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Bridge over troubled waters

Does Chelsea’s spanking at the hands of Liverpool point to a crisis at Stamford Bridge?

Tony Cascarino, 29 Jan 2007

I’ve still got a lot of pals at Chelsea and they tell me that for the first time since Jose Mourinho took charge there are tensions in the dressing room, which might explain their appalling performance against Liverpool.

Having been handed the captain’s armband for the afternoon you would have expected Frank Lampard to super fired up, but there was 15 or 20 minutes in the second-half when I forgot he was on the pitch.

Michael Ballack and Mikel Jon Obi achieved the impossible by being even worse – they’ve both had plenty of games to bed in but aren’t having anywhere near the impact that Mourinho would have expected from such expensive acquisitions.

The common perception is that Andriy Shevchenko’s form has gone to pot since he arrived at Chelsea, but I saw 9 or 10 A.C. Milan games last season and he was no great shakes for them either.

In fact, their Head Coach Carlo Ancelotti went on record as saying he expected more from him. If I were Chelsea, I’d work Shevchenko as hard as I could in pre-season, give him the months up to Christmas to make an impact and if he doesn’t ship him back to Italy in the January transfer window. Whatever about the yard or two of pace he’s probably lost for good, you’d still expect him to get the poacher’s goals in and around the box that have been his trademark.

It’s no trade secret that Mourinho’s relationship with Chelsea’s Director of Youth Development, Frank Arnesen, is highly problematical. There isn’t a side in the world that wouldn’t miss Terry, Carvalho and Boulahrouz, but a club with their resources should have a reserve side full of talented youngsters that can step into the breach. Whatever ‘Youth Development’ Arnesen’s been doing, it doesn’t compare to the Arsenal production line, which probably saves Arsenal £20 million a year in saved transfer fees. I’d say it’s 50/50 whether come next August Mourinho will still be in charge at the Bridge – win either the Premiership or the Champions League and I think he’ll stay. If the only silverware that ends up in the trophy cabinet is the League Cup, he’ll probably walk, which would be a huge, huge loss for Chelsea and indeed the Premiership.

Mourinho will be aware that if he takes the Real Madrid or A.C. Milan jobs that there’ll be even greater interference from the owners than there is at Chelsea, so that will have a bearing on his decision.

You’ve a lot of very powerful, highly paid people at Chelsea who are all trying to get their piece of the action and it’s having an impact on performances.

It might detract from the standard of the domestic game, but all the Eircom League players getting transfers to England and Scotland is brilliant news for Steve Staunton who’s already made it known that he’s an admirer of Joe Gamble and Jason Byrne by including them in the senior squad.

Another two he’ll have had a good look at this season are Reading’s Shane Long and West Bromwich Albion’s Stephen Quinn who must be close to earning themselves a close-up.

I watched the Reading .v. Sheffield United game and had a little chuckle when Wally Downs squared up to Neil Warnock, because I was with Wally at Millwall and he’s a bit of a firebrand! Long, who like Kevin Doyle came from Cork City, particularly caught my eye with his pace and his good turn of foot. Reading’s a great place for a young player like him to be because, in addition to Steve Coppell as manager, they’ve Pat Dolan’s brother, Eamon, running the youth side of things and teaching the lads good habits from the start.

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