Barca beats Chelsea in UCL

Barca bounces Chelsea from UCL: some thoughts about where the Blues are and how we get better

The Barcelona defeat wasn’t as bad as it seemed, but the side is still nowhere near where they need to be with their personnel.

Obviously nobody is okay with today. But there are important things to consider.

1: We hit two bars and Courtois had the worst day I’ve ever seen him have. We hit a bar or two in the first leg and conceded on the only defensive mistake we made. The aggregate score simply doesn’t reflect the reality of the tie. This could easily have been a CFC win. Barca is the better side, but the better side loses sometimes.

2: Conte wanted more talent in the summer. Conte wanted more talent in January. Conte has certainly annoyed the piss out of the front office with his refusal to shut up about needing more talent.

Conte was right.

About the Personnel Thing

We knew going into the season we needed an A+ striker and depth at the position. We got a guy who I think is going to be very good but who remains a bit inexperienced. Batman wasn’t quite what he needed to be – again, he’s young – although his loan spell has him performing very well against opponents that are generally on par with the bottom half of the Prem and the Championship. We knew he could do that, but now he gets regular run-out and can build on his skills and confidence.

In other words, we were light up top.

We knew we needed a real 10. Fab has a great moment every 3-4 games but is otherwise invisible (unless he’s coughing up the ball in midfield to set up an opposing goal). Right now Willian is the best 10 we have and he isn’t a 10. (Hell, right now he and Kante are the best players we have period.)

We knew we needed to be a little stronger on the wing. Alonso is fine, and Moses + Zappa add up to a really good winger. I love Moses, but his mind goes blank when he approaches the edge of the box.

On the whole, though, Chelsea is trying to win A+ competitions with B+ talent. Conte was right, and if we don’t address the situation it won’t matter whether Conte stays or goes, and if he goes it won’t matter who you bring in. The current approach to personnel will not beat City and it won’t beat most of the sides in the UCL final 8.

Who Stays, Who Goes?


Courtois is an outstanding keeper, despite today’s dogbutt performance. I can’t help wondering if he’s gone in the summer because he really wants to be in Madrid close to his kids. If he goes, getting Navas coming the other way wouldn’t be a bad play.


  • Christensen is the future.
  • Dave is one of the best on the planet.
  • Rudi isn’t as good, but is certainly a fantastic fourth option back there.
  • Sideshow is already gone after his last performance.
  • Cahill needs to be starting center back and captain. At Spurs.
  • Bring back Zouma and we have Ampadu (who is poised well beyond his years) and all of a sudden you have one of the better back lines in the world. And it’s young, so this can be a foundation to build on for a decade.


  • Pay Kante whatever he wants. For life.
  • Drinky is a solid squad option.
  • Bakayoko … I thought he was just needing time to catch up to the Prem, but now I’m not so sure. There are some basic skill deficits (trap the ball, hold onto the ball, make an accurate pass). Can you keep him around so you can answer the question definitively? Yes, but you can’t count on him, which means you need another solid – as in, very good – holding player.
  • Fabregas – at his best was a really good playmaker who wasn’t quite good enough to stay on the pitch at Barca. Now he’s that, only older (31 in May) and, if it’s possible, slower. If he stays, it needs to be as a squad/backup to a new, world-class 10.
  • Pedro – was great last year. But like Fab he was a guy Barca was okay letting go. He can be very good, but I don’t think anyone would argue that he’s good enough to start for a Champions League winner. He’s 30 and not getting younger.
  • Victor Moses – solid squad player. I love the guy and am happy he was finally given a chance here. Tireless, very good defender. But limited in attack – how often does he get to within five yards of the corner of the box and stop like he ran into a wall? Not the starter we need.
  • Marcos Alonso has outperformed every expectation and has turned into a holy terror on set pieces top of the box. I’d love to have a guy who’s all that and great in defense, but if him in the starting 11 is the worst problem you have, you’re going to need a bigger trophy case.
  • Willian bleeds Chelsea and he’s been one of our best players this year – and maybe the best over the last couple months. If he’s your starting RW in a 3-4-3, that’s wonderful.
  • Eden Hazard is an enigma. He hasn’t been great lately, but last year he was fantastic. The year before? Well, his ineffectiveness had a lot to do with Mourinho getting sacked (although whether it was his fault or Jose’s I guess we can argue about). When he’s on he’s one of the best five players anywhere. But he’s not on as reliably as we’d like – he can be taken out of the game, and some days it seems like he’s taking himself out. Plan A is he commits to being a Ballon d’Or winner and signs an extension. But if he wants to go and Madrid will pay what I suspect they’ll pay, well, you can buy a lot of skilled replacements for that kind of money.


  • Alvaro Morata is, I believe, the player we saw early in the year. He hasn’t been right since getting dinged, and the basic fact is that at this elite level, with the defenders being so damned good, the difference between 100% and 99% can be meaningful. The difference between a goal and a goal kick can be a centimeter.
  • Giroud – I have loved what he’s brought to the side despite the lack of goals. Very few strikers make a move in January and score a lot in the second half, but his energy has been encouraging.
  • Do we have the striker we need? Hard to say right. Maybe. But if we get a crack at, say, Lewandowski, well, what do you think?

So there are my thoughts. I feel certain someone will see it differently…


Messi and Ronaldo miss out on Russia? How to make sure all the best players go to the World Cup.

As qualifying wraps up this week, we’re staring at the very real possibility next year’s FIFA World Cup will be staged without Lionel Messi and/or Cristiano Ronaldo.

That the greatest competition in world sports, save possibly the Olympics, would fail to include the men most regard as the two greatest players alive (and certainly two of the greatest of all time), seems unthinkable. But it could absolutely happen.

