Tag Archives: Ancelotti

Chelsea Insanity Deep Rooted

Despite no evidence that any of their managers was worse than any other Chelsea changed managers from the least successful (in terms of points per game) when surely the reason was the lack of playing resources. Being Chelsea of course this move was done at maximum costs with minimal due diligence – on a whim the blank faced Roman went from cuddly Guus to a man the same age as the players – André Villas-Boas.

Continue reading

United Fans’ Memory Shortfall

It’s a shame in a way that United lost. They were the better team for most of the game. Their 442 actually understood it’s a formation that requires 2 tight lines of 4 and is essentially a counter attacking formation that prevents teams over committing as you have 2 forwards. You negate the extra man in midfield by using 2 lines of 4 like a Rugby drift defense moving as a team to the ball and staying compact. Helpfully Abramovich did not even stick the extra man in preferring to pander to Torres.  Continue reading

The Ultimate Short Term Deal

Chelsea may have blown their chances of meeting the FFP which will force clubs to not post massive losses if they want to play in Europe. In an effort to revive a flagging season where they are outsiders in the League and really only have a 70/75% chance of proceeding in the FA cup to the next round. It’s hard to see a midfield of this year’s Essien with Mikel and Ramires winning in Europe strutting out a 442 without some luck. Continue reading

Chelsea Decline Inevitable

Stan Collymore or someone purporting to be nailed it on Twitter

Embarrassing to suggest Wilikins had such an effect on multiple trophy winners and seasoned internationals.Cliche & convenient.And wrong.

It’s a measure of how infantile it all is such a theory gets an airing. Continue reading

When Do Teams Get Old?

I’ve been predicting the demise of Chelsea for years. On the basis of: Age:  That their key players play lots of hard games: Their coaches do not prioritise. Yet they are probably declined but arguably with some comfort the best team in the land.

I was also shocked at how United with less and less organ grinders and more and more steady players  were able to mount a challenge last year. Indeed United seemed able to summon results from nowhere. This year they are doing it in reverse so far turning wins into draws. I guess a point as with Liverpool’s blip in 07/08 you cannot keep defying gravity.

A lot of my views on decline were based on the Galactico team in Madrid where everyone went into steep decline at circa 28 or 29. Of course we now know not training helps but Ronaldinho has at least showed it can still happen.

However in much the same way that boxers at 30 were considered old in the 70s and now 30 would be considered peak footballers continue to play at a high level into their 30s now in England. It is after all a game for primarily skilled exponents with a dash of pace and height and guts to make a team. Certainly I’ve never been a bigger admirer of the Ginger Prince than I am right now.

Which leads me to Ferguson’s team selection last night. Now most of the calls were in the back 4 and this was correct it was  a game Wes Brown, Fabio and Smalling could get some action but not cost the team as Rangers played 811 according to one viewer who I think was being generous about their 901. It’s not that they had everyone back but they had everyone in the middle to boot.

Looking at the front 6 I counted 3 normal starters The Fletch, Rooney and Valencia. It would not be the first game Nani has not started albeit not having him on the bench was clearly a mistake if he was fully fit. Park has been picked ahead of Nani quite a lot to boot. Berbatov was missing but they have 8 strikers apparently and Owen and Hernandez  is strong enough.

Giggs may be a more intelligent player than he was at 19 but he moves like he is as old as he is. Neville’s limitations in a game where the one risk is you get broken on was clear. The Ginger Prince cannot play every game and this is the crux for me.

I think the point is that this was a team United will have to win games with.

United might fool me again. Rooney might repeat his great season of last year once he gets mind on the job and fully fit. However United fans will not want many more injuries and will want some of the lottery tickets to deliver – Gibson, Hernandez, Bebe, Macheda, Owen et al.

Most crucially they will need 25-30 league games from the Prince and if that means leaving him out of games like that then so be it.

