It’s been two years, but Formula One returns to Baku for Friday practice.
After Red Bull’s dominance over Mercedes in Monaco, it would be interesting to see if Mercedes could make up ground on the charging bulls, but it didn’t seem to be the case.
It was a dominant day for Red Bull, as they set the fastest laps in both sessions today. Mercedes were either having a horrible day or keeping their cards very close to their chest. So let’s see how today’s sessions played out!
Unsurprisingly, it was Max Verstappen who set the pace in first practice, but he had both Ferraris for company.
However, the talk of FP1 was dominated with the talk of flexi wings. The FIA were doing tests to measure how much various team’s rear wings flexed under high speed.
This debate has been going on for some time now, but the FIA are using this weekend to gather data and then give further guidance to teams.
Back to the on-track action and the mobile Russian chicane was having a field day of ruining people’s laps, including Max Verstappen’s first flying lap. Luckily for the Dutchman, he was able to put in a second flying lap which took him to the top of the timing sheets.
But it was far from plain sailing for the rest of the field as many drivers ended up facing the wrong way throughout the session as they wrestled with the windy conditions.
Yuki Tsunoda almost re-created Mahaveer Raghunathan’s embarrassing Baku moment as he struggled to find reverse after locking up at Turn 4.
It was Turn 15 that drivers were finding the most difficult with Lewis Hamilton, Pierre Gasly and Carlos Sainz all having their own moments.
Turn 2 had it’s own share of drivers using it’s escape road with Bottas and Norris using it at the same time late on in the session.
So, while Red Bull topped the time sheets, Mercedes could not find time to set a clean lap, so they ended up further down the time sheets. Lewis Hamilton was 7th and Bottas was 10th.
It was the two Ferrari cars who were just behind Verstappen, continuing to show their pace from Monaco and then closely followed by the McLaren of Daniel Ricciardo, who is looking to put his Monaco performance behind him.
The second practice session continued as the first one ended.
Plenty of cars were taking to the escape road, with turn 15 proving to be a real problem for the drivers. For Charles Leclerc it was more than a small problem. Leclerc was on a fast lap before locking both front tyres going down hill and put his Ferrari in the wall.
Luckily, it was not as damaging as his crash at Turn 8 back in 2019. He was able to reverse out of the wall and drive back to the pits for a new front wing.
That incident was not the only stoppage of the session as Nicholas Latifi ran into engine issues which brought his session to end 20 minutes into second practice.
Juts like in Free practice one, it was Red Bull dominance once again with Sergio Perez topping the timing charts with Verstappen just behind.
Ferrari were again just behind both Charging Bulls and despite his crash, Leclerc still put his Ferrari in 4th.
Mercedes were in no man’s land yet again with neither driver breaking into the top 10. On a brighter note though, Mercedes showed that their pace on the medium tyres was very competitive with Red Bull’s pace on the soft tyre.
This could mean that tyre strategy in qualifying tomorrow could be key.
Tyres were a big talking point with both Ferraris complaining of graining on the soft tyres and Max getting vibrations the more laps he did on the soft tyre.
With all this uncertainty with the tyres on longer runs, we could see a mixture of tyre strategies for the race which could make this race very interesting.
Could Ferrari be a competitor this weekend?
In both sessions today Ferrari were asserting themselves as the second fastest team on the grid, only a few tenths off Red Bull.
If not for Leclerc’s crash in qualifying, Ferrari would have had an incredibly positive weekend in Monaco, and they are looking to replicate again this weekend.
Ferrari are showing very strong short-run pace which could cause some upsets in Qualifying so Red Bull will have to be very wary of the Prancing horses would are looking very fast behind them.
Grid Talk podcast
Can’t wait until tomorrow for more F1 content? Why not check out the Grid Talk’s Azerbaijan Prixview hosted by Ruby Price and this week is joined by George Howson, Steve Jackson from Formula Shakedown and Phillip Matthew from the Grid Strip podcast.
It’s been a season of highs and lows, but now that it is all over, it’s time to reflect on the final month of this incredible season.
We’re still the only team in London to win a European Cup!
There can be no shadow of a doubt that Chelsea are the unrivalled biggest team in London now. Chelsea now have two Champions Leagues trophies and have won four European trophies in the last 10 years.
Arsenal may have the history and have gone a Premier League season unbeaten, but that was 17 years ago now, and no amount of FA Cups can keep them at that top position.
We need to remember that this Chelsea team is still so young, and they are at the start of their footballing careers. There is still so much to see from these players and winning a champions League so early is great signs of things to come.
Under Thomas Tuchel, Chelsea have the potential to dominate English football, and there is no doubt that Chelsea have to be seen as title contenders for next season.
While I do have my own reservations about Chelsea’s ability to win the league, we have seen a shift under Tuchel that could see Chelsea have a much easier time in the league compared to the last couple of seasons.
But for now, it’s time to let this feeling sink in that we are European Champions. I was only 11 when Chelsea won the Champions League against Bayern Munich and while it was an amazing, I was a bit too young to fully understand the significance.
If Chelsea can beat City, why not Leicester?
Two weeks before European glory, Chelsea put in a woeful performance against Leicester City in the FA Cup final.
You could tell from minute one that Leicester wanted it more, and for Chelsea it looked like an inconvenience.