The Situation

Messi and Argentina are in trouble. Continue reading “Messi and Ronaldo miss out on Russia? How to make sure all the best players go to the World Cup.”


Premier League TV income impasse: are we on the brink of an all-Euro Super League?

Controversy over how to divvy up the revenues means uncertainty in England. The outcome of these deliberations could move us closer to a European SuperLiga including the big six Prem clubs (and maybe more than that)…

A couple years ago I wrote about the prospects for a European football SuperLigaThis is hardly a new idea (with Marca suggesting it’s a when-not-if, and perhaps sooner-rather-than-later situation) but at that point I was considering the massive infusion of cash into the English Premier League courtesy of its new TV deals and speculating that as a result the rest of the leagues in Europe would soon have no choice but to form a continental Super League. Continue reading “Premier League TV income impasse: are we on the brink of an all-Euro Super League?”

Transfer Window: Conte vs Emenalo

Michael Emenalo and arch-nemesis Jose Mourinho
Michael Emenalo and arch-nemesis Jose Mourinho

In June 2013, Michael Emenalo officially put in a request to leave the club with the reappointment of Jose Mourinho. Rather than letting Emenalo go, Roman Abramovich chose to keep the technical director. Since then, the power struggle between Emenalo and whichever manager has been ever present.

Di Matteo vs Emenalo

This was the first time a lot of us became genuinely suspicious about who had real control over the club. Continue reading “Transfer Window: Conte vs Emenalo”

Too early to panic, but Chelsea defeat to Burnley exposes weaknesses

Antonio Conte watches Chelsea/Burnley grease fire
Antonio Conte watches Chelsea/Burnley grease fire

The 3-2 loss to the Clarets wasn’t the end of the world, but failure to address the team’s flaws could doom the season…

Well, that was disappointing.

Chelsea was slow out of the gate for its title defense, and while the news is hardly all bad, there are reasons for … interested concern, aren’t there?

First, it’s way too early to panic. In truth, a good bit of what transpired at the Bridge today was to be expected. Continue reading “Too early to panic, but Chelsea defeat to Burnley exposes weaknesses”

Nike’s Assimilation of Chelsea FC is complete

Want to buy some Spurs merchandise? Just head over to No seriously.

[Ed. Note: Not everyone cares about brand and design issues the way I do, and some people really like Nike stuff. But keep reading, because it gets worse toward the end.]

A few days ago I posted some thoughts on what to expect from Chelsea FC’s new kits from Nike. Those unis dropped this morning (two of the three, anyway), so let’s have a look.

Relatively inoffensive at first glance. Very minimalist (which with Nike is a nice way of saying they have no ideas.) And as always, they’re Nike first and the club second. Stay tuned – more on this in a minute.

Here are closer looks. Continue reading “Nike’s Assimilation of Chelsea FC is complete”

Chelsea’s New Nike Kits: Five Things to Look For

Nike football design eats every dick in the bag.

I’m not a fan of Nike soccer (hereafter referred to as “football”) design, so it was not a happy day when the new kit agreement was announced. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy about the £zillion/year they’re giving us, but since the news broke I’ve been buying all the Adidas merch I can afford because it’s going to be at least 15 years before I buy anything new.

Damn shame, too – I actually like much of their football (herafter referred to as “throwball”) design. I know a lot of you hate the U of Oregon’s throwball unis, but I find a lot of it to be innovative and stylish. YMMV.

Anyway, I’ve been thinking about what we can all expect from the next decade and a half of kit abominations. Take notes – here’s what you can look forward to.


Bet your mortgage on it. Continue reading “Chelsea’s New Nike Kits: Five Things to Look For”

Where Do Chelsea Go From Here?

Barring any sort of major collapse, Chelsea look set to win their 6th League Title and their 2nd in 3 years. With a spot in the FA Cup semifinals, Chelsea have a chance to mirror their extremely successful 2009/10 double winning season. The amount of similarities between the two clubs demonstrates how Antonio Conte both exceeded expectations, but also how he must avoid the pitfalls that cost Carlo Ancelotti his job just one season after his immense success.

Taking Over For Guus

Guus Hiddink has twice stabilized a struggling Chelsea side. Continue reading “Where Do Chelsea Go From Here?”

What Should Chelsea Do in the Transfer Window?

Has there been a time in recent years when Chelsea had fewer things to worry about in January?

PedroNormally this time of year there’s a great deal of chatter about what teams will do (and ought to do) in the January transfer window, and Chelsea supporters have traditionally enjoyed the winter mini-silly season as much as anyone.

This year, though … January 2017 feels different. Continue reading “What Should Chelsea Do in the Transfer Window?”

Land of Hope… and Expectation.

So we’ve had a few weeks to find our feet, get used to Antonio Conte’s passion and now it looks like the squad has settled into his approach to the game and at least one formation, something we haven’t really seen in Blue at the Bridge since the days of Glenn Hoddle and Ruud Gullit. That’s right, the 3-5-2 is back at Chelsea. Let’s see how Conte’s 3-5-2 compares to Chelsea of the Hoddle era in the wake of our demolition of Jose Mourinho’s  Manchester United.

Days of hope
Days of hope


Dimitri Kharine

Courtois seems to have come out of a bit of a slump with a commanding display, showing the promise of his previously shown ability.

Dimitri Kharine is a good comparison, even though Kevin Hitchcock is my favourite Chelsea goal keeper. Kharine was one of the first continental goalies in the Premiership. He was tall, lean and brought a new style of goal keeping that we commonly see in the Premiership today. Continue reading “Land of Hope… and Expectation.”