Author Archives: Louis Edwards

Chelsea Column: what can we expect from the Blues in 2022?

In these articles, I tend to look back on the past month and comment. However, as December was an awful to month to witness as a Chelsea fan, I thought I will skip it and look ahead to what I want to see in 2022.

There is a lot to talk about in terms of where the club is at the moment as well as where it looks like it might be going.

So, with the blinded optimism that the new year brings, let’s look into 2022 and what the new year could bring for Chelsea football club.

We need to talk about Lukaku

The last couple of weeks have been a strange one with the club and most of it refers to an interview Romelu Lukaku’s interview with Sky Italy.

I’m sure you’ll be aware what was said, and in any circumstance, a player speaking out against the manager within 5 months of joining is never a good sign.

It came at a terrible time as well. There has been a lot of pressure on Tuchel over the last couple of the months, but the last thing we needed was a coup in the dressing room.

Lukaku hasn’t been good enough this season and couple that with injuries and Covid, he’s not had much playing time. He can’t blame that on Tuchel and his system, because when I watch Lukaku, he doesn’t get involved enough.

Also, with the injuries and Covid-positive players, Tuchel has been forced to try new things and he is only going to choose those players that have been doing the best out on the pitch and that isn’t Lukaku.

Granted, Lukaku did get a goal on his return to the team against Villa but watching him against Spurs was uninspiring and I don’t think he would have made a difference against Liverpool.

I hope these “clear the air talks” with Tuchel does mean we will see a better Lukaku and that it can be a morale boost to the entire team.

I don’t want to see Tuchel sacked because a player who got too big for his boots decided he was the big dog at Chelsea because he was their most expensive signing and wanted to manager sacked because he wasn’t happy.

It’s January, who’s in and out?

I don’t expect any Chelsea players to leave this January, but there are still a few futures to decide upon over the next month.

Antonio Rudiger, Cesar Azpilicueta and Andreas Christensen are all out of contract at the end of the season and seem to be looking for the door.

Rudiger has already made up his mind and it looks as though he will be going to Real Madrid in the Summer as a free agent. Chelsea have been trying to get him to sign a new contract for months, but it’s clear from both sides that the wage demands will not be met.

As for Azpilicueta, it would appear that Barcelona may be the destination for the Spaniard. I have faith that Chelsea will try more proactively to keep him at the club. He is the club captain and given how versatile he is at the back, we need him.

Finally, Andreas Christensen. Let’s face it, he is a good player, but realistically no club better than Chelsea are going to want him. I feel as though he has seen the Rudiger situation and wanted to cash in on a bigger contract.

This does leave a big defensive problem at Chelsea if these three do decide to leave. It means our only centre backs are an aging Thiago Silva, and a young paring of Trevor Chalobah and Malang Sarr.

This leaves Chelsea with two options. Bend to the wage demands or spend big now or in January to get the likes of Matthias De Ligt and Joules Kounde into the club.

But there is one thing that Chelsea need to do immediately.

We desperately need a left back or left wing-back. Watching Marcos Alonso is like having acid in your eyes. His lack of defensive work-rate is painful to watch.

Lucas Digne has become available from Everton, but I think there may be some better options out there. None come to mind, but I’m sure they’re there.

What can Chelsea achieve this season?

I think it’s pretty clear that the optimism I had a few months ago about Chelsea’s chances of winning the Premier League have now gone.

It’s firmly in City’s hands as it stands, and I don’t think anything Liverpool or Chelsea do will change that.

So now it’s time to see what Chelsea can still achieve and realistically win this season.

Chelsea got a favourable draw against Lille in the Champions League which is winnable for Chelsea. I would love another run in the Champions League and getting through this round will be crucial.

Chelsea are still in both domestic cups (this is written before the Chesterfield game in the FA Cup so hopefully I don’t have to swallow my words here).

After a 2-0 first leg win over Tottenham in the Carabao Cup, Chelsea look in a strong place to get to their first Caraboa Cup since 2019. Once Covid is battled with the Liverpool squad, we will see who Chelsea’s opponent could be between them and Arsenal.

A trophy will be crucial for Tuchel if he wants to be in a job for next season at Chelsea. Unfortunately, winning the Champions League isn’t going to be enough if Chelsea don’t win anything this season.

You only have to look at the likes of Roberto Di Matteo or Antonio Conte as managers who got sacked not long after great success at Chelsea.

All I want is top four and a trophy. It may not sound like much coming from the reigning European Champions, but given that the league is out of reach, I will take what I can get at this point.

Given the strength of this squad, a domestic trophy is well within reach. A good run in the Champions League shouldn’t be difficult with this squad.

2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – FP1 & FP2 report – Hamilton fastest, but games are at play

We’re here, the final Friday practice sessions of the 2021 season and boy do they mean a lot.

The Yas Marina track has gone under some reconstruction over the last 12 months and many of the slow 90-degree corners have been taken away to allow for closer racing.

Also, two new hairpins have been installed to help promote overtaking.

For the final time in 2021, let’s get into the Friday action!

FP1

With the new track layout, drivers were eager to hop out onto the track and get to grips with it.

We got to see immediately just how quick this new Yas Marina track is. Without the slow and unnecessary chicanes and the new profile of the final sector, drivers were going 11 seconds faster than last year.

The midfield teams look like they are going to be in a tight battle once again. We’ve seen how chaotic they have been in both Qatar and Jeddah.

Alpha Tauri were looking solid once again in Free Practice, but we have yet to see it materialise in the race so it’s difficult to gauge if this early pace will pay off.

They were forever closely followed by the Alpines who have been very impressive in the last two races and look to continue this great run of form that we are seeing from them as they look to confirm 5th in the constructors championship.

McLaren weren’t pushing too hard as they stuck to their programme as they often do on a Friday, but they were showcasing their special livery for this weekend which was looking stunning out on track.

