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Friday, May 29, 2009

The Three-Transfers Road to Improvement: Everton

another article i wrote on bleacher report

In the 6th part of my "Three Transfers" series, I will be looking at Everton, a club that performed admirably well this season, despite a period where they lost all their strikers to injury.

Looking at their squad, if everyone is fully fit, they don't really need any major additions. David Moyes has done an excellent job of putting together a nice blend of brain and brawn in the side, and their performances this season have seen them finish fifth in the table, and also get to the FA Cup Final, quite a feat for what is supposedly a "small club", as described by Rafa Benitez.

It will be a tough task to think of three transfers that would improve Everton, given the quality in their ranks, and also their budget, but here's where I feel improvements can still be made.


Tony Hibbert has been a loyal servant for Everton since he joined the Toffees eight years ago. While he is a solid right-back, he is not much of an offensive threat, and this is something where Everton should look to improve on.

On the left, Leighton Baines bombs down the wing on the overlap regularly, and whips in some fantastic crosses. Now, imagine if Everton could replicate that on the right. I think with the ability in the air that Everton possesses, they could get a fair few more goals, if they had a right-back who could attack well.

Of course, as Everton's game is based on solidity at the back and in midfield, a potential signing must also not be defensively crap, so that rules out somebody like Justin Hoyte.

A possible signing Everton could go for is Habib Beye. A solid full-back, with the ability to go forward when required, I think Beye would be perfect for Everton. With Newcastle relegated, he would also not be too expensive, and this is important for Everton, as they do not have the luxury of splashing cash around, unlike some other team in blue (no, not Sunderland when they play away).

If the Beye deal doesn't materialise, another right-back they could go for is Alan Hutton. He is not first choice at Spurs, and might welcome the chance to play in Europe.


On paper, Everton are quite well-stocked here. Yakubu and Saha are the established names, and competition is in the form of Victor Anichebe and James Vaughan.

However, Saha cannot be counted on to finish a season without major injury, as he is made from the same mould as other footballers/hospital VIP card-holders like Tomas Rosicky and Darren Anderton.

Yakubu has been missing for a large part of this season, while Victor Anichebe and James Vaughan are nothing more than pure potential, and they aren't ready to make the step up to the first team week in, week out yet.

Having qualified for Europe, I think Everton should look to strengthen their team, and if possible, bring in a different kind of player to Saha and Yakubu.

I think Everton could send out a real statement of intent to the other teams in the league by signing Javier Saviola. The little Argentine is only 28 years old, but has been reduced to a bit-part role at the Santiago Bernabeu. With his pace and goalscoring instincts, I think he would be the perfect partner for someone like Yakubu. He also brings with him European experience, having won the UEFA Cup with Sevilla, and played in the Champions League with Barcelona and Real Madrid in the past. This European experience could be crucial in the Europa League next season.


Currently, the wingers at Everton are Pienaar, Osman, Arteta and Van der Meyde. Van der Meyde has been out of favour, and seldom gets any first-team action. That leaves three players for two spots on the left and right wing. However, given that Arteta has had a stellar season operating in the middle of the park, perhaps, he should stay there, where his playmaking skills can be put to best use.

So with Pienaar manning the left flank, and Osman on the right flank, Everton has played very well this season. However, with the demands of European football next season, Everton could perhaps do better if they had more players to rotate.

David Bentley has been touted as a possible transfer by some media sources, but I think he would not fit into Everton, as the team is based on hard work and hard running, and everyone fighting for each other. I just do not believe David Bentley is the sort who will put club before self, and as such, I think he should not even be considered.

Ideally, Everton would want a winger who can operate on both flanks, as it will be easier to rotate, and I think the perfect player for Everton is Sanli Tuncay. Blessed with technique, he is also a willing worker and always puts the team before himself. He was one of the bright sparks in what was a poor season for Middlesbrough, which ultimately resulted in relegation.

Signing him might not be that easy, even though Boro have been relegated, as there is definitely going to be a whole host of clubs going after his signature.

If Everton cannot get Tuncay, then they could perhaps turn their attentions to Chris Brunt. One of the stand-out performers from a West Brom team that often entertained despite losing, Brunt has a good left foot on him. That, coupled with his high work-rate, would make him quite a good signing for Everton. I can already picture Brunt's delicious left-foot crosses being headed home emphatically by the likes of Cahill and Fellaini.

