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Drogba still key to Chelsea success

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Phil McNulty | 08:19 UK time, Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Didier Drogba has been called many things in his turbulent time at Chelsea - diver, drama queen and prima donna being three of the more printable tags attached to this enigmatic and often infuriating figure.

No-one, however, has ever accused Drogba of being a bad player and coach Luiz Felipe Scolari was made aware of a simple fact of life as Chelsea stumbled past CFR Cluj to reach the Champions League knockout phase.

Drogba, for all his foibles and failings, must be kept onside and at Chelsea if they are to fulfil the ambitions Scolari has for them at home and abroad.

Didier Drogba and Nicolas AnelkaChelsea needed the extra dimension Drogba gives them, and his expertly-taken winning goal, to finally overpower the resilient Romanians who played on the nerves exposed during a tense and scrappy encounter at Stamford Bridge.

In the post-match inquest, Scolari performed the verbal equivalent of a high-wire act as he balanced the ego and impact of Drogba against the sensitivity of another high-maintenance striker, Nicolas Anelka.

For every word of praise for Drogba there was a plaudit for Anelka.

Listen to this and you get the drift of what we heard from Scolari: "It is important for me, but don't forget we arrive in second position in the Premier League because our scorer is Anelka.

"Drogba is important. One of the best in the world - but you need to think about Anelka and I need to say to you that Anelka is as important as Drogba."

Scolari ended by offering a prayer to a higher power that both men stay fit and you can see why.

Drogba is capable of moments of madness and magic. He produces an unplayable performance that destroyed Liverpool in the Champions League semi-final last season then follows it with a handbags at two paces spat with Nemanja Vidic and a ruinous red card in the final.

He scores a superb goal against Burnley in the Carling Cup last month and then celebrates by hurling a coin back at the visiting fans - although let us also reserve due contempt for the chump who threw the object in the first place.

Drogba is alleged to have had dinner with Inter Milan, then serves up the match-winning cameo that earns him a standing ovation at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday, complete with a public "we've missed you" message from the tannoy announcer after his goal.

All human life is there with Drogba. But one thing is certain - Chelsea cannot afford to let him go to Inter Milan or anywhere else if they wish to contest the major trophies this season. If you fail to pick the lock you might occasionally need to blow the doors off, and that is what his explosive power provides when Chelsea are struggling.

Of course he can also be an irritant who can drive his own fans to distraction, but if Scolari can flick the right switch and get Drogba focused, they could yet claim the crown that eluded them so agonisingly last season.

Anelka's stealth and pace can do the trick on foreign soil, but when Chelsea were frustrated at Stamford Bridge in defeats against Liverpool and Arsenal, it called out for the bombast the absent Drogba would have provided.

Chelsea will have to do it the hard way in the Champions League after finishing second in their group, and even though Scolari was right to insist they will take anyone in the last 16 (and let's face it they have to anyway), huge improvements and re-inforcements are needed.

The air of invincibility they have carried at home in recent years has been eroded. Cluj had the audacity to actually go for it at various stages on Tuesday and gave Chelsea anxious moments.

Chelsea need the steadying influence of Ricardo Carvalho restored to central defence, and they missed Frank Lampard against Cluj, where the midfield looked rudderless and the absence of Michael Essien was underscored.


Chelsea's struggles, by their own standards, at certain points this season must be placed in context by a reminder of those players they have had missing.

If Scolari can put all those pieces together, then Chelsea can be as formidable as they have been in the past.

The advance into the last 16 at least removes some of the spotlight from Scolari, amid some fairly laughable suggestions that pressure was getting to him.

He will have felt pressure, despite his denials. Any professional coach at elite level does purely because of the standards they set for themselves and their team.

As Scolari rightly pointed out, pressure is coaching Brazil. And having seen him in the eye of that totally unique storm in a World Cup-winning campaign in Japan in 2002, I am certain he can cope with some mild questioning of his Premier League credentials.

For all that, he will have felt relief on Tuesday night, not least because he admitted - light-heartedly - that he would beat a hasty retreat back to Brazil if Chelsea did not get the required result against Cluj.

It was not vintage Chelsea but it was job done. And as we have seen from Liverpool's European campaigns in the past, sometimes it is not how you start the Champions League but how you finish.

But to go for glory in Rome next May, Scolari must devote time to keep Drogba's eyes on the prize. On this evidence Chelsea cannot afford to be without him.


  • Comment number 1.

    Nice article Phil. I like you pretty much hate Didier Drogba for his diving antics, for publically admitting he does it on purpose to gain an advantage and like any Brit, I want that stuff out of the game. His moaning, his linking himself all the time to other clubs must test any managers patience.

    On the flip side, he is unplayable when on form. I would be coaching him on a red carpet with gritted teeth!

  • Comment number 2.

    That was a really dull article, offering no new insight.

    Scolari really does feel pressure even though he won't admit it.

    Drogba is actually a good player that causes many teams problems.

    Scolari wants to please both his egotistical strikers.

    I mean really?! Anyone that follows football knows all this already!

    Something new and informative please....

  • Comment number 3.

    Nice blog, and good way to approach by scolari when caught between two sulking strikers...

    Drogba is a very strong player and anelka is a classic. Hopefully he can combine both of them very well and we can have a good chelsea.

    I hope Arsenal still beat them everywhere

  • Comment number 4.

    "AndYourMum2 wrote:

    That was a really dull article, offering no new insight.

    Scolari really does feel pressure even though he won't admit it.

    Drogba is actually a good player that causes many teams problems.

    Scolari wants to please both his egotistical strikers.

    I mean really?! Anyone that follows football knows all this already!

    Something new and informative please...."

    I agree completely, Phil somehow manages to make a living by rewording press releases or simply summarising matches recently played. Offer an opinion Phil! Scolari will probably have to induce the wrath of either Anelka or Drogba at some point this season... If you were in his position who would you choose?

  • Comment number 5.

    There’s no doubt as to Drogba’s qualities but I just can’t help thinking that we’ll fall short his season. We lost to Liverpool and arsenal already, I hope I’m wrong though

  • Comment number 6.

