DROGBA POPS IN

On the day his departure from Chelsea was announced, Didier Drogba promised he would pay us a visit in the future. He did so at Cobham on Tuesday, arriving as training was ending and welcoming his old team-mates as they returned to the main building.

After catching up with coaches and staff as well, the Shanghai Shenhua striker spoke to the official Chelsea website…

Didier, you didn’t wait too long to visit.
Not so long – it is a break in the season in China now and also there is international duty, so I am here to see my family – and my friends here as well.

So your family has not moved to China?
No my family is here, my children.

How is the China experience?
It is good, it is a new experience and the first month has been reaching out in terms of learning new things, learning a new culture. It is very different to what I am used to in Europe, I like it.

Chelsea’s summer tour of 2011 was the first time in your life you had been to Asia, and now you are living and working there.
I was thinking about this – and it is what helped me in my decision because of what we have been doing in pre-season over there. I could see a little bit how the people are and it is nice.

Was the greeting you had in China as enthusiastic as the one you had in Thailand with Chelsea?
People may have seen the video of my arrival and the fans were really great. In the stadiums it is the same as everywhere – when you play football there is the passion.

How is Nicolas Anelka?
Nico is good. He is happy that I signed there and I am also happy that he is there to help me. Last week he gave me two assists so it is back to what we were doing here before.

Finally, how many times have you watched the Munich game again?
Not the game but I have watched the penalty many times!

CECH: HITTING TARGETS

Petr Cech has been assessing our impressive start to the new season and emphasised the importance of starting strongly.

Saturday’s victory over Newcastle United was our third straight win in less than a week, and with no league fixture now for three weeks due to our involvement in the UEFA Super Cup and an international break, the goalkeeper, who captained the side against Alan Pardew’s men, feels we are in an ideal position.

‘We’ve had the advantage of playing three games whereas most other teams have only played two,’ said Cech. ‘To be sitting on the top of the league with the Super Cup coming up, we can relax, and when we play next in the Premier League we will be in a good position. That was the target and we managed to fulfil it.

‘It’s always better if you have a base and build on it. If you make mistakes from the start, you have to keep chasing teams and then you’re dependant on other results. You are controlling your own destiny when you pick up three points every time.’

Eden Hazard and Fernando Torres, who both scored, were a constant threat throughout, and their link-up play, particularly given the fact they have only played together on a handful of occasions, was a joy to watch.

Nobody could have foreseen the magnitude of Hazard’s impact so early in the campaign, the young Belgian with one goal and five assists to his name already, and Cech has been as impressed as anybody.

‘The French league is a tough league, so it shows what a good player he is, and he’s still only 21-years-old,’ explained Cech.

‘It’s great to have players like him coming into the club. It’s tough to lose a player like Didier [Drogba], but Fernando is scoring goals again, and the likes of [Juan] Mata, Hazard and Lamps [Frank Lampard] when he’s been playing, have found a quick understanding in the midfield and it’s great to see.

‘He can make a difference on his own, and that’s what sometimes helps when you have a tight game. He takes people on and creates situations where other players can take advantage. It’s very helpful when you have tough games.’

Torres, meanwhile, appears revitalised after ending last season well and walking away with the Golden Boot at the European Championships.

His expertly-taken strike against Alan Pardew’s side was his third goal in four games – including the Community Shield against Manchester City – and with Drogba now departed, and the Spaniard first-choice striker at the club, Cech believes he is flourishing.

‘If you come to a team and not everything starts well, as it happened with him, then suddenly towards the end of the season you start playing well, scoring a few goals and win the Golden Boot with the national team at the Euros, obviously it’s a completely different story to the one when he first joined the club and you can notice the difference,’ he said.

‘He was always running and creating chances but at times he was unlucky not to score, now they are hitting the back of the net which is great.

‘You can see he’s enjoying the game, enjoying himself, he has the confidence, and if you have three goals in four games, as a striker, that’s what’s important.’

Such a solid start to the campaign, according to the Blues goalkeeper, is testament to the collective attitude and desire of the whole squad.

‘You can see we have the advantage of great defenders. You can see why Gary [Cahill] is such a good defender and why he plays for the national team, that’s why we bought him from Bolton,’ said Cech.

‘You can never play every game, but it’s great to see if JT [John Terry] is rested the other two guys can come in and do their job.

‘It comes down to the players we have, everything is gelling together, the new players are settling well with a good understanding. Ashley [Cole] and Ryan [Bertrand] on the left-hand side were brilliant on Saturday because they can swap places, so that’s a big help. We’ve been doing well with the run of results and we want to build on it.’

PAT NEVIN: TRUE FAITH

It hasn’t always been easy to stand by his judgement, but is the world outside Chelsea steadily coming round to his viewpoint? Pat Nevin explains further in this week’s column…

One of the clichés often used when you have a raft of new players at the beginning of every season is that you have to hit the ground running. Clearly Chelsea have managed to start the season scarcely breaking stride from the successful race to Munich. Maybe a bit of realism is needed however, the fixtures fell very kindly and that has certainly helped, but to stretch the metaphor to the limit, we all know that it is a marathon not a sprint.

