Friday, March 31, 2006

The 'Cheating' Debate - Part 2

Having looked at the antics of Didier Drogba, and discussing how deserving he was of the criticism he has had, now I turn to part of the debate that has caused the most uproar. The issues of diving and cheating, how to resolve them, and what our reaction should be.

Before I delve into the subject matter I will say this. Although I will attempt to provide a balanced viewpoint as much as possible there will inevitably be areas where my personal opinion will become more apparent. But as I will say again later, how you feel about these issues is really up to you.

So, on to diving – or ‘simulation’, as is known in the rules of the game. To go back to basics, this essentially means a player attempting to gain advantage by going to the ground as if fouled when no foul has been committed. So essentially a player throwing themselves falsely to the ground in order to get a free kick or penalty. This has become more and more prevalent in the Premiership over the last decade or so and in particularly in recent years. It seems to have coincided with the mass influx of foreigners into the Premiership and without being at all racist if you go down the list of the most common ‘divers’ in the Premiership the majority of them will be non-English players. Cristiano Ronaldo, Ruud Van Nistelrooy, Robert Pires and El-Hadj-Diouf have been the most prominent ‘divers’ in the Premiership, not to mention Deco and, as Chelsea fans have seen, Messi, at European level.

But there is a difference between diving and being genuinely fouled, but going down very easily. Michael Owen has talked about good strikers being able to ‘draw the foul’, meaning going round a defender in such a way as they get a little touch and then you go down. A genuine foul, but one made the most of by the attacker. Some would say this is still diving, others wouldn’t. I think personally that if a player gets a touch he has every right to go down and claim a genuine foul. That’s not breaking the rules in my book. Others of course would say that you shouldn’t even be doing that, you should be trying to score or pass to score. I would agree that it that always be the preference, but I don’t believe it’s cheating to go down if a player has caught you genuinely and for the sake of argument I’m not going to class that as a dive.

But diving does take place. From reading posts on CFCnet and indeed watching television phone-ins I think it’s safe to say that most agree it’s wrong and something needs to be done. But what? I don’t think fines would work, especially at the highest level. These players earn so much that a small part of their wage packet going every once in a while would not hurt the,

The referees can not on all of the pitch all of the time, and they are the only ones with their viewpoint on the situation. Sometimes they see things we don’t see, but crucially sometimes they don’t see what we see. It’s a tough call sometimes to give a goal kick or free kick the other way if a player is down on the floor in pain and has gone down pretty dramatically, in particular if he hasn’t seen the incident clearly. How is the referee to judge in a tricky 50/50 situation when everyone else can see it. Referees are under such scrutiny now and surely to get the decision right something needs to change. It’s all very well saying issue reds or have sin bins but the referee needs more help in order to get any decision correct.

I have heard it many times and to me using television replays seems the most sensible way forward. We’ve seen in both rugby and cricket that not only does this solve the problem without dispute, it causes only minimal disruption to the game. It would ensure that there could be no doubt about the correct decision being made, without using guesswork. Indeed, it would help solve the problems of handball goals that has also been raised recently. There would be no argument from players or managers at the end, as the decision would be clear to see on replays. If the decision was wrong, then the blame would rest firmly with the referees. This to me is the only solution. The only problem is that FIFA continue to refuse to introduce it, so the chances of that happening in the near future are minimal.

One thing that can be done instantly is for managers to come out and condemn their own players who dive. Indeed Sir Alex Ferguson has come out this week and stressed the need for something to be done and even Arsene Wenger has come out and stressed the need for the problem to be tackled. The only problem there is that at the very top the pressure to deliver results is so high and the margin between defeat and victory so small that teams, especially right at the top and at the bottom, will inevitably try any way possible in order to win the game or get a result of some kind.

Another way of dealing with the problem, certainly short-term, would be for referees to submit details of certain incidents to a panel that can then examine any decision and decide through a replay whether the offence is a dive, and then hand out match bans to offenders. At least then something can be done and appropriate punishments handed out. I don’t know if this would require FIFA licensing or not but it seems like something the FA or indeed UEFA could implement much more quickly and more easily.