It wasn’t until Leicester went a goal ahead that Chelsea finally decide to go for it. Kasper Schmeichel made some glorious saves, before Chelsea were cruelly denied an equaliser as Ben Chilwell was only inches offside.
It was Leicester’s day and I imagine Tuchel took a lot away from that game which did help Chelsea’s preparations for the Champions League final. It was disappointing that Chelsea didn’t win the FA Cup as well, as shown a few days later, Chelsea had the ability to beat Leicester fair and square.
I had hoped that this season would be the repeat of the 2011/12 season with Chelsea getting a new manager during the season and then going on to win the FA Cup and Champions League double, but it just wasn’t to be.
However, I have to say fair play to Leicester in that game. Youri Tielemans’ goal was sensational and one that was deserving to be the match winning goal.
Chelsea have to thanks Spurs for top four
While Spurs may have not been able to finish in the top 4 this season, Chelsea fans owe them a debt of gratitude.
While it may not have mattered in the end, it did look like Chelsea would not get into the top four on the final day when Leicester went 2-1 up against Spurs.
Chelsea were playing Aston Villa and were losing 2-1, meaning that Chelsea would miss out by a single point and Leicester would get Champions League football.
After a Schmeichel own-goal and then two goals by Gareth Bale, Chelsea would retain their spot in the top 4 and Leicester drop down into 5th.
This season felt like a long fight to get 4th place. When Tuchel took charge, Chelsea were in 10th place. It would have been made clear to Tuchel that getting top 4 would be the highest priority.
After Lampard managed to get top four with a transfer ban, it would seem like getting top four would be easy given Chelsea spent over £200 million in the summer transfer window.
Tuchel started on the back foot and needed to turn things quickly and that’s exactly what he did. Straight away, Chelsea started to climb the table and were able to take full advantage when West Ham and Leicester started to drop off at the end of the season.
In football, you need a bit of luck and Chelsea got that in the league, but you can’t say that Chelsea didn’t deserve it.
Is Tuchel already one of the Chelsea’s best managers?
Despite the fact Di Matteo was sacked months after winning the Champions League with Chelsea, his achievements will live on in Chelsea history forever.
Tuchel has been in charge for only four months and yet his record as Chelsea manager is better than most that we have seen come through the revolving door at Stamford Bridge.
The impact that Tuchel has had since coming to Chelsea is up there with Jose Mourinho, yet Tuchel has managed to actually win a European trophy.
Tuchel does have a poor record with falling out with clubs and Chelsea have a poor record of falling out with managers, so it doesn’t look like a match made in heaven.
But after the game Tuchel looked so happy and it was great to see when Tuchel and Abramovich met for the very first time. Hopefully Tuchel will sign a long-term contract at Chelsea and keep building on this success.
It really is about time that Chelsea got a long-term manager and Tuchel is one of the best managers in the world. If the club can make this work then this could be the start of something great at Chelsea.
Let’s not forget about Frank Lampard
While Lampard was sacked by Chelsea four months ago, the club and the fans still need to thank him for the success that Chelsea have seen this season.
I think it goes without saying that if we had carried on with Frank this season then we would not have got top four, or got to the FA Cup final, or have won the Champions League.
But at the end of the day, Frank guided Chelsea through the Group stages in great fashion and put us in a good spot for the knock-outs.
Frank was also responsible for Chelsea’s amazing summer transfer window. The new additions to the Chelsea’s squad this season have made it easier for Tuchel to hit the ground running.
The likes of Ben Chilwell, Kai Havertz and Thiago Silva have shone under Thomas Tuchel. Werner has been getting better, but his failing are his own and nothing Tuchel can really do anything about it.
It was Frank who was able to bring in those players and also we must not forget the young talent that Frank brought in the fold which have also been a huge part of Tuchel’s success.
I was annoyed when Lampard was sacked, and I did think that he should have been given more time and it’s easy for me to say now that I am thankful that I was wrong.
I was forced to eat my words and hopefully Tuchel will continue to make those comments look foolish. This night was Tuchel’s night, and I was happy to witness his brilliance beat one of the greatest managers of all time on the biggest stage in world football.
April has been a great month for Chelsea. Not only did Chelsea progress into a FA Cup final, but after a brilliant 3-1 win over Real Madrid over two legs, Chelsea have made it through to their third Champions League final.
It’s not just been a good month in cup competitions, either. Since the humiliating defeat to West Brom, Chelsea have yet again gone unbeaten in the league and it looks like they have secured a place in the top four of the Premier League..
How on earth have Chelsea got to the Champions League final?
It’s a question that I have been asking myself since the final whistle blew at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday. It’s not like Chelsea have been terrible in the Champions League this season, we had a pretty easy time of it while Lampard was still in charge.
The group consisted of Stade Rennes, Sevilla, and Krasnodar. A group that, unsurprisingly, Chelsea topped without losing a single game.
Even when Frank was sacked and Tuchel came in, it looked as though the Champions League would be a tough road with Atletico Madrid in the round of 16. However, it was a breeze, Atletico didn’t look up for the fight and were beaten 3-0 on aggregate.
In the quarterfinals, Porto put up more of a fight and luckily for Chelsea, the game was over after the first leg, so a 1-0 defeat in the second leg didn’t matter.
The semi-final against Real was always going to be tough. Regardless of Madrid’s form or team, this is a club managed by Zidane, a serial winner. However, Tuchel and Chelsea played them off the park. I never expected that we would’ve dominated over both legs.