Last night may be a good sign that Ferguson unlike Mourinho, Grant, Hiddink, Scolari and Ancelotti can prioritise. Then again Chelsea with Essien fit and Lampard missing had Malouda, a candidate for player of the calendar year 2010, on the bench. Not to mention Zhirkov who may be the 2nd best left back in the division.

The loss of Valencia might seem doubly galling given United’sm squad strength now as well.

Should Chelsea Sell Ashley Cole? Essien Aussi?

Ashley Cole best left back in the world coming off his best season at Chelsea where you finally saw what some of the fuss was about no one would want to lose him.

Ok that’s if the best left back in the world is almost useless as more than a 3rd post at defensive corners or stuck on the half way line offensively. That’s if the best left back in  the world averages 2 goals a year in a free scoring team. That’s if the best left back in the world stands off crossers so they cannot get behind him but have a free spoon into the box. My point I don’t think he’s the best left back in the world.

However let’s assume he is the best left back in the world and crucially that has some sort of real value.

Also if he’s the best in the premiership which he maybe is then the 2nd best is also at Chelsea – Zhirkov.

He’s 30 [in December] and relies on his pins.

In the last 6 seasons he’s played 30 or more league games once.

He’s owed 18 million over the next 3 years and earns more per game likely than Lampard and is a LEFT BACK. Should Heston Blumenthal pay the best plate washer the same per day rate as himself? Then again he might not poison as many people if he did!

If Chelsea are serious financially and bearing in mind what UEFA may enforce any offer of 25 million saves you 43 million with wages. Whilst Chelsea’s players have kept their rates of decline slow an injury prone 30 year old who relies on his pace for effectiveness is far more of a candidate for decline than players who rely on stamina, size and positioning.

It’s no accident Arsene Wenger has a production line at left back. It’s not cos he finds remarkable players. It’s not because they do anything clever. It’s because he puts an athletic left footed young player with a modicum of ability and an abundance of stamina there and that’s the trick. Job Done.

If they turn this down they are paying effectively 14 million plus taxes and bonuses a year to have a monikered bauble – best left back in the world.

Burning money?

A classic sell high on an aging player who may do well but as he’s a left back a big fee will mean Chelsea got fair value IF it goes well for Cole and his new club which as an England fan I hope happens.

Essien Chelsea  fans will probably trot out the best defensive midfield player in the year. He also adds goals at big times. OK you cannot knock the admirable Ghanaian can you?

Yes.

Sorry.

League Games  played last 3 years 27, 11 and 14 – why would you add 2 more years to his contract to take him to 32? Answer to Nut House Stamford Bridge. Chelsea just extended him for 2 more years.

Notice how with Lamps and Balls getting older and playing with the largely clue less Mikel in holding midfield Chelsea have been no worse last 2 years as Essien racked up a paltry 25 games. It’s not a premium position. Someone with positional discipline to play in front of the back 4 is admirable but over fetishised and like full backs you can create them and should be able with Arnesan’s expenditure to produce players who can step up.

Arguably if Madrid want as many short term aging signings as they can get Chelsea if they truly believe in re-building and developing talent should cash in. However I think ego and vanity will protect them from losing Lampard and Drogba. Selling people in non premium positions who are aging and injury prone should be a no brainer though.

50 million in the bank and probably 30 million in wages might be their route into Europe in 4 years time plus they will might even discover some good young players they already have. Or put another way Torres 40 million and 10 million a year for 4 years (not that I’d buy the injury prone lad but it’s illustrative).

Chelsea are defying aging but it’s hard to escape what Hiddink and Ancelotti have concluded that decline is happening and imminent. The aging  does not mean on their day they are not still a great team it just means they have more bad days each year.

Hanging on to expensive injury prone players in fringe positions would be a mistake financially and that might actually matter one day.

The Significance Of A Few Results To Managers

Had Milan held a lead better Ancelotti, a manager who I was skeptical of before he managed locally and maybe churlishly am still skeptical off now he has won a double, would have won 3 Champions Leagues. He’s even won a couple of league titles now – managed it with Kaka and Sheva as no doubt he texted his good friend Jose Mourinho who is on his way to Madrid.

