Friday, January 28, 2011

Edwin Van Der Sar

This blog doesn't really like all things ManYoo but in the case of this big Dutchman we will make an exception. At forty years of age and beset by unfortunate personal issues, one of the finest - and most likeable - goalkeepers of his generation is finally calling it a day.

He has won pretty much everything there is to win in club football in a glittering career with four of the most fabled names in European football, Ajax of Amsterdam, Juventus, Manchester United, and Fulham. The aberration of the latter possibly being an indication of the excesses of the earlier Premiership that have led to such financial trouble nowadays. He also had a fine International career for the Oranje.

Van Der Sar has always played the game with dignity and with no little skill and we wish him all the best with whatever his future holds. No Nonsense.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Sky Sports Two

No one can condone what the 'Sky Sports Two' have done but please, some perspective. They have not said nor done anything that I would conservatively estimate that 99 percent of the population have not done on a regular basis. Whilst that does not make it right, does it mean that the entire population should be sacked? Personally, if I worked for Sky Sports I would be fired a minimum of three times a day. How would the vast majority of the population fare at work were there microphones around them on a constant basis? Surely 'off air' should be just that.

It is clear that working in the spotlight in any shape or form puts you in a concentrated environment and the tough territory goes with the big bucks, it does however sound like there is possibly an agenda against Andy Gray in particular in view of his lawsuit against the NOTW. Where it does stick in the throat is when you have the likes of Rio Ferdinand 'tweeting' about their behaviour. If anyone knows different then please take me to task but I can only imagine how he discusses members of the opposite sex whilst in the VIP section of whichever nightclub he is in whilst dining out on being Manchester United royalty. A true gent at all times I'm quite sure.

What they did is wrong and they deserved sanction but the level of sanctimonious bile emanating from much of the population over what is - like it or not - everyday behaviour is hypocritical at best. Regardless of the stories (none of which were ever previously disclosed conveniently) regarding the intense dislike of them within the Sky Broadcasting group, I will personally miss the two of them & hope they find new employment sooner rather than later. This posting will no doubt cause further uproar amongst the 'socially conscious' and I would stress them to take the utmost care in their glasshouses. They should also probably cancel their Sky Sports subscriptions for fear the dishes are doing undue damage to the environment. No Nonsense.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Robbie Keane - No X Factor

Robbie Keane, everybody wants him or looking at it differently nobody wants him, or more to the point nobody wants to keep him. He is like some poor puppy at Christmas, met with initial delight and much fervour and then quickly dispatched to the substitutes bench, only the transfer fee stopping him from being thrown in the canal. Now thirty years of age, Keane has suffered the kind of nomadic career usually associated with players either branded as trouble makers or those of limited talent seen only as journeymen, and to my mind Keane is neither. So why does everyone keep getting rid of him?

Keane's professional career started in 1997 at Wolves before he was snaffled up by Coventry City. Internazionale then incredibly swooped after just one season before promptly sending him back to Leeds United within twelve months (admittedly there was some serious talent upfront at Inter at that stage). After Leeds came Tottenham, then his ill fated few months at Liverpool before a return to Spurs, a short term loan at Celtic (the second club he had supported as a boy and the second only club he had ever wanted to play for after Liverpool of course), then back to Spurs and now it seems he is possibly being shipped off to Birmingham whom no matter how flexible his loyalties are, are highly unlikely to be the only club he has ever wanted to play for. So where is it all going wrong?

To me, Keane is a fantastic player and the kind I would pay money to watch, quick, agile, busy, hard working and capable of scoring all manner of goals. His attitude seems to be good and he always appears very amiable whenever interviewed, there is clearly something however that managers simply don't fancy.

Most armchair fans (including this blog) believe they know as much - if not more - about the game as the people who have spent their entire lives immersed in it everyday as first players and then managers. Neither statistically nor pragmatically can this be true although those facts will not stop this blog writing with authority - no nonsense.

There is clearly something in Keane's game that is missing at the highest level. That is not to say that he cannot score goals at that level, his international record of 45 goals from 104 matches playing for a modest Republic of Ireland side would draw comparison with the strike rate and tallys of many of the finest International strikers. It bears amazing comparison to Raul Gonzalez's record of 44 goals from 102 matches for Spain who are a far superior side. A player who is remembered as a Real Madrid legend and one of the most feted players of his generation so it is clearly not all about goal scoring.

