mooinblack /

Petr Cech To Join Arsenal

The deal for Arsenal to sign Petr Cech from Chelsea has finally come to a close, with Arsenal confirming on their website that the Czech international has agreed terms with the London club.

Although Cech has seemed destined to join the Gunners for some time, the deal did seem to be in some doubt when Jose Mourinho confirmed that he’d like his former number one to stay on at Stamford Bridge or, failing that, to join a club that wasn’t a direct rival to Chelsea’s defence of the title.

His pleas fell on deaf ears, however, with Cech moving to North London on a long term contract for an undisclosed fee. Arsenal manger Arsene Wenger is delighted by the capture of the 33 year old, saying, “Petr Cech is a player that I have admired for a long time and I am very pleased that he has decided to join us. He has proven over many seasons that he is one of the outstanding keepers in the world and he will add great strength to our squad”.

Cech was quick to repay the compliment to the Frenchman, telling Arsenal’s official website, “I’m really excited about joining Arsenal Football Club and can’t wait to join up for pre-season. I have the same commitment to football, the same motivation and the same hunger for success as I had at the beginning of my career, and I love the challenges brought by the top quality players you face while playing in the Premier League. When Arsène Wenger spoke to me about his ambitions for this club, and how he saw me as part of this team, the decision was clear”.

Despite his decision to join one of Chelsea’s fiercest rivals it is unlikely there will be any bad blood felt from Blues fans. Cech made over 400 appearances for Chelsea during his 11 years at the club, winning every major trophy in club competition at least once. From a personal point of view he also won the Premier League’s Golden Glove on 3 separate occasions.

Internationally, Cech has been awarded the Czech Footballer Of The Year trophy 7 times and has received over 100 caps for his country. He currently sits just 4 appearances behind the all-time appearance record holder Karel Poborsky.

Starting his career with Chmel Blsany, Cech moved to Sparta Prague and then Rennes. He joined Chelsea in February 2004, having previously had a trial with the club in 2003. He came in as a fresh faced 21 year old who was prepared to do battle with Carlo Cudicini for the number one spot, with Chelsea having paid around £9 million for him. Cudicini got an elbow injury in pre-season that allowed Chelsea’s new manager, Jose Mourinho, to promote Cech into the first choice ‘keeper’s spot. He kept a clean sheet in his debut game – a 1-0 win over Manchester United.

During his time at Chelsea he won 4 Premier League titles, 4 FA Cups, 3 League Cups, 2 Charity Shields, the Champion’s League and the Europa League. He only made 16 appearances for the Blues last season, however, and decided it was time to move on, despite having a year left on his contract.

He has now passed a medical with Arsenal and agreed personal terms and will officially sign for the club when the transfer window opens on Wednesday.

Stamford Bridge Stadium

Bertrand Traore Granted Work Permit

Stamford Bridge Stadium
anderm /

Bertrand Traore, the Burkina Faso midfielder that Chelsea signed from Association Jeunes Espoirs De Bobo-Dioulasso at the start of the January transfer window in 2014, has finally been granted a work permit to play for the Blues next season.

Despite being signed in 2014 he wasn’t able to play for Chelsea as he wasn’t granted a work permit, but the Blues reapplied this summer and were successful thanks to the Football Association’s new points based system.

Traore spent last season on loan at Vitesse Arnhem, making 36 appearances in all competitions and scoring 19 times. It is thought that he will now join Chelsea’s tour of the United States.

The new points based system was introduced by the Football Association in an attempt to limit the number of non-EU players, but Traore has now been given permission to play in England by the FA.

Traore is seen as one of the brightest stars around, having played for Burkina Faso in three different African Cup of Nations tournaments – his first when he was just 15.

Chelsea’s US tour sees them go up against the New York Red Bulls, Paris St. Germain and Barcelona, amongst others. If Traore makes a good impression then he could find himself part of Chelsea’s squad for the 2015-2016 season, with Mourinho known to give his young players a run out in the League Cup, as well as the early rounds of the FA Cup.

The more likely scenario, though, will see Traore head out on loan to a Championship club in order to gain experience of life in England before he returns to Stamford Bridge. Chelsea currently have 25 players out on loan as it is a system Mourinho trusts to ensure his players get the necessary experience without endangering Chelsea’s progression in the English competitions.

mooinblack /

Petr Cech Close To Chelsea Exit

mooinblack /

Chelsea’s goalkeeper Petr Cech is reportedly close to leaving Stamford Bridge in order to join their London rivals Arsenal.