It did appear from early on that Lando Norris has the pace over Daniel Ricciardo. Norris would need that pace as he will be fighting with both Ferrari drivers for 5th in the driver’s championship.

But by the end of the session, it was Max Verstappen who topped the first practice session of the weekend ahead of Valtteri Bottas and then Lewis Hamilton in 3rd place.

While it may seem Red Bull have an edge, tricks are being played by both teams and we won’t see where they are until Saturday evening.

FP2

The sun was setting over Yas Marina as the drivers started to push the times as they did some qualifying runs.

Lewis Hamilton was the first of the title challengers to cross the line on a set of the Medium tyres and put it fastest.

When Max put in his lap, he could only go second but then had his lap time deleted for track limits.

Valtteri Bottas was also pushing his Mercedes to the max and hit the Armco barrier for good measure. The rear stepped out through turn 14 and tapped the barrier with his rear tyre, however he was lucky to sustain no damage.

Nicholas Latifi was not able to avoid damage however when he lost the rear of his car through turn 13 and went backwards into the wall. He kept the car going but would have to pit for a new rear wing.

The drivers then made the switch the soft tyres for their second qualifying runs as we got to ride on board with Fernando Alonso in his visor and got to see him set a very impressive time before it was deleted.

A weird game of cat and mouse was being played between Red Bull and Mercedes as they didn’t look to want to show their hands too early.

Both Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton were towards the top of the timing sheets, but they weren’t the fastest.

That accolade went to the Alpines who were dictating the pace throughout the middle of the session and, until Lewis Hamilton pipped him, it was Esteban Ocon who was topping the timing sheets.

Valtteri Bottas was going fast but seemed to be struggling with the car. He had a huge lock-up going into the fast right handers in the final sector and was overall 4 tenths off Lewis Hamilton’s fastest time and also slower than Esteban Ocon.

Red Bull could only manage 4th and 5th with Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez respectively.

Just as the chequered flag dropped on FP2, Kimi Raikkonen was in the barrier after a hefty shunt at turn 14. Not the way he would have wanted to end his final Friday practice session.

It all comes down to this

Plenty of games have been played between Red Bull and Mercedes throughout both sessions today and there are going to be plenty more as the weekend unfolds.

The amount of pressure on the shoulders of Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen is going to be immense and so far both drivers have looked very calm and collected on track.

You may see how both drivers have performed so far and see that Lewis Hamilton looks to have the edge, and you could be correct, but I believe that we haven’t seen the true pace of the Red Bull so far.

Max Verstappen didn’t set anywhere near a representative fast lap time in FP2 so that 6 and a half tenths gap between Lewis Hamilton and the Dutchman is not the true gap between them.

We will have to wait until tomorrow to see where the true pace lies on this track and I for one can’t wait to see just how close this battle is going to be.

Bring on this title fight!

FP1 Classification

FP2 Classification

Chelsea Column: A slump in form cost blues top spot

From four points clear at the top to two points off City down in third place. November hasn’t been a kind month for Chelsea and possibly the worst run of results we have seen in Tuchel’s first year in charge.

Is there any need to hit the panic button? Maybe. However, things may not be as bleak as things look going into the very busy December schedule.

Let’s have a look at the last month at Chelsea.

Have Chelsea already peaked this season?

It was at this point last season that things started to go wrong for Frank Lampard, and we all know how that ended.

Now, I’m not suggesting that Thomas Tuchel has started down the road to a sacking, but something needs to change in his tactics because Chelsea have looked off the ball all month.

This season was always going to be a tight battle with Man City and Liverpool for the title and dropping seven points in a month is not the form Chelsea require to compete.

Looking back on the fixtures, they weren’t the most difficult run of games that Chelsea have come across this season.

The 1-1 draw to Burnley wasn’t amazing, but Burnley has always been a tough game for Chelsea. A win against Leicester was nice. A draw to United was expected given Chelsea’s record, but the way Chelsea played was poor.

The win against Watford was a dreadful performance and I was shocked that we managed to win that game. Finally, a poor performance and some good luck from West Ham saw them beat Chelsea 3-2.

That loss to West Ham really bugged me. It was the first time that Chelsea have conceded more than 1 goal in a game in all competitions this season. Chelsea aren’t good at scoring goals and watching Chelsea attack at times is like pulling teeth.

Tuchel’s decision to start Ziyech, Hudson-Odoi and Werner against Manchester United was one of the most painful performances I’ve ever seen from a Chelsea attack.

Not one of them could score if their lives depended on it. We relied on a Jorginho penalty to save us (more on him later).

We need to start scoring goals if we wish to get back in this title race.

Is Chelsea’s midfield good enough?

Chelsea have some of the best midfield options in the Premier League, however with Tuchel’s formations and tactics, it seriously impacts Chelsea’s selection.

With Kante out because of injury most of the season, the responsibility falls to Jorginho to fill in that role. Which he can’t.

Kovacic has also been out this month and Chelsea have dearly missed his passing ability and while Ruben Loftus-Cheek has tried his best to fill in that other holding midfielder role, he’s just not who we need right now.

Tuchel has tried to bring Saul Niguez into the team over the last month, but I honestly wish he would get shipped back to Atletico Madrid. He is dire.

The reason why we have seen the full backs take on such a major role at Chelsea this season is because our holding midfield has been so poor that they have to make up for it.

Now that Ben Chilwell is out, we have to play Alonso or Azpilicueta as a wing-back which is not always the best. Azpilicueta is a brilliant defender, but he doesn’t have the legs to play as a wing-back.

He’s a better option than Marcos Alonso whose defensive work rate leaves a lot to be desired.

We need all the player in the holding midfield to step up. There is only so much the likes of Mount or Pulisic can do up front without the help from the holding midfield behind providing some assists.

My hope is that Kante is fit soon, and he can bring some energy back to the midfield.

Is Jorginho the third best player in the world?

No.