You can possibly draw a comparison with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at ManYoo. To my untrained eye, he was one of the most deadly finishers I have ever seen. He also looked a hard working team player with a good attitude. Yet apart from one season when he played on the right wing when the manager was trying to teach Beckham a lesson, Ferguson simply did not fancy Solskjaer as a starter. He was an impact substitute and nothing more. Fortunately for ManYoo, Solskjaer saw them as the pinnacle and he remained patient on the bench, others like Keane will not.

Whatever that x factor is, some players have it and some do not. Michael Owen for instance is another who does not. Fantastic goalscorer that he was and admittedly he has had terrible bad luck with injuries, I cannot honestly recall ever being impressed with Owen over 90 minutes. His goal scoring record for England was a fine one but England's record during his time was not a great one and personally I feel they would have been better served by Teddy Sheringham who brought so much more to the game. Once he joined Real Madrid he suffered the same fate as Keane, consigned to the bench despite being named the European Footballer of the Year and lauded as England's finest striker, he was simply never going to displace Ronaldo (the real one) or Raul even if there were not politics involved. His continued presence in the England team was down to a lack of alternatives and the fact that Eriksson simply saw Owen as one of his untouchables for whatever reason. Owen was reasonably injury free when Madrid wanted to offload him yet none of the big clubs came calling. Other names such as Joe Cole and Tore Andre Flo are other examples from recent times at Chelsea, superficially all the ability in the world but something was missing and it is not always just about work rate. Keane suffered dreadfully at Liverpool as he simply could not comprehend Torres' movement.

The paradox is some players - who nearly everyone I know agrees with me in believing that they are terrible - play game after game for their clubs and country leaving all of us scratching our heads. Step forward Emile Heskey, Philip Neville and to a lesser degree players like Robbie Savage - so it is clearly not all about pure footballing talent either. Lucas at Liverpool looks like a pub player to me yet he gets picked for Brazil.

David Beckham is possible the highest profile example of a player who's medals and career you would say have far outweighed his ability. People will cry it is all about shirt sales and the Beckham brand PR machine that pushes his interests so far but it is not. There is no doubting Beckham's craft in dead ball situations nor his ability to cross a ball but that would surely not be enough to allow a one paced player who cannot tackle nor head the ball to have had such an illustrious career and more importantly won so many medals. Even great teams cannot carry a poor player to that degree for so long, there is clearly something else on the pitch that manager after manager sees in him. He has even managed to change Capello's mind twice - once at Madrid and once with England - which is no mean feat.

So young Robbie's career is potentially about to start another chapter (it's a long book) at St Andrews, he should fit in well with a team of like minded honest players as he is no big time charlie and in the short term should be able to provide the additional firepower they require to haul themselves out of the bottom three. As previously mentioned he seems a genuinely nice guy so this blog wishes him well with his career but would urge him not to enter any competitions run by Simon Cowell as he quite clearly does not have it. No Nonsense.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Theo Walcott does Tom Daley

We require little encouragement to have a dig at everyone's favourite Frenchman Arsene Wenger on this blog so we note with not small delight that Theo Walcott took a self confessed swan dive yesterday to win a penalty against the dirty Leeds. Now fortunately for Arsene, the King of fairplay - who was no doubt fiddling with (stop your dirty minds there please) his shoelaces and missed the incident - the penalty was not given. It is incredibly noble of young Theo to own up to his misdemeanour you might think but he would have known full well that having dived and the linesman having been able to spot it then the television cameras would have surely done the same and he would have been banged to rights regardless. Had it been awarded I am also quite sure he would have asked Senor Fabregas to stick the spot kick over the bar.

As mentioned at the start of this piece, the main objective of this blog was to point ridicule at Arsene Wenger. He would have you believe that his players are so saintly that they would eschew a Christmas night out on the town so that they could put on a Nativity play for their mothers instead (at least in the case of Arshavin they have a player of the correct proportions to play the baby Jesus).  Taking all this into account, this blog has no doubt that the White Knight of World Football and self appointed High Protector of Fairplay will dish out the maximum fine available of two weeks wages (equivalent to Sierra Leone's sovereign debt) to Mr Walcott to ensure his lesson has been properly learned. We shan't be holding our breath. No Nonsense.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Liverpool - Where do they go from here?

