Category Archives: Features

Ten Contenders To Replace AVB At Chelsea

Arguably the hottest of hot seats in the world of football is vacant yet again after the young Andre Villas-Boas was sacked by Chelsea on Sunday. Here, Into The Top Corner looks at the ten leading contenders to become the eighth manager during Roman Abramovich’s ownership of the club.

Jose Mourinho: The Special One Returns sounds like a Hollywood movie but Chelsea fans will hope rumours of his return are not fiction. Villas-Boas was supposed to be Abramovich’s new Mourinho – an impossible task as it turned out – and now the owner may go back to a tried and tested formula despite the pair failing out. Mourinho had a special bond with the senior players during his three-year reign that brought two league titles, although should he return he would want an enormous war chest that could spell the end for the likes of Didier Drogba and John Terry.

SkyBet Odds – 15/8

Fabio Capello: Though a rather unpopular figure in England after a disappointing World Cup in 2010 and his resignation from the national job in February, Capello’s record at club level is almost peerless. He has won league trophies with Milan, Roma, Juventus and during two spells with Real Madrid, as well as winning the Champions League with Milan in 1994. Capello knows some of Chelsea’s senior players very well having managed John Terry, Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole with England: indeed his loyalty to Terry forced his resignation on a point of principle when the defender was stripped of the captaincy. Capello had previously said the England job would be his last in management but a chance to return to club game at the elite level would surely appeal.

SkyBet Odds – 11/4

Rafa Benitez: Liverpool fans will always remember the goatee-bearded Spaniard for the improbable Champions League triumph over AC Milan in 2005 but a lack of Premier League success and a dreadful spell at Inter Milan haunt him. However, his stock at Anfield has risen since his departure given Liverpool’s continued troubles and while Chelsea fans might question the style of football Benitez might serve up, he has the personality to deal with the senior players in the dressing room. He could also be the man to reboot misfiring striker Fernando Torres, having signed him for Liverpool.

SkyBet Odds – 4/1

Pep Guardiola: Barcelona’s boss is rumoured to be leaving the Nou Camp at the end of the season with no new contract signed and FIFA’s World Coach of the Year would be a popular choice as Chelsea manager. However, at Barca he merely had to conduct the orchestra having inherited a squad of talented players in their prime while at Chelsea he would have to swap the baton for a sledgehammer as he begins a major re-building project.

SkyBet Odds – 4/1

Roberto Di Matteo: Deemed not good enough to keep his job at West Brom last season, Di Matteo now has an unexpected chance to press his claims for arguably English football’s most difficult managerial job. If the Italian secures Champions League football for next season and enjoys success in the cup competitions then perhaps Abramovich will be convinced of his suitability for the role. However, Avram Grant was elbowed aside having reached the Champions League final in the wake of Mourinho’s exit and it would surely take something spectacular for the Italian to secure the job on a long-term basis, despite his status as a fan favourite due to his successful playing career at Stamford Bridge between 1996 and 2002.

SkyBet Odds – 8/1

Marcelo Biesla: Atletico Bilbao boss Marcelo Bielsa is the shock name on Chelsea’s hit list to replace Andre Villas-Boas. Ex-Argentina boss Bielsa, 56, is regarded as an innovator, is vastly experienced and has a strong reputation within the game. Bielsa managed Argentina between 1998 and 2004, winning an Olympic gold in Athens, and then earned acclaim for the style with which his team performed in his subsequent role as Chile manager between 2007 and 2011. Appointed at Athletic Bilbao last summer, he has the Basque side fighting hard for fourth place as well as looking forward to a Copa del Rey final against Barcelona and a Europa League contest with Manchester United.

SkyBet Odds – 16/1

Guus Hiddink: The popular Dutchman has the best win percentage of Abramovich’s managers, even better than Mourinho, albeit during a brief spell as temporary coach. He steered Chelsea to a 2009 FA Cup triumph and Champions League semi-final before returning to his job as Russia coach. The sticking point would be pricing him away from FC Anzhi Makhachkala, the mega-rich Russian club who have made him the highest paid coach in world football only recently.