He’s not even the third best player at Chelsea.

The Balon D’Or is a load of rubbish. Next.

Is there any positives to take away from Chelsea this month?

The champions League is going very well. Easy pickings against both Malmo and Juventus means that Chelsea are back into the knockout rounds of the competition.

It’s already better than our last Champions League defence.

The 4-0 over Juventus did feel like a real high point of this season. After being beaten in Turin after a sloppy piece of defending, it was great to bring them to London and beat them so convincingly.

While the league may not be going in the right direction, I think Chelsea still remain to be a contender in this year’s Champions League and I hope that we can challenge again.

I’m definitely not saying that we are going to go back-to-back, but I would like to hope that we can get far into the competition. I’d like Chelsea to be more than cannon fodder in the round of 16 like we usually are.

If Chelsea end up not winning the league then Tuchel will need a major trophy if he hopes to keep his job.

The expectations on his shoulders are now so much more than what it was when he joined Chelsea last February. Not to mention just how fickle the Chelsea board are with managers regardless of their Champions League prowess. Just look at Di Matteo.

Chelsea just need to up their game. The league is only going to get tougher. Liverpool look unstoppable, City are on fire. Not only that, United have been given a new lease of life and Arsenal have learnt how to play football again.

Chelsea can still win the league, but not playing how we are at this point in time.

2021 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix: FP1 & FP2 report – Hamilton is fastest as Leclerc stops the show early

Formula 1 cars took to the Jeddah street circuit for the first time as the sun was setting over the red sea. Formula 2 had gone out earlier in the day, so the track wasn’t as dusty as Qatar, but the track was still green, and drivers would have to be careful not to push too hard.

Max Verstappen has a chance this weekend to win his first world championship, so getting to know the track and get up to speed would be crucial. The same goes for Lewis Hamilton who must finish in the top 6 to stay in the championship fight.

Let’s get straight into the Friday action!

FP1

Some drivers were taking their time to get to know the new track, but Max Verstappen was having none of it and was pushing from the off. He set the initial pace on the hard tyres before making the switch to the softs.

He was exploring the limits as he kicked up a lot of sparks as he hit an exit kerb in the final sector. While it was spectacular, he was back into the pit not long after with a mechanic looking at his right rear. Nothing was damaged and he continued on.

The narrow nature of the track was proving to be a problem for some drivers. Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas both had to abort fast laps as they encountered traffic.

With many of the bends being blind due to the walls, we are going to see much more of this as we get to qualifying.

Early on it looked like the McLaren was very comfortable around this new track. Lando Norris was setting very solid times on the hard tyres. Daniel Ricciardo was also looking settled through the session, but as the track rubbered in Ferrari looked to be on top again.

As the session went on, the track cooled and got closer to representative conditions, the drivers were looking to push more. Max Verstappen had a moment with an Alpine at Turn 1 and then later he had another moment through one of the fast chicanes.

Despite no one having driven this track before, no one hit the wall in their first excursion. FP2 may have another answer.

But when the chequered flag dropped, it was Lewis Hamilton who topped the session, followed by Max Verstappen. Valtteri Bottas was third.

FP2

FP2 time. Between the sessions was F2 qualifying so the track had rubbered up and cooled down to more ideal conditions for the drivers to get to grips with the new track.

The medium tyres were proving to be a bit tricky for many drivers. Getting temperature into them was difficult in the cooler conditions. Valtteri Bottas was struggling with rear grip through Turns 1 and 2. Fernando Alonso also locked up into turn 1 and was forced to cut across the run off.

Just like FP1, Max Verstappen set the early pace, but it was both Ferraris who also shot out of the gates on the Medium tyres.

Yuki Tsunoda was flying on the hard tyres as the track continued to improve and set the fastest lap, but it was taken away within seconds by Max Verstappen on the Medium tyres.

Much of the session was the drivers testing the limits of the track and pushing the limits of the kerbs to see what they could get away with.

The design of the kerbs at this track makes it very easy to beach the car on them so going over them too much will be a problem for the drivers.

The first yellow flag came at the end of FP2 as Nikita Mazepin went for a spin on the exit of turn 2 which impeded Lewis Hamilton who was going about his business..

Traffic was becoming a big problem for all of the drivers. The narrowness and the fact many of the corners are blind, makes it very hard for drivers to judge where to get out of the way. We saw some very close moments between Lewis Hamilton and cars on slow laps.

This didn’t stop Lewis Hamilton going fastest on the Medium tyres followed by Valtteri Bottas. Pierre Gasly put in a great lap in third with Max only 4th.

The session was ultimately red flag when Charles Leclerc had a very big crash at turn 22. He was but and walking soon after. He lost the rear as he entered the corner and went straight into the barrier. It will be a big job for Ferrari to get the car ready for qualifying.

Who will shine under the Arabian Lights?

This is crunch time for Red Bull and Mercedes and no mistakes can be made. It’s going to be tricky when the wall is only a few inches away from the track. There is truly no room for error.

The fast nature of the track has been working well for Mercedes so far, but given how twisty the first sector is, it could be the place where Red Bull is able to claw back some time on Mercedes.

This is going to be a very tight battle between these two teams as we reach the conclusion of this amazing season.

Behind the front runners, the mid pack look so tight and it’s a dice roll to see which team is going to be on top.

At time, the Alpine, Alpha Tauri, McLaren or Ferrari have been very fast and it’s very reminiscent of what we saw in Qatar. This is going to make Qualifying very interesting tomorrow and I reckon we will see some shock Q2 exits.

Traffic is going to be an issue to contend with as well in Qualifying so it could get very tasty.

FP1 Classification

FP2 Classification

2021 Qatar Grand Prix: FP1 & FP2 report: Bottas tops FP2, but Lewis stuck behind Verstappen.

F1 arrives in Qatar for the very first time and Friday practice was, for many of the drivers, their first look at the track. This track has been used for MotoGP for many years, so it would be interesting to see how the F1 cars get on.