** This blog was written Singapore time this morning 8th Jan several hours before the Hodgson news broke, some additional text has since been added at the end of the piece, this blog has it's finger on the pulse **

One incredible night in Istanbul aside, it's been a tough twenty years to have been a Liverpool fan which means for the younger generation, your entire life. It is important for anyone below the age of twenty five to explain just what a phenomenal side Liverpool once were. When I was growing up Liverpool were the team, not just in English football but across Europe. Nottingham Forest and Aston Villa who also achieved such incredible feats were merely seen as the supporting cast to Shanklys' and then Paisleys' domination of the footballing map. This was also in a day when only one team qualified for the premier competition and one bad game could see you knocked out of Europe by September.

I remember being privileged enough to see the great Liverpool team at Pittodrie in 1980. The team of Souness, Dalglish, Hansen (three Scots playing central roles in the finest team in Europe, doesn't that sound odd now.....), Thompson, Clemence, McDermott. They played the rising Alex Fergusons' Aberdeen side in the European Cup that season and handed them a footballing lesson over both legs that possibly served to stoke the fire in Ferguson toward the Anfield club.

Some great players came and went at Liverpool, Keegan and Souness both left but the club hardly blinked, Dalglish moved into management and a new generation of Barnes, Beardsley and Rush came to the fore. It was always a club that interwove its' silk with no shortage of steel with the likes of Smith, Whelan, Souness and McMahon all prime examples. So where did it all go wrong?

It is hard to pinpoint but the decline in Liverpool probably started in the mid eighties with the dreadful events at Heysel. The tragedy of the actual event and the profound effect it had on the club is without question. What cannot be measured properly however is the footballing effect of the banning of English clubs from European competition. Whilst hurting all English teams, the effect on Liverpool - at that point the dominant force in Europe - was the most far reaching, they simply never recovered.

Only four years later in 1989, a second tragedy struck, this time the horrific events at the Leppings Lane end of Hillsborough football stadium. Without dwelling on the details, the effect on the community this time was much more keenly felt and the emotional toil on Kenny Dalglish was enormous and like the football team after the ban, he was never the same again.

Again, tragedy off the field not surprisingly hurt the performances on the field. Fixture congestion and exhaustion saw a Liverpool team in their final game of the season at home to Arsenal simply needing not to lose by two goals. Michael Thomas ensured a quite dramatic footballing end to my sixteenth birthday and I remember being utterly shocked at Liverpools' failure, and despite their winning the title the next season the red machine was broken.

Since then, Liverpool's decline has been undeniable. They have won a few cups, challenged for the title on a handful of occasions and had that fantastic night in Istanbul but the last twenty years has basically seen them have to look down the M62 to Manchester where the final factor in Liverpool's decline - Sir Alex - has well and truly knocked them off their perch.

The irony is that Liverpool are right now (I am going to get sick of writing 'Istanbul aside') where ManYoo were when Ferguson came along and this is where young Roy Hodgson has got it so utterly wrong. Ferguson inherited a shambolic and poorly run Manchester United, a true sleeping giant (take note Newcastle, Sheffield United, Middlesborough and anyone else who thinks they are a big club, you are not). This did not deter Ferguson from taking direct aim at Anfield and striving with every sinew in his body to supplant them at the pinnacle of English football.

It is less well known maybe and took place over fewer years but when Ferguson took over at Aberdeen, he did to the Glasgow clubs exactly what he has since done to Liverpool. He looked toward the city where he was born and had played his football. He understood how the West of Scotland worked and the perceived (probably correctly so) bias towards Rangers and Celtic. He took great swipes at the Glasgow dominated media, he put players in referees' faces, he beat Rangers and Celtic on the pitch and he shook Scottish football to its' core, no one had seen anything like it. Manchester United took careful note.

All clubs go through phases of mediocrity  - just ask Spurs fans about the last forty years - but the important thing is to keep trying. What Hodgson has got so horribly wrong at Liverpool is an almost complicit acceptance of the mediocrity of the team and the hopelessness of the situation. Even as a mere observer I could not believe his comments on having just been stuffed by Everton that it was 'Liverpools' best performance of the season'.