Despite Jose Mourinho’s reluctance to let Cech leave his squad for a Premier League rival, the decision seems to have been taken by those above him to allow the Czech Republic international to go to The Emirates.

The 33 year old only played 16 times for the Blues last season, despite having made over 300 appearances for Chelsea since he signed for the club from Rennes in 2004.

But Jose Mourinho brought in Thibaut Courtois last summer, and the 23 year old Belgian became Chelsea’s number one immediately upon arrival. Cech, who has 1 year left on his contract, has decided it’s time to move on whilst he’s still able to attract a top club, and it is felt that Arsenal would be the best move for him.

Cech has won virtually every major honour in the game with Chelsea, including four Premier League titles, four FA Cups, three league cups, the Champion’s League and the Europa League.

It is believe that the fee for Cech will be in the region of £11 million, though the two clubs have yet to make an finite agreement. The stopper would become Arsenal’s first signing of the summer, which may lead to either David Ospina or Wojciech Szczesny leaving The Emirates. Arsenal alternated between the two goalkeepers last season as Wenger struggled to settle on a number one, but there’s no doubt that Cech would become his ‘keeper of choice should he made the move to North London.

Chelsea Close To Falcao Loan Deal

Maxisport /
Maxisport /

Having flopped at Manchester United, Radamel Falcao could be forgiven for thinking that his time in the Premier League was over. But Jose Mourinho has reportedly decided to offer him a second chance by bringing him to Stamford Bridge on a lucrative loan deal.

The 29-year-old is currently in Chile, playing in the Copa America with his home nation Columbia, but a loan deal is expected to be announced soon. Falcao scored just 4 goals in 29 appearances for Manchester United, resulting in the Red Devils rejecting a chance to sign him for £43.2 million.

Falcao gained a reputation as one of the fiercest attackers in the world when he scored 72 goals in two season for Porto before following that up with another 70 goals in two seasons at Atletico Madrid, earning him a £50 million move to Monaco.

He was rocked by injury during his time at Monaco, though, and a knee problem meant he was forced to miss out on the World Cup in Brazil in 2014. It was felt during his time at Manchester United that he had never fully recovered from that injury, and that he lacked the pace and sharpness to make a real impression on the fast and furious world of the Premier League.

Chelsea are looking for an experienced striker, however, having released Didier Drogba for the second time. The 37-year-old was welcomed back as a conquering hero when he returned to Stamford Bridge in 2014, having previously hit the penalty that won the Blues the Champion’s League against Bayern Munich in 2012.

He played more games last season than he might have originally anticipated, with Diego Costa picking up numerous injuries throughout the year, but he was only ever going to be at the Bridge for one final fling. So the move for Falcao isn’t a complete surprise from the Portuguese boss.

The potential arrival of Falcao does put Loic Remy’s position at Chelsea under some scrutiny, given that the forward became third choice at Stamford Bridge last season behind Drogba and Costa. The 28-year-old is to seek assurances from Mourinho, whose instinct is to try and keep hold of the striker. Remy will want to play, however, and West Ham, Crystal Palace and Newcastle are all considering making an offer for the Frenchman.

Mourinho is keen to get a deal for Falcao signed off as soon as possible, telling DirecTV Sports, “It hurts me that people in England think that the real Falcao is the one we saw at Manchester United. If I can help Falcao reach his level again, I will do it”. Expect a deal to be announced soon.

Premier League 2015-2016 Fixtures Announced

ittlew00dy /
ittlew00dy /

The Premier League fixtures for the 2015-2016 season have been released, with Chelsea kicking off the defence of their title with a home game against Swansea on the 8th of August.

All of the fixtures are subject to change once the TV companies get involved, of course, but for new here’s a look at the fixtures for the season that Chelsea fans will be interested in.

It’s a reasonably comfortable start to the season for the Blues, with games against Swansea, West Brom and Crystal Palace bracketing a tricky tie away to Manchester City in the season’s second game on August 15th.

Into September and things look slightly more uncomfortable for the defending champions. They have to travel to Goodison Park for a game against Everton, before returning to Stamford Bridge for a London derby game versus Arsenal on September 19th. The month is rounded off with a trip back up North to face Newcastle at St. James’s Park.

October sees two home games in a row against Southampton and Aston Villa, followed by another London derby versus West Ham at the Boleyn Ground. The last game of October will involve the welcoming of a Steven Gerrard-less Liverpool to the Bridge, with the Reds having been the team that formed the guard of honour when Chelsea had won the title in 2015.

