Vital Stoke Interviews: Vital Chelsea
It all kicks off tomorrow and we`ll be facing our toughest start to the Premier League we`ve possibly ever faced. But the fortress Britannia should unsettle the Londoners as they come for what could potentially be a bogey match for them, if last season`s home result is anything to go by. I was going to be talking to Merlin but apparently he was on holiday when I got in touch, so I talked one of the other Vital Chelseaco-eds who didn`t actually reveal his name. I`m guessing they wouldn`t want me to reveal their true identity, so I`ll sit here proudly knowing the secret. They may wish to reveal themselves later and publish a book and make some big money... or is that just the Stig? Anyway, here is 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?
VITAL CHELSEA: Absolutely. Last year was a bit hard to take seeing as United were arguably at their weakest for a long time but, even after our dreadful 'bad moment' from October to mid-January we still had the chance when we went to Old Trafford late in the season. But when you go on a bad run for as long as we did in the winter, you can't expect anything but disappointment at the end of the day.
RK: I can imagine, it was hard enough watching Man Cit`eh lift the FA Cup at Wembley, but despite that, Delilah was the only thing you could hear bellowing around the ground. So I`m guessing every Chelsea fan will be piping up to support your club in the race to the top. How would you rate your chances of finishing first?
VC: I think we've got a great chance this year! United and City have obviously strengthened but our team remains as strong as anyone else's in the league, if not stronger, and certainly more experienced. It's a long, hard slog of a season but I think there's a lot of confidence going into it throughout the camp.
RK: It`ll be an interesting season I reckon, and one that potentially will go to the wire. What do you think of your newly appointed 33-year-old manager Andre Villas-Boas?
VC: AVB has already made a good impression. He's got a clear philosophy that he's brought into the club, has already made some good young signings and, fingers crossed, he'll be the new era at Chelsea. We've had a very good pre-season, winning all our games and conceding just a solitary goal, so things are looking good. One can only hope that we give him time to assert his methods on the club and back him when the going gets tough, rather than hitting that trigger as usual, but ultimately he'll be judged as any manager before him under Abramovich; on results and silverware.
RK: Typical Abramovich. 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?
VC: A little, yeah. His name was always in the mix but I never really expected it. However, the deal for Hiddink seemed to drag on and on and, ultimately, something must have happened to convince the board to switch targets and go with Villas-Boas.
RK: Is Villas-Boas the right man to lead a new era at Chelsea?
VC: Only time will tell, really, but he seems as good a man as any. He's already achieved so much in his very brief managerial career and I think the players will have respect for him straight away. However, like I've said, managers get judged at Chelsea on results and silverware; if he doesn't win the title this year, can anyone really see him staying on?
RK: Unfortunatly, that`s how Abramovich operates. If you don`t win anything, you lose everything and you`re out the door. A little faith and loyalty to managers can go a long way, but hopefully for AVB, things won`t be as pressurising as we all think. Petr Cech has said no manager has ever lived up to Jose Mourinho, do you agree?
VC: I think the facts speak for themselves; Mourinho was very successful here. Avram Grant could arguably have eclipsed him had things gone differently in 07-08, namely in Moscow, but that never really worked out. Hiddink might have done had he stayed on longer than a few months
RK: Talking of transfers now; 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?
VC: I think if you polled Chelsea fans they'd say we need a new right back, a wideman and an attacking central midfielder, but AVB seems happy with his squad and has quietly gone about his transfer business, which makes a nice change for us. Romelu Lukaku is just waiting on the final bits of paperwork before his deal goes through and he looks like he's going to be an absolute machine, plus we've brought in a couple of younger faces, and we've got Sturridge coming back from loan as well. Don't forget we splashed out £70M in January on Torres and Luiz as well, so I don't think there's a major need to go crazy with new signings.
RK: If you were in charge, who would you bring in?
VC: I like the idea of Modric in our midfield, but I reckon £35M is a bit too steep. To be honest, I'd like us to trust a little more in some of our younger players, the likes of Josh McEachran and Sturridge have the potential to be absolutely world class if we let them flourish. Everyone loves a big-money signing and all the razzmatazz that goes with it, but there's nothing quite like seeing a homegrown lad come through the Academy and into the first team. We've certainly got the quality coming through the youth ranks and hopefully Villas-Boas is ready to give them a chance.
RK: Moving onto us; what are your thoughts on Stoke City? Honesty is key but don`t be brutal!
VC: Stoke are always a very dangerous side. Personally, I think way too much is made of your up-and-at-'em approach. I've seen you play quite a bit and you've played a lot of decent stuff since returning to the top flight. However, you are physical (a bit like us) and you aren't afraid to assert that on others to your own advantage.
RK: That is a very sensible view, which is refreshing to hear from the typical views of Arsene Wenger and Danny Murphy. So thank you for your common sense and compliments. Who would you say is our best player?
VC: That's a tough one! Matty Etherington is someone you always need to keep an eye on and I fear you could get some joy down that left flank on Sunday. I've always been a fan of Kenwyne Jones as well, he's a bit of the Drogba mould and a real handful for defenders. But I think the key to your success is not individuals not the team collective; everyone pulling in the same direction and giving absolutely everything for the cause.
RK: Absolutely! Matty, Kenwyne and everyone else have their roles and work around each other. The fact that we gel so well as a team gives us an advantage to the likes of say, Man Cit`eh who drafted in players from all over the show. They can`t play together properly because they need time to understand each other`s strengths and weaknesses, and how they can support each other based on that. We have that down to a tee, and it`s served us well. 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?
VC: The Britannia does have a reputation for being one of the loudest grounds in the league but our away support is arguably one of the most vociferous and dedicated out there. It should be a good atmosphere though, we've all been waiting what feels like an eternity for this new season to kick off and here it is, so there's plenty to sing and shout about!
RK: Well someone should measure the decibels then, because it looks like we`ll blow the roof off! Or hopefully blow the ball into your net!! Who would you field against us if you were the gaffer?
VC: Cech, Bosingwa, Terry, Ivanovic, Cole, Mikel, Lampard, McEachran, Malouda, Drogba, Torres
RK: Finally, what`s your prediction for the match?
VC: I think it'll be close and very hard-fought as usual but I'll go for a 3-1 Chelsea win!
RK: Thanks very much for that and heres to an exciting first game of the season!