    Whats strange is that since Crespo left they haven't got in another similar, strong, dominant center forward as back up for Drogba. Which has meant that whenever he has been out over the last few seasons Chelsea have looked short of an option. The back up wouldn't have to be as good even, Heskey, Zaki, Carew, Elmander etc., all of these guys would come at a snip for Chelsea standards but would still provide the same options when Drogba's out.

  • Comment number 7.

    Drogba is key to Chelsea in the same way torres is at liverpool.

    drogba out classed torres in the champions league semi's.

    When you compare drogba to any other strikers in the world his acheivments equal if not beat most.

    with this is light, it seems obvious that drogba is key to chelsea...!

    i don't see why people seem to be talking about it now; its old news, or it will be until he breaks another record.

  • Comment number 8.

    i don't know how Chelsea fans can moan at Anelka! Without his goals you would be half way down the league he scores something silly like 7 goals in 3 games follows that with a loss at home to Arsenal and then all of a sudden he's not good enough. Fickle Chelsea fans!!!

  • Comment number 9.

    Phil what are you doing to me man, its still the a.m. in the morning, im tired and bored, i need a lil pick me up of laughter, which i thought i could rely on in your blog, but this one has let me down a lil today, more funny analogies please in your next blog to help me thru the work day, oh well looks like im gonna ave to crack open the pro plus!!!

    on the article tho;
    undoubtedly Drogba is a massive cog in the Chelski wheel, but i believe that the biggest missing factor in Chelski's rather below par performances of late is............. Essien?!
    He completely bosses and dominates their midfield at times, plus, he does all the, so called, "Donkey Work" that the rest of the "flair" players dont want or cant be botherd to do?! like the box to box, the tracking back, the breaking up of opposition attacks, the tackling in midfield?!
    I reckon that they will look a whole different team when he is back and have another dimension to their midfield?! they will prob start picking up form a bit?! afterall as much promise as J.O Mikel shows he aint no Essien, still a poor mans substitute for me and far too tempremental?!
    without Essien Chelski's midfield looks a little lightweight and a little out of ballance as there are too many similar type players, wanting to do the same job for the team, not enough balance in the team?!

  • Comment number 10.

    rosey 05;

    I agree with you totally there mate, but then again that is the problem with all these fans of the big clubs, far too fickle to jump on the players and managers backs.

    Arsenal, liverpool, Chelsea, Man U fans all the same when something doesnt quite go their way, or they a have a lil sticky patch or a poor run of form.
    admittidly Chelsea are probably the worst at the moment as they have had all their success very quickly in a short period of time rather than the other three who have all had their ups and downs in success terms in football?!

    unlike football fans, like myself, who support lower league teams and are more realistic towards our teams and players?!

  • Comment number 11.

    Another article, another chance for arrogant nobodies to criticise the journalist rather than comment on the subject.

    It looks to me as though Drogba is definitely on the way out. Scolari was so keen to play down his impact and praise Anelka, perhaps with the aim of keeping panic to a minimum when he goes to Inter?

  • Comment number 12.

    Does the C in BBC stand for Chelsea?

    The football page has 3 separate article about Chelsea on it today.

    A bit OTT.

  • Comment number 13.

    Fairly spot on article i'd say. When Drogba actually decides to turn up and play, he is immense! But as you pointed out Phil, at times he is infuriating to watch. This was shown in both legs of the Champiuons league semi finals last season. In the first leg at anfield he was completly useless, and indeed acted like a drama queen. But then in the second leg he ripped Liverpool to shreads!

    He's definitly a good player, no doubt about it. I just wish - and I'm sure I won't be alone in saying this - that he could put in the world class performances he's capable of EVERY time. Untill then i guess we'll just be frustrated by him now and again - so long as he gets the goals that counts though, i think we'll be able to forgive him :)

  • Comment number 14.

    Nice one McNulty. You have no real knowledge so just state the bleeding obvious and hope everyone will think you're clever for noticing.

  • Comment number 15.

    Anelka is certainly the better strike at the moment.
    Both are as good as each other, and share Advantages and disadvantages like any other striker.

  • Comment number 16.

    Im actually a Liverpool fan so what i will say about Drogba is that almost every time he has played against us he is the difference. He is probably the only striker in the world i can think of that has dominated Carragher throughtout long periods of matches.

    However Anelka is clearly worth his weight in gold. He will score more goals against the smaller clubs in the league whereas Drogba is a difference maker in big matches. There has to be some sort of balance between the two.

  • Comment number 17.

    "No one however has ever accused Drogba od being a bad player"

    ahem do you not remember his first season? he was heavily criticised as being a waste of money. Drogba is a perfect example of the need to give foreign players time and patience, mixed with a prolonged run of first team football in order for them to succeed. This is ultimately why Shevchenko didn't work, was neve given a consistent run of first team football.

    Although Anelka is a great player and his 13 goals in the league cannot be argued with, however Drogba does add a much needed extra dimension, as Chelsea have in recent weeks clearly shown they lack a plan b. I see no reason why Drogba and Anelka cannot start in the same team.

  • Comment number 18.

    post #7

    "Drogba is key to Chelsea in the same way torres is at liverpool"

    I kind of agree with this. These are both key players etc. etc.

    But the bottom line is Liverpool are top and Chelsea are second in the premier league without either player contributing a whole lot so far this season.

    Chelsea are definitely a better team when Drogba is part of it and playing well. But I wouldn't go so far as to say Chelsea can't win stuff without him.

  • Comment number 19.

    Good blog Phil, don't listen to the vitriol, you see the same people complaining every time on everyone's blog and quite often I'm sure they go straight to the bottom of the page to get in a moan before reading the blog. Sadness personified so they are.

  • Comment number 20.

    Drogba is better than Anelka, so he should go.

  • Comment number 21.

    Scolari never said that he would beat a hasty retreat back to Brazil if he did not get the required result against Cluj. Do reporters ever actually listen to what people say?

    Scolari said that if he did not believe that his team could beat Cluj then he should not be the manager and should go back to Brazil. In other words, if he did not think his team was good enough to beat Cluj then he should not be their manager, which is a reasonable comment. However the press turned this into a statement that he would quit if Cluj were not beaten.

