Writer: J P Fear
Date:Friday October 3 2008
An interview with Merlin from Vital Chelsea ahead of the crunch weekend game:
1) Mixed results for all teams so far and although it is early days, it looks (he says praying) possible that the top four cartel can be broken into.
a) Where do you see Chelsea finishing this season
b) Which of the contenders do you think - if any - are most likely to break into the top four?
A two part question to start with, whatever next! After the disappointment of finishing second for the last two years we're desperate to finish top. The squad is in good shape, despite the sad loss of Michael Essien to a knee injury for six months, and the spirit is good. With Scolari in charge we finally have a manager the players respect and he's settled down well.
As for somebody breaking into the big four and making it a big five, I have to say, and I'm not saying it out of kindness, that Aston Villa will be the ones. Martin O'Neill has assembled a good squad with an English core, a squad that is still relatively young and you've started the season well. My only doubts, and there are not many, relate to injuries and suspensions possibly holding you back. However, with Mr Lerner's millions in reserve, that's nothing that cannot be sorted out in the January transfer window.
2) As asked by Tubbz in the Villa on tour thread in your forum, what is it like to no longer be the richest club?!?! What do you make of the Man City situation and the possibility of yet more foreign/rich owners taking over the clubs in the PL?
People forget we went down this route last year when our neighbours just up the road, Queens Park Rangers, were taken over and their cash has done little to improve their status, although they had a lot to smile about at your place recently.
I guess Abramovich has set a trend although how enthusiastic these new buyers will be remains to be seen. Many said Roman wouldn't be around for too long but his commitment has never waivered. It'll be very interesting to see how this Dubai lot react if Manchester City do not reach their targets.
I believe the biggest problem they face is enticing world-class players to the club. Although they can offer a huge salary any decent world class player will already be on a hefty salary and often it's not about the money it's about the ambition within the player.
City may be facing a situation that could take them a few years to resolve, namely getting into a Champions League place to entice the top players. Nevertheless, it'll be interesting to see how it works out and it is nice to have some mega-rich company in the Premier League,
3) Who was your best buy of the summer and who should Villa fear the most?
For a change we never really went mad in the transfer market this summer. In fact our expenditure was less than our income with more players leaving than actually arriving.
However, as far as our best buy of the summer goes, it's hard to split the two purchases we made in Jose Bosingwa and Andersen Deco. Whilst both operate in different areas of the pitch, both have brought something different to our club.
When Deco signed, many pundits suggested he was arriving for one last pay day, that he was over the hill and that he was too fragile to survive in the Premier League, they couldn't have been more wrong. He's more than shown he's got the physical attributes to make his mark and his skills, in the games he's played in, have shown that he's far from over the hill.
As for Bosingwa, there's still much debate as to who was behind signing the Portuguese full back. But, whoever did deserves every credit and his foraging up field and his speed make him a dangerous weapon. Currently, his defensive attributes have yet to be severely tested so your speedy players, Young and Agbonlahor, might give us a better indication.
4) Which of our players would you most like and who would you send to B6 in exchange?
Since the departure of Arjen Robben from the medical facilities at Stamford Bridge to Real Madrid, we've missed a wide player with searing pace, a dramatic change of pace is probably the one thing that is currently holding us back. Therefore, I'd make Martin O'Neil an offer for either Ashley Young or Gabby Agbonlahor.
As for sending someone your way, we're a little short of candidates seeing as we've disposed of Wright-Phillips, Ben Haim, Pizarro and Sidwell.
How is Mr Sidwell these days?
5) How is your new manager settling in and will he last longer than Grant?
Luiz Felipe Scolari is in a different league to Avram Grant. Mourinho's departure was unfortunate, although some will say a necessity, already he's galvanised the squad, team spirit is higher and the football we're producing has an element of adventure as well as the defensive traits installed during the Mourinho regime.
As to whether he'll last longer than Grant, barring a major fall-out, I'd say it was a certainty. Grant, despite the mutterings and the so-called security of a four year contract, was never the long term option. I get the impression he'd have gone even if we had of triumphed in Moscow.
6) Go on then, let's have a prediction, another 4-4 on the cards do you think?!
We've gone 85 games unbeaten at home in the Premier League, a run of four and a half years, I doubt whether it'll ever be equalled but it's got to end some time and this Sunday could be the time, who knows? I doubt whether we'll see the 4-4 of last season, that was a one off, but it'll be close and the odd goal in three will win it. However, I have to go for us to win otherwise I'd be lynched, on my own site, wouldn't I?
With thanks to the ever magic Merlin from Vital Chelsea. To see Vital Villans interview with them, go to: http://www.chelsea.vitalfootball.co.uk
Date:Friday October 3 2008
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