One minute we’re lining up Kaka, Benzema, Ribery, Pato, David Villa and Pirlo and God knows who else. The next we’re on the back foot fending off a bid from Man City for our captain. At least as far as the latter story is concerned, the club is acting decisively and has turned down the several bids from City. The worrying bit is the silence from the JT camp. Yes he is on holiday in some exotic part of the world but all it would take is a phone call to the official website admin guy and the story would die instantly. And we can all live happily ever after.
It is not that JT is living on a shoestring budget with his Chelsea wages, reportedly 140 grand a week. It is not that he has any problem with the club hierarchy, the manager, his team mates or the fans. It’s not that a move to City will enhance his prospects of getting into the England squad for the World Cup next summer. It’s not that a transfer from Chelsea to Man City is a step up from a mid table team to a Champions League contender. There can only be one reason for JT even considering such a move and that reason would be money.
I have never inhabited the world of millionaires and given that my fiftieth birthday is just round the corner it is unlikely I will ever be able to do so. But my normal inpecuniary state does not prevent me from wondering if there is a big difference being worth 20 million quid or forty million. My answer is probably not and JT should have nothing to think long and hard about.
Man City of today bear absolutely no resemblance to Chelsea of the summer of 2003 when Roman Abramovich walked in armed with his billions of roubles. Chelsea had just qualified for the Champions League. No doubt some of the players who came in that year did so for the money but from a professional point of view they could look forward to career defining nights in the Champions League. With City it will be the second round of the Carling Cup together with the no hopers of the lower leagues and the Premiership’s other also rans from last season.
On the players coming in side, it has been very underwhelming so far. Ross Turnbull and Daniel Sturridge have not sent any CFC fans’ hearts racing and Yuri Zhirkov is unproven outside his native Russia. If his compatriots’ impact on the Premiership is anything to go by all I can say is God help us.
On the other hand the truth is that last year’s team does not need a lot of tinkering with. The task ahead of Ancellotti is to bring in a couple of players in their mid twenties, preferably one up front and one in midfield who can dovetail into the present team and bring down the average age of the team. Drogba and Ballack have at least another good year left and the clue the puzzle is bringing in replacements for them.
Under Hiddink our defence looked as solid as ever and hopefully Michael Mancienne will be given a few run outs that will mould him into a worthy successor to JT. In midfield I still have to be convinced that Mikel is the real deal but Michael Essien can easily fill in that role. Lamps and Ballack are probably the best midfield pairing in the Premiership and with Joe Cole due to return for the new season, Ancellotti might be the man who at last sets Coley free in midfield. Wesley Sneijder looks like his in for a long season on the Real Madrid sidelines and if it were up to me I’d be on the phone with his agent pronto. As I would with fellow Dutchman Royston Drenthe, also at Real, who barely got a look in over the past two years.
Up front Drogba cannot be relied on for a full season and will need replacing permanently sooner rather than later. If Ancellotti is looking for a like for like replacement he could do worse than go for Luis Fabiano. A Drogba clone does not exist, so this should be the year when we have to try looking properly at a new system. Since Jose’ unleashed Drogba with two wide men on the Premiership it is the only system that has worked consistently for us. Jose’ tried different things with little success when Shevchenko was brought in. Avram Grant promised entertainment and we got a whole lot of rubbish until the players rebelled, took matters in their hand and did things their own way. Scolari tried doing without Drogba and got the sack. Having Drogba around was every manager’s get out of jail free card. When everything else failed, hitting Drogba with the early ball brought dividends time and time again.
In the wide areas we seem to be okay if the Hiddink style Malouda rather than the Grant/Scolari Malouda turns up. Joe Cole has always done his job wide on the right. Kalou is a decent replacement but not much more than that. With Zhirkov already added to the squad I guess that my dream of a blast from the past is now finally extinguished. Yes folks I still dream of seeing Arjen Robben in a blue shirt.
I nearly forgot last season’s Premiership top scorer, Nicolas Anelka. Nic has yet to score against the big guns since he joined us. But he has yet to be played in his favourite position with the right type of partner. Could that be Pato? Or David Villa?
Finally one word of advice for our player recruitment team. For chrissakes get stuck in and get your signings done nice and early. Let’s hope that they’ve learnt their lessons from last year when the Robinho saga dragged our all through August at the end of which we were trumped by Man City of all people. I would have thought that Peter Kenyon had learnt his lesson from his United days when he saw Ronaldinho and Arjen Robben slip though his fingers when the deal looked to have been done.
It’s not like it should take any great persuading to get top players to play for us. After Real, Barca and Man United, Chelsea are right at the top of most attractive footballing proposition for any player. In this year’s transfer market the boat has to be pushed out a bit further. One or two players could be all that stand between us and our dream of a Premiership and Champions League double.
PS. I start checking my articles by going through the spell check first. This is what today’s spell check suggested:
Ribery – Robbery, Bribe, Rubbery
Pato – Pate’
Pirlo – Parlour (of the Ray variety I ask?)
Benzema – Enema
Robben – Robbed (that’s how I felt when Real nicked him)
Sturridge – Storage (which is where he’ll spend most of next season)
Turnbull – Tubful
Just thought you might like to know.