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Chelsea Rejects XI: How Good Would They Be?

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Chelsea have developed a reputation in recent years for becoming a loan factory with several players joining the club and immediately leaving on temporary deals. Many of these end up at Chelsea’s partner club Vitesse Arnhem in Holland, whilst others end up scattered around Europe or England’s lower leagues. The vast majority are sold after either increasing their values, or failing to show the quality required to break into Chelsea’s first team.
Thibaut Courtois and Andreas Christensen are notable exceptions having broken the mould and become regulars. This season they have featured in 100% and 67% of Chelsea’s league games respectively with Courtois the undisputed number one in goal after three successful years on loan at Atletico Madrid from 2011-2014, and Christensen making his breakthrough this season after two years with Borussia Monchengladbach.
Other players have signed for significant fees in recent years, yet have struggled to make an impact and have gone on to succeed elsewhere. Here we assemble a team of these players and rate them from one to ten based on how much of a loss they are to Chelsea, with one being no loss at all and ten being players the Blues will regret letting go.

GK: Asmir Begovic


Chelsea have not been blessed with fantastic understudy goalkeepers in recent years. Aside from the 2014/15 season in which club legend Petr Cech played second fiddle to Thibaut Courtois, the likes of Henrique Hilario, Ross Turnbull and Asmir Begovic have kept the bench warm. The latter gets the nod based on the lack of competition around him more than anything else.
A brilliant goalkeeper for Stoke, Begovic got his big move to Chelsea in 2015. Frustrated at his lack of first team opportunities, the Bosnian joined Bournemouth this summer where he has usurped Artur Boruc as number one. With Willy Caballero a capable backup however following his summer move from Manchester City, Begovic will not be missed by many in West London. 3/10

 

RB: Jack Cork


Okay, a very tenuous one this. Chelsea have had no right-backs in recent years who fit the criteria of flops who have succeeded elsewhere after leaving Stamford Bridge. Cork gets this spot based on the fact he played a handful of games in this position during a four-year spell with Southampton.
Naturally a defensive midfielder, the recent England debutant has succeeded with the Saints, Swansea and now Burnley. With the right-back spot redundant since Antonio Conte began playing with three at the back, and better options in his natural position, few if any will be calling for the return of Cork. 1/10

CB: Nathan Ake


One of the most successful products of Chelsea’s transfer system, the Dutchman became Bournemouth’s record signing when he joined for £20m in the summer having had a successful loan spell at the Dorset club last season. He was such a hit, Conte recalled him early to give Chelsea additional options in defence during their ultimately-successful title challenge. He rarely featured however, and was deemed surplus to requirements in the end with Christensen, Gary Cahill, Cesar Azpilicueta, Antonio Rudiger, David Luiz and Kurt Zouma all preferred options at the back, despite Zouma subsequently joining Stoke City on loan. 4/10

 

CB: Jeffrey Bruma


Ake’s fellow countryman joined the Blues in 2009, but was sold to PSV Eindhoven after four Premier League appearances in as many years. After three successful seasons in Holland, Conte attempted to bring Bruma back to Chelsea, but the defender had his heart set on a move to the Bundesliga where he ultimately joined Wolfsburg and has established himself as first choice alongside American international John Brooks. 3/10

 

LB: Ryan Bertrand


Bertrand played a key role during Chelsea’s greatest ever moment as he started the 2012 Champions League final against Bayern Munich. Despite this, he was never able to dislodge Ashley Cole as a regular first choice and spent the majority of his nine years on Chelsea’s books as a perennial loanee. He finally left to join Southampton on a permanent basis in February 2015 where he has since established himself as first choice left-back and become a regular in the England squad.
Bertrand is reportedly on Manchester City’s radar, whilst Conte is said to have been keen on bringing him back to Stamford Bridge in the summer. If he returned, he may struggle to dislodge surprise hit Marcos Alonso in the left-wingback role, but would certainly be regarded as a capable reserve with the ability to also play centre-back if called upon. 6/10

 

CDM: Oriol Romeu

Like Bertrand, former Barcelona youngster Romeu has flourished at Southampton having spent the majority of his Stamford Bridge career as a loanee. The Premier League’s third-highest tackler last season (and fourth so far this campaign), the Spaniard has established himself as a midfield hardman and deservedly won Southampton’s Player of the Year award last season.
Romeu would not look out of place in the starting eleven for one of the big teams, yet would struggle to become a regular at Chelsea with N’Golo Kante and Tiemoue Bakayoko forming a solid partnership in the centre of the park and Cesc Fabregas able to fill in with defensive duties when required. 6/10