  • Comment number 22.

    The speculation about Drogba leaving Chelsea is uncalled for. Yes there're rumours about Inter dinners and all, but I think and he should feel too, that he's better off at Chelsea. It's unfortunate they're having an injury wracked season at the moment, but it's not over yet. If they can get through to the last eight of this year's CL, then they should be able to capitalize on the return of players like Essien to bolster the squad as Drogba if gratefully back now.

  • Comment number 23.

    Here goes again...Drogba scored one goal and he has become from bad to good.
    he score one winnin goal and everyone will start praising him the same people who has been sayinghow bad he is performing thise season.
    I honestly think people can change their minds in seconds..
    In the past few week or months Drogba was the bad boy and bad performer but his one goal yesterday made him the Star again.

  • Comment number 24.

  • Comment number 25.

    If Anelka is getting the goals in the absence of Drogba and now Drogba's back getting goals for himself... You don't need to be a rocket scientist to come to the conclusion: play them together and get a harvest of goals one way or the other!

  • Comment number 26.

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

  • Comment number 27.

    #12 Chelsea had a huge game last night and could have gone out of the Champions League, and there's been heaps of media attention across the board about Scolari recently. Maybe McNulty will have something to say about it in his blog eh? Or would you prefer an article about Ronaldo?

    #2 Yes it's a disgrace a journalist reporting on recent events. I'm expecting at least the meaning of life or who shot JFK in your next blog Phil.

  • Comment number 28.

    sorry. the anti-chelsea sentiment is so apparent here. The comments are so unconstructive.

    The reality is if this article was written about Ferguson's dilemma between Tevez and Berbatov at United, which in my interpretation is a similar paradox, there would be more good feeling.

    To provide my point of view, I can guarentee that Essien's absence is more fundamental to Chelsea's relative failings this year than Drogba's. However, the combination of the absence of both is of upmost pertinence. If the opposition rock up tio the Bridge and don't have to compete against arguably the two most tenacious and athletic players ever to grace the PL they know they can give the Blues a game...

  • Comment number 29.

    "Another article, another chance for arrogant nobodies to criticise the journalist rather than comment on the subject."

    They do get a bit wearing, don't they?

  • Comment number 30.

    You beat me to it Fiorentinatoon in your comment about drogba's 1st season.

    I must admit as a Man Utd fan I was initially laughing at how pathetic Drogba was in his first season, but soon came to realise what a danger he is. I also admit Chelsea will be a serious threat to our title once they get all there injured players back.

    As for Anelka and Drogba playing together, im not sure they can work well as a pair...but I guess time will tell on that one.

  • Comment number 31.

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

  • Comment number 32.

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

  • Comment number 33.

    More pro-Chelsea drivel from the BBC. Drogba comes on for a second half performance and scores a goal so Phil feels the need to write a lengthy article on how good he is? Funny how BBC didn't give the same coverage to him when he threw a coin into the Burnley crowd.

  • Comment number 34.

    Wow, I really dont see how my comment, above, broke ANY house rules. Really bad call. In case you thought I was giving you a hard time Phil, not at all. The opposite, just wondering why there are so many cranks on the blogs this morning. Good article. I think you are bang on with Scolari´s looming headache trying to keep both Drogba and Anelka happy this season.

  • Comment number 35.

    What about the comprehensive display showed by the Liverpool youngsters last night, 3 of which were English players? They won comfortably yet the stuttering Chelsea get the coverage. Take off your blue shirts please BBC.

  • Comment number 36.

    Anelka is on top of his game at the momment

  • Comment number 37.

    The missing key in chelsea this season is the duo of makelele and essien. These two players dominated the defensive midfield position in present day world football. They protected the chelsea defence - especially Terry in a way no other pair have done in last few years which led to the unbeaten record set at the bridge.

    Teams without good defensive midfield players struggle today in football. This can been seen in Arsenal with the loss of gilberto and flamini, also at Lpool whenever mascherano is not playing. Hargreaves was the key in munu last season when they won the CL and when they haven't had him and carrick this season they have struggled

    Drogba is a different option for Chelsea, but like Scolari or any other top manager will say, he did not take part in pre season and has been been out with injuries. The player Scolari has actually had the opportunity to manage is Anelka, and he has delivered with his 15 goals. Drogba has no choice but to know he is down the pecking order as clearly he has not merited the top spot. Scolari is not a McLaren who selects players based on their name, the player has to merit it - Romario is an example when the brazilian federation wanted him in the 2002 WC and Scolari stood his ground

  • Comment number 38.

    Moderately readable. Just reiteration of some well-known facts there, Phil.

    I agree that Didier is the bad boy of Chelsea that they cannot do without.

    PS Is 'tannoy' a word?!

  • Comment number 39.

    Good blog - I particulary like the illustration about blowing the doors off when you can't pick the lock. That's exactly what he does.

  • Comment number 40.

    i disagree with that analogy actually. to compare drogba to blowing the doors off would imply that he is their plan B which he most certainly is not

  • Comment number 41.

    tannoy is a brand, like hoover

  • Comment number 42.

    I just want to pick up on one point. You mentioned the midfield looked rudderless and the loss of Lampard and Essien was noticable.

    But (and as a United fan, this pains me to say) Obi Mikel was amazing last night for Chelsea last night.... and most of the season in fact, he deserves full credit for stepping it up.

  • Comment number 43.

    PulpGrape -

    Come off it, the BBC has more Liverpool pundits former players and just general Liverpool fans/supporters/followers per square inch than liverpool its self?!
    theres always someone or another banging on about a Liverpool dilemma or article of something?!

    think urself lucky that your team actually gets media coverage and that people know who they are, us lower league fans get next to nothing?!

    anyway, their so called "kids", who included Carragher, Agger, Mascherano, Riera and Keane, correct me if im wrong but isnt that 5 of the 11 last night who are actual first teamers at present, not to mention arbeloa and dossena who are actually first team fringe players who are in and out, or actually i think even arbeloa is fist choice at rught back now isnt he???? so much for kids?! they played a poor PSV team who were ravaged by injuries and hardley recogniseable, jonny nobodies, they only had 3 of their regular 11 if im correct, barring Kovermans who came on as sub?!

