Category: Archive

Soccer Scene: The story so far: Chelsea vs. the Rest

February 17, 2011

By Staff Reporter

Having already lost two games, Arsenal seem to be struggling after selling Patrick Vieira. And without Thierry Henry, Arsenal could only manage a 0-0 result against West Ham United. The Hammers are more than holding their own in the Premier — but it’s early days.
Already at this stage, even the managers are exposing their fear of Chelsea. Arsene Wenger is talking about getting more points if a team wins by three goals or more. Does he want Chelsea to completely walk away with the league? And Wigan chairman Dave Whelan is talking about capping wages off in the Premier.
Jose Mourinho has sent shivers down the spine of his opponents. Chelsea conceded their first goal of the season in the 44th minute of the game with Aston Villa, but answered it a minute later with a Frank Lampard strike, who got a winning penalty in the 75th minute. They have a 100 percent record — seven consecutive wins. Imagine them when they get in to full swing. There will be no stopping them, if that is not already the case.
It was also a gift weekend for Chelsea. Arsenal were not the only ones dropping points. Manchester United lost ground at Old Trafford when Blackburn Rovers beat them 2-1. Alex Ferguson was trying to give some players a chance. As Wayne Rooney is out for CL, Fergie wanted to field and develop a side without wonder boy. So Rooney was left on the bench and Blackburn capitalized. Rooney did come on and did make a difference but it was too late.
Ferguson admitted he wants his team to play without Rooney. But it backfired. Is Fergie also thinking a top four finish will do this year? Also missing for United was Roy Keane. Yet again United fail without the main man. In his place was Alan Smith at center midfield. And finding Keane’s replacement gets even worse for Sir Alex. What’s the man thinking of? Is he trying to impress the football world by attempting to produce a great center midfielder? Wouldn’t he be better off buying a world-class middleman? Wouldn’t it have been wise to start Rooney?
Chelsea has opened a gap of 10 massive points on United. their closest rival of the big 4 clubs. While Arsenal struggle to find the net Liverpool remain the Jekyl and Hyde of the EPL and Champions League. Something is brewing up at Liverpool. We have yet to see a consistent first 11. Nonetheless, Chelsea is flying. United are still looking to take off, Arsenal are not firing on all cylinders, and who knows with Liverpool and Benitez.
Charlton is Chelsea’s closest competitor at the moment. Isn’t it comical now to think back to last year when there was talk of Alan Curbishley being under pressure to keep his job? He’s the king of Charlton right now. He can do no wrong. Funny old game is football. Pundits expect to see Charlton drop and the big 4 eventually land on top. That’s fair enough. But for now Charlton will not change their goals — and a top goal is to stay in the Premier, with a mid-table finish always acceptable. But if they keep going their winning mentality is sure to grow and change. That battle for European spots could start a lot sooner than in the last few years. Let’s not forget Liverpool were very lucky to get voted back in after being outside a top 4 place. Charlton may be sniffing a European dream.
Sam Allardyce has made it no secret that his team will want to be in the running for continental football also. The direct as can be manager has kept things very steady at Bolton in their Premier experience. The set piece team can be very unpredictable.
Manchester City is up there just behind Bolton. City is not too pleased with last week’s performance. The players know they have to pull their socks up, as expectations at the club are very high. City needs to tighten things up defensively and make sure they don’t get relegated. Nothing wrong with lofty goals as long as survival is in the back-up plan.
Wigan is also up there at the moment but we’ve seen such starts before. Nonetheless it’s better than Mick McCarthy’s start to the Premier. But big Mick knew it was a process to get the first win and work from there. He liked the way his team was playing but they were hampered by silly mistakes and lapses of concentration. His patience paid off, though, with a morale-boosting 2-0 away at Middlesbrough on Sunday. So, Wigan are out of the traps and there’s no stopping them for now, it seems. The question is how will they respond to a setback. West Bromwich Albion are still down in the dumps of the league and battling for survival is number 1 priority for Bryan Robson. Getting the club back on its feet and laying a foundation for Albion is what the man is taking care of. It’s a real strength that Robson has and West Brom know that. Their approach is very similar to Bolton when they made their comeback to big time football. Now it’s paying off. Bolton has attracted some very good names and continues to do so. For Robson it’s more about working with what he has. Keeping safe and building a club primed for the next coach.
There was much expectation at Tottenham when Martin Jol began to put some good results together last year. Many a fan wanted Spurs to push for a European spot this time out. If the playing staff can accept their roles it may happen. Boro like Spurs are mid table. Steve McClaren continues to improve his team as they climb towards a top six finish every season, which puts Mick McCarthy’s victory in some perspective. Not the greatest of teams to watch but Boro is a very well-organized unit.
Blackburn Rovers must be feeling pretty good as they approach mid table after beating Manchester United at the weekend. Mark Hughes pulled one over his old boss. No doubt there was much added incentive for the ex-United forward to get the big win. Can the Rovers do it on a consistent basis is the question?
Newcastle has won a couple in a row, with new signing Michael Owen, hitting two for two. Graeme Souness looks much relieved and is actually smiling for the cameras. It looks like Owen could prove one of the best buys this season. Souness’s teams however do have a tendency to go sour mid way through the season. Avoiding that slump is the real challenge for Scottish manager.
In the bottom half of the table Liverpool will crawl out and make a late run in the season. The Super Reds simply have too much depth compared to their nearest rivals in the table.
Birmingham, Aston Villa, Fulham, Portsmouth and Everton are all struggling to find their shape. It’s going to take another 10 games or so for these teams to find their footing otherwise it’s going to be a long season for this pack. These are the teams that the likes of Sunderland, West Brom and Wigan can snatch points from. But the big question is: Can anyone stop Chelsea?

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