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Anelka a genuine class act

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Phil McNulty | 19:53 UK time, Saturday, 23 January 2010

At Deepdale

Nicolas Anelka has been judged by plenty who do not know him - so now is the time to trust the judgement of those who do.

Let's start with Jamie Carragher. Not a man to suffer fools, especially if they are team-mates, he recently reflected on Gerard Houllier's decision not to sign Anelka after a six-month loan spell at Liverpool eight years ago.

"I think it's a bit strong to say it was one of the worst decisions ever, but it's fair to say it was a mistake," he said. Especially when the mistake is compounded to the extent of ditching the notion of signing Anelka and shipping in El-Hadji Diouf instead. Now that is a mistake.

And then there is Chelsea assistant coach Ray Wilkins. He works on a daily basis with the striker endlessly stereotyped as "Le Sulk" and was perfectly placed to deliver his verdict after Anelka's Rolls Royce display in Saturday's FA Cup fourth round win at Preston.

anelka_595_get.jpgAnelka scored 25 goals last season for Chelsea

Anelka, as he has for so long now, performed with intelligence on and off the ball, worked selflessly for Chelsea and chipped in with the crucial opening goal in an ominously comfortable 2-0 win. Clever movement coupled with a cutting edge.

So Wilkins was only too happy to talk when I asked him if Anelka had ever been more settled, or as good, as he is now.

"You'd have to ask Nico how settled he is, but from our point of view he is playing some outstanding football," Wilkins said. "He is a joy to have around the place and he looks an outstanding player at the moment."

Seemingly forever tainted by his acrimonious departure from Arsenal to Real Madrid as a youngster, and subsequent nomadic tendencies, now is the time to revisit Anelka and ensure his career is painted in a more charitable light.

Carragher's strident view is supported by a hefty weight of evidence to suggest that among a series of poor policy decisions by Liverpool over many years, the decision to set Anelka free to join Manchester City was down with the worst, with Houllier now readily admitting his mistake.

Chelsea are feeling the full benefit of a player reaching maturity at 30, a quality operator whose ability is still celebrated at former clubs Manchester City and Bolton. They may call him the odd unflattering name - although he was warmly received back at The Reebok - but they never, ever call him a bad player.

Poorly handled by Avram Grant after his arrival from Bolton, Anelka showed great resolve to come back from missing the last penalty in the Champions League final defeat to Manchester United in 2008 to score 25 goals last season.

Guus Hiddink and Carlo Ancelotti have been good for Anelka, and he has been good for them and Chelsea.

He was at it again on Saturday, leading the way as Chelsea punctured any hopes new Preston manager Darren Ferguson had of marking his first game at Deepdale by producing an FA Cup shock.

Chelsea have not got a romantic bone in their body when it comes to the sort of occasion we enjoyed at Deepdale, a fog-shrouded Lancashire day heavy on proud Preston optimism as supporters poured along Sir Tom Finney Way.

Wilkins showed a nice line in self-mockery when he strode in to meet the media as Carlo Ancelotti's understudy and announced: "Sorry, guys. You've got the B team." Not at all, Ray.

And while Ancelotti tinkered around the edges, Chelsea did not send their B Team into battle either. A tank stands on the lawn of a Territorial Army barracks in Deepdale's shadow, and Chelsea provided the Premier League equivalent as Preston were rolled over with relative ease.

Preston explored several routes, none of them successful. They tried the physical approach and Chelsea ploughed through it - and any attempts to outplay Ancelotti's side were always destined to fail.

If there was one missed opportunity, it was the open goal missed by Darren Carter minutes after Anelka put Chelsea ahead. It was a pivotal moment, but Chelsea exuded the authority of a side that would always better what Preston could produce, with Daniel Sturridge adding the second to make the game safe. No shocks here.

sturrdige_595_ap.jpgSturridge has scored three goals in his last two games

Chelsea were just too good. No shame in that for Preston or Ferguson and he had every right to be impressed by his new team's refusal to throw the towel in. He can now approach the business of improvement in the Championship with a calendar uncluttered by thoughts of the cup.

It will be some task to take the FA Cup off the holders, and Wilkins signalled their intent when he said: "Putting out such a strong side shows how much we think of the FA Cup. We are the holders, we respect the competition and we want to retain the trophy."

And Anelka has made himself a central figure in that quest - a class act forcing past critics to reassess their verdicts on one of the game's most enigmatic figures.

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  • Comment number 1.



    I've always thought Anelka should be playing for a big club and credit to him, after he left Real his head didn't drop and he continued to work hard and his successes at Chelsea are well deserved. Of course it's rather jarring for an Arsenal fan to see him doing so well for Chelsea when we were also in the mix to sign him from Bolton.

    Let's not forget that Chelsea have had a relatively easy january which (along with postponements) has softened the absent of Drogba.

  • Comment number 2.

    Not signing Anelka was a massive blow for Liverpool in 2002. However at the time, he had somewhat of a reputation of a poor attitude, which is why Man City, then a poor Premier League club, snapped him up and not one of the top 7 or 8 teams in the country. A bizarre few years insued at City, where he was their main man before being ditched, Fenerbahce and Bolton!?

    Class act now, because he uses his brain more, and his lightning pace has all but gone. He's unrecognisable from that lightning quick, snappy striker that Arsenal had over 10 years ago.

