Belfast Telegraph

Alan Green: Chelsea can take nothing for Grant-ed

By Alan Green

Chelsea and Liverpool fans will howl derision in my direction but, much as it pains me to say so - it'll mirror too many previous Premier League seasons - I think it's now a two-horse race for the title.

For various reasons, I've written a lot about Liverpool in recent weeks so I'll concentrate on Chelsea.

Seeing that Avram Grant has just been given a generous extension to his contract off the back of a 16-game unbeaten run (between the defeats at Old Trafford and the Emirates), you might think I've changed my mind about the new coach.

I haven't. I still don't think he has the stature for the job.

The 6-0 thrashing of Manchester City at Stamford Bridge was an aberration.

I honestly don't see a great change of tactics or attacking intent and he's promised us both.

It's as if the players are running on memory, the memory of Mourinho, and remember they remain, most of them, very good players indeed.

I never expected them to collapse after the departure of their Portuguese mentor.

However, I do see problems. To be fair, these are mostly down to injuries and that's beyond the control of Grant or any other coach.

I'll be surprised if John Terry is back within six weeks. Whether it's for his club or his country, Terry always seems convinced that he knows best when he is fit.

He doesn't and, for his own good, it's time someone told him.

How many times have we seen players - Rooney is one of the best examples - return too soon from a broken metatarsal?

Terry doesn't have one broken bone, he has THREE.

It's as well Ricardo Carvalho returned for that Carling Cup game against Liverpool.

Some argue he is more important to the Chelsea defence than Terry.

Leaving the centre in the command of Alex and Ben Haim wouldn't fill me with confidence.

Meantime, the situation at the other end of the field is just as bad.

The loss of Didier Drogba, the best striker in the country even up against the likes of Ronaldo and Torres, is immense.

And, when the Ivory Coast player is fit to return, he'll be off to Ghana for the African Cup of Nations.

In effect, Chelsea will be without Drogba until mid-February.

Now, take Ferdinand, Ronaldo and Rooney out of United for a decent spell (and I don't mean to a party!): Toure, Fabregas and Adebayor out of Arsenal; or Carragher, Gerrard and Torres out of Liverpool; see what I'm getting at?

Chelsea, despite that unbeaten run, are labouring and the players they have to look to aren't up to it.

Surely even Abramovich will soon have to admit that Shevchenko will never again be what he once was?

Kalou? How much did he cost?

Of course, that's where Grant has an advantage on most of the rest. If the Russian wants to make the money available, then Grant can spend.

He'd do worse than buy Anelka from Bolton, a striker of undoubted class and one that, despite playing for Bolton in the UEFA Cup, would be available for the Champions League.

January is only round the corner.

Top two referees share big failing

I don't know about you but nothing frustrates me more in the game than the inability of referees to properly enforce the laws and there were two blatant examples of that last weekend.

Despite Sir Alex Ferguson's protests to the contrary, Ronaldo, sadly, is as happy to 'dive' as ever.

He did so twice at Anfield and Mark Halsey clearly indicated that he knew the player had dived.

So why wasn't he booked? How else will Ronaldo be stopped cheating opponents?

Worse, there was that disgraceful 'tackle' by Villa's Craig Gardner on Sunderland's Dwight Yorke.

It happened in full view of Steve Bennett who, pathetically, produced only a yellow card.

It's galling that the FA, rigidly following its own stupid policy, won't take any further action because the referee "saw the incident".

It isn't good enough and it doesn't help to think that Halsey and Bennett are both considered to be among the best referees in the country.

David's men can now do a Goliath

Belfast Telegraph


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