Football Fans Still In Russia After World Cup Preview of Chelsea’s 08-09 Season

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Preview of Chelsea’s 08-09 Season

Chelsea’s last campaign provided a well-known commentary on today’s fast-paced game and the shrinking margin between perceived success and failure. For the Blues it was a season dominated by an unpopular manager who often tried to take the team further than their predecessors had led them.

Following Jose Mourinho at Stamford Bridge was always going to be the longest of legal terms but anyone other than Avram Grant, and any other manager other than Roman Abramovich, would probably have been praised for taking Chelsea so close to major glory. Beaten in extra time of the Carling Cup final; falling just two points short of the Premier League title race despite amassing 85 points (the first time a team had collected so many without winning the title); and beaten in the penalty shootout after extra time in the Champions League – Grant’s stab at football immortality with the Blues was powerful.

But it was a failure, and his reward – after being doubted, mocked, and cursed with few praises – was the bag, just days after John Terry hit the ball in a shootout in Moscow to give Manchester United the coveted title. European crown.

Chelsea have lost just two of their 32 Premier League games under Grant – his first, against United at Old Trafford, and then against Arsenal at Ashburton Grove. In the most difficult stages of the season, the Blues defeated both the Gunners and United at Stamford Bridge – and kept the competition against Sir Alex Ferguson’s side until the last day of the campaign, which spoke volumes for their determination and consistency.

They were relentless in their pursuit of the title, managing Arsenal at the end of March to go second and coming within a whisker of victory over the defending champions. But the two points dropped in the Wigan game, which Emile Heskey scored in the 91st minute on April 14, proved costly, although United’s advantage was always worth increasing if push came to shove.

This shows the Achilles heel of Grant’s side: he played without the attacking flair and team spirit of United or Arsenal, and scored the fewest goals among the top four. Despite keeping 21 clean sheets at the other end, Abramovich wanted “bigger” football after Mourinho, but he found the same, pragmatic things under Grant. Never able to put on silverware, or win over a crowd of skeptics at home, Grant was always on borrowed time. Speculation over his future, which came to a head after Carling Cup final defeat by London rivals Tottenham and a humiliating FA Cup quarter-final defeat by Barnsley, was a constant feature of Grant’s reign.

His team showed character and resilience, especially in defence, but often struggled for skill and goals, with Didier Drogba taking just eight in the League, and January sending Nicolas Anelka managing just one, despite being played heavily. Powerful midfielder Michael Essien also spent more time filling in at right-back, while the manager failed to find anything as good as summer signing Florent Malouda. There was a heavy reliance on midfielders Frank Lampard (who had his share of injuries and struggles last season) and Michael Ballack (who emerged as the Blues’ strongest player in the final third of the campaign). Their goals and energy helped bring Chelsea very close to the glittering prize, although it was a sign that many pundits and fans felt their contribution was more than just a result of Grant’s leadership. This was a burden that the Israelites felt they had no power over.

Summer Events

The managerial soap opera at Stamford Bridge ended when Grant was unceremoniously sacked, with his successor announced at Euro 2008 as Portugal boss Luiz Felipe Scolari. The Brazilian brings everything Grant lacked: charisma, an impressive CV, passion, the authority that comes with a reputation as a disciplinarian, and the respect of the players. Scolari is the World Cup winner who also won the Copa Libertadores twice.

If there are reservations because he has been out of club football for seven years, the risk seems small. The 59-year-old has been there and done it before, and if dealing with the English tabloid press is part of his new, perhaps less exciting, job, he’ll be less excited about it than dealing with the media. his country of Brazil.

Scolari is Chelsea’s fourth manager in the Abramsmovich era; the previous three – Claudio Ranieri, Mourinho and Grant – were all sacked despite giving what most clubs would win. So Scolari knows what to expect, and what is expected: to reclaim the Premier League title from United and win the Champions League for the first time in Chelsea’s history. Another important thing is to achieve everything through a fun style of fun, attacking football. It’s really simple. The most important question is: Can Scolari adapt to the demands of club football quickly enough and effectively to deliver what is needed in his first season back at the coalface?