 

CDM: Nemanja Matic

It may be hard to believe now, but there was a time where Matic was regarded a flop. The Serb joined from Slovakian side VSS Kosice but never broke into the first team and was sold to Benfica in 2011 in part-exchange for David Luiz.
At Chelsea, Matic was below Ramires and the highly-rated Josh McEachran, a one-time Real Madrid target who now plies his trade in the Championship for Brentford. At Benfica however, Matic developed greatly and Chelsea bought him back for £21m in 2014 as he went on to establish himself as one of the Premier League’s best holding midfielders.
In the summer he joined Manchester United for £40m, ex-United defender Phil Neville described Chelsea’s decision to let him go as “one of the poorest decisions I have ever seen in the Premier League.” 9/10

RW: Juan Cuadrado


The Colombian winger joined the Blues from Fiorentina in February 2015, but only spent half a season at the club before joining Juventus on loan for the 2015/16 season. He impressed with the Italian giants who resigned him on a three-year loan which was later made permanent.
Known for his rapid pace, mazy dribbling and excellent passing ability, Jose Mourinho had hoped Cuadrado would offer a positive contribution to his side, but it wasn’t to be as the midfield attacking trio of Oscar, Willian and Eden Hazard proved impossible to dislodge. Oscar has since been replaced by Pedro who has impressed since signing from Barcelona.
Cuadrado may have done well with Juventus and perhaps would have been a useful player to have on the bench, but he will not be particularly missed in West London. 5/10

 

CAM: Kevin De Bruyne


The one that got away. De Bruyne’s talent was never in doubt, but his form was poor at Chelsea due to off-field issues. His girlfriend cheated on him with teammate Thibaut Courtois and this impacted on him heavily. Then-manager Jose Mourinho criticised the midfielder describing him as a “cry baby” and “an upset kid who lost form because he couldn’t manage his emotional life” which ultimately lead to De Bruyne pushing for a move away.
De Bruyne got his wish and ended up at Wolfsburg in 2014 which is where he really made a name for himself. A year later and Manchester City paid £55m to bring him back to the Premier League, then the second-most expensive signing of all time in the English top flight after Angel Di Maria had joined Manchester United for £60m a year previously.
Despite the quality in Chelsea’s midfield, there is no doubt De Bruyne would take them to the next level. The Belgian’s scintillating form for City has led to them dropping just two points this season and red-hot favourites to take Chelsea’s title from them. Perhaps it would be a different story had he remained at Stamford Bridge. 10/10

LW: Mohamed Salah


Chelsea fought off stiff competition from Liverpool to bring Salah to Stamford Bridge in 2014. He failed to make an impact however, and after loan spells at Fiorentina and Roma he joined the latter on a permanent basis in 2016. This summer however, Liverpool finally got their man and he is currently the Premier League’s top scorer with nine goals, one more than six of the Premier League’s biggest names including Chelsea’s Alvaro Morata.
A couple of injuries to the likes of Hazard, Willian or Pedro could damage the Blues and Salah would have been the perfect remedy in this situation. Perhaps even a regular starter, something that would be difficult to argue against based on his current displays. 9/10

ST: Romelu Lukaku


Another player who Chelsea probably regret selling. Having signed in 2011, he failed to dislodge Fernando Torres and Didier Drogba making twelve appearances in his first season including three in Chelsea’s successful League Cup run.
He spent the next couple of years on loan at West Bromwich Albion and Everton respectively. Despite succeeding at both clubs and being tipped for a great future, he became the Toffees record signing when he joined permanently for £30m in 2014. Three years later and Manchester United signed him for £75m.
He has 93 Premier League strikes to his name and was reportedly a target for Antonio Conte in the summer before he joined United. With just one key striker in the form of Diego Costa last season and Morata this campaign, Chelsea have looked thin up front and could struggle in the case of an injury. Michy Batshuayi has an impressive goals-per-minutes played ratio, but Conte seems reluctant to rely on him regularly. Lukaku on the other hand is a proven Premier League goalscorer and his goals would certainly be an asset for his former club. 9/10

Notable mentions:
Several other players have impressed since leaving the Blues and some could also merit a place in this eleven, or at least on the bench. Filipe Luis was brilliant at Atletico Madrid prior to his move to England in 2014. When he moved back to the Spanish capital a year after leaving he picked up where he left off and has put a disappointing spell in London behind him. Nathaniel Chalobah was a key player in Watford’s brilliant form at the beginning of this season before picking up an injury whilst Christian Atsu helped Newcastle win the Championship last year. Daniel Sturridge was one of the best players in the country during Liverpool’s ill-fated title challenge in 2014. Unfortunately injuries have since halted his progress and he has struggled to perform consistently at the highest level in the past couple of years. Andre Schurrle impressed at Wolfsburg although injuries have hampered his career at Borussia Dortmund.

