Originally posted on CNN World Sport:
[cnn-large-image image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2013/images/04/22/suarez.blog.jpg caption="Does Luis Suarez's lofty status mean he should set a better example? (Getty Images)."]
English Premier League footballers have it pretty good. They are rich, famous and idolized by millions of fans around the world.
It would be fair to say they are reaping the rewards of all the work done by English football officials over the last 21 years in making the nation’s top flight the most marketable and profitable soccer product on the planet.
Now that Chelsea have booked a place in the UEFA Europa League semi-finals, UEFA is looking for its most dedicated fans to take part in ‘The Race’.Two fans will have the chance to vie with supporters of other UEFA Europa League clubs for a premium all-expenses-paid trip to the UEFA Europa League final at the Amsterdam Arena on 15 May.
UEFA would like to ask for your help in finding a devoted Chelsea supporter and their friend to participate in an action-packed challenge called ‘The Race’. Fans selected by UEFA will compete head-to-head across the streets of Amsterdam to win the ultimate UEFA Europa League prize.
· Tell us about your favourite moment from the 2012/13 UEFA Europa League?
· Send a picture or video proving how dedicated you and your friend are to Chelsea
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 7,000 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 12 years to get that many views.
Dreaded sack button is back and unfortunately it’s the man we all loved, Roberto Di Matteo. 6 months and 2 days after that epic night in Munich where Robbie cried out loud- “I have finally won it” he has been sacked by Roman due to a string of bad results (3 games).
As per the Chelsea website-
Chelsea Football Club has parted company this morning with Manager Roberto Di Matteo.
The team’s recent performances and results have not been good enough and the owner and the Board felt that a change was necessary now to keep the club moving in the right direction as we head into a vitally important part of the season.
The club faces a difficult task ahead in qualifying for the knockout stages of the UEFA Champions League as well as maintaining a strong challenge for the top of the Premier League while competing in three other cup competitions. Our aim is to remain as competitive as possible and challenge strongly on all fronts.
The owner and the Board would like to thank Roberto for all he has done for the club since taking over in March. Roberto helped guide us to an historic Champions League victory and a seventh FA Cup. We will never forget the huge contribution he has made to this club’s history and he will always be welcome at Stamford Bridge.
The club will be making an announcement shortly regarding a new first team manager.
Shameful how this manager bought us the holy grail after 6 months of being incharge. Man who recently got voted for FIFA Manager of the year and won us our 7th FA cup. Di Matteo’s reign at Chelsea lasted for 262 days. Chelsea have now spent £86m since 2004 in compensation for managers. More than Everton’s entire net spend since the Premier L began. Ridiculous.
Chelsea have now been linked to Pep Guardiola, Rafa Benitez and Harry Redknapp though as per Guillem Balague - Pep Guardiola has been approached to take over Chelsea if the sacking got confirmed. Pep said he will continue with his sabbatical. And Rafa Benítez, as we speak has not got an offer from Chelsea or a call from them either.
Let’s hope for the best now.
THANK YOU ROBBIE! FOREVER IN YOUR DEBT
Excellent interview with Guillem Balague
The last few weeks have probably been the most disappointing few weeks for Roberto Di Matteo ever since he has taken charge of this Chelsea side. The side has just won once in their last 4 games and dreaded racism battle has again picked up in this Chelsea side after Chelsea lodged an official complaint against referee Mark Clattenburg after the game at Stamford Bridge against Manchester United.
The on field display have not been the usual as the side stumbled again in the league after conceding a late goal away at Swansea in what was a very lack luster performance by the Blues. Chelsea who boasted the best defensive record in the league have now conceded 4 in their past 2 league games and 10 in their past 4 games in all competitions and although one might argue Chelsea have missed their inspirational captain on field the goals they have conceded have been due to school boy defending by the men in blue.
Although the side has been reasonably good going forward with Juan Mata being the key to Chelsea’s attacking success so far, the side clearly missed him against Swansea when Chelsea looked anything but what they have looked like this season. Fernando Torres who has been Chelsea’s main striker so far still lacks that killer instinct in front of the goal and his partner Daniel Sturridge though managed to score a vital goal against Manchester United in the Capital One Cup still does not look like the center forward Chelsea really need right now.