    I genuinely think now it's a complete change of attitude for Anelka that has made him a success at Chelsea. He's always had the talent: the amount of money spent on him suggests that people will believe that if they can get the best out of him then they'll have a great player. Firstly, on the pitch his behaviour is exemplary. He doesn't dive, like some of his team mates, he doesn't argue with the referee or his team mates, commit bad fouls or behave dishonestly. Off the pitch he seems a lot more mature. We hear less stories about wage demands, and he doesn't bleat when frankly the better player in Drogba is selected above him from time to time.

    He's still quite quick, has a lethal shot and can shoot with his left, has those natural strikers instincts in and around the box, much like Michael Owen still does, and he's clearly got a lot of game intelligence too. As for Chelsea, both he and Drogba are the wrong side of 30, and it probably is a matter of time how long they can get the best out of both of them.

    For now though, I can see these two strikers firing Chelsea to their first Champions League come May.

  • Comment number 3.

    Anelka has always been class and quality. However these attributes are usually tainted with arrogance too, which he also definitely had, but over the course of life he has matured and is arguably performing the best of his career, so hats off to him.

    However I do find it funny that as soon as he has a decent season BBC journalists like Mcnulty start licking his backside and ask why did no-one see this? Typical trash blame culture journalism that just annoys me.

    Fact is, he started off great, went a bit pear-shaped, and has now pulled it back, fair play and well done to him.

    No need for the Spanish Inquisition Phil.

  • Comment number 4.

    I wish he were still playing for City... bizarrely the first club to get more than 100 games out of him.

    Can we swap him for Robhino? We'll even throw in Adebayor!

  • Comment number 5.

    Anelka has been top class for us, i was angry with him at times to say the least when he first came to us, but he has made me eat my words a thousand times over and he's such an asset to us now it's really quite a transformation.

    the games he hasn't played, we've missed him more than drogba this season.

  • Comment number 6.

    Anelka is a total class act and one of the most under-rated (all-round) players in the Premiership.

    Houllier made a massive mistake not signing him, admittedly though, to be fair, most in the game tipped Diouf to be a big star. A bad choice but not as stupid as it looks in hindsight.

    I'd love to have seen Anelka at Anfield over these last few years.


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  • Comment number 7.


    Aren't you one of the many in the media who helped him get the reputation he has? I'm sure I remember a low jibe or two from you about Anelka in just about every club he played for in the PL after Arsenal.

    The fact is that the Anelka of today isn't the Anelka of 10 years ago. When he was at Arsenal he acted exactly like what he was, a vastly overpaid teenager, with the mood swings many have, the lack of direction many have, but an ego most don't.
    If he is now more of a sedate personality and more of a team player it is because he was humbled by having to work for middling club after middling club when he had played for the best and was considered by many to be the most talented Frenchman of his generation.

    For you to try and redefine the very history you wrote about him is ridiculous in the extreeme.

    I have a Arsenal supporting friend who believes he was the most difficult player Wenger ever tried to manage, but that had he stayed they'd have won the CL and a few more PL's in the last decade.

    I have a Chelsea supporting friend (and season ticket holder) who thinks that Anelka contributes far more to the team than Drogba, and is more worried when Anelka doesn't play than when Drogba doesn't.

    I'm pretty sure that the fans who watch him week in and out know him much better than yourself or even a Liverpool player who knew him for 6 months years ago. But the fact that even his current assistant manager dodged the question about how settled he is, is very revealing.

  • Comment number 8.

    Anelka is a true class act and I believe much maligned out of sheer jealousy of such a prodigous talent. It is an understatement to call Houllier's release of St. Nic a "mistake". If he had signed Anelka instead of, or as well as, that other Bolton legend Diouffy (and not signed Diao) then Liverpool would not still be waiting for their first Premiership crown. Many people have (and continue to) misinterpreted quiet confident grace for surliness. I'd have him back at the Reebok like a shot (along with that other class act Chelsea "stole" that is King Eidur of Gudjohnssen).

  • Comment number 9.

    Anelka is finally delivering at the same level he was for arsenal early in his career. He has always been
    quality in terms of talent and potential but for me his career as a whole will always have a air of "what a shame" when you look at those "missing years" between arsenal and Chelsea. With the greatest amount of respect, when he was at Bolton he was probably playing at the level of club he deserved and big sam was probably the right manager for him at that time. He went chasing money and listening to advisors telling him how good he was etc rather than concentrating on football. It's easy to look back and say that Liverpool should gave signed him - but he was not playing at the same level then as he is now... No where near I don't think... Or houllier would gave snapped him up... Or another top European club would have.

    Fair play to him though- he is playing well now and if he can have another few years like this, come the end of his career, those "missing years" will be out numbered by good ones.

  • Comment number 10.

    He's always had immense talent but has not always had the requisite attitude for longterm sustained success. It's obvious that over time he has matured in more ways than one, and he's taken many people by surprise with his consistency and his dedication in Chelsea colours. Hats off to him.

  • Comment number 11.

    His record is pretty clear he scores 2 in 5 great for a line leader and competitor not for a pure poacher which he mostly is (talking about someone t a top club). Overall he does not always compete (more so now than he did first year at Chelsea but not exceptionally hard working) or always run off the ball for others (a weakness when played with Drogba). He's tall but does not use it in the opposition box. He's lost his pace judged on Micah Richards beating him over 20 yards when he had 1 start.