Nonetheless it has certainly made others take notice of Chelsea when considering the ultimate destination of the league title this term. I will admit that I even thought that chasing Manchester United and City all the way this season might be a long shot, but there is no doubt the odds have come in a bit, even if we are still outsiders. Actually that is not a bad place to be, it certainly relieves some of the pressure that has weighed upon the club over the past few years. Now it is hope rather than expectation, for the fans as well as the players.

With slightly less pressure the players can be just that little bit more relaxed and I certainly believe that helps, especially if you are the creative type. Playing for the joy as opposed to playing out of fear is the best way to maximise the contributions from the likes of Mata, Moses, Oscar and Hazard. Having said that, Eden has brought down a fair bit of pressure on his own head already.By playing so exceptionally well in the first three league games, everyone in English football expects him to continue this rich, ultra-productive vein of form. I suspect he can cope because even at the tender age of 21 he has already lived with it for a few years in France with little obvious negative effect.

Looking closely at the three games so far, they have each contained sections of fabulous play followed by less impressive periods, so we will not be carried away simply by the results. Manchester City, Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool have already slipped up but in the case of the first two particularly, they were in extremely tricky fixtures. Just over the horizon in the league there is a run when we face Spurs, Man United, Man City and Liverpool in fairly quick succession. If we are still top of the pile then, maybe it will be time to get a little bit more excited.

I have to say I was particularly pleased with Fernando Torres’ contribution against Newcastle United. Those who read this page regularly or listen to me on TV or radio know that I stand by the idea that our striker has been very unlucky in his Chelsea career so far. In the past the team wasn’t set up for his particular style and as such the expected avalanche of goals never quite arrived last season. He did however keep making the runs, he continued to selflessly work for the team nearly all the time and he regularly sacrificed his own strengths by working wide when he and Didier were on the pitch together. While many in the media, ex pros included, called him a flop and a spent force, like many Chelsea fans I continually disagreed, in the face of mounting ridicule.

On Saturday evening I was on ESPN where the game was being transmitted live. On the show Kevin Keegan and Chelsea old boy Craig Burley once more disagreed with my synopsis of El Nino before the game. I tried very hard not to look too smug when our striker made the penalty and then scored a cracker right on the half-time whistle. Give him his due, Kevin Keegan who is the loveliest of men, accepted that Torres had had a productive first half but rightly underlined that his link-up play was less impressive. Craig also correctly noted that this one half of football was not enough to judge the contribution of a player who cost £50million.

I will however continue to stand my ground, but there is a general agreement that if our striker stays fit and contributes over 20 goals this season, then my one-man media campaign will have been proved right. It is no surprise then that no one will be celebrating his every goal more than me! The good thing is that these debates almost always take place in a friendly environment, even if there is a bit of banter surrounding it.

In the meantime there is so much to look forward to. The Champions League draw this week is a huge moment for the club. There is never really an easy group, but there are usually some that are more straight-forward than others. Then of course there is always one group of death. The fixtures were kind to us in the league and I hope the same will be said about our draw when it happens. Just like the domestic campaign you want to hit the ground running with so many new players and more importantly with such a totally altered style of play. There is also the fact that as European champions every team in the competition is desperate to beat you.

With that excitement to look forward to on Thursday there is the small matter of the European Super Cup on Friday night against Atletico Madrid hot on its heels. It is an odd statistic that of Chelsea’s last eight competitive games, four of them have been for trophies. The FA Cup, the Champions League, the Community Shield and now this showpiece event in Monaco.

Once again this is a less-pressured match, but still one that you would want to win. Trophies and medals are always significant, even though of the four, we already have the two we would prefer. Atletico are a fine side who I watched a great deal last season, with Falcao in particular a revelation up front. If you can’t manage to swan over to Monaco, (we haven’t all got yachts anchored there) this is one to sit back, relax and enjoy on TV. After all we have nine points in the bag already while Arsenal or Liverpool (or both) will drop more points when they play on Sunday and United have a tricky tie away to Southampton, ah happy days!

In last week’s quiz I asked who were the first players to be bought and sold for £1million at Chelsea? In those days it sounded like a lot of money, now I just sound like Dr Evil from the Austin Powers movies when I write it. For those who thought it was myself, the answer is no, I was sold for a paltry £925,000. There were lots of good guesses but as far as I can work out the first player we sold for over £1m was Tony Dorigo (£1.3m) to Leeds United in June 1991. Gordon Durie left later that summer to Spurs for a far higher figure. The first player we bought for over £1m was Dennis Wise (£1.6m) on the 5th of July 1991; Andy Townsend arrived soon after that for over £1million as well.

There can only be one winner of the Champions League DVD signed by one of the players involved and it is Stephanie Post from Dundee who was chosen at random.

To stand a chance of being the lucky winner of a similar prize this week, could you tell me who did Chelsea beat when they last won the trophy we are playing for on Friday?

Answers as ever to pat.nevin@chelseafc.com

Good luck to you all and KTBFFH in Monaco lads.

THE DATA DAY: CHELSEA V NEWCASTLE

In the second instalment of our new feature examining the important numbers from the weekend’s game, we see a different role for our young creative Belgian.