The fluidity in Chelsea’s defence and attack was world class and it denied Real Madrid any real chances to take control. Every time Chelsea went forward it looked like it could be a goal. If only Werner, Havertz and Mount could finish more chances, it could have been 4 or 5-1.
There is no doubt that Chelsea deserve to be in the Champions League final and Manchester City will be a fine opponent. While I don’t want to count my chickens too early, it’s a winnable game, but it’s going to be far from easy.
May 29th is going to be a rough day for me and I’m going to be a nervous wreck from the moment I wake up until the final whistle.
Even if Chelsea don’t win, I don’t think I can be disappointed. I never thought we would get this far in the Champions League for a few years at least, but here we are.
2012 repeat on the horizon?
It’s not just the Champions League final that Chelsea players and fans have to look forward to, but Chelsea will play Leicester City in the FA Cup final on the 15th May.
Chelsea are continuing the relatively new tradition of getting through to a domestic final in the years they get to the Champions League final. In 2008 ,Chelsea got to the League Cup final but lost to Spurs, of all teams.
In 2012 though, Chelsea got to the FA Cup final against Liverpool. Despite controversy regarding a disallowed goal for Andy Carroll, Chelsea won the game 2-1.
Roberto di Matteo had been brought in mid-way through the 2011-12 season and won us the FA Cup. This was before marching Chelsea past a Spanish side in the Champions League semi-finals with help from a misfiring striker. Sound familiar?
Winning the FA Cup would be great momentum for Chelsea in their pursuit of the top four as well as for the Champions League final.
Chelsea’s victory against Manchester City in the FA Cup semi-finals has a lot more weight to it now than it did a few weeks ago. On the day Tuchel set up his Chelsea side very well and I think City fans will agree that Pep got it all wrong.
City never looked to have much of a chance and Chelsea only needed a single goal, which sealed them their second consecutive FA Cup final.
While people may think that this final means more for Leicester, the FA Cup has always been a special competition for Chelsea.
Chelsea have won the FA Cup six times since 2000, plus a few more final appearances. The FA Cup is always a great trophy to win. For Tuchel, it will be his first shot at a trophy since becoming Chelsea manager, so he will be keen to win it.
Leicester are going to be no slouches and will try their very hardest to win it, and while I think it will be a close game, Chelsea’s ability to kill off games quickly will be tough for Leicester to get past.
What has Tuchel done right that Lampard got so wrong?
Firstly, Tuchel has gotten the players on his side. Lampard lost faith from players like Jorginho and Rudiger. He was playing stupid systems which made Werner obsolete and, let’s face it, Havertz is not a right winger.
Tuchel came in and got those players on his side and we have seen improvement from all of them. While Werner may still need to work on his finishing, he creates so many chances and goals that he is danger to opposition teams.
Havertz has come out of his shell in Tuchel’s false 9 system, and he has been bagging some great goals, especially against Fulham and Crystal Palace.
Tuchel has sealed up our defence, except for West Brom, of course. However, the three at the back system has been working a treat. It doesn’t matter which players are put in the three, because it’s such a fluid system.
Kante is now back at his best in the holding midfield role alongside Jorginho or Kovacic. Two players that are very much underrated in this Chelsea side.
The new energy in this team is the reason why Chelsea have a three-point buffer to West Ham in the league and why Chelsea are very much on the tail of Leicester, who sit in third.
This is what you would expect when you bring in someone who is as tactically sound as Tuchel is. While I was wanting Frank to be given more time at Chelsea, Tuchel has shown just how bad of a job Lampard was doing.
This Chelsea side have so much potential. It’s a young team and are still at the beginning of a long journey, but the fact that Tuchel has been able to achieve so much in so little time goes to show how good this Chelsea side are.
Now I don’t expect Chelsea to go on and win the quadruple next year, I don’t even think Chelsea will win the Premier League in the next couple of years.
But what Tuchel has managed to do with this team just goes to show that the future looks bright at Chelsea.
I’m writing this after the West Brom game, so if I seem a little angry, you might forgive me given how the game played out.
Usually, these pieces are written before the first game of the month, but this one is an exception, so I will be touching on the West Brom game at the end of the article.
Nevertheless, Chelsea still went unbeaten through March, but our position in the league hasn’t improved.
At the end of the month, we sat in 4th, closely followed by West Ham. We did make progress in the cups, however. Chelsea are now in the Quarterfinals of the Champions League and the Semi-finals of the FA Cup.
So, without any further delay, let’s get into the last month of action at Chelsea.
Chelsea rules Merseyside
I said at the start of March that if Chelsea beat Liverpool and Everton then our chances of top 4 could be guaranteed.
After two very good games, Chelsea took six points away from Merseyside.
But it was Mason Mount who scored a fantastic goal which would be the winner for Chelsea. Mason has really come into his element this season and is truly a fantastic player. I do hope that he is given a good opportunity at the Euros, because he’s been a star player at Chelsea this season, and also brilliant on international duty.
In the next game against Everton, we really saw Kai Havertz come into his element. He had a fantastic game. It’s been difficult for Kai coming into the Premier League, but finally we are seeing the player we paid £72 million for. His performances, not just for Chelsea, but also Germany have been incredibly impressive.
