Thursday, 29 November 2007

Same Old Chelsea...

Alan Curbishley has ignited a potential war of words with his Chelsea counterpart Avram Grant by insisting the Israeli has done nothing to evolve Chelsea since becoming the manager there and is "picking up" wins because of the foundations left by his predecessor, Jose Mourinho. Curbishley expects the side he encounters at Stamford Bridge in Saturday lunchtime's Premier League fixture to mirror the one West Ham played last season in both style and line-up. Such comments are sure to anger Grant, who has put great emphasis on the improving quality of Chelsea's football since he became manager in late September in an attempt to step out of Mourinho's shadow and establish his worth at the club.

"They're talking it up but if you care to look at it, there's not much difference," Curbishley said. "Drogba is a handful, the midfield three are as strong as you get, John Terry plays when he's fit and the other players are put around them. The side is well established and they play a certain way, it's just carried on. When he [Grant] took the job on he must have thought, 'I'm gonna win more than I lose with the squad I've got.' The foundations Mourinho left were there for everyone to see and he's taken over nice and quietly and picked up the results."

A comparison between Grant's 14 matches in charge of Chelsea and Mourinho's last 14 indicate the club is not only winning more regularly but doing so in more flamboyant style. Chelsea have won 10 times since the 2-0 defeat to Manchester United on September 23, Grant's first as manager, scoring 30 goals in the process. Running from the end of last season and until the 1-1 draw at home to Rosenborg on September 18, Mourinho's last match in charge, Chelsea won only four out of 14, scoring 14 times.

But as far as Curbishley is concerned, the only difference at the club is the persona of the man in the hot seat. "He [Grant] was the perfect solution for the change Chelsea wanted. He's quite reserved, different to what they had."

Curbishley also criticised the so-called big four's attempts to influence referees, days after Chelsea were charged with failing to control their players during the 2-0 victory away to Derby. The club has also only just paid a £30,000 fine for threatening behaviour towards the referee Mike Dean during the defeat at Old Trafford. "The big four teams definitely get after the ref a bit more than other teams," Curbishley said. "All the top teams are that way inclined - decisions are disputed, especially when they're at home."

Curbishley is hoping Freddie Ljungberg will be in contention for the weekend fixture after missing Sunday's 1-1 draw with Tottenham with a migraine. Dean Ashton, a long-term injury concern, could also start.

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