I spoke to Ramon Isaac who writes the Chelsea blog Mowing Meadows. He’s also well worth following on twitter – @MowingMeadows. Unlike most Chelsea fans, he knows what he is.
Jack McInroy: Hello, Ramon. Sunday’s win against the Manchester United players who needed a few more appearances to get a medal makes it highly unlikely Chelsea’s dreadful season will end on a bum note.
How do you think Chelsea v Spurs will go on Wednesday and would you agree that regardless of the result Chelsea will qualify for the Champions League?
How has it happened that Chelsea are battling with Tottenham and Arsenal, two clubs with relatively meagre budgets, rather than challenging the other super rich clubs for the title?
Ramon Isaac: Hi Jack. I owe a debt of gratitude to Sir Alex for allowing us to play against a weaker United side.
My head tells me Chelsea should win, I mean STATS are on our side! The fact we have Juan Mata also helps and the potentially returning Eden Hazard. My heart, the ever pessimist, says you might sneak away with a victory and to make matters worse it will probably be a 90th minute screamer from the one with the heart celebration. Football is cruel like that.
I think we will qualify now regardless and maybe you winning might knock Arsenal out the Champions League and take away the only solace Wenger still clings on to.
We’ve spent a lot of money badly for starters and sold/loaned players out that had more to contribute than some of the deadwood that still lingers, riding the coat tails of our three amigos. Secondly, Fernando Torres. The final part might be to do with management or lack of it. Benitez has though finally realised that playing your best team can result in wins, often. Who knew?!
Speaking of managers, witnessing the magic of Harry Houdini at QPR must make you glad that you have Villas-Boas as manager? You’ve been plagued with injuries to the midfield pair of Sandro and Dembele, will it be a case of ‘what if’ come the end of the season?
Jack: There’s a been a big Redknapp backlash over the last couple of years. I don’t quite have the ill feeling toward him a lot of Spurs fans do, but neither do I have much affection for a man who referred to Spurs fans as ‘idiots’. But I’m not particularly enamoured with nouveau riche West London clubs, so seeing QPR go down has been a pleasure regardless of Redknapp’s involvement.
I’m reluctant to blame injuries for Tottenham’s shortcomings. Sandro and Younes Kaboul are two of our best players, but other than those two the injury situation hasn’t been awful. All clubs get them. We’ve had Bale fit all season, which is the main thing.
Andre Villas-Boas has done an excellent job so far. He’s did extraordinary work at Porto but poorly at Chelsea and for the first couple of months of his Spurs career it looked like it could go either way. The fact that this squad, which has probably four (fit) players that the likes of Manchester City and Manchester United might covet, has Champions League qualification in its own hands a couple of weeks before the end of the season is as good as we could have hoped for.
Chelsea’s squad is far superior, as I alluded to earlier, we really have no right to be neck and neck this late in the season. I think we’re capable or a win at Stamford Bridge, certainly getting a draw, but given the rest of the fixtures any hope of finishing above your lot has gone out the window with that United game.
Seeing how Spurs have done this season under AVB are there any regrets about getting rid of him? How much blame should the Chelsea fans shoulder for Rafael Benitez’s results? I think Benitez crimes against Chelsea were minimal and to be so unsupportive from day one is hugely counterproductive, essentially an act of self-sabotage, but not a surprise given the collective personality of the Chelsea fanbase.
Ramon: Are you suggesting you don’t like Chelsea? I’m hurt.
I always had a soft spot for Villas-Boas, the fact Mata looked like his love child perhaps played a greater role than it should have in my estimation of him, but I was really fond of that Porto side for the season it had under him. I don’t regret getting rid of him because we became ‘Champions of Europe’! Although I, like yourself towards Redknapp, have no bad feeling towards him as some do. He was put in a difficult position and his inexperience led to his downfall. He is a good manager though. Also, he’s a suave character.
I personally think he’s got a fair chunk of the blame to shoulder. The players at times have under performed to an extent and yes the board made a monumental $#!% up by ignoring the fans and appointing Benitez for a club hero in Di Matteo, they also left the squad with not enough depth to cope with our busiest schedule ever. Yet, at the end of the day it isn’t the board’s fault that after employing him, he decided to not play our three best players in the same side till about a couple months of ago. He’s pissed off multiple players in his time here and that is a sign of poor man management. Materazzi will confirm this.
The negativity towards him was counter-productive but it was necessary. Chelsea fans felt distanced from the club and responded, there are plenty of people who understand our feeling and feel they would have done the same if placed in our position. He had a pop at our fans as the manager of a rival team and that simply wasn’t on. I wish him no ill but I can’t wait till he is far away from Chelsea. The recent trend of praising him is all the more bemusing. We were 4 points off the lead and now struggling to guarantee Champions League football. He’s praised for recovering from his own mistakes. A bit like Kyle Walker.