It was a big feat for Chelsea to come away with 6 points, and both games were a great watch. It was a shame that the next game against Leeds ended in a 0-0 draw, but you can’t have everything.
Can Chelsea get to the Champions League final?
When Chelsea were drawn against Atletico Madrid in the round of 16, I was very nervous. Atletico were top of La Liga and looking very strong. It would be a massive result if Chelsea were able to pull it off.
However, when Giroud got that wonder goal in the first leg, I knew we would go through. In the second leg, we were solid as a team and it was no shock that the second leg went in Chelsea’s favour.
The first goal came from Hakim Ziyech who has been impressing me lately in his new attacking midfielder role. He and Mason Mount have really started to gel, and their partnership is creating a lot more chances than what we saw in Tuchel’s early days as manager.
The nail in the coffin came from a 92nd minute goal from Emerson. Chelsea had done what I thought was impossible, but let’s face it, Atletico were never really in either game.
The draw for the Quarterfinals and Semi-finals really fill me with hope for our Champions League campaign. Next up is FC Porto, and despite the fact they knocked out Juventus, I believe we will beat them.
After that, things get trickier. If Chelsea are to get through to the Semi-finals, then we will face either Real Madrid or Liverpool. While Liverpool’s form hasn’t been great, their Champions League campaign has been very successful.
As for Real Madrid. Well, it’s Real Madrid. Regardless of how they are doing, they are always a very tough opponent, but I think we could take the challenge to them. This isn’t me being biased. The way Chelsea play under Tuchel is still evolving and getting better with time and could be enough to see us to get the final.
What went so wrong against West Brom?
It was a poor display up and down the pitch. Mendy refused to dive for a single shot. Silva got himself sent off within half an hour. Werner missed every chance going and overall, it was a painful game to watch.
I really don’t think much more could have gone wrong in that game. We were a goal up before the sending off and from there Chelsea broke down. Heads dropped across the team and West brom were allowed to run rampant.
This was the first loss under Thomas Tuchel, and it couldn’t have been worse timing. Chelsea are in a very close fight with West Ham, Liverpool, and a few others for a top 4 spot. We can’t afford results like this.
The 2021 Formula One season kicked off today with the first of three days of pre-season testing.
It was a windy day in Bahrain and conditions were making things tricky out on track for the drivers.
Despite the sandstorm during the afternoon session, it was Max Verstappen who was fastest on the opening day of testing.
While times are not entirely representative this early on, laps definitely do matter, and it was Red Bull who completed the most laps on the opening day.
It did feel like a day of two halves, mostly due to the strange weather in the afternoon, so let’s have a look at what happened during today’s sessions.
Teams wasted no time to get their installation laps completed. However, for Mercedes, it would be the only running they would do for most of the morning.
Mercedes had a gear shift issue on fire-up and were forced to change the gearbox. It took over two hours to get it changed which left Bottas with only 35 minutes of running.
This would also be cut short as Leclerc came to a stop with only 10 minutes to go to the lunch break. The circumstances of Leclerc’s stop was unclear, but it did bring out the red flag.
In the end Bottas only got 6 laps done.
It wasn’t just Mercedes who struggled for track time in the morning session, Haas were also hampered. Mick Schumacher had a nice early run but was pulled in as Haas wanted to change the gearbox.
Sebastian Vettel stalled his Aston Martin at the end of the pit-lane which brought an end to his session. Not a great way to end his run after getting a good number of laps done.
Williams were slow to get Nissany out on track, however, he got some meaningful running later on in the session.
For the cars actually out on track, the conditions were very windy, and it made it difficult for the drivers to navigate. Early on we saw Kimi Raikkonen wrestling with his Alfa Romeo as he fought against the conditions.
But Daniel Ricciardo managed to find some pace and set the fastest lap of the morning session while completing 45 laps.
The heavy wind had left the track very sandy when teams returned for the afternoon session.
Nikita Mazepin and Esteban Ocon were straight out, and it was clear to see that grip levels were low.
Some drivers took it a lot more cautious than others. When Lewis Hamilton eventually appeared onto the track, he was slipping and sliding coming out of near enough every corner.
He quickly came back into the pits to change his pedals.
Nikita Mazepin had a spin as well as Carlos Sainz. You can’t blame them, as the conditions were very tricky.
Eventually the sand cleared off the racing line and the drivers could put their foot down. Verstappen was stamping his mark and putting his Red Bull at the top of the timing sheets.
Not all drivers did tough out the sand storm. Lance Stroll was delayed getting some track time as the car developed a small electrical fault which meant he was out for half of the session.
As the sun went down and the lights came on, it was mostly plane sailing as drivers got laps on the board.
At the end of the session Red Bull, Alpine, AlphaTauri and Alfa Romeo all clocked in over 100 laps. A very solid day.
The same couldn’t be said for Mercedes who only managed 48 laps all day.
Who were the winners from day 1?
They had a very solid day with Verstappen finishing top of the time sheets and completed the most laps.
While the car looked shaky at the start of the day and that saw Max have a half spin coming out of Turn 2.
Max seemed to get to grips with that car by the end of the day and he was able to complete long runs with very few problems. It was definitely encouraging by Red Bull.
Tomorrow will see Sergio Perez take to the track in the car for the first time.
Red Bull will be hoping to replicate the success they have had today and take advantage of Mercedes’ issues.
