Hello to all the fans out there,
I write just after the Benfica game at Stamford Bridge and it’s pleasing to see that after the ups and downs we have had this season, we are still in the Champions League.
It’s crunch time in the season for all clubs but more so for Chelsea as we fight on so many fronts to keep our season on track.
We haven’t had it all our way this season but we have been fighting hard recently to rectify that, and Wednesday’s win is a step in the
However with this win comes the crunch of so many games in a short space of time. We are used to fighting on many fronts and this season will be no different in that we have the Champions League semi-final, the FA Cup semi-final and an important finish in the Premier League to contend with.
None of these will be easy games but big clubs fight for big trophies and that’s what we will be doing.
These three targets are all achievable if we stick together as a team and work hard for each other. It will be a team game where we all have to share the load over the Easter period and beyond.
There are a just days between games at times and we are going to need all the help in the world from you fans.
The players will approach each game with the aim of winning and we are capable of doing that however the support factor with the 12th man will be very helpful indeed.
The Barcelona Challenge in the Champions League semi-final
The last time we played them, it was full of drama and some superb football. That game had everything including a couple of beautiful goals and we had them where we wanted them but failed to finish them off and paid the price.
We had more claims for penalties than I have ever seen in a game and it was so disappointing when we had to exit the competition. I have a feeling it’s our time to get one over them.
We have played them a few times in the last eight years or so and they are definitely beatable, which is what we will be looking to do. We definitely need you for this one, both home and away.
The Tottenham Challenge in the FA Cup semi-final
The last time we played Spurs at Wembley we lost the Carling Cup Final, so it’s time to get one over them.
They have improved a lot and are a match for anyone these days. In both league games this season the spoils have been shared, however there has to be a winner at Wembley and I know we have enough to beat them. It won’t be easy as they are also determined to beat us but I am sure we can count on your support to make it back to Wembley for yet another FA Cup Final.
Wembley is fast becoming our second home and we love every minute when we play there. Expect some fireworks in this London derby at the home of English football.
The Premier League Challenge
There are six games to go at the time of writing starting after the game against Wigan, yesterday, and before Fulham, on Monday. We need all the points available to finish as high as possible.
Our league finish can determine our season next year and we have to ensure we fight hard to further climb the table. We are capable of winning our last batch of games and I have no doubt we can do.
This part of the season has been referred to as the business end, squeaky bum time, with some big clashes to come and for me it really is crunch time, so come on Chelsea!
This month I deciced to use a Q&A format and answer some of the questions I am always getting asked…
Which footballers did you admire growing up a kid?
I enjoyed watching George Weah, Abedi Pele and Tony Yeboah. These were great African legends playing in Europe at the time and were all successful. They won trophies with their various clubs for many years. I would watch all their games whenever I had a chance to and they inspired me greatly. I also enjoyed watching Paolo Maldini and he really knew how to defend. I started off as a centre-back so I loved watching defenders and he was one of them.
Have you always had a mentor throughout your career?
Yes, my mentor from my childhood through to his recent passing was Alhaji Sly Tetteh – the man who spotted me and ensured I went on to fulfil my potential. He was my father, brother, mentor and special adviser who made sure I grew up to be a responsible person and footballer. Unfortunately I wasn’t there when he passed away and didn’t get a chance to say goodbye but I am sure he is still mentoring me wherever he is now.
What do you consider to be your greatest footballing achievement?
That is a difficult one but it will have to be all the trophies I have won in my career, both at club level and personally. I have been lucky to play at the highest level for clubs that have been ambitious like Lyon and Chelsea. These clubs have been able to get the best out of me and winning trophies with these clubs have to be the greatest achievements.
On second thoughts, I think I will also add helping Ghana qualify for her first World Cup in 2006. That has to be up there too.
This is your seventh season at Chelsea. Has it flown by?
Yes, I have been here for a long time and I can still remember the first day I signed. I have enjoyed every minute of my time at Chelsea and in London and hope to enjoy more in the coming years. Sometimes I feel sorry for the fans because of all my injuries. I feel they haven’t had me for the seven years I have been here but injuries are part of football and I hope mine are all behind me now.
Would you agree this has been a frustrating season for Chelsea?
It has been frustrating and unfortunately the season hasn’t gone to plan. Football is full of highs and lows and as much as we enjoy the highs of winning trophies we have to work hard to reverse the lows of disappointing results. It’s not been easy but tough times call for tough characters and as long as we keep working hard with Roberto Di Matteo and stick together we will come out victorious. Hard work hasn’t killed anyone yet and that is what we have to do to keep our season going.
You predicted Ghana or Ivory Coast to win the Africa Cup. What happened?
Well the Zambians didn’t read the script at all and were on a different planet at the Nations Cup. They were superb and wanted it more than any other team in my view. They beat both Ghana and Ivory Coast who were my favourites so I wasn’t far off.
To be fair I predicted Ghana, Ivory Coast, Mali and Senegalto be in the last four and only Senegal didn’t make it as they were replaced byZambia who eventually won the trophy. What do I know anyway, but overall it was a good tournament and Zambia evoked the memories of all their players who tragically died in a plane crash 19 years ago.