    He's often a scorer of cheap goals - Bolton actually did better once his goals left which is unfair but mentionable. His first 10 league goals last year occurred when Chelsea were ahead bar one that unwittingly deflected off him against Blackburn. He did seem to try harder when Hiddink was manager but it was not stunning.

    Played as a 2nd striker his goals have appeared to come at the expense of midfield goals this year (Lampard's open field goals well down till last weeks free goals against a woeful Sunderland). So he's an adequate goal scorer and reserve. Ok as a sort of wide in a 3 poor 2nd striker who'll do something occasionally.

    At 30 (nr 31) by avoiding injuries he's not been as bad a signing as I thought at the time. However at 15 million and 4 million a year (plus whatever extras in agents fees etc) it was risky on a player with a bad attitude (and bad age) who avoids contact and hard work (actually been better this season) and had a record of malingering.

    I think it's a bit silly to pump everyone when they have a good month. For most of his Chelsea career he's played for himself and when first played with Drogba last year used to stand still 30 yards from goal with no idea what to do. It was befuddling to sacrifice width for that (plus once Drogba was fit he barely scored a goal and did no work for about 15 games).

    Chelsea should certainly not be conned into extending him well into his 30s the 18 months left is fine. Overall his Chelsea career has been an extension of his old career. Cream on top goals padding. Disappearance in big games. Some good spells.

    Nothing to exalt over. A sort of West London Defoe - seriously which one would you want take a big moment penalty? or even a moderately large one?

    Being generous he's been Good for half a season (albeit not sure when), adequate for half a season, poor for half a season and terrible for half a season in his 2 seasons and a bit. If that is a good underrated player then you have low standards.

    Have Chelsea improved for him? Not really they may with the title this year but it will probably be with a lower points total again.

  • Comment number 12.

    We hear less stories about wage demands??
    Yet the Beeb say today that his contract talks have been stalled ...
    Yes he has matured but he is by no means the saint you have portrayed him as.

  • Comment number 13.

    Anelka performed well at Anfield. He didn't get the playing time he deserved under Houllier (something that his replacement has been guilty of with other very talented players!), partly because Michael Owen required a very different type of playing partner. The decision to let him go in favour of Diouf, was at the time, though not viewed as in any way crazy. Diouf and Diao, both signed for Liverpool prior to the World Cup in Japan, and their outstanding performances had us all whetting our lips in anticipation. It wasn't to be, and El Hadji, with his frequently bizarre behaviour, has become a figure of fun. Hindsight is a beautiful thing.

    I do though, want to put out that given the great versatility of the English language, both Carragher and Wilkins, given the opportunity to cover the man in hyperbole, failed to do so- "It was a mistake", and "he is and outstanding player RIGHT NOW."
    Sounds more like two guys chatting about their fantasy football team picks, than professional insight on a world class footballer.

    Anelka gets an 8 out of 10 for me. He has good movement, and the skill and talent to tear up defences, but his finishing is variable, and his commitment from game to game, leaves question marks. I think his nickname as Le Sulk is well deserved.

  • Comment number 14.

    A 'class act' do me a favour. This is a player who's wasted a good two-thirds of his career at teams such as Bolton, City and Fenerbahce.

    He could have achieved so much more, the fact is none of the big clubs wanted him after he left madrid because of his wage demands and reputation for having a bad attitude.

    As for blaming Avram Grant for not handling him properly this seems a bit harsh considering Grant took a chance when many other managers wouldn't have.

    I think when people look back at Anelka's career they may well look at what could have been rather than what was.

  • Comment number 15.

    replying to: gavelaa,
    how an earth has anelka lost his pace? he walks round defences, he has got got the brains to go with it it now.
    he plays off dorbga nowadays, which is different to what he did at arsenal and he did most of the rest of his career, so he couldnt play around with the midfield as much (i.e. use his brain as much), and pace was more of a virtue when ur the last striker.
    he still has the pace in an abundance.

  • Comment number 16.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 17.

    It looks like religion came to the rescue of this particular player just at the right time. His game was transformed and his mental attitude was much more directed once he had adopted faith. Interesting how much the mental strength of a high level sportsman is important in allwing the talent to shine through. It is a pity that other gifted players e.g. Paul Gascoigne couldn't find peace inside themselves and allow that to help them maintain such high standards. Well done Nicholas.

  • Comment number 18.

    @ no. 2
    Class act now, because he uses his brain more, and his lightning pace has all but gone. He's unrecognisable from that lightning quick, snappy striker that Arsenal had over 10 years ago.

    Are you serious? granted he uses his brain more, but when he sprints over 20 yards there is no centre half in the country that is any where near as quick as him.

    Anelka has returned to such prominence because the service he gets at chelsea is top class, whereas at city and Bolton he was fed on relative scraps. As long as he keeps fit i reckon anelka and drogba over the next 3 years could form 1 of the best partnerships the premiership has ever seen.

  • Comment number 19.

    Phil - Anelka post Arsenal and pre Bolton i.e. his prime was patchy, inconsistent and disruptive. Houliier made a lot of poor decisions in his time (selling Brad Freidel) and signing so so many poor players ala Benitez. However at the time was right decision.
    Yes - he has turned out to be excellent in the last 3 years prior to that well let's look at some of your other favourites Milan Baros, Michael Owen, Robbie Fowler - not exactly world beaters eh?