Honourable mentions also go out to Alpine who had a very solid day as well as Alfa Romeo who looked very good out on track.
Who were the losers from day one?
It was cruel day for the reigning champions as a gearbox issue meant they were pit-lane bound for most of the morning session.
Once the car was back out on track, Bottas was only able to get 5 laps completed.
In the afternoon it took a while for Lewis to emerge from the garage. He found himself back in the pits in no time so the team could change the pedals.
He got back out with just over two hours remaining but was back in the pits within 15 minutes.
Hamilton could only complete 42 laps in the afternoon and ended the session in 10th place.
Far from the start the champions wanted.
Honourable mention also to Haas. Haas had to replace the gearbox in the morning, but the missed time was made up by Mazepin completing 69 laps in the afternoon.
Grid Talk Podcast
Want more content to preview the F1 2021 season?
Steph Wentworth hosted panellists Owain Medford, Steve Jackson and YouTuber Lucas Raycevik in Grid Talk’s review of the F1 2021 Car reveals:
So, testing is just around the corner now, and despite the fact the cars are almost the same as last year, there will be plenty of eyes on how the teams get on.
There are only three days of testing this year, so it’s more important than ever for teams to hit the ground running. There are new aerodynamic regulations for this year, so the cars so teams will want to get to grips with the new parts for 2021.
Teams will not want to miss a single day of testing, because it could have huge repercussions for the upcoming season. So, what can you expect from the teams in testing this year? That’s what I’m here to answer.
The reigning champions will of course be hoping that their car is still the fastest on the grid, despite the new regulations.
Mercedes were very secretive with the development that they did on their barge boards and floor during their car launch, so eyes will be on what they came up to tackle the new regulations. This team have always come up with ingenious innovations to tackle any regulation change, and I’m hoping that this year will be no different.
Mercedes did report that they were having issues with their new engine. With reliability being key over the next three days, the last thing they need is any engine trouble. That also goes for the three other teams running Mercedes engines.
Surely, he can’t do any worse than Gasly in his first test with the team!
The car is built around Max, which will make Perez’s job that bit harder, but as an experienced driver, I expect him to adapt well and hit the ground running.
Out of all the teams on the grid, the most pressure to get off to a good start is on McLaren. McLaren have changed the most on their chassis to accommodate the new Mercedes engine.
McLaren will be hoping to retain third in the championship, but they know it’s going to be a tough challenge.
Unlike Perez, Ricciardo has had some limited testing of the MCL35M in a shakedown test at Silverstone. So, while his experience may be limited, he does have some time in the new car. It will be interesting to see how Lando and Daniel compare right out the gate.
This test will also be Fernando Alonso’ first time in the car. He has been doing some private testing in the 2019 Renault, but it will be a big adjustment for Fernando.
While two years may not seem like a long time, things move fast in Formula One and it can be difficult to readjust to the new Formula. All eyes will be on Fernando during his first outing.
This test is going to be huge for Ferrari. After a very dismal year, the only way is up for the team in Scarlett red.
Mattia Binotto has stressed that Ferrari have taken leap with their power unit as well as their aerodynamic efficiency. Straight line speed plagued them last season and if they can make good on their promises then we could see a very competitive car.
Bahrain is a perfect track for us to see just how good these changes are. I can’t imagine that Ferrari will be looking to set the timing screen alight, but if they can get some good, consistent running then it could set them up very nicely.
Rather than looking forwards, Alfa Romeo will likely be looking over their shoulders during this test. It is an unknown at this point how the Williams or Haas will perform this season, and they will be big competition for the Italians.
All Alfa Romeo can do for now is make sure to get through all three days will no issues.
Haas have already said that they have given up on development of their 2021 car already. So, don’t expect it to be very quick.
Haas will be using this test mostly to get their drivers up to speed. While both Schumacher and M*****n have had experience in Formula one cars, they are yet to drive the new car.
The goal for both drivers will be to get as many miles driven as possible and pray that nothing goes wrong. Haas were hampered with crashes and spins last year. That could have been down to the two drivers they had in car, but it did them no favours.
Finally, it would make sense to have both drivers be in the car during testing, however that will not be the case. Test driver Roy Nissany will be in the car on the first day. Meaning Latifi and Russell will both get half a day less running than the other drivers.
So, it’s not long to go now until the 2021 Formula One season gets under way and I can’t wait. While I should stress that you should NOT read too much into testing, we will learn a lot about these cars over the next three days.
You might think that there is nothing that I could possibly complain about after Chelsea went unbeaten throughout February. While it has been a very good month under Tuchel, there are still some nagging issues that could hamper Chelsea’s progress for the rest of the season.
What has Tuchel done right so far?
I have to give credit where credit is due, Tuchel has done a good job so far. The football may not be the most exciting, however it has seen us go unbeaten in 10 games.
Chelsea’s defensive unit has been pretty solid, considering we’ve been without Thiago Silva for quite a few games. Chelsea were able to keep 5 clean sheets in February and honestly it feels like we have prime Jose Mourinho back in charge.
It’s this defensive resilience which saw Chelsea get a crucial away win against Atletico Madrid in the Champions League. While the odd mistake has led to a goal here and there, it’s nice to see Chelsea not conceding goal after goal every week.
The lack of goals is starting to become a real issue. When Chelsea attack it’s so frustrating with the amount of quality in our attack and midfield that we can’t score more goals.
