It's time once again everyone for Fan Focus, albeit slightly delayed while Mr MacAree moved house, but such is the dedication of the man he eventually pulled through. What a trooper.
Anyway, for the uninitiated, Graham is the lead editor over on We Ain't Got No History, SB Nation's very own Chelsea Blog, and when he's not doing that, he's covering pretty much every instance of man kicking ball around the globe for SB Nation.
A lifelong Chelsea fan, and a sound fella to boot. And I only part say that as he's in a way my boss...
Busy summer for Chelsea... New manager, new players. Happy with all the dealings, and should we be expect anything different from Chelsea this season?
Graham: Getting Andre Villas-Boas has probably been Chelsea’s best move of the summer. I know a lot of media noise was being made about sacking Carlo Ancelotti, but replacing a win-now kind of guy with the dynasty builder we expect Villas-Boas to be is a very good move on Chelsea’s part. As for the players, it’d be really difficult to get disappointed in the quality of players we’ve brought in, but a minor complaint might be that only Juan Mata is an immediate first-teamer. Other than him, there hasn’t been that ‘impact’ signing. But then again one would have cost an absolutely crazy amount of money, sooo.
Chelsea don’t seem to have been as prolific in front of goal this season thus far in comparison to years previous. Is this cause for concern, or just a new team gelling?
Graham: I think the issue is more in terms of creating as many chances as the possession numbers would suggest that the team should. The team has scored five goals in three matches – not half bad – but in terms of the chances,it hasn’t been spectacular. I’m going to wait and see how well the team plays when the first-choice squad is all available, since a Mata-Torres-Sturridge front three should be significantly more interesting than the previous.
Bit of a youth movement at CFC this summer, but will trigger happy Roman allow them to develop with AVB or is he given the same mandate as other managers it seems – Champions League or bust?
Graham: Obviously I don’t know what Mr. Abramovich is thinking, but I’d be shocked if that sort of ultimatum was handed down to Villas-Boas in his first year in charge. With the new manager’s appointment, Chelsea seem to have chosen to embark on a long-term project. It would be insane to sack him if he doesn’t produce results in the first year. Then again, it is Chelsea, so who knows, right?
On to the game with us though, and in particular your starting line-up. How do you expect Chelsea to line-up, and what, if anything, would you do differently?
Graham: I’d expect a 4-3-3 as follows (back to front, left to right): Petr Cech; Ashley Cole, John Terry, Branislav Ivanovic, Jose Bosingwa; John Obi Mikel, Frank Lampard, Ramires; Juan Mata, Fernando Torres, Daniel Sturridge.
I might be tempted to replace Ivanovic with David Luiz, since he’s ace, but since he’s been injured all pre-season, throwing him into the fire immediately might not be the wisest plan.
Is there anyone SAFC should be on guard for barring the obvious?
Graham: Jose Bosingwa and Ramires have been Chelsea’s best players so far this season, and those aren’t really the sort of names you’d expect to be the team’s major threats. Three years ago, Bosingwa was probably the most dangerous attacking right back in the Premier League, and now he’s finally looking like he used to before that nasty knee injury. Ramires, meanwhile, is playing sort of like Michael Essien used to, except with pace. I don’t expect that to last very long, but he’s absolutely on fire in the middle at the moment.
Where do you see weaknesses in the Chelsea team that SAFC could exploit, and who do you think from SAFC will cause problems for your lot?
Graham: None of the central defensive players (Mikel, Terry, Ivanovic, Alex) have covered themselves in glory this season. Chelsea have made a number of uncharacteristically poor defensive errors, and it’s coming from ll of them. This is generally assumed to be a result of them having to adjust to the higher line that Villas-Boas is playing, but it’s slightly disconcerting. Pace down the middle or in the channels will probably see Sunderland quite happy.
Predictions for both our teams this season?...
...and a prediction for the game itself please!
Graham: Am I allowed to be optimistic on your site? Screw it, I will be anyway – 2-1 Chelsea. Sorry!
We'll forgive Graham his indiscretion there, and advise you strongly to get over to We Ain't Got No History any time you have a musing about Chelsea. They're all over it like a flannel.