As anyone knows whilst accepting his organisation and macro tactical abilities my bête noire Mourinho ended up with the same points per game as Grant – indeed all the Chelsea managers have remarkably similar records despite Mourinho having the most and best players. Mourinho has 2 Champions Leagues elsewhere and whilst one can crib taking probably the most expensive team in Europe to a win no one can not crib taking Porto to 2 European titles, one the biggie. Mourinho at least would still be in big demand by teams who discount tomorrow or at least beyond 2 years without the cream on top of Champions Leagues. Do we take his record overall or look at the titles at Chelsea? The price of his teams and his never having renewed a team. I doubt many people have Inter in the top 4 in Europe but they got their results when they counted in the Cups this year unlike previous years – surely only fetishists have them as better than Barca who they beat once in 4 games. Should that timing reflect on the manager or is it random chance?

Rafa Benitez won the Champions League in his first season thanks to a remarkable piece of luck which is coming back from 3-0 down and winning on penalties when his team were on top for no more than 10 minutes – his selection was baffling.  Would he have lasted 3 years without that win?

I’ve pointed out recently that the 1999 Man United team were in my humble one nowhere near the best United team relative to their era never mind absolutely. A missed penalty by Arsenal, 1 point in the league (4 points over a Chelsea team who sucked), facing the 6th and 9th teams in Italy in Europe and winning despite being outplayed by Bavarian in the final.

Do we skew everything on a few knock out results? On trophies over points over years? How Bayesian is the system? How much luck is involved?

Is a Wenger or a Ferguson who tries to build a team and find players and then do it over and over again better or worse than managers who take over short term and spend vast sums and leave behind debt and players not guaranteed to be good for a long time?

Personally be very interested to see if one or two results have shifted the Italian media on Mourinho. The English media and rose tinted Chelsea fans were polishing the statues and shrines to him in their gardens this morning.

Chelsea Worthy Champs : Next Year?

John Terry had his Clegg moment and said Chelsea would dominate for years. Well let’s look at next year.

To be positive it’s hard to see how the rest of the division can improve much as they are cash strapped or there really are not the players readily available to improve teams – the world cup will just lead to money wasted on people who look good against lesser competition. Arsenal would appear to have the most organic growth and the scouting network to actually find some players.

United got within a point but that was off Rooney having an outlier. Now you may think he can repeat but he broke down physically whereas in the past metatarsals aside he has often come on strong late. At 25 in Oct has he had a dramatic step forward or is this unrepeatable? The rest of their squad has been helped by Scholes producing 10 good games and some contribution from van der Sar (40 this year), Giggs and Neville quite how long that can last is the question. The last 6 big signings are Valencia, Berbatov, Hargreaves, Anderson, Nani and Carrick which is over a hundred million just in fees for what? The two wingers are Ok but more of the same will hardly set the team alight without a strong Rooney season. The pattern of buying players who are limited but look good when the game comes their way seems fixed. It’s a buying policy that won’t unearth another Ronaldo. Nani is a wild card but shockingly inconsistent.

Man City spent a fortune and if I was building a title winning side I am not sure how many I would pick. Coalesce the Chelsea team. Given or Cech is a wash. Ashley Cole and Ivanovic/Bosingwa easy choices. Terry and Alex/Toure/Lescott/Ricardo Carvalho. Lampard, Essien, Ballack pretty much takes out their midfield. Up front Malouda with Drogba/Anelka  leaves a wing open where I would choose Bellamy most would choose Tevez (more wasteful with the ball and nowhere near as good when asked to play for team as a starter at United).  So that is basically maybe the 2nd centre half, definitely 1 winger and maybe the cat (albeit Given’s size will make him look better than Cech but the bigger man is probably as good). All the star players would be Chelsea (Terry, Lampard, maybe Essien if he comes back, Drogba and Malouda). Who is there for them to buy when behind the strikers players is all they have at the highest domestic class? They need a top class striker, full backs, another centre half in the mix, 1 or 2 better midfielders and those players are not available or half season players like Torres. There was talk of Joe Cole but he would only be their 3rd best behindthestrikeramejig player and United would benefit more from him – there is also a strong chance he is shot and the wrong age to give 3 or 4 years to off his injuries.

