92 clubs favourite players – Chelsea – Juan Mata

If I had chosen to do this last season then there would not have been a problem with my selection for my favourite Chelsea player but things have changed over the summer.

The man that I enjoy watching the most is Juan Mata but unfortunately for me and a lot of other football fans Jose Mourinho isn’t giving us the opportunity to watch his talents on a regular basis. For one reason or another the Chelsea boss has decided he has better options in his squad and completely disregarded last season. Mata was in my opinion the best player in the Premier League last year and yes I am one of the few that believe he was better than Gareth Bale. In his 35 league games last year he got 11 goals and 17 assists which makes it even more remarkable that Mourinho doesn’t select him week in and week, and in total for both club and country last year in his 74 games he got 21 goals and 39 assists which means he was directly involved in 60 goals. It seemed like he was just going to get better and better but now that has all stopped and I have very rarely questioned the ‘Special One’ before but surely this is a massive blunder on his part. Yes he has multiple options to choose from but Mata has to be the first name on the team sheet for me, he is easily the most consistent of the attacking players.
Mata
His defensive side of the game has been questioned and if that is the reason he has been left out then maybe that is understandable but give the ball to Mata in the final third and chances will come and with Chelsea’s strikers not exactly hitting top form they need several of those at the moment. I am not going to say that the reason Chelsea have started slowly is because Mata has not been on the pitch but it is a factor that needs to be considered.

Mata at Chelsea needs to be given a role that Bale had at Tottenham, Cristiano Ronaldo has at Real Madrid and to a lesser extent Hatem Ben Arfa at Newcastle United. Just put him on the pitch and let him do whatever he wants, if you give him the ball your team will have a better chance of scoring simply because he is on the pitch. Will you be as solid defensively? No but sometimes you just have to say to these sorts of players go out there and enjoy what you are good at, taking players on, causing problems for the opposition defence and winning games of football basically on your own. This may sound like he is a ball greedy player but he has phenomenal vision and just look at his stats he clearly cares more about the ball ending up in the back of the net rather than scoring himself.

So the question is, should Mata be in the starting 11 every week? Has Mourinho got this one wrong? Does he now have to leave the club?

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Does Frank Lampard deserve a new contract?

Frank Lampard is one of the most in form players in the Premier League but he is yet to secure a new contract at Chelsea.

So this leads into the question, should he get a new contract? Looking at his time at Chelsea, the fans believe he should definitely get one and it is not surprising that they think this way given the fact that he is their second highest scorer of all time, and is quickly closing in on Bobby Tambling’s record. Lampard has 12 goals in 30 games in all competitions this season and a lot of strikers will be jealous of this record, including Fernando Torres.

So that is the first reason why he should definitely get a new contract, simply because of the goals he brings. 10 years in a row he has got double figures and 5 of those seasons he has got 20 or more goals. There is nobody else like him in the squad. Yes there are players that create a lot of chances like Juan Mata and Eden Hazard but neither of them will be able to score the amount of goals as Lampard on such a consistent basis. Can anyone currently within the squad replace him?

Another factor that plays into his and the Chelsea fans hands is the fact that he clearly loves the club and even when he is not starting he doesn’t cause problems within the dressing room like a lot of other players do. He wants what is best for the club and his experience could be vital for a number of years to come still and especially in the bigger games he could prove to be the difference. There aren’t many players around that have played in and affected as many big games as Lampard and this is usually scoring goals.

However, there are those that believe Chelsea will benefit from letting Lampard go and that because he is not getting any younger and this could be his last good season and if he gets another contract he might not be as influential as he has been in the past. Also, if he does step aside and leave the club it just gives younger players a chance rather than Lampard hogging the spotlight and taking all the plaudits. There has been some talented youngsters come through at big clubs and not given the chance and if Lampard does want the best for the club then giving youngsters much needed experience could give them a better chance of succeeding in the long term.