Eden Hazard scored his first Chelsea goal from the penalty spot against Newcastle, but it was outside the box that the 21-year-old did some of his most important work…

Hazard completed only two successful dribbles at the weekend, three less than against Wigan last week, and four less than Newcastle’s Hatem Ben Arfa, who impressed his manager Alan Pardew with a strong performance.

Instead Hazard showed variety in his play, and was impressive in passing combinations, and he and Fernando Torres linked up successfully on11 occasions, including for the Spaniard’s goal.

Hazard actually found a team-mate 21 times from 25 attempts in the final third.

Torres scored with his only attempted shot.

The centre-forward’s link-up play was noted by Di Matteo after the game, and Petr Cech found him on eight occasions with long balls into the Newcastle half.

Cech was busy with the ball at his feet, Chelsea making 20 backpasses compared to Newcastle’s seven. This shows we were in no rush, comfy and content with a two-goal lead and happy to keep possession while in control of a game that was our third in six days.

Branislav Ivanovic to Juan Mata was our most frequent pass, completed 12 times. This highlights Mata’s constant ability to make himself available for passes, and his tendency to play on the right-hand side of the pitch more than usual when combined with Hazard and Bertrand in midfield.

John Mikel Obi completed 60 of 63 passes he attempted, a 95 per cent success rate. The defensive midfielder also made five successful clearances.

MOSES: THE FIRST INTERVIEW

Victor Moses completed his move on Friday evening, was welcomed by the Stamford Bridge crowd on Saturday and trained with his new team-mates on Monday morning.

The next stop for the 21-year-old was to sit down with the official Chelsea website…

Your possible transfer to Chelsea was in the news throughout the summer. It must be good to have your future settled now.
When I first heard that Chelsea had come in for me I was surprised, but I had a call from my agent saying they were really interested in me and what did I think. I said they are the European champions and anyone would like to play there and now that everything is sorted, I am delighted to be here.

I am happy to come back to London as I grew up here and it is a great honour to play for the club that won the Champions League.

You’ve decided to join a squad with a lot of competition for the attacking places in the side.
There are a lot of world-class players here and I am here to do my best for the team and to help them win more trophies. The club has done well for the past few years, they have achieved a lot, and for me to be able to play with these world-class players, I am delighted to be here.

How did the opening day fixture go for you when Chelsea played up at Wigan?
I thought I did alright. It took me a while to get into the game but in the second half we came at Chelsea – but that is in the past now. I was a Wigan player then and I am a Chelsea player now.

You managed to go past the Chelsea full-backs during the match.
We all know Ashley Cole is one of the best left-backs in the word and he is a consistent player, so if I go past him I am happy because he is a great player.

You arrive with a reputation for being versatile. Please give a short history of the positions you have played.
Growing up I used to play centre-back in a Sunday league team but I had the feeling I could play further forward. When I was scouted by Crystal Palace I started playing in centre-midfield. Then I ended up playing as a striker, left wing, on the right – everywhere really. I went to Wigan to play left wing mainly but then the manager saw the way I was playing and he mostly used me on the right. Last season I played more on the right but sometimes on the left.

I can also play up front or behind the striker, I can play anywhere up front. I’m comfortable wherever the manager wants to play me.

Roberto Di Matteo has highlighted your dribbling ability.
That is one of my strengths, I love getting the ball and going past defenders. You don’t want defenders tackling you all the time when you get the ball, you need to make them work hard, and that is what I love doing.

When you were at Whitgift School in Croydon, you were taught football by Colin Pates, a popular captain of Chelsea in the 1980s. How was that experience?
He is a great man. He always used to talk to me and tell me about when he used to play and how I needed to be more professional about my football. He is a person you can call on and he will advise you in the right way. When we played with the school team he used to teach us all about movement and finishing and he was great to work with. We won a national school tournament when he was our manager.

Growing up around in the Norwood area of south London, the Crystal Palace academy must have been a natural place for you to develop.
It was easy for me after training to go home. It was nice playing for Palace. There were a lot of Chelsea fans around there and Palace were playing in the Championship so all I used to hear when I was little was Chelsea, Chelsea! I didn’t know then that one day I would be playing for them.

You moved to Wigan midway through the 2009/10 season.
When the season first started we were doing pretty well, fighting for a play-off spot for the Championship. Then we heard the club was going into administration, that is when Wigan came in and Palace hadn’t a choice but to sell me.

Do you know anyone at Chelsea already?
I know quite a few. I used to play with Ryan Bertrand and Daniel Sturridge for England Under 19s, Under 20s, Under 21s. I know Ashley Cole and Michael Essien and Mikel I know from playing for Nigeria. It is good to see everyone here and it is a lot easier for me.

For Nigeria I have games coming up against Liberia and I am looking forward to them. They are home and away and whoever wins will qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations in January.

Do you have a message for the Chelsea fans?
I just want to say to the fans to sit tight, there is more to come from Victor Moses and I hope to do my best for the club and that there are more trophies to come in the future.

There will be more from Victor Moses in Chelsea TV’s ‘Weekend Review’ tonight at 6.30pm and 10pm.