With three races left, the tension has really ramped up in the title fight between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen. Today’s session would give us an insight if Mercedes could have another dominant weekend.

Let’s get straight in Friday Practice!

FP1

It took a while for the drivers to finally get to grips with the new track, but no matter how much preparations the drivers do, there will always be those who push the limits a bit too hard and get punished for it.

The two Haas drivers were the first to start pushing the track limits as Mazepin went wide at turn 4 and kicked up a lot of dust. Schumacher pushed the limits a bit too much and found himself having a trip through the gravel at the end of the session.

Plenty of drivers were kicking up dust onto the track and the kerbs were also providing a spectacular show. George Russell ran wide and sparks were literally flying, I’m sure Williams would have a look at the floor after that.

McLaren would have definitely looked as Norris ran wide and a piece a bodywork flew off the car as he went over the kerbs.

As the session went on, the time were tumbling as the dust clears and the track rubbered in. But, it was Max Verstappen who was looking comfortable at the top of the timing sheets.

Lance Stroll’s session ended prematurely as he suffered a brake by wire problem which ruled him out of the session.

Problems then hit Lando Norris as he was crawling down the pit-lane. It appeared as though he was having some engine issues. The replays showed him riding the kerbs very aggressively again which seemed to have caused the issue. Lando was able to roll his car down the pit-lane to the garage and got back out on track later in the session.

Lewis Hamilton then looked to have an issue with his front wing as the Mercedes mechanics were having a very close look at the problem.

When the session ended, it was Max Verstappen who topped the timing sheets followed by Pierre Gasly.

FP2

We were now under the lights in Qatar as the drivers took to the track for Free Practice 2.

The stewards had taken a very laisse-faire attitude to track limits in FP1 as they looked to see where the drivers were gaining an advantage. The stewards had decided that they were going to use the purple and white kerbs as the track limits.

There would be an absence from this session as Nikita Mazepin required a brand new chassis after the old one was damaged during FP1.

It was an immediate battle between Red Bull and Mercedes as all four drivers topped the timing sheets as one point as they explored the track on the Medium tyres. But, it was Valterri Bottas who was looking comfortably quickest at the top.

The kerbs were still proving to be troubling for a few drivers. Lance Stroll who was having problems in FP1 had a moment over the kerbs and so did Antonio Giovinazzi. We saw a huge piece of bodywork fly off the back of the Alfa Romeo.

Max Verstappen was trying his hardest to wrestle his Red Bull closer to Valterri Bottas, but he couldn’t quite do it. He was losing time in all sectors as his Red Bull looked to be struggling to find the right balance.

As the cars ditched their quick runs and settled into their long runs, some drivers were being plagued by traffic issues. Sebastian Vettel ran into traffic twice in one lap as he was held up by both Lewis Hamilton and Sergio Perez.

For others, the dust was still roving to be a bit of a problem. Lewis Hamilton went straight on at turn1 and kicked up plenty of dust as he re-joined the track.

Charles Leclerc dipped a wheel on the AstroTurf which dragged him into the gravel trap. He was fortunate not to get bogged down and re-joined the track.

But at the end of the session it was Valtteri Bottas who was fastest followed by Pierre Gasly and then Max Verstappen.

Bahrain 2.0 for Tsunoda?

We have slowly seen Yuki Tsunoda ditch his demons and start to be more competitive, but we have yet to see a performance that rivals is first race in Bahrain all the way back in April.

However, Yuki Tsunoda has been looking very competitive so far this weekend. He has been a lot closer to Pierre Gasly this weekend and been generally competitive in the midfield.

AlphaTauri are currently in a tight battle with Alpine for 5th in the Constructor’s championship and while Pierre Gasly has been doing a lot of the heavy lifting for AlphaTauri this season, Yuki Tsunoda will have to start pulling his weight if he hopes to aid his team to 5th.

If there is a track that could be good for Yuki Tsunoda, it does look as though the Losail track could be a good fit for him.

Pierre Gasly has been looking phenomenally quick so far, finishing 2nd in FP1 and FP2. It will be quite the achievement if he can be faster than both Red Bulls this weekend, but certainly he could be up there.

Time will tell for AlphaTauri this weekend, but pace from today looks very promising.

FP1 Classification

FP2 Classification

Chelsea Column: Youth and Shrewd signings key to Blues’ success

Another unbeaten month under Thomas Tuchel and Chelsea top the Premier League table. Things may have not been perfect at Stamford Bridge over the last month, but fate keeps swinging their way.

October was a very busy month for Chelsea. They competed in all competitions and then had an international break to add to matters as well, but it was still a great month for the blues.

No Timo? No Romelu? No Problem.

It wasn’t just Lukaku or Werner who were absent from the team for parts of this month, but many players were forced to miss a few games.

Going into the final games of the month, Mount, Kovacic, and Pulisic were all also ruled out of contention. However, this had no impact on Chelsea’s free flowing style of play.

Actually, not having a recognised striker on the pitch wasn’t too dissimilar than having one on the pitch. Lukaku didn’t get a single goal in October, which was not helped by his absence, but still the Chelsea curse may be getting to him as well.

Werner on the other hand was able to bag himself a goal against Southampton. After that though, he hasn’t done too much before his injury.

The great thing about Chelsea this season is that the squad depth is incredible, and we have some of the best goal scorers all over the pitch so playing without a striker is not the end of the world.

Ben Chilwell and Reece James have been on fire as they have been netting goals left, right and centre this month.

Chilwell’s stunning volley was enough to beat a very tricky Brentford side. He didn’t stop there as he got another goal in Chelsea’s 7-0 thrashing of Norwich.

Mason Mount also stepped up out of the fog to get a hat-trick against Norwich.

