Sunday’s game away at Chelsea is huge. They have proven that, despite recent results, they are force to be reckoned with in the league this year, and coming away from the game still unbeaten would be great for us. Chelsea go in to the match with another new manager after the departure of Roberto di Matteo, with unpopular choice Rafa Benitez taking charge for the first time on Sunday. So much to talk about then and who better than Ramon Isaac, owner and editor of Chelsea blog Mowing Meadows, and a regular contributor to the wonderful By Far The Greatest Team site.
What are your thoughts on the sacking of RDM?
For me the timing was the biggest surprise, I think his sacking was inevitable. He wasn’t, in my mind, Abramovich’s choice to be permanent manager, he was forced to offer him the job after he won the Champions League. That being said, I’m disappointed to see Robbie go, he led the team to our most successful night in history, he deserved more time but his decision to field a weakened side against West Brom in order to get a result against Juventus backfired catastrophically as we lost both games. Our board don’t see patience as a virtue.
What do you make of the Benitez appointment?
I think this may well be one of the first times that a manager is so unanimously despised at a club. I find it strange that he’s been given a one season contract, but for that, I am at least grateful. Of all the choices this would rank second from bottom, only ahead of Harry Redknapp. Benitez has never endeared himself to our fans and I’m sure that animosity will be shown on Sunday. Unfortunately, it is exactly what we don’t need going into a game like this. The fact is that he is our manager and although it is hugely unpopular, we need to get behind the team in spite of all this.
Is Roman’s propensity for sacking managers becoming a problem?
This is a question that seems to split a lot of fans. Roman will always have my backing. Without him, we wouldn’t have experienced these insane highs, never did I think growing up winning the Champions League would happen and he is the reason it was all possible. Also, if you look back on his decisions to sack managers, the replacements have tended to progress the side, after all Roberto Di Matteo was one such case. The issue now is that there was a strong spine that used to exist of experienced players, all of whom were natural leaders. No longer the case with this squad, stability at a managerial level may prove to be crucial going forward.
Should Chelsea apologise to the referees’ union?
My simple answer is no. The club acted in the correct manner. An employee had thought there was a racially motivated comment aimed at his colleague, reported it to his bosses. The employer then has to follow that up, which I feel is what Chelsea done. The FA appears to agree and I’m not a fan of someone “demanding” an apology. The club I don’t think are responsible for the media storm it turned into.
There have been a series of events that have seemingly tarnished Chelsea’s name. What do you think will be the long-term effects of this? And how do you rectify the problem?
I’m not sure the tarnished image will have a great effect on the club or more importantly the team. Chelsea as a club have been on the receiving end of negative media coverage since Abramovich’s takeover, it comes with the territory of being successful. With regards to the recent issues, it is not helping an already bad image that is shared by supporters of other clubs. Rectifying the problem in my eyes is fairly simple. You put your head down and get along with business as it should be. Make everyone focus on the football and not draw any unnecessary attention to the club. Attempting to come up with a PR campaign or something along those lines to me is a waste. In football people have fairly strong feelings on matters and aren’t going to be swayed by a few choice words or a publicity stunt, I could sit here and tell you about the amount of unpublicised charity work John Terry does… Will that change your opinion of him? No.
To sound very cliched “Actions speak louder than words.” It will take a while but these sorts of events over time are easily forgotten.
I’ve always liked what I’ve seen from Ramires, he’s a fine player. What do you make of him?
He’s so not Brazilian! I’ve had my doubts over Ramires, he isn’t technically proficient on the ball but he is capable of providing moments of magic. Barcelona at the Nou Camp, I don’t think anyone else would’ve had the composure to chip Valdes. He’s got an incredible engine, I mean the boy loves to run and run and run and he does it very quickly. He adds a tenacity to the midfield as well which I always think is vital to have, he does lack the passing ability and sometimes his positioning sense goes astray but he has won me over.
It seems that the best way to beat Chelsea is to take the game to them. I say that because I always feel your weakness is at the back? Is that how you see it?
