Eden Proves to be a Hazard: Reaction to the Game

I love beating* Tottenham. I love ending Tottenham’s title hopes. I love that Tottenham haven’t won in Stamford Bridge during my lifetime. And even though this season has been a total trainwreck  since the very start, this particular match has salvaged something to celebrate about, and that is making sure another London club don’t win the league.

*Even though we drew Spuds, this feels like a win to me because, naturally,  we all hate Tottenham.*

And what catalyzed our dominant second-half display? Was it the return of our beloved captain? Was it the greatest midfield duo of all-time which is Matic and Mikel? No sir, it was the halftime substitution of Eden Hazard. At first, I was quite surprised that we took Pedro off because I thought he was playing rather well but Hiddink thought otherwise. Trust in Guus, I guess.

Hazard injected much need life in our attack. He is starting to look like the Hazard of old (better late than never) which I’m sure warms the heart of many Chelsea fan. His skill is eye-catching and his link-up play in the attacking third makes Chelsea look like a constant threat. With three goals in his last three halves of football, it would seem that Hazard has left his struggles behind him once and for all. Form is temporary. Class is permanent.

On his day, Hazard is priceless. There are so many times where his ability has me in awe and I become overjoyed about what a world-class player we have on our hands. That being said, it would be a real shame if we were to let him go. With the rumors of Europe’s biggest spenders following his situation at Chelsea, the club must stand firm in holding onto him. Hazard could be our talisman for many seasons to come if we retain his services and ward off bids from clubs like Real Madrid and PSG. Building a formidable team starts by making sure he stays.

Many fans have called for Hazard to be sold in order to start anew. Considering his terrible season, it would make sense to some to cash in while he’s still a hot commodity but if we are to get back to the top where we belong, it all starts with Hazard. The differences in how Chelsea played in each half can be summed up in his introduction to the game. His second half display is indicative of what he had done all of last season and what he can do for us in the foreseeable future.

Tottenham are having the best season they’ve had in quite some time and Hazard made that team look silly. Hopefully next year he stays injury free while donning the new kit that was revealed today. We all know how world-class he is and it would be a huge mistake if we were to let him go. Because if we let him go, how will we be able to continue laughing at Tottenham?

For your pleasure, I’ve taken the liberty of adding a video of Hazard’s game-changing performance, courtesy of Shpendi10CFC’s Youtube channel. Enjoy.

Eden Hazard vs Tottenham (Home)

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“Magic” Cesc Shines vs Bournemouth: Reaction to the Game

Chelsea 4-1 Bournemouth. Today’s match wasn’t the most challenging nor the most important, but it was still very pleasing to watch how well the team performed. Pedro’s first goal was taken sublimely and it really got me thinking that he can play an important role next season. Willian’s chip was delectable and it was really comforting seeing Hazard among the goals once again. However, the mastermind behind all of these goals was one Cesc Fabregas.

There have been several times during the post-Mourinho era where Fabregas has been pure class. At home against West Ham immediately comes to mind. There are moments where Fabregas takes command of the game and leads the team. When he’s on, no midfielder in the Premier League can rival him, not even Ozil. With Conte coming in next season, I think he should mold the midfield around Fabregas and allow him to play in the so-called “Pirlo Role” he put so eloquently.

Fabregas is not the best in an advanced position going forward, nor is he fabulous defensively. I typically enjoy his defensive contribution. At times, today and in general, he can be a bit lazy but he also sticks in good tackles. I remember him shutting down Marc Pugh today specifically. Great defensive work. Now I know a decent performance against Bournemouth should be expected, but it is also appreciative to give credit where it is do and Cesc Fabregas was nothing short of amazing today.

Going forward, if Terry is no longer with the club and seniority isn’t taken into account, I’d love to see Fabregas as our captain. At many times, his leadership is the driving force behind us picking up points. He’s been speaking to the press lately, he got his first taste of punditry this week, and he keeps it brutally honest and knows what needs to be done with this team.

Let’s hope he continues to don the “Magic Hat”.

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Chelsea Football Club: Premier League Champions

WE DID IT! PREMIER LEAGUE GLORY AT LAST!!!