  • Comment number 44.

    I agree with #19.

    Phil should write about whatever he's been pondering over without facing pathetic flak from those whiners who can't face that he hasn't mentioned their precious team in his blog.
    If the whole blog was devoted to Ebbsfleet FC (no offence to the mighty Fleet,) there would be thousands of angry comments by people whinging about the low-profile subject matter.

    So on that note: Great blog Phil, keep 'em coming!

  • Comment number 45.

    Well you know when it is a slow week in football when all Phil McNulty can do is talk drivel about a subject we already know about.

    Now Phil pull your finger out and write something original. If all you can do is para-phrase other articles, i'll do your job and you can do mine.

    I'd give it a go now but there is a breaking story that the Everton Stadium is going to committee, and people on the streets aren't happy..... oh wait that has already happened.

    Can i count that as an original viewpoint????

  • Comment number 46.


    I don't think the doors analogy means that Drogba is Plan B, which as you say, he definitely is not. It just means that there is more than one way to do things. Drogba is perfectly capable of picking the lock (as with the brilliant movement and amazing finish last night) but what was most striking was the way that Chelsea completely dominated after he came on, basically because of his brute force and his ability to hold up the ball and wait for support.

  • Comment number 47.

    I thought he was regarded as a poor player by everyone in his first season.

  • Comment number 48.

    I agree. Drogba is world class and gives Chelsea an extra dimension up front.

    When Mourinho was manager, Drogba often had to bail Chelsea out of some very poor, negative performances but it was at these times when Drogba showed his ability to change games and, at times, single-handedly win games for Chelsea.

  • Comment number 49.

    speaking from an entirely neutral point of view, this was a really dull blog but not entirely unexpected from the BBC.

    Football Focus is also rife with dull 'experts' such as Lee Dixon speaking in a mix of obvious statements and cliches.

    BBC Sport needs to be dragged into this century in regards of sports reporting to reflect what fans want. does anyone really care what Lineker and his golf buddies have to say inbetween the important part of MOTD? (I.E the games)

    most fans understand how the game works and can do without the BBC's patronising attitude toward the miniscule amount of football that they bother to show inbetween the cosy golf club chit chat

  • Comment number 50.

    Things have got pretty bad if Drogba now makes Anelka seem like the model pro....

    Clearly since Mourinho's departure, Drogba has not always been a positive presence in the dressing room, but the Chelsea attack force seems very light without him. His absence goes some way to explaining the team's underperformance against the better teams this season.

    If he does go, who would Chelsea fans like to see replace him? Are they happy with Anelka carrying on or do they have to go up against the ridiculous sheiks showering their oil money about in the January transfer market?

  • Comment number 51.

    Drogba is only one part of the jigsaw that Scolari has yet to fully assemble, Michael Essien is equally important for drive and determination as is Carvalho for his footballing intelligence and reading of the game. These three are in fact the spine of Chelsea's team and without them Chelsea have been effective but often played without force or direction. Drogba is world class as is Anelka, both can rotate and play forward or in a position akin to gudjonssen of old. This give Chelsea there desired plan b, Kalou and Malouda simply don't play enough of a power game for this plan which have exposed Chelsea to the counter attack, Drogba and Anelka very rarely get pushed off the ball! The thought of this Chelsea team fully assembled WITH IT'S SWAGGER REDISCOVERED AND ENHANCED WILL SET TEAMS BACK BEFORE THEY EVEN TAKE THE PITCH. Drogba is a big game player and the top European teams are terrified of him, hopefully Scolari can temper his explosive side and perhaps the officials will take more notice of the likes of Carragher and Vidic who just hack away at him consistently.

  • Comment number 52.

    Is it just me or does Didier Drogba look like an arrogant **** in every photo of him celebrating a goal?

  • Comment number 53.

    Okay people - it's very easy. If you don't like the blogs then don't read them - and certainly don't comment because guess what - the fact that you moan about the use of cliches and the like is rather cliched itself.

    If you are gonna have a pop at the author then be original (just as you would like the author to be), then you may have a point to make.

    Anyway I thought this article was most unoriginal and cliched :-)

  • Comment number 54.

    Hi Phil,

    I choose to reserve my comments about the article as I am not too impressed, but I would like to comment on a sentence from your article which says "and they missed Frank Lampard against Cluj, where the midfield looked rudderless and the absence of Michael Essien was underscored". We all acknowledge the fact that Chelsea have been missing the dimension Essien adds to the team when things are going tough. I bet you ran out of comments to sum up your article and you thought you include this ambiguous sentence.
    If we watched the same match yesterday, I cannot figure out how Chelsea missed lampard in last night's game, Mikel & Deco's passes, crosses, tackles and moves were magnificient. I lost count how many times Deco's passes and flicks broke cluj's defence last night. His cross created Kalou's first goal and Mikel's chip created the second. Deco's great pass picked out J. Cole minutes after Cluj equalized if you remember. Although Ballack is still unfit but I think Chelsea controlled the midfield against cluj, how they lack rudder? I don't know may be you should explain... Lampard played against Bordeaux, Roma and CLuj away and I don't think Chelsea created as many chnaces as they did last night.

    Don't get me wrong, Lampard is one of the most important players in Chelsea and to me the best attacking midfielder in the world right now but he wasn't missed a bit in last night's game, he might be missed on al ong run but please I advice you rewatch matches before you sit back to write your articles and comments about them cos that aformentioned comment is completely untrue.

  • Comment number 55.

    He was a poor player! Shocking touches and in general just a bad striker.
    Sadly from the case of an arsenal fan, he has become, on his day, one of the best strikers out there and is dangerous from most parts of teh pitch as can hold the ball up well, head and has got a cannon for a leg.

    If people dontlike the blog and complain about ti everytime, stop reading it!!

  • Comment number 56.

    Drogba is a world-class player capable of changing games on his own, unlike Anelka who will not perform if his team are stuttering as we saw towards the end of last season. Anelka has a better strike rate but Drogba contributes more overall, in a similar way to Heskey.

