They did it again – trophy number 5 is a fact.
It’s been an interesting journey for Chelsea because winning a trophy a season is a must. Conte came in and everyone thought he was going to play a very defensive game, not much different to the style of Mourinho. And that was myself included because I know the tradition of the Italians is enforcing a defensive that’s unbeatable.
I know defending is an art but I love to add goals to that. He implemented the new system of 3 defenders, wingback, two holding midfielders and freedom for the front 3 from the begin of the season. The only problem he was dealing with was that he had a lot of players that had to adjust to the fact he was stepping away from the old system of 4-3-3 that had brought so much glory to Chelsea in the Mourinho days.
The season started with a similar system of Mourinho but when they got outclassed by Arsenal the alarm bells started ringing and there was no time to get used to the new system. Conte’s 3-4-3 had to start there and then, and he would only revert to the old system if it would suit the situation. What he’s done to the players is make them more disciplined and responsible, as well as given them freedom. Those three were key and were what he kept repeating from the technical area.
His team started playing some great football. Everything was set and some players started to shine again. Hazard was back to his best, Kante showed why he’s the key in this system and Fabregas used his intelligence either from the start or the bench when the team wasn’t playing well.
We can go on about the likes of Moses and Luiz playing their best football, while Costa wasn’t just out there looking for red cards but solely to score goals. After Arsenal they had another big moment in the season against Manchester City. They had to show they could bounce back from losing the previous game. When they did that I was like if people weren’t sure they were going to win it they were now.
Man Utd found a way to stop them by man marking Hazard, and that will happen again but that just shows how good the Belgian is. It will only make him better because I’m sure after the game he must have thought I couldn’t unlock myself but next time I’ll be ready, and that’s what we saw against Everton.
They asked me before the game if I thought they were going to win the title against West Brom on Radio 5 and I said for sure. The mindset of Conte is so strong that it’s all about winning and not looking for draws. That’s why Inter Milan wants to do whatever it takes to bring him home again. But he has started something very beautiful in London and I don’t think it will make sense to go to Inter and play clean up before he can start making them shine too.
I have enjoyed this season and I want to thank all of my fans for talking about this beautiful game online and in person.
Congratulations to all my fellow blues. Now it’s all about the FA Cup, and trust me, Conte wants nothing more than the double. Next season I can bet you the Champions league is the only thing that would make him sit on his bench for more than just a minute because that man has some energy!
I have probably seen the best Chelsea game of the season and some are saying it might be the best game since the beginning of last season for us blues.
It does help a team when a new man is put in charge. Every player starts from square one to get his place in the squad, fighting for a spot in the starting line-up. Even before they get to a club, new managers know what the problems are with each player’s mentality and come up with a plan to attack that. How they find that out I still don’t know, but the do, and Conte is clearly no exception.
Look at hazard – he’s fit and playing the role he wanted, starting from the left but with way more freedom because Chelsea are playing with two holding midfielders. That allows the attackers to take more risk because if you lose the ball Matic and Kante are there to take care of it.
But Victor Moses might be the big headline of them all. I played with Victor when he was at Wigan. Martinez was very impressed by his talent and we once talked about how we couldn’t believe no big club could see it.
I do have to say he sometimes had to learn to be more focused, not just in the games but in training. He was only 20 years old back then, and I think that’s something every young star has to deal with when they break through. You have to learn to separate the jokes from work because when you hit the pitch, whether in a game or training, it means business.
It didn’t take long before Chelsea saw Victor’s qualities and snapped him up. Then there was a long loan out process at a number of clubs until Conte came and changed the system. He put victor in a role where he had way more responsibility than he was used to. In the United game I saw Victor in his own box more then I’ve seen him ever in a game. Back-tracking and winning balls and headers like he was a defender.
Wing back isn’t an easy position to play, of course it asks for a lot of fitness, but also intelligence because you need to be on time, helping out the defence, but when the team goes forward you need to be there to give them the outside option and even take people on to deliver a cross into the box.
It’s a fun position to play because you always get the ball and are super active. But you always need to keep your focus and remember you can’t slip up, or you’ll pay for it. Moses has managed to adjust and handle his new role well and I hope he can keep this great form going.