Tottenham’s struggles have striking similarities to Chelsea this season and that is a lack of attacking options, with that in mind, would you rather have Adebayor and Defoe or Torres and Ba? Just how good is Gareth Bale and is he staying beyond this season?
Jack: I agree that Benitez doesn’t deserve all this credit that’s suddenly been thrust upon him. The Chelsea squad is far superior to Arsenal’s and Tottenham’s and he’s had more than enough time to get them playing. The fact that he has led Chelsea to the Europa League final should not be regarded as any kind of achievement. Roy Hodgson, Martin O’Neill and Steve McClaren have all done the same in the last decade with much lesser squads, which gives you an indication of the competition’s credibility.
To your sly dig at Kyle Walker I say fair enough. Last year he was in the PFA team of the season, but he’s been nowhere near this time round. Adebayor has also failed to replicate last year’s form. It’s like having two of your best players leave.
How dare you compare Tottenham’s lack of attacking options and Chelsea’s! Adebayor and and Defoe are literally all we have up front. If we’d have Romelu Lukaku at the club he certainly wouldn’t have been loaned out. Obviously Torres has been a disastrous signing, but Demba Ba’s great (how about that goal in the FA Cup semi-final!). As good as Defoe is, if he doesn’t score he contributes nothing else and Adebayor seems to be the opposite this season – lots of unselfish running, but very few goals. If Bale hadn’t moved his game up to to a ridiculously consitent level we’d be down there with Everton and Liverpool.
Bale is an explosive footballer. His ascendancy to the very top of world football is no surprise to me. He was a complete player in his teens. His final ball, the most important indicator of how good a young player is, was lethal when he joined the club. There’s no chance he’ll stay if we finish outside the top four and even if we do an offer from someone like Real Madrid or Manchester City may be too tempting to resist. He deserves to be winning major trophies and even if he stays, Spurs won’t be doing that.
Chelsea owe all their success to Roman Abramovich, which is fitting for a club that were not formed by workers or choir boys, but by a rich man with an empty stadium. Do some Chelsea fans geniunely want their Chelsea back? With the money your chairman will no doubt spend, is a return to success inevitable? Who do you want to be the next Chelsea manager?
Ramon: Woah, woah, woah! I am not including Lukaku in this conversation because he is quite clearly our best striker. Much like Defoe, Ba offers very little in terms of footballing ability and cannot do much else but finish. That being said, he is a player that scores incredible goals.
The idea that we want our Chelsea back isn’t to do with a pre-Abramovich period but just to feel connected with the club. It isn’t really that much to ask for. It is the least any fan would ask for, it isn’t an insult towards Roman, we owe everything to that Russian Oligarch but being considered in his decision making is hardly an outrageous view to take. I want my Chelsea back but I want my Roman to stay. They aren’t mutually exclusive. If a Chelsea fan realistically wants Abramovich out the club, are they willing to sacrifice the joy they felt when Drogba scored in Munich? Not a chance.
Is a return to success inevitable? Hmm.. Considering our team is based around potentially the three best attacking players in the Premier League it would seem that would be true. Although winning a league requires strength in depth if you are competing in Europe and a good slice of luck, frequently. I think it is inevitable if we keep Mata/Oscar/Hazard they are unbelievable together and provide so many problems for defenders but they need a top quality striker to compliment them.
There really only is one realistic answer for Chelsea fans and who they want as their next manager. The Special One has to return. I’m a full blown hipster but the reality is Jurgen Klopp is happy at Dortmund and unlikely to move to West London. At the same time Mourinho is arguably the most successful manager in recent history and it would be foolish to consider anyone over him. He commands respect and more importantly he brings success.
Whilst we are talking about success… What area do Tottenham need to improve to challenge for the title? You’ve become fairly infamous as a Tottenham fan on twitter for that comment about Arsenal finshing ahead of you in the league for countless years, will finishing ahead of them bring more joy to you, personally, than the feeling of finishing in the top four?
Jack: We have probably the best goalkeeper in England, a couple of very good centre-backs in Younes Kaboul and Jan Vertonghen and a cracking midfield of Mousa Dembele, Sandro, Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon. We could do with some more creativity – perhaps Holtby will be the man, but as I said previously, we’re desperately lacking up front. We don’t have the depth for a title challenge and that won’t be rectified over the summer.
I do have a few Arsenal followers based on that tweet, but I stand by it. We’ve been inferior to them since I was a child and I’m sick of it. Last season took a lot out of me. We were so far ahead of them and playing much better football and we completely blew it, losing Champions League football and local pride at the same time. It’s in our own hands to make amends and get the double crown of finishing above them and qualifying for the Champions League. After all this time, it’s the former that’ll give me the greater thrill.
Nice talking to you, Ramon. We’ll chat some more after the game.