Clearly, we are all excited. It’s been a five year wait since Chelsea could call themselves the Premier League Champions. I remember the last season the trophy was at Stamford Bridge. I was in my room watching the goals fly in against Wigan and I am just as excited now as I was then. Winning the Capital One Cup was great but winning your league is always something special. I can’t express how much this means to me. Every fan has been wanting this  after seeing that trophy go back and forth between the Manchesters. I wish I could join the jubilations with other fans but unfortunately nobody around me is passionate about Chelsea like I am.

The players have been fantastic this year. Diego Costa being that clinical goalscorer we so desperately needed. Cesc Fabregas wearing his “magic hat” and supplying dangerous passes from the middle of the park, John Terry and Gary Cahill being the best defensive pairing in England, and PFA Player of the Year Eden Hazard playing like a bona fide MVP. But it wasn’t just them. Everybody played a part into making this season special. I can still see Willian scoring that late winner against Everton, Courtois making fantastic saves, Cech stepping in and shutting out Arsenal, Remy’s winner against Hull. So many memories.

This was the team to do it. Seeing the signings Mourinho made during the summer, I thought to myself that this is the team we’ve been waiting for. A good pre-season. First place since Day 1 and never being knocked off. Great performances coming regularly and never having any genuine complaints. My only (biased) complaint would be that Salah didn’t play two more games to earn a winner’s medal. I’m happy Schurrle did. Think he was more useful than Cuadrado has been but it’s too early to tell.

But I digress. Congratulations to the newly crowned champions. Now let’s play some of the youth players in these next meaningless games! Although I’d really like to crush Liverpool, I’d love to see Dom Solanke start up front.

Oh, and happy birthday to Cesc Fabregas who can now say he is finally a Premier League Champion.

We know what we are! We know what we are! Champions of England, we know what we are!

Keep the blue flag forever flying high.

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Bradford Surprised Us All: My Reaction to the Game

So Bradford beat Chelsea 4-2. Unfortunately I woke up at 10 a.m. for nothing seeing that there were no streams for this game online, but I thought it’s no big deal since we would most likely win. Now I don’t like to assume things usually but I had a good feeling Chelsea would be victorious. I got the two goal updates on my phone and I decided the game was over and I played FIFA for a while. After a couple hours I check the scoreline and to my astonishment, we lost. To Bradford. 7th positioned in the Football League 1. And they scored FOUR goals. 😦

But hey, that’s the beauty of the cup I guess. This is the time for the underdogs too scalp the heads of the giants. And a few other upsets happened as well (Middlesbrough beating Manchester City, courtesy of one Patrick Bamford). So like every Chelsea game, win, lose, or draw, I watch the highlights. FIrst off, I was happy seeing some younger players start. Zouma at center back, Christensen at right back, and Mohamed Salah finally gets some game time (hooray!).

The highlights started off well with Cech’s great save followed by the early front runner for the 2015 FIFA Puskas Award. Gary Cahill scored with an absolutely amazing flick from Oscar’s corner kick that went flying into the net. That would be a great goal for any forward or attacking midfielder, but as a CENTER BACK? Oh my Cahill. You’ve outdone yourself and you scored some decent goals in the past (2012 against Tottenham comes to mind), but this takes the cake. Anyway, Ramires’ goal soon followed after exchanging passes with Salah and things looked like they would continue that way. After a great shot to reduce the lead to one, Bradford were picking it up in the second half. A simple tap in from ex-Chelsea product Morais, a curving shot from distance from Halliday, and a decent move finished off by Yeates dismantled the Blues and now we are out of the FA Cup.

This may be a blessing in disguise so that reducing fixture congestion won’t impede us for contesting for the Premier League, League Cup and UEFA Champions League for whenever that wants to start up again (seriously it’s been forever). But as a whole I’m quite happy from the reports I read on some of the players. Salah and Christensen seemed to play well, Mikel appears to have done quite the opposite, and apparently Azpilicueta has no left foot (who knew).

So as much as I would have loved to win every competition, I’ll have to get over this FA Cup loss and move on. Congratulations to Bradford and yet another cup surprise. Hope they go far in the competition. And if this surprising cup victories keep happening for them, I’d really hope to see them transition that into getting promoted to the Premier League one day. Cheers to Bradford.

#KTBFFH

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“Czeching” Out Tomas Kalas

Today, Chelsea confirmed the loan of one of my favorite prospects over recent years. Tomas Kalas signed with Chelsea around the same time of the conclusion of the 2010 World Cup and I genuinely knew nothing about him. He hadn’t arrived at Chelsea until the second half of the 2010-11 season and spent the rest of that season in the reserves. It wasn’t until the the summer of 2011 when Kalas received his first loan. He was one of many Chelsea prospects to be loaned to our friends at Vitesse in the Netherlands.