N’Golo Kante will be a great addition to the Chelsea squad.
Every team would want a player who knows how to break down opponents and influence the counterattack as well as Kante does. After an amazing season at Leicester he said that moving to Chelsea, with a manager as brilliant as Conte and world class players, was an easy decision to make.
He will have learned a lot from Ranieri. His teams are about studying the opponent, finding their weaknesses and capitalising on them, and I’m sure Kante will bring that philosophy to the Chelsea team. He can bring balance to the team, and hold everyone together when the team is under pressure.
It’s always a good sign when a midfielder-come-coach wants you in his team, and especially when that man is Conte, who is a true leader and demands the best of everyone around him, as he did as a player and now from the sidelines. It will be interesting to see if Antonio can squeeze even more out of N’Golo.
Kante is maybe a more quiet type of player, sometimes seen as the unsung hero because he’ll do his job while others run away with the glory. At Leicester the success was due to the whole team’s effort, but it was the likes of Vardy and Mahrez getting the headlines with their goals and exciting attacking play.
Vardy has chosen to stay at the King Power stadium, but there are rumours that Mahrez might be on his way out too. Will Leicester react similarly to Southampton, and keep building on what they started, or will they crumble and get caught in a relegation battle?
It will be an important season for Chelsea because no Champions League football will feel strange after being in it for so many consecutive years. This season is one that can’t repeat itself, so we’re looking for a better start and hoping that the blues can come out of the pre-season better, fitter and sharper than the last one.
It couldn’t have come as any less of a surprise when Claudio Ranieri was announced as Premier League Manager of the Year.
There are now many clubs who would fancy their chances of winning the title every year, and Ranieri’s Leicester blew them all out of the water, finishing 10 points clear of second place Arsenal and 30 (thirty!) points ahead of last year’s champions Chelsea.
It’s been an unpredictable and unforgettable season, dominated by the character of Leicester City.
Just look at the investment in Ranieri’s team. The club spent a total of £26 million in last summer’s and January’s transfer windows. To put things in perspective, that’s £10 million less than Anthony Martial’s price tag for Manchester United, and less than half of what Manchester City paid for Kevin De Bruyne.
The success came from getting the best out of their resources, from the players to the sports science team and backroom staff. The focus has been there all season and the club showed a ton of character, which most teams were missing.
The goals were coming mostly from Vardy, we saw some great creative play from Mahrez, and Kante was the engine in midfield. The players managed to be in the right places at the right times, all season.
With most of the top clubs performing far from their best, many would argue this should have been the year for Arsenal – or even Spurs who were breathing down Leicester’s back for the second half of the season. It was the best opportunity Arsenal have had in a long time, but they missed that bad boy killer instinct that they need with the beautiful game they play.
Even great teams have off day, and you need a player that can pull you trough it – and I think that was the biggest thing missing from Arsenal.
Where is the class mixed with a dose of badness, like Thierry Henry, Patrick Vierra of Martin Keown? Those guys did not mess around when they saw their opportunity.
Spurs came so close but you could see that the experience killed them. When the time came to stay calm and grind it out they didn’t really have anyone lead the team forward. They looked more like they were relying on Pochettino to make all the calls, and on the field, the manager can’t always help because sometimes the pace is too quick to readjust, and half-time could be too late.
Chelsea failed to create any momentum at all, even going right back to their American tour. On top of that the club were probably over-confident after lifting the trophy last season. After being champions it was all falling apart, and it needed (and still needs) some adjusting. Next season we will need to see a lot of hard work from Conte, and it looks like it will be a tough job from the start.
Manchester City also struggled this year, and if you look at them as a team you may be looking at the best squad in the league. But it started to crack when Yaya got injured. Vincent Kompany had similar injury problems, and without these two in the team regularly, performances can start to crumble.
Liverpool is a team that was always looking to rebuild this season but with Klopp arriving I think it’s looking pretty positive and calm again. But of course the madness comes back him when his team scores. This man does not hold back his emotion so I’m always waiting to see what he does next.
Next season we should be more critical towards Liverpool because Klopp’s had some time to work with his squad and they should be ready to fight for the league.
