Category Archives: Football

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.

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.

Passive Manchester United Outclassed In Derby Defeat

It was men against boys at Old Trafford for the Manchester Derby, as Manchester City never needed to get out of second gear as they ran out 2-0 winners in what was a pitiful performance from the hosts. 

In fact, United had more shots on their own goal than they did of City’s, and such was the visitor’s stranglehold on the game that they didn’t need to make a single substitution to keep the door for a comeback slammed shut. 

Such is the malaise that has spread through all facets of Old Trafford that this result is neither a shock, nor is the performance worth getting riled up about. 

In a world where the term ‘new normal’ has been part of the vernacular for the past 18 months, this is the new normal at Old Trafford. 

A humiliation by Liverpool, a win at Spurs, a last-gasp draw at Atalanta then strangulation by City is seen as ok by Ed Woodward, the board, and the Glazers as long as shirts are still being sold and Champions League qualification is at least mathematically possible. 

That their man is devoid of any philosophy, system, or tactics when it comes to facing the Big 6 is of little consequence while the share price is still stable. 

As predictable as the result was Solskjaer’s post-match comments, where once again he talked about being disappointed and having to pick ourselves up and keep working. 

“It’s very difficult to talk now, of course, because we started the game off badly, passive and when they get the first goal, it was always going to be a difficult game anyway, but being 1-0 down was hard. David [De Gea] kept us in the game, some good stops and then they scored a goal they always score. [Joao] Cancelo cuts inside, cross [to the] back-stick that we know that’s going to happen and it shouldn’t happen. It’s disappointing, of course. It’s hard to talk at the moment. We play against a good team, don’t forget that, but we were nowhere near what our standards and levels can be and that’s something we have to get back to. We’ve got to go back to being on the front foot, be more aggressive, maybe circumstances have made us a little bit more cautious and passive.”

“The result and the manner of the goals we conceded: of course, we’re disappointed with them but we have to get back to what we were. More aggressive, more [on the] front foot and trust ourselves more than what we’ve shown today. I understand that the last couple of weeks have been difficult, but now it’s hard to stand here and talk too much. We have to be more precise on the ball, trust ourselves on the ball, without the ball, be more aggressive, find the angles quicker and play the passes we should be doing.”

“They played well, of course they don’t give you opportunities to win the ball off them. Some praise has got to go to them as well but, of course, we were not at our level and standard, they need to be raised.”

“I’m sure when we come back, the players will be fresh in their minds after the internationals and, of course, the demands on me and the players are going to be high, expectations and we’ve just got to get back to what, as I said, we started to look like and what we were for a while and we’ve got the players to do that.”

“We can’t, or I can’t, look at myself and say this is the way I want Man United to play. I’m in good communication all the time with the club and that’s very up front and honest about the situation. I work for Man United, I want the best for Man United and, of course, as long as I’m here, I want to do what I can do to improve this and that’s going back to what we started to look like, as I said.”

“It’s so hard to go through a game like this and we understand everyone’s frustration and disappointment but these boys will do everything they can and the staff will do everything we can and try to get us back to everything we were: front foot, positive, attacking Man United. We’ll do what we can to do that.”

Yawn. 

These latest comments could be copied and pasted from any of United’s defeats of the Solskjaer era, yet nothing changes. 

For Solskjaer the international break comes at a good time as, if he keeps his job, it will take some of the pressure off for a short period. 

However, for United fans, it will be an awful time where they will see many of their players who are inept in a red shirt put in Herculean performances for their country. 

After the international break United have a tricky away game at Watford, where the new normal means escaping with a draw will be seen as a positive result. 

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.

Manchester United Rediscover Form At Hapless Tottenham

If a week is a long time in football, the past few days have felt like an eternity for Manchester United players and fans alike, as calls for manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to be replaced grew louder and louder. 

However, under the bright lights of Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, Manchester United did what they so often do of late, and put on a stunning display, winning 3-0, to keep the wolves at bay for at least a few days. 

Now it is Tottenham manager Nuno Espirito Santo who finds himself in the hot seat after his side was booed off the pitch at halftime, and the manager himself was serenaded with chants of ‘you don’t know what you’re doing’ in the second half. 