Timo Werner did get a goal against Newcastle, but we shouldn’t be celebrating a £40 million striker getting his first goal in eight games. It’s not good enough.
With Abraham out injured, Giroud has had to fill in the void and does a very good job of it, but Giroud is a target man and we don’t create enough good chances for him. While his goal against Atletico was stupendous, we were very fortunate that it was an Atletico player who played the ball to him.
Most of the goals we scored this month have come from penalties. It’s like we’re turning into Manchester United. Both Jorginho and Mount have converted from the spot this month.
Jorginho scored decisive penalties against Spurs and Sheffield United, which saw Chelsea take 3 points from both games. Mount’s penalty against Southampton was enough to see us take a single point from the Saints.
The issue of scoring goals really raised it’s head during our most recent game against Manchester United. At no point did it look like Chelsea had a chance of getting a goal. The defensive display was solid as usual, but yet again, going forward was sloppy and rarely challenged the United defence.
Is the defensive mentality costing Chelsea goals?
Without a doubt.
The new system sees three at the back with two holding midfield as well as the two wing backs. That’s a lot of players committed to holding onto the ball and not really pushing forward.
This is putting a lot of pressure on the three attacking players to create all the chances. In the United game, Ziyech was lost and didn’t stamp any authority on the game. Most of the chances were coming through Mount and Giroud. This is not a great system for scoring goals.
Occasionally Chilwell and Reece James would push forward, but often they often wouldn’t push higher that the holding midfielders of Kante and Kovacic.
The system really needs to allow Chelsea to be more creative and push further up the pitch. Tuchel is known for his possession football and it’s proven to work. However, at PSG he had Kylian Mbappe and Neymar to carry the attack as they are incredibly creative. We don’t have that at Chelsea.
Werner is able to create chances, but his end product is often disappointing. Ziyech can do it also, but only when he is on top form. Mount can also do it, but he needs to the support of the players around him.
His link up with Hudson-Odoi has been great since Tuchel has come in. Hudson-Odoi really needs to be considered more in the starting XI.
Something does need to change because it’s starting to get boring.
Is March a make-or-break month for top 4?
After finding ourselves back into the top 4, Chelsea have slipped back into 5th place. Liverpool are mounting a big threat behind and so are Everton. West Ham are just above us in 4th, but it’s going to take a lot of fight to get into the top 4 and stay there.
Our next game is against Liverpool and it is imperative that we win. A win over Liverpool could see our campaign for top 4 really take off. With Leicester likely to start slipping with their injury issues, Tuchel needs to make sure Chelsea are there to take advantage.
After that, we face Everton and that’s going to be equally as difficult.
If we are able to come out with 6 points from these games then there is no doubt in my mind that Chelsea can really challenge for top 4. However, if we don’t, it’s going to be very tough. We’ll have to hope that we can get through in the Champions League.
If you want to see more from me make sure to check out View-from-the-crowd.com or search for ‘View from the Crowd’ on YouTube.
It wouldn’t be a season in the Abramovich era without a good ol’ manager sacking. It was Frank Lampard who was the latest in a very long line of managers who have lost their job at Chelsea in recent years. So, while I would love to spend time talking about how Chelsea played this month, this is a bit more important.
What went wrong for Lampard?
There was a lot of pressure on Frank’s back going into this season. After doing so well in his first season in charge, naturally any club would want him to improve the next season. Abramovich put a lot of money into the team this season and after spending £220 million in the summer transfer window, the expectation was that it would’ve converted into better results.
The start of the season looked a little shaky, but when Chelsea hit their stride in October and November, you could be forgiven for thinking that Chelsea had a chance of the Premier League title this year. But of course, in the old Chelsea way, we had one nagging issue. A striker who couldn’t score.
Despite the money spent, not all the players hit the ground running, most notable were Kai Havertz and Timo Werner. Combined they cost the club £112 million pounds, yet they have yet to really show their true potential.
With this issue and the fact that Pulisic and Ziyech have been injured, it made it near impossible for Frank decide what his best starting XI is. We have seen Giroud and Abraham come into the side, with Werner looking lost on the left wing. Sometime Havertz has played out on the right instead of Hudson-Odoi.
The midfield has also been a mismatch with players coming in and going out of the starting line-up all the time. This uncertainty over what is the best starting XI has caused results to dip and ultimately cost Frank his job.
Should Frank have been given more time?
When a lot of new players come into a team at the same time, it is natural for some to adjust quicker than others. It is also natural that a manager should be given time to adjust his set-up accordingly to accommodate all these players.
Frank wasn’t able to do that in the last four months and the board grew impatient as Chelsea started to drop down the table.
Frank was building something great at Chelsea. With him, we saw a huge influx of academy players come into the first team. It’s something that might not have happened under other managers. Also, with the players he has brought it, it was further contributing to the longevity of this squad.
There is no doubt that Chelsea’s squad is destined for great things and I do believe that Frank was close to completing the puzzle. However, the board stepped in and told him to put it away and go to bed.
How’s things been under Tuchel so far?
It’s hard to say as he has only been in charge for a week and, in that time, he’s managed two games, but there are certainly things of note already.
It’s clear that possession football is going to be the way forward under Tuchel. We saw immediately against Wolves that Chelsea were keen to hold onto the ball and pass it nicely between ourselves.
