With a massive game to played tonight, Chelsea Den from the excellent The Chelsea Blog, has had a chat with RoM about all things United and Chelsea. We returned the favour with an interview on their blog.
Scott the Red: A couple of months in to the season, the bookies were practically ready to pay out on Chelsea winning the title. Now they’re competing to finish inside the top four. Is it really all down to Ray Wilkins departure?
Chelsea Den: We won games before Wilkins came so you’d have thought we could win them after he left (even if that doesn’t seem to be the case). Obviously his influence has been missed, whether it’s tactically or just psychologically it’s hard to say but these are professionals earning vast sums of money and it’s not as if they’re not used to coaches leaving is it? I think it’s a combination of things this season, injuries to key players never helps any side but our squad was never deep enough to cope with that this season, so when injuries have crept in, we’ve had to use a mix of inexperienced and older players, and whether we like it or not, age is starting to tell with a couple of our key players now. Add Ray’s departure to that and when the heads have gone down, they’ve maybe missed his presence to pick them up.
STR: With things going so well, it begs the questions why the club decided to get rid of Wilkins. Why do you think they did?
CD: There was some hint of words spoken out of place at the training ground but personally, I think he was a scapegoat. Our form wasn’t that fantastic just prior to him leaving, we hadn’t nosedived then but there was always the feeling that it wouldn’t be long before we did the way we were playing. My feeling is that they knew they couldn’t get rid of yet another manager so quick, so Wilkins was the fall guy. They got it wrong.
STR: But this is the same Chelsea squad won the Double last season, have added Ramires (£18m) and more recently Torres (£50m) and Luiz (£21m), yet are struggling this season. The ability is there so are you worried about the mentality of the squad?
CD: It’s not really the same ‘squad’ that won the double though is it? Last season, we had more experienced players to call on when we had injuries. Ballack, Carvalho, Deco, Joe Cole, Belletti – these were all pretty useful players to utilise when we needed them. Signing Ramires, as useful as he’s starting to look, wasn’t enough in itself, Benayoun has been out since September so we’ve no idea what he has to contribute and as for Torres and Luiz, they’ve barely got through the door yet.
Of course we needed to offload older players in the summer but the mistake was the lack of contingency planning to plug the gaps when the cracks appear. Is the ability still there with all our key players? I think that’s questionable now and there’s work to be done again at the end of this season.
Mentally? I do worry the fights gone out of us this season but even more worrying is I’m not sure whether we’ll get it back under Ancelotti.
STR: Assuming Chelsea will finish in the top 4, will that be enough for Ancelotti to keep his job? He spent £25m in the summer and £75m in January. Should he have spent it more wisely?
I’d have liked to have seen more than just Ramires and Benayoun added in the summer but even if you just take those two and add Torres and Luiz, he’s a damn site better in the transfer market than Mourinho in my opinion.
STR: Don’t get me started on Mourinho’s use of money! What do you think of Ancelotti’s most expensive buy, Fernando Torres?
CD: It’s early days yet and obviously he needs a goal to settle himself at Chelsea but I have no doubt it’ll come. He actually looked a lot better playing with Anelka albeit against Copenhagen and he was unlucky really. I’d rather have him playing for us than against us for sure even if (as I said against Copenhagen), I’m so desperate for him to score I’m starting to feel like his pimp.
STR: With Daniel Sturridge scoring every week at Bolton, it makes you wonder whether he’d be a better option had he been given the chance. On to another player who’s left Chelsea, albeit on a permanent basis. Joe Cole scored a vitally important goal for Chelsea at Old Trafford last season before throwing away his Chelsea sweatband and joining what he called ‘the biggest club in the country’. I’m sure you’re devastated to see how much he’s struggled at Liverpool?
CD: Cry tears over it on a weekly basis – of joy naturally.
STR: On to another player who pledges allegiance to the badge like Cole, John Terry. Did ex-Red Phil Neville recently win the battle of the “captain, leaders and legends” when he had the bottle to step up and take a penalty and Terry didn’t?
CD: The law of averages was actually rewritten for Chelsea’s penalty shootouts so for JT it’s less about bottle and more about once bitten twice shy.
STR: Eh? He’s missed a penalty for Chelsea before? I must have missed that one. Anyway, where do you think Chelsea will finish this season?
CD: I’m hoping at least 4th – I’d rather leave the country than suffer Channel 5.
STR: Who do you want to win the league? Why?
Chelsea obviously, but I’ve had to accept we don’t always get what we want.
STR: So you don’t share Terry’s belief that Chelsea can catch United?
CD: No but then I don’t believe in Father Christmas either.
STR: Which player do you think would be the most capable of improving Chelsea’s squad out of Nasri, Bale or Nani?
CD: Ha ha, you serious? Nani. I can’t stand Nasri – full stop. And if Bale’s as outstanding as Redknapp likes to think, there shouldn’t be any confusion over where he plays irrespective of who it’s for.
STR: Another United player you’ve told us before you’re a fan of is Dimitar Berbatov. What do you make of his season?
CD: I hate him now, ha ha. Seriously, I wish we could’ve signed him when you did, he was never rated highly enough because of the club he was at. Mind you, took him a while before he was given the credit he deserved at United and all to be fair. Goes without saying he’s getting the recognition now because he’s answering his critics this season, the fucker!
STR: Aww, said with such good grace. Finally, what are your predictions for the game?
CD: Given the ref, I’d say plenty of controversy and bad language are a fair bet.
STR: All depends on whether Abramovich has enough cash left to pay off the officials again I guess! Cheers for your time. A pleasure, as always.
STR interview with TCB.