Porto

Is The Special One’s Football Dull? No way, Jose

“Ironic cry of boring, boring Chelsea as RAMIRES CLINCHES THE POINTS! The title is almost theirs!” That was the line of commentary when the Brazilian box-to-box midfielder rifled home the third in a 3-1 win over Leic that secured the Blues’ 24th win of the 2014-15 season from just 34 league matches and simultaneously left Jose Mourinho’s side just one win away from clinching the Premier League title for the fourth time.

Chelsea fans have had to put up with their beloved club being labelled boring over the last decade or so which offends the older generation of supporter who grew up in the swinging sixties with the west Londoners being the great entertainers of attacking flair in the age of the football maverick when Tommy Docherty’s men were dubbed ‘the Kings of King’s Road.’

Back then they boasted the names of Ron “Chopper” Harris, Peter “the Cat” Bonetti and the King of Stamford Bridge that was Peter “Ossie” Osgood and a later breed of Chelsea fan were captivated by such names as Roberto Di Matteo, Ruud Gullit as well as a certain Italian who goes by the name of Gianfranco Zola.

When Roman Abravomich invested his Russian billions into Chelsea though Mourinho soon followed off the back of the biggest shock in European football since Louis van Gaal guided a once-in-a-lifetime group of players that made Ajax European champions for the first time in 22 years.

Mourinho’s plucky Porto will never be remembered for being easy-on-the-eye either but it is forgotten that this team of then unknowns got a draw at Santiago Bernabeu, home of Real Madrid who had won ‘Ol Big Ears’ just tournaments previously, and featured the footballing artist Zinedine Zidane as well as Roberto Carlos, Luis Figo and Ronaldo among others. It was not down to sheer defensive solidity either, Porto matched them for goals and outdid the Spanish giants for total shots 8-11.

The Round of 16 would introduce Mourinho to the world. First the Portuguese would guide his domestic champions to a 2-1 home win against Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United and the friendliest of rivalries was born. In the second-leg the Blue and Whites snatched aggregate victory with a last-gasp away goal after again dominating one of the world’s best teams. United had three shots to Porto’s nine and the game ended with the first iconic Mourinho image – the touchline run.

Lyon and Deportivo La Coruna were dispatched in the quarter and semi-final respectively and although they may sound easy on paper Lyon were the French champions who had Juninho and Karim Benzema while Deportivo had earlier eliminated holders AC Milan 5-4 on aggregate after losing 4-1 at the San Siro in the first-leg. Porto would then dismantle an AS Monaco side that had knocked-out Real Madrid and Chelsea. Winning a Champions League final 3-0 is only boring to those who want some sort of contest, but viewers got that too as Porto only went 2-0 up in minute 71 and four minutes later it was three. Porto also won the Primeira Liga and scored 63 goals, more than any other side.

Chelsea was next and the ‘boring’ jibes truly began. Mourinho batted the accusation away like only he can.

“Tell me”, he started, musing on a public put down as his famous long-standing feud with Arsene Wenger started to take shape. “In England, which team plays better than Chelsea? Arsenal?”

ITV reporter Gabriel Clarke, already hesitant under the brunt of the enigmatic, brash, arrogant but assured Mourinho hesitantly came back with: “They might get more critical acclaim sometimes.”

Mourinho interrupted: “Better than us, yeah? Yeah. Ten points behind. Ten points behind.”

Chelsea were dominant over Arsenal and every other English club that year by quite a distance, winning the league by 12 points, but contrary to many’s belief it was by style as well as substance. Yes, Chelsea was built on a rock-solid defence of Paulo Ferreira, Ricardo Carvalho, John Terry and William Gallas with Claude Makelele in the holding role as well as one of the world’s best goalkeepers Petr Cech behind them and they only conceded 15 league goals all season but on the attack they were fierce, deadly and never hesitated in wiping out the opposition.

They had Frank Lampard in his peak who was joint fourth top scorer in the Premier League with 13 goals from midfield, they had lightning quick wingers in Arjen Robben, Damien Duff and Joe Cole who would kill teams on the counter attack and they had Eidur Gudjohnsen and Didier Drogba who scored 12 and ten goals respectively. Chelsea scored 72 Premier League goals in 2004-05, one more than the ‘Great Entertainers’ that were the Arsenal Invincibles team of the previous season and just seven fewer than the equally famous treble winning Manchester United side that had one of the best striking duos in footballing history – Dwight Yorke and Andy Cole.