It could come down to what wages he demands and length of contract because Chelsea would not want to give a 34 year old a three year contract on huge wages when he might fizzle out next season. Another reason he may not get a new contract is because he won’t be able to play as many games as usual and he may get more injuries than usual which will reduce his playing time anyway.

So does Lampard deserve a new contract?

Who is better Ashley Cole or Leighton Baines?

The left back spot for England has been one of those positions that in the last 10 years nobody has questioned who should play there.

But in recent months in particular that has changed with the form of Leighton Baines who has arguably been the best left back in the country for a number of seasons now. However, the problem is he is behind Ashley Cole who even though he is now 32 is still one of the best and most consistent fullbacks in world football. This is the first time that Cole has faced serious competition since he became an England regular. There have been other players that have been included in England squads that can play in the position but to most people they weren’t good enough to replace Cole. By this I mean players like Wayne Bridge, Stephen Warnock, Nicky Shorey and more recently Kieran Gibbs. Two of these players, Bridge and Warnock now play in the Championship and unfortunately their careers have gone downhill very fast. Finally Leighton Baines is getting the credit he deserves and there is a very good chance he could become the top English left back.

I am certainly not writing off Ashley Cole but I think that after he has won hiss 100th cap he may struggle to pick up many more caps from the starting line up after his recent outbursts against the FA. However, Roy Hodgson may not care about this and keep him as first choice at least until after the next World Cup. Not that this would be a bad thing as he is still a fantastic player both going forward and defensively. He may not get many goals or assists but he always makes himself available and lets the player in front of him cut inside and this has no doubt let Eden Hazard and Juan Mata be more creative in the middle of the pitch. Nobody would be annoyed or be against Cole being England’s left back for a few more years yet.

Cole has 99 caps for England

Cole has 99 caps for England

However, if a change was to be made I don’t think anyone would be against Leighton Baines becoming England’s left back for the rest of qualifying and the next World Cup. The 28 year old has 13 caps so far and already has more goals than his rival for the position and if Hodgson wanted a different option for taking set pieces then Baines would be perfect to have on the pitch. This season he has six goals in 27 games and has been arguably one of the best players in the Premier League even though he may not get as many plaudits as he deserves. If he could replicate his partnership with someone at international level like he does at club level wit Steven Pienaar then it will be very profitable for England. His goal against West Brom just proved how clever he is and his composure on the ball is fantastic. Plus, he can also take penalties and everyone in the world knows how bad England are at them.

Baines scored against Moldova

Baines scored against Moldova


So who would you choose?

Game, Team and Player of Matchday 7

Chelsea remain top of the table after beating Norwich City and more and more people are now starting to accept that they are genuine title contenders. With their attacking intent, they will be a threat to anyone and I am sure the two Manchester club are now very worried. The rest of the top four is now starting to take normal shape with Manchester United and City in second and third but Everton are still clinging onto fourth place with Tottenham just behind them on goal difference. At the bottom of the table it isn’t looking great for QPR, Reading and Norwich who haven’t won a game yet. But, they will still be positive as Southampton and Aston Villa seem to be struggling at the minute.

So, onto team of the weekend and in my opinion Manchester City deserve a lot of praise because they had to reshuffle their defence and were so comfortable against Sunderland it was unbelievable. They attacked well but more importantly they were solid at the back and kept their first clean sheet of the season so Roberto Mancini will be looking to build on this performance. They did exactly what was needed and didn’t give the away team a sniff, maybe it was a bad day for Sunderland because they never really looked like scoring but credit has to go to the two centre backs who probably haven’t played together that often in Micah Richards and Joleon Lescott. The other team from Manchester, performed brilliantly away to Newcastle United and deserved their comfortable victory and could have made it more if Danny Welbeck had his shooting boots on. But, in the first 15 minutes, I don’t think anyone could have lived with them, never mind an injury hit Newcastle defence. Everyone on the pitch played very well and they seemed to be enjoying their football and when they did come under pressure, they were strong enough to remain solid and not concede. However, there are still question marks over goalkeeper David De Gea who was poor again and almost cost them a goal. But, my team of the weekend is Arsenal, because they won a game a few years ago they certainly wouldn’t have away to West Ham. What makes it more special is that they came from 1-0 down and they even managed to control Andy Carroll for the majority of the game and often allowed him to win the first ball and just challenge for the second ball. The concentration of the back four was particularly impressive and when you have players like Lukas Podolski and Santi Cazorla you know they will create chances.