For United the storm clouds have temporarily lifted after three fantastic goals, scored by Ronaldo, Cavani, and Rashford, with the team looking much more cohesive at the back, while the Cavani-Ronaldo partnership is beginning to look a terrifying prospect for opponents. 

Much has been made of Ronaldo’s impact since returning to the club, and the Portuguese superstar was thrilled to be able to contribute to putting a smile on the away side fans faces in London. 

“We knew before the game that we had a tough week [after] a result that we didn’t expect.”

“The team was a little bit under pressure, a little bit sad, but we knew that today we [could] give a good answer. We played good, we started the game very well.”

“Of course my job is to help the team with my experience, my goals, my assists and I did that today and I feel so pleased with that. But in terms of the team, it was an unbelievable performance in my opinion.”

“We didn’t expect the last result in the Premier League. But, you know, I hope this time we turn the page.”

“I believe that some things happen for a reason and we have to be happy for this amazing afternoon. We have won 3-0 in an away stadium against a difficult team and we are so, so pleased for that.”

“The criticisms are always there.”

“For me, it doesn’t bother me because I have played 18 years of football, so I know that one day [people will say] we are perfect and another day [they will say] we are crap.

“I know that and we have to deal with that, but it’s always better when the people praise you and they are happy with you.

“Sometimes life is like that, sometimes we have to pass through bad moments and we have to change and we changed today,” said Ronaldo.

Liverpool Humiliate Insipid Manchester United At Old Trafford

Liverpool has humiliated an insipid Manchester United side, leaving Old Trafford with a 5-0 victory in a match that should surely cost Ole Gunnar Solskjaer his job. 

The visitors got off to a fast start, with Naby Keita and Diogo Jota putting Liverpool two goals to the good inside the first 15 minutes. 

From there it was game over as Mohamed Salah ran riot, scoring two wonderful goals in the first half to hand United the worst first-half home performance in their history, as the hosts went into the break four goals down. 

The rout was complete in the 50th minute as Jordan Henderson played a sublime ball with the outside of his foot to an onrushing Salah, who completed his hat trick with aplomb. 

United’s defence was shambolic at best, with captain Harry Maguire not only looking generally unfit, but also unfit to wear a United shirt – ever. 

Once again the manager wheeled out his usual responses about having to do better, but the facts have been laid bare today. Against a tactically superior manager such as Jurgen Klopp, he simply cannot go toe to toe. 

“It’s not easy to say something apart from it’s the darkest day I’ve had leading these players and we weren’t good enough, individually and as a team. You can’t give a team like Liverpool those chances, unfortunately we did. The whole performance wasn’t good enough, that’s for sure. We’ve created openings, they’ve had chances and they’ve been clinical. We didn’t take our chances early on and the third goal is the one that decided the game.”

“Early on, I felt we started sloppy and maybe a bit not confident enough. Not trusting ourselves. We gave the ball away, we kicked it out the first three or four minutes. Then we get the big massive opening, good attack, one-on-one with the keeper. We don’t take it and they then score with their first and second chance and at 2-0 down you have to go for it. You have to, we can’t lay down and keep it down to 2-0. We had chances, they had chances. They took theirs, we didn’t.”

“The coaching staff are very, very good. Brilliant. I choose the way we approach the game and, today, we weren’t clinical enough going forward. There were spaces for both teams and, when you give good players spaces, they score. You know it’s a good question [why not play on the break?] I can say anything but we’re at home, playing against Liverpool. They’ve come here over the last two-and-a-half years and we had a similar approach to go high press and, today, they scored on their chances early on. They hadn’t done that before. I think Manchester United should always try, at home, to go and stamp our authority on the game, like I said before.”

“You know, you can look back at last season and we lose a big one to Spurs, 6-1, but this is worse. The opposition, as well, make it much worse for me as a Manchester lad. And it’s I’ve just got to say we have to really get over this as quickly as we can and move on. You’re not a robot, of course. I’m devastated and I’m as low as I’ve ever been when I’ve been at this fantastic football club. We’ve had dark days here before and we’ve always bounced back. I will always bounce back, no matter what the situation is now. What can you do about it? That’s the way I’ve got to look at it.”

