UPDATE: JULY 1ST-AUGUST 31ST 2013
This review takes us to the end of August. It won’t be typical of the others because generally we’ll just do match reports with a section in between games for anything else we want to discuss, but this time not only do we have a transfer window but it’s also our club debuts, so it may be a bit rambling. Just bear with us, we’re still deciding on formats and it will get a bit more linear and tidy later on. Anyway, onto the first two months of our careers…
GILL APPOINTMENT STUNS STAMFORD BRIDGE
Roman Abramovich has once again courted controversy at Stamford Bridge by sensationally relieving Rafa Benitez of his duties as First Team Coach mere days after his appointment. It was of course hardy a secret that fans resented Benitez, a feud dating back to his days at Liverpool, but the decision to replace him with former England international Levi Gill is said to have taken even Abramovich’s closest acolytes by complete surprise. Gill, 25, is, needless to say, a recognised name, scoring 11 goals for England in only 29 caps in a career cruelly cut short by injury, but the decision to hand him his first managerial job at arguably the most demanding club in world football has nevertheless raised eyebrows within the football community. Gill is said to be delighted to have been given the opportunity and, while coy about his relationship to the owner and his ambitions for the coming season, has expressed a confidence in his ability and that of the players to build upon Roberto Di Matteo’s success in winning the FA Cup and Champions Cup. Whether he can back these words up remains to be seen, but if he does not then – unless Roman Abramovich has fundamentally changed – few would hold out hope of Gill receiving an extension to his present one-year deal.
GILL ANNOUNCES THE END OF CHELSEA’S TRANSFER BUSINESS
Levi Gill has confirmed to Sky Sports sources that Chelsea’s Summer transfer business is concluded. In an exclusive interview he is quoted as claiming that Chelsea have “added wisely” to the European Cup-winning squad that he inherited and that he was particularly excited about the potential of Thiago Alcantara. “He has a knock that we were aware of and that we made an allowance for in the medical. I wouldn’t expect him to appear for the first team until early September,” said Gill. “But he’s a real talent, the boy, and Tito Vilanova certainly didn’t give him up without a fight. The fact that he has chosen to leave Barcelona – for me the greatest side in the world right now, despite ourselves winning the Champions League last year – really speaks to his ambition. He’s seen something in Chelsea, as we have in him. And we all hope to go to the next level together.”
In addition to Thiago, Chelsea have acquired Nathaniel Clyne. The Southampton youngster is widely regarded to have a bright future in football and the mood among Chelsea fans is cautious optimism. Gills’ third and final signing, however, has been treated with much more scepticism. Moving quickly after his appointment he snapped up Bolton Darren Pratley, formerly of Fulham and Swansea, a player who has often hinted at his potential but never realised it. An outlay of £3,000,000 was too much for the fans, one prominent spokesman claiming that Gill had “shown his inexperience” in taking such a gamble. While Chelsea’s fan base has often been noted for its short-termism and a resentment of anyone or anything that the messianic Jose Mourinho did not touch, this time the wider community believes them to be justified. Has Roman Abramovich pushed them too far this time? Whatever the circumstances one thing is for sure: rookie manager Levi Gill’s fate is now bound to that of Darren Pratley and his Chelsea side. If they get off to a bad start, failing to win their opening league games and losing the Community Shield or Super Cup, then perhaps the ruthless owner will be forced to act. Gill has rolled the dice, backed by his Russian millions, and kept the core of his side together. Now he must lie in the bed he has made.
CHELSEA CONCLUDE PRE-SEASON
Today’s 1-0 victory over Roma at Stamford Bridge brought to an end a mixed pre-season for Chelsea. Despite the highs of tonight and, of course, of dispatching European heavyweights Dortmund 4-0, losses to Napoli and Shenhua will have done nothing to reassure Blues fans who retain scepticism that Levi Gill is the right man for this job. An official club statement has already moved to quell any thoughts of rebellion, announcing pre-season as a “triumph” and concluding that “in both victory and defeat, every Chelsea player gave everything for the club and will have left Levi Gill with much to ponder ahead of his first official match at Wembley, the Community Shield clash with Premier Division winners Man City.” While this rose-tinted view will infuriate Gill’s detractors, an unbiased spectator would be hard pressed to find much to complain about in a series of fixtures which brought some famous wins and ultimately were all about gaining fitness for the sterner tests to come.