The signings that Everton will make in the close-season really depend on the budget offered to David Moyes. Hopefully, for Everton fans, the Europa League, which has promised higher revenue for clubs, will provide Moyes with the financial injection to improve the team. Whatever it is, they are my favourite club from Merseyside, and I hope they will make the right signings for next season.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Barcelona Vs Manchester United: Don't Expect a Free-Flowing Game

An article I posted on!

I've read many predictions where people have said that it would be a thrilling Champions League final, with a huge scoreline due to both teams having great attacking talents.

I do recall reading the exact same things last year, during the semi-final when United met Barca. It ended with only 1 goal separating both teams after 180 minutes of football.

No, it won't be a free-flowing game. United will stifle Barca's attack and look to break, and I expect many fouls to be commited by United's midfield trio. I do think that it will be a United win after 90 minutes of football, though, and here's why.


I fancy United to line up with a 4-5-1 again, as they have done all season in the Champions League. It's a great counterattacking formation which tore Arsenal apart 3-1.

United: Van der Sar - O'Shea - Vidic - Ferdinand - Evra - Park - Carrick - Anderson - Giggs - Rooney - Ronaldo

Barcelona shouldn't change from their 4-3-3 formation, which is very similar to the 4-5-1 if you think about it, just that the 2 wingers push up further to become attackers.

Barcelona: Valdes - Puyol - Pique - Caceres - Keita - Toure - Xavi - Iniesta - Messi - Eto'o - Henry

Injuries and Suspensions

Darren Fletcher is suspended for United, and Owen Hargreaves is still injured. Other than that, Alex Ferguson has a full squad to choose from.

For Barca, Alves and Abidal are both suspended. Milito and Marquez are also out injured, and the 4 could actually make an entire first team defence. Iniesta and Henry are doubts, but I think they will play in the end.

I feel that United's loss is greater than Barcelona's, as Fletcher and HArgreaves are the players that United need in matches like this. The energy they bring to the game is tremendous and they will be crucial in stifling Barcelona's attacking talents.

Barcelona's losses through injuries and suspensions won't impact the game much, as I see them defending from the front and keeping a lot of the ball. After all, Abidal and Alves aren't very good defenders anyway.

However, it will be where United look to profit as both centre-backs are inexperienced and rather slow.


I have predicted Pique and Caceres to start in the middle, and Puyol out on the right and Keita on the left.

On paper, it's an even weaker defence than the normal Barcelona defence. However, it won't matter much, as they won't be doing much defending.

Their weaknesses would be that Pique and Caceres are both slow and inexperienced. Also, Puyol isn't much of a right back, and Keita is more suited to being in midfield.

In a nutshell, the Barca defence aren't a compact unit and haven't had many games together, so United will look to put pressure on the defence by bypassing the midfield and getting the ball out quickly to the likes of Rooney, Ronaldo and Park, who can then take on the defenders 1 on 1.

For United, Vidic and Ferdinand will start in central defence, O'Shea out on the right and Evra on the left.

Vidic and Ferdinand need no further praises. Vidic has been outstanding and Ferdinand is one of the best readers of the game.

O'Shea has put in many great performances in defence, whether left or right. He has hardly put a foot wrong this season and is a vastly underrated squad player.

Evra has shown that his weakest matchup is against a touchline hugging winger like Lennon. Messi isn't such a player as he likes to cut in and drift in.

Had Alves been available, I would fear for United's left side, as he serves the overlapping role very well. However, Puyol will play in his stead and can't offer much in terms of attack, so Evra should not have much trouble shadowing Messi towards the centre of the pitch.

Barcelona's main threat would be from Henry and Iniesta doubling up against O'Shea. O'Shea isn't a fast player and has trouble against tricky attackers - Iniesta and Henry fit the bill perfectly.


Toure, Xavi and Iniesta will complete the midfield for Barcelona.

Iniesta is definitely the main threat as he can dribble, pick a pass, and shoot from distance.

Xavi is one of the central midfielders in today's game and is a great passer of the ball. He doesn't get forward often, but sits behind as an outlet for the attacking players to pass to when they are pressured.