Now I won’t lie, but that game against Wolves was a very boring watch and not the hit the ground running performance that I wanted to see from a team with a new manager. However, I must accept that what we saw was just an early version of the football that is to come.
A few days later, Chelsea played Burnley and yet again it was possession football that dominated. However, unlike the Wolves game, Chelsea were a bit more eager to get the ball forward.
Mason Mount was left out of the Wolves game and return with a bang against Burnley. Him and Callum Hudson-Odoi were linking up very nicely and they were both able to create a lot of opportunities. Opportunities that were irritatingly missed by Timo Werner.
In the end it was two defenders that won the game. Azpilicueta showed his goal scoring prowess by bagging one just before half-time, while Marcos Alonso stunned us all with a sensational volley which secured Tuchel’s first win in charge.
What next under Tuchel?
I am looking forward to seeing what Tuchel can do with this team in the last five months of the season. There is no doubt that it is going to be tough to get Chelsea in the top four, yet alone reignite any hopes of a title challenge.
Whether fans like it or not, this is the start of a new era at Chelsea and we will just have to wait and see what it brings.
Like I have already said, this squad is incredible, but the main pressure on Tuchel is for him to find a system that allows Werner and Havertz to thrive and start making a real contribution to the team. We all know what they are capable of and hopefully Tuchel can be the manager to bring them back to their best.
Chelsea’s next game is against Tottenham, and it is the first real test for Tuchel as the new Chelsea manager. Spurs have be in a slump at the moment, but Jose will always want to get one up over his old club.
I expect the same system of 3 at the back and two holding midfielders to continue, but I am interested to see if he will change anything to the attack after it got no goals in the last two games. With Jose likely to sit back and defend in this game, it’s more important than ever for Chelsea’s attack to be at it’s best.
If you want to see more from me, then check out View-from-the-crowd.com or search for ‘View from the crowd’ on YouTube.
It’s that time of the year once again for us British NFL fans to slog through the night to watch the Super Bowl. Super Bowl LV is less than a week away now and after 17 game weeks and 3 weeks of play-offs, we have just two teams remaining, the Kansas City Chiefs and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
I’ve not been a long-term NFL fan, however for the last six years I have always made sure to tune in for the Super Bowl. It is truly a sporting event like no other, and while some sceptics may not enjoy the sport, no one can deny that they like to put on a show.
So, let’s get into the two teams competing this year.
Kansas City Chiefs
The reigning champions are returning to the Super Bowl, but there are no signs that there is any complacency in the team. Kansas cruised to a 14-2 record in the regular season which saw them get a first-round bye in the play-offs.
They saw off the Cleveland Browns despite a late scare to Quarter back Patrick Mahomes. Mahomes was a back and fit for the AFC championship final against the Buffalo Bills, who were no match the might of the Chiefs who secured their second AFC title in a row.
This is the Chiefs fourth ever Super Bowl history and most of this squad will be used to it, having played in it last year. So, expect a confident Kansas team coming into this game.
Who to look out for?
Firstly, you have to look at the Quarter Back, Patrick Mahomes. Even when the Chiefs look down and out, you can always count on Mahomes to pull something out the bag and turn the game around.
Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce. The dynamic duo of the Chiefs’ offence. They have 26 touchdowns between them and well over 1700 receiving yards as well. That’s truly incredible. Expect to see them both used often during the game.
Finally, you can’t ignore the defence and Tyrann Mathieu is definitely one to look for. He’s not shy to get some tackles in and he also has the most interceptions in the Chiefs’ defence so Brady will want to avoid him.
This is a big year for Patrick Mahomes as he not only faces one of the greatest NFL players ever, but also, he will be looking to become the youngest ever Quarter Back to win multiple Super Bowls.
The Chiefs have all the pressure on their backs as they go in as strong favourites, and if last year’s Super Bowl is anything to go by, then we should expect the Chiefs to be able to deal with it. To be 20-10 down going into the fourth quarter and still turn it around to win 31-20 is an incredible feat. Will we see a repeat of it this year?
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
For the first time ever in Super Bowl history, a team playing in the Super Bowl will be in their own stadium. This year the Super Bowl will be played at Tampa’s home stadium, the Raymond James stadium.
This is the second ever Super Bowl that Tampa have ever got to in their franchise history. Their first appearance was 18 years ago, and Buc fans will be hoping that they win their second Super Bowl next Sunday and maintain their 100%-win rate in Super Bowls.
Tampa were not people’s choice to win the NFC championship and make it to the Super Bowl. It looked as though the Green Bay packers would be the ones to make it all the way, however Tampa stunned everyone with some great defensive plays to secure victory.
Who to look out for?
Who else but Tom Brady? The man may as well be the encapsulation of the Super Bowl. Brady is chasing his 7th Super Bowl title and during this season he has been on top form after a lacklustre time in his final year with the Patriots.
Brady has a great offense alongside him with the likes of Antonio Brown, Rob Gronkowski, Mike Evans, or Chris Godwin. All of which are more than capable to take on the might of the Chiefs’ defence. With 31 touchdowns between them, they could be a handful.
You also have to look out for key players in their defence which got them here in the first place. Devin White has made a total of 140 tackles and 9 sacks this season which is incredibly impressive.
This game will be a true test of how good the Bucs defence really is. We saw it save them from a late attack from the Packers in the Championship final.