SkyBet Odds – 16/1

Harry Redknapp: A long shot but a logical choice for Abramovich. Tottenham fans are already resigned to losing their manager to England — but losing him to Chelsea would be unthinkable. His relationship with Abramovich would be interesting but has a proven track record of turning round teams’ fortunes and fuelling players with confidence. He would be the first Englishman to boss Chelsea since Glenn Hoddle in 1996.

SkyBet Odds – 18/1

Didier Deschamps: A safe pair of hands. The astute Frenchman spent a year at Stamford Bridge as a player before a natural move into management. He impressed at Monaco by reaching a Champions League final, had a brief stint at Juventus taking them back up to Serie A and won Ligue 1 in 2010 with Olympique Marseille. Marseille have been up and down since but he could be the man for a long-term project.

SkyBet Odds – 20/1

Jurgen Klopp: The Borussia Dortmund boss is the perfect kind of manager Abramovich wanted Villas-Boas to be — young, energetic and a philosophy of quick passing high attack style. He has made his success out of developing young players at Dortmund. He led them to the Bundesliga title last season and the club are in pole position to defend their crown this time.

SkyBet odds – 20/1

All these names have been linked with the Chelsea job in the recent days, but nothing is yet confirmed. So who do you think or want to be the new Chelsea boss?


Were Chelsea Right To Sack Andre Villas-Boas?

Chelsea have confirmed that manager Andre Villas-Boas has been sacked and that making a change was the club’s ‘only option’. Former Chelsea midfielder Roberto di Matteo has been put in charge as first-team coach on an interim basis until the end of the season.

Statement on the

The board would like to record our gratitude for his work and express our disappointment that the relationship has ended so early. Unfortunately the results and performances of the team have not been good enough and were showing no signs of improving at a key time in the season. The club is still competing in the latter stages of the Uefa Champions League and the FA Cup, as well as challenging for a top-four spot in the Premier League, and we aim to remain as competitive as possible on all fronts. With that in mind we felt our only option was to make a change at this time. With immediate effect Roberto Di Matteo has been appointed first team coach on an interim basis until the end of the season.

Was it right to sack AVB?

No. Sacking AVB was not at all the right decision, rather I would say it was an atrocious one and a total embarrassment to the club.

On purely financial basis, it took Roman Abramovich £13.3m in compensation to bring Andre Villas-Boas to Stamford Bridge from Porto. He had already spent more than £10m paying off former boss Carlo Ancelotti and his coaching staff. But AVB was just 36 weeks into a three-year deal worth £90,000-a-week, pocketing £3.5m for 40 games. Abramovich will have to fork out a further £11m just to get rid of the Portuguese. Add on the price of recruiting yet another superstar manager and the total cost of Villas-Boas will soar way beyond the £50m spent on record-signing Torres last year.

To give a young but highly talented manager just nine months to bring success to a club in transition simply wasn’t long enough. Let’s remember, Abramovich is the man who sacked Avram Grant after more than nine months in charge despite finishing second in the league and reaching the Champions League final, and who got rid of Carlo Ancelotti a year later after having guided the club to a domestic double. However, AVB could have taken the club in a new and exciting direction. His entire philosophy is centred around building a team not as a collection of star individuals, but as a unit who will play for each other; and this cannot happen overnight. His task was made even more tougher by incredibly unprofessional and childish behavior by some of his star players especially Frank Lampard. Who as a senior member of the Chelsea and the England squad should have acted as a leader within the side whether he was picked or left on the bench, rather than criticising his manager and the relationship they both shared. Whilst Didier Drogba and Ashley Cole have been accused of practically leading a mutiny against their manager. The blame for Chelsea’s fortunes lie with them, and not their boss.