    Who else can do a job similar to Drogba and is available at the moment should Drogba leave? Luca Toni is perhaps closest but he's got nowhere near the pace of Drogba and Bayern would never let him go.

    If Chelsea are going to win things this season, then I agree totally with Phil, Drogba's mood swings have to be appeased in order to win titles.

  • Comment number 57.

    To pulpgrape...I wrote the article on Chelsea because I was at the Chelsea game.

    I wrote about Liverpool last week when I was at Anfield for the game against West Ham.

    There was no slight on Liverpool's win at PSV Eindhoven - in fact I have been accused of concentrating too much on Liverpool.

    This one for Chelsea fans. Can Drogba and Anelka play together or will it always be one or the other?

    And, if they play together, will it be as twin strikers or will Anelka be forced to adapt the role he plays?

    Scolari seemed to be pondering that dilemma at his press conference last night.

  • Comment number 58.

    Love him or hate him, that goal last was nothing short of World-class. The chip from Cole, followed by the deft and exquisite first touch from Drogba to the instinctive poke under the goalie as he knew the ball was about to be poked away from him.

    I'm no Chelsea fan, believe me, but as I watched that goal I just said to myself "World-class" over and over. That's what Drogba gives them.

    Take the antics out and he's one of the finest strikers around. At times he's impossible to play, literally. That's why Mourinho wants him so much.

  • Comment number 59.

    Scolari was at pains to praise Anelka after the game last night, stressing he believed he was just as important to Chelsea as Drogba.

    But there is no doubt Drogba brings something different. He is powerful, physical and can score goals.

    Anelka has the raw pace as well as the goalscoring talent. If Scolari can get the two working in tandem he will have some strike force.

    I just have my doubts about whether Scolari is convinced the two can work together.

    Just one last point on Anelka and something Liverpool fans can come in on.

    I believe not signing Anelka was arguably the biggest mistake of Gerard Houllier's reign, especially as he then bought El Hadji Diouf.

    Anelka was excellent at Anfield and I remain convinced to this day that he would have been a fantastic buy for Liverpool, working in partnership with Michael Owen.

  • Comment number 60.

    I believe not signing Anelka was arguably the biggest mistake of Gerard Houllier's reign, especially as he then bought El Hadji Diouf.

    Anelka was excellent at Anfield and I remain convinced to this day that he would have been a fantastic buy for Liverpool, working in partnership with Michael Owen.

    Phil i have heard you mention this point before and don't see how you can bring this up other than to apease disgruntled Liverpool fans, who haven't heard from Hansen this week!

    As a pundit pointed out last night, when Drogba came on he went straight into the centre forward position and Anelka had to play around him. Whether or not this was a tactical instruction for Scolari we will never know.

    However, what is interesting to me about Anelka, is that during his career the only time he has truly excelled with a partner was when he was playing with Bergkamp at Arsenal. Just like his personality, he prefers to be alone to do his work up top. He played that way for City and Bolton very well indeed.

    You rarely see Drogba running the channels as its simply not his game, so it will be impossible to balance these 2 players sharing the forward duties in a way that the Arsenal or Man Utd strikers can.

    The fact that the top scorer had to change his position during the game to accomodate another player speaks volumes in itself.

  • Comment number 61.

    Phil i have to agree with you on your last point there. Funnily enough i was saying to my dad the other night that was the start of a very slippery slope for Houllier. He was good in his 6 months, not outstanding but good. Given a full season to prove himself though, i think we would have pushed for the title that year. We had won the treble and followed that up with our best league finish in the Premiership.

    We would of had two quality finishers as you said with Heskey in reserve who always had his purpose in the team when we come up against more physical opposition.

    Diouf, however was well....awful! exactly what we didn't need. I think Houllier jumped on the World Cup bandwagon too fast and ultimately we paid for it.

    Interesting to note though... Only 1 of Houllier's many signings still remains at Liverpool. That is Sami Hyypia who might i add has been a fantastic servant to LFC.

  • Comment number 62.

    As an Arsenal fan the sooner Drogba goes the better. Can't remember 1 player like him for a while that everytime he plays against us I'm positive hes going to score- the last player was probably Hasselbaink or Duff when he was at Blackburn! As for Chelsea as a whole they're strange to watch at the moment. They've undoubtably got the players they just don't seem to have any direction in terms of play and position and they're defo beatable this season1 I think Essien injury and the lose of Makelle is telling this season and as Wilkins has alreay said if Scolari is getting tired of always having to speak a foreign language maybe this could be a reason for some of their abject displays especially when plan A isn't working?

  • Comment number 63.

    Drogba when he's on his game is one of the best in the world but when was the last time that happened? Personally i feel there's a ratio between how good a player is and the level of nonsense you can put up with. Drogba's ratio is way off because most of the time he acts like a baby and rarely plays up to his true level. Anelka, though at one point a disgruntled loser himself, has turned it around with chelsea and is far more valuable than drogba on many levels. If Chelsea really want to use drogba for the 'good of the team' they should trade or sell him immediately and get his diving, nonsense attitude out of the premier league.

  • Comment number 64.

    Liverpool will fade. It will be a straight contest between ManU and Chelsea. Drogba on form could
    be the difference.

  • Comment number 65.

    Before this season, there was an air of invincibility about Chelsea when they played at home in the Premier League.

    Now there is a sense that they give teams a chance in a way they never did before, both in the league and in Europe. It is actually quite a strange experience.

    I am sure Scolari is working on this. Now that the Champions League is entering the knockout phase, they cannot afford to be careless and concede goals at home.

    The return of Ricardo Carvalho will make a huge difference.

  • Comment number 66.