The midfield pivot although looks sorted with Ramires and Mikel as the first choice players the side looked rather poor without Ramires in the XI against both Manchester United and Swansea. Romeu who has hardly picked up games for Chelsea since AVB left has looked rather poor in the pivot with Mikel.
Shakhtar on the other hand are still going strong having won 14/14 games in the league and top of a group that has the Italian and the European champions. Credit has to be given to Henrik Mkhitarian along with Luiz Adriano and rumored Chelsea target Willian who have been excellent so far in the attack for the Ukrainians. Manager Mircea Lucescu will hope his side can pull off a performance similar to what they managed the last time these two sides fared. Lucescu knows that a win in this game puts them in a very strong position to qualify for the next round. Shakhtar manager Mircea Lucescu has tasted victory in London before. His Besiktas emerged 2-0 victors at SB back in the 03/04 UCL
Di Matteo will play his strongest available lineup and with no major injury concern apart from Frank Lampard, Chelsea are expected to start in their similar 4-2-3-1 formation with the “holy trinity” backing Fernando Torres,though any prefer Sturridge in that role but doubt Di Matteo will make this change. Chelsea should welcome back John Terry who has missed the last 3 games due to suspension and will get some much needed game time before he makes his Premier League return against Liverpool.
We are all aware of Chelsea’s tactics this season with Mata-Hazard-Oscar playing the supporting cast to Fernando Torres and Ramires making those occasional runs forward. Mikel will play his usual role of sitting back and assisting the center backs/full backs when they move forward. The only real concern for Chelsea will be the form of Ashley Cole who has been poor for the past few weeks and with the likes of Willian/Mkhitarian attacking Cole will need to keep tabs on his attacking runs. Another major concern has been the lack of support Mata and Hazard have provided to the full backs something which Ramires provided last season.
Shakhtar, just like Chelsea will line up in their 4-2-3-1 formation with Henrik Mkhitarian their key midfielder playing just behind the striker Luiz Adriano. Ex-Chelsea target Willian will look to trouble the full backs along with Ilsinho with their pace and seeing Ashley Cole’s encounter with AntonValencia over the weekend, the Shakhtar wingers will surely think they are in with a chance.
Luis Fernandinho and Tomáš Hübschman will make up the two-man defensive midfield and will look to stop Chelsea’s attacking trio of Oscar, Mata and Hazard. Shakhtar will need to keep in mind is that like the Blues, both Darijo Srna and Razvan Rat will look to make runs from full back positions leaving a lot of space behind them for Di Matteo’s side to exploit. Kucher and Rakitskiy will look to keep a check on Fernando Torres, who although has been scoring goals, still looks short of his best and the Ukranian side will look to frustrate him.
Shaktar Donestk Last 5 Results : D W W W W
Chelsea Last 5 Results : W W L W D
Predicted Score: Chelsea 2-1 Shakhtar.
Expecting the blues to bounce back after their poor display over the past few weeks. The Ukranian side dominated the last fixture at home but playing at Stamford Bridge will give Chelsea the incentive. I am expecting Chelsea to win this game and put themselves in a decent position in the Group.
It is little things that make a profound difference. From getting out of the parking lot and going straight to the training ground rather than the medical center, from sitting in the stands waiting for your chance and wondering when you will be fit again to represent your side to having one of the most influential performances of the season. A lot has changed for Abou Diaby since last season.
Signed in 2006 for a mere £2m, Diaby was brought in to replace Patrick Veira who had left the club to join Juventus. Handed over the #2 jersey previously worn by Lee Dixon, Diaby made his debut for the club in a 1-0 defeat against Everton. Diaby continued to get game time and made his first start for the club in a league cup win over Wigan.