Unfortunately, no Arsenal players have made it onto my contenders for player of the weekend but Cazorla was very close, however fellow Spaniard Juan Mata deserves a mention instead because yet again he was fantastic, as he has been all season. He hasn’t been getting the headlines because of Eden Hazard but he has been equally impressive and is one of the cleverest players in the Premier League right now and it is remarkable that Spain can’t find a place for him in their squad. He got another two assists to his name and he also very reliable on the ball and won’t try silly things and if there is an easy option on, he will use it. Aleksandar Kolarov, though was equally impressive as he scored a fantastic free kick and set up Sergio Aguero in the second half to put the game beyond doubt. He has improved defensively in recent months and everyone knows what he is capable of going forward so Gael Clichy might find it difficult to get back in the team. He is always a threat to the opposition and certainly is a useful asset to the team, especially at home. My player of the weekend though actually goes to a goalkeeper who wasn’t first choice at the start of the season but after his performance this weekend, he is guaranteed a place for a while to come. Reading’s Alex McCarthy, produced save after save to secure what could be a vital point against Swansea City. His team may have thrown away a two goal lead but he was sensational and if it wasn’t for him then they would have surely lost the game. If they stay up by one point at the end of the season, I think Brian McDermott and the fans will look back at this performance and just realise how good of a performance it was. To pick up points away from home in the Premier League, you need special performances, and this was certainly one of them.

Onto, game of the weekend and obviously that Swansea Reading game will be high up the list as there were so many chances and both teams will be thinking that they should have an extra two points on their current tally. After Swansea came from two down, I expected them to win but as said Alex McCarthy was inspired form and couldn’t be beaten again. Reading will be the most worried though because they just can’t seem to get that first win and if they had held on last week against Newcastle then they probably would have seen this out too but that first win is usually the hardest. QPR, similarly need that first win and they put in a good performance away to West Brom but unfortunately, the surprise package of the Premier League so far were even better and the game went right down to the last minute and this could have also ended a draw after one of the sides were 2-0 up but it wasn’t to be and West Brom held on for a 3-2 win. The game of the weekend for me was actually West Ham against Arsenal because it was two very different styles playing against each other and just showed what English football is all about. Arsenal were sublime until West Ham somehow took the lead and from there it could have went either way and Arsenal just had enough on the day and finished off the game with a fantastic goal. Both managers know how they want to play and for that reason, the game was action packed and there were plenty of counter attacks leading to chances and all of the goals had a lot of quality about them.

Player of the day- Xavi

Spain have created history by winning their third major international competition in a row and they deserved their victory after yet another scintillating performance.

Firstly, though I did feel sorry for the Italians and it is always sad to see professional footballers crying on the pitch and to see players like Gianluigi Buffon and Andrea Pirlo looking on with tears in their eyes was not easy to watch. They were gracious in defeat even though they lost 4-0 and in all honesty were never in the game. David Silva opened the scoring after some good work from Cesc Fabregas and it was all downhill from there, as Jordi Alba scored a second just before half time after an exquisite through ball from Xavi. The game was almost over and then when Thiago Motta had to go off injured, that was it they had no chance of getting back into it as they had already used all three substitutes. Then the game turned into the Fernando Torres show who had been wrote off a few times during the tournament but the man could be back as he has finished with the golden boot as he got a goal and the assist which he needed to take over Mario Gomez. His finish was superb as he beat the onrushing Buffon with ease then after being played through again he played it to his Chelsea teammate Juan Mata to put the ball into the net.