I am no Benitez fan but what he gave Liverpool fans was self respect, he stood toe to toe with Ferguson, Mourinho, whomever he came up against. Had Ferguson called Torres a cheat in his time you could be sure he wouldn't have been scared to fire back for fear of upsetting the man with the deadly hairdryer. When Mourinho arrived at Chelsea he told both the fans and more importantly the players that if they listened to him and did as he said they would win the league, you may call it arrogant but it worked. After one Liverpool defeat Hodgson said he understood the fans were upset but that they were going to lose many more games this season. Did he really expect the Kop to stomach that kind of comment or admittance? Remember the sign - 'This is Anfield'.

Regardless of the reality of a club that has not won the league for twenty years, Liverpool fans expect their club to be challenging for the title and as a minimum beating Manchester United and the two unfortunately go hand in hand right now. The landscape has changed and Chelsea and now Manchester City are capable of pumping huge resources into their clubs that simply serves to increase the challenge to the likes of Liverpool.

The most important thing and unless I'm wrong the key element for Liverpool fans in selecting the right manager is to find someone who has the same vision for the club, i.e. of winning the league and putting the club back to where the fans believe - rightly or wrongly - the club should be. What they need is exactly what Manchester United found all those years ago, a fierce, ambitious and hugely talented manager who will not rest until that job is done. What they do not need is a nice bloke from Croydon who thinks it's ok for Liverpool to finish mid table.

It's very hard to predict what will happen to Liverpool from here. It may well be that Houllier and Benitez were better managers than people thought, they were maybe just unlucky to come up against the Ferguson era, after all coming second to Michael Schumacher didn't make you a bad driver and finishing second to Tiger Woods doesn't make you a bad golfer but again, for the Kop it is not enough, never will be and nor should it.

No one really knows what the new owners will do yet at Liverpool and whether the investment that is so badly needed will materialise. A new stadium is also an absolute priority as forty odd thousand every week will not cut the mustard if they wish to catch up. The most important thing however is to find the correct manager. What they need now is a Wenger or a Ferguson who will rebuild the club from the ground up, not a Benitez or a Mourinho who are mere hired guns. Hodgson was nothing more than a stop gap and my understanding is his contract makes provisions for being replaced which merely reinforces that view. He is a nice guy and you cannot blame him for wishing to manage one of the greatest names in club football but he is not of the required stature, that much is clear. Liverpool need a five to ten year plan with a long term appointment put in place and a new stadium to be built. The Kop may need to be patient for a while longer. No Nonsense.


In the few hours that have passed since this blog was published, we have heard that Hodgson and Liverpool have parted company 'by mutual consent'. Kenny Dalglish will take over until the end of the season. There was little option for either Hodgson or Liverpool as it seemed he had lost both the dressing room and the stands. Dalglish however we hope is nothing more than a stop gap as his permanent hiring would be a huge backward step of the same ilk as Newcastle's disastrous re-hiring of Kevin Keegan. Whilst wishing Dalglish no ill, he is not the man to rebuild Liverpool and is a manager from a bygone era. We shall all be watching the press for further developments.

Friday, January 7, 2011

The Ashes in Review

It was always going to be a difficult period for Australia after the break up of one of the greatest teams of all time. No side anywhere could lose four of the greatest players of their era in Hayden, Gilchrist, Warne and McGrath - in the case of the last pair probably two of the greatest of all time - plus other notables such as Langer and Martyn without suffering a serious drop in performance.

Australia performed decently in England last Summer but that lack of quality and a genuine match winner meant they could not convert their superiority in the averages into a victory in the series and England duly won the Ashes for the second time in three attempts. Since then Cricket Australia has seen a further decline with a truly awful sequence of results before England arrived down under. For once there was genuine optimism that England could win on Australian soil for the first time in over twenty years.

Australian cricket now seems to be enduring the same issues and problems that has afflicted England over the years and is so badly crippling cricket in the Caribbean right now namely competition from other sports which are growing rapidly in popularity and also pay more handsome rewards for success on the pitch.

The Ashes aside, less people are watching cricket these days in Australia with the rugby codes, AFL and believe it or not soccer now coming to the fore. Athletes can earn a good living playing these sports whereas only really the National Team players can claim to do so in cricket. That, coupled with trekking all over the world for eight months of the year and it becomes a tough shift. Easier more bountiful options are readily available on home turf with - AFL aside - the added lure of large European contracts being available if a player is very successful.