  • Comment number 20.

    Anelka is at best an average player playing at a great club. This over the top and excessive celebration of him is unmerited and undeserved. The guy doesn't score that many goals, doesn't work that hard and is only being talked about because he is at chelsea. I think a lot of strikers would score as many if not more goals when put in that lineup. Look at Anelka's recent performances for France and you'll see a truer reflection of the player, he did very little over 2 legs other than score a fortuitous deflected goal and was completely overshadowed by the likes of Robbie Keane.
    Also, for whoever suggested Liverpool would have won the league with Anelka, this is dreamland stuff. Anelka was recently totally outclassed by Robbie Keane but you wouldn't say you'd have won the league if you'd kept him. Please, let the craziness stop and stop hyping up Anelka now he's at Chelsea, he arguably played better at the likes of Bolton as he didn't have the same quality of player around him so give it a rest lads. Poor blog, you'd be better off hyping up someone who deserves it

  • Comment number 21.

    How much do you think the 'finding Islam' had on his professional outlook???

  • Comment number 22.

    I think Anelka is a smashing player and quite a nice lad too. But, I dont think Houllier can be blamed for not signing him. He played well enough for City but then he left for Fener where he was never the player he is now. The person who deserves the most credit is Sam Allardyce who brought him to Bolton and got the best out of him.

  • Comment number 23.

    The fact is that Anelka in his formative years was a good goalscorer,but a bad influence on the team spirit.He was known to have disrupted many dressing rooms with his ridiculous wage demands and primma donna attitude,hence the nickname "Le Sulk"
    No manager was ready to touch him with a 10 foot pole until Chelsea took a gamble on him.
    Anelka has played at Arsenal,Madrid,City,Fernabache,Bolton and now Chelsea,this certainly must mean something was wrong with his attitude.
    That Anelka has mellowed with age and now appears to be ready to let his football do the talking is due to the fact that he is not a fool,and realises this is his last chance at a big club.
    The title of this blog is misleading and an attempt by Mr McNulty to re write history.

  • Comment number 24.

    To ightenclaret and IGingero - You can see the effect that Islam has had on this player. Bilal Abdussalaam (for that is Nicolas' Muslim name)gets on with his job quietly and effectively. His humility is there to see, too.

  • Comment number 25.

    Oh God, not this again.

    He was labelled 'Le Sulk' because he was usually sulking. He and his greedy brothers tended to sour any relationship he had with his clubs and their supporters, and it was you and your journalistic ilk which gave him the reputation anyway!

    And apparently, even at a supposedly settled near-31 years of age, he's still at it according to this site's own gossip page (although, given the source, I'd take it with an ocean-sized amount of salt).

    And his Liverpool record was one league goal every five games - not exactly earth-shattering, although hindsight is a wonderful thing.

  • Comment number 26.

    Re: #11 TWSI.
    What a load of dribble you talk. Have you actually been to SB to watch Anelka play, or do all your words of wisdom derive from watching a few minutes highlights on MOTD?
    For a start not many strikers could keep up with Micah Richards as he is quite clearly one of the quickest defenders in the EPL.
    And Anelka is missed more by Chelsea when he is injured than Drogba when he is out injured or away on ACN duty.
    Anelka is a genuine player who does not dive, Didier take note!, and plays for the team, Didier take note!, he plays for the shirt and gives 100% every game.
    Oh! and by the way, after Defoe's penalty against Leeds yesterday i think i know who i would want to take one for my team.....

  • Comment number 27.

    Phil, please confirm that you were kidding! When did Anelka become a class act? Do you suddenly become a class act within one month after 10 years? Oh my God!

  • Comment number 28.

    Thanks to Avram Grant that Chelsea have got Anelka. As a chelsea supporter, i wanted Berbatov at the time but Grant went for Anelka. I thought the former was better than the later. Chelsea have a chance of winning the league this season and i think it is only Arsenal in our way. ManU look weaker despite being on top for now but Arsenal are a real threat. As for Champions league, that is all luck and i dont think luck is on our side with us facing Jose in the next round. Chelsea may win just the league and FA this season and i can settle for that

  • Comment number 29.

    I see the Sunday morning modding service is its usual speedy self.

  • Comment number 30.

    Of course, it could be said that Anelka and Chelsea were made for each other.

    A ruined child at a ruined football club.

  • Comment number 31.

    Considering how he practically begged NOT to take a penalty in the Champions League Final, I'd be reluctant to call him a class act.

  • Comment number 32.

    I've been impressed with Anelka when he's played for France. He is surprising a good leader for them and has been playing inelligently.

    However, I'm still not sure about his performances against the good/great teams. We'll see at the world cup.

  • Comment number 33.

    "Poorly handled by Avram Grant after his arrival from Bolton"
    Avram Grant gave him a lifeline and proberbly revived his career.

  • Comment number 34.

    Man I love these boards sometimes.

    As if Anelka isn't a class player. You all are kidding yourselves. Surely it IS time opinion on him came round, as he's clearly not as mental as he once was.

    And as for his past ability - obviously a bunch of daft managers at such small-time win-nothing clubs as Arsenal, Real Madrid, Chelsea, Liverpool, Fenerbahce etc. were wrong to sign him!

    Ha ha!

  • Comment number 35.

