CFCnet met up with ex-Blues defender David Lee again this week, as he dissected the start to the 2009/10 season. Lee, a development coach at Bristol City, and also a regular contributor to CFCnet, discussed all things Chelsea as he analysed the perfect starts to the Premier League and Champions League campaigns, the impending transfer ban, and even the Old Boys side, which featured a very special guest in a high-scoring draw this week.
DAVID LEE ON…CHELSEA’S PERFECT START…
I’m just hoping it’s not like what happened when Luis Felipe Scolari began his managerial stint at Chelsea. I think they won the first few games and then all of a sudden it went wrong.
But I don’t think Scolari was a top club manager, he was a great international boss, and Ancelotti has been around long enough to know not to get carried away.
Chelsea have not played any of the top sides yet, although they meet Tottenham on Sunday which will be the biggest test so far, but I do think Chelsea will sneak that.
They are going to need a little bit of luck with injuries over the course of the season. Obviously they missed Didier Drogba on Tuesday night against Porto, but they are still playing well enough, even if against Stoke they left it until the last minute.
But all good sides do that, Manchester United always do it, Liverpool back in the 1980’s used to do it, they all play right until the end and get their winners because they deserve to. They bombarded the Stoke goal, and people may say they were lucky to win, but sometimes you might need a little bit of luck and they were just the better side at the end of the day, and they deserved the win.
I think Michael Ballack’s had a new lease of life this season, a lot of people thought that last year he wasn’t that great and he was carrying and injury, but I’ve always liked him as a player. I think Drogba and Nicolas Anelka can only get better by playing every game together too.
It’s a settled side now, they’ve got the eleven that will start if everyone is fit and I prefer the two up front, I think Chelsea need to do that. Ashley Cole again is playing well this year so it’s just a case of keeping them all fit more than anything.
…THE ANCELOTTI EFFECT…
He’s got them organised and if there’s one thing the Italians are good at, it’s getting a side organised and getting them to play the way he wants them to. It’s the same with Fabio Capello and England.
I’ve not noticed any massive, sweeping changes, and under Scolari it was the way that they played the first few games which was vastly different, considering how they played under José Mourinho and Avram Grant, but then when Scolari went it changed again under Guus Hiddink. There hasn’t been a lot which has changed much since Hiddink left, but it’s just more of a settled side I suppose.
…THE IMPENDING TRANSFER BAN…
It’s harsh I think, considering everything that goes on in the game. If they are going to investigate every single transfer then I am sure they are going to come up with more than Chelsea who have allegedly broken the rules as such.
My thoughts are that it is a bit like the Eduardo thing, the diving; it opens up a massive can of worms. If it’s for the better then it’s great, but if not then it’s not the sort of thing that needs to be done really.
Chelsea have possibly had a rough deal with FIFA and UEFA, and are they made an example of? It seems to be that they are a little bit, yes.
I was chatting to Kevin Hitchcock [now goalkeeping coach at Manchester City] the other day and I was saying that if [Adebayor’s recent misdemeanours] had happened last season, there wouldn’t have been as much coverage of it. But because City have won games and spent all that money, all of a sudden everyone wants to knock them down.
If Chelsea cannot strengthen from outside, then the players could galvanise themselves together and think, ‘right, this is what we’ve got, this is what we’re going with,’ and they can be tighter as a group.
Or, you can go the other way where you think, ‘I’m not going to get dropped, they can’t sign anyone else, I’m going to be in the comfort zone for a while.’ I’m sure the latter option won’t be the case with the players they have got at Chelsea, as they are all top players and already multi-millionaires, but they are motivated by success and winning games.
That’s the thing Chelsea are going to have in their favour, money doesn’t have to become an issue. John Terry could have walked away in the summer [to Manchester City] and doubled his money but he didn’t. I think that will help in the long-run, and we’ve seen already in the last few games – The Stoke City win in the last minute, the Porto game which was a ground-out win – that they want to win.
…THE ‘POACHING’ OF YOUNG TALENT BY BIG CLUBS…
The big boys can do that because financially they are in a better position. I think Scott Sinclair is a prime example, going to Chelsea at 16 from Bristol Rovers, where he made his first-team debut.
He’s only played a handful of games for Chelsea since he’s been there and he’s been loaned out to other clubs.
It can work the other way, and I think the best situation is when a big club buys someone then loans him back. If a club does that then I think yes, it is ok, but if young lads aren’t playing every week, and they’re just training with the reserves, then yes, they may learn something in training or from coaches, but there is nothing better than playing and being part of that match situation.
Unfortunately these days the top sides have got the money to do that, and they can poach good young players. Obviously what has gone on with Chelsea happens with other clubs as well, so they aren’t the only ones who could be seen as rule-breakers.
…TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR AND CHELSEA’S TITLE RIVALS…
Tottenham have surprised me in a way. This time last year I think they had two points, but all of a sudden this year they’ve won four on the bounce. Jermaine Defoe has had an excellent start, he’s done really well and Luka Modric was starting to do well for Spurs until he got injured.
Manchester United have pulled through after losing to Burnley, and you’re always going to get results like that from teams which have been promoted, they’ve got nothing to lose. United missed a penalty and I’m sure that if they had scored that they would have gone on to win by three or four.
Man City haven’t surprised me because good players can gel quickly at the top level. They’ll be up there at the end of the season.
Arsenal have lost two already and I think they are six points behind Chelsea which is a big gap. If Chelsea beat them, all of a sudden Arsenal are nine points behind them and that’s a lot to make up. I think we’ll see a strong top six this year, and I’m not sure who the other side is who will sneak in, but it could be Tottenham.
…THE OLD BOYS, AND THE ‘NEW’ OLD BOY…
A few years ago Gary Chivers and a guy called Mark Westwood put the Chelsea Old Boys together, and I got a call about four or five years ago asking if I would like to play. It was a trip to Germany actually so I went along and loved it. After the game we all sat there talking about old times over a few beers, and it was great.
It’s all got bigger and bigger now and Chelsea run it for us. We don’t play as much as I would like, but it was great the other day [a 4-4 draw against a side put together by Chelsea vice-president Tony Reeves]. We had the same old nucleus of players then suddenly Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink turned up! Apparently he was going to play for the opposition but we thought, ‘well, he’s a Chelsea old boy,’ so he played for us, all ninety minutes, and he loved it. He’s still the Jimmy of old, and he scored a hat-trick. You never lose your competitiveness when you’re playing. All the lads want to win, and the other day we drew 4-4, but we were 4-2 down with ten minutes to go and none of us wanted to lose.