Chelsea know no bounds on where goals can come from and currently we still don’t know how long Werner and Lukaku are going to be out. But no matter how long they are out, I’m still confident Chelsea will be able to score goals.

Can we talk about the Chelsea youth system?

I may be going out on a bit of a limb here, but I honestly think the Chelsea youth system (despite it’s many and quite overt flaws) is one of the best in world.

Since Lampard came in two years ago, we have really seen this explosion of incredibly talented youth players come to the forefront of Chelsea’s squad.

Trevor Chalobah, Reece James, Mason Mount, Andreas Christiansen, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Ruben Loftus-Cheek.

Everyone of these players is a product of the Chelsea youth development and are all currently playing regular first team football for Chelsea. I don’t think it would be outrageous to say that if they were all to feature in the starting XI, Chelsea fans would not blink an eye.

Out of all of those players, one is rising to super stardom at the moment and that is Reece James. Despite possibly falling out of favour with Tuchel towards the end of last season, with Azpilicueta favoured on the right, he has come back with a bang.

He scored an audacious chip against Norwich before getting a brace with two thunderous volleys against Newcastle. He was a hero in the EFL cup as he scored the winning penalty against Southampton to send Chelsea to the Quarterfinals.

Not to mention all the clean sheets that Chelsea have kept this month to add to just how good Reece James has been up and down the pitch this month.

But there is one more player I have to give credit to.

From unemployment to hero

Edouard Mendy has been Chelsea’s most important saviour, not just this season, but ever since we signed him at the start of last season.

Mendy has kept nine clean sheets in the 13 games that he has played so far this season and in the other four games, he has conceded only four goals. That’s world class.

In the last month we have seen some particularly great performances from Mendy.

When Chelsea played Brentford, Brentford gave everything they could to try and deny Chelsea three points.

I have to applaud Brentford in that game because they were relentless and were so much fun to watch despite Chelsea being the team they were tearing to shreds at times.

It’s hard to put into words just how good Mendy was that game. He was making incredible saves look easy and when Christian Nordgaard when for an epic overhead kick, Mendy was there to make an equally epic save to deny Brentford in the dying embers.

Before that he made to critical saves to stop Brentford mounting any form of come back. Chelsea owed those three points to Mendy, and no one can argue against it.

Even in games where Chelsea looked to be cruising, occasionally Mendy would be called upon.

During the Norwich game, Rashica was awarded a beautiful opportunity to get a goal back from Norwich, but Mendy was right on it and made a fabulous save to deny what should have been a certain goal.

In games where Chelsea struggle to get goals, it’s going to be these performances from Mendy which could lead Chelsea to the title this season.

10 games played, 3 points clear, but a lot of work still be done

We are only a quarter of the way through the season, and I will admit that I am getting excited at Chelsea’s potential to win the league, but I have to remind myself that this is not going to be easy.

While Chelsea may be three point clear and have already played four of the other five big six teams, there is still potential for Chelsea to slip up.

I was concerned that we did not have a good month in September, and I think I was justified in thinking that.

This month has been better, no doubt, but we have come across opponents that we should be beating comfortably, so the results we have seen over the month should come as no surprise to anyone.

Our position in the league has come from fortunate results in other games. The day Chelsea beat Newcastle, Liverpool drew to Brighton and City lost to Crystal Palace.

Coming up is fairly tough month for Chelsea with Leicester, Burnley, and Manchester united. Teams that may not seem so tough but are always tricky games for Chelsea and can be very unpredictable.

Another international break and a Champions League game against Juventus could make next month difficult for Chelsea.

With the squad depth and the positivity around Chelsea at the moment, I feel as though Chelsea will be prepared for what is to come in November.

2021 Mexican Grand Prix: Practice report – Could Red Bull run away this weekend?

The Mexican fans were out in force to support Sergio Perez after a two year absence. But the focus for the rest of us was not on Sergio Perez, but instead on his team-mate Max Verstappen and his title rival, Lewis Hamilton.

As we head into the final five races, these practice sessions are going to more important as the drivers will want to feel as comfortable as possible on track to get the most out of the remaining races.

Let’s get straight into the Friday action!

FP1

The cars headed out onto a very dusty track as Free Practice 1 got underway.

The dusty conditions were making things tricky for the drivers out on track and lead to different tyre strategies for different teams.

Mercedes went straight for the soft tyres while Red Bull went for the Hard tyres. Regardless of the tyres, it was difficult for any driver to keep it on the tarmac.

Leclerc was having a horrid time keeping his rear end in check and eventually it spun on him and put him in the barrier on the entrance to the final corner. He was lucky not to do any significant damage to the back of his car as he drove out of the wall and into the pits.

The same couldn’t be said for home hero Sergio Perez. He got onto the raised curb as he headed into the final corner and spun the car. He caught the first slide, but the rear went again, and he slammed into the wall.

Sergio Perez lost half of his front wing and appeared to do more damage as they had the floor off the car when he returned back to the garage. But after some speculation that his session might be over, he got back into the car with 20 minutes remaining.

The track conditions did continue to improve as the session and the times did tumble, but the track was far from easy.

We saw a great display from Daniel Ricciardo as he drifted round every corner in the stadium section. It was impressive to watch and I’m sure it was fun for Daniel.

Mercedes’ pace seemed to take many by surprise as they came straight out to go first and second fastest in the session.

Red Bull were not far behind though, but on paper, I think we were expecting Red Bull to be faster. But maybe Red Bull were waiting until FP2 to show their real pace.

FP2

FP2 time and cars were going out to set their flying laps as soon as possible.

But the problem that comes with all the cars out on track to set fast laps is traffic and with the slow and tight nature of the final sector, this was becoming an issue for those who tried to get out early.

Lewis Hamilton and Kimi Raikkonen were having a bit of a battle with neither wanted to give each other room to set their fast laps.

It was Red Bull who were setting the initial pace on the Medium tyres, but both Mercedes drivers were on the hard tyres, but their pace was still very good.