    Anelka has been our best player this season, and arguably was last season. The media have been falling over themselves about Drogba, who has been excellent for the season, and has been getting a lot of goals, but Anelka has been the really outstanding performer. He brings so much to the side, not just getting goals and having a brilliant turn of pace, but what has been crucial this season, and last, has been his commitment and application, thing that many might have questioned earlier in his career.

    There have comparisons between Drogba, Torres and Rooney throughout the season, who is the best, who would you have etc. It is a very tough one because each of them is excellent, and all bring something slightly different, but at Chelsea we are lucky to have Drogba and Anelka as well, because it should be the two of them in that comparison for "best striker in the league", though I hasten to add I think Torres beats both of them unfortunately.

  • Comment number 36.

    Have to agree with jfe261.

    As a cfc fan, Anelka has been awesome in the past few months, not only is he a brilliant finisher with bags of pace but he also contributes from deep. We've at times missed him more than the likes of Drogba, that's how good he's been.

    People who say he isn't world class are merely deluded. I'd have Anelka any day over Kuyt and Berbatov..

  • Comment number 37.

    To Gavelaa...just on Anelka's time at Liverpool. Everyone I spoke to who was with him at Liverpool complimented him on his exemplary attitude on and off the pitch. He was, I was told, the perfect professional and a good person to have around the squad.

    As I understand it, the problem as far as Houllier was concerned is that he felt Anelka's representatives were hawking him around to other clubs while he was at Anfield. I believe Anelka would have signed for Liverpool in an instant, irespective of other interests.

    Houllier, and I think he admits this, should have pressed on with the deal. I am a huge admirer of Houllier both as a person and a manager, but this was arguably his biggest mistake at Anfield.

    I watched Anelka closely yesterday and he was superb. His movement was a constant menace to Preston and he deserved his goal. Yes, he has been nomadic, but he seems a perfect fit for Chelsea.

  • Comment number 38.

    What a strange universe journalists inhabit where certain people's actions always turn out to be somehow the fault of someone else but only in ways that clever journos can spot (after the fact of course), unlike us know-nothing paying punters. Anelka was great at Arsenal where I watched him but he did have a bit of a personality problem. He went a bit off the boil after that, but always showed talent, and has certainly done well at Chelsea recently. Pity he didn't do better with that penalty against Manure in the champions league final though. Phil I really can't see how that was Avram Grant's fault; at the time I remember Anelka did not look up for it. It was the champions league penalty shoot out for heavens sake and he looked sulky! Not for nothing did he acquire that sobriquet even if he has finally grown up and shaken it off. Well done him.

  • Comment number 39.

    I do love these blogs! I read them quite regularly and Ihave noticed a trend. Every blog, no matter what the topic is followed by a few comments from people having a pop at the blog and Phil. My simple view on this is that IF YOU DONT LIKE IT DONT READ IT AND STOP YOU MOANING!

    Back to the blog though. I am a Chelsea fan and was amongst the many of us that had a raised eyebrow or two when Anelka signed, mainly due to the reputation that has over shadowed his career.

    On paper the combination of Drogba and Anelka to me spelt success! but Avram Grants inability to see that 4-4-2 instead of 4-3-3 with Anelka wide would be the more suitable tactic to mold a partnership. Hiddink Started the Anelka revival and Carlo has carried it on.

    Anelka has a different attitude to the one he had at Arsenal, Madrid, Liverpool etc. He has simply matured and grown up! His ego was brought into check when he had to ply his trade at Fenerbache and then Bolton. I believe he was humbled by this and it has made him a better player for it (thanks big sam).

    As for Houllier's decision to not sign him, knowing what we know now it was a mistake, knowing what we knew at the time it was not!

    It is a shame that Anelka has a few insignificant years through his career but I am just glad that he is abd has been playing the best football of his career at Chelsea and will continue too do so for a few more years to come.

    and finally @ 20(dave) If Anelka is an average player then Berbatov, Owen, Adebayor, Bendtner and many others are extremely below average players! I wonder if you might be a fan of one of our rivals???????

  • Comment number 40.

    The people suggesting Anelka isn't an excellent player are, of course, foolish.

  • Comment number 41.

    Come on Phil, you'll be telling us next that the sun rises in the morning and sets in the evening! That said, we're yet to see Anelka perform when his back is metaphorically against the wall. It's alright being the toast against the likes of Preston and an out of sorts Sunderland. There are bigger tests between now and the end of the season. I suspect 'Le Sulk' will rear his ugly side before then.

  • Comment number 42.

    Really can't stand people coming on here and saying 'if you don't like what you read, stop reading.' What? 'If you don't like what you see, close your eyes' - that a good bit of advice, too? People come on here to read about points of interest, where the subjective opinion of the writer can be something they agree or disagree with. If no-one disagreed (because they should stop reading if they do that, d'oh!) these blogs would be painfully boring.
    Onto the subject...the fundamental reason Anelka divides opinion so much is that you have, in one person, the incongruous nature of the human condition in its purest form. There are those that say he's maligned, under-appreciated (like McNulty); whereas others say his is a career wasted, potential never fully realised. The former takes a positive spin, the latter a negative. These opinions are both true, and feed each other. Anelka is a failure in the context of his inherent talents, and a success in overcoming his evident faults.
    Those that saw Anelka at Arsenal, and Henry at Monaco, know one thing. If he'd applied himself in the same way, had less disruptive influences in his life, he could have been better than Henry. This lament will never escape Anelka, nor should it. But maybe we should give him a break; not everyone with natural ability can reach their full potential, for whatever reason.
    I for one am pleased he's showing what he can do, while at the exact same time sit there wondering "what if...?"

