renaissance of sorts at the Lane. The rise, fall, and redemption of the Portuguese managerial wonderkid has been one of the fascinating sub-plots of the last year in English football: the awkward fit at Chelsea, the strained relationships, the petulance, the promise, the dismissal, the aftermath. Imagine his emotions on 19th May 2012 as a Chelsea side which had been his own only months before, struggled to victory against Bayern Munich.
The bright young thing of European management had threatened to become old before his time; the passive aggression and the eccentric theatrics had left a sour taste, and many were surprised when Spurs chief Daniel Levy chose AVB to replace the outgoing Harry Redknapp. Was the arrogant Chelsea flop truly a tangible upgrade on the former boss, who, and many forget this, had the fifth best win ratio of any previous Spurs manager in history?
Initially, fears were fuelled; a poor start to the season prompted discontent among the supporters, and this was expressed audibly towards the new boss. A lack of points, some muddled decisions, and a clutch of disjointed performances led to many complaints about the man who was becoming particularly easy to dislike. And then it all began to run gold for Spurs – wins against Reading, QPR, and Carlisle were followed by a trip to Old Trafford, and one of Tottenham’s most glorious moments in recent memory.
So to Chelsea, and the latest episode of a rivalry that began back in 1908. The gulf is smaller now, than it was in 2006, and Tottenham, particularly drilled as they are under AVB, are more than capable of overcoming the Pensioners, and closing the gap between them to two points. Spurs fans expect a top four finish this season, but this time, to be coupled with Champions League qualification – the fact that it was Chelsea’s European Cup win that denied them last year has been lost on no-one at White Hart Lane, and a win today would be a handsome step to avoid history repeating itself.
Expect animosity, expect passion, and most of all, expect Tottenham’s managerial wonderkid to write a new chapter in this storied football narrative.
Ed Dove

Might Moses want to think twice about joining Chelsea’s ranks?

31 Aug

Might Moses want to think twice about joining Chelsea’s ranks?
This is the summer of Van Persie – of the long, the drawn-out, the duplicitous; it is the summer of Modric – promises claimed and broken, and foreign dreams in golden lands; it is the summer of Zlatan – of the exotic meeting l’exotique, and bona fide box office on the Champs-Élysées.
Comparatively, Victor Moses’s protracted move from Wigan to Chelsea has slipped under the radar, but it is a narrative followed acutely by Nigerians everywhere. After pledging loyalty to the Super Eagles, and impressing in his three appearances to date, all in Nigeria are hoping for the best for their latest attacking star.
But what is best for the boy?
Wigan chairman Dave Whelan certainly doesn’t believe the answer to be Chelsea. While hesitant to let his club’s brightest star leave, Whelan has conceded that if the price is right, then the youngster will be off. The initial asking price was £10 million, but that has gently dropped in the face of Chelsea obstinacy, and at the time of writing, a fee of £8.5 million looks likely to be settled upon.
This was always to be a summer (and a season) of transition for Chelsea. With Didier Drogba leaving along with Kalou and Bosingwa, new boss Roberto Di Matteo was charged with renewing and replenishing the squad with fresh talent; lowering the average age, and building a Chelsea that could compete comprehensively in the future.
While André Villas-Boas appears to have failed with a similar remit a year ago, Di Matteo has encouraged, if not inspired Chelsea supporters with a crop of exciting, young signings. Marko Marin’s move from Bremen was confirmed at the end of April, Eden Hazard joined on the 4th of June, and Brazil’s Olympic star Oscar signed on the 26th of July – a triad of young attackers that are primed to set the league alight, and threaten to trouble the game’s upper echelons for years to come.
The club are assembling an ineffable stable of young talent, but the question begs to be asked: Where and how do all of these young prospects fit into the ‘master plan’?
Don’t forget, Chelsea already have the sumptuous talents of Juan Mata, already established after a fairly impressive debut season, Daniel Sturridge, who shone for the early half of the year, but fell out of favour with Di Matteo, and will be looking to make up for lost ground, as well as the likes of Frank Lampard and Florent Malouda, still knocking around, and still hoping to contribute towards the goals this campaign.
This is without even beginning to consider the man who will likely spearhead the aforementioned. Fernando Torres has endured a well-documented torrid spell since moving to West London, but fans are hoping that maybe, just maybe, the dual successes of the Champions League and the European Championship will spur the Spaniard ‘back to his best’ this year.
Time will tell, and Chelsea fans also hope that it will allow Romelu Lukaku, so devastating in Belgium, so anonymous in England, to prove that he can be more than just a statuesque figure, that he can be the goal machine he was previously, and that one day, fingers crossed, the parallels with Drogba will be more than just optimism and aspiration.
Quite where Victor Moses fits into this myriad of identities is, for the time being, a mystery. While Chelsea are often bated for not having a glorious history, they do have quite a marvellous track record of pillaging and spurning young talent from those around them.
Haven’t we seen this kind of thing before?
Steve Sidwell and Scott Parker stagnated at the club, while the shadowy embers and faded promise of Shaun Wright-Phillips’s career lend credence to Whelan’s beseeching. Perhaps he is right, perhaps a few more years under the studied tutelage of Roberto Martinez, and a little while longer plying his trade in the provinces may stand Moses in a better stead to one day capitalise on his undoubted talent.
Still, it is encouraging to see Nigerians playing at the top levels of club competition. It will be, momentarily at least, exciting to see a Super Eagle in the blue of one of the country’s best, playing for the European Champions no less, and training daily alongside the international stars that populate the Chelsea dressing room.
Here is a player with untapped potential, one whose pace, strength, and technical ability are outstanding among those of his age group. Maybe it is for the best that he is able to cultivate and perfect that talent in the challenging atmosphere of Chelsea, being instructed by the world’s finest, and learning first hand how to improve the poor on-field decision making which is perhaps his only glaring weakness.
Chelsea’s number 31 at the moment is a young Frenchman, the young Gaël Kakuta. The club had hoped that by now, by his twenty first birthday, he would be known worldwide as one of the planet’s most exciting talents. They had hoped that he would be famous for more than just his arrival at Chelsea, when club and player apparently broke rules aplenty to broker the deal. Chelsea hoped that the boy once described as ‘a phenomenon’, and hand picked by Drogba as his ‘protégé’, would one day emerge from those murky origins and stake his claim at the West London club.
Kakuta debuted back in September 2009, back when Ancelotti was at the helm, as his ‘all-conquering’ pre-slump-self. He wowed fans with his trickery, his skill, and his determination…but little has been heard of him since. Loan spells at Fulham and Bolton didn’t quite deliver, and Kakuta finds himself back at Chelsea, back in the reserves, back on the bench.
Maybe Whelan has a point, and perhaps Moses ought to think twice before any deal is done.
Ed Dove
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