So to the actual series. The view on this blog was that if England could by hook or by crook scrape any kind of result at the Gabba  - a ground where England have such an atrocious record - the series would be there for England to win. The first two and a half days were standard fare for Brisbane with Australia seemingly well on top after Strauss' dire start, Siddle's magical hat trick and some superb batting in particular from Michael Hussey. The England fightback at the crease from Strauss, Cook and Trott in the second innings however eclipsed everything that had gone before. It also highlighted the limitations of the Australian attack that would afflict them so badly throughout the rest of the series - Mitchell Johnson in Perth aside -  as well as placing the momentum firmly with England.

Adelaide saw England in the ascendancy with the amazing sight of Australia three down for two runs. This was follwed by some good first innings bowling and then some glorious batting in particular from Cook and then Pietersen finally performing to the level he is capable of with a quite stunning double century. More disciplined bowling and a good effort from Graeme Swann in the second innings ensured a comfortable innings victory.

British teams are prone to resting on their laurels and England were duly thrashed in barely four days in Perth. A seemingly lobotomised Mitchell Johnson starred with both bat and ball pushing aside his woes from Brisbane. He was admirably supported by the excellent Mike Hussey once again. England who had batted so well until this Test were undone by the same lateral movement in the ball that they had claimed to be so at ease with and even the masters of.

At one all and with Australian tails up, England then stepped into the Lions Den of the Boxing Day Test at the MCG, and how they responded. Australia were skittled in their first innings for ninety eight which was roughly equal to the number of Australian fans still in the stadium by tea. A return by England to solid batting led by Jonathan Trott's superb century ensured Australia were chasing a hopeless total second time around and they were duly bombed out for their second innings defeat in three test matches and the Ashes were heading back to England.

And so to Sydney and again Australia's batsmen failed. Depsite the tail wagging, 280 looked a meagre total. England duly proved that by piling on over 600 runs on the board for the second time this series. Another superb vigil by Cook and then tons for both Bell and Prior - with the latter scoring his in record time - did the damage this time. Australia were left staring down the barrel of their third innings defeat of the series and more carnage ensued after the comical run out of Shane Watson just underlined how demoralised and beaten up this Australian team had become. They finished the series with the smallest of whimpers limping into the final day with only three wickets left before the axe was finally brought down on them in the morning session.

So what can both teams take from this series? For England, a series win on Australian soil no matter what the circumstances is both rare and treasured, so often have they been the whipping boys down under. England do not have a team of superstars (KP may disagree) but they do appear to have a team that is greater than the sum of its' parts with an excellent spirit, work rate and also no small amout of talent. The key is not to hand out medals and knighthoods now and have everyone write biographies, it is to take the series win and build on it first at the World Cup and then in the Summer Tests back home in England. India, the number one ranked Test side in the World will be the visitors, beating them after winning in Australia would make 2011 a year to remember for English Test Cricket.

There is little for Australia to take to be blunt. Their openers are simply not good enough, Ponting has been dreadful with the bat and sadly one of the truly outstanding batsmen of his generation will be remembered for losing the Ashes three times, Clarke has also been awful and remains unpopular with the public. The attack looks very ordinary and there appears to be no spin option to speak of. After being the dominant force in World cricket for so long they almost certainly face a period of transition at best. The competitive nature of sport in Australia will ensure that they remain a respectable side but they are a million miles away from the brilliance of their teams from the previous two decades, 2007 seems an awfully long time ago. This blog however would like to recognise the great effort put in from Peter Siddle who lit up Brisbane (unfortunately in my presence) with his first day hat trick and took six wickets in an innings on two separate occasions. He has never stopped trying and has provided great competitive cricket throughout the series.

For Ponting, it is probably time to step down as captain. As mentioned earlier he has been a phenomenon with the bat, an absolutely outstanding number three throughout a long and distinguished career. The reality however is he is a poor captain with questionable tactics at the best of times. He has a fantastic winning record but in reality anyone would have with the tools he had at his disposal until 2007. Since then, when the going has been tougher he has proven not up to it and his preoccupation with setting all sorts of strange fields to rescue situations when Australia were not even getting the basics right has had everyone scratching their heads. He has let himself down with both his demeanour and behaviour during the series which has betrayed a man under the severest of pressure. A place in the side, possibly down the order at five should still be his but for Australia, it is time to find a new direction with the captaincy. They are however, hardly spoiled for choice.