Toure is the ballwinner for the midfield trio, and he adds a very physical presence to the midfield. He can tackle well and break up attacks, and will be crucial in stopping the few counter-attacks from United.

Have I mentioned their work rate? Barcelona's work rate is fantastic and will close down United's midfield in the blink of an eye, which means Carrick, Anderson and Giggs will have to be at their best.

For purposes of comparison, I shall only look at the central midfield of United.

Giggs will play like Iniesta, beating the man and linking up play from midfield. He has played this role to perfection before, single-handedly beating Chelsea in the Premier League.

Carrick will play the Xavi role, sitting slightly deeper and offering options to the wingers and strikers when they are pressured. His passing is also excellent, but what United will see more of is his reading of the game and making interceptions as Barcelona look to get the ball to their front trio.

Anderson will play like Toure, winning the ball and engaging the midfield in a physical battle. His energy is invaluable and his ball winning will be crucial in stifling Barcelona's attack.

The midfield battle will be very exciting and I expect both sets of midfielders to be fouled a lot when both sets of midfielders close each other down very quickly.

I would give Barcelona the edge because they have players in their peak playing there, but United's midfield isn't too bad too. Unfortunately, for the most part, they will be playing it long and we will only be able to see their defensive qualities on show.


Messi, Henry and Eto'o. They have scored 71 goals between them in the La Liga. Which means they have outscored the entire United team in the EPL, who have only managed 68 goals.

However, stats don't tell the entire story, as teams in the EPL tend to set up shop more. Teams in the La Liga prefer to attack and go down valiantly with a fight.

Don't take away anything from Messi, Henry and Eto'o though. When on form, they are pretty much unstoppable. However, I think United have the defensive capabilities to stop them, as they will make it a 6v3.

For the most part of the game, it will be Ferdinand + Vidic against Eto'o, O'Shea + Park against Henry and Evra + Rooney against Messi.

I forsee Barcelona not getting much joy down the flanks and resort to passing the ball into the centre of the park, and Eto'o not touching the ball much at all.

United's defence and midfield will be very close together, which means the space in between for Barcelona to exploit will be lessened. This will nullify Henry and Messi's darting runs into the field.

Should they lose the ball, United will launch into counter-attacking mode, and will make up the ground in the classic EPL style - fast paced football.

That will be where Ronaldo, Rooney and Park have the most joy.

3 passes from this trio resulted in a goal against Arsenal, right from their own penalty box.

United will look to counter-attack with devastating effect, especially against the slow defenders that Barcelona have.

However, don't expect too much counter-attacking football, as Barcelona are very adept at keeping possession.

How the match will go

I expect a Barcelona vs Chelsea part 2, where Barcelona had 70% of the possession and Chelsea broke forward in numbers when they had possession.

We all know how Barcelona will play, they will pass it short and get it to their front trio, who will try to work the opening or to lay off to their attacking midfielders/overlapping wing backs.

However, United look well equipped to stifle the Barcelona attack, and I doubt they will get many shots on target, if any at all.

Remember, Chelsea still had the best chances of the match when it was Drogba against Marquez and Pique. This time, it's Caceres and Pique against Ronaldo, who is definitely excelling in the lone forward position.

United will look to play it long to both wings and isolate the Barcelona full backs. Rooney has done very well in the left wing position, and Park is a vastly underrated player.

If anything, Barcelona's full backs will be joining the attack more often than not, giving space for Rooney and Park to run into when United counter-attack.

And with the 4-3-3 formation, Barcelona's midfield will be rather compact in the middle of the field, and they won't be able to track back to help their full-backs.

I fancy Barcelona to have around 60-65% of the possession, and United to have a few brief spells of dominance. However, they won't be too adventurous and will always have the numbers back.

Instead, United's chances will come from the break, and it will be from one of those breaks where United score the winning goal in the Champions League final. After that, it will be a defensive masterclass where United totally stifle Barcelona's attack.

There you go, I'm predicting a 1-0 victory for United.

I just hope I'm right like the last time.

Monday, May 25, 2009

The Three-Transfers Road to Improvement: Aston Villa

another piece i wrote on bleacherreport

In my fifth article of the series, I look at Aston Villa.