There will be another African Cup of Nations tournament next year in order to allow CAF to organise the tournament in odd years. This will ensure the tournament does not clash with the World Cup which takes place in even years. The 2013 competition will be held in South Africa and I think all the teams that qualified for this year’s tournament will play against another batch of 16 teams and the winners will go to South Africa 2013. I think that’s how they have organised the qualifiers.
Finally tell us one thing people didn’t know about you…
When I was a kid I used to help my mum bake bread. My mum was a baker and my job after school or on holidays was to paint the baking trays with oil before the bread mix was poured in. I was also the chief taster after each batch was baked and I can tell you I have eaten more bread than any man on earth. I still love bread till this day.
It’s official – I am back and happy to be back doing what I do best. It’s been a journey and a half and I want to dedicate this blog to
everyone who said a prayer or two for me.
Way back in July when I broke down in pre-season training my mind went back to the pain I suffered during my previous rehabilitations.
I had had a brilliant restful summer and was looking forward to the season. I did some pre-season work at home a week before training started and was feeling good about myself. So to break down immediately on my return was a major setback for me and a real disappointment.
This was my third big injury and you can imagine how I felt knowing that I had to go through the six-month process all over again. It was heart-breaking but I had to be strong and believe in my powers of recovery.
The rehab process is slow, long-winded and painfully lonely.
The medical team at Chelsea are superb and very supportive but as a player all you want to do is train with your friends and travel as a group. However, when you are injured, your programme is different and you spend hours in the gym, on the physio’s table or in the pool while your mates have
fun on the training pitch. Occasionally another player gets injured and you get a bit of company but you really miss the rest of the team.
Being a regular in the medical department, I settled in quite easily and started my comeback after the operation, however I couldn’t have done it without the support of my family, friends, everyone at Chelsea and YOU the supporters.
The well wishes and messages you sent me kept me going and I cannot thank you enough. I got words of encouragement, poems, pictures, suggestions on how to get better and generally people urging me to stay strong.
You are the best and I hope to give back to you on the pitch as you have given to me off it.
To the medical team at Chelsea, I want to say a big “thank you” for your hard work as usual, and hopefully you won’t see me again (as a patient) if you know what I mean!
To everyone, it’s “thank you” for being there for Michael Essien and I am glad to repeat: ‘It’s official – Michael Essien is back!’
Now I am looking forward to helping the team win a trophy or two this season.
Lastly, good luck to the Black Stars at the African Cup of Nations – they are still my bet to win the trophy.
Hello, and a Happy New Year to each and every one of you!
It’s the start of another year and I am sure you have made a resolution or two. Mine is to stay fit and healthy throughout the year and I hope you can stick to yours however tempted you may be to ditch it.
It’s also that time of year when the African Cup of Nations kicks off in earnest and although I cannot be there with Ghana due to my injury, my friends Didier Drogba and Salomon Kalou from Chelsea will be representing Ivory Coast. As such I thought it will be good to preview the tournament before it begins in the middle of this month.
Many commentators have argued the tournament should be moved to the summer but CAF have resisted moving it for years and this year the tournament will be co-hosted by Gabon and Equatorial Guinea from January 21 to February 12. It is a straightforward format with four groups of four teams each and the top two in each group will advance to the quarter-final stages.
This tournament is more about the missing teams than the ones that qualified. For the first time in a while Nigeria, Cameroon, South Africa and Egypt all failed to qualify. They have been replaced by surprise entrants like Libya, Niger & Botswana. I am not for one saying these teams are not good enough, it’s just that we are not used to seeing them at major tournaments.
Without some of these ‘big teams’ will the tournament be as good as it has been in the past?
I definitely think so because there are still some good football nations left fighting for the top prize. The favourites will no doubt be Ivory Coast and Ghana, in my opinion, and possibly the surprise packages will be Mali or Senegal.
Ivory Coast probably have the best squad at the tournament and they don’t need any introduction. They have some of the top players in African football and will be a match for any team. The spine of their team includes the likes of Drogba, the Toure brothers, Didier Zokora and Kalou. And let’s not forget Gervinho who is doing very well at Arsenal and will be a handful for any defence.
They always look strong on paper and although they have not won a tournament for a while and in actual fact haven’t made the final in any recent tournament, it is difficult to see past them. If they can get their squad to click and play as they do in the various European Leagues for their clubs, then I can see them at least making the final.
Then there is my beloved Ghana who were runners up two years ago and I have no doubt will be up there again this year. I can see us playing Ivory Coast in the final if our paths do not cross earlier. Unfortunately I am unable to be there and as a matter of fact the team were at the last African Cup and World Cup without me so there is nothing new there.
The Ghanaian team is full of experienced tournament players mixed with hungry young players and that is a very good combination for this year’s African Cup. There is captain John Mensah, Asamoah Gyan, Andre Ayew and Sulley Muntari among many other players.
This team knows how to play at tournaments and nearly made the semi-final at the last World Cup. They are a proper unit and play for the nation and that’s why I fancy them to make the final and probably win it.