What is clear though, is that the problem needs dealing with as soon as possible. But being realistic, it’s going to be very hard to ever stamp it out of the game completely. The football authorities though should be striving to make it as minimal as possible and discouraging from the game right from the lower levels upwards.

Now onto a more emotive issue. How do we as football supporters react to diving? There has been much discussion and heated debate on this issue on the site recently and some people have very firm views on this.

Some supporters feel that the only appropriate way to harass your own players and show your displeasure is by booing. They feel that as fans we have a perfectly legitimate right to do this when we feel a player is cheating, or playing poorly, not trying or generally not doing their best for the shirt. The argument is that we deserve our say and if we don’t like it we have every right to air our frustrations. They also argue that this is meant to have a positive effect on the team and the player, to make them play better next time out. These are obviously genuinely good intentions. It’s okay to be frustrated with players during a game and there will obviously some outlet for it
On Saturday there was a clear example of Chelsea fans booing Didier Drogba when he was named man of the match (ironically at Stamford Bridge an award decided by a text vote of fans in the stadium) because they felt he had been diving and cheating all game – despite the fact that he had basically won the game for Chelsea. . Some people think there is nothing at all wrong with this.

The thing though that strikes me is that a lot of Chelsea fans say they boo Drogba because he cheats and dives, yet when Del Horno, Robben, Joe Cole or SWP do something similar nothing is said at all. Common sense suggests that surely if you’re going to boo divers you should boo all divers on both sides, not just one player. Booing one player only suggests that people are picking on that player. If that is happening that is more than booing. It is malicious, vindictive and smacks of plain bullying.

This brings me to the other side of the booing debate. There are a lot of people who think booing is wrong. They say it has no place in our club, no place in our ground and no place in the game altogether. I’ve read posts on CFCnet saying it’s pathetic, childish and selfish. That’s it’s petty and smacks of a spoilt brat attitude. They also argue that it creates a bad atmosphere inside the stadium and puts everyone on a downer, and is not the best advert to new or younger fans and indeed to the world at large about our football club. They also argue that it’s unsettling to players and can drive them out of the club, which they believe is utterly wrong. Their argument is that while it’s right we have our say and air our views, that in the stadium there are more positive ways of doing this. Indeed, one suggested jokily holding up boards giving divers marks out of ten, in order to embarrass and humiliate them into changing their ways. The non-diving lobby say that if we want to air our frustrations fully we should leave that for the pub after the game or the radio phone-ins, rather than during a game. People have said that this makes them even more ashamed to be a Chelsea supporter than players who cheat – especially when it appears, as is the case with Drogba, that this booing seems to be a vendetta against one man.

It’s an emotive issue and everyone has an opinion and hopefully I’ve represented those fairly. Hopefully everyone will be able to agree to disagree. Some people will continue thinking booing is right, others will never condone it.

To conclude, I think most fans agree that diving is a problem and that something needs to be done. I’ve tried to suggest a few ideas here and hopefully with the issue so much in the public eye now something will be done. As for the other issue we should agree to disagree. Just as the decision whether to dive is up to the player, how we behave and react during football matches is entirely up to us and we should all take responsibility for that.

The 'Cheating' Debate - Part 1

The above issue is a hugely emotive and provocative one. Everyone has a viewpoint, everyone has something to say and what is clear is that there seems to be some consensus on some matters, and disagreements on others. Here I’m going to try and sort out the wheat from the chaffe, and go over all the varying issues this topic has raised. This is an attempt to present a balanced view of all the arguments rather than promote my own, however obviously at some point my views on this subject will become clear.

I’ll cover to the diving and our reaction in more detail in part 2. For now though I think we should have a look at Didier Drogba, the seemingly endless media vendetta against him and separate that out from the truth.

Didier Drogba seems to have been a love-hate figure at Chelsea almost since he signed. He was our club record signing and we were longing for him to become the world-class 20 goal a season striker our team now required. Right from the start though, from talking and reading fans’ opinions of him I can gather that most Chelsea opinion would be that he is a frustrating player. A player who without question has great ability. However, one who has almost the equal capacity to annoy.