Aston Villa have had a better season than expected. They were in fourth spot for a long time, before Arsenal finally got their act together and Villa started dropping like a stone.

It must be emphasised, though, that Arsenal reclaiming fourth spot was as much due to the quality of Wenger's men, as it was to the lack of resources O'Neill could call upon.While the first team did brilliantly, the squad was too thin to cope with injuries, fatigue, and loss of form.

As such, I will now look at where Villa could possibly strengthen to improve next season.


Currently, Ashley Young is setting the league alight with his performances on the left wing. He is widely regarded as one of the best left-sided English players, and his good form has led to call-ups to the national team by Fabio Capello.

However, Villa were lucky that Ashley Young did not have a long injury lay-off at any point this season. Young had a period of games when he wasn't at his best, and it was in these games that Villa looked quite ordinary. Being such an important player for his team, it is rather surprising that Martin O'Neill does not have good backup for him.

James Milner can probably do a good job there as well, but he is the first-choice right-winger, so shifting him to the left, would mean sticking someone else in on the right.

As such, I think finding a good quality backup for Ashley Young is important for Martin O'Neill in the summer.

The top man he should look for, in my opinion, is Aiden McGeady. The Celtic man possesses similar skills to Ashley Young, and would be an ideal replacement. Villa thrive on the counter-attack, and McGeady is someone who can break at pace with the ball.

With only Milner and Young at the club as proper wingers, McGeady could be part of a trio being rotated to play in the two wing spots to ensure freshness and also to cover for injuries or suspensions.

He is not a favourite of Gordon Strachan as well, so perhaps Celtic will be willing to do business with Villa.

If McGeady proves too expensive, then Martin O'Neill could sign Adam Johnson, the promising youngster from Middlesbrough, who will probably be available on the cheap, now that Boro have to sell players to raise money after being relegated.

With his wing-play and trickery on the flanks, he would be a good backup for Young. The only draw-back is his relative inexperience which means he can only be a backup, and will not be able to play in the first team as often to relieve some of the burden on Young and Milner.


When Martin Laursen announced his retirement, Martin O'Neill must have lost a few more hairs on the top of his head. Villa's loss of form started with Laursen's injury, and they have not looked as solid at the back without the presence of the lion-hearted Dane in the middle of their defence.

Needless to say, Aston Villa must look to replace him. The replacements were given time to prove their worth in Laursen's absence, but none of them really convinced and Aston Villa went on a wretched run of form while he was on the sidelines.

I think Villa need someone who can command the air as well as Laursen did, while also bringing a truckload of experience to the team, to help organise the defence.

I think Villa could certainly do with Ryan Nelsen, the rock at the heart of Blackburn's defence. He is suitably experienced, and unbelievably solid, and with his no-nonsense defending I'm sure the players ahead of him will attack with confidence, knowing they have a reliable defence to win the ball back should they lose it.

The problem is Sam Allardyce might not want to sell him, as Nelsen is clearly the type of no-nonsense defender that Big Sam likes to work with. As such, Randy Lerner is going to have to give O'Neill the money necessary to take Nelsen away, as I can see the Kiwi captain being absolutely immense for Villa.

Should that move not materialise, I think Villa could try to bring David Wheater of Middlesbrough in. This move will be much simpler, for the reasons explained above.

He will provide a commanding presence in the air, and though not quite as experienced as Nelsen, he looks like he could potentially be a very good defender, so is definitely worth taking on.


One of the reasons for Villa's dramatic downfall, was the lack of a backup right-back. Once Luke Young was moved to the left, Reo-Coker or Gardner was trusted at right-back, and neither excelled. Reo-Coker, in particular, has had some terrible performances in that position.

As such, I think they need a backup right-back. I say "backup", because I think Luke Young is good enough to hold down a first team spot, as he has impressed me with his determination and defensive qualities.

For a backup, the person must be really young, or really old, as anyone in between would certainly not want to be stuck on the Villa bench waiting for Luke Young to get injured.

I think the best possible signing is Belletti from Chelsea. With Chelsea showing less need for him as the season progressed, Villa could definitely get him for a reasonable fee, and I think he would be a good signing.

