Vital Stoke Interviews: TheChelseaBlog
The first fixture of our fourth consecutive year in the Premier League is only days away, and we`ll be facing a Chelsea side who have a new, younger manager in charge, but apart from that, no real significant changes since last year. The game will be broadcast on Sky Sports live from the Britannia Stadium which has sold out its capacity a couple of days ago. I was contacted by TheChelseaBlog and we exchanged thoughts over Q&As. My answers will be up on their site soon and once it is, I`ll link it from here so you can have a butchers, but for now, here`s what they had to say...
RYAN KALISZ: Chelsea lost out last season to Manchester United and Sir Red-Nose-of Ferguson, are you eager to get this season underway and challenge for the title again?
THE CHELSEA BLOG: I want the season underway but mainly because the closed season feels like you`ve lost an arm really. It`s not without a bit of dread though, which is where the title challenge comes in - in my usual pessimistic way, I don`t think we`ll mount too much of one this season.
RK: The summer is always a bore, especially without an arm, so I`m glad the season is back again. How would you rate your chances of finishing first this year?
TCB: Slim to none. I already think United have too much for us to contend with and if they get Sneijder as well, we`ve completely had it. I`m not doing our players down but more or less the same side finished 9 points shy of United last season, we have another new manager who needs to acclimatize himself to the Premier League and I just think it`s too big an ask.
RK: Managers definitely need time to settle in, so his full impact on your side will have to be given time before anyone sees that. Anyone who isn`t Roman Abramovich will agree with that, if you don`t mind me saying. So what do you think of your newly appointed 33-year-old manager Andre Villas-Boas?
TCB: I keep saying when you`ve had to endure the likes of Avram Grant and Scolari, you`re not going to turn your nose up at an ambitious young manager like AVB [Andre Villas-Boas] who has already shown he has an appetite for winning. Add to that his preference for an attacking game and I`m pretty happy with his appointment, yeah.
RK: His appointment was a slight surprise for most, especially with Roman Abramovich having such a good relationship with free-agent and previous manager Guus Hiddink; was he a surprise for you?
TCB: Once Carlo went, of course, like many, I`d hoped it was only because Hiddink was coming. While we were waiting to hear though, AVB was one of the managers I thought could come in, so whilst I was disappointed it wasn`t Hiddink in some respects, I wasn`t especially surprised it was Villas-Boas.
RK: Is Villas-Boas the right man to lead a new era at Chelsea?
TCB: Why not? Of course it`s a bit soon to judge him after his season at Porto but he strikes me as a man with real balls who`ll do what he has to do - kind of like Mourinho without the sneer.
RK: Petr Cech has publically said no manager has ever lived up to Jose Mourinho, do you agree?
TCB: I can`t disagree, since none of them have won back-to-back titles but then to be fair, none of them were given the same resources Mourinho either.
RK: Mourinho is a fabulous manager with flamboyance, determination and most importantly, an overall win percentage of 68.2, winning 18 titles over 11 years which is an immensely impressive individual record. But it seems that he only functions best when there is heavy financial backing; I could never see him going to Blackpool for example and doing any better than Ian Holloway because they only really had sticks of rock in the transfer budget. But that's just my opinion. Talking of transfers; Villas-Boas remains relaxed about not signing anybody, saying he doesn`t need to flex the financial muscle. Is this view of most Chelsea fans?
TCB: I`ve never been one for spending silly money for the sake of it but I have thought for a season or two now we should be looking to start bringing players in with a view to stepping in for players like Lampard, Drogba, Anelka etc who undoubtedly have given us their best. I`m happy with the signing of Lukaku but given we fell way short of United last season, adding him alone isn`t going to be enough in my opinion.
RK: If you were in charge, who would you bring in?
TCB: It doesn`t always have to be about spending millions, so I think I`d bite the bullet and risk a quieter season or two, bringing some of our younger players through for a start. Not that I wouldn`t have fancied someone like Aguero given the choice.
RK: Moving onto us; what are your thoughts on Stoke City? Honesty is key but don`t be brutal!
TCB: Would it be brutal to say I see you as a side I don`t ever think we`ll walk all over but then don`t necessarily worry about playing either. Dogged and determined rather than dynamic.
RK: I think that's a fair enough comment... have I frightened you off by what I said in my interview about people misjudging us?? Who would you say is our best player?
TCB: If they`re fit you`ve got strong, experienced defenders in Upson and Woodgate whilst our defence should watch out for Kenwyne Jones.
RK: I would make my own comment here but I don`t want to give anything away to you! The tickets for the clash with you have sold out a couple of days ago, so the atmosphere should be electric! Are you looking forward to visiting the Britannia Stadium and hearing the noise?
TCB: Not really since I`m not going lol
RK: Ah I see, watching it on Sky are we? Terrible! So if your TV remote could control the selections, who would you field against us?
TCB: Barcelona`s first XI
RK: I should have seen that coming. Finally, what`s your prediction for the match?
TCB: I never predict scores but I think I`ll be happy enough with our opening day.
RK: Hmm... it`ll be a tough one, and I`ll be happy if we could grind out a draw, but I wouldn`t be too disappointed if it wasn`t to be. At the end of the day it`s the opening fixture, so we`ve got the whole season ahead! Thank you very much for answering for us and perhaps we`ll be speaking again next time around when we visit Stamford Bridge.