Back on Christmas Eve, before the January transfer window opened, I wrote a blog; ‘Time For An Honest Appraisal Of The Chelsea Squad.’ Now, here we are almost half way through February looking like a team that might, with a following wind, just squeak Europa League qualification and I thought the time right to revisit and update that blog.
Back in December I started with management and looked only at AVB. This time I will look above him too.
In December I said; “AVB came with a short but exceptional record but, as I have stated more than once, came untested by the kind of challenges that come with a downturn in form, with rebuilding a squad, with anything close to Premier League type pressure. In short, I would not have offered him the job but now he is here he deserves the chance to make amends for Carlo Ancelotti’s oversight in allowing a squad to both age and get thin without taking action. That task is not a small one and should we even fail to qualify for next season’s Europa League AVB must be given the opportunity to rebuild. Sacking him will only leave his replacement with the same squad and same task.”
The important point there is that he should never have been appointed in the first place and, whether you support sacking him or backing him what is indisputable is that whoever appointed him should go. I suggested at the time it was a poor choice and with the benefit of twenty-twenty hindsight have been proved correct – not that that pleases me, I would prefer to see Chelsea winning and to have been wrong.
What of AVB? With January gone, I have seen enough to now convince me that he should go. The rebuilding process required at Stamford Bridge should have begun in January if not with the signing of new players then with youngsters being given opportunities. Sticking to the same old same old is not an option and if it is all AVB has to offer then he should go. I see no rebuilding, only stagnation and regression. Those very reasons I would not have appointed him in the first place, the unknowns, are now becoming known and he has been found wanting.
In December I said; “That squad is looking desperately thin. Last season it was exposed when injuries to Lampard, Essien and Drogba left the team struggling in the middle part of the season. This season the picture is worse, especially if (God forbid) we have another couple of long term injuries.”
Has the depth of the squad improved? No. If anything it is shallower with youngsters sent out on loan, Anelka gone and although Cahill has arrived, Alex went.
In December (written after the Rottenham match): “Petr Cech has been at fault for both of the last two goals conceded but is still a world class keeper. But what if he should succumb to injury? Hilario and Turnbull are competent but would we really be comfortable if either had to have a long run in the side? They’re okay for occasional cover but not much more. We need better cover for Petr Cech especially given growing rumours his knees are ‘fragile’.”
In December: “We have some serious problems here. JT continues to be a legend and Ashley Cole although no longer at his peak is still by far the best left back in English football. David Luiz is good and will improve and Branislav Ivanovic has provided competent cover both at right back and centrally. The less said about Jose Bosingwa the better and Paulo Ferreira is a loyal servant but, for all his great game v the Spuds, is at the tail end of a career. It says everything about the squad’s problems at right back when the injured Essien, a midfield player, is our best right back by far!
As a minimum we probably need one if not two right backs and another central defender preferably one with pace.”
Cahill has been a good addition and Alex’s sulking won’t be missed. But what of rebuilding, of strengthening? The disastrous Bosingwa remains, much to the almost universal bemusement of the Blue faithful, even being preferred to Bertrand at left back while Cole was suspended. Some rebuilding, some strengthening.
With one central defender leaving to counter one arriving we are still one short in the middle. As for right back – heaven help us!
In December: “I am less concerned about the ability we have in the middle than I was at the start of the season although quantity is still lacking. Romeu has been a revelation relegating Mikel to competent cover in that holding position. I’ve made no secret of the fact I am not a John Obi fan but as cover, he’ll do. Whether he’ll be happy with that is another matter. Lampard is still brilliant but AVB is right to use him more sparingly and to get the most out of his twilight years. Ramires has improved no end, while Mereiles is mostly good but needs to show more consistency. Essien has yet to come back and we can only hope two long term knee injuries have not reduced his desire, energy or confidence. Then there is Josh McEachran, one for the future and who surely deserves more playing time, not to say needs it, for his development – perhaps a January loan?
Our midfield has got ability without depth, energy without quality and creativity. We need at least one midfield player of quality, an artist to match the industry.”
Essien is back and looking like he could play his way back to previous levels but, that huge positive aside, no change. Lots of industry, lots of endeavour but what of quality?
On Christmas Eve I said: “Thank F*** for Danny Sturridge and Juan Mata! I include Mata up front although have little doubt he could also provide the artistry our midfield lacks but what would that do to our front three (assuming we continue to play the same system)?
Nicolas Anelka has gone and had passed his sell by date anyway and Didier Drogba still looks good in flashes but, though we love him, is no longer the Drog of old. Salomon Kalou? Well if he is the answer someone is asking the wrong question! Florent Malouda comes out and goes in with the sun and his inconsistency in a side desperately needing players to ‘turn up and be counted’ adds him to my transfer list. Danny Sturridge has been brilliant (despite wasted chances) and will get better. Lukaku? I remain to be convinced but will be happy to be as wrong as I was about Ramires.
I know I haven’t mentioned Torres but I’m not convinced we signed the right player. Yes, he was quality but was he made for Chelsea or would we need to change too much else to accommodate the player he was. As for the player he is? Blind loyalty aside; the jury must be out. The African Cup of Nations offers him what, to me, should be his last chance to rediscover old form.
Nonetheless, even should the real Fernando Torres stand up, for a team which aspires to Champions League and Premiership glory our attack is under-whelming and only one injury away from being threadbare. We need at least two more decent strikers to back our likely end of season preferred trio of Mata, Sturridge, and El Nino.”
So, Torres has had that chance and if he grasped it with both hands he promptly fumbled it. I have nothing against him but the clock has run down, it is time he left especially with the Drog’s imminent return. Which brings me back to rebuilding and strengthening; I haven’t seen any sign, have you?
In December, I pleaded: “Ah yes, the African Cup of Nations! Don’t get me wrong there are some fantastic African players out there and I love watching the tournament but please Chelsea, don’t sign any more Africans!
Do however think about the youngsters who can be added to bolster the team, not forgetting that surrounding them with the right quality will bring them through far better.”
No new Africans but no increase in opportunity for youth either. The De Bruyne signing will, I believe, prove good in time but if rumours are true AVB didn’t even want him!
In December I went on to say: “It was only a couple of seasons ago I smugly looked at other sides and played the game of ‘how many of your players would make it into our team?’ It was rarely more than one or two, very occasionally three. Now? Against the Spuds possibly only four of our starting eleven would have made theirs. You may agree with me on that or disagree but surely you will accept my argument that we simply do not have the quality or the depth required right now.”
Here we are in February and……well…….I’m just glad I didn’t hold my breath on the promised rebuilding and strengthening! Yes, I know it won’t happen overnight but I’m desperately looking for signs work has even started! I just don’t see them.
In December I concluded; “AVB must start to earn that trust some fans talk about by beginning the rebuilding process with some sound purchases and some difficult decisions on who to let go come January and (given it won’t all be done in one go) again in the summer.”
In February I must conclude it is time not only for AVB to go but also for whoever appointed him in the first place.