“I’ve come too far. We’ve come too far as a group. We’re too close to give up now.  That’s going to be a difficult one [lifting everyone]. I understand human nature and the players are going to be low. I’ll just look into their eyes and the character of them. I know loads of characters are there. I know we’re rock bottom and can’t feel any worse than this so let’s see where we take it. The only way I know how to approach life is to wake up tomorrow morning and look forward, of course evaluate what has gone on, and do my very, very best to come through difficult times,” said Solskjaer

For many United fans, when the team sheet showed McFred in the middle, only the most optimistic fan could have expected even a draw, though not many would have imagined the humiliation that was to come.

Solskjaer is a club legend who did a fantastic job to steady the ship after the tumultuous reigns of David Moyes, Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho. 

That he has taken the club as far as he can and is now out of his depth is not his fault, and the board need to move to replace him sooner rather than later, before his reputation is unfairly tarnished beyond repair. 

Ronaldo Heroics Rescue Manchester United Again

Manchester United v Atalanta: Group F - UEFA Champions League

It was another late show from Ronaldo, as once again the Portuguese talisman rescued Manchester United in a home Champions League fixture, as the Red Devils stormed back from two goals down at halftime to beat Atalanta 3-2. 

Ronaldo’s goal, his 137th in the competition, may have done enough to save his managers job too, with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer staring down the barrel after a torrid run of results. 

However, as the third goal crashed in, the relief inside Old Trafford was palpable, and there is now renewed enthusiasm for Liverpool’s visit on the weekend. 

While the manager was not happy heading into the half-time break two goals down, he was thrilled with the response his team made in the second half. 

“Tonight was an attacking game from start to finish. I thought it was two teams who were offensive-minded and wanted to go attacking. Maybe we wanted to finish the attacks too quickly and maybe gave the ball away too easily trying a risky pass. But that’s in our DNA. We’ve got players running and players with the quality of playing the last pass. Then we’re 2-0 down from two chances. It is difficult and I almost didn’t understand how that happened. Bang, bang, we’re 2-0 down but we kept believing and that’s key.”

“[In the second half] As long as we didn’t concede a goal, I was pretty sure we’d win the game. Because we did create chances in the first half as well, it was just about taking them. I was quite happy with the performance. I felt we were growing more and more into the game and it happened. All credit to the players, they did really well.”

“I’ve said if you win your home games and get results away from home, you’ve got a good chance of going through. Tonight was a massive result. We got off to a slow start with the Young Boys game and, if we’re being honest, the red card has changed the game so that was disappointing. We didn’t play well against Villarreal, but we got the three points and dug in and I think tonight was a special night in terms of the togetherness, the spirit, the fight that we showed in the second half to keep believing and to keep pushing. Like I said, the fans gave us that. The energy that we felt from the fans in the second half was incredible.”

Jubilant fans went home singing Viva Ronaldo at the top of their lungs. Will their main man be able to stop a rampant Liverpool in the Premier League? If he is to have half a chance, he will need the defence to step up first…

Leicester City Snap Manchester United’s Unbeaten Away Streak

A ruthless Leicester City side has hammered a woeful Manchester United 4-2 at the King Power Stadium, to snap the Red Devils unbeaten away record that had stretched back to January 2020. 

The match was a microcosm of the past three seasons at United…

Some moments of brilliance, even more moments of incompetence, and a manager who clearly isn’t up to the job. 

However, United’s board seem intent on backing their man, and on current evidence can look forward to more days like this. 

As is the standard reply now, Solskjaer backed his players and said they need to learn and get better. 

One might wonder what some of the best players in the world, on eye-watering wages, still need to learn when it comes to representing United… 

When Patson Daka smashed in the fourth goal for a Leicester team who hadn’t won in the league since August, Solskjaer could only watch on motionless from the touchline, knowing that the 4-2 scoreline flattered his team, and that without their Man of the Match David de Gea, the scoreline would have been much worse. 

“The goals we conceded were disappointing, the timing of them and the way they were conceded,” Solskjaer said. “It says everything when your best player is probably David but still concede four goals.

“We didn’t deserve the points today. We gifted them the first goal. All the goals were disappointing, the way we conceded them. We were too easy to play through. It was the team as a whole. We need to be more compact and more aggressive. We didn’t defend well enough.

“We’ve been really good at showing our character when we’ve needed it. The attitude has always been good. We need to stick together and work hard. We need to perform better.

“You have to bounce back. You have to respond. We’ve had the international break to look at things.

