Thursday, 23 February 2012

Betfair: Can the return of Tevez boost City's title chase?

Carlos Tevez has finally got down off his high-horse and apologised to Roberto Mancini for refusing to warm-up against Bayern Munich earlier in the season.

Now, in my humble opinion, he should've been booted out of the club on the spot - it's hardly like Manchester City need the transfer money. But now he's back in the picture, can Mancini make the most of the situation and use it to City's title-challenging advantage?

Read more on my Betfair column.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Monday, 13 February 2012

Will Drogba's return mean Torres is back to the bench?

Hi all. Here's my latest Betfair column. Keep checking Betfair every Wednesday for more of the latest news, views and odds from the world of football. It's not all Chelsea, I promise!

Will Drogba's return mean Torres is back to the bench?

Can AVB survive the Stamford Bridge storm?

I’ve been pondering this article or at least one of a similar ilk for some time now, but have always managed to hold off, not wanting to jump on the ‘Andre Villas-Boas is a useless twonk’ bandwagon. But like the hoards of Chelsea fans at Goodison Park on Saturday who burst into a rousing chorus of ‘You don’t know what you’re doing’, my patience has been worn a bit too thin. It’s time to get it out of my system - *vaguely constructive rant warning*.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not one for calling for managers’ heads every five minutes and demanding a plethora of shiny new trophies season after season. I am of the opinion that certain managers need to be given time...where would Manchester United be now had they not stuck out the difficult teething period when Alex Ferguson took the reins?

But that’s not to say clubs and fans should blindly support managers either, just for the sake of ‘giving them time’, when things clearly aren’t right in the camp.

Villas-Boas’s arrival at Stamford Bridge in the summer came as a surprise to many Blues fans, with strong rumours linking former interim boss Guus Hiddink with the job. And being a close friend of owner Roman Abramovich, popular with the Stamford Bridge faithful and players alike, it seemed the obvious move.

But Abramovich instead pulled a move out of left-field, appointing FC Porto manager and former Chelsea employee, Villas-Boas.

Despite the surprising appointment, Chelsea fans by and large seemed excited by the prospect of a young, up-and-coming manager who could potentially take the hot-seat for years to come – our very own Sir Alex. But despite Chelsea players crowing over how great and 21st Century pre-season training was (presumably with a gun to their heads...) and being the first side to knock Manchester ‘’ City off their perch this season, things have started to turn sour.

Draw has followed defeat has followed draw has followed defeat at regular intervals, across all competitions. Chelsea scraped through the Champions League knock-out stages, somehow topping the group, but look increasingly likely to accomplish the unacceptable at Stamford Bridge and miss out on qualification for Europe’s biggest club tournament next season.

One can only be left to wonder how the Great Rebuild of 2012 will go when the Blues fail to attract top youngsters or experienced heads with no offer of Champions League football.

And it’s not as if AVB has the right ideas but just doesn’t have the personnel to carry them out. His team selections are a mystery, his substitutions are nothing short of baffling and his infatuation with Jose Bosingwa...simply mind-boggling.

Take this week’s debacle against Everton for example. His back four were Bosingwa, Luiz, Ivanovic and Cole. Last weekend against Manchester United (the capitulation to end all capitulations), Branislav Ivanovic was a contender for Chelsea’s Man of the right back...the position he’s mostly occupied since his arrival in January 2008. He was nothing short of outstanding, dodgy penalty aside. Gary Cahill, who was finally awarded his Chelsea debut, was also on the better side of solid and was even unlucky not to clinch an undeserved three points right at the death, with a stinging shot tipped over by De Gea.

So this week, naturally, it was all change. Cahill was back getting splinters and Ivanovic was back in the centre babysitting David Luiz, to varying degrees of success. There’s a complete lack of consistency to enable the defence to gel and there’s even less appreciation for playing the best players in their best positions. That means Ivanovic at right back and Jose Bosingwa on the next plane back to Portugal, Andre.

Villas-Boas also seems to lack any tactical nous. He makes substitutions for the sake of it and the team often loses its shape and balance as a result. Up until Christmas, Chelsea were the only team in the Premier League to have used all three substitutions in every game. That doesn’t exactly point to level-headed tactical genius.

The game against Fulham at the Bridge on Boxing Day was a classic example. AVB hooks Frank Lampard, fairly enough as Lamps was having a Weston (Super-Mare!), and replaces him with Florent Malouda. Now my feelings towards Mr Malouda are best saved for a future blog for fear of this one turning into War and Peace with very ripe language, but that aside, replacing a centre midfielder with a wide player meant the middle of the park lost all shape, with none of the players seeming to know who was meant to be where. This also happened against Manchester City, when for reasons only known to AVB, we found ourselves with both Mikel and Romeu on the pitch at the same time. Two holding midfielders, four defenders, complete chaos.

That’s not to say AVB has been all-bad. The signing of Juan Mata was inspired and he’s an incredibly exciting prospect for the future. That’s not to, actually, that’s the only good point I can muster.

It seems that after 25 league games, seven draws and six defeats, maybe it’s time Abramovich cuts his losses and admits he appointed the wrong man. And with his ever-increasing training ground visits, maybe it’s just a matter of time until Chelsea call a press conference.