While Luke Young is a solid defender, Belletti could be useful to try and break down stubborn defences, as he provides an additional attacking threat from the back. His versatility would also be useful, as he can provide cover for the midfield.

More importantly, with Villa in Europe again next season, Belletti will be able to share his experience, having been there and done that, winning the Champions League with Barcelona four years ago.

With that all said, frankly, Villa were not far away from the top four this season. If they had a deeper squad, they would be much closer to Arsenal than they finished. So, if Randy Lerner is able to provide O'Neill with the cash to splash, Villa could be looking at a different European competition come the end of next season.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Three-Transfers Road to Improvement: Arsenal

an article i wrote on bleacherreport

In this fourth part of the series on how clubs in the Barclays Premier League could strengthen their side ahead of the '09/'10 season, I look at what many term as the greatest club in the world. Yes, I will be looking at Arsenal (alright, alright, I admit that the "many" refer to Arsenal fans).

After what has been a largely unsuccessful season, where we were out of the title race before it even started, got spanked by Manchester United in the UEFA Champions League, and lost meekly to Chelsea in the FA Cup, improvements are a must for Arsenal.

Anybody who thinks this side are good enough to win the title next season, probably also think they have a chance at getting together with Angelina Jolie, Megan Fox, Jessica Alba, and of course Adebayor's favourite girl, Beyonce Knowles. All at the same time. In the same room. On the same bed. Wearing...OK, I digress.

Basically, major improvements are needed for Arsenal, but I will try my best to highlight the three most important areas to strengthen.


With Adebayor sulking around in London like Nicolas Anelka did years ago, I think it's time that he moved on. He used to be an unpolished striker who worked his socks off and thus gained the admiration of some of the fans.

Then, a goal-laden season finally rewarded him for all his hard work, and it seemed at one point of time, that Adebayor would be the one that we could rely on for goals.

Unfortunately, the work ethic that endeared him to the Arsenal support has now left him, and he seems the most unenthusiastic and unmotivated on the pitch. That is not easy, considering he shares the pitch with Abou "my style's like Berbatov, I just don't have half the amount of skill" Diaby.

As such, he has to go. Who will replace him though? Here's a few suggestions.

Roque Santa Cruz has been something of a success in the league. Adding an aerial presence for Blackburn, he has also been a calm finisher when the chances present themselves to him, and on top of that, he's a willing chaser.

The problem with him is his injury record, and with the Arsenal physios already dealing with permanent resident Tomas Rosicknote, Santa Cruz might not be the best signing, despite his quality and his desire to leave Blackburn.

Also, Mark Hughes has been known to be a keen admirer, and with the Manchester City bosses (who reportedly just renovated their homes and used 20-pound notes as wallpaper) financing any move, Arsenal might not be able to win a bidding war if it happens.

As such, I would suggest we go for a Manchester City cast-off who I think would be perfect for us—Jo.

Out of favour at Manchester City, he has proven to be very useful for the Toffees, during his loan spell at Goodison Park. He adds a physical presence to the side, and has good skill to get him out of tricky situations.

That is an impressive combination that few strikers can boast of. His hold-up play is excellent, and his finishing is quite good, definitely on par with Adebayor's or even better.

In terms of availability, I think it would not be a problem at all, as Mark Hughes does not get on with him, and with the club boasting 15 world-class players in each position, they should be quite willing to sell him.

Given that we have a limited transfer budget, and the bulk of it should be spent in other areas which I will elaborate on later, I think Jo would be the perfect signing for us.


Currently, we play Cesc Fabregas + either one of Song, Diaby, or Denilson here.

Of the three players after Fabregas (I will do Diaby a favour and count him as a player for the purposes of this article), I think Song and Denilson have shown a lot of potential, but perhaps it is unrealistic to expect them to step right into the first team of a club chasing titles at such a young age.

In fact, I think even Fabregas needs someone experienced in at the club, to help shoulder the burden of running the midfield. There are a few candidates, and I will take a look at them now.

First up is Xabi Alonso. We were close to signing him this season, we didn't - he went on to have an outstanding season at the heart of Liverpool's midfield, we went on to do battle with mighty Aston Villa for FOURTH spot.