He has a great physical presence and is big, strong and powerful. Art his best he can ride roughshod through any defence and tear them apart, as he did most effectively at Anfield this season is what I still personally think was his best performance for us. He can also finish when he is of the mind to. The first goal against Arsenal in the Community Shield, the one away to West Ham and the first against Man City on Saturday were all excellent finishes, clearly the mark of a man with skill and power.

If he played like that consistently then he’d be truly world class. However he does have games where he never sees much of the ball, loses out in headers and misses absolute sitters. Against Middlesbrough at home this season and home to West Brom last season (when he should’ve had a hat-trick) he has missed chances on the goal line when only a touch would’ve taken the ball into the net. In other games he has missed chances that a striker of his calibre would normally score.

This however is partially negated by the fact that as we can see he works very hard for the team. He holds the ball up well and tracks back and defends when required. He plays for the team and fights for the team.

Another major issue surrounding Didier at the moment is that of him being a cheat

The aspect of his game that has been the most controversial and has been highlighted by the media a lot (to say the least) recently is his apparent urge to go down injured after the slightest touch by a defender. According to the media of course he has only really started doing this recently. I think it’s possible to agree that the way he went down against West Brom was a bit theatrical, but in his defence if you look at the replay I would say he was slightly clipped by the WBA player on his way through. Drogba just seemed to make the most of it. The other major incident that has been highlighted as a dive came last Saturday when he went over after apparently being accidentally poked in the eye by Richard Dunne. Now there is no doubt after seeing the replay. He did get poked in the eye and was clearly in pain. Jose Mourinho said afterwards that his right eye was bloodshot afterwards and his eye did look swollen on the BBC interview later on.

In the same game of course there was the goal which came from the handball, which from the replay was not a deliberate one. When Drogba admitted the ball had hit his hand people jumped on this. He was confessing he was a cheat and that he deliberately controlled the ball to gain advantage. Of course it hadn’t helped that a week before he’d has a goal disallowed against Fulham for handball, which from the replays actually looked a little more deliberate.

Now according to the media it seems at the moment Didier Drogba is the only player who dives or cheats, and he’s ruining the game. We need to get some perspective here. The media is clearly doing what they always do, and blowing one incident, involving the big team of the moment, and blowing it out of all proportion. I won’t go into how the media talk garbage, I’ve already written about that. But they want to bring Chelsea down in any way they can. It happens to any team at the top. Remember how Roy Keane was constantly criticised after each sending off for bringing shame to football, or how everyone always jumped on Arsenal’s poor disciplinary record and the diving of Robert Pires? It happens. Earlier in the season they picked on Essien and now it seems Drogba is in for it. The thing is this time some of our supporters seem to have fallen for it.

There are plenty of other players who do what Drogba did – Van Nistelrooy, Pires, Ronaldo and Diouf – all have gone down very easily under challenges and won free kicks for their team. Plenty of strikers will claim goals from handballs. It happens, bad decisions are made. There are few if any strikers who will go up to the referee and admit that it was a handball, and there are plenty of legitimate goals ruled out to balance this out. Drogba is not the only guilty party here, so let’s not rile him unfairly. Let the criticism be balanced and justified, not driven by the media out for blood and who have found an easy and willing victim in Drogba.

Next time I’ll discuss a bit more about the issues of diving in our modern game, about what sort of players are guilty of it and maybe why they do it. Then I try and elaborate on what I think our reaction to it should be. I’ll also be touching on the whole subject of whether it’s right or not to boo our own players. Hopefully then we can have an all round view of this whole issue that seems to be dominating the headlines at the moment.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Put the tabloid garbage where it deserves