Around that time, I was watching a lot of Dutch football. As an American, I watched nearly every AZ Alkmaar game keeping tabs on Jozy Altidore. Subsequently, I watched a lot of Vitesse games and I was very impressed Kalas. He worked his way into their starting lineup rather quickly (wish I could say the same about Ulises Davila). All accounts I read during that time period usually spoke highly of him so that was something to look forward to. It appeared that we had a good central defender for the future.

Before the 2012-13 season started, Chelsea announced that Kalas would go back to Vitesse on loan and I was really excited. It was nice to know that he would continue to get a substantial amount of playing time at such a young age. What had surprised me at first was seeing Kalas used more at the right back position instead of his natural center back. But once again, he seemed to excel from what I watched and read. It was really nice to see versatility in him because Chelsea could utilize him in two different positions.

At the start of the 2013-14 season, Mourinho announced that Kalas would actually stay with the first team and fight for playing time. I thought this was great because a Chelsea manager finally had enough faith in Kalas to be a first team member at such a young age. But before I could get too excited, he got injured and was out for a while. That really put a damper on my day but I could still find solace in that he would stick around in the first team.

Fast forward to October and Tomas Kalas was named on the bench in the Capital One Cup tie against Arsenal. Not only was he on the bench, he made his debut coming very late on for Juan Mata (who had just scored his last goal for the club *tear drop*). Although it was brief, I was just happy to finally see him play in a Chelsea shirt. But then things took a bad turn for fans of the young Czech. He received no more playing time for a while and in the January window, Chelsea announced the signing of Kurt Zouma. I read up on Zouma and his primary position was center back with his secondary being right back. I’m thinking “Oh no. This is bad for ol’ Tommy.” Chelsea basically signed another Tomas Kalas who seemingly looked better and a year younger. And with getting no playing time, I thought another loan would ensue.

To me surprise, Kalas stayed and still received no playing time. I only expected as much for a young defender but I still had hoped for something more. He got more pity minutes against Galatasary (Drogba’s return to the Bridge), replacing Willian in stoppage time. I just accepted the fact that this was how the season will go for him. But then, the unthinkable happened.

I remember waking up at 9 a.m. to watch Chelsea vs Liverpool and the lineup was completed changed to what Chelsea was accustomed to all season. The biggest surprise was that Tomas Kalas was actually STARTING against title contenders Liverpool. I was thinking this is a bad time to give him substantial minutes because I didn’t think he was ready. But 90 minutes, 2 goals, and the infamous Gerrard slip later I was very impressed with Kalas’s performance. He had Luis Suarez, the Premier League top scorer, in his pocket. He looked like he’s been a regular in the lineup for quite some time. He also got another 90 against Cardiff in the last game of the season. Good for him getting minutes late in the season.

Summer comes. Kalas is the first player to get shipped out on loan which quickly squashes any hope of him sticking around for this current season. He gets loaned out to FC Koln in Germany and at first I’m thinking it’s a step in the right direction. The Bundesliga is a fantastic league and it would be great for Kalas to play against top talent. After two great loans with Vitesse and keeping Suarez in his pocket for 90 minutes, I thought it was a matter of time until he becomes a Koln regular in the defense. Boy was I wrong.

Kalas failed to make a single appearance for them in half a season. I don’t know why considering Koln weren’t far from relegation. It was fairly disappointing to say the least and, rightfully, Chelsea recalled him from his loan. Now he’s going to be at Middlesbrough where he shouldn’t have too much difficulty getting more playing time. He’s also surrounded by familiar faces in my Nigerian compatriot*  Kenneth Omeruo and the ever present Patrick Bamford. And he could do a lot worse than playing in the Championship.

*I’m Nigerian-American. I root for both countries.

With Kurt Zouma playing well whenever he gets a chance, I don’t see Tomas Kalas being in Chelsea’s immediate plans for the future but as a fan of his since he signed, I hope this loan revives his career after sitting on a German bench for half a season. Even if he doesn’t make it at Chelsea, I just hope he makes it somewhere nice. He currently has one cap to his name for the Czech national team and I hope he adds to it soon.