Tampa have taken us all by surprise by getting this far and the real question is now, can they go a little further? They are the underdogs going into this game and it’s been a few years since we’ve had a good Super Bowl upset.
If any man is to be able to do it then you look no further than Tom Brady. He is at home in this game and no matter what, we always see the best of him in the Super Bowl.
Who will win?
Well, I think I would be a fool if I didn’t think that the Kansas City Chiefs will win and retain their crown.
Kansas have cruised to the Super Bowl this year and it has not looked for a single second like they can be bested. Even during the regular season, Tampa Bay were blown away like cotton wool by Kansas.
While it was a good showing from the Chiefs back in November, they need to make sure that they don’t get complacent because we have seen numerous times this season, Tampa Bay can surprise and shock us.
Kansas to win, but Brady will make it interesting.
I have often seen Formula One called the most niche mainstream sport in the world. A lot of people know of Formula One or Lewis Hamilton, but beyond that, the world of F1 can seem very complex and dull to your average sports fan.
Netflix have done a great job with their ‘Drive to Survive’ series, allowing non-F1 fans a glimpse into the chaotic world of F1 politics and behind the scenes drama. Despite the success of it, is it enough for someone to then pay to upgrade their television package for, let’s face it, pretty mediocre racing? I don’t think so.
Where is F1 available for free?
At the time of writing, there are only 9 countries in the world where you can watch Formula One for free on satellite TV or streaming. Those are Albania, Australia (Aussie GP only), Austria, Brazil, China, Russia, Slovenia, United Kingdom (British GP only) and Venezuela.
Considering that Formula One has an audience of over 100 million people on an average weekend, it’s really surprising how few countries have all 23 races in 2021 for free. In the UK, you have two options to watch Formula 1 on TV.
You can either watch all the race highlights on Channel 4, with the exception of the British Grand Prix which you are able to watch live, that includes all Free Practice sessions and qualifying.
The other option is to buy Sky Sports and then have access to every session of every Grand Prix. Naturally, this is quite pricey. After having a look around the Sky website, the cheapest package I could find that includes Sky Sports F1 was £39 a month. However, that is only for 18 months before the price jumps up to £50 a month. Extortion. Of course, you can just listen to it on the radio for free which seems like best option out of all these.
This extortionate pricing is not just in the UK, but more recently German broadcaster RTL lost its rights to show live F1, as Sky now has complete control until 2024 at least.
How has this change affected viewing figures?
There is no doubt that F1 viewership has risen year on year since Liberty Media has take over. This is has been because Formula One has expanded it’s audience with better social media coverage and, of course, the ‘Drive to Survive’ series has been able to bring more people in, but it could be so much more.
In 2019, Formula 1 had an average of 91.5m people watching any given Grand Prix with the Italian Grand Prix being the most watched with 112m.
If we compare that to just football for now, El Classico gets around 75m viewers on average, the 2019 Champions League final got around 180m viewers, and the average World Cup game in 2018 had 191 million viewers. F1 is a global sport and should be able to compete with other global sporting events.
In the UK alone, there was 3.5m tuning in for the 2020 British Grand Prix. This was by far the most-watched race of 2020, unsurprising considering it is free-to-air. This shows though that their is an appetite for Formula 1 and that people are more willing to watch it’s more readily available.
While it may seem simple to increase viewership by making it more readily available to watch, unfortunately, there is one big problem. The racing is pretty dull. That is the stark reality of the current era of Formula 1.
If someone was to tuned in for their first Grand Prix and it be in Abu Dhabi or Russia, I’m sure they won’t be very impressed. Even if they tuned in for the spectacle of the Monaco Grand Prix, there is no guarantee that they will be dazzled, given how boring the racing usually is there.
2020 was the perfect time to make F1 free-to-air
The 2020 season was one of the best seasons of Formula 1 we have seen in a very long time. Despite the fact there was no real title battle, so many of the races this year were memorable. Lando’s last lap in Austria to George’s near miss in Sakhir, and everything in between. Last season could have been the show piece for Formula 1.
While the world was in turmoil and many sports were yet to start, Formula One was going and there was a huge audience out there craving sports.
I think F1 and broadcasters made a big error by not making F1 more available either by encouraging more broadcasters to show more races for free or allowing some races to be free on F1 TV.
F1 TV is a brilliant tool that Formula One can use and does use to expand audiences. It’s an affordable streaming service, which allows people in some countries to watch live Formula One. However, it’s not available in any of Formula One’s biggest markets. So, what’s the point? If you’re not going to allow F1’s biggest fans to get full access to it, then it becomes pointless.
Now, we all know Formula One loves money and to keep the prices of TV contracts going up they can’t start competition with their own rivals. Because of that, it’s unlikely we’ll ever see F1 TV really become a good alternative way of watching Formula One.
Liberty Media and FOM need to realise that continuing to put F1 behind a paywall will slow the progress in growing the sport. If the racing will be closer and more exciting from 2022, then people are going to miss out on exciting racing that attracts people to the sport.
I love Formula One and I really wish I wouldn’t be the only one in most social situations that is interested in Formula One. Formula One is a mainstream sport, and it needs to start acting like it. It needs to make the most of the closer racing we hope to get from 2022 as a way to market the sport and get more people watching regularly. 2021 needs to be the year in which Formula One really expands. Some countries will still limit fans attending so it’s important that Formula One makes itself widely available during these times.