Chelsea today issued a statement denying a story in a Sunday newspaper that Sven Goran Erikkson was set to replace Jose Mourinho as manager this summer, and that Mourinho has fallen out with chief executive Peter Kenyon.
Funnily enough, the website of that paper has both the story itself and then a story with the statement, saying the story had come 'from a Sunday newspaper', conveniently ignoring the fact that it was their own paper and the story was still on site!!!
More than three times this season now Chelsea have been forced to issue statements denying newspaper stories. These stories have ranged from building a new stadium to a fall-out between Kenyon and Mourinho over Beckham and two stories that Mourinho will be replaced this summer. All this stories have things in common. They come from 'sources within the club', or 'people close to Kenyon/Mourinho' or just 'it is well known' or 'it is understood'. No direct quotes from any named sources. Any quotes regarding these issues over the season, quite apart from the denials themselves, have suggested the complete opposite in fact.
Chelsea call these current stories an attempt to destabilize the club. They have a point. The media don't want Chelsea to dominate because they are not one of the traditional big clubs (see my piece on 'the divine right of big clubs' below) and while they welcome them breaking the duopoly of United and Arsenal they would like nothing better than to bring them back down to earth, because on the pitch they are nigh on unbeatable at the moment and because of the attitude of the manager.
The funny thing is the more Chelsea denies these statements the more the newspapers look like people out to make a quick buck out of a fictional sensationalist story, and the less people will believe them. This story like the last few will now die a death and the papers will find something else. They will never stop though, and will continue to humiliate themselves. All we can do is ignore it or not even read it to start with. If people stop buying the papers then they'll stop printing the rubbish (in theory).
What's even funnier though is that either they in the media are either so stupid they don't realize it or have if they do obviously have no shame, dignity or self-respect, so lose out anyway.
Here is a true story which proves this point. Last spring, quite by chance, I bumped into some tabloid journos at Stamford Bridge from the red-tops (I could name them, but won't as I could get into trouble!!). They were in the Shed Bar on their laptops, innocently writing up their stories after the pre-Barcelona press conference of last season. All of them turned around and asked me questions about football and Jose Mourinho in particular, things about his career and his history at Barcelona that that any serious football journalist would already have known. I went away laughing, having had the obvious confirmed. These guys knew nothing about football, and were just rubbish journalists trying to get a story and making a living writing about a sport they didn't really have any knowledge of. Not for love of the game, not to tell the truth, but to get a story and make a living without care for anyone's feelings and without any shame, self-respect or humility.
I have no sympathy for them whatsoever, and neither should any of us. We should also not further their careers by buying and reading any more of this stuff. If you want to read it, read it for free online. What they write clearly isn't worth the paper it's written on.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Lampard leaving Chelsea? Don't bet on it!

We are constantly being subjected to gossip regarding the future of Frank Lampard. Papers are speculating that he will move to Barcelona in the close season, and Barca themselves have spoken of their admiration for the player.

However I believe Lampard will not move to Barcelona, and will stay at Chelsea.

Why? Well for a start there is his love for Chelsea. He has gone on record numerous times saying how much he loves the club, the fans and indeed the manager, and also been quoted as saying that he would love to spend the rest of his career at Chelsea. The most recent of these was at the world player of the year awards when he was asked about his future.

An interviewer before the Barcelona match asked him how he would like to be remembered and Lampard spoke of how he’d like to be remembered as a key player in a great Chelsea team that dominated English football over a long period and won major trophies at home and in Europe. Almost as an afterthought he said that he hoped he would be at Chelsea long enough to achieve that. He’s also spoken of becoming Chelsea’s leading goalscorer in Europe and of breaking his own record of 160 consecutive league games while at Chelsea. Not only this, but he has only just bought a new house in London for him and his family. None of this sounds like a man thinking about leaving.

There is also Chelsea’s clear desire for him to stay. Jose Mourinho said recently that he wanted Chelsea to give Lampard a contract for life and that no club would be able to offer enough to tempt Chelsea to sell. Peter Kenyon has also said that the club have no intention of selling.

Not only this, but the arguments the media give for his leaving all flawed.

The first argument is that because Chelsea are trying to sign Michael Ballack, then he must be coming to replace Lampard, or that it will upset Lampard enough to make him leave. This is flawed purely and simply because Chelsea are looking to build a strong squad, not just a strong first team. Signing Ballack would allow them to rotate and rest players and cope with injuries and suspensions. Lampard is also not the sort to leave a club because they have bought another player in his position. In fact, not only would Lampard not feel threatened by Ballack’s arrival but see it as a challenge and incentive to raise his game, which would be great for both England and Chelsea.