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The Curious Case of Mohamed Salah & Lack of Trust in the Youth

January 2014. A month that will always remain in my mind as an avid Chelsea supporter. Juan Mata, my favorite player in that current Chelsea squad and only second to Didier Drogba as my favorite player of all time, was sold. And to make matters worse, he was sold to the club I despise the most; Manchester United. I was confused, gutted, and heart broken. As I sit in my dorm room trying to process what has just unfolded, a question dawns on me. I think to myself, “How will Chelsea cope without Mata now?”. At the time, Chelsea had Eden Hazard, Oscar, Andre Schurrle, and Willian as their current attacking midfielders. They had just sold Kevin De Bruyne earlier that month as well so the position that they were most heavily stacked had now turned into a position with little squad depth seeing that Chelsea utilize a 4-2-3-1.

First thing that came to mind is if Chelsea could recall one of the various players they sent out on loan. This could be the time we finally see the likes of Lucas Piazon or Thorgan Hazard being with the first team squad in training and picking up some minutes on the way. That seemed to be the sensible thing to do. Having five attacking midfielders seems to be the ideal amount. Three would start, one would definitely come of the bench, and the other for cover just in case. I didn’t see the need to sign another attacking midfielder to sit the bench and halt the development of one of our many youngsters.

In comes the rumors of Mohamed Salah. These rumors coincided with Mata’s rumored departure so it seemed evident that Salah’s arrival is imminent. But it just didn’t make sense to me. Is Salah going to fill Mata’s role and just sit the bench? That would be absurd to buy the young, talented, Egyptian wonder-kid just so he could sit the bench. Nevertheless, Chelsea announce the signing of Mohamed Salah. At first, I’m genuinely excited. I’ve been a huge fan of Salah since his days at El Mokawloon. He was touted as the next big thing as he seemingly scored for fun for the Egyptian national team. He even played very well against Chelsea on four different occasions, scoring three goals in the process while at Basel. But then I realized, he’s going to have difficulty finding time on the pitch.

Things started off well for Salah in 2014. A few substitute appearances, scoring against Arsenal in our 6-0 rout against the Gunners, and having a Man of the Match performance against Stoke. I thought the future would bring nothing but success for Salah at Chelsea. He already showed that he has a keener eye for goal than Willian. The 2014-15 campaign starts, however, and Salah can barely find bench time let alone playing time. But there is little room for complaining. Hazard is playing like the Man of the Year, Oscar puts in meaningful shifts in that center position, Schurrle starts off the season roaring coming off that World Cup victory with Germany, and Willian is an absolute work horse who never seems to lose energy. Leaving Mohamed Salah, and many fans, to ponder why Chelsea signed him.

January 2015. One year later. Salah has accumulated a total of 18 appearances, most as a substitute, and 2 goals to his name. This season alone, Salah has appeared in 7 out of the 30 games Chelsea have played so far. Our latest game, a 3-0 victory of Watford in the FA Cup, saw him sitting the bench for its entirety. One would think that he would start or at least get some playing time in a cup competition. Salah has not made a significant impact on the squad and I wonder why Mourinho could not promote Lucas Piazon or Thorgan Hazard to that fifth attacking midfield spot. Chelsea has all these talented youth players at their disposal but they continue to ship them out on loan instead of giving them minutes like other clubs do. Manchester United trusted James Wilson. Liverpool trusted Raheem Sterling. Arsenal continually trusts various academy products. Tottenham trusted Harry Kane, who scored twice on Chelsea in a recent 3-5 defeat at White Hart Lane. Even in Kane’s case, he was shipped out on loan a lot but eventually found a place in the Tottenham squad. Chelsea loan of players until their contracts run out and then subsequently released. Chelsea can learn a thing or two from these teams.

To make this point clear, Chelsea should not rush to buy when we have an amazing academy. Chelsea’s academy has dominated England, picking up various titles along the way. Chelsea’s academy team even made the UEFA Youth Final not too long ago. If the academy products get a run in, then Chelsea can stop buying various players without the intent of utilizing them properly. I’ve been dying to watch Lucas Piazon play at Stamford Bridge since 2011. I’ve been salivating at the thought of watching both Hazard brothers operate on either wing of each other. And with the current rumors of Mohamed Salah going to Inter Milan, I’d hope to see Jeremie Boga be our new 5th attacking midfielder. But maybe I’m just a dreamer.

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