Date: 7th August 2008 at 2:58pm
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In keeping with the link up with Vital Chelsea on the Fantasy Football front, myself and OLASAL set one another to task with some pre season questions.

1) With Chelsea’s financial clout, there is obviously huge pressure to deliver success. What do you think would, realistically, represent a successful season for you?

I’d like to see us push United and you lot all the way to the end of the season and get to the semis or final of the Champions League. I dont think you can say success = trophies really, as thats a myopic view that Liverpool fans hold. Dont get me wrong, trophies would be nice but even if we dont win anything again, it would be better to see Scolari bed in and establish himself, blood a couple of our young players, play some good football and push for all four trophies very hard – I’d be happy with that. I just want the internal strife and all the rubbish about our management/players/owner in meltdown etc to stop, and Scolari’s appointment seems to have staunched the flow. My message to him? – Stabilise the club, stop the sniping and get us winning but playing nice football, and I’ll be happy. The trophies will come sooner or later.

2) Now Avram Grant has gone, what are Chelsea fans lasting impressions of him? And were you aware that his win percentage was only 0.1% behind Mourinho’s in his time at Chelsea?

I didnt like him but only because I felt he took credit for a lot of Mourinho’s work. It was Jose’s team and they played Jose’s way. Grant got very lucky to get the job and did better than we all thought he would, but to be honest, they players were playing for the club and the fans and not for him. He was out of his depth and it showed. Ten-Cate was a daft move as well. Now that the dust has settled, I think what we’ve seen is the inevitable – Mr Abramovich and his board level buddies have had a bitter football lesson and have (we hope) learned that football is a very different business to oil trading and aluminium manufacture. We hope Scolari has been brought in as an automaton to do his job without undue interference.

3) From an outsider’s point of view, it seems Mourinho was forced because of his outspoken nature and his unwillingness to deliver the ‘joga bonita’ aspects of football. Do you see Scolari remedying this?

I think he made a lot of bitter enemies in the press and that the Chelsea hate campaign waged on us from all sections of the media was in a large part down to him. I think Kenyon realised that having such an outspoken and widely-hated (but respected by most) manager was making his job harder in terms of marketing a global brand. I also think Mourinho does not have the capacity to entertain on a football pitch in the way Arsenal, for example, do, and that it didnt sit right with Kenyon and Buck and with Abramovich either. With him it was win at all costs, and unfortunately it is hard to play beautiful football when you have literally 90% of teams coming to the Bridge and sticking 10 men behind the ball and showing no wish to go inside our half. Teams do that and Jose had his way of dealing with it. It wasnt pretty but it worked (most of the time). I fear Scolari will struggle to adapt to the same thing quickly enough.

4) Thus far, Chelsea have been reasonably quiet on the transfer front. Is there one area you really think you need to strengthen?

I think Deco and Bosingwa look excellent signings, and Anelka is basically a new signing for us as well. I think we need another top class winger though – one who can go past players, cross a ball, score goals and really scare defenders when he runs at them. Robinho fits the bill perfectly and I think we may get him. I would have liked Nasri or Ben-Arfa actually. Kalou and Malouda are decent enough replacements for Joe Cole and the new winger (whoever he may be) but Wright-Phillips has had his time and is doing his career no favours by staying with us and hoping he can cut the mustard. He’s just not up to it, I’m afraid.

5) Do Chelsea have a ‘secret weapon’ that you think will really emerge this season much to everyone’s surprise?

I think everyone has forgotten about Anelka, who I think it going to be excellent for us this season, I really do. We have a young 19 year old Argentine called Franco Di Santo who looks the spitting image of Hernan Crespo but about an inch taller, and he is awesome prospect. Young Gael Kakuta may break through into the first team this season and he’s as exciting a youngster we’ve had at Chelsea in living memory I’d say. He’s a Clairefontaine product and looks jaw-droppingly good despite his very young age. Remember the name!

6) Didier Drogba seemed to earn a fair bit of opprobrium from Chelsea fans at the end of last season. Now it looks as though he will stay, how do you guys feel about him?