Chelsea could have been 5 points better albeit winning every big game. They looked poverty stricken against an Inter side who overall are no better than Inter have been for a few years (they lost 2, won 1 and drew 1 against Barcelona and barely got out of the group stages. Struggling to beat a lousy Roma team in the league – even if they win their last game will only have won 24 games and 82 points in that league!!) .

So with the following caveats Chelsea could improve and retain the title until Arsenal are ready and maybe improve in Europe:-

  1. Start using the cups to blood players and rest their best players in competitions that are not worth winning – Mourinho won both cups and left. This year could they have been helped by early exit from Carling and Champions League this year? 3 games a week wears them down for me with this year’s tactics and squad. Even one or two signings will not improve them greatly if they do not start to blood youth and pick formations stronger in midfield.
  2. They may have finished the season with 4 forwards, Lampard and Ballack but that could barely retain the ball against Wigan before they gave up. If they want to win in Europe back to the 4321 or 4231 – it’s better defensively and less wearing on 32 year old midfielders.
  3. Don’t play Anelka and Drogba together even in a 442 Anelka just disappears mostly. Without a reserve it’s easy and results suggest starting either is a wash for the team even if intuitively I favour The Drog.
  4. A poor placeholder like Mikel is surely replaceable and upgradeable from – will Essien ever be back? 28 in December. Regardless they do not need to play 2 such limited and defensive players. Mikel is a sell frankly albeit he is younger.

A bit hubristic from Terry but if Chelsea drop the hubris and concentrate their resources they could dominate domestically for at least another year. They would also do better in Europe but unless they can infuse a lot of new blood those three game weeks will kill them.

If I was cheeky I would say as Roman gets better at picking the team they should improve.

Premier League : Excuses Cover Decline?

It’s been a given for a few years that the EPL would provide 2 or more of the last 4 of the Champions League. This year we have none. Is this because of some inate decline? A transition? Or just one of those things. After all Spain and Italy only have 1, only 1 of them can make the final. We have maybe excused our failures to win more of the finals with stuff like our hard season, the brilliance of Barcelona and inveterate whining about referees. I have had some sympathy with some of those positions and contempt for the latter.

I think the EPL has broken up into tiers. The the 2nd tier of clubs in Siddy and Spurs are showing more ambition. Everton continue to defy their playing staff. Fulham have flown the flag in the Europa Cup. However Liverpool are in decline and financially don’t have the ability to defy their lack of revenue generation no matter who owns them. Man United may be a cash cow for the owners but that is hardly a recommendation for future competitiveness and what happens if this year proves an outlier for Rooney’s goal scoring – and at 24 and half he’s already had a dictionary of leg problems. At Chelsea Abramovich has burned a Billion to have the team still built on Lampard and Terry who are both well past their physical prime – not to mention all their other stars are older or injury prone.

Chelsea probably at their best are our best but wore down when they had weeks of hard games and were unable to raise their game against an obdurate but limited Inter side – for Sky viewers that is the same as the team you call Jose Mourinho’s Inter.

Arsenal have a younger profile but were utterly outclassed by Chelsea and Barcelona and their main improvement has come from beating up the types of teams Wenger likes to whine about. The lack of cohesion in defence shown by Arsenal will not be corrected by buying a few older players and uttering cliches about experience.

We can make excuses but even in the Premier League the top 4 of last year will have lost 30 games 20 between the top 3 at least.

However there are things that are exacerbating the decline other than the best players ageing and the loss of Ronaldo. They are not financial or player development or the lack of per se.

