This is the news!
Or at least it would be if there was anything of any note coming from the Fulham Broadway Kremlin… or Stamford Bridge as we like to call it. Yes folks, it appears that we’re now living in an era of disinformation, rumour or just plain old communications blackouts from our beloved club. Obviously the season ticket quota has been sold for next year with no problems, the revenue from the new strip collections is rolling in and the cost base has been cut through the release of players and some rather less ostentatious pre-season tours. So, with all the £££££ signs falling into place, they can treat us all with the contempt we deserve. They are of course doing the odd piece for Chelsea TV and the press, but in essence it’s a bit like the government doling out the truth, it’s all soundbites of political nothingness. Ancelotti speaks, Gourlay speaks, Buck speaks… and yet they have all mastered the art of saying jack shit.
After all, we’re only fans aren’t we?
Yes, I accept that stuff could be going on behind the scenes, but even the tabloid press must be scratching its head at the lack of rumour or anything emanating from the SW6 equivalent of Area 51.
I’d be offended if it wasn’t so familiar to me as the de facto operating model of Kenneth Bates and his motley crew of directors.
So, in the absence of any useful information I’ll try and make some sense of what has happened and what might happen. Then I’m off to France for a month to dish out some payback to some Manchester United, Arsenal, Spurs and Liverpool fans I know there.
We now know that Juliano Belletti has departed. A good player who made little noise despite not being a first choice regular. But he departs having collected a few medals to add to a collection of decent ones he already had, and he departs with a handshake and warm gratitude from Chelsea fans, even those who didn’t rate him. Michael Ballack has also gone, and I for one am sorry to see him leave, but also understand that he was getting slower and that his type of masterly reading of the game is no longer enough in the cut, thrust and pace of the Premier League. Again, he leaves with most of the knowledgeable fans’ gratitude and warm memories of some outstanding midfield play.
Deco hasn’t officially gone yet, but surely we won’t countenance another season of injury prone mediocrity from a player in worse decline than Shevchenko ever knew? His departure makes me feel warm, but certainly any of the memories of his tenure with us. What makes me shiver is his name still being on the squad list as I write. Please tell me it ain’t so?
The most controversial departure is probably Joe Cole though. Definitely this blog’s and possibly all Chelsea fans’ most Marmite player of all. Now I’ll be honest here and say that coming from an age where players like Pele, Best, Cruyff, Bowles, Marsh and our own Alan Hudson and Charlie Cooke, were revered as skilful players, but maybe not as the most hard working of all I am sorry to see this talent go. I accept that in this day and age such players are easily seen as luxuries, but they are the ones who can open up a game with a single piece of genius. We don’t seem to accept that these days, but rather laud the players who work hard irrespective of whether they produce anything worthwhile. It’s the old artists versus labourers argument we’ve done before.
I’d have kept Joe and tried to release the best of him, as would any decent coach. I think Ancelotti should have told the board that Cole was worth keeping. To apply the Teflon shouldered response of ‘it’s about money and therefore nothing to do with me’ argument is frankly bollocks. If he didn’t think Joe was good enough then say so… if he didn’t think he could unlock the potential then say so… but to blame the bean counters, albeit implicitly rather than explicitly is a crock in my view. In fact whilst I understand the need for some secrecy on new player deals etc., the lock down we appear to be seeing is utterly patronising. If you’re not going to sign anyone then just say so.
On the arrivals front, we’ve signed Yossi Benayoun. A decent squad player who can do a decent job, even if he is knocked off the ball too easily by virtue of being a skinny type. Does his signing inspire me? Does it make me excited? Am I looking forward to seeing him in a blue shirt next year with any degree of anticipation?
He’s a workaday, journeyman, decent-ish signing and that’s it.
And that my friends appears to be that. Despite a World Cup that brought to the fore the unusual and lesser known players as the stars we appear to be relying on the framework from last year plus some relatively untried and untested youngsters… all with potentially bright futures, but few with any minutes of real football under their belts. No signs of a Kaka, a Van de Vaart, Mesut Ozil, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Thomas Muller, Luis Suarez, the Japanese Honda lad or anyone. Again, they may arrive, but with the Community Shield but three weeks away it is starting to look unlikely that any real ‘hero’ signings will occur. Again, I have no problem with that, but I just want a clear statement saying as much. Don’t treat me like the proverbial mushroom and don’t insult my intelligence with garbage political non-speak.
And so, who’s coming in to the squad this year? Well, Gael Kakuta looks a cert and his brief cameos last year showed we appear to have a real talent on our books there. I have rarely known anyone get the crowd so excited by a debut as he did in his 25 minutes or so against Wolves. Fingers crossed he’s the real deal. We also see Nemanja Matic coming in. He also played against Wolves for his debut, albeit for 10 minutes or so as I recall. He looked a natural to replace Ballack and his subsequent cameos showed that as well. We have Fabio Borini in as well by the looks of it. He reminds me very much of a young Michael Owen, although again despite some brief appearances he has yet to find the net at senior level. Looking at the rest of the squad, some complete unknowns appear in there in the shape of Jacopo Sala and Jan Sebek. My mate Chelsea Bob raves about Sala, but then he’s been promising me Academy jam for 20 years now and so far only JT has been produced! I know nothing about Sebek at all. Sam Hutchinson also appears in the listing and he made a decent debut last year… but do we really need another centre-back, especially as it appears than Mancienne is also back in favour? I notice Jeffrey Bruma is also there and yet I hear he’s off to Wolfsburg on loan. I can’t find anything official to corroborate that so let’s assume he’s with us next year. That leaves just Danny Sturridge, who to be honest made an OK impression last year, plus hooked himself a superb goal against Stoke in our 7-0 demolition of them. I hope he can make the step from OK striker to something more lethal this year. I notice that Van Aanholt isn’t in the official listing at the moment which is a shame for him, but that Hilario is… surely we aren’t leaning on him as number 2 again this year? Give Turnbull the deputy keeper slot I say!
So, all in all, as the website listing for the squad shows, we will have 27 in the squad next year. Hardly seems to indicate any room for any big signings unless there are still more to go to allow the new ones to come in. Whilst I’m happy to see some new blood come in from the academy, it does worry me that they might just be in the squad and that Ancelotti will stick with the senior players, meaning the kids will get a shot if injuries occur or if we’re winning 6-0. It’s hardly the way in my eyes, and I’m hoping that we see the season as transitional and not busting things open to win trophies at the expense of development. There is a balance and maybe, like Wenger, and Old Purplenose himself we start to learn to trust the youngsters.
And there you go, it was brief, suitably bi-polar in places (I want new talent, I want new signings, I want to win, I won’t cry if we don’t if the kids are given a go, I will whinge if we’re not competing) and hopefully the Bi-Polar Express will return in September along with the usual match reports, a return to ‘form’ from me on the results of the games I cover and hopefully a successful season and new era for our beloved Blues.
Keep the Blue Flag Flying High!