Personally I wish he’d just go. Scolari likes to play one up top and Drogba is the best in the World in that position but we should have sold him for £30m this Summer – he’ll be worth £15m next Summer when he’ll be 31, and thats assuming his increasingly dodgy knee holds up. I also think he has a loyalty problem. Having had his agent whore him around Europe all Summer and getting precisely sod-all interest from anyone but the tabloids, he’s now decided he wants to stay. On his day he’s unplayable, but all the moaning and critisicms in the press about how badly treated he feels and how he wants to leave just ruins any enthusiasm for him, for me. All he needs is to come out in the press and commit to us in unequivocal terms and say he doesnt want to leave, but you just know he wont. He obviously doesnt want to be here and keeping him on means more months spent on the treatment table shoring his knee up, more really badly thought out statements in the press come November time slagging the club off and saying how much he misses Jose Mourinho, more diving, more play acting and more histrionics. Set against a tally of goals, there comes a point where you have to say no more and sell him. Top, top, top player, but the nonsense baggage that comes with him isnt worth it in my view.

7) Frank Lampard. Taking you for a ride or entitled to hold out for a better deal?

Entitled to hold out for a better deal. I dont begrudge him his asking for a better deal (although five years at £150K/week is a hell of a deal), and as Mr Chelsea, he is completely within his rights to do so. When the club made it absolutely clear than there would be no more, improved offers after their take-it-or-leave-it £140K/week for four years (which is more than Inter were offering), he should have just signed it and thanked the club for their generosity. He didnt, because his agent obviously thinks Chelsea are bluffing and that it somehow damages his name to back down in public negotiations. I think its fair to say Steve Kutner has probably made the problem much worse. Frankly speaking, I think Frank could leave with our best wishes now and it would be best for everyone concerned. Essien is actually a better player and we would not be worse off without him from a playing point of view. The worry is that he stays but doesnt love the club any more and starts playing poorly and with no hunger, which would tarnish his reputation as one of the all-time Chelsea greats.

8) If you could take one player from the current Arsenal squad for Chelsea, who would it be?

Controversial one this, but I’d take William Gallas back in a heartbeat. I hate him, but the reason I hate him so much is because we have missed him. Actually no, scratch that – a moment of weak sentimentality there. I’d probably take Nasri, your new kid. I think he’ll be a huge player for your lot.

9) If you could send one Chelsea player packing, who would it be?

Am I only allowed one? It would be any one of Drogba, Pizarro, Wright-Phillips or Hilario. Of the four, probably Pizarro – total waste of a shirt number. I’d love to see Drogba shuffled off to Italy and us replace him with Adebayor, Ibrahimovic, Benzema or Huntelaar but sadly I dont think its going to happen.

10) At Arsenal, the consensus of opinion is, and certainly my opinion is, that Lassana Diarra would have definitely made the grade here were he not such an impatient little cry baby f*cknut. How do you guys at the Bridge feel about him?

Great player. Wish we’d held on to him as he’d play every game in our midfield as Maka’s replacement now the great man has left for PSG, as Mikel is just not a defensive midfielder as he is just a red card wiating to happen. No question he’s a massive star in the making and Pompey will do very well with him. I was gutted to see him go to Arsenal, but delighted to see him go to Pompey, who I have a big soft spot for. I wonder whether we may come back in for him next Summer you know.

11) Liverpool and Spurs are forever telling us that this year will definitely be their year. The sun has to shine on a dog’s arse once a day, right?

Its been Liverpool’s year for the last 18, and they havent come close in that time. They’ll flatter to decieve again but be out of it by the end of February, and Sp*rs had their year last year – they arent due another trophy for some years yet. My predictions for the coming season are us to win the League, United to come second, Arsenal third, Liverpool fourth, Villa fifth, Sp*rs sixth and Pompey seventh. Stoke, Hull and Fulham will go down. I think Inter will win the Champions League and Serie-A, Real will win Primera Liga, and Marseilles will knock Lyon off the top in France.

Cheers to OLASAL for his thoughts and time and also for setting the interview into motion as it were. OLASAL also went all Jeremy Paxman on me, to see my interview, pop over to Vital Chelsea.LD.