November sees just 3 fixtures as things stand, starting with an away trip to play Stoke before the Blues host Premier League new boys Norwich City. Then it’s yet another London derby as Chelsea head to White Hart Lane to face Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham Hotspur.

December is, somewhat notoriously, the busiest month of the football calendar and things don’t ease up for Chelsea, with 5 fixtures as things currently stand. They kick off the Christmas period by hosting the Premier League’s other new boys Bournemouth. Then it’s a trip to the King Power Stadium to face the Leicester, the group that ended last season as the in-form team.

A week later and Chelsea host Sunderland on the 19th of December, followed by a Boxing Day fixture versus the final promoted team, Watford. December will be rounded off with a somewhat tasty match versus Louis Van Gaal’s Manchester United at Old Trafford just two days after the game against The Hornets.

The new year starts off with a London derby as Chelsea travel for the return leg against Crystal Palace, then it’s West Brom arriving at the Bridge for an evening match on the 13th of January. Everton come to London for a game after that, and January is finished off with an always fun derby versus Arsenal at The Emirates.

February sees the Blues play away against Watford before hosting Manchester United then Newcastle at home. A trip to Southampton will round off the month of Valentines, with Jose Mourinho hoping he’ll be able to send some love letters home from the South Coast.

Games away to Norwich and home to Stoke come before Chelsea travel to Anfield for the return leg against Liverpool. The fixture resulted in Chelsea spoiling Liverpool’s title charge in 2014, so could this match have a say on the title once again this year? Regardless, a match at home to West Ham rounds off Chelsea’s March fixtures.

The penultimate month of the season will see Chelsea play 3 away games, starting with back to trips to Aston Villa and Swansea, followed by a home game against Manchester City. Another match that could have a significant say on where the Premier League title ends up in May. After City have been to Stamford Bridge the Blues travel to Dean Court to face Bournemouth. Then it’s back to London for a home game against London rivals Tottenham.

The title could be won by the time Chelsea are scheduled to travel to the Stadium of Light to face Sunderland on May the 7th, or it could all come down to the wire when Chelsea face Leicester on the final day of the season.

Expect matches to move around for Sky and BT, but Jose Mourinho will doubtless be quietly pleased with 5 home games in Chelsea’s opening 10 fixtures, with the away games coming against the likes of West Brom, Newcastle and West Ham.

Season Highs And Lows: How The Title Was Won

As the old cliché goes, the league table doesn’t lie. Having dominated the Premier League standings throughout, Chelsea lifted the title on the final day of the season against Sunderland. Three weeks after winning the league, Stamford Bridge erupted as the champions were crowned, before they paraded their success around the streets of west London the next day.

The destination of the trophy was known for a while, as a 16 match unbeaten run from January until May helped them to glory. None of their rivals were able to keep pace, but it’s important to remember that things weren’t always so clear cut. We’ve gone back through the campaign, to pick out the season defining games that led to the Stamford Bridge side being crowned champions. We’ve charted the highs and lows across a record breaking campaign, covering all the twists and turns in one of the most one sided title races in Premier League history.

18th August: 3-1 v Burnley (A)

The opening weekend saw the Blues head to newly promoted Burnley, as they started the season as title favourites with bookies and pundits alike. It’s hard to imagine a time when Diego Costa could have been considered a flop, as he opened his account for the club with a goal in his first league game. Andre Schurrle and Branislav Ivanovic were also on the score sheet, as Jose Mourinho’s team became the first and only league leaders in the 2014/15 season.

5th October: 2-0 v Arsenal (H)

Seven games into the season and the Blues first took a five point lead over Manchester City. This win over the Gunners was enough to send the leaders further clear, with Eden Hazard and Costa on target to continue an unbeaten start to the season. At this stage, many were already talking about Chelsea running away with the trophy, and there were murmurs about a possible unbeaten season on the cards. They did manage to go unbeaten against their top four rivals, a feat they achieved for the second season in a row.

6th December: 1-2 v Newcastle (A)

That unbeaten run came to an end after 15 games of the season, as the leaders lost at St James’ Park against Newcastle. This was far from the Toon team who were destined for a relegation scrap. Here, under Alan Pardew, they gave Chelsea a tough test, one that the leaders couldn’t pass. This result came on the back of a 0-0 draw at Sunderland, which were the first signs that City could still force themselves into the title race. As we approached the half way point, the gap at the top was reduced to just three points.