Firstly the managers of the top 3 have become obsessed with their top players over their  squads. We have imported from italy Ancelotti, Zola and Mancini none of whom appear to be tactical geniuses and fall more on man management – Mancini’s gifts remain hidden. Wenger’s selections have been utterly illogical and Ancelotti took months to rotate. United blew a substitution last night by starting an unfit star. Selection comes from a hierarchical place like any other profession.

Secondly it does seem in Europe at least the top managers do forsake some star stuff to play 433 after 15 years of largely futility following our re-admission to European football. After all I suppose we thought we knew the limitations of 433 having won the world cup that way 44 years ago. Being outnumbered in midfield did increasingly disappear from the lexicon of English football. Sadly it seems that we change formation without explaining to the players why or what they should do. Arsenal were a rabble for much of the 180 minutes against Barcelona. Most important I think the Europeans have changed up on us. They are matching our fitness and their tactics exploit this. I felt at the Emirates Barcelona emptied badly but I now think that was because of their pressing tactics and on another night it would have been 6-0 when Arsenal came back…. This was shown at the Camp Nou where it was like the 442 v 433 days where it seemed Barcelona outnumbered Arsenal by something like 14-8 it seemed from every frame with the ball had 5 Barcelona players surrounding 3 Arsenal. Such tactics cut across the formation obsession of the English teams. Arsenal formed nice lines on the pitch but were often not where the Barcelona players were – bizarre we man 4 man at corners and mark zone over the pitch! Of course Wenger introduced this tactic to us in the late 90s where Vieira and Petit would press on the opponents midfield in their own half.

Thirdly another tactic pioneered in Portugal via England the transition of teams when the ball is lost. Watching Wenger’s Arsenal turn opponents corners into attacking opportunities and pressing was merely a foretaste for Mourinho’s Chelsea and Inter or indeed Guardiola’s Barcelona. Both managers spoke this week of the transition from having the ball to not and vica versa. This seems beyond the ego preeners who our top managers are or have become in the celebrity culture of the UK. Combined with pressing a rapid transition saw Barcelona get Messi through on goal twice and also led to the decisive Bayern goal as Carrick was caught and after 2 corners it was 3-2.

For me we could be entering a phase where the importance of team especially in Europe and high pressure single matches takes over from the increasing English and Madrid obsession with star players – who can still bludgeon lesser sides in the domestic leagues. You can slurp Messi if you want and his finishing was great but Arsenal were beaten in every other quadrant of the pitch making his flourish the gilding. Indeed over the two legs Arsenal who are 6/1 for the title and would be 5/2 but for burning 2 points to prepare for Barcelona, who were miles below form in the Camp Nou BTW, were lucky to only lose 6-3.

So let’s hope that when Ferguson, Ancelotti and Wenger are replaced or get new number 2s they bring some people up to date with modern tactics and methods. It’s increasingly a team game and with the continental pressing game the old age of centre halves and holders who could barely pass is passing. It’s really an era of total football that is emerging from the Dutch/Barcelona/Cruyff line in my opinion.

Mancini Sets The Alarm Bells Ringing

I read the other day that Jose Mourinho was earning 11 million a year to not improve Moratti’s Inter. The man he replaced the now 2nd best paid coach in the world Mancini is also not exactly burning it up after replacing seemingly mere Supporter Manager Mark ‘Baby’ Hughes – a Supporter Manager is someone who stands on the sidelines and appears to have no more say or control over the team than the fans e.g. Souness is the ultimate supporter manager.

The point being that for 2 years Mourinho was worth any money but by the end of his Chelsea career he was reduced to Eriksson flattering the inner circle of a smaller and smaller squad he trusted and acting like Insp’ Dreyfuss about the rest of the squad and the owner. That Inter would replace Mancini after 3 titles with the partially recovered Mourinho on such a salary is amazing. Yet 3 months after replacing Hughes maybe we can see why Inter took a chance they got Mourinho of Porto and the first 2 years at Chelsea over Mancini.

The real question is Mancini what does he offer?