  • Comment number 43.

    Nicolas Anelka is a class talent (Full Stop)

    It has taken two thirds of his career to finally mature off the pitch to back up his talent on the pitch.

    When he is with Drogba he is apart of the best strikeforce in the

    Well done Mr McNulty, nice to see another angle with your reporting actually representing a player that has finally sorted himself out to be one select few we will be remembering in the PL long after he retires.

    I felt a little sick yesterday (sidestep here!) to see Anelka and Danny Sturridge up front together as they both have worn my teams colours and they looked very good together and PNE played well (so I will not say against a Championship team out of respect for a good team that played well!)

    if only Sparky had kept sturridge like all City fans said.....

  • Comment number 44.

    Beyond the Pale

    Of course, it could be said that Anelka and Chelsea were made for each other.

    A ruined child at a ruined football club.


    Yeah right !!!!!!!!! What club do you support !!!! Is it not Liverpool????

  • Comment number 45.

    @ NO 39,
    The purpose of this blog is for people to come on line and debate the topic of discussion.
    You can either agree or disagree with the blogger in this case the chief football writer of the BBC.
    It would be quite boring if all people did was to come on line and say "Great blog Phil,keep up the good work."

  • Comment number 46.

    I admit Anelka seems to have sorted his head out and has always been a good finisher, but to suggest he is now great is simply wrong. He is a good stiker nothing more, afterall look who he plays with. i'm pretty sure the much scoffed at Dirk Kuyt would probabaly score a hatful playing in that Chelsea team, not to mention Sturridge has just scored 3 goals in 2 games and he isnt even that good and probably couldnt get a game at any other club in the top 8.

  • Comment number 47.

    Phil you make me laugh

    "I watched Anelka closely yesterday and he was superb. His movement was a constant menace to Preston"

    Perhaps you should go and watch non-PL football for a bit, I'm quite sure that over the next few months those words will be able to be applied to quite a few Championship stikers.

    Now I do think that Anelka is a quality player, but to base your assertation on his danger on a game with Preston is laughable, the fact that he is barely mentioned in many of your pieces on Chelsea this season tells it's own story.

    Judging a players merits based on his performance against a team in the league below who are only 6 points above the relagation zone is hardly quality journalism.

    Your conclusion on his skill may be sound, but you could have brought much better evidance to the table than this article.

    Oh and you still haven't owned up to being one of the many in the media who helped him get the reputation he has.

  • Comment number 48.

    chelsea dont have a romantic bone in them? burnley or barnsley, whichever it was 2 years ago?

  • Comment number 49.

    @ #46

    Trust me when I say this. Daniel Sturridge will be in an England squad this time next year !

    The player has the potential to be at a top club for the rest of his career.

    I just hope Chelsea persevere with him instead of buying another foreign mercanary to replace the older Dorgba or Anelka !

    As for the top 8 comment. I would have him back at MCFC and sell Adebayor and Santa Cruz just to accomodate him.

    I did not agree with Sparky when he let him go and anyway ask yourself this?

    Why did Chelsea want him in the first place? They do not normally sign players that they beleive would not cut it at their level of footballing expectation.

    As regards to Anelka. The guy has scored goals wherever he has been and he is key to Chelsea's plans and for France this summer too. Look at their striking options !

  • Comment number 50.

    Liverpool should have bought Anelka and, Phil, you are perfectly right in your assessment of why Houllier did not take up the option to sign him: an extremely poor decision. As for whether Liverpool would have won the league with Anelka, that is highly debatable but his time at Liverpool proved how good a player he is. I was at a number of games and witnessed the sublime skills he was able to show on the pitch. Moreover, Anelka said many times in the press that he wanted to sign for Liverpool. This is a fact that people on this blog seem to have conveniently forgotten.

  • Comment number 51.

    There were flashes of brilliance from Anelka at Bolton that made me wish such a player were at Chelsea. Eversince the arrival of Hiddink at Chelsea and succession of Ancelotti, Anelka's doubtful dark days have been put an end to. He has been getting polished up from a rough cut diamond into a consummate striker that has earned the respect and total co-operation of the fellow striker Drogba. They are quite a pair now, very formidable when played together.

    Chelsea's good luck that the last two managers have seen the value and efficacy of pairing them. They have the feel for the real thing and are not deflected by slogans and hollow maxims of the game.

  • Comment number 52.

    Anelka has always had talent, but his temperament has been suspect. Figure if you will how Van de Sar sold him a dummy for that famous penalty and made Anelka look just that. He is journeyman mercenary footballer there are plenty of them. At Chelsea he is being paid huge sums of money.

    I disagree totally with "Anelka showed great resolve to come back from missing the last penalty in the Champions League final defeat to Manchester United in 2008 to score 25 goals last season." Resolve has nothing to do it, it's called getting on with the day to day. If you wrote one blog that was horrendous would we expect you to stop writing altogether?

    I have to say it's hilarious that it's a game against Preston North End that warrants on Blog on Anelka, when he has been banging them in for years, no matter what team he played for.