1st January: 3-5 v Tottenham (A)

After losing their unbeaten record, Chelsea once again suffered defeat on New Years’ Day. They went to local rivals Spurs and started very well, but a poor defensive display saw them fall apart and suffer a 5-3 defeat. City moved level on points with the leaders earlier in the day, and that result gave them identical records, meaning the Blues were ahead only thanks to the alphabet! From having the title wrapped up, we now looked set for an incredibly close run in, with the momentum firmly with the defending champions. After losing that lead, it looked like Mourinho’s men were about to fall behind for the first time all season.

31st January: 1-1 v Manchester City (H)

Fast forward to the end of the month, and once again Chelsea were in complete control. A 2-0 win over Newcastle and a 5-0 win over Swansea put them back in charge after City dropped points. The champions visited Stamford Bridge with a five point gap to make up, and they knew a defeat would effectively end their hopes of getting back into the race. In the end, the points were shared, despite Loic Remy opening the scoring for the hosts. They ended January five points ahead, and they were once again firmly in control of their own destiny.

22nd March: 3-2 v Hull (A)

The league leaders were firmly in control after the 29th game of the season, as they saw off Hull at the KC Stadium to go six points clear at the top with a game in hand. The visitors already had the League Cup in the bag, and they started in good style here with Hazard and Costa giving them a 2-0 lead within 10 minutes. A fightback from the hosts complicated things, but Remy’s winner had Chelsea sitting well clear at the end of March. With only nine more games to play, it was hard to see anyone else getting near the pacesetters at the top.

3rd May: 1-0 v Crystal Palace (H)

Of course, the title win was confirmed in May, with three games to spare. A collapse from Manchester City saw them fall way off the pace, with Arsenal, who mounted a strong late push, the main challengers to the Blues. Hazard’s penalty was enough to seal a narrow win over Alan Pardew’s side, which made Chelsea uncatchable at the top. They had finally sealed their first league win in five years, which was a fully deserved success. This win put them 13 points clear of the dethroned Man City, showing just how dominant they were after losing to Spurs at the start of 2015.

The final games against Liverpool, West Brom and Sunderland became somewhat of an irrelevance after the Palace win, with the title in the bag. By the time they lifted the trophy, Chelsea had been top of the table for a record 274 days, beating both Arsenal’s Invincibles and Man United’s treble winners. No one can argue that it was anything other than a fantastic season for Chelsea, and they were as motivated by their defeats as they were inspired by wins. They bounced back well from potentially damaging defeats before winning the title, with that fantastic unbeaten run from January to May central to their charge to glory. Looking back, it’s hard not to be impressed by how dominant the champions were.

Petr Cech

Cech Ready To Make Decision On His Future

Petr Cech
Pal2iyawit /

Petr Cech is not happy playing second fiddle to Thibaut Courtois as Chelsea’s first-choice goalkeeper and is ready to make a decision about his future – after he plays in the Czech Republic’s Euro 2016 qualifying Group A showdown against Iceland on Friday.

Both Manchester United and Arsenal are keen on the 33-year-old Czech international, with Arsenal not entirely happy with last season’s performance from Wojciech Szczesny, and Manchester United likely to lose David De Gea to Real Madrid.

Jose Mourinho made it clear last month that he doesn’t want to lose Cech, who has made over 450 appearances for the Blues, winning 4 Premier League titles, 4 FA Cups, 3 League Cups, the Europa League and the Champion’s League during his time there.

Yet when Cech was quizzed whether he had played his last game for the West Londoners on their post-season tour of Australia he said, “I don’t know. I will fly back now and join the national team. Then when the season is over I will weigh up my options and decide. I won’t think about it now. When the decision is made I will tell you”.

The feeling is that Cech would rather stay in London, making Arsenal his more likely destination should he decide to leave the Blues. Yet with Louis Van Gaal likely to lose his first choice goalkeeper from the Manchester United squad, the chances are that the Dutchman will push strongly to sign one of the most successful goalkeepers of the Premier League era.

Cech said, “At the moment it’s all just speculation. I’m not even thinking about it. I’m just going back to join the national team and then I will think about it”. The speculation is rife, though, and The Independent is reporting that he would rather stay in London in order to keep his family settled and happy. The 33-year-old has 1 year left on his contract, and Chelsea are hoping to get a figure in the region of £10 million in any sale of him.

Champions League

Benteke Would Prefer A Champion’s League Club

Champions League
Ververidis Vasilis /

Chelsea’s hopes of signing Christian Benteke from Aston Villa have taken a boost after the forward declared that he would be willing to leave the Midland’s club – as long as it was for a team in the Champion’s League.