If this team were to play in the Premier League, you would expect them to finish in the top half at least, most likely as challengers for a Europa League spot. Their defence may let them down at times but a front four of Cuadrado, De Bruyne, Salah and Lukaku would be up there amongst the best in the league. On one hand, the majority of these players were sold for large profits, on the other, many are worth so much more now. Although if Chelsea continue to win titles and other major trophies, perhaps their current transfer policy will be justified.

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How good is your FA Cup Knowledge?

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LONDON, ENGLAND – MAY 27: The FA Cup Trophy is seen prior to The Emirates FA Cup Final between Arsenal and Chelsea at Wembley Stadium on May 27, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

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Is the FA Cup losing it’s magic ?

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Having just seen the conclusion of the 3rd round of this seasons’ FA Cup we can’t help but think that much like the Premier League, trophy is Man City’s to lose, but is the magic of the FA Cup still alive?
The 4th round draw has hardly produced any must watch ties and we’ll probably see the top level teams progress further into the competition as expected, however…
The question remains is the gap decreasing or do the higher level players just care that bit less?
Shrewsbury deserved to beat West Ham, Fleetwood held Leicester, Wigan were pegged back late on by Bournemouth and these are all before Forest blew Arsenal away and Coventry City ended a managerial reign.
With the notable exception of Wengers’ men, we feel it only fair to say that the PL clubs sent out strong sides with a small number of changes that you would deem acceptable based on past seasons and a relatively busy recent schedule.
Dropping out of the big time you’d find an array of other “shocks.” Villa, Brentford and QPR all crashed out at home to lower league opposition whilst Mansfield and Carlisle held Championship opposition in 0-0 stalemates.
Yes, there will be the inevitable increase in performance from lower level players, especially when the TV cameras are in presence but is there more too it?
We genuinely believe the gap is closing between the 4 professional leagues in the English game. We are seeing bang average players be transferred for 10’s of millions and on some occasions it’s nothing more than footballing snobbery. Look at the lads at Bristol City, did many of us know of them? Why have they not been linked with bigger clubs? Are scouts just being sent abroad?
Prime example – 2 of the best performing left backs in the country are Barry Douglas (Wolves) & Andy Robertson (Liverpool) they have both plied their trade for Queens Park and Dundee United but it has taken needless additional years before having their talent recognised, they both transferred in the summer for a combined £11m, 1/3 of the fee for Luke Shaw or 1/5 of that for Benjamin Mendy.
The clubs without the guaranteed revenue streams which are provided to the top table teams are working harder, becoming more technically able and appear to just want it more.
The Prem does provide excitement but it is becoming far too much about the money and not about the football, it’s about not losing and only in the league. For many the FA Cup is nothing more than a distraction and you wouldn’t be surprised if the players were told “it’s all about next week and three points.”
With the top 4 virtually an exclusive club surely many of these managers need to finally realise that their best chance of recognition is a cup run with an “unfashionable club.” It would once again be refreshing to see a winner in the mould of a Wigan Athletic.
What this does mean, is that lower level clubs need to be taken a lot more seriously and the coming rounds treated just like a league game.
With only 4 PL sides guaranteed to progress could we be on for an all non PL final?
MK Dons vs Sheffield United anyone?
The FA Cup will continue to divide opinion amongst the purists, but for now it is still one of Europe’s premier competitions. We just need to hope that it is continued to be taken seriously by the majority and it creates similar magic and stories to those it has in the past.

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Has the January transfer window lost it’s purpose?

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 Like most things in football these days, or at least in the top leagues across the world, everything is done for the purpose of money. The clubs sing to the hymn sheets created by the constant search for financial gain. But, has it become such a way that the January transfer window has become another way to spin money and highlight the World elite to even more sponsors and the such like?

The Background

When the January transfer window was brought to the attention, as a concept, to Europe’s elite football associations it was initially frowned upon by most. That was in 1992/93, eventually in 1999 most of Europe had agreed to a transfer window commencing in mid-December through to the end of January. The Premier League, however, were relying on a final vote to determine whether or not the league and its clubs would be in or out.