  • Comment number 53.

    I don't think one has to know someone to judge them, after all, our whole jury system would break down if we did.
    No-one doubts Anelka's ability but he was obviously ill-advised when he was younger. I'm amazed to see that his brother still manages him. Perhaps Anelka is old enough now, to tell his brother to mind his own business, or perhaps his brother is now older and wiser.
    Anelka has had a fantastic career but I can't help feeling that due to mismanagement, he has never enjoyed the success that his talents truly deserve.

  • Comment number 54.

    Anelka is role model for any young centre forward. His movement is terrific, his accuracy is frightening.

    He has always been a first class player, he showed us that in his Arsenal days and his goals played a big part in their title win.

    Drogba and Anelka are playing brilliantly together, but credit must also go to Ancelotti for this. Remember not too long ago many people were saying that they couldn't play at their best as a duo?

  • Comment number 55.

    The credit(if any) should go to Hiddink as he was the one that made him and Drogba work well together.

  • Comment number 56.

    Phil McNulty wrote;
    Wilkins showed a nice line in self-mockery when he strode in to meet the media as Carlo Ancelotti's understudy and announced: "Sorry, guys. You've got the B team." Not at all, Ray.

    Pass me the bucket! Jesus wept Phil...praising the merits of Wilkins and Anelka in the same blog...don your blue shirt and get yourself on down to Franchise Chelsea!

  • Comment number 57.

    I thought that Anelka was the Prem's best striker last season. He has terrific awareness and presence of mind (and not only when close to goal) and ball skills, and clinically selects the best option for the circumstances. There's no "typical" Anelka goal, each is crafted for the moment. And unlike many strikers, he has the class, vision and intelligence to creat openings for others too. Forget "Le Sulk", celebrate a great player, at last consistently fdelivering.

    (Living in Australia and having been on the road this season, I can't comment on recent form.)

  • Comment number 58.

    Anelka IS a class player. Whether he should have achieved more in his career, whether his attitude is better now than it used to me etc. etc. and other musings are all irrelevant in the context of this blog.He was clearly superb yesterday and was equally good at Highbury against Arsenal recently. And I am no Chelsea fan - in fact I can' t stand them but to question his quality is to have no appreciation for football.

  • Comment number 59.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 60.

    Someone made the point that Anelka is unrecognisable from the quick, snappy striker he used to be at Arsenal - he uses his brain more and arguably is currently even better. It's true: while all professional footballers (except Ivan Campo) are faster than the average person, Anelka no longer is in the fast part of the pack, and yet very unusually he may be consistently scoring more goals than ever before.

    It's a very refreshing change from the normal trend of footballers, who tend to following a natural law of diminishing returns with age, degrading like ageing racehorses. Even Bergkamp, who as well as being a legend was an archetypal example of using his brain once he lost what modest pace he had, had to drop below the 20-goals-a-season level and become more of a non-scoring deep-lying playmaker for what felt like an interminable end to his career.

    So I'm surprised no one's compared the careers of Anelka and Owen yet! A case study in adaptation (or the lack of it).

    What I don't believe can be disputed is that Anelka has under-achieved given his potential and the use of the seasons available to him. Of course there is little he can do about it now, but until the last couple of years he seemed like utter driftwood.

  • Comment number 61.

    During the recent ireland france world cup play off games that were infamously overshadowed by henry's basketballer impersonation, Anelka was simply outstanding.
    Easily the best french player on show. He may be a yard slower than his arsenal days but he's an infinitely more intelligent player.

  • Comment number 62.

    Well its pretty clear there are some people who are never going forgive Anelka.

    Point 61.........I am glad you mentioned that, if Anelka hadn't been playing for France against Ireland, there could have been a special rule allowing Henry to use his hands for 90 minutes and the French still would not have beaten Ireland.

    Anelka's work rate and movement for Chelsea has been simply outstanding all season.

    He can play as the second striker or the first striker for the team, and notably he averages 1 goal every 2 games when he plays for Chelsea and Drogba doesn't. That illustrates how well he can play both roles, and how unselfish he is when he plays alongside Drogba.

    In all the games so far this season, when Drogba has not been playing, Chelsea have still not dropped any points. And Drogba has been on fire this season.

    Yet Anelka, was missing for the games against Birmingham, West Ham and Fulham, we lacked attacking potency in all three of those games, we got a lucky penalty at West Ham and a lucky 2nd against Fulham and only took 5 points from those three games.

    The evidence does suggest how important Anelka is to Chelsea.

    Oh....and in case one forgot, he did get the Golden Boot last season too, but for some reason that is never mentioned either.

  • Comment number 63.

    I don't think one has to know someone to judge them, after all, our whole jury system would break down if we did.

    Let me see, on the one hand you can form an opinion about someone's character, relying almost 100% on what the media says, or on the other hand, form an opinion on whether someone is guilty or not of an offence, based on facts, supported with tangible evidence and presented under oath in a court of law.

    Yes sounds exactly the same to me.........nicely thought out remark.

    I don't know you, but through your post I can now say I can judge you too, and likewise, I am sure you can judge me!

  • Comment number 64.

    I go to the Bridge several times a season, and Anelka is always good value. He works harder than most people give him credit, and he is as unselfish a striker as you could imagine. His movement and finishing, both top drawer. Compared to Drogba, he is a saintly presence on the field.