The second argument is that because Lampard’s girlfriend and her family are from Barcelona then it would be easier for everyone if he went to Barcelona. This is flawed. Lampard and his girlfriend have been together for a while, indeed they have a child together and live together in London. Judging by Lampard’s character, his future would not be decided on this basis, but on a professional basis.

The final argument is that Barcelona are one of the world’s biggest clubs and seemingly have a better chance of winning the Champions League than Chelsea, and would possibly be able to offer him a bigger contract. The issue with the contract is a non-issue. Not only is Lampard not interested in who can pay the most, but Chelsea could out-do any contract offer from Barcelona. As to the issue of the club’s status and Champions League prospects, that would seem to be the case judging by the result against Barcelona. However, Lampard knows Chelsea are building something at Stamford Bridge. They themselves now are becoming a big club and in the last three seasons have come within one match on the Champions League final on two occasions. They will strengthen undoubtedly in the summer, in particular in the striking position, and will improve for season. Chelsea have come so close to the Champions League final twice and with a touch more improvement and now more experience it can only be a matter of time before they win the tournament. In fact, Lampard has been quoted as saying he wants to win the Champions League with Chelsea.

For all these reasons, and with no tangible evidence, as in quotes from the man himself or the hierarchy at Chelsea, to support them – in fact all this points to the exact opposite – can only lead to the conclusion that although Barcelona may want to sign Frank Lampard, the chances of them signing him are virtually zero.

In defence of Jose Mourinho

Jose Mourinho has always been a complex character. So for him to be lynched the way he has been recently demands an explanation. For it is because of misunderstanding and the culture of political correctness we live in that he is so outspoken.

Mourinho always speaks his mind, and is not afraid to say what others won’t say. When he joined Chelsea he said “I am European Champion”, which many people defined as arrogant. However, it was true. He was European Champion at that time. Last year he compared himself with Frank Rijkaard, former Holland player and Barcelona manager, saying that as a player himself he had won nothing and the Dutchman everything and as a manager it was the other way around and he was more successful in terms of trophies. He was right. He is supremely confident, and knows how good he is at what he does.

His views on Michael Essien’s European suspension were absolutely spot on. Essien’s tackle was reckless yes, but not malicious and didn’t cause anything but surface scarring – Hammann missed no games. Nigel Reo-Coker’s tackle on Essien put Essien out for six weeks. Yet not even a booking for Reo-Coker. Those aren’t hearsay, conjecture, complaints or excuses, they are the facts. He had and has every right to feel unjustly treated and is quite entitled to say so.

If he genuinely believes Chelsea have been wronged in any match situation he will say so no matter whom he upsets, and will defend his players to the hilt. Yes, his teams may display some sportsmanship at times, but if you look at most of Europe’s best teams I don’t think you’ll find one that doesn’t.

His persona in the media and that in private seem to be two different things. One on one interviews with him reveal a different person. Not an arrogant, self-righteous man but a caring, considerate man who loves his players and his family and has a great sense of humour. The players constantly speak of a man who in private is intelligent, fun and a good friend off the pitch but who once on the training pitch has complete authority and respect from the players. A manager who strikes the perfect balance between friendship and aloofness.

There is also the fact that he has also often spoken of how important his family is to him – and that they, not football, are the most important people to him. At the presentation of the Premiership trophy last season the first people he went to were his children and then his wife. He was quoted recently as saying that if his family really wanted him to leave Chelsea he would instantly. Are those the words of an arrogant man?

The confident air he portrays is all a show for the media, to protect his players, so that the media are always talking about him rather than his team. It takes the pressure off the players. He sees pre and post-match media conferences as part of the game – whether reacting to the previous game or preparing for the next one. Not even there do you always see the real Jose Mourinho.