All that remains now is to mark the England players out of ten for the series, this blog shall leave the Australians to mark their own players for fear of being accused of gloating.

Andrew Strauss 7/10
A good leader and captain who has coaxed the best out of his troops. Inconsistent with the bat however and his rash shot to the third ball in Brisbane could have proved fatal although he did rally with a century in the second innings. He remains unquestionably the best choice for England as captain.

Alastair Cook 10/10
Difficult to ever award a ten as people can always do better but with the records tumbling faster than Ricky Pontings' stumps it is hard to give the man of the series anything else. A supreme exercise in discipline, patience, concentration, fitness and ability. Simply tremendous.

Jonathan Trott 8/10
Number three has been a problem position for England since Robin Smith lost form many moons ago. In Trott they finally seem to have a player comfortable batting there. Some valuable innings not least in Melbourne and a player who truly prizes his wicket.

Kevin Pietersen 6/10
Yet another tale of what might have been. Plenty of starts but poor shot selection and a lack of patience so often lets him down. Adelaide showed everyone what we all know he can do but as he continues to play for himself and not the team, KP will only be remembered as a good player and not the great one he could and should have been.

Paul Collingwood 2/10
Utterly dreadful series for the Durham stalwart. Had it not been for his ability in the field and being able to turn his arm over for a few overs he would have only been awarded a one. Collingwood has indeed jumped before he was pushed by announcing his retirement from test cricket.

Ian Bell 9/10
You cannot ask anymore from a number six than what Bell has provided in this series. He has looked as classy as anyone at the crease underlined by a great century in Sydney. He has put his 'Sherminator' demons to bed so please take note Mr S.K. Warne. He can surely at bat at five this Summer in England.

Matt Prior 8/10
Some great attacking batting coupled with much improved glove work makes Prior now a formidable wicketkeeper batsmen. A strong positive influence on the field also.

Graeme Swann 6/10
Six is maybe a touch harsh but so much was expected of Swann ahead of this series. Many of the conditions have not been too conducive for his brand of finger spin and he did well to bowl out Australia in Adelaide. The majority of his bowling in this series however has been flat and too quick belying a lack of confidence to take the batsmen on down under. Capable of more with the bat also. Remains a key member of the side.

Stuart Broad 6/10
Unfortunate to have his series cruelly cut short by injury. Had looked tidy and economic until then without getting any reward in terms of wickets. His average in the eighties for the series is no reflection whatsoever on how well he really bowled.

Tim Bresnan 7/10
Only brought into the side in Melbourne but what a cracking addition the big Yorkshireman has been. Lively and always amongst the wickets.

Chris Tremlett 7/10
Like Bresnan, did not start the series but has done everything asked of him since coming into the side.

Steve Finn 6/10
One for the future and one that England should persevere with. Still young and raw, he has a good knack of taking wickets and his economy rate at this level will improve. He will be a better player for having been on this tour.

James Anderson 9/10
England's swing doctor supreme. Has carried the weight of leading the attack admirably especially after the injury to Broad. Has looked menacing throughout the series and has been superbly disciplined in both line and length throughout. It is great to see Jimmy finally fulfilling his undoubted talent.

Andy Flower must also deserve huge credit for both this series win and for his contribution to English cricket since his appointment. England had briefly touched the heights under Duncan Fletcher but had seemingly lost their way since and were merely treading water before Flower took the helm.

Whilst this was an entertaining Ashes series it has been far from a classic one. Both teams are short on genuine quality with the Australian attack in particular regularly looking entirely bereft of the ability to bowl a side out. Whilst the tests have provided results after the draw at Brisbane, the four results have all been hopelessly one sided with none of the to and fro of a truly great series. The Ashes remains entirely special however to both the contestants and the fans and as long as test cricket endures, it will remain one of sports' great rivalries.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Chelsea - A Full Blown Crisis

A couple of months back this blog wrote about the potential for problems at Chelsea with both an ageing and small squad and inadequate replacements. To say these worries have been born out would be an understatement as Chelsea have limped from bad to worse. Since beating the mighty MSK Zilina at the end of November, Chelsea's results read played seven (including Marseille in the Champions League), won one, drawn four and lost two, an utterly hideous sequence of results for a team that secured the double last Spring, it has become so bad they cannot even beat Arsenal anymore.