    His chequered reputation however is mostly down to an unsettled youth. Of course past slighted supporters won't ever completely forgive him, but he's left his past attitude behind - it was pretty obvious that was the case when he was with Bolton, and Chelsea spent wisely to sign him.

  • Comment number 65.

    Totally agree with norapeti.

    Anelka would go straight into a Man utd, arsenal or liverpool side straight away. His movement is what people dont pay attention to. when he plays wide right it draws out defenders, leaving room for Lampard, drogba, ballack etc. he works hard and his control is excellent, still think he's pretty pacey too, for a 31 year old.
    everyone says he wont be around for long because of his age...who makes these rules? why cant anelka and drogba still be playing up front together in 3 or 4 years time? defenders STILL cannot cope with Drogba and he's been playing in the premier league for quite a few years now...

  • Comment number 66.

    Although he would never admit it, not buying Anelka from Bolton during the January window 2 seasons ago was one of Arsene Wenger's biggest mistakes.
    So he had baggage. Big deal. He was 18 , not phased by replacing Ian Wright (who incidentally is convinced Anelka would have broken his record if he had stayed at Arsenal), and his only crime was in trying to make some money for his brothers. How many of us have done things we have regretted at that age?

    Moreover he made us enough money @Arsenal 2 acquire our own training ground with enough change left to buy a player called Thierry Henry.

    I know a lot of Chelsea fans that didn't rate him when he arrived (unlike the players that were keen on his aquisition from the outset)but most if not all have since had a change of heart.

    Oh & by the way, he's hardly ever injured.

  • Comment number 67.

    Got to love the reasoning on this regarding Liverpool and how it was a mistake not to sign him. I mean, how could Houlier not have known that only seven years later, he'd finally be considered a great player!!! And think of the salary money we could have spent in the six years waiting for him to actually fulfill his potential.

  • Comment number 68.

    I feel a large amount of credit is due for Sam Allardyce, the man who rescued Anelka's career from the obscurity of Turkish football. Say what you want about Anelka's controversial departures from Arsenal and Real Madrid, and his flirtations with Liverpool and Man City, but until Anelka bit the bullet, and lowered his demands far enough for Bolton to afford his wages, Nicolas was in severe danger of his career petering out completely.

    Now Fenerbahce is hardly a small-time outfit in the grand scheme of things, but you must admit the goings on in the Turkcell Superlig are hardly big news across the continent. Allardyce offered the opportunity for Anelka to return to the spotlight of Premier League football (admittedly at a lower wattage than previous years,) to start almost from scratch in establishing himself as the force he once was, with the added incentive of cementing a place in the French national side. However, whilst at Bolton, Anelka seemed to have been humbled, and learnt a little humility. I haven't heard so much as one complaint from anyone regarding his actions and temperment during his time at the club, even going so far as to leave on very good terms.

    Who knows, maybe he realised that Bolton was simply a stop-gap back to the bigtime, and that if he kept his mouth shut for 18 months he'd no doubt be plying his trade with a Champions League-level club within a short time. Pretty much everyone expected him gone within 2 years. However, he settled down, worked his socks off alongside Kevin Davies and El-Hadji Diouf, and EARNED the respect of the Bolton fans, and a transfer back into the 'Millionaires Club' of a Champions League outfit. We Bolton fans do like to think that it was at Bolton was where Nicolas truly learned the humility and patience he so dearly required, to become the tremendous team player that he his today. We thoroughly enjoyed watching such an awesome talent plying his trade for a smaller club such as ours. Notice you'll never hear Bolton fans call Anelka "Le Sulk" even if we were the smallest club paying him his smallest wage...

    Allardyce pulled a magic trick with that one.

  • Comment number 69.

    As a Chelsea fan I'm not surprised at the negative attitudes directed at Anelka. This is a talented footballer who was wasted playing for teams such as Bolton and City. His game was transformed when he came to the Bridge. He gets the recognition he truly deserves from our fans. No manager has handled him better than Ancelotti and Anelka thrives under the circumstances. He is highly rated by Ancelotti who is better equipped to judge him than his detractors.

    Anelka has been one of our most outstanding players for the last couple of seasons. He has much to offer. His scores and assists attest to that fact. He's an exceptional finisher with loads of pace and his commitment has been outstanding.

    To ignore the fact he is "world class" is utterly delusional. Ancelotti recognises he is playing the best football of his career and Anelka thrives because of the recognition. Thanks to Ancelotti, Anelka has settled in at the Bridge. I expect him to continue playing exceptional football for the next couple of seasons.

  • Comment number 70.

    Anelka has eventually found a club that suits his style and, play!

    Anelka for chelsea fc.

    Watch him tear up teams with his amazing change of pace
    unbelievable team player

  • Comment number 71.

    He is probably a great player but sometimes he used to be very low at runing and not very creative.
    [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

  • Comment number 72.

    It is interesting to look back at this article, and see where Chelsea are right now. They are a powerfull team with great players, and although they've never been known for their flair and entertainment, they are feared by most teams. But every good team goes through bad periods as we are witnessing right now. Perhaps an injection of youth will do them good.

  • Comment number 73.

    Anelka is not as good as last season, he hasnt performed as well as he could have. However with Danny Sturridge coming in he would struggle for a place in the team, considering Sturridge is English and quick left footed young player.


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