Manchester United had a season full of ups and downs, after bringing in a stream of new players. We all know a new team needs time but expectations are incredibly high in the Premier League, not least at Man Utd. It’s a brutal league and if you don’t fix your problems immediately you’ll get punished again and again. When you think you’ve just got out of your difficult time, you get another set-back. Now there are a lot of rumours around the club and Van Gaal’s future, and it’s time they fix that so they can start the next campaign stronger.
We all look forward to seeing how every club will shape up next season. Every team will be ready for Leicester, and they will have the added luxury pressure of being the champions that everyone wants to beat.
It came as a shock when news broke that John Terry would be leaving Chelsea at the end of the season, after serving the club for so long.
His time in the game is ticking, but I still think he’s got what it takes to be around the best and do his job.
I can promise you that the motivation and the spirit of the Chelsea team is largely down to Terry. Some leaders can’t be made. You can give them or tell them what you want, but a real leader doesn’t need any outside help. You either are one or you’re not.
John is a natural leader because from day one he was eager to learn and make himself a better defender. Any problem the team has – even if it’s about a player being mistreated by the club – he’ll go and ask for an explanation.
A lot of captains wouldn’t do that because they’re scared of the consequences, but JT always would.
On the field, If you’ve been out of action for a while when you make a return, you can count on him to motivate you. He’ll whisper in your ear before kick of: “Do well so you can keep your spot in the team.” Little things like that make you go the extra mile as player.
In training when it was freezing cold outside, I’d be covered up from head to to with a tracksuit, gloves and a woolly hat. John would come up at the end of training asking me “I know you’re going to do some crosses do you mind me heading them away or clearing them?”
The first couple of times he asked I looked at him thinking you’re crazy, go in and put on some gear. But he carried on wearing shorts, a t-shirt and socks pulled over his knees.
Until one day, when he injured his neck after it stiffened up after a couple of headers. It must of hurt because you could see the tears in his eyes as he walked to the treatment room.
The next day he was back asking me the same question, but this time Claudio Ranieri told him: “If I see you outside without a sweater, you’ll get a fine.” That was the end of him in the cold winter wearing only a t-shirt.
The thing about him is that he didn’t come to training to just stand and look around, he was always moving. That could be his reason for wearing shorts when it was below zero but today I still think he’s crazy for doing that.
But never the less, I enjoy watching him play and seeing the boy that was so eager to play become the man that has been so hungry with Chelsea. It will be strange to see the blues without him.
After Dennis Wise I thought who is going to be the next? And there John Terry was.
Let’s hope the club finds another great leader that wins respect on the field, from the club, and from the fans like John did.
It’s become a huge issue for many fans. The price of a season ticket at Premier League clubs can equate to a full months wage for the average earner. At the Emirates you can pay over £2000 for the privilege, with a match day ticket costing up to £97.
To put things in perspective, you will find that Bayern Munich and Barcelona – arguably THE top two clubs in Europe at the moment – offer fans season tickets at a lower price than all but one club in the English Conference. Eastleigh is the only club where supporters can get hold of a season ticket for less than the £109 price tag at the Allianz Arena, but it is still more expensive than the cheapest asking price at the Camp Nou.
The price of football in England today is simply unaffordable.
It means even the most die heard of fans can not show their beloved clubs support week in and week out because of capitalism’s grasp on the sport. Do the fans not matter anymore?
Bayern President Uli Honess has revealed the philosophy shared by German clubs which makes the Bundesliga a much more affordable prospect for supporters:
“We could charge more than £100, let’s say we charged £300. We would get £2million more in income but what is £2million to us? In a transfer discussion you argue about that sum for five minutes, but the difference between £100 and £300 is huge for a fan.
“Football has got to be for everybody, and that is the biggest difference between us and England.”
In Germany clubs feel like it is their obligation to make football affordable for fans – the people who really make the game what it is. Without fans football is just 22 men kicking a ball around a field. Fun, but the £billions of football rights should be used to drop ticket prices.
So, clubs of England, appreciate the fans. Sharing is caring.
I often get asked whether I want to do something or go somewhere and most of the time I respond with “I’m busy”. That always gets people wondering – what keeps me busy?
During my career my schedules were always made for me and there was never a dull moment. When I retired I kept that lifestyle going. I live by the quote “always moving, always growing”. I wake up early every morning, train and then go on to my business meetings.