Chelsea (P) 2-2 Man City
Man of the Match: Edin Dzeko
CHELSEA EDGE OUT CHAMPIONS AT WEMBLEY
It was a dream debut for Levi Gill at Wembley today as controversial signing Darren Pratley led the charge for his Chelsea side, thundering in the opener from sixteen yards. The vicious strike cannoned the woodwork from a first time strike, leaving stand-in goalkeeper Costas Pantilimon helpless as it whistled into the net. The goal silenced Manchester City’s fans inside Wembley, as well as a good portion of Chelsea’s own supporters who had brought banners and chanted songs aimed at both Gill and Pratley. The immediate joy was short-lived, Edin Dzeko turning the tie completely on its head before the half-time whistle and sending Gill down the tunnel, despite Pratley’s hard work, with fans’ boos ringing in his ears. Nevertheless his players persevered and not 15 minutes into the second half, maligned striker Fernando Torres had dragged his club back into the game courtesy of a tap-in from Aleksandar Kolorov’s suicidal back pass. The scores were now level in a breathless contest that had cantered forward ever since Ashley Cole squandered a penalty in the 27th minute. The sides could not be dividied from then on and it took penalties to separate them. The ever-reliable Frank Lampard set the standard for his teammates in a shootout that went all the way to the 7th man, Darren Pratley scoring again along the way, until at last Branislav Ivanovic’s successful spot kick was met by a sprawling save from his goalkeeper Petr Cech to deny the unfortunate Kolorov, a poor afternoon only worsening for him. Gill led his triumphant squad up the famous steps to collect their medals, and while the Community Shield remains only a showpiece Chelsea fans were unable to contain their enthusiasm for the season ahead. After all, it was not every day you toppled the English champions at Wembley.
Chelsea 2-1 Arsenal
Man of the Match: Eden Hazard
CHELSEA UP AND RUNNING AGAINST RIVALS ARSENAL
Eden Hazard laid on both goals in his league debut as Chelsea stormed to victory and plundered the spoils against their perennial rivals. Arsene Wenger looked at times powerless to resist, cutting a sorry figure on the touchline as Chelsea exerted a measure of control over the game at every stage. Wojciech Szczesny was unlucky to see himself credited with an own goal as Frank Lampard’s strike cannoned the upright before deflecting in off his back, but despite this misfortune Arsenal were still flattered by Olivier Giroud’s equaliser. Nathaniel Clyne proved that he still had much to learn about playing the game at the highest level, a careless back pass being seized upen by the predatory Frenchman. Clyne would be relieved, however, when the evergreen Frank Lampard rose once more to the occasion, Chelsea’s talisman making the most of a period of dominance by thundering in a trademark 20 yard drive which would ultimately seal victory. Arsenal were robbed of the chance to reply when, eight minutes after Lampard reclaimed the lead for Chelsea, Abou Diaby picked up an idiotic second booking and was dismissed from the field. From then on it was all Chelsea, the Blues fans in full voice as they taunted their local rivals on their way to sealing a famous win. Levi Gill’s Chelsea revolution is well underway, and if he keeps this up he might just become Chelsea’s greatest managerial success since Jose Mourinho departed the club.
West Ham 0-3 Chelsea
Man of the Match: Frank Lampard
ALLARDYCE’S BOYS HAMMERED BY SUPER FRANK
Chelsea might have taken 73 minutes to get going at Upton Park this afternoon, but once they hit top gear they were a joy to behold. Frank Lampard continued his stellar beginning to the campaign by scoring the first two goals, one from the penalty spot, as his side romped home following a late surge that West Ham simply could not live with. Oscar added the final flourish from the bench, Eden Hazard once again impressing with another assist, but it was stalwart Lampard who took the plaudits today. “It was a team effort,” said man of the match Lampard after the game. “The lads just kept going. To get the two goals was nice but honestly the points mean more.” The only concern for Chelsea fans, and particularly for their manager Levi Gill, was yet another lacklustre display up front from Fernando Torres. The Spaniard has become a code that every Chelsea manager must crack if he wants to succeed, the key to keeping their job seemingly laying in getting the former Liverpool hotshot firing. The fact that Gill has not replaced Torres during his Summer overhaul would suggest that he has faith in his misfiring record signing, but for the lone striker to have one shot – and for it to be off target – on a day when his side registered 24 attempts on goal is simply not good enough. Frank Lampard is now 34 years old and the likes of Oscar and Eden Hazard are young players new to English shores. Can they be expected to rescue Torres every week? This seems a strategy unlikely to bear fruit, but for now Gill and his men could be forgiven for basking in a run of form that has seen them topple Man City at Wembley and then Arsenal at Stamford Bridge en route to leading the embryonic Premier League table. The next stop is Europe and a date with Atletico Madrid in the Super Cup, a one-off contest that Roman Abramovich is known to covet.