I think he is the player we should look to sign again, as he will take the creative burden off Fabregas, and he is also willing to sit in his own half to provide the extra body in defence when necessary. The problem is that having seen him excel this season, would Rafa Benitez still want to let him go?

Well, if he refuses to sell Alonso, we could then look at another one of our supposed targets, Gareth Barry. What I like about this transfer is that, it not only would strengthen us, it would also weaken Aston Villa.

Barry would also add some much-added energy to the Arsenal midfield, something that Diaby could never provide even if his life depended on it.

I think Gareth Barry would be an ideal signing for us, but if the price goes too high, as it probably will, considering Martin O'Neill would not want to let him go, we can perhaps consider Fernando Gago, who is himself an accomplished passer of the ball, and also not afraid to put in a challenge.

With Real Madrid going through major changes at the moment, we might also be able to pinch him on the cheap.


Lastly, we look at the position that desperately needs reinforcements. This is an area of our team which is practically crying out for help, arms flailing in the air as it realises that its ship is going down, and the life-buoy it was given has holes all over. Here, we have William Gallas, Kolo Toure, Philippe Senderos, Johan Djourou, and Alex Song.

Alex Song's best position is still in midfield, in my opinion, so that leaves us with four players. Djourou is too young and inexperienced to hold down a first-team spot for me, and so we are down to three realistic options.

William Gallas, since being stripped of his captaincy, has, to his credit, improved a lot. To be fair, we really missed him in the recent cup games, and had he been around, I'm sure we would have put up a tougher fight. However, he does have some bad history already, and I don't believe he will stay at Arsenal.

Kolo Toure looks a shadow of his former self. His decision-making was never top-notch, but in the past, his pace made up for it. Now, his pace is not as devastating as it used to be, and his decision-making seems to be getting worse.

Philippe Senderos looked to have a lot of potential, and I still think he is a good player, so he should stay, in my opinion. I also hope that Paolo Maldini has been giving him tips on how to defend, and also look good while doing it. OK, that's pushing it a little, poor Senderos would never look good doing anything.

Of course, you might have wondered why I left Silvestre out of this discussion. My answer to that is I am actually wondering why you actually had to wonder why I left Silvestre out of this discussion.

We need to stop getting bullied at the back, like we were against Stoke. Remember that game? It was truly dreadful.

I think we could really do well with Daniel Agger. Not Rafa's favourite player, Agger has declared his intention to leave to secure first-team football before. He is strong in the air, yet is a good distributor of the ball, and possesses one hell of a long shot.

He would be the perfect signing for our defence, but once again, Rafa Benitez might not want to strengthen a rival by selling Agger to us.

As such, we might have to look elsewhere in the league, and I think we could certainly use the physical presence of Christopher Samba in our defence.

An absolute monster in the air, Samba would be the solution to our problem of getting bullied by physical (big, rough, ugly, talentless) strikers like Kevin Davies, Kevin Davies, and did I mention Kevin Davies?

Being a Blackburn player probably also means that if we really want him, we can get him, as Sam Allardyce is not the kind of manager you would reject Arsenal for.

If we can get big Christopher Samba, I think he would forge a very decent partnership with Kolo Toure or Johan Djouorou, as Samba will clear the aerial threats, while Toure can mop up behind him.

If Senderos has somehow become very strong and defensively sound after a season at AC Milan, then we could perhaps try and pinch Sebastian Bassong from Newcastle, as he looks like a William Gallas in the making. The ability, not the big talk and the crying on the pitch.

So that's it. If Arsenal commit the summer transfer window to signing players in these departments, or even get the exact players I've talked about in this article, then I would be a very very happy man indeed, and perhaps we won't be out of the title race by September.

The Three-Transfers Road To Improvement: Chelsea

another article i wrote on bleacherreport

So, in this third part of my 20-part look at the three transfers that could improve each team in the Barclays Premier League, I look at Chelsea, a team that started the season with a huge bang, but after that, let water into their ammunition, misfired a little, and finally revived themselves with the arrival of Guus Hiddink.

Chelsea has demonstrated this season that they are capable of matching the best in the business when they have everyone available and united.

Hiddink’s arrival seemed to unite the Blues on and off the pitch, and the players were worthy winners over Liverpool and came within seconds of seeing off Barcelona in the Champions League.