Terry Venables. Godfarther of the 1992 Transfer window decision

In that vote 3-4 of the smaller clubs voted against the impending new transfer window in fear of their club collapsing if they couldn’t do business through other months of the year when profits could potentially be higher. The rest of the league voted in favour.
Then, in 2000, with FIFA under enormous pressure from the European Commission to wind up its whole transfer system, due to accusations being made that the system was breaching the Treaty of Rome. FIFA got an almighty kick up the rear and almost immediately came up with a compromise.
The compromise was to include compulsory transfer windows across its leagues, to prevent the issues that the Bosman debacle had created in 1995.

Jean-Marc Bosman – The game changer. Won a ruling in the European high court which banned restrictions on foreign EU players within national leagues and allowed players in the EU to move to another club at the end of a contract without a transfer fee being paid.

It got to 2001 and the Premier league had still not agreed to the proposals put forward by FIFA, however the rest of Europe had and even the European Commission were now on board with FIFA’s plans.
Finally, in 2002/03 the Premier League and its teams succumbed to mounting pressure and accepted the proposals.

As it stands…

You could probably ask all the managers in the Premier league for their opinions on the January window and the old fashioned managers (the likes of Pardew, Moyes & Allardyce) will tell you it causes unnecessary problems and disruption midway through a season.
The new managers, however, have almost been brought up on the reality of the format being here to stay. They almost certainly utilise it better and often, because of that, get more support and backing financially from the board above them at their respective clubs.
Ultimately, the idea of this current window wasn’t really something the Premier League wanted. That was before the enormous amounts of television money were poured into clubs and subsequently meant the Premier League was the biggest financial money churner the world over.

The windows current image

Put simply, it’s no longer about clubs strengthening their squads. Gone is the ideology of clubs selling players to buy players, because they just don’t need to do that anymore. There’s now enough money at each Premier league club to buy a player within their means without worrying about the cost.
The January transfer window is now purely a luxury for the bigger clubs to have another opportunity to flex their muscles and bring in the big names. Some might say that’s a cynical way of looking at it, but there’s no plausible way or reasonable fact to prove it’s any different. Rarely do the clubs below the bottom half of the league go out and buy 2-3 players like they might in the summer, because they don’t have the funds like they would in the summer from things such as TV deals and kit sponsors.
The only benefit this current period in the season has for clubs not in a financial position to buy players, is the option to loan them until the end of the season – usually to try and stave off the threat of relegation – often a temporary measure that will wind up with the club following the same process the following year.

Further afield…

When you look away from the Premier League you start to see that it’s a common theme that other leagues don’t spend much in the January window and instead opt for loan deals;
 
Bundesliga 16/17 season (January): £92,124,000.
Bundesliga 16/17 season (Summer): £498,944,250.
Loan deals – Departures in Jan: 62
Loan deals – Arrivals in Jan: 40
La Liga 16/17 season (January): £25,425,000.
La Liga 16/17 season (Summer): £439,051,500.
Loan deals – Departures in Jan: 59
Loan deals – Arrivals in Jan: 54
Serie A season 16/17 (January): £88,231,007.
Serie A season 16/17 (Summer): £662,917,461.
Loan deals – Departures in Jan: 217
Loan deals – Arrivals in Jan: 184
The best example that the loan option is being exploited because of the constraints of the transfer window, much against its intention, is that of Serie A. Of the 184 arrivals to clubs in Italy in January last season, on a loan basis, 54% of those were players returning to the club they were originally contracted at. Proving once more that so often players leave in January for 12 months and then return to their former clubs. That holds no benefit for the players involved in most cases.
Another case in point and more recently is ‘Barkley-gate’ between Everton and Chelsea. Between August 2017 and January 2018, a fee of £35 million was agreed on 31st August for the injured midfielder who’d been at Everton for 13 years. The player and his agent conspired to turn down that move. Just 4 months on and while he was still injured, a new fee was agreed between the clubs meaning the selling club (Everton in this case) gets £20 million less for the lad in whom they’d invested so much. Evidently, that deal would have been agreed between the clubs and then quietly between the player, his agent and Chelsea with the latter always focused on a deal in January.

To summarise

The January transfer was not something that the elite leagues and football associations all over Europe wanted. The window was formed by FIFA to appease the mounting pressure they were under from the European Commission. Surely it’s finally time to level the playing field by abandoning the January window and hand the Premier League’s struggling clubs and managers a greater degree of stability for a whole season at a time. Ultimately becoming a way to level up the money/no money situation thats obviously apparent every season across Europe.

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