    I have always regarded Cech, Carvalho, Terry, Essien (Maka before him) Lampard and Drogba as the spine of the team and regardless of others around them should always make the team if fit. These players provide the strength, experience, awareness, work ethic and ability to drive Chelsea to success. The rest of the squad you can hand pick from form and availability because no-one else for me is as important as the players mentioned above. That does not mean I don't rate any other player here at Chelsea, I just think the team can cope without them, but lose any of the above players mentioned for any length of time or like in this season a few at a time, then it seriously weakens the team. J.Cole, Anelka, Deco, Ballack, Kalou, Mikel and even Boswinga and A.Cole although top players would not be missed as much as the players that make up the core of the spine. Bridge can easily deputise for A.Cole and flair wide players can be swapped depending on form. My worries is when Carvalho, Essien and Drogba are missing out of the team for a period of time is that Chelsea losses 60% of its strength. Okay, we have pace and flair in abundance but take away 3 strong, hard working players out of the team and the team will become weak. There needs to be a balance of both strength and skill to succeed. Arsenal are a skillful team, plenty of flair and ability but because they lack strong players or hard working players it has weakened them. There must be a spine of strength in the team and this season Chelsea have lacked their spine for the majority of it.

  • Comment number 67.

    As much as I despise Drogba's antics, I have to acknowledge how important he is for us - last night highlighted that.

    The only thing I hope, apart from Drogba focusing on his game rather than how quickly he can go down during a match, is that we don't go back to this 'route one' football. In fairness, last night showed that we can play Drogba and still stick to playing the ball on the floor.

    Of course, the thing most exciting about Drogba coming back is, as Phil states, the fact that there is a 'Plan B' already on the pitch if we can't break down the opposition. We should always try to play attractive football first, but if it isn't working it's nice to know that we can suddenly start playing it long to Drogba if need be.

  • Comment number 68.

    Even Chelsea's own fans have expressed their concern about Drogba's theatrics, and I recall many never wanted to see him play for the club again after he was sent off in the Champions League final.

    But Chelsea are not going to cut off their nose to spite their face, and if Scolari can get Drogba on the field and fired up consistently, they will have one of the world's premier strikers.

    For all his failings, you do not give that up lightly.

    Drogba's performance against Liverpool in the second leg of the Champions League semi-final at Stamford Bridge last season was a masterclass in every aspect of the striker's art.

    He can be as influential again this season.

  • Comment number 69.

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

  • Comment number 70.

    The differance between Drogba and Anelka is that Drogba can score goals out of sheer nothing as Anelka relies heavily on the service. I recall both goals against Liverpool and Barcelona at the bridge where he held the ball, turned and hit the ball on the swivel to score 2 brilliant, unexpected goals out of sheer nothing!

    Then the goal in the Nou Camp, that famous fantastic last gasp finish to equalise which sent Mourinho sliding to his knees down the touchline. Important yet brilliant individual goals.

    Also his winner at Everton, the 35 yard volley straight from a goal kick. Then the winning goals in both the FA and Carling Cup finals, and has Phil as mentioned, his brilliant brace against Liverpool in the semi finals of the champion's league last season.

    Drogba shouldn't be sold on any circumstances. There are times he needs to concentrate on his game and cut out the theatrics. If he can do this and focus on doing what he does best, he can easily be the best striker in the world.

  • Comment number 71.

    Good article Phil. I agree- when in form and willing to play, Didier is definitely amongst the top 5 strikers in the world.

    In his absence, Anelka has done superbly for us, and we really can't take that away from him. I'm glad to see him begin to play more confidently with each game. Initially, I was worried because he seemed so unsure of himself at times on the pitch- definitely not the Anelka that I recognized from his time at previous clubs- ya he was almost a bit to cocky at times then, but you want your striker to have a strong sense of belief in himself. Question: what's with the "bird" celebration?? Does it have anything to do with the coq in the French national side's emblem?

    In all honesty, between the two in most circumstances I'd choose Drogba over Anelka, but not now- not when Anelka is in such great form- you must allow the guy to continue in his current state. It's a tough choice though between the two- and I don't envy Scolari. It's my opinion that they can't play together and Scolari will be a god if he can change that.

    I also agree with many previous posts here- our biggest setback in terms of missing players this season has been Essien. Definitely my favorite player- he is integral to our midfield and we need him back badly.

    Last season and in seasons past we used to be able to (for the most part) eek out wins over top clubs but occasionally lose to mid-table sides. This season, we're demolishing all the mid and lower table teams, but have yet to beat a top 4 side. Frustrating, but it is Scolari's first season in charge- I think time will change this.

    My prediction for winner of the EPL this year is Chesea- obviously I'm a Chelsea fan, but I just don't think LFC has what it takes. They beat us, and they beat Man United, but to be Champions in the EPL, you need to play each and every game as if you were playing a top side- as if it were a huge game. I just don't feel LFC's players have that mentality nor that approach. I also still question Rafa's commitment and desire to achieve the EPL crown (as opposed to the CL trophy). I've always felt that our most serious threat is United.

  • Comment number 72.

    In all this talk of Drogba, we would be doing Anelka a disservice to under-estimate his contribution this season.

    Many wondered whether he would come back from missing the crucial penalty in the Champions League final.

    It was a test of his mental strength, and on the evidence of the season so far, he has passed it.

    Chelsea are fortunate to have two strikers who offer them different options.

  • Comment number 73.

    Good Lord - I can't believe you manage to earn a living writing this predictable, generalised, un-insightful drivel. "Sport Online Chief Football Writer" eh? Can't believe you haven't been rumbled yet - nice work!

  • Comment number 74.

    I cant believe that you are actually still here blogging Phil at 4pm, are you on overtime, I though all u BBC Jurno's were on part-time flexi hours, u know, the kind where u roll in about 10ish and stroll out about 1ish claiming thats your working day done?! hahahaha lol
    surely u cant still be in the office, are you tricking us and pretending to still be in the office but your actually loggd on at home with you feet up and a brew in hand, bored cause the missus has control of the TV remote and shes making you watch these quiz programs or even worse, property programmes or even the dreaded sell my unwanted stuff in an auction program?! haha lol

    I Jest Phil

    of course

    im sure you work extremely hard?! ;-)

  • Comment number 75.

    Anelka has won over the fans for me. His form from January to the end of last season was poor by any means. His missed penalty in the final summed up his form and mentality at that time.

    I watched him closely in pre season while Drogba sat out with injury and was pleased with both his attitude and finishing. He carried it on through this season which has been terrific, 15 goals thus far is a great return. However, although I am grateful and appreciative of his goals in the league I am disappointed with his lack of alternative attacking threat other than get in the box on the end of things which relies heavily on service. This has been evident against the better teams and most notably Europe. This is where we have missed Drogba by some considerable margin.