My outside bets Mali and Senegal both have experienced players who play at the highest level round the world and have also played at major tournaments. Senegalese will tell you about their World Cup win against France, albeit almost 10 years ago, and they still have the spine of that team and will always give anyone a good game.
Mali’s Seydou Keita and his team are winners who will always fight to the end. I fancy them to surprise a few teams at the tournament and most probably make the last four or thereabouts.
Although we will be missing big names such as Samuel Eto’o, John Mikel Obi, Yakubu and Benoit Assou-Ekotto to name a few, the tournament should still be a mixture of good football and true African entertainment.
By the way there will be another African Cup of Nations tournament next year (January 2013)in order to allow CAF to organize the tournament in odd years. This will ensure the tournament does not clash with the World Cup which takes place in even years. The 2013 competition will be held in South Africa.
Let me know your predictions and for now sit back and enjoy the 2012 African Cup of Nations!
December is upon us and Christmas is around the corner. I wanted to blog about the festivities but I decided to stick to my promise and post some of your comments about why there have been crazy scorelines in the Barclays Premier League this season.
I had over 250 comments and I must admit I was surprised by the reaction and by how different people see football games. By that I mean 10 people can watch one game and they will all have different opinions about the game.
I have been attending Chelsea home games recently and have been sitting among the fans. Everyone has been brilliant and thanks for all the well wishes but I can’t help but notice how intense it can get when things are not going well on the pitch. I love the passion in the stands and how much we all want Chelsea to do well.
I have also noticed from comments I hear before, during and after games that everyone has their own opinion about football and below you will find some of the opinions about why there have been crazy scorelines this season…
Richard D4 Chelsea – It’s a discipline problem
I can’t help but think with these recent huge scorelines that the midfield and defence of each team are not as tightly disciplined to defend and protect their own goal like seasons before. It seems like it’s all been about scoring one more than the other with high defending lines, high pressing, and utilising a dominant percentage of possession effectively, trying to emulate some of Barcelona’s style of play.
After their dominance domestically and in Europe, there are not many reasons to say why big teams shouldn’t try and match them for entertainment value for the fans and to gain overall improvements from the physical, mental and technical sides of the game for the players. I’m going to use Chelsea’s past and present tactics as an example of why there’s been huge scorelines this season.
Simon blames it on superior teams
Man United and Man City smashed eight and five past Arsenal and Tottenham respectively because they were superior at the time. Then the ultimate Manchester clash where City ran out 1-6 winners away from home, what a game!!! City played better and the red card was decisive on the day as City firmly took control with United committing blunders and giving up totally.
With the Chelsea – Arsenal game it breaks my heart to admit we had a bright start but lost focus, switched off and committed blunders. Overall, over 90 minutes, Chelsea were by far the better side, but we have to finish off games when we take the lead rather than be too cautious in my view.
Martin thinks it’s a defensive problem
I think it is because the top teams in the EPL this season aren’t paying much attention to their defences and are not trying to keep clean sheets. Instead they are trying to attack and create and score as many goals as they can. From a neutral’s perspective, it is very entertaining but for us fans it’s like a lottery, it’s 50-50, and nail biting stuff. You have no idea who’s going to win and it’s all about finishing your chances off. It’s very much whoever can score the most goals wins.
JackG thinks it’s a change from last season
TACTICS – last year Chelsea played a more balanced game, as did United, and City were boring and defensive. This year it seems like it’s changed a lot – AVB has clearly brought in a more attacking system, hence why we’ve conceded a lot more goals, Mancini’s City are unrecognisable from last year, United have so much strength in attack and now perhaps a slightly weaker defence, and Arsenal have never played a tight game under Wenger. Great as a neutral, but horrible for a fan.
Asa5Chelsea thinks its due to strict refereeing
I think that the crazy results could be due to stricter refereeing. There have been quite a few more bookings and red cards (especially for Chelsea) this year so far and I wonder if that has given the attacking players a psychological advantage over the defending ones because they think they may be able to get a free kick/penalty or persuade the referee to give out a card?
As a midfielder where you are involved in attacking and defending, maybe you are better suited to judge this. I do think that all the top clubs are beginning to play with more flair and seem to focus more on attack. Either way, it’s great for us fans!
Joshua Opeku reckons it’s how the modern day game goes
I personally don’t have a problem with the scorelines because this is modern soccer and that is how I think it should be. The big teams cannot rely on past glory to win matches. My only concern is that my dear team Chelsea are struggling and I am very sad as I write this.
Aakorner thinks the pace in the EPL is the cause
I’d tend to think that the pace of play in the Premier League has just got so high that it’s causing teams to spring counter-attacks so quickly and so you get so many goals. It’s really becoming end-to-end I think. Teams set out these days quite similarly too with one or two holding midfielders, two wide men and one up top. The goals tend to go in when one team loses possession up top and attackers are released.
Amidtemi said its part of the show
It is all part of the show. Football is about entertainment. It’s not really surprising to me. How are the mighty fallen and long may it continue.
Apart from the above, a lot of people also left comments asking me what my thoughts on the crazy scorelines were. About 20 people threw the question back at me and asked why I think there have been crazy scorelines.
My answer: ‘What do I know – I am only a player!’
Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year,