Liverpool have been the club most strongly rumoured to sign the Belgian international, but his latest statement has looked to put any move to the Merseysiders in severe jeopardy. The 24-year-old said, “My agent knows my ambitions”.

Chelsea are meant to be big admirers of the Belgian striker as they look to bolster their attacking options heading into the 2015-2016 season. Reports suggest that he has a £32.5 million release clause in his contract with Villa that Jose Mourinho might well be tempted to trigger.

There have also been suggestions recently that Diego Costa isn’t happy living in London and might try to force a move away from the Blues this summer. The Spanish newspaper Marca is suggesting that the Brazilian born Spanish international isn’t pleased with the rainy weather, the language barrier and the poor weather in the UK and would favour a move back to Atletico Madrid.

Mourinho has moved to dismiss the reports, but it is still food for thought for the Chelsea hierarchy as they look to ensure Chelsea are able to offer a firm defence of their title next season.

If Costa does stay in London then it will give Benteke food for thought, given that he is currently Chelsea’s first choice striker. The Belgian knows that, if he wants to play for his country at the 2016 European Championships, it’s vital that he gets plenty of game time – something he’s not guaranteed at Stamford Bridge.

Benteke said, “It is important to play. If you want to be your [country’s] first eleven [then] you have to play in your club”. He continued, “I did my season with Villa and now I am focussed on the national team”.

Benteke was signed from Genk for just £7 million 3 years ago and caused some controversy when he handed in a transfer request in order to try to force through a move from Villa to Spurs two years ago. This time he is happy to avoid any further controversy and wait for teams to come to him. He said, “My agent…knows what I want and I’ll let him do the job. I don’t think about Aston Villa now”.

If Chelsea want to push ahead with the signing of Benteke then Tim Sherwood is adamant that they’ll have to pay the full amount of his release clause in order to get him. Before the FA Cup final the Villa manager said, “There’s a buy-out clause in his contract so it will be impossible for us to stop him if he wants to go. But someone’s got to meet that buy-out clause and if they don’t it won’t be considered, because we don’t want to lose him”.

Ruben Loftus-Cheek

Mourinho Unimpressed With Loftus-Cheek

Ruben Loftus-Cheek
mooinblack /

In the wake of Chelsea’s 1-0 win over Sydney FC in their post-season tour of Australia, Jose Mourinho blasted 19-year-old Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s attitude and performance in the friendly match.

Loftus-Cheek is the rising star of the West London club’s youth academy and has recently been called up to England’s squad for the European Under-21 Championship finals this summer.

Yet Mourinho decided to haul him off after just 28 minutes, replacing him with Diego Costa. The manager said, “Loftus-Cheek was saying he had a pain in his back. But what I was feeling was that he only had this pain when Sydney had the ball. When Chelsea had the ball, I never saw a pain in his back”.

Mourinho said that this signifies a real step back in his relationship with his young midfielder, having brought him into the squad proper for the closing stage of the season. He particularly impressed during the 1-1 draw with Liverpool at Stamford Bridge. The youngster made 27 passes during the match and didn’t give the ball away once.

Mourinho feels Loftus-Cheek has a lot to learn, saying, “When Chelsea had the ball he was playing very, very well. But when Sydney had the ball, I think he was more impressed by watching John Obi Mikel and Nemanja Matic work, instead of himself…Loftus-Cheek has to learn that when you are 19 years old, you have to run three times the amount of the other more experienced players.

The Special One didn’t pull any punches when bringing his protégé down to earth, making it clear that he was happy with the performance of his senior players – just not his junior one. He said, “I was happy with the performance of my senior players because it has been a long season, in fact, a very long season…But I don’t accept that a player playing in midfield with Mikel and Matic doesn’t have intensity and is waiting for other people to recover the ball. Why should I accept it in an 18 or 19-year-old kid? He has to learn what it takes to play for Chelsea”.

Mourinho has a reputation for choosing a player to be hard on so the rest of his squad know they need to up their game. At Real Madrid he branded Karim Benzema “lazy”, for example. So whether or not this is an attempt to keep his younger players in check remains to be seen.

It is likely that a host of clubs would line-up to take Loftus-Cheek away from Stamford Bridge if Mourinho decided that his attitude isn’t good enough for Chelsea, though given many people are tipping the England youngster to break into the Premier League champion’s first team next season, it seems unlikely that the Portuguese manager would allow him to leave.

Instead, it is probably hoped that his public blasting of the young player will encourage both him and Chelsea’s other youngsters – such as Kurt Zouma – to double their efforts if they hope to make a permanent breakthrough into the Chelsea first-team.