Chelsea for the past two or three seasons have been a club in need of transition, with a key of star players like Drogba, Malouda, Lampard, Cole, Cech and Terry having passed their peak but still having influence in the dressing room over the side in the wrong way. AVB showed courage by being unafraid to drop them and trying to do what was best for the club in the long-term and at the same time to get the best out of these players by playing them more sparingly, but he simply didn’t have the time to the shape the team in his own image.

The Chelsea hierarchy invested in a three-year project, one that could only work if the manager was given the security to know he could create his own team. Villas-Boas showed bravery but didn’t get Abramovich’s backing. It’s sad that someone who could have been a new ‘Special One’ was never given the chance to shine at Stamford Bridge.

Possible England Squad For Euro 2012

With just a little more than 3 months left for the Euro 2012 to kickoff in Poland and Ukraine, it’s time for the English FA to focus on picking a new manager and then the 23 players who will be wearing the Three Lions this summer.

Here’s what I think the squad will be..

Goalkeepers (3)

Joe Hart – Manchester City
Obviously England’s number one as there is no other English keeper that can come near him at this current moment in time. An integral part of the Manchester City team that are currently at the top of the Premier League.

Robert Green – West Ham United
Robert Green is only experienced backup keeper England have in their entire national pool but he has played his football in the second tier this season and question marks remain if he is still haunted by his World Cup disaster.

John Ruddy – Nrowich City
His current form in the Premier League is outstanding and is one of the reason why Norwich City are sitting so high in the Premier League. His most notable performance came at Anfield where he denied Liverpool the win and gain a 1-1 draw for Norwich.

Players Missing Out – Ben Foster (West Brom), Scott Carson (Bursaspor), David Stockdale (Fulham) & Joe Lewis (Peterborough).

Defenders (8)

Glen Johnson – Liverpool
The Liverpool right-back has been England’s first choice right-back during the Capello era and will continue to be in the near future unless he gets injured. But at the same time the attack minded defender needs to be consistent as he faces some fierce competition for the place in the team from Micah Richards and Kyle Walker.

John Terry – Chelsea
Even though he has the racist allegations hanging over his head, I believe that he is still England’s strongest centre back and without a doubt one of the first names on the team sheet. His determination and bravery are key to his game and he is willing to put his body on the line to stop a shot going in.

Gary Cahill – Chelsea
John Terry’s Chelsea team-mate has been in some superb form for the past few seasons with his previous club Bolton. During which he earned an England and now has almost established himself as Terry’s first choice centre-back partner ahead of Phil Jagielka, Joleon Lescott and even Rio Ferdiand.

Phil Jagielka – Everton
The Everton man is a rock in the defence and has formed an effective partnership with Johnny Heitinga. Since his move from Sheffield United, he has gone from strength to strength and is still improving as a player. I believe he should be on the plane ahead of Man City’s Joleon Lescott or Man Utd’s Rio Ferdinand.

Ashley Cole – Chelsea
Another player that is probably one of the first names on the England team sheet, Cole has gained a reputation of being one of the best attacking full backs in the world and some would even say the best attacking full back England has ever seen. This could well be his last major tournament for England.

Leighton Baines – Everton
Baines is well-known for hit set pieces for Everton, scoring plenty of free kicks and penalties since his move from Wigan. Homesickness cost him a World Cup place but now is an adequate replacement for Ashley Cole and showed that in the recent friendly against Netherlands.

Phil Jones – Manchester United
Since making his big money move to Manchester United in the summer, he has grown in stature and has shown a lot of versatility by filling in various roles in defence and midfield. He considers himself as a centre-back but yet has to play single minute in that position for England after making appearances in the midfield and as a right-back.

Micah Richards – Manchester City
He made his debut in 2006 but was completely out of favour under Fabio Capello but returned to the England first team in the absence of Glen Johnson during recent friendly against the Netherlands. A strong and pacy right back is just what England need and will be a tough competitor for Glen Johnson.