    I wouldn't write Anelka off because Chelsea have variation now with both players fit. We have Anelka's pace or Drogba's power to choose from, depending on the opposition or choice of formation. We can now play both in a 4-4-2, dropping a midfielder or play one of them in the usual 4-3-3, or play Anelka wide in the attacking 3 with Drogba leading the line of attack. There is now plan B to go alongside plan A.

    It's looking promising for Chelsea, especially when Carvalho and Essien return to the team.

  • Comment number 76.

    Samwell2804...I am not sure of those comments is the most libellous. My lawyers will be called.

    I am here on red alert. awaiting another night of Champions League action, while at the same time enjoying an excellent debate with all those who wish to interact with the blog, even those who cruelly taunt me. We never rest.

    And one more thing. I never, ever lose control of the remote. Ever.

    If you are all around later, be sure to follow our Champions League text commentary with marvellous Ms. Caroline Cheese.

    All the action will be in there. And more.

  • Comment number 77.

    Scolari is well versed in babysitting egos having led Brazil and Portugal. He'll get that much right. The press should lay off the Dream Team episodes and write about what happens on the pitch.

  • Comment number 78.

    Glad to hear it Phil,

    never ever lose control of the remote.

    that is the single most important thing.


  • Comment number 79.

    Good blog Phil, a big pity you have to sift through a few idiotic comments, so you can reply to the genuine people.

    I really hope Scolari can accomodate both Anelka and Drogba, as I think both are great strikers.

    I am more of a Drogba fan, as the guy has really turned games around for us in the past, and has also won games for us on his own.

    When he is on top of his game, he is amazing. Yes, he does have his very dramatic sides, but hopefully the more he plays under Scloari, maybe that will be ironed out, only time will tell.

    I think we should do whatever we can to keep him though.

    Keep up the good work, hopefully there will be some more great football tonight.

  • Comment number 80.

    Salomon Kalou's goal could have been scored by any one finding himself at the end of that beautiful free kick. Even so kalou was overawed by the surprise of the ball at his feet, and for a fraction of a second he gawked, recovered his wits, then shot it into the gaping goalmouth.
    When Joe Cole got the ball, Drogba wasn't tactically placed, He quickly got into place, received the ball from Joe, trimmed it and shot it into the goal, all in a space of less than three seconds. All actions executed with amazing precision.
    Drogba is a presence on the pitch like none else. And that is why there are no comparisons. He is simply the heart that beats life into Chelsea's CL and PL ambitions. No way Chelsea can let him go. Any replacement will be ersatz. Only other comparable asset is Essien.

  • Comment number 81.

    Everyone is entitled to their opinion even those who have a go at the journo, rightly or wrongly.

    I'm very jealous of the job of sports writer as I'm sure everyone else who comments on these blogs.

    However, to say 'if you dont like the blog then dont read it' i think misses out on something.

    I read the news article related to this blog, from which a couple of paragraphs were lifted, got to the bottom and was felt like making a comment but the option didn't exist.

    Regardless of whether someone likes or dislikes this blog, it gives them the opportunity to comment on an article that the main site doesn't offer...

    But that is besides the point.

    I guess most would agree that out of the 2 Drogba is the 'alpha' and while he and Anelka are on the same pitch Drog will always do his thing and Anelka will always have to move over. I couldn't see it happen any other way.

    Keep playing them seperately I say and use each other's form to keep the other on their toes.

  • Comment number 82.

    I am here on red alert. awaiting another night of Champions League action, while at the same time enjoying an excellent debate with all those who wish to interact with the blog, even those who cruelly taunt me. We never rest.

    No offence but other than replying to the tongue in cheek remark about the remote control, where is the interaction? You have merely made points about Drogba and Chelsea that you have made in the past!

    As i pointed out in my previous blog post when Drogba came on (whether by, instruction or self appointment), he went straight into the centre forward position and Anelka made way by playing around him. How significant do you think that was?

    I could not imagine Anelka coming on and Drogba being pushed into the channels. This is something that often happens to Rooney at United, when he has been playing well he is often shoved out of position, to accomodate another forward.

    It seems that players like Anelka and Rooney are labelled as more versatile, when really they are more affable to the managers' decision (can't believe i used that word in regards to Rooney and Anelka) , than the likes of Berbatov and Drogba.

    Scolari doesn't owe Anelka anything, but what he soon has to decide is which striker is going to be plan A and who will be plan B.

    I think the influence of Deco in matches, will suit Anelka more than Drogba and so far Deco is the only true 'Scolari player', which may play in Anelka's favour.

    However, because of a couple of home defeats the press are making issue with the form at the bridge. In all honesty, in 4 years they were the worst 2 Chelsea home perfomances i have seen. They lost to a deflected goal to liverpool and the tide turned against Arsenal via an offside goal. Its not like they lost at home to Bolton or Boro!

    I don't think Carvalho missing is a great loss to Chelsea because they have coped well with his injuries (which are all too regular for a centre back) in the past. However, the loss of Essien was very noticeable in the 2 home defeats.

    I may be wrong but weren't Chelsea down to 10 men once against Arsenal at home and also 1 goal down? Then with minutes left Essien playing at right and centre midfield simultaneously (well so it seemed) scored an equaliser? It is moments like that, that Chelsea have been missing this season, especially when they go behind.

    So essentially my point is that Drogba or Anelka choice will not shape Chelsea's season as whoever plays will get the goals. It is more about when they can get Essien back playing and match fit that counts.

  • Comment number 83.

    Firstly, I want to know when we will finally see Anelka and Drogba used up front TOGETHER (and no, not with Anelka on the wing) to see if they prove to be the great partnership that their styles and qualities so promise to be


    "i don't know how Chelsea fans can moan at Anelka! Without his goals you would be half way down the league he scores something silly like 7 goals in 3 games follows that with a loss at home to Arsenal and then all of a sudden he's not good enough. Fickle Chelsea fans!!!"

    this is a load of absolute rubbish.
    Chelsea fans do not moan at Anelka at all, including after the Arsenal defeat. We so rarely have a striker who is such a prolific goalscorer, relying on the goals of Lampard so much, that we are fully aware of the importance of Anelka's goals and we treasure them, of course.
    It is only the media that are criticising Anelka, and making it appear as though Chelsea fans are doing the same.
    Maybe if a Chelsea fan does say that they just don't feel we are the same side without Drogba, they are simply saying that, naturally, we miss him, but it doesn't mean we are completely ignoring Anelka and his achievements this season!