Those hard tyres would be useless for the race though as both Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas had huge double lock-up going into the first corner and went straight on over the grass.

The dust issues from FP1 had not gone away and this was still catching drivers off guard as they charged down into turn 1.

George Russell was the last driver to get out to try and set a lap time, but it was not long before he was back into the garage. He reported an issue with the gearbox and was stuck in fifth gear as he cruised back to the pit-lane.

The mystery got curiouser as replays showed a lose fixing fall off the back of Russell’s car as he left the pit-lane. That marked the end of the session for George Russell as was sat on the pit-wall not long later.

When the drivers made the switch onto the soft tyres, it was Red Bull who were much faster than Mercedes. Max Verstappen was over half a second clear of Lewis Hamilton and four tenths faster than Valtteri Bottas.

The drivers now settled in to do their long runs in preparation for the race. From here the session really settles down, but for Nicolas Latifi he was lucky to escape the wall.

He got a bit out of shape going into the final corner before slamming on the brakes before he speared the barrier. He managed to get the car into reverse before carrying on his way.

Could McLaren lose third in the constructors this weekend?

McLaren have not looked encouraging in either of the two free practice sessions and have looked far off the pace of Ferrari.

Both teams went very well in Monaco and given the high downforce demands of this track, I would have expected both teams to be close like they were in Monaco, but it would appear Ferrari have the upper hand.

Both Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc have looked very quick as they battle with Alpha Tauri who have also been incredibly quick in both practice sessions so far. Pierre Gasly and Yuki Tsunoda have looked solid so far and could eb another threat to McLaren this weekend.

Lando Norris did manage to be comfortably quicker than Ricciardo in FP2, but the Aussie was forced to sit out much of FP2 with a gearbox issue.

With McLaren’s somewhat lack of pace, it could provide an opportunity for McLaren to get their engine penalties out of the way.

It has been discussed that McLaren would take an engine penalty for Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo either at this Grand Prix or in Brazil in a weeks’ time.

It will be crucial for McLaren to try and find a good balance in the car before qualifying if they hope to get higher up the order for Qualifying.

We will find out soon if McLaren do take the option to change the engine.

FP1 classification

FP2 classification

2021 US Grand Prix – FP1 & FP2 report: Red Bull recover from a worrying morning

It may have been two years since we last saw on-track action at the Circuit of the Americas, but F1 was looking to come back with a bang with every driver aiming to show off their new helmets for this weekend.

It was a hot and sunny day in Austin and this seemed to be a bit of a worry for some teams as there was no idea how the tyres would cope on the hot and bumpy track.

Let’s have a look at how the drivers got on in practice.

FP1

It took no time at all before we got the first red flag. Drivers were queuing up to get out, but they were back in the garage when Fernando Alonso came to a stop on the exit of Turn 12.

Bottas was 0.045 seconds faster than Hamilton to top FP1. Credit: F1

He was crawling down the straight with what looked like an engine issue, but we couldn’t tell what happened until he stopped. Fluid was pouring out of the bottom of the Alpine. Something had gone wrong and it looked to be the end of Alonso’s session.

It’s never good for any driver to miss a practice session, but especially when it’s a track that you haven’t driven in a few years.

Ferrari had a great weekend in Turkey, but for Charles Leclerc, it started with a spin. He was very fortunate to keep it out of the wall as he lost it out of Turn 6. He also managed to drag the car out of the gravel and go on his merry way. One thing was for sure, he would not be able to use those tyres again.

The big news to come out of FP1 was that Valterri Bottas would take on yet another ICE. This means he will take another 5-place grid penalty for the race.

Mercedes didn’t need to worry though, as their pace on the soft tyre was mighty. Both Hamilton and Bottas were a second faster than Max Verstappen who was a distant 3rd place.

The track was getting hotter as the session went on and it didn’t seem to bother Mercedes. Red Bull looked to be struggling in the final sector. It looked as though they were also struggling to control the rear.

Even Sergio Perez, who was doing his session on the hard tyres, was struggling through various parts of the track. He then tangled with Mick Schumacher at the end of the session as he lunged up the inside of him at turn 12, but slammed into the side of the Haas.

Advantage Mercedes in the morning, but could Red Bull recover in the Afternoon?

FP2

The cars wasted no time on getting onto the track to prepare for tomorrow’s qualifying session.

Mercedes were testing the limits of the soft tyres in the early session, so they were straight out on the medium tyres. Red Bull also opted for the medium tyres for their first run and they looked a lot more competitive after the first runs than they did in FP1.

Fernando Alonso had a frustrating day which ended with a spin. Credit: F1

Sergio Perez was the fastest after the first runs, but only 0.036 separated Perez in 1st and Hamilton in 4th.

Lando Norris ran less than Fernando Alonso in FP1 and his FP2 session didn’t get off to an ideal start either, as he had something loose in his cockpit. He was forced to box before he could return to the track to get some running done.

As Verstappen and Hamilton went to start their second flying laps, they seemed to forget that it was Friday and not Sunday. They engaged in a drag race up into Turn 1 with Lewis on the inside. Max tried to hang around the inside, but he had to concede, not before he gave Hamilton the finger to show his disapproval.

Issues with equipment and cars kept creeping up throughout the session. Nikita Mazepin was forced to box as the anti-fog spray in his helmet had gotten in his eyes. Minutes later Leclerc was forced to pit as he had something loose by the pedals.

Back on track, it was the turn of the soft tyre quali runs. Hamilton shot to the top of the timing sheets, but it wasn’t for long as his time was deleted for exceeding track limits. His second lap was good, but Perez was the driver firmly planting himself at the top.

Verstappen was getting very wound up in his car as he could not find space to set a second flying lap. Eventually he gave up and pitted instead of doing a second lap.