The Champions League was no different. Ask any Chelsea, or football fan, if they were bored when the Blues raced into a 20-minute 3-0 lead against Barcelona, a Barcelona even back then with Carlos Puyol and Andres Iniesta as well as Samuel Eto’o, a developing Lionel Messi and Ronaldinho the year he won his solitary Ballon d’Or – Chelsea would end up winning 4-2.

Bayern Munich were on the wrong end of the same score at the same ground in the next round, the quarter-finals, and Mourinho’s men were just as rampant domestically.

After five of Chelsea’s first six league wins were decided by one-goal Blackburn Rovers and West Brom were both hit for four in consecutive weeks as were Fulham a fortnight later, and Charlton a further two weeks after, and Newcastle the following Saturday and Norwich were a further two games in the future. 2005-06 was not much different; you only need to watch the game that wrapped up a second title on the bounce – a 3-0 win over Manchester United who finished second that season, eight points behind the champions.

Both of his two years at Inter Milan, which ended with Scudettos, they were top scorers in Serie A and I Nerazurri scored three or more goals on eight occasions during the 2008-09 campaign and the following year, in a treble winning season, Internazionale netted at least three in seven of their 38 league matches as well as triumphing 3-1 over Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona.

Real Madrid’s debut season with Mourinho would end with them losing out on the title to their fierce rivals Barcelona but the all-whites out-scored the Catalan giants, finding the back of the net 102 times compared to the latter’s 95.

Madrid would regain their status as Spain’s top club a year later but what would remain the same is that the modern Galacticos would score more goals than Guardiola’s Barca. Mourinho’s men scored a whopping 121 goals in the 2011-12 season – it remains a La Liga record.

Mourinho at Madrid where they broke a La Liga record for most team goals scored in a season. It still stands today.

Mourinho at Madrid where they broke a La Liga record for most team goals scored in a season. It still stands today.

The Special One’s much-awaited return to Chelsea did not bring about it many goals, but the team who would end up as champions for the first time in five years were back to being incredibly tough to beat. Although, when they did play in an attacking style it always seemed like they were never too far away from being punished.

This was most evident in the barnstorming 5-3 loss to a Harry Kane-inspired Tottenham Hotspur, but there was pre-warning to this before when the Blues, playing in yellow that day, conceded three to the Toffees, unfortunately for the home side however, Chelsea scored double the amount.

Because of his marmite-like qualities of a human being Jose Mourinho may not be remembered for being a man who entertained the neutral fanbases but he may be the man who defines how important it is to be well-rounded as a football manager. The builder of teams who are defensively strong and yes, when needed, dynamic in attack and superb to watch. Boring, boring Mourinho indeed.

 

UEFA Champions League Group Stage Draw

Manchester City have been handed a tough draw in this season’s Champions League, being matched up with German Champions Bayern Munich in group E.

The Premier League holders will also have to face a tricky trip to CSKA Moscow and AS Roma.

Bayern Munich, Manchester City and CSKA Moscow were all drawn in the same group last season with Munich finishing first and Manchester City second.

Chelsea meanwhile were paired with Schalke 04 for the second season running and they will be joined in group G by Sporting Lisbon and Maribor, who elimiated Celtic in the last round.

Arsenal have been matched up with Borussia Dortmund again as well as Galatasay and Anderlecht.

Liverpool, in the Champions League for the first time in five years, will re-enter the competition knowing they will have to play holders Real Madrid, Swiss Champions FC Basel and Ludogorets of Bulgaria who make their Champions League bow.

Elsewhere beaten finalists Atletico Madrid have been drawn with Juventus and Barcelona will play PSG in a mouth watering tie.

Draw in full:

Group A: Atletico Madrid, Juventus, Olympiakos, Malmo

Group B: Real Madrid, FC Basel, Liverpool, Ludogorets

Group C: Benfica, Zenit, Bayer Leverkusen, AS Monaco

Group D: Arsenal, Borussia Dortmund, Galatasary, Anderlecht

Group E: Bayern Munich, Manchester City, CSKA Moscow, AS Roma

Group F: Barcelona, PSG, Ajax, APOEL Nicosia

Group G: Chelsea, Schalke 04, Sporting Lisbon, Maribor

Group H: Porto, Shaktar Donetsk, Athletic Bilbao, BATE Borisov

Have Chelsea finally found Claude Makelele’s successor in Nemanja Matic?

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Michael Essien, John Obi Mikel, Oriol Romeu. Chelsea have tried and failed to find the man to fill Claude Makelele’s boots since his 2008 departure. While the trio have had relative success in the heart of Chelsea’s midfield, none of them have come close to having the influence Makelele did. In Nemanja Matic though, Chelsea may have found the solution.