Tonight he started with Vieira a player who anyone who saw Juve’ against Arsenal 3 years ago would know can no longer compete with an English Premier League team. It’s one thing to make the mistake of buying him but that does not mean he needs to play him. Maybe he only has de Jong, Vieira and Barry and wanted to rotate in what should have been an easy fixture, maybe.

Despite a plethora of wide options Mancini opted for a 442 which maybe you can get away with against lower sides. Yet it looked awful first half with no mobility or pace in the team. Tevez was sterling but half time and Bellamy could not come quick enough. Again it’s not necessarily his fault that his 2 decent players are 2nd strikers or at best wide options in a 433 and Bellamy is not able to play 90 minutes game in game out. The point that we can make is that he made one obvious substitution and made it early (Bellamy for Wright Phillips at half time). The problem is that I am 90% sure that was almost planned with Bellamy’s knees. He then did nothing even when the game changed with Caldwell’s red card. Bare in mind Wigan were only breached after a execrable piece of keeping. I would like to think for 10 million a manager would not wait for 72 minutes (16 against 10 men) and let the game drift.

For people like me who learned from watching Mourinho’s Chelsea looking at City defend corners with everyone back in the box was pathetic. If he keeps one or two players up he can counter attack and indeed Mourinho would put 3 up forcing the opposition until they were behind late to leave at least 4 back and destroying their corner routines.

The point is City have 2 players worth their place in a title winning squad and Bellamy cannot play every game. Ideally you can only start them both with Tevez as a front player if City were actually a top team. I feel for Mancini who really has an expensive squad of parts that are mostly not good enough or do not fit together. However it’s a condemnation that he has not 1 of the youth products of Man City’s squad in his starting line up. Adam Johnson being recently bought and whilst technically Wright Phillips did start in their youth team he’s been bought back for a small fortune since.

I guess I do not see what Mancini is adding. It seems like another manager on an agenda to win now and not build a team. Apparently his contract means he gets 6 months or 3 years which is hardly the action of a club who believe in him or a club that values developing young players. I see little point in chasing 4th if you are going into Europe with Adebayor or Santa Cruz with Barry and de Jong in central midfield. So why not give games to Onuoha, Richards and Taylor?

Then again compared to Zola’s West Ham playing 2 terrible strikers and with an open door policy at the back Mancini is a tactical genius.Or Ancelotti finally ‘realising’ (forced by injury) Chelsea’s strength was not playing 2 strikers but having 4 midfielders running from deep at the opposition. Quite what English clubs are paying for is the interesting question. Zola has at least tried to help his younger players the other 2 seem to just select the team.

Not all Italians are tactical masters it seems. However the greater failing at Man City is one of intelligence in chasing things for their own sake like the 4th place. City will not be able to improve much more than squad depth with just buying players. After all who is available? Ribery! Upgrades on their best players? They need organic growth and without need of the Europa Cup or Champions League for revenue their current quest for 4th makes as much sense as Mourinho’s Chelsea wasting their small core on winning the two cups prior to his sacking.

It really is pathetic that no one in football wants to think about what they are doing. From fans handing over massive amounts of money to owners writing cheques for 100s of Millions it seems no one has a plan or even a clue.

Chelsea : Less Strikers More Goals

Really reactionary today but I am convinced most pundits merely restate trite pre-determined opinions and ignore facts or FACTS as Rafa might call them. Andy Gray was wittering about Liverpool needing 2 strikers and Gerrard in midfield. No doubt he was wittering all last year and this about no problem playing Drogba and Anelka. Then he casually mentions Chelsea have won the 10 games without their leading scorer – more evidence than his other points have to back them up.  It’s interesting that Andy Gray whose ignorance has inspired all today’s blogs can claim something about Gerrard on 1 faux stat and then contradict his entire understanding of football and not spot it.