McLaren looked to be bouncing back from a relatively poor weekend in Turkey. Norris went second fastest on his final flying lap. Daniel Ricciardo was looking good as well, only three tenths off Norris and sat in 5th place behind the two Mercedes.

The drivers now settled in to do their long runs and Mercedes were looking very strong. Verstappen was doing very competitive times, but there was still some tuning needed.

With three minutes to go, Fernando had a spin on the exit of turn 19 and went through the gravel. He did a very good job to limit the damage. He was able to drive out of the gravel and get back to the pit-lane.

The championship mind games coming into play

The tiff between Hamilton and Verstappen during FP2 is starting to show the lengths these two are having to go to to get a mental edge.

We didn’t get to see who was behind who before they started the lap, but it doesn’t matter. With only 6 races left and 6 points between them, both drivers need to make sure they are laser focused.

By getting under each other’s skin in a free practice session, it sets a precedence for the rest of the weekend. Lewis was sending a clear message that Max was not getting passed and for the race, he would not leave him any room.

This move got Max riled up and he showed his frustration through the session. It was clear that it got to him and in the end he gave up on doing a qualifying run and pitted instead.

His decision to do that could be a problem for Red Bull as they will have no real data for Max to use.

With Mercedes looking faster over a single lap, Max will have to do his very best to put in on pole tomorrow.

FP1 Classification

FP2 Classification

F1 2021 Turkish Grand Prix: Qualifying Report: Hamilton fastest, but Bottas takes a crucial pole

It was wet in FP3, but the track looked to be drying before Qualifying. But, to add further excitement to the session, rain would be on its way. Lewis Hamilton took a new internal combustion engine for this weekend and received a 10-place grid penalty. Carlos Sainz also took a brand new engine and would be at the back of the grid regardless of his qualifying position.

It was set to e a very interesting qualifying session. Let’s get straight into the action!

Q1

With two minutes to go until qualifying started, there was already a lengthy queue at the end of the Pit-lane. With the rain on its way, teams were eager to get their drivers out on track as soon as possible.

Mick Schumacher got his Haas into Q2 for the second time this season, Previously at the French GP. Credit Haas.

The track was still damp from the rain during FP3, so getting a smooth lap was going to be very difficult.

It was a race to get onto a flying lap as most believed that there would only be the chance for one lap. Lewis skipped past both Ferraris to get track position in the final corners. Lewis blew his lap at the first corner as he exceeded track limits at turn 1.

A few drivers went for a spin at turn 1. Sainz and Verstappen went for a spin, but Verstappen manged to get another lap in to go fastest.

Drivers were able to get more laps than they believed they would as they were still running on slicks with 10 minutes left of the session.

Times were still improving as the session went on and some drivers were putting in some great lap times. George Russell went fastest at one point but was still hanging in the top 10.

The track was no means dry though and some other drivers were finding this out the hard way. Turn 1 was still proving to be very difficult. Tsunoda had a big moment that he over-corrected and put his car through the grass. Mazepin also had a spin as he looked to get out of last place.

The rain that was promised didn’t come so it was going to be tense for those at the bottom of the timing sheet as the track started to dry out and lap times started to tumble.

For the final flying laps the cars were flying and for Daniel Ricciardo this meant he dropped out in Q1. There were some familiar faces joining Ricciardo as he sat out the rest of Qualifying, But Mick Schumacher would not be one of them as he dragged his Haas into Q2.

Eliminated: Ricciardo (16th), Latifi (17th), Giovinazzi (18th), Raikkonen (19th), Mazepin (20th)

Q2

Q2 started and still no rain. The track was still not fully dry, but still dry enough for slick tyres.

Graining was becoming an issue in Q1, so Mercedes and Red Bull opted for the medium tyres straight away. They were joined by the rest of the grid, apart from Yuki Tsunoda who still opted for the soft tyres.

Leclerc left it all to the end after this spin on his penultimate flying lap. Credit F1.

Not many representative times were being set as there was no rush to get a lap time done. The drivers were doing multiple warm-up laps to get the tyres to a good temperature before going for a push lap.

The track conditions were still catching out drivers and it was Sergio Perez who had an identical spin to Yuki Tsunoda in Q1. He manged to keep the car out the wall, but his tyres were not in the best conditions.

While some drivers still struggled, others thrived. Fernando Alonso was doing a great job in his Alpine was not far off Max Verstappen who was behind both Mercedes in 3rd.

Tsunoda was showing pace was hadn’t seen for a while. Both him and Gasly were doing well and looked comfortable in the top 10.

Charles Leclerc was doing brilliantly until David Croft praised his pace and then Charles promptly spun at the final corner. This left him in the drop zone with a lot to do to be safe.

Stroll was just about in the top 10, but he had a moment into turn 1 on his last flying lap and it left him vulnerable. Leclerc was able to improve with help from his team-mate, but more commentator cursing from David Croft saw George Russell run wide at the final turn and he was out. Lance was safe.

Eliminated: Vettel (11th), Ocon (12th), Russell (13th), Schumacher (14th), Sainz (15th)

Q3

It was time for Q3.

Lewis Hamilton had been dominant up to this point with Bottas not far behind. It was going to take a mega effort from Max Verstappen to break Mercedes.

Bottas showed good pace, and even though he couldn’t beat Hamilton, he still got ahead of verstappen

Lewis does have his penalty, but he will be looking to qualify as high up the grid as possible to give him the best possible opportunity in the race.

The two Mercedes were the first out the gate and it was Bottas who went 0.022 seconds faster than Hamilton. Both times were good enough to lock-out the provisional front row.

Verstappen had a big of a moment during his lap and he was 2 tenths off Bottas’ fastest time, but still managed to go 3rd.

Gasly put in yet another brilliant lap to put his Alpha Tauri ahead of the Red Bull of Sergio Perez to go provisionally 4th.

Both Lando Norris and Charles Leclerc who had shown great pace were 7th and 8th respectively after their first laps. You would expect to see them improve on their second attempts.

