Joe Cole: The Only Thing Is Winning

Luiz Felipe Scolari has been singing the Chelsea players praises in the run up to the new Premier League season. Despite having already managed some of the world’s top player’s, Scolari suggests managing the Chelsea squad is different from anything he’s experienced before and hails them as the best he’s ever worked with. Following the 5-0 thumping of AC Milan, Scolari stated “the players have surprised me in one aspect, they are very professional. I’ve never seen a group of players more professional than the ones at Chelsea. They are brilliant. All the club say or want from them, they are ready.”

Why would Scolari be so surprised by that though? Well, we’ve hardly portrayed ourselves in the best light over the past season or two, with in-fighting all too often reported in the press not to mention the odd loose-lipped player giving the media the benefit of their own opinion. Indeed, Joe Cole confirms what we’d all known from the minute the whispers about disharmony between Abramovich and Mourinho reached the daily’s – Chelsea has been a club in crisis. The TSO’s departure followed by Grant’s appointment and then inevitably our first season without silverware in four years, saw the club in turmoil.

However, just as Scolari has been impressed with the players’ attitudes, so the players are suitably impressed with what the new boss has brought to Stamford Bridge according to Joe Cole. Obviously keen to take some of the heat out of the Stamford Bridge cauldron, Scolari has been quick to instil an atmosphere of calm and tranquility around his players and Cole is clearly relieved, stating “the biggest thing I have noticed is how relaxed everyone is in the camp. The new manager has brought stability to the club that hasn’t been there for two and a bit seasons. We definitely feel like everyone in the club is pulling in the right direction again. Finally all that uncertainty is gone.”

Clearly, that ‘uncertainty’ was more about management than anything else and it’s little wonder it led to such turmoil within the club. Of course, we thought we’d got it right with TSO, but whilst Mourinho was busy manipulating Chelsea into a ‘team’ capable of winning on the pitch, it later became apparent the manipulation didn’t end there. Because while we were all reveling in TSO’s glory, making him solely responsible for our short-term success, none of us were looking at the bigger picture.  Whatever he did right, it was his success but whatever he did wrong – hang on, he didn’t do anything wrong – it was the club at fault. And once the titles stopped, the resentment built up. So whatever happened with Jose the club would be held responsible.
And that’s where Grant came in, into a club already resented by its supporters, into players unaccepting of anyone but the man who’d made them what they were and into a world waiting to heap more scorn on Chelsea’s ‘downfall.’ Not that I’ve changed my mind on Grant’s appointment, on the contrary, I’ll always be of the opinion that grabbing the first old man in a raincoat walking past Stamford Bridge and appointing him manager without first checking he can string a coherent sentence together is never going to be a recipe for success, I just accept that whoever came in after TSO was on a hiding to nothing anyway – and so was the club.

So, after a season of resentment, only made even more agonising by having any dreams of either the Premier League or Champions League title snatched away at the death each time, it’s been a miserable summer for us all. But despite looking back on a season he describes as “the worst end to a season” in his career and stating “I can’t think of a lower thing in football”, Joe Cole is confident the new-found peace inside the club will give Chelsea the strength and determination to put the past behind them. 

However, in order to erase the bitter memories of last season, Cole believes we have to win trophies. The determined midfielder states “we need to win our first game and keep going and going. We’ve had terrible starts to the league over the last two years and it’s cost us. This year we need to start well. The only thing is winning. I just want to win trophies. Until we do that we’ll all still be a little bit hurt by it, so we want to put it right.”

The mourning is over.

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Anelka Tests AC Milan’s ‘Quality’ Keeping

Hot on the heels of Zeljko Kalac wetting himself over the calibre of keepers the Rossoneri have, the Milan shot-stopper has the mother of all nightmares between the sticks. Kalac, who’s display won’t have helped in his fight against Abbiati and Dida for the top spot, stated before the game “Concerning the role of the keeper, I think that at Milan there are no problems. I have never seen three goalkeepers of this quality in one squad.”

So, taking full advantage of that quality, Nicolas Anelka proceeded to put four past Kalac as his coordination deserted him.  Following on from Lampard’s through-the-legs opener, Anelka took advantage of a poor defensive header 8 minutes in. Ten minutes later and Kalac, doing a grand job of auditioning for Lord of the Dance, but a poor one of keeping goal, gifted Anelka a second. A Malouda cross saw Anelka’s third headed into the corner of the net and surprising, the pairing that didn’t even exist last season, combined again for Anelka to volley his fourth and Chelsea’s fifth.

Anelka definitely didn’t live up to his price-tag last season but Scolari feels that a decent pre-season suggests the Frenchman could be about to start earning his money. Scolari, who felt the game against AC Milan was more important as far as everyone else’s confidence in Anelka goes, than for the striker himself, stated “Today was good not because he scored four goals but because he played more free and with more quality than in other games. Anelka today and in the last game played more inside the penalty area than before. That is where I asked him to play and where I need him, not right and left as before. He was playing against a big club and to get four goals against Milan, for his confidence it is fantastic.”

Not to take too much away from Anelka but to be fair, without the likes of Kaka and Ronaldinho, Milan didn’t have much to threaten us with – no recognised striker and a pretty inept defence meant they were never really in the game. Mind you, he still had to take his chances when they came, which he most certainly did, albeit with a little help.

Kalac was right though – I’ve never seen 3 keepers of that quality in one squad either!