Indeed in the 2 league games I know The Drog missed they have scored 14 and conceded 3. Lampard alone has 6. Indeed with only Drogba they beat Portsmouth 5. In those 3 games Lampard with 7 goals is only 1 behind Anelka for the season (Anelka got 2 of them as a lone fronty v Sunderland so in games with 2 strikers he has less goals than 3 Lampard games with 1 striker!).

I’ve argued playing Anelka and Dogba has merely taken goals from elsewhere. I’ve argued Chelsea cannot play game in game out with their older players and a 4 or worse mere 3 in midfield. Of course for whatever reason Chelsea rotated this week and played 1 striker – you should have heard the fans bleat at the team that lined up on Saturday to the BBC Live blog bet those guys feel like morons. Yet you see the advantage with Anelka often out of the picture a Chelsea attack had Joe Cole, Lampard, Malouda, Deco and later on Ballack all marauding over the opposition back line in classic Chelsea style.

Chelsea less strikers more goals? Less Drog more wins? It’s not about how well the striker and Gerrard perform it’s about the team. It’s why people do not get Frank Lampard the sheer accumulation of goals, assists, tackles, passes, ever present, few suspensions and on field leadership. It’s not flashy. It does not take your breath away. It merely builds on a good team. Terrible a journeyman striker like Anelka has been used to push him into a support role – who despite being almost same age and a forward has 28 less career goals than Lampard 192 (666 Games – deal with the devil that 4 goal haul?) -164 (469 Games for the wastrel). In a good team not focussed on strikers he’s the business.

Chelsea now have 1 midweek game left and ironically can forsake rotation that would have wrapped the title up by now. It will be interesting if Ancelotti has the say and sobriety to choose between The Nelk and The Drog from here on in. The payoff is more goals from midfield, better defence and fresher midfielders.

Chelsea are lucky this year championship is available to them still after wasting the year tiring their key players out. Now they have a tough run in but will be the freshest team. A point at Old Trafford next week and they go favourite for me.

Chelsea will likely be even older next year the prescription will be the same will Ancelotti still be there and will he have learned anything?

England & Chelsea Expect Can Terry Deliver?

Watching Chelsea and United against the Milans was excruciating. Both conceded early goals by sitting far too deep and defending far too passively. Then both equalised and both should have won the game except Chelsea’s flaws became all too apparent. Neither game hit the heights and Milan were on rubber legs by the time United hit back against static defenders. Inter clearly are fitter.

What really stood out for me was the Chelsea squad. Reduced to Malouda at left back. Again Anelka what was he? He did get into the game after Chelsea equalised but for the first 60 odd minutes he was neither 2nd striker, winger nor midfielder. His main role appears to be to stand behind Lampard and send the ball left or right when Inter retreated. Given he’s the only player Chelsea have on the fringes of the coat tails of having any pace a waste. Kalou scored but if he had not done he again showed why he should not start for a top side.

However having been physically dominated by Hull, outshot by Wolves (despite 58% possession), out everythinged by Everton Chelsea were in many ways unable to dent even a top Italian side. Wenger must look at the way Arsenal have lost to Chelsea twice in a sea of mediocre Chelsea performances and wonder.

Terry is a real problem. He’s always been suspect without midfield cover but now is no longer a dominant threat in his box. One on one even when he should be able to get close he is unable to. Really his main asset is now purely his willingness and his ability with the ball. I wonder if Capello should consider dropping him frankly. He’s not old but he’s not getting any better. With Ricardo Carvalho also declined and not exactly a physical behemoth Chelsea do look vulnerable especially as Ancelottis 442 tactics wear down the midfield. Indeed in many ways Ancelotti’s 433 tactics are worse as they bring in Malouda/Kalou.

Terry has been made to look a fool recently by Diego Milito and Louis Saha. What about if he faces someone world class? Against lesser teams Rooney’s work rate and having Gerrard on one wing mitigates against the 442 formation. However when England have faced classier sides they have been all at sea. Terry’s ability on the ball may be unmatched by any England player, never mind defender, but he is rapidly heading to le Boeuf territory and by that I do not mean a World Cup winner.