He’s off to a great start. Drogba and Lampard, both expected to join Mourinho at Inter Milan, are still at the Bridge and look set to figure in next season. Portuguese defender Jose Bosingwa, who is well known to Scolari, has been hired and waited for him, and another familiar face, the creative and inspirational Deco, has arrived. Speculation continues to swirl that Robinho could join, and that could strengthen their attacking options and increase their goal threat, something the Blues lacked last season. The fans will be happy to have another great player, unless the form of Andriy Shevchenko and Claudio Pizarro changes dramatically in the summer.

Speaking of departures, the return of Claude Makelele to France should be fully covered by the appearance of John Obi Mikel in the central position, while Steve Sidwell, a good player despite his presence, was not really used so he will not be missed. Also the transfer of Tal Ben Haim (Manchester City) and Khalid Boulahrouz (Stuttgart) will not leave cracks in Scolari’s army.

The pre-season has been as productive as it has been exhausting: charity trips to China and Malaysia were great for social media but perhaps too little for Scolari to prepare for. But the trip to Moscow for the Railways Cup provided a fitting test and, having lost another shot at the Russian capital on the sidelines, Chelsea can reflect on last week with satisfaction. An emphatic 5-0 thrashing of AC Milan will make many sit up and take notice, as will Anelka’s four-goal haul in the game.

Scolari has said he knows exactly in his head how he will start the starting XI for the opening game in the Premier League against Portsmouth, so one of the main pre-season goals has been achieved.

Analysis & Prognosis

There will be great interest in how quickly Scolari settles into his new role. He would have the benefit of the doubt, something Grant did not enjoy; but there will still be the interest of Mourinho, who won the Premier League and the League Cup in his first season at the Bridge soon after arriving from Portugal. These comparisons are available for direct comparison. His press conferences promise to be entertaining, but this is where entertainment will be the focus.

The addition of Bosingwa should add to the right side of a dangerous defence, with Petr Cech at the back having little luck after struggling, so Chelsea will once again be one of the most difficult teams to score against.

And in the middle of the bars is the real treasure. With Essien back in midfield at his best, Ballack in the form he showed at the end of last season and at Euro 2008, Deco’s vision adds a new dimension to Chelsea’s game with Lampard’s complete and focused Mikel. providing speed and muscle, including the likes of Joe Cole, Shaun Wright-Phillips and Malouda to provide pace and width on the flanks, Scolari’s challenge will be to find the right mix and balance while keeping all his stars happy.

Anelka gave a warning to Moscow and Scolari may be ready to play hard, to the middle, at the expense of Drogba in a way that Grant was reluctant to do. The fact that Drogba may miss the start of the campaign due to injury may have contributed to this decision. Salomon Kalkou impressed last season but often took the wrong approach with his final ball, so we can expect a change there.

Scolari has said that Shevchenko will not start, even at first, but the Ukrainian has said that he wants to impress at Chelsea and if he can be disappointed rather than disappointed when he leaves the bench then it will give his manager a way to help.

Chelsea are set to challenge for the title, and with their squad strength in depth and a seemingly invincible home record they could be in a very narrow position for most of the game. He has the skills and now, he hopes, the right manager to win another major honour. But a lot will depend on United, Arsenal and Liverpool, at least, so how Scolari deals with the Big Four Challenge, and how he develops his head-to-head tactics, can be decisive.

I expect the Blues to be tough on all sides until the last stages, and maybe collect the cup; but a Premier League win on Scolari’s first attempt, after being out of the club’s game for so long, may just prove a bridge too far. Top three finishes then, but not first place.

Coach: Luiz Felipe Scolari

Stadium: Stamford Bridge (42,055)

2007-08 Position: Deputy

2007-08 Record: P-38 W-25 D-10 L-3 GF-65 GA-26 GD-39 Pts-85

Players In:

Jose Bosingwa (FC Porto, £16.2m), Deco (Barcelona, ​​£8m).

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