“Everyone’s been away and maybe they came into this confident, because they’ve done well their international teams. But we need to sort this out.

“We have five games until the next break and we’ve got to stick together. There’s no other way to do it. You cannot lose focus; you’ve got to trust yourself, trust your teammates and make sure that we’re ready on Wednesday night because that will be a difficult game as well.”

We need to perform better, we need to work hard, we need to sort this out…

United fans are tired of hearing the same hollow words week in week out with nothing ever changing, and the man responsible for getting the team to perform better, work harder, and sort it out not doing those things. 

However, Solskjaer indicated he may finally be ready to ring the changes in terms of personnel and tactics ahead of the visit by Atalanta in the Champions League this week. 

“Over the international break, we have had a good look to see what has gone wrong lately,” he said. “But we need to look at the whole set-up and balance of the team and maybe something has to give. Lately, we have not been in great form, we’ve lost too many points and that is something we have to look at.

“We might have to change. Do we need more legs in there? What do we need?

“Every game is important in the league and the Champions League is hard.

“They’re big games, all of them. Leicester away is as big a test as Atalanta at home, for example. So, we’ve got to dust this off, maybe make sure that we come in again we have fresh minds, looking at themselves in the mirror. I look myself in the mirror, and make sure we perform again.”

With back to back games against Atalanta in the Champions League punctuated by league fixtures against Liverpool, Spurs, and Manchester City, things could get worse before they get better for United. 

The manager asked ‘What do we need?’ 

The answer is Zidane in the dugout. 

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.

Uninspired Manchester United Slump To Home Draw With Everton

An uninspired Manchester United team have dropped more points at home, slumping to a 1-1 draw with an injury-ravaged side at Old Trafford. 

After a sublime piece of skill from Bruno Fernandes, United scored the opener on the stroke of halftime with a quality finish from goal-shy Anthony Martial, and spirits around Old Trafford were lifted at the sight of the Frenchman on the score sheet for the first time since March. 

However, United couldn’t find a second goal to kill off the game, and were hit on a superb counter-attack in the 65th minute, capped off with a goal by their nemesis, Andros Townsend. 

That much-maligned midfielder Fred had two opportunities to kill the counter and failed with both did him no favours with the Old Trafford faithful, and it seems his manager finally felt fed up, withdrawing him just five minutes later. 

What Solskjaer sees in the defensive midfielder who can’t defend, can’t pass, and has a woeful first touch is anyone’s guess…

After the equaliser Everton were much the better side, despite missing both Richarlison and Dominic Calvert-Lewin, and were unlucky not to go home with all three points after a tap in from Yerry Mina was correctly ruled out for offside just five minutes from time. 

Unlike in the Champions League fixture midweek, there were to be no stoppage time heroics as United have now taken just one point from their past two home Premier League fixtures. 

Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was disappointed with his side’s result, saying “You’re disappointed you don’t get three points. That’s why we turn up. We turn up to get three points. We looked like we were on the way to a three-pointer with a good goal. Good first half, I thought. Pressed well. We created some good openings, good chances. Couple of good headers and crosses we could have done better with. Coming into half-time with a good goal Anthony scored was a good feeling. In the Premier League, being organised and focus is so important and to be organised behind the ball. Disappointed we conceded on our corner.”

“Last season against Everton we were 2-0 up and cruising and then they scored two in two minutes. They have players who can hurt you in moments, Gray, Townsend. The pace they have on the break… Unfortunately, for us they scored a great goal.”

“We’re well organised and we just don’t deal with a couple of those instances of the counter attack well enough. That’s something that happens in football.”

“Disappointed with the last two home games. Villa and Everton here, one point in those two is below our standard. We should be looking to win every game at home but you’re playing good teams as well. We have to keep on working, get better and then hopefully they’ll enjoy their international break, play some games and the rest who will stay here we’ll evaluate. We’re looking forward to Leicester.”

Football is a funny game. United are four points better off after the same number of games compared to last season, but the feeling this time around is that with the additions they made to the squad this team should be capable of getting home wins against teams such as Villa and Everton. 

If United’s lack of identity or system continues to see the club slip out of the title race, calls for Solskjaer to be replaced with Zinedine Zidane or Antonio Conte will only grow louder…

« Older Entries