It gives no pleasure to say that. Terry is for all his faults sort of more gentle rogue than some malicious character although apparently the seemingly child like Bridge may beg to differ. He is honest beyond a fault in some ways cheerfully threatening speeches and to put one on a striker.  He is also probably the best self created footballer we’ve had since Keegan except maybe his team mate Lampard – not relying on god’s gifts like pace.

However the towering physical presence wrapped in the cocoon of a Mourinho 433 he is no longer.

With Cech out for the season just as he seemed back to nearer a good level it really does seem once again to me a battle between the number of games Chelsea have and a fuel tank that is holed. A limited squad in numbers of good player, youth, pace and height.

Whither Chelsea? What about next year? Lampard 32. Anelka gone? even older. Ballack? Drogba well into his 30s. Terry? Ricardo Carvalho? Cole? Essien injury prone? Sure I’ve been tipping Chelsea’s decline and its slow curve has been less than I expected for years. However Zhirkov is the only borderline significant addition since The Nelk and he’s just an expensive left sided place holder.

Roman will need to start considering his position regards transfers or lowering his sights and giving a proper manager tenure. An end to these feeble place-holder coaches who are good at flattering owners and star players.

Chelsea From Sunderland To Everton in 2.5 Weeks

2.5 weeks: 6 games: old players: draw with Hull and a loss to Everton. They started with a bang after 21 days off and now? Lucky to only lose 2-1? The win over Arsenal reflects getting up for it although you’d be hard pressed to say Chelsea were finishing on anything but fumes on Sunday or that Arsenal really tried mentally.

If they cannot play the back to back to back games what should they do?

Play a formation with 1 more midfielder and some width? Certainly from the point of view of not needing a supreme effort from as few as 3 midfield players every game they should. Anelka as a 2nd striker or winger is not a force and whilst he tries he has little football intelligence and skills to affect the game the further away from goal he gets. Malouda as a 3rd striker or one side is an absence mostly when the hard yards are required.

Prioritise as well.

Arguably had Chelsea prioritised they could have won 3 or 4 Champions Leagues. The problem is that they are top of the table can they lower that priority? Start rotating in the Premiership? They are in the FA Cup, it’s worthless but they could like last year win it and lose everything else – manager may think it helps him. It surely makes no sense for them to put the kids out against Inter plus that tournament is the best win-ability status combo.

It’s harder to drop the league as they should have done last 2 or 3 years at this stage as Man United and Arsenal are letting them back into the league race. Certainly their players will not want to let things go but players egos know little bounds as their behaviour shows. They don’t pick the team either. Those players are also older again.

I would target the two cups whilst playing the weakest team I can get away with against Cardiff on Saturday. Ok the bookies have Chelsea at 10/11 for the Premiership but you can have that for me. If they think they can win the league then the 2 cups should not see anywhere near a first team, maybe the kids will surprise them.

Personally I cannot see how they can win the league without considerable help from their rivals. They must start using their younger players more somewhere. Going light in midfield with Anelka and Malouda in the team is just going to wear out Lampard and co which makes no sense. It further makes a mockery of Ancelotti’s decision in the Arsenal game to effectively not use his substitutes except for time wasting and back patting. Then starting 10 of the same team at Goodison – albeit he at least got his subs on in this game.

The only real problem with targeting the Champions League besides the upheaval in the press and Abramovich finding your replacement is that one would be hard pushed  to say English clubs have an advantage this year. Plus their mentality has prevented English clubs winning more than 3 in the last 10 years despite a plethora of opportunities. Chelsea alone have blown at least 3 winnable years – 2 arguably because of a scorched earth policy on their own managers.

Laughably Arsenal are well placed for the league still if they continue to get results against the rest of the league and can turn Siddy over at home as they face none of Liverpool, Man U, Chelsea and Villa.

I am just sick at missing the 20s ‘Snal (now 10s) and the 9/2 Everton tonight.