Half-way through the 2008/09 season and things are looking far from rosy. Early-campaign optimism has been replaced by a feeling of dismay as events at the Bridge unfold day by day, or rather game by game. November onwards has seen a consistent pattern emerge; one draw follows the next, with wins drying up and the odd defeat creeping in. In 29 games this season we have won 16, only just over half. Yesterday, a supposedly routine encounter with League One Southend in the FA Cup became an arduous struggle, with the so-called minnows bagging a last minute equaliser at the Bridge to take Chelsea to a replay at Roots Hall.
Not really the best time to sum up the playing squad then but the results speak for themselves and these are the guys who have to stand up and take responsibility. Ladies and gentlemen, here follows my ratings so far:
1) Petr Cech – Recovered from a nightmare Euro 2008 to put in some solid performances for the Blues this season, but with the defence coming under more pressure than ever before – particularly from set-pieces – is it wrong to expect more from the giant Czech? Could have done much better in the recent draw with Fulham. Rating: (Out of ten) 6
2) Branislav Ivanovic – Finally made his Blues debut after eight months of inactivity and has looked composed and talented in the few games he has played in. Rating : 7
3) Ashley Cole – One of the stand-out performers of last season has been solid but not spectacular so far in this campaign. Has got forward more and unleashed a few shots on goal which we rarely saw in previous seasons, while staying strong at the back. Rating: 7
5) Michael Essien – Injured for most of the campaign and seen as one of the reasons for Chelsea’s stuttering form. Rating: No rating due to injury.
6) Ricardo Carvalho – As with Essien, the Portuguese stopper has suffered from injuries, perhaps carrying them on from last season. Has been his usual assured self when he has played though. Rating: 7 (just)
8) Frank Lampard – The guy’s a machine. Can you imagine if he had left in the Summer? Constantly bails us out and I’m tempted to say that he has been our only consistent performer this season. Our second top scorer behind Nicolas Anelka and that really says it all. Almost double the goals of Deco, Didier Drogba and Michael Ballack combined and probably more than double the effort of all three combined too. Rating: 9
9) Franco di Santo – Not given enough time to shine. Impressed me when he came on against Liverpool as he won nearly every hoofed long ball up to him when we ran out of ideas. Rating: No rating due to inactivity.
10) Joe Cole – Has suffered with injuries but looked creative when he has played. Only three goals from eighteen appearances though, and some of his efforts on goal have been dreadful. Hope he can step up from January onwards because we have been crying out for a link man like himself. Who needs Robinho? Well, we do at the moment. Rating: 6
11) Didier Drogba – Hang on, he’s still here? Hates Chelsea, hates football, hates me, hates you, hates everything. I half expect to see him take the field in gothic make-up and an all black kit, he seems that depressed. A long time out injured and when he has played he has just been going through the motions. Improve or leave. Rating: 5
12) John Mikel Obi – Okay, so maybe Lamps isn’t our only good player. This lad has stepped since Claude Makelele left and has really looked the part. Ridiculously strong and no longer uses the two-footed tackle as a first resort. Composed on the ball and intelligent, just please stop him from shooting from long range; the corner flags are constantly at risk. Only blot on his copy book was a terrible showing in Italy against Roma. Rating: 8
13) Michael Ballack – Whoa, he’s still here too? Forgotten how to run and resorted to his first-season strut with disastrous consequences. Generally anonymous. Rating: 5
15 Florent Malouda – Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. Just don’t like the guy. Rating: 4
16) Scott Sinclair – Frequently left on the bench along with di Santo and often brought on with three minutes to go when we need a goal, rather than a good half an hour when we are comfortably winning. No time to impress and should be allowed to leave on loan again. Rating: No rating due to inactivity.
17) José Bosingwa – Looked such a class act when he first joined. Pace to burn, an innate attacking instinct and a decent defender to boot. Now seems afraid to run ahead of the opposition penalty box and when he does, he seems to cut inside on his left rather than cross on his right. Perhaps the West Brom goal has gone to his head! Hope he gets back to his best. Rating : 6
19) Paulo Ferreira – Often mentioned around the words ‘defensive mistake’ or ‘blunder’. Owes most of his appearances to pointless substitute cameos when we are winning and has only made two starts all season, yet in February of last year he signed a five-year contract which sums up his level of ambition. Very lucky he’s Portuguese and possibly has some kind of family relationship with Luis Felipe Scolari. Rating: 4
20)Deco – See ‘Paulo Ferreira’ but with an unbelievable 20 starts. So disappointed this hasn’t worked out. For further information on him, check out the forum and search for ‘Deco’, you will find enough to keep you occupied for days. Rating: 4
21) Salomon Kalou – Has morphed into a Malouda/Kalou hybrid called simply ‘Kalouda’. Seems unable to cross, shoot, pass, you know, the basics for any footballer. Has managed five goals, but the time is coming when he needs to turn his supposed potential into undoubted ability. I won’t hold my breath. Rating: 5
23) Carlo Cudicini – One word: shaky. Rating: 5
26) John Terry – Solid, dependable, impregnable. Or is he? Afraid to say that I think his injuries are catching up with him. Although he has been his usual self in the most part, reckless challenges against Man City and Everton perhaps underline a decline in form this season. Nothing to worry about though, not yet anyway. Rating: 7
27) Mineiro – Who? Seriously, never actually seen him play but don’t think I’m missing much. Rating: Can’t possibly say.
33) Alex – Looks like he has had a lobotomy, plays like he has had a lobotomy. Wants out, so let him go. Should be under pressure from the likes of Ivanovic and Mancienne for second-choice centre-back behind Terry and Carvalho. Rating: 4
35) Juliano Belletti – Like a party popper, he serves no real purpose other than to act as a form of novelty entertainment. Good at scoring ridiculously long-range efforts…um…and that’s it. Rating : 5
39: Nicolas Anelka – Premier League top scorer yet I still feel under whelmed. No real effort but often in the right place at the right time, hence the goals. A bizarre enigma and will continue to be until he demands a move away. Rating: 7 (just for the goals)
Manager: Luis Felipe Scolari – The man has divided opinion amongst Chelsea fans and seems a long way away from convincing the majority of the supporters that he is the right man. He has got us playing attractive football, but unsurprisingly we have failed to turn these pretty patterns into goals. Can be accused of trying to fit round pegs in square holes – attempting to make the likes of Lampard, Ballack and Anelka play like Ronaldinho, Robinho and Kaka rather than utilise their strengths – and often makes bizarre changes during games. When we need a goal, he’ll bring on Belletti. When we’re winning, he’ll bring on Ferreira. And that’s basically it! Needs to improve and earn his salary, and I get the feeling that if he doesn’t win the Champions League, his days could be numbered.
Brace yourselves for the second-half of the season. It’s going to be interesting to say the least.