Just this month I’m taking around 8 flights within a 2 week time frame.
Amsterdam is my first stop, where I host my yearly Children Charity Tournament. I invite kids of all ages and backgrounds to come to my ‘Mario Melchiot’ Football Field and spend the day playing soccer, enjoying live music from one of the top artists in Holland and eating our traditional “Vlaamse frites”.
Straight after, I will be flying into Manchester to play a charity game alongside some of my fellow Wigan players and coaches of yesteryear. The charity, Joseph’s Goal, aims to raise awareness of NKH (Non Ketotic Hyperglycinemia) and give children who suffer from the condition a better life. It’s an honour and a pleasure to play for such a good cause.
I will always cherish the excitement of one of the children’s parents when I called to let him know I’d be taking part in his charity game. It is little things like this that make me realize the beautiful game goes so much further than the football field.
After the game I’m off to London for a scheduled interview with the BBC. And later that Sunday I’ll be at Stamford Bridge watching Chelsea lift the BPL Trophy.
I never turn down an invite to watch Chelsea, but this one in particular will be special for me. It’s always beautiful to see players get rewarded after a season of hard work – especially when those players are ex-teammates.
After only a few short days in London, I’m flying on to Glasgow to be the best man at my friend’s wedding – and believe it or not – I’ll be wearing a kilt. If that doesn’t show how much he means to me, I don’t know what will.
From Glasgow I’m going to Berlin to watch Barcelona play Juventus. I still have mixed emotions when it comes to the Champions League final. I’m always reminded of my time playing for Ajax, and the day we lost the final against Juventus. It was a sad day, although softened by the fact it was my first time meeting Vialli. I went to ask him for his shirt but since he had already given it away, he took off his shorts and said I should keep them.
Two quick years later I got the call from Vialli to join Chelsea, on the one condition that I gave him his pants back.
I never did. But I still managed to play for five straight years.
From Berlin it’s a one way to Las Vegas, where I’ll be holding a Q&A with American Chelsea fans. I’ll also get to play referee for once – blowing the whistle for one of their games. We mutually agreed that it’d be best I take the referee position, (one that I never liked) instead of taking on a myriad of excited fans.
For my wellness and health, I believe it’s for the best.
With the Premier League season drawing to a close, there’s a lot of talk about statistics, records and highlights. Members from 100 clubs have been voting and nominees have been announced for the 42nd PFA Awards. But who should take the glory in 2015?
Philippe Coutinho is like the young guy you take to a concert and end up losing after five minutes. No matter how hard you try to stick with him, he will drift into the crowd and leave you standing by yourself for the whole night. Defenders just can’t keep up. Missing out on the World Cup seems to have fired him up and he works harder and dominates the midfield with superb dribbles and skills. The little man’s game is topped off with an extraordinary shot that, with little back-lift, generates power normally seen in much bigger players.
Diego Costa doesn’t use doors. He enters the room through the wall like the Hulk. Powerful, hard to mark and always scoring goals – Costa is a nightmare for defenders. And if you try to torment him on the field he will take advantage of your reduced concentration and punish you. His record speaks for itself with 18 goals in 22 Premier League appearances so far this season.
Always bursting with energy, Alexis Sanchez is like that guy who can’t stand still in the club. If he’s not throwing dance moves he’s buying drinks or chasing girls. He’s always lively and never stops creating on the pitch, making him Arsenal’s key player this season. His direct style of play makes him hard to stop because he sits so low and changes direction with ease.
Harry Kane is like the guy next door that always ruins your day. Every time you try to stop him he crushes your dreams by scoring. He’s exactly what England need – a striker who works hard, never gives up and scores a bag full of goals. His winning combination of confidence and intelligence keeps him a step ahead of defenders and I hope he keeps progressing and proves consistency in seasons to come.
David De Gea is like a cat that saunters into your house uninvited. You try to catch him and when you think he have him he jumps out of your grasp, embarrassing you. That’s how strikers feel when they think they’ve scored – De Gea will always have something to say about it. He’s the goalkeeper you can count on – very reliable and keeps defenders focussed, often the difference between teams.