For sure though he is a highly confident man – confident in himself and his own abilities as a football manager to be able to say the things he does and command the respect he does, and with the love of his family always providing him with security in his private life. He is a forthright man who is not afraid to speak his mind and speak what he believes is the truth, however un-politically correct it may be. He is a loyal man who stands up for his players, protects them from criticism, defends them when wronged and honestly criticises them for poor performances – like after the 3-0 defeat to Middlesbrough.

Above all though he is a great football manager, with a superb track record only six years into his career. He has his best years as a manager arguably still in front of him. He has changed the face of English football and broken the duopoly that Man Utd and Arsenal held for so long at the top of English football and created a team that is already the dominant team in this country – and will be for many years to come - and soon may be the best team in Europe too. For that he should be applauded, not criticised.

Remember the heart of Chelsea

Putting Chelsea's "poor form" into perspective...

The recent Champions League defeat by Barcelona was very painful. A lot of us are hungry for Champions League success and a lot has been written and said about what Chelsea need to do for next season in order to win that competition. Names like Michael Ballack, Andrei Shevchenko, Ledley King and Ashley Cole get banded about as players who will make a difference. I keep hearing some fans moaning and grumbling comments like “we weren’t good enough”, “they’ve let the fans down”, and “get rid of Drogba/Del Horno/Carvalho” (you fill in the name). There is some leverage in some of these arguments, and they are important topics to discuss. But the more I think about this whole issue the more I think that while it is important to be concerned about how we improve and develop and have serious discussion about it, many of us seem to have lost a glimpse of the heart of Chelsea and where we have come from. We talk of a sense of perspective seemingly only after defeat but we should in glory and victory too.

The untimely death of the King of Stamford Bridge, Peter Osgood, brings back memories of our great history. You may say that we don’t need to hear the history again but I think we are all at times too quick to forget. Ossie really summed up the spirit of the club, which in some way or another still exists. When Chelsea were a great Cup side. Playing beautiful football, and never quite good enough to win the league. So near and yet so far. It also reminded us of how that team fell apart during the dark 70’s and early 80’s period. The days when we were getting promoted and relegated with some regularity, and when we were a selling club, selling our best player to Man Utd to raise money. It was not nice to be a Chelsea fan then. I became a Chelsea fan toward the end of that time, largely due to my father who loves the club and imparted that love on to me. Then there was no European football, it was the likes of Nottingham Forest, Liverpool, Aston Villa and Ipswich who were doing the country proud in foreign fields. How lucky we were in 1982 when a\ stubborn greying man with a big beard bought our club. He saved our club, much as it is hard for us to admit.

This man, Ken Bates, not only saved the club but brought us back to our rightful place, at the top of the English game as a great cup team who would flatter to deceive in the league. It started with Glenn Hoddle. At the time he took over Chelsea had been a regular in mid-table for a number of years. Indeed, in 1994 – Glenn Hoddle’s first season, arguably only the goals of Mark Stein saved us from relegation. Chelsea had, as was their norm, had some good cup runs and spent what were then big sums of money in an attempt to bring success to the club. Our club record signings at different stages were Robert Fleck and Paul Furlong (still ably plying his trade for QPR) and none quite achieved what their fees had suggested. The dream of us ever winning the top division was still far away.

Ruud Gullit and Gianluca Vialli delivered the trophies and got us close, but at a price. Claudio Ranieri getting into the Champions League saved our club from disaster. Without that we could have gone back to where we came from, watching from afar as players like Terry, Gallas and Lampard amongst others won trophies with other clubs while we went back to mid-table mediocrity.

Can we really imagine what that would have been like? Lampard going abroad, Terry and Gallas lining up for Arsenal or Man Utd, Eidur Gudjohnsen the same. Hasslebaink going to Barcelona. It would have been truly painful. Forget Europe, we would have been fighting to stay in the top flight itself.

Surely the feeling of winning the title last season was made more special because of our history, because we’ve had those dark days and because we’ve come so close to disaster. Chelsea fans surely more than other big clubs should savour and enjoy that success because we’ve seen the other side.

How lucky we are to have Roman Abramovich. He not only saved the club but has fulfilled all our wildest dreams. We are on the way to back to back Premiership titles, and last season broke too many records to mention in securing our first title for 50 years. We are the best team in England, with a squad most clubs would kill for. Our financial problems are over effectively and the future, which the law of averages says will surely involve at least one or two European Cups, could be even better.