Hamilton bucked the usual qualifying trend and went out early to set a second flying lap. He went purple in the first two sectors and went two tenths faster than Bottas. He had enough time to cool the tyres and get another lap in before the end.

Verstappen would set his final lap before the Mercedes, but it was only good for 3rd place. Bottas would come across the line second, but he could not improve his position so it would be pole position for Bottas despite Lewis setting the fastest lap.

Norris couldn’t improve his time, but Leclerc shot up to 4th on his final effort, ahead of Gasly in 5th. Perez could only get 7th place. Not what Red Bull needed.

Final Classification

Chelsea Column: Werner rising as The Blues try not to sink

After another monotonous international break, and with another coming up, it’s time to look back at the last month of action for Chelsea.

For me, it was a very mixed month and one that has been very difficult to put into words. Under Tuchel, Chelsea fans have been able to enjoy very good football regardless of the opponent that they have come across.

This month feels very different, so, let’s get into it!

Unconvincing performances, but we’re still in the race.

Chelsea have been poor in almost every game I have seen over the last month. However, we have only dropped points in one Premier League game and lost one Champions League game.

Thiago Silva opened Chelsea’s account in their 3-0 win over Spurs

How has this happened?

Against Aston Villa at the start of September, we were being comfortably outplayed for much of the game, but Chelsea won 3-0. Against Spurs, we had no control of the ball in the first half, but Chelsea won 3-0.

Two games that the scoreline did not reflect the story of the game, but despite that, six goals, six points; and Chelsea are still in the top four despite a loss to Man City.

This Chelsea are not playing at their best. Far from it. Lukaku struggles to get into games and Werner is not the player that you usually want to turn to for goals.

The game against Spurs was a perfect example of what Chelsea have been like over the last month. All three goals came from defensive players: Thiago Silva, N’golo Kante and Antonio Rudiger. Those three players were probably a better front three than Mount, Havertz and Lukaku in that game.

Lukaku is a game-changing and in games where he hasn’t been able to get involved, it’s been very difficult for Chelsea to get a good result. Despite not getting a goal against Southampton, he was still able to make an impact which saw Chelsea win comfortably.

We are still in the early days of Lukaku and Werner up front and it’s had it’s ups and downs, but Chelsea need to make it work better.

The week from hell

Not winning in three games is a tough pill for Chelsea fans to swallow, especially when it happens in three separate competitions.

Chelsea fans were left worried after defeat to Juventus in the Champions League

It started with a Carabao Cup match against Aston Villa. Werner opened up the scoring, but it was cancelled out in a matter of minutes as Archer’s goal sent the game to a penalty shoot-out. Fortune favoured Chelsea as they won 4-3. Lucky escape.

Chelsea would not be so lucky when City rolled past Chelsea to get revenge for the Champions League final back in May.

Tuchel tried to play two up top with Werner and Lukaku, but behind was very defensive. Chelsea failed to register a single shot on target. When Tuchel finally reverted to the old system, it was too late as City were already a goal up. Pep was not going to give up this lead and he didn’t.

It was now time to end the way of misery with an away trip to Juventus in the Champions League.

This was going to be a tough test. After the disappointment against City, this game provided the perfect scenario for a bounce back. It never came as Chelsea suffered another 1-0 defeat.

Juventus had experience against Lukaku and kept him quiet. From there they resisted everything Chelsea tried to throw at them and struck hard when the opportunity came about.

That opportunity came 11 seconds into the second half. A long ball and a header was enough to break Chelsea’s defence and Chiesa thundered the ball past Mendy.

Questions were rightfully raised, and some were answered a few days later.

A Werner renaissance? Or a Loftus-Cheek masterclass?

Against Southampton, we started to see more of the Werner of old. He scored twice and I am very firm on the view that his first should have counted.

Timo Werner gets his first league goal of the season with an impressive display against Southampton

It was the softest of touches by Azpilicueta as Walker-Peters threw himself to the ground in a performance that was Oscar-worthy. But Timo did not give up. He had another chance, but it was excellently saved by McCarthy.

Southampton had levelled the game when James Ward-Prowse equalised through a penalty. But with six minutes to go the mighty German stepped up and scored the winner. This was further cemented through a third goal, this one scored by Ben Chilwell.

Werner played further up top than Lukaku in this game as Lukaku was paired up with Hudson-Odoi in attacking midfield.

Lukaku used his strength and speed to create great opportunities for Werner and we finally to got to see Werner play some great football.

But other than Werner, we saw the return of Ruben Loftus-Cheek to the Chelsea starting XI. What an impact he made.

Loftus-Cheek has been a forgotten man at Chelsea since his injury a few seasons ago. He went on loan to Palace and Fulham and never made much of an impact.

In this game, he was quick. His work rate in both halves of the pitch was like his was a much taller N’golo Kante. He looked phenomenal and it was great to see.

I have often worried about his career and wondered if he needed to leave Chelsea permanently to forge a meaningful career. The fact that Tuchel has been willing to give him a chance in this team, must be a great showing of faith in what he can do, especially with Kante out with Covid.

Does anything need to change?

At the moment, I think that Tuchel is just trying new things, because performances haven’t been the best lately and something did need to change.

Gabriel Jesus scores the winning goal in Chelsea’s first league defeat this season

I think it was down to some players not being at their best yet rather than the system. Mason Mount is a player that I could point to and say that he has not been at his best. The same could be said for Havertz or Ziyech.

By introducing Loftus-Cheek, Hudson-Odoi and Barkley back into the team, we are seeing almost new life being put into the squad. These are players who are looking to make an impact to secure a place in the squad and the team.

The players have another international break to stop and go again in two weeks. October should be a very straight forward month for Chelsea with games against Brentford, Norwich and Newcastle in the Premier League.

If Chelsea hope to continue their title push, these games have to be wins. We shall see.

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