Man of the match- Xavi- For me he was the difference between the sides and he played slightly different to usual as it seemed like he was told to push on more. Not only did he dictate play for Spain, he also stopped Pirlo playing and made him look his age. His through ball to Alba for the second goal was in my opinion the pass of the tournament and not many other players in the world could have played it with the right amount of weight. It was a perfect performance from him as he hardly gave the ball away and won the ball high up the field. Italy didn’t have an answer to him and he just outshone Andres Iniesta and Xabi Alonso.

Xavi has 115 caps for Spain

Who will Salomon Kalou play for next season?

Just days after winning the Champions League Salomon Kalou has left Chelsea and is in search for a new club.

Kalou has scored 36 Premier League goals

The 26 year old has been at Chelsea since the 2006-07 season and scored 58 goals in 244 games for the club which isn’t a bad record for a player that was often used from the bench. In his first season, he played the most matches he would as he played 57 times and contributed nine goals as well as 10 assists. For the next four seasons he was very consistent and hit at least 10 goals, including the 2009-10 season when he got 12 goals in 36 appearances. But for some reason this season he never really got going and under Andre Villas-Boas he was rarely used. He only played 24 times and got five goals but one of these was very crucial as he scored the only goal of the game away to Benfica in the quarter final of the Champions League.

Maybe it is the right time for him to move on as he was getting used less often and maybe was behind Juan Mata and Daniel Sturridge in the pecking order for the two wide positions, especially in the Premier League. So if he wanted to stay at England where would he go? He could sign for London rivals Arsenal as they could fit his style of play. He likes to get the ball out wide and cut inside so he would do a good job for them on the wings but it may be difficult for him to stamp his authority on the team especially with the likes of Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade Chamberlain and new signing Lukas Podolski able to play in similar positions. He would definitely add another threat but he may not be happy as he may not be first choice but it would still be a good move in my opinion.

Tottenham Hotspur have also been linked with him and if they lose key players this summer in particular Gareth Bale they will need to replace them. At times in the season  just gone Spurs looked a little weak on the wings especially when Aaron Lennon got injured. Rafael Van Der Vaart looks a lot more comfortable playing in the hole behind the striker rather than on the wing so I think Kalou could be a very good signing for the club. He arguably has a better final ball than Lennon so could even take his place and with Bale on one side, Kalou on the other, Van Der Vaart and the main striker will certainly get a lot of balls to attack in the box as well as benefit from clever through balls.

Finally, Liverpool could be interested in signing him as they have looked poor in the midfield area this season with Jordan Henderson and Stewart Downing not living up to their price tags and were in all honestly not good enough for Liverpool. He can play on the left or the right and would link up well with both of their strikers. He could feed off Andy Carroll’s knock downs and also combine well with Luis Suarez on the floor. With Dirk Kuyt’s future unclear he would be a fantastic replacement and score around the same amount of goals a season.

I think he should join Tottenham and help them secure a Champions League spot next season because I think they would be a good fit for each other and under Harry Redknapp’s guidance he could become an even better player.

Who will be the next Liverpool manager?

Kenny Dalglish has left Liverpool and now the club are clearly trying to get the right man as they have reportedly talked to a number of managers.

8th place is not good enough for a team like Liverpool

With Brendan Rodgers the latest to have been linked with the role at Anfield, but he has declined to talk to the club as he feels it may be too early. This may be a good thing for both parties as Rodgers has only had one season in the Premier League and we do not yet know how Swansea will cope next season. Even though Liverpool is a massive club, they do need to re-evaluate where they are right now and make sure they are looking at the right sorts of candidates. A lot of fans have thrown around names like Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp who realistically wouldn’t be interested in the job as they were both managing Barcelona and Borussia Dortmund who unfortunately right now are a lot better than Liverpool.