CHELSEA HANDED STRAIGHTFORWARD GROUP
Chelsea fans can breathe a sigh of relief after missing out on PSG and Juventus, among others, in this evening’s Champions League draw. In Anderlecht, Dinamo Kyiv and Feyernoord, manager Levi Gill would be forced to acknowledge his side’s good fortune. The current holders seem to have a better chance than most of entering their name into the hat for the round of 16.
Chelsea 3-4 (AET)Atletico Madrid
Man of the Match: Falcao
FALCAO SHOWS CHELSEA WHAT THEY’RE MISSING
Fernando Torres’ luck at Chelsea is such that even when he’s scoring something goes wrong. As he was slotting in Chelsea’s third goal in the 45th minute to leave Atletico Madrid dead and buried, he must have felt as though at long last he was turning the corner. But lurking in the shadows was Falcao, a player many felt Gill would turn to in the off-season to replace his misfiring Spaniard. The Colombian hotshot managed to poach a goal at the very death of the first half to bring it back to 3-1 and that proved the catalyst, Raul Garcia making it 3-2 just six minutes into the 2nd half before Falcao began to run riot. He equalised in the 83rd minute with another trademark clinical finish to take the game to extra time, Chelsea’s players visibly crest-fallen at seeing all of their hard work – and their 3-goal lead – go up in smoke, and then ruthlessly capitalised in the 9th minute of extra time to seal the most dramatic turnaround in Super Cup history. It had all begun so well for Chelsea, Ashley Cole and Branislav Ivanovic putting them 2-0 up inside 25 minutes before Torres looked to have sealed their second trophy of the season. Roman Abramovich was out of his seat and applauding his £50,000,000 acquisition as he made it 3-0, but the night would only sour from there for the Russian billionaire and everyone associated with his club. It is the first sign of trouble for Levi Gill in a period of relentless success since he took the helm. His capture of Thiago has been lauded, positive results have poured in, and even the maligned Darren Pratley has proven his critics wrong. Tonight , however, the Jamaican international was at fault for Falcao’s equaliser and has already taken to Twitter to apologise. While this one result does not represent a wider crisis, Levi Gill would do well to remember the fate of every other manager who has succeeded him at Chelsea under Roman Abramovich. They are rarely afforded time and, Guus Hiddink aside, never leave on their own terms. You get precious few lifelines at Stamford Bridge and tonight Gill – with the help of the unplayable Falcao – has used one of his. Injured Thiago Alcantara was in the stands tonight but is tipped to debut next time out against Liverpool. He cannot arrive on the field soon enough for Chelsea fans.
The Manager’s Thoughts
"So this is the “out of character” section. I have to say I’m delighted with how it’s gone so far. The Super Cup stings, especially as I was told to win it, and to be 3-0 and lose it is unacceptable really. John Terry’s suspension did me no favours because Cahill was weak in deputising, but aside from that we’re ticking along very nicely indeed so far. It was a great summer, offloading high wages and bringing in Thiago and Clyne, great young players. Darren Pratley is something of a trusted acolyte of mine. He won’t let me down – I hope – but the fans are already rebelling. Hopefully between now and the next update (the end of October) we can really kick on in Europe and at home and remove a lot of the poison of that Super Cup result. I know I have to fashion a 20-goal striker out of Torres and Ba to make this season a success, but right now it looks like a huge challenge. Quick note, this wasn’t mentioned earlier: Lukaku was recalled from his loan and he will be stepping up his presence as the season goes on. Hope you enjoy reading. As I said, the next update is at the end of October."