Players Missing Out – Rio Ferdinand (Man Utd), Joleon Lescott (Man City), Chris Smalling (Man Utd), Kyle Walker (Tottenham), Michael Dawson  (Tottenham), Ledley King (Tottenham).

Midfielders (7)

Steven Gerrard – Liverpool
A key part of Liverpool and England’s midfield over the past few seasons, his passion for the game is clear when he steps out on the pitch week in week out. An integral part of the England midfield in South Africa his ability to defend and attack makes him one of the best box-to-box midfielders in the world. Has recently said that this could be his last international tournament so wants to make the most of it and bring home a winners’ medal.

Scott Parker – Tottenham Hotspur
Parker was named the England captain for the recent friendly against Holland and also was England’s best player for the past year. At 31, he has peaked in the past few seasons instead of going the otherway. He has been in great form for club and country this season and has become England guaranteed starter for the Euros.

Michael Carrick – Manchester United
Has been United’s best midfielder this season. He has been ignored by England quite a lot in the last few years but I feel now its the time for Michael Carrick to step up and even perform in England colors. His form this season has been vital for United and it has not gone unnoticed as he received praise from both managers and the players.

James Milner – Manchester City
The Manchester City midfielder has played a crucial role in his club’s oustanding season, with his all-action displays earning him rave reviews. His energy, committment and versatility to play in centre midfield or out on the wings has been his key to success. He should be on the plane ahead of his City team-mate Gareth Barry.

Ashley Young – Manchester United
Since his summer move to Manchester United, Young has been in top form for his new club and his country. Links up well with Wayne Rooney and can play in any attacking midfield role whether it may be on the left or right-wing or player behind the striker in a 4-5-1 formation.

Adam Johnson – Manchester City
Johnson has enjoyed sparkling form for Manchester City this season, so much that his manager Roberto Mancini has claimed “he has everything to become one of the top wingers”. Johnson has been similarly impressive for England and has now scored twice for his country, both in Euro 2012 qualifying against Bulgaria and Switzerland late last year.

Frank Lampard – Chelsea
Was England’s best player during the World Cup but was out of favour due to poor form for both Chelsea and England towards the end of the Capello era. Now, he is back in form for his club scoring some goals of late and will again be a key part of the England setup once the new manager is appointed.

Players Missing Out – Gareth Barry (Man City), Jack Wilshere (Arsenal), Tom Cleverley (Man Utd), Stewart Downing (Liverpool), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Arsenal), Scott Sinclair (Swansea), Aaron Lennon (Tottenham).

Forwards (5)

Wayne Rooney – Manchester United
Even though Rooney is banned for the first two games of group stages, he is the first player on the team sheet. He is one of the world’s best striker and is currently in form for Manchester United scoring around 21 goals so far this season. He is the one player in whole England squad who can win game single handedly.

Theo Walcott – Arsenal
Few players in the world can match the pace of the Arsenal winger. Walcott’s recent brace against fierce rivals Tottenham Hotspur showed he is getting back his form which he showed at the start of the season. If Walcott can replicate his club performances for England, he will be able to add to his three international goals.

Danny Welbeck – Manchester United
Welbeck has grown in stature this season at Manchester United and is the club’s no.1 strike partner to Wayne Rooney ahead of Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez and Dimitar Berbatov. Welbeck has been in superb form this season scoring 14 goals for his club and has also been very impressive during his four appearances for England.

Daniel Sturridge – Chelsea
The former Manchester City striker gave notice of his talent during a loan spell at Bolton Wanderers last season and has shone under the management of Andre Villas-Boas at Stamford Bridge this season. He capped a very impressive performance against the Netherlands on Wednesday and is expected to make the plane to Poland-Ukraine.

Jermain Defoe – Tottenham Hotspur
With Darren Bent out injured for the rest of the season and mostly doubtful for the Euros and Fraizer Campbell too inexperienced at this level, Jermain Defoe will be the final player on the plane ahead of Peter Crouch, Andy Carroll and Bobby Zamora. His hattrick against Bulgaria during the qualifiers is not forgotten and he still has the predatory instincts and the experience in him which will be very useful.