So who is it going to be? Roberto Martinez is clearly the favourite at the moment and it is easy to see why. He has done a terrific job at Wigan Athletic and to keep them up playing the way they do is a real achievement, they were in trouble this year and were written off by a lot of people but he changed the tactics and formation and it worked superbly. People may argue he has only managed small clubs but he is working his way up the ladder and people questioned him when he left Swansea City for Wigan and said his style of football would get them relegated but he proved them wrong and in my opinion with better players at Liverpool, he will prove the doubters wrong again.

The question for Liverpool is, do they want some that is going into the job with confidence (Martinez) or do they want someone that is wanting to come in a prove a few people wrong? The man that could do this is Andre Villas-Boas. He was sacked by Chelsea only a few months ago but in my opinion was trying to do the right thing and clear out the older players, for the new. It is hard to argue that Chelsea’s best two players this season have been Juan Mata and Daniel Sturridge who he brought into the starting 11 at the beginning of the season. He wouldn’t have as much of a problem with player power at Liverpool and could be a good fit. If he is given the time, he can build something at Liverpool and in a few years I could see them challenging for the title again if he is backed in the transfer market.

A third option for Liverpool could be giving an old manager a second chance at the club. Rafa Benitez is still available after leaving Inter Milan and he delivered the club the Champions League and almost a Premier League title so the fans love him and he still loves the club which is clear to see whenever he talks about it in interviews. Would it be a backwards step? No in my opinion, he has enough knowledge and quality to get Liverpool back into the European places and will already know a lot of the players and they in turn will also know what he wants them to do in training and in matches. But the owners may be put off by the fact they have tried this once with Kenny Dalglish.

Personally, I think if the new manager is going to be given a few years to build a squad, the best option would be AVB just simply because he deserves another chance in the Premier League and I’m sure he will be a success. Plus, he is a young manager and could even be in charge for the next 10 years if it is going well. Liverpool need someone to take them back to where they belong but it won’t be easy and it will be a long process.

Pressure is building on Andre Villas Boas at Chelsea

Andre Villas Boas is the favourite to be sacked next in the Premier League after they have failed to live up to their pre season expectations.

It is not surprising that he is under pressure as the team are not certainties to qualify for the Champions League next season and are in danger of going out of the competition after a horrific defensive display away to Napoli. In this game they made Sunday League defenders look like professionals with poor positioning and poor decision making. Petr Cech kept them in the game for a while and when Juan Mata put them in front the fans must have been thinking finally our season is looking up. But they couldn’t even hang on until half time and went in at the break 2-1 down. AVB does not strike me as the type of manager that is going to rip into his players and throw things around the dressing room, this is a very bad thing at a football club because I believe players will play better if they have a slight ‘fear’ of the manager. They will want to perform better because they will not want to be screamed at by their manager, this is why Alex Ferguson has been one of the best managers ever along with Brian Clough, who have both been known to get their message across one way or another.

AVB has already admitted that player power can be a problem and because of his young age he must be struggling to gain the respect of the players. He has tried to drop players such as Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba so everyone knows who is the boss but it still does help the team get results. Against Birmingham City when Drogba came on at halftime he lifted the whole place and was even seen giving his teammates a pep talk in the tunnel which makes you wonder what AVB was doing.

If he gets given the time, he will probably turn Chelsea into a force again as he does seem to be a good manager and his record at Porto was amazing. You can see what he is trying to do as Chelsea have been criticised in recent seasons for having too many players the wrong side of 30 which means that he has tried to get rid of a few players, or at least fade them out. But this will take time as replacing a goal scoring midfielder like Lampard or a proven striker in Drogba will be difficult, especially when Fernando Torres has been dreadful and has not looked like he is going to get back into the groove of scoring goals anytime soon.

The Portuguese manager does have a 47% win record, which is actually quite good but the Chelsea board and fans were hoping it would be closer to the 88% win record he had when he was at Porto. I hope he keeps his job and gets to grips with the Premier League and also realises that in this country sometimes the players need the dreaded hairdryer treatment.