All was going well for Diaby until that horrendous injury he suffered against Sunderland. Diaby was on the receiving end of a malicious tackle by Dan Smith which resulted in a severe ankle fracture. Diaby was then out of action for eight months where he underwent three surgeries to his ankle. During the course of the injury, Diaby missed the 2006 Champions League final as well. Diaby made his comeback in the 2007 League Cup final against Chelsea where he is famously remembered by Arsenal fans for kicking John Terry on the face while trying to clear the ball.
2007-08 was Diaby’s full season at the club where he managed to make 28 apps for the club, 36 the following season and 40 in 2009-10 season. The following season Diaby suffered another injury and could only make 20 apps throughout the 2010-11 season. It was 2011-12 season that was arguably Diaby’s worst season at the club so far. Bombarded with injury Diaby managed only 4 substitute apps for Arsenal and it was then that Arsenal fans finally started to lose faith in him. Diaby’s problems have since then gone on and on. His left leg is longer than right leg which has led to constant injuries because of having one stronger side compensating for the weaker. Fans called for his exit, however Wenger kept faith in the French man and Diaby now looks better than ever. Wenger has ostensibly placed a lot of importance on Diaby this season that even after Song was sold the club did not go in the market for a replacement. Although there were rumors of Yann M’Villa but nothing concrete was found from Arsenal’s end.
Arsenal have changed a lot, so much that the last time Diaby played with the club before his injury he played with an altogether different midfield than the one he is playing with now. A lot has changed for Arsenal since last season. New roles have been defined to players. Mikel Arteta who was arguably Arsenal’s best midfielder last season has now started to sit back and rarely pushes forward even when the club is attacking. Diaby on the other hand has had a very interesting role in the side. He does sit back and defend something he did superbly well against Liverpool when he man marked Steven Gerrard out of the game but he has also taken over attacking duties of both Arteta and Song.
Diaby brings physicality to this side while attacking, his driving runs are something similar to what Yaya Toure has been doing at Manchester City. He not only creates space but also quickens the attack something that was evident in his man of the match performance against Liverpool.
Diaby is an athletic, elusive and an enigmatic midfielder. His touches and excellent close control makes it hard for defenders to get the ball off him. Diaby’s biggest strength lies in how he uses the ball and dribbles past his opponents. What makes Diaby a must in this Arsenal side is the fact that he is versatile enough to play in any role when needed, Viera for all his qualities could not do the same. Diaby can play on the wings, as the second striker and of course his favored central midfield role.
This season in the 5 league games he has been a part of, Diaby has attempted 275 passes with a passing accuracy percentage of 86%. Although the mid fielder has not been a part of any goal so far by providing assists or scoring, Diaby has been key in the build up of many goals by either wining the balls from the midfield or providing key passes to open the opposition defense. With the likes of Arteta, Cazorla by his side Diaby is always looking for open spaces to provide them with key passes something that has helped the French man settle in.
Diaby has not only been a missed figure in this Arsenal side but even the previous 3 French managers share the same opinion- “His versatility is a huge asset,” said Raymond Domenech; “I’m not the only one who adores Abou!” said Laurent Blanc while current boss Didier Deschamps added: “He can become a key player for us if he puts his physical problems to one side.”
There were times when Diaby himself was not sure whether he could continue playing football and has had thoughts of hanging up his boots. Diaby was quoted as saying ”It was getting too much,”"When you do something and you don’t enjoy it, you don’t see the point of carrying on.” But Diaby looked up to his former team mate Robin Van Persie and how even after his constant injuries, he came out stronger as ever.
The recovery story of Diaby could be an inspiration to many footballers for example Jack Wilshere his Arsenal team mate who at such a young age has had his share of injuries as wel land although Diaby is still not 100% which I doubt he ever will be after such horrific injuries if the French man can have a season of 30 odd games it will be a big boost for Arsenal as well as Diaby.
Reality is that no matter how much people may hate him for his constant injuries when fit, Diaby is an outstanding player. A player who can fill in any of the 3 men midfield that Arsenal are currently playing with. Diaby is currently 26 and has 3 years remaining in his contract. 3 years that could shape his future. If Diaby can manage to stay fit and continue his excellent form, Arsenal’s chances of finally landing a trophy could be will on course.