Chelsea's problems have become chronic and there is simply no cure other than Abramovich putting his hand in his pocket again, the irony being it has been his readiness to do so in the past on extending key players' contracts that has hamstrung Chelsea.

Even ass clubs across Europe struggle to balance the books before Monsieur Platini's financial fair play regulations come into effect, Chelsea have spent little money in the transfer market versus the teams they desire to see as their peers at the top of the European pile. They are however hemorrhaging cash on wages agreed at the height of the Premiership silly season on several players that are by now past their best namely Terry, Lampard, Drogba and Anelka. Other players such as Mikel and Ramires are simply not good enough.

There can be little arguement that players generally do not improve (goalkeepers aside) from the age of thirty years old yet Chelsea have continually improved contracts for players who will be well past that age by the time these contracts expire. It is impossible to offload these players as no one else can match the wages (nor would wish to even if they could). Despite offloading Ballack, Cole, Carvalho and others last Summer, Chelsea's wage bill remains stratospheric and there can be no denying that the value for money in return is diminishing rapidly.

Eighteen months ago, Chelsea could have named their price to Manchester City for John Terry. Forty million in the bank and another fifteen million saved in wages over two years, that could have bought almost an entirely new and youthful back four. The same goes for Drogba who Mourinho fresh at Internazionale would have gladly paid up for. These players have no resale value now and their wages are stopping Chelsea from acquiring the new talent that they so badly need, it is also stopping Chelsea being able to pay for the squad players that could give them a bench that could actually change a match. Hindsight is always 20:20 and no one can argue the value of these same players last season when Chelsea secured the double, but at what cost did that double come? Had those players been sold and the money reinvested, Chelsea could have seen themselves on a secure footing for years to come instead of facing crisis point with an ageing, creaking, small and overpaid squad.

Unfortunately, the damage is now done and cannot be repaired. Chelsea should be good enough to secure a Champions League place. The team is even still good enough - if they stay injury free - to go on the type of run to yet give ManYoo a fright but the writing is on the wall in the medium term. Unless Chelsea wish to face a period of mediocrity (which will be referred to as transition) which could last for several years then Roman is simply going to have to put his hand in his pocket and buy several new players.

The problem for fans such as myself or for anybody else for that matter is there is simply no read on what Mr Abramovich is thinking anymore. Chelsea always stated that they had a five year plan, that they wished to become self sufficient and the lack of generous investment may simply be testament to that promise. The other rumours circulating that he has fallen out of love with football and with the club cannot either be discounted nor acknowledged as the reclusive owner refuses to communicate in anyway with the fans or media. It may be coincidence but Ancelotti was famous for coaxing the best out of an elderly team at AC Milan so one has to wonder whether Abramovich always saw Chelsea arriving at this eventuality.

Even if the purse strings were to be loosened, there is no guarantee that the January window would provide the answers. The title has probably gone but Chelsea should be good enough to secure a Champions League place, so a January buying spree would serve little purpose it seems. It would be more prudent to identify fresh targets for the Summer and probably try to select players that Manchester City have no interest in.

Chelsea's transfer policy also needs to change drastically if they are to achieve success going forward. Chelsea need to identify good young talent that hasn't quite reached its' peak yet but is ready to contribute immediately, i.e. players in the 21-25 years old bracket. There are plenty of good young players out there such as the likes of Alex Pato, David Luiz and Jack Rodwell. These are just a few examples of players that would so badly inject some youth, hunger and not a little quality into a team that is increasingly looking on its' last legs. Chelsea's reaction to this crisis should be to back their proven coach with a short sharp burst of Summer transfer activity and a more prudent and forward thinking transfer and wages policy going forward.

Chelsea under Abramovich have enjoyed considerable success with only the Holy Grail of the Champions League (quite a major point admittedly) eluding their grasp. Champions League success looks farther away than ever now and in order to avoid the undoing of all that has gone before, the biting reality is that good money has to be thrown after bad. No Nonsense.