Claude Makelele arrived at Stamford Bridge in the Summer of 2003 for a fee of £16.8 million after being outcast by Real Madrid as they denied his request of a better contract and continued building their “Galacticos” squad without him. The defining mistake by Florentino Perez and possibly the main reason why Real failed to add to their ninth Champions League win in 2002 where Makelele was a regular.

We will not miss Makélelé. His technique is average, he lacks the speed and skill to take the ball past opponents, and 90% percent of his distribution either goes backwards or sideways. He wasn’t a header of the ball and he rarely passed the ball more than three metres. Younger players will arrive who will cause Makélelé to be forgotten.” – Perez (2003)

On arriving in West London, then Chelsea coach Claudio Ranieri said of Makelele that he would be “the battery” of the Chelsea side, and right he was too. Thanks to the Frenchman, and Chelsea’s other signings that year in the first season under Roman Abramovich’s era, Chelsea finished Premiership runners up and reached the Champions League semi finals for the first time ever, losing to Monaco who would go on to be beat by Jose Mourinho’s Porto in the final.

Mourinho was appointed Chelsea manager the following season of course and under him, Chelsea would transform into the European superpower we know them as today. Makelele blossomed in Mourinho’s style of play, his defensive work, along with a solid back five of Petr Cech, Paulo Ferreira, Ricardo Carvalho, John Terry and William Gallas, meant that Chelsea conceded just 15 goals all season while his passing ability allowed players such as Frank Lampard, Arjen Robben, Joe Cole, Damien Duff and Didier Drogba to attack the opposition at will. “The Makelele role”, as it would be known, was born.

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Every team across the land it seemed was after their very own Claude Makelele. Liverpool signed Javier Mascherano, Arsenal opted for Alex Song, Manchester United acquired Michael Carrick while Tottenham snapped up Didier Zokora. Although three quarters of these signings were no doubt successful (Zokora being the exception), none of them were, or are, as good as Makelele.

The role has been adapted slightly in modern times with the fancy named “Deep Lying Playmaker” or “Regista” role being the latest fashionable term. Well known “DLPs” are Cesc Fabregas, Luka Modric and Jack Wilshere while Sergio Busquets is regarded as an efficient Regista.

Makelele continued to shine in a Chelsea shirt for the next three seasons but his last game was to come, aptly in Chelsea’s first ever Champions League final, the 2008 clash with Manchester United. It would only have been more fitting if Chelsea had won that night in Moscow’s Red City, to give the mercurial Frenchman the greatest of send offs, much like Drogba’s in 2012.

Chelsea’s number four departed West London for Paris Saint Germain where he spent three seasons, won a Coupe de France in 09/10 and retired the following year to become Assistant Manager, which he remains as today.

Nemanja Matic put pen to paper on a four year deal at Chelsea in 2009 for a £1.5 million fee having spent time on trial at Middlesbrough and he was clearly signed as 2006 World Cup runner up Makelele’s long term replacement. Matic made two appearances in his first spell as a Chelsea player before joining feeder club Vitesse Arnhem on loan where he scored twice in 27 games for the Eridivisie club. Having failed to make a mark on the Premier League though he was sold to Benfica in a player plus cash deal worth £21 million plus David Luiz.

Matic announced himself onto the European stage in the Portuguese Capital, scoring six goals in 56 games over the course of three seasons, including one strike against Porto that finished second in the Puskas Award (given to the year’s best goal) of last season, losing out to Zlatan Ibrahimovich’s acrobatic effort against England before rejoining the 2012 Champions League winners for £21 million in January of this year.

Like Makelele, Matic has the ability to break down the play and slow down the midfield to tire the opposition with accurate passing to support his pinpoint tackles, and what’s more intimidating for his rivals is that Matic might even become better than his predecessor. He’s more dynamic than Makelele was and at a younger age too, and more impressively, is a larger threat going forward making him a more versatile player than his French counterpart. Already this season we’ve seen the Serbian crack the woodwork from long range against Manchester City at the Etihad and have a goal disallowed against Aston Villa for a questionable handball. Makelele only scored two goals in a Chelsea shirt, a rebounded Penalty against Charlton (which he originally had saved) and an 18 yard curler against Tottenham, which as great as it was, was his only shot of the entire season.

With Nemanja Matic the latest man being given the job of controlling the Blues’ midfield and so far looking more in control than anyone has in a good while, Chelsea seem to have finally found the man who has filled the Claude Makelele shaped void in the centre of the pitch.