Players Missing Out – Darren Bent (Aston Villa), Peter Crouch (Stoke City), Fraizer Campbell (Sunderland), Andy Carroll (Liverpool), Bobby Zamora (Q.P.R).

To succeed at such major tournaments, England will need a good blend of experience and youth in their squad and in the above squad which I think will fly Poland-Ukraine, they have it both that will hopefully put in a good display and make the country proud.

Parker Named New England Captain. Is He The Right Choice?

Scott Parker has been named the England captain for Wednesday night’s friendly clash against the World Cup finalists Netherlands at Wembley.

Caretaker boss Stuart Pearce chose Parker ahead of contenders like Steven Gerrard of Liverpool and Manchester City’s James Milner and Joe Hart. The Tottenham midfielder, 31, has won 10 caps since his debut in November 2003. He was voted England Player of the Year by the fans yesterday.

Parker has seen his career flourish in the past one year. After being voted Football Writers’ Player of the Year for his performances for relegated West Ham last season, he moved to White Hart Lane in the summer and has proved to be an integral member of Harry Redknapp’s squad with his impressive displays in the centre of midfield.

Redknapp is widely expected to be named as Capello’s long-term successor with the Three Lions,which could see Parker remain as the team’s on-field leader for the Euro 2012 finals in Poland and Ukraine this summer.

Is Scott Parker the Right Choice?

Yes. Given that the other choice was Steven Gerrard who’s been a shadow of the player he once was like two-three seasons ago, then picking someone who’s shown real form for the past season and a half, with West Ham, Spurs and England, is certainly the right choice.

At the same time, Stuart Pearce clearly believes Parker fulfils all his criteria for taking the armband, which includes being a role model who is respected by his team-mates and someone will be in England’s starting eleven.

Reaction on Twitter

Here is what some of the names in the game had to say about Scott Parker’s appointed on twitter.

“Scott Parker ahead of Steven Gerrard………I’m speechless. #whatafarce”

– Joey Barton (Q.P.R and one cap England midfielder)

“Congrats to Scott Parker. Can only think Gerrard not playing though due to 120 mins Sun and Arsenal 12.45 Sat. Will see later on way to game”

– Gary Neville (Former Manchester United and England player)

“Just want to say a massive congratulations to scott parker on been selected as captain for the game 2nyt #ENGLAND”

– Kyle Walker (Tottenham Hotspur defender)

“Congrats to my teammate Scott Parker on becoming England’s captain for tonight’s game against Holland. Sure he’s proud! #honour”

– Rafael van der Vaart (Tottenham Hotspur and Netherlands midfielder)

“Congrats to Scott Parker. Great honour.”

– Michael Owen (Manchester United and England forward)

“Congrats to Scott Parker on being named captain for tonights game. A great honour + one I’m sure he’ll cherish. 2-1 win I’m thinking!”

– Rio Ferdinand (Manchester United and England defender)

#buzzing for Scotty p being named captain for tonight’s game fully deserved #ENGLAND

– Aaron Lennon (Tottenham Hotspur and England midfielder)

“Scott Parker An inspiration led Charlton to mediocrity, sat on Chelsea’s bench for years then led West Ham to relegation.”

– Mario Balotelli (Manchester City and Italy forward)

“Congratulations to Scott Parker being named captain for his country ,he wears his heart on his sleeve. #everyplayersdream”

– Tim Cahill (Everton and Australia midfielder)

“I respect Parker as a player, good midfielder .. But we are talkin about Steve G here.. I see it already happen Xavi laughing in his mind standing infront of Parker before the game with the refs thinking “Who’s he?”. Somebody in my mentions said Parker had 10 caps and Gerrard 89 caps.. WELL !!! I got 40 caps for Holland.. I think I should atleast wear the band once don’t u think?”

– Ryan Babel (Hoffenhiem and Netherlands forward)