This sense of perspective should also point to the future. Chelsea has the potential to become one of the most successful football clubs in history over the next 20 or 30 years. The difference between us and other big clubs now and with the Chelsea of the past is that this money (no matter what others say), and this status we now have, will not go away. The more success we have the bigger we become, the more attractive we become for big-name players and coaches, and talented youngsters. Anytime we need to invest big in players we will always have the finance to do so. Chelsea this time will not be a big club for a few years then drift to mid-table mediocrity. We are now with the big boys for good. Maybe we will not dominate forever, but we will forever be among the contenders and will surely be winning trophies – big trophies – with much more regularity. Chelsea fans born now will be supporting a very different club when they reach adulthood.

But in all this success – and even the disappointment of the Nou Camp - we should not forget. The heart of Chelsea. The spirit of Ossie which reminds us how great we were but also how twice the club has been close to death and that twice it has been saved. We should not be too greedy or moan too much – the club is lucky to be here at all.

Divine Right of Big Clubs?

This article I wrote appeared on Chelsea FC unofficial fansite CFCnet earlier this week. I will be writing regularly for CFCnet but will put all the articles here for all the non-CFCnet-ters of you a few days after they appear. Here is the first of those. Enjoy...

Many opposing fans – and the media - have accused Chelsea and even their fans for being arrogant. That they are so carried away with their own success, money and new status that they think they will be on top forever, that they have the ‘right’ to make bold statements about their expectations. Somehow thinking that Chelsea will be the dominant force for years to come, a fact which is staring most in the face, is arrogance. Certainly our manager, Jose Mourinho, and Peter Kenyon, chief executive, make bold statements of ambition and intent and in Mourinho’s case his own self-worth. What’s more much of this criticism comes from the fans and even the management, in an oh so subtle way, of some of the other big clubs. I believe these clubs are forgetting to look at themselves, and this attitude smacks of an attitude of what I like to call the “divine right of big clubs’ – the traditional big clubs should share the trophies, not rich upstarts.

Our manager Jose Mourinho is always the first to be criticised. I think people are confusing arrogance with confidence and a willingness to state the facts and not worry so much about what is the politically correct thing to say – as they often did with Brian Clough. On his appointment as Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho said he was European Champion – and he was. When Tottenham famously ‘parked the bus’ in front of the goal and defended for 90 minutes against us last season, he was right. Last season he compared himself with Frank Riijkard, the Barcelona manager, saying that while as a player the Dutchman may have won everything, as a manager he has won nothing (at that point anyway). He was right. This season, when discussing the tackle on Michael Essien and comparing it to the tackle which got Essien his two match ban he was spot on. The injury Essien sustained was far worse and yet there was no punishment. It sounds petty but it was true. More recently, the sending off of Del Horno and talking in particular about Messi’s play-acting, he was right. He speaks his mind and what he believes is the truth.

He is not perfect. He can go over the top sometimes. Yes he does defend his team to the hilt, even if the evidence sometimes points to the contrary. But does not any manager do that? Is it a crime to speak your mind? Unlike Arsene Wenger for example, he is not afraid to criticise his team when they have played poorly. He admitted that Chelsea deserved to lose against Middlesbrough and rightly condemned his players for their poor performance. He famously gave Joe Cole a public dressing down in order to get the best out of him, which worked.

Let’s get some balance here by stating some facts about a manager of one of these traditional ‘big clubs’, who never seems to be criticised and who many people – in particular his own supporters – hail as a genius - Arsene Wenger. No doubt was he has achieved at Arsenal is admirable. However, he is proclaimed as a great spotter of young talent. A myth. Anelka, Van Persie, Vieira, Flamini, Walcott and Fabregas are or were always regarded by many managers and coaches across Europe as highly talented prospects. He did not ‘pick them from nowhere’. He just did what good mangers should do, and got the best out of them. Does anyone remember Richard Wright and Francis Jeffers, both of whom are now either on the bench or in the reserve teams if their respective clubs? Wenger, despite having a team far superior than Mourinho’s Porto who won both European trophies in successive seasons, has never in a decade at Arsenal even got to the semi-finals of the Champions League and never won the European Cup in his managerial career. Jose Mourinho has been a manager six seasons and won every trophy he’s contested - apart from the FA Cup – at least once, including in all probability four successive league titles, with different clubs.