    And thirdly, I can't believe how overlooked Carvalho is. We miss him at least as much as we miss Drogba, if not more, as he is such a fantastic presence at the back and reads the game so well.
    And, no, before you all start saying I'm moaning or having a go at Alex, I'm really not, he is a more than adequate replacement (and Ivanovic has also shown what quality he has when needed), but Carvalho is simply that good.

  • Comment number 84.

    Red Fab Fred I agree- as the commentators said in that game against Arsenal with the offside that was not called- what we needed that day was an "Essien" goal, and I couldn't have agreed more.

  • Comment number 85.

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

  • Comment number 86.

    ok for all the fickle chelsea fans that are jumping on the drogba wagon now. last some weeks back wanted him out of chelsea. i say and will always say chelsea is nothing without drogba and anelka is not world class is is not even fit to sub a disabled drogba. big phil is just trying to keep the squad and team happy. anelka needs be used for less important games against the boltons, newcastle , and westbrom when it comes to real matches like manutd, liverpool please unleash the drogba, and chelsea needs essien back and also carvalho

  • Comment number 87.

    The difference between managing a representative team and a club is often underestimated. Scolari has been managing national teams for the past 7 years, and his club management experince has been mainly in south america, I don't think he has any european experience. Chelsea definitely look more beatable now than under Grant or Mourinho, with the same players.

    It must be easier to manage competing egos every few months as a national team coach than on a daily basis as club level.

    Was Scolari the right choice? This is his 20th job in 26 years.

  • Comment number 88.

    I used to be a fan of Claude Makalele. And now Essien. No doubt Essien fills Mak's shoes more than adequately but one aspect in which Mak was a master is that he was a smiling assassin. He was a very slick and suave operator. The way he plied his trade he rarely got booked (or injured). Whenever he made a crude tackle, which was rare he'd always flash his trademark apologetic smile and get away clean most of the time.
    Red_ fab_ fred(#82 above) wondering how come Drogba enters and takes center and Anelka gets pushed into 'channels', by instruction or otherwise. And that he couldn't imagine the opposite happening, i.e. Anelka coming in, taking the center and Drogs getting pushed into the channels. I do not think it is through a remote button. Simple pecking order (qualitywise not senioritywise) prevails. People defer to it instinctively, without asking why.
    Anelka may have scored many goals. Yet the manager feels the need to prop him up time and again. Why Anelka has not created an automatic niche for himself, even after 15 goals? Why Scolari feels compelled to make a pitch for him and sell his quality to the team? He shines in light games and vanishes in tight ones, thats why.
    I have faith in the manager. He has the ability to extract the maximum out of both the strikers and perhaps enable Anelka to one day stand on equal footing with Drogba.

  • Comment number 89.


  • Comment number 90.


    Drogba is a success to Chelsea, without Drogba no Chelsea, Arsenal come to Standford Bridge and win there three point, Liverpool also come and win there three point, Newcastle also draw; without Drogba but know Drogba is back - enough is enough.

    By[Personal details removed by Moderator]

  • Comment number 91.


    Drogba is a success to Chelsea, without Drogba no Chelsea, Arsenal come to Stamford Bridge and win there three point, Liverpool also come and win there three point, Newcastle also draw; without Drogba but know Drogba is back - enough is enough.

    By [Personal details removed by Moderator]

  • Comment number 92.

    As good as Drogba can be on his day the people who are immediately saying Drogba should be playing instead of Anelka need there heads sorting?

    Anelka has been banging in the goals lately and without him scoring you would of been well off the pace.

    I know people are going to say "Drogba would of scored as many" but he wouldn't because hasn't, theres not what ifs and buts. Anelka has done the business and more than his fair share of it.

    He deserves more credit for what he's done so far.

    As for Anelka's spell at Liverpool, he did alright and i would of been happy to sign him, but he wasn't that good while we had him on loan. He's a much better player now than that period.

  • Comment number 93.

    brilliant article...couldnt agree better with the analysis of the team..its important that scolari highlights who his going to play at key moments that could decide the champions league and premiership when it all burns down..with regards to droga..with all the controversy surrounding him no one can argue that his one of the best in the world, success seems to shadow everywhere he goes.chelsea should focus on keeping him interested in the club and bring out the best in him.

  • Comment number 94.

    It's a pity that people seem to incline themselves to the negative side of 'constructive criticism' One thing that a GENUINE soccer fan, analyst, even player will tell you is that Didier is one of the greatest players this planet has ever produced, a living legend of football. Didier does not need to go anywhere to prove hi8s greatness. you and I are never on the pitch. But ask honest defenders like Jamie Carragher, Phillipe Senderos, Carles Puyol among others, they will tell you facing Didier Drogba is the worst thing they would want to, why? Because the man is simply strong in the air, on the ground, forward and back. Dn't use EMOTION when criticising, instead use the power of REASON. Oh! I nearly forgot, Didier is back, so you better watchout!!!!!!

  • Comment number 95.

    It's really shameful that people are using EMOTION instead of REASON to comment about a man whose positive contribution to the english and world football at large can not go unnoticed. Didier Drogba is a football "genius", he has the talent, the skill, the strength and all that any GENUINE soccer fan, player, analyst would want to see in a striker. Drogba, like any other player, is only human, susceptible to injuries and so claims that he is a 'diver' among other funny names that you would want to give him, are BASELESS. He is just a fantastic, talented man, who knows nothing else apart from putting the ball behind the net. You hate him because you can't compete with him. Ask defenders like Jamie Carragher, Phillipe Senderos, Carlos Puyol among others, they will tell you exactly who (in case you didn't know) Didier Drogba is. Watchout, Didier is back!!!!!!


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