Friday, 24 January 2014

Juan Mata

That Chelsea are finally well in the title race, have snared Matic to finally resolve the midfield issue, are very close to signing Salah and have Jose Mourinho in charge of an amazing squad with great prospects will come – incredibly - as scant consolation for what has emerged over the last few days.

"Off I go"

There are Blues who rationalise what is happening. The player hasn’t kicked a ball in a blue shirt since Mourinho made his “Door is always open” comments. He is clearly struggling to adapt to a system that requires pace and a lot of off-the-ball work. Mourinho has reiterated that this is the way Chelsea will go – maximizing the skills as well as energy of every player to get results – and that the player has to adapt. Playing a World Cup in Brazil is an experience no footballer of his quality should be forced to pass up.

But then you look back, just for a moment, and all of that reasoning goes out the window. Every Chelsea memory since Carlo Ancelotti has Juan Mata’s stamp all over it.

Juan Mata poses with the FA Cup trophy

Juan Mata with the Champions League trophy

Juan Mata poses with the Europa League trophy

Scoring on almost all his competition debuts, the Man of The Match performances at Wembley under di Matteo, both European trophies, “Mazacar”, the goals, the assists, the passes, the consistent big game performances - all of it. Punching the Allianz Arena pitch in joyous tears - that was supposed to be the defining image of a Chelsea legend, a player we would love for years to come.

Juan carried the club to successive Champions League qualifications under difficult circumstances as new signings adapted to the league and tried to fit into the Chelsea system. We had long phases when we couldn’t buy a win but as long as there was Mata, there was hope.

Juan Mata celebrates scoring the equalizer at White Hart Lane. Chelsea won 4-2

Juan Mata celebrates scoring the only goal at Old Trafford in a crucial game as Chelsea went on to secure Champions League football

Hazard and Oscar have since improved massively and slotted right into the new Chelsea. They would then go on to return the favour and Mata would get a season to adapt as we embarked on years of success together. At least that’s how we hoped it would work out. No way the last image of Mata as a Chelsea player would be that strop at St. Mary’s, no way…

Mata has been a player-messiah during two of the club’s most testing seasons in the Roman era, the bridge that kept us from falling into the river as we crossed from one period of consistency to the next. It’s not easy to shake off the feeling that after using the bridge to get to where we are, we have cut the ropes and set it on fire.

Our squad is overloaded with talent. With all the favours, tie-ups and the army of loanees, we're probably starting a footballing dynasty that could last for a long, long time. Jose Mourinho knows the club better than anyone and knows football better than any of us, so this is not likely to be a foolish decision. How things might have worked out with Mata at Chelsea will forever remain a figment of imagination.

Hope you have a good time (except two dire games a season) and thank you for the memories.

Juan Mata was "happy to go" to Man United the moment he was told of the offer, Mourinho said. Now it's not like Lampard, Drogba, Terry, Torres, Joe Cole (most relevant example) - and also Ashley Cole, Schurrle and Luiz right now, and surely Cech next season - had no tough times at the club, long phases when they were not playing, especially in international tournament years. They stayed. They fought. Mata was more than happy to run to a Premier League rival. Not that he should be hated, oh no. Give him respect for his contributions, but nothing more. He's not a kidnapped child. He's an ex.

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

7 signs of a "true football fan"

It doesn't come down to how late you stay up, how many games you've attended or how much merchandise you own anymore. The True-Football-Fans Illuminati have created new rules for "the club". This post attempts to lay them bare so that you are prepared to strut around the football webspace without embarrassing yourself.

Here you go - 7 signs to check if you are a "true football fan".

You casually throw around terms like "Trequartista", "Catenaccio" and "Regista", and can speak for hours about them.

Pondering about trequartistas...

You follow at least one mainland European league (Bonus points for Hellas Verona fans).

Classy Italian man tells a Premier League fan what he thinks of him

You have read at least one of "Inverting the Pyramid", "The Numbers Game" or "Soccernomics", plus a football autobiography or ten.

Sir Alex Ferguson's autobiography - true literature
"Harry Potter"? Pffft.

You feel at least one top team/manager is "over-rated" (you use that word a lot by the way) and have an "under-rated" (this too) name ready to counter.

Everyone is over-rated. And under-rated. Sometimes at once.

You treasure the nuances of each formation, sometimes a bit too much.

4-4-2 IS different from 4-4-1-1. Trequartista, pay attention!

You prefer stories of tactical victories over showy individual heroism.

Hurray tactics, boo Roy of the Rovers

Last but not least, you detest Troll Football.

Troll Football, that disease