Anyone who knows football knows that success goes in cycles. Man Utd have been the dominant team over the last 10 -15 years and before that it was Liverpool for about the same length of time. Chelsea are emerging, whether Arsenal fans like it or not, as the next dominant force. They are on their way to a second successive Premiership title, something Arsenal have never achieved despite having the great Arsene Wenger (who obviously can do no wrong) as their manager for around a decade and having some of the best players in the world in their team. Certainly two seasons ago they were a great team and looked like they could dominate. But then Jose Mourinho came on the scene and we all know what has happened since.

Chelsea do not have a divine right to success, no club does, and just because we have money does not make that so. I would argue that the traditional big clubs – (i.e.: the G14 clubs) and their fans seem to think they have the monopoly on success and are the only clubs ‘allowed’ to win the major trophies and that having a history entitles them to that. I have met many a fan like that. They think that somehow because they’ve won the big trophies on a regular basis and earnt their status ‘on the pitch’ that entitles them to win them forever and juggle the trophies between them and to sit in judgement on other clubs and their supporters. If that is not arrogance then what is? They don’t like the fact that suddenly from nowhere money from outside football and not generated by football (therefore dirty) has made a top six team into a championship team. The facts are that Chelsea’s money has saved at least 3 clubs – directly or indirectly – from going into administration, and broken the duopoly people hated at the top of the Premiership. How is that a bad thing? (Unless of course you’re part of that duopoly and don’t want it broken thank you very much).

The criticisms from fans regarding the source of the wealth that Roman is some sort of criminal or Mafioso figure - has some but not very in depth factual evidence to support it, and the shallowness of this argument is shown up by the fact that – as has been pointed out elsewhere - no fans were as concerned about Russian ‘exploitation’ of resources or knew hardly anything about it before Roman Abramovich turned up. They jump on their moral high horse when it is the likelihood that is most fans would love their club to be taken over by a billionaire and have huge amounts of money invested in their team to make them more successful. If it had been their clubs taken over, they would not be saying a word in criticism - no matter what they say.

Money is important in modern football to getting success and to think it isn’t is to misunderstand football nowadays. AC Milan, Barcelona, Juventus, Man Utd, Real Madrid and now Chelsea have all achieved a high level of success in the last decade by spending big. It may not have used to be that way but thanks to the big clubs and their idea of forming the Premiership and enlarging the Champions League to get themselves more money it has become that way.

Money on its own cannot, however, guarantee you success – Real Madrid spent more than Chelsea last summer and look how it helped them - but it does help. Chelsea have every right to use it to better themselves – as does any club. Fan who argue it’s the money that won us the trophies obviously have no understanding of football. It’s a flimsy argument to be ignored.

People should stop believing everything they read in the media about Chelsea. It is largely speculation and misinterpretation motivated by a desire to bring the best down a peg or two. They did it with Man Utd but not in such a vindictive and malicious way.

Some criticism of Chelsea is justified. Chelsea and Jose Mourinho may not be perfect and have done and said things maybe in hindsight they shouldn’t.

However, to use the old arguments about arrogance and money concerning Chelsea and their fans are starting to get as old as the traditional big clubs themselves. Yes, Chelsea may have lots of money – but the facts show they are the best team in England at the moment. They may not always be that way no matter how much money they spend. But certainly they are now a club forming a history of their own that are breaking the monopoly of the so-called ‘traditional’ big clubs and becoming one themselves. If people don’t like that then that’s not Chelsea’s fault. But to criticise it based on flimsy arguments so old they should be on vinyl and have only a vague basis in the truth, and accusations of arrogance which themselves come from the arrogant attitude of ‘the divine right of traditional big clubs’ cannot be right.