ANELKA: HERO OR SCAPEGOAT?

By Jez Walters
Jan 14th, 2008

Nicolas Anelka arrives at Chelsea at a crucial point in his career and at a decisive time in Chelsea’s season.  With Drogba, Kalou and Shevchenko all unavailable, Le Sulk can either quickly establish himself as a true blue hero or he could quite easily become the major scapegoat as our season disintegrates around us.Only time will tell but the last day or so has been instructive in how fans will perceive Anelka.  His arrival on the pitch brought many of the 41,000 crowd to their feet, myself included, and CFCnet wishes him well.  Of course we do. His performance yesterday also brought praise from the media in general with Avram Grant stating that ‘he couldn’t have asked for more’.

I’m not so sure.

Yes, in some ways Grant is correct.  Anelka’s not even trained with his colleagues and with that in mind, two great shots and some lovely touches was a good account for his first 30 minutes in a Blues shirt.  However, even with just thirty minutes under his belt, Anelka showed one major flaw:  he’s appears lazy.  Now I’m not saying he is lazy.  Not at all.  But he appears so by his body language and movement. 

I fear for Anelka.  Not because of his extreme talent – just like Sheva, his goal scoring track record speaks for itself – but because unlike Sheva, Anelka looks like he’s happy to trot around the pitch only occasionally mucking in to help the team and occasionally expending himself on a goal scoring sprint.

Listen to Kevin Davies, Bolton’s number 9, speak about Anelka: “It’s not a criticism of Nic, but sometimes as a striker you have to fill in and give the wide men a bit of a breather.”  Davies went on to say: “He gets the goals but he didn’t bring other things to the team, the work-rate and things like that.”

Have a read of the article here: http://sport.independent.co.uk/football/premier-league/article3333823.ece

Yesterday, even with only thirty minutes played in his short Chelsea career confirmed to me that Anelka will get caned by the fans if he doesn’t up his work rate.  I don’t mean running around like a headless chicken either.  No, what I mean is that when the Prozone stats come in, Anelka has contributed as much as his team-mates rather than just popping up in the 90 minute and talking all the glory for himself.

Chelsea’s recent success has been built on work-ethic allied to superb individual skill.  It will be interesting to see how Ten Cate, Grant and Clarke mould him into our system because if they manage to do with him what they’ve done with the rest of the team, Anelka will become a special player for us.  A huge player.

If not, I fear that come a reverse result or a tight game and the like, seeing Anelka trot around the pitch will infuriate fans who only want to see one thing: 100% effort.  Just like Sheva does, because even though his best days are gone, the guy gives 100% every time he plays for Chelsea.  We all love him for that.

My own feeling is that Anelka is a superb buy and we’ve got an unbelievable player added to our squad.  He looked a lot better and only half the price of Berbatov at the weekend.  However, every team has its scapegoat and at Chelsea the player who usually cops it is either not up to the class (Jokanovic et al) or someone who is definitely up to the grade but appears lazy – like Arjen Robben. 

Only Anelka will be able to say whether he’ll become hero or scapegoat.  But my advice to him, if he doesn’t want to feel the wrath of 41,000 fans is to make sure he looks like he’s giving as much effort as the other players.  He needs to show he cares.  That’s all and, basically, for £85k a week it’s not hard.

Good luck Nicolas and may you bang in the goals.  Up the Chels!

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