Eden Hazard is my choice for PFA player of the year. He’s the prince telling everyone how it should be done and if they can’t do it he’ll take the ball and do it himself. After a world cup that didn’t go to plan he’s taken the world by storm. Strong, skilful and incredibly agile, Hazard also has a great understanding of the game. What I love the most about him is that he takes responsibility on the field. When Chelsea aren’t playing well he’s the man that will make it happen. He is exactly what his name suggests.
I’m happy to be back in London.
England has felt like home to me ever since I made the trip to Stamford Bridge
to sign for Chelsea in ’99. The weather still comes as a cold, gloomy shock
to my system though – and that’s coming from a man who was born in (not so) sunny
But it’s nothing a Nandos can’t fix. That place is
so addictive I could eat it every day. After touching down in Heathrow and
devouring a chicken, I headed to meet some cool artists with a friend. We were going
to get a black cab but the traffic was typically chaotic so I suggested we
catch the underground.
“Are you bloody joking?”
That beautiful English accent. I was serious.
Navigating the underground was more dizzying than trying to mark Ronaldo and Messi
– I had no grasp of direction much to the amusement of my friend who kept
sending me the wrong way. But I soon saw the similarities to the Amsterdam
Underground and walked around like I had Leo and Cristiano in my back pocket
(as I imagine would be the case if I got the boots out – Mourinho?).
On our way back we came across a really drunk Irish guy who had missed his stop
on the train. I’m sure that’s something you will have all seen before;
public transport and alcohol are a cocktail for calamity. My friend went over
to see if he was okay and snapped him back into life.
“Jesus is black and Irish!” he garbled, hugging us,
almost falling over.
The things people come out with under alcohol’s
influence. So moving, so poetic.
He topped things off by insisting he was going to
spend the evening with us. We appreciate the gesture my friend but no, you’re
not. Thankfully a security guard escorted him off the train before he could
follow us back to the hotel, and we can only speculate where he might have
ended up that evening.
Some say he is still trying to find his way home.
Premier League is the most popular league in the world today.
So then why is the world questioning whether or not it is the best league in the world?
It’s the high intensity, speed and power of the home grown players, as well as the
variety of international culture that brings this league to a whole different
But Chelsea’s crash on Wednesday evening put everything back in perspective. Fans
started doubting their own beliefs and neutrals couldn’t believe what they had witnessed.
It was the downfall of a hero – as unexpected by their followers as by their
Ahead of my first Chelsea game, Ray Wilkins told me: “Make sure the fans feel your
hunger to win, your skill and intelligence in reading the game, and I assure you,
they will fall in love with you.”
The league is still this same way. There’s heart and passion, and all fans want is
to come out, support their teams and be entertained for 90 minutes. But
sometimes players fall into the trap of playing these same league tactics in
the international tournaments.
When I played for the Netherlands, against England, we came into the game aware that
the 1st half would be a big battle, but by the start of the 2nd half they’d start to loose energy and focus and therefore they’d offer us opportunities to strike them while exposed.
But all the while, I’ve had the pleasure to play many exciting games; there is no comparison
to the atmosphere in the Premiere League. For me it’s always been the most
enjoyable league to play in and to watch. Once you’ve had a taste of it, you’re hooked.
The French league is more technical and has a lot of fast players. PSG will now be
the team that people will keep an eye on, although the French league isn’t at
its best yet.
Siere A is also going through some changes, with their game opening up rather than the
hard, solid defence play they’re used to. Juventus seem like the only team with
the right balance so far, particularly with highly rated young star Paul Pogba
generating several beautiful moments.
The Bundesliga could be the most exciting league to watch at the moment, especially
since all teams competing for the German title are close up together, which
makes for a constant threat because the other team is right behind you, breathing
on your neck.
This is what makes the players perform better, the games exciting to watch and glues
you to your chair for 90 minutes straight.
La Liga is the most elegant league of them all, with players like Cristiano
Ronaldo and Lionel Messi who make the game enjoyable for fans of any sport.
I never want to miss the El Clasico, and whether you’re a fan of the two teams or
not even following the Spanish league, it is always a must watch. Last year
Atletico showed a mix of hard work and class to clinch the title. This is the
perfect league for a young upcoming player to learn about tactical game plan
and the technical ability you’ll need in the game.