Thoughts on Malouda, World Cup Qualifiers roundup

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Chelsea’s unsuccessful bid to sign Robinho on the final day of the transfer window has increased the debate about wide players, particularly Florent Malouda. Three games into the season and the Frenchman is already attracting quite a bit of flak.

The former Lyon winger proved less than successful in his first year at Stamford Bridge. He started promisingly with a well taken goal against Manchester United in the Charity Shield but never managed to consistently produce the form that saw Jose Mourinho pay £13.6m for his services. He went on to score in the first Premier League game of the season against Birmingham City and the penultimate game against Newcastle United.

Granted, Malouda’s first season in the Premier League was unsettled by the sacking of Chelsea’s greatest manager to date and the appointment of an unqualified replacement, and a period of time out injured. Also it should be noted that it often takes foreign players at least one season to adapt to the Premier League.

But many fans felt that Malouda could have done a lot better and tried a lot harder, and they were writing him off before the current campaign started. There were even rumours that the club was thinking about selling him.

Luiz Felipe Scolari backed Malouda in pre-season when he made it clear that he thought Malouda’s talents were wasted during Avram Grant’s time in charge.

"I need to give more chances to Malouda because, last season, he didn’t play in the same role as he had done at Lyon. I want Malouda the same as he was in Lyon, flying down the wing and getting forward like he did with France with [Franck] Ribery, shooting and scoring goals. He was wasted last season," he said.

Whether Scolari still feels this way about Malouda after working with him for a further two months, only he knows. The evidence suggests not.

In the opening fixture against Portsmouth Malouda was brought on to replace Michael Ballack after about half an hour (a forced substitution because of injury to the German) and he did okay. But he has played just 25 minutes as a substitute since that victory over Pompey, one minute against Wigan and 24 against Spurs. There has been very little flying down the wing, shooting or scoring goals. And he failed to make the starting eleven or feature as a sub in France’s opening World Cup qualifier against Austria yesterday, a match the French lost 3-1 (Malouda has blamed France coach Raymond Domenech for his disappointing form).

With the sale of Shaun Wright-Phillips to Manchester City and Ballack and Michael Essien out injured, Malouda will get more chances to prove himself in upcoming games, but fans I’ve spoken to and many who visit this blog don’t hold much hope that he will come good.

And you have to wonder if Scolari retains quite as much faith in Malouda as he did a few weeks ago. He declared himself pleased with the squad on Thursday, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if Malouda is sold or loaned out in January (Roma declared an interest in the summer). Scott Sinclair has what it takes to replace him.

In the other World Cup qualifiers featuring Chelsea players, Joe Cole came off the bench at half time to rescue England against Andorra. Cole volleyed in a Frank Lampard cross in the 49th minute and prodded home his second from a Wayne Rooney pass six minutes later.

England coach Fabio Capello revealed after the game that he vented his fury at Cole and Rooney for not following his orders. He also said that he is undecided whether to hand Cole a starting role for Wednesday’s qualifier in Croatia.

Elsewhere Ricardo Carvalho, Jose Bosingwa and Deco helped Portugal ease to a 4-0 win over Malta, while Essien picked up his latest injury midway through the first half of Ghana’s qualifier in Libya, a match Ghana lost 1-0. Essien could be out for a month.