I want to say no but the facts don’t lie. We are leaking goals and at a steady rate, consistently. It is quite strange to see having seen the powerhouse legacy that Mourinho left, dominate for years and be impenetrable. The defence now just seems fragile and at times clueless and it isn’t as many suggest individual errors. It is the unit as a whole, sure there are errors but everyone seems to be making them and that is the worry. I think taking the game to Chelsea in a calculated way is the best approach, if you Gung-ho you run the risk of conceding space to the “Three”.
How long can you persevere with Fernando Torres?
My perseverance has already expired and it expired a while ago. It annoyed me when people tried to suggest his performances at the beginning of the season were on the road to justifying his transfer. Let’s not forget he cost £50million. Never, for one second has he looked like the Fernando Torres which warranted that price tag. His injuries at Liverpool coupled with his ever disintegrating confidence has left a hollow shell of a striker roaming around the pitch. He looks interested at the start and when things don’t go his way he finds a nice patch of grass on the pitch and camps out. Sadly, with a new manager I feel my perseverance or lack of it is going to be put to the test.
Your trio of Oscar, Mata and Hazard have looked frighteningly good at times this season. In fact, they’ve seemingly revolutionised the way Chelsea play. How much fun have they been to watch?
Ah, it is heavenly. Genuinely, I don’t think I’ve enjoyed watching football at Chelsea as much as this. The interplay between the three just appears to get better on a game by game basis and the best part of it – I don’t know who is better. Mata, is the one with the “Cultured” left foot, that at times is just magical. Oscar, now he is Brazilian! There is just a remarkable sense of control in his game and for someone so young, the world is his oyster. Hazard has sort of dipped in form from his start but his dribbling ability and pace is frightening. I was never bothered by the “boring, boring Chelsea” chants, but we are now in my eyes the most exciting team to watch in the league and it is simply down to those three.
As an outsider looking in, I’ve been disgusted by the way Chelsea have handled the whole John Terry affair. How have you, as a Chelsea fan, felt about that whole thing?
It wasn’t pretty sums it up. I’ve always felt it could’ve been handled better by all parties from start to finish. I was surprised that the ban in the end was so short but I’d attribute that to the fact he was found ‘not-guilty’. With regard to him keeping his captaincy and the media attention that received, I’d say if the players were happy with the decision, then nothing else matters. He is their captain, not anyone else’s. Thank God it has in fact finished though.
What’s your view of City and our chances this year?
City have in a way disappointed me. I know that seems surprising so I guess I should explain myself… Their strength in-depth and quality in the team should’ve seen them win the league comfortably last season. In the end the most important thing and the only thing that matters is that you did win. This season, I think it has been impressive that you’ve rarely looked in top form but as it stands top the league. It is quite a scary realisation. In Tevez, Aguero and Dzeko you have match winners who seem to steal the show at the death. As a non city fan I hate it but it must be an incredible feeling. In terms of the title race, you have to be favourites I think. It is going to go down to the wire again in a three-horse horse race though this time. The only real criticism I have is your performances in the Champions League but you’ve not had the luck of the draw the last two seasons. I do think however your early exit is going to be beneficial once again in terms of the title race.
Who’s your favourite ever Chelsea player and why?
Na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na… Michael Essien, Essien, Michael Essien! Sorry, any time I think about him I have to break into song. He’s a beautiful man, he always played with a smile on his face and just seems like an incredibly nice guy and he’s a wondrous dancer. The Bison as he came to be known was in my opinion the best midfielder in the world in his prime, pre-injuries of course. It’s the ultimate shame that the world of football was deprived of that talent. He was the biggest influence in our team, the driving force behind attacks and an absolute beast in his defensive duties. He really had, everything. I was on the verge of tears when I heard about his loan move to Real Madrid. All the managers at the club have highlighted his importance from Mourinho to Ancelotti, who sadly never got to enjoy him at his destructive best. He will forever have a place in my heart and the signed shirt I have of his is perhaps my most cherished possession.
It is possibly the best or the worst time to play Chelsea, sadly for City fans I think it is the latter. A win on sunday is paramount and the team have a lot to prove now. Torres hat trick… Too far?
Follow Ramon on Twitter and read his blog