So who do Chelsea need to sign in the summer? Looking at their team-sheet, they look strong in almost every department, but I can see a few areas where they could look to strengthen.


Michael Essien showed when he returned from injury just what Chelsea missed, adding energy and bite to their midfield. He is one of the best central midfielders in the world, and that is no exaggeration. He defends doggedly when needed, but at the flick of a switch, he brings the ball into the opponent’s half, adding drive and urgency to the attack.

Frank Lampard has enjoyed one of his best seasons in a Chelsea shirt in my opinion. How he achieves such consistency week in, week out, (without getting injured too) is beyond me, but he is indispensable to the Chelsea midfield, along with Michael Essien.

Which brings us to the remainder of the central midfielders. Michael Ballack, John Obi Mikel, and Belletti, who has been used there this season.

Ballack is not getting any younger, and I think he has not brought his international form to Chelsea since he signed for them, which is a real pity, as he is a midfield general for Germany.

Mikel has not been anything special and, while he does add industry to the side, he is poor offensively, and Chelsea could do much better than the Nigerian international.

Belletti has done a very good job for Chelsea this season, but he too, is going to be eligible for senior citizen rebates soon, and as such, cannot be factored in as an option for next season.

Having listed their options in the middle of the park, I think Chelsea need to add one more player to replace Ballack, who has not been the success that most people, including myself, predicted he would be.

That man is Andrea Pirlo.

Manchester United have won the title three times in a row, and to me, one of the biggest reasons for that is the calm midfield play of Michael Carrick.

While not the biggest headline-grabber in the Manchester ranks, there is no doubting that Carrick’s simple distribution of the ball has been the launch-pad for many United attacks.

With Carlo Ancelotti coming in, the Pirlo, Kaka, and Pato rumours have been flying around Stamford Bridge and it is likely that one or more will come in.

Should Pirlo arrive, I think he can perform a “Carrick role" for Chelsea. Essien will do the dirty work for him, while Lampard will join the attack as he usually does, with devastating effect.


Currently, Chelsea alternate between Anelka and Kalou for this role. As such, they sometimes suffer from a lack of width.

Even when Joe Cole is back, he is not a natural right-winger and all three of the aforementioned players have the tendency to drift inside, relying on Bosingwa to provide the width. However, with Bosingwa charging up the flanks repeatedly, this can sometimes leave Chelsea’s defence exposed.

As such, I think Chelsea need a right-winger, someone who can stick to the flanks, run with the ball at pace, and deliver good balls in.

The man they should look to is David Bentley. He has good technique, decent pace, and definitely has the core ability to be a top-class addition to Chelsea.

Of late, he has not been favoured by Harry Redknapp, probably because of his huge ego, but I think his ego will be kept in check when he’s stuffed into a dressing room where everybody else is bigger than him.

He will also be available for a low price, as Harry Redknapp prefers Aaron Lennon to him, and will probably ship him off in the summer.

If David Bentley is deemed too big a risk to take, considering his supposed attitude problem, they could perhaps poach Ashley Young, who has proven to be one of the top wingers in the league. Of course, he would command a much higher fee as he is one of the key men at Aston Villa and Martin O’Neill would not want to let go of him.


Left wing is definitely a department that Chelsea needs to strengthen. Currently, they have Florent Malouda as the only true left winger.

Joe Cole used to play there, but he isn’t your typical left-winger. Malouda has found form recently, but for a large part of his Chelsea career, was average. As such, I think Chelsea could do with someone more consistent than him on their left wing.

I would suggest they try and take Franck Ribery from Bayern Munich. He has electrifying pace, is not afraid of taking defenders on, and has supreme technique.

With his addition, I think Chelsea could really stretch their opposition and they should go all out to sign him. Money has never been a problem for the Blues, and Bayern Munich will definitely let go of their star man if the price is right.

Ribery will also realise that he has to move away from Bayern as the club is playing in an inferior league, and I am sure he will relish the challenge of plying his trade in the English Premier League.

Having said all this, I sincerely hope that Chelsea will not sign any of the above-mentioned people, as I am an Arsenal fan, and if they added these players to their team, they would be near unstoppable.