MOHAMED SALAH [by Gary Watton]
In all probability, the signing of Salah will prove to be a good one. I suspect that he will be a sensation, like Eden Hazard. Mind you, many of our recent buys have been poor starters in their Chelsea career – Torres, Willian, and Eto’o immediately spring to mind.
Anyhow, my only grievance about what was probably a good piece of business is that Chelsea have an awful tendency of buying players on the basis that they played well against us.
There’s nothing wrong with that. After all, it’s like an audition, and we are not the first club, nor will be the last, to sign players on the strength of their performances against that particular club. However, I would argue that buying players who have played well against us sounds like a lazy form of scouting. We have shot ourselves in the foot in the last couple of decades by signing people who did well against us, but who ended up being misfits at the Bridge. Consider the following.
We acquired Robert Fleck in 1992, less than a year after he had starred in a 3-0 demolition of us on our own patch by Norwich. Flecky may have had a good track record in East Anglia and at Glasgow Rangers, but he was certainly flakey in west London.
Then there was the long-forgotten Gabriele Ambrosetti who played well for Vicenza against us in 1998. He was hailed as our answer to Ryan Giggs. Apart from scoring a late goal in our remarkable 5-0 rout of Galatasaray in their own backyard, this young Italian stallion was completely peripheral.
Maybe Manu Petit is another example of someone who played better against us than he did for us, although I thought he stroked the ball around well for the Blues, and he was in the twilight of his career. It’s just that he doesn’t compare with his successor, Claude Makalele.
Even Geremi was hardly the greatest acquisition back in that summer of 2004 when Abramovich flashed the cash, with no expense spared. He had scored a great free kick for Middlesbrough against us, so lo and behold he became a worthy transfer target. Well, he might have added a fourth in our 4-1 humbling of Liverpoo at Shamfield and he scored a belter at home to Portsmouth, but I am struggling to think of too many times when Geremi, in his wide role, managed to get beyond the opposing full-back.
Ricardo Quaresma was another person who shone against us for FC Porto, so we promptly bought him. I’m not sure we gave him enough matches, but when he did occasionally play, he wasn’t exactly man of the match material.
We bought Deco after he had impressed for Barcelona against us back in those crazy years when the Catalans and ourselves were locked in almost annual combat. Well, the great Deco under-achieved at Chelsea, a fact that surprised me. It wasn’t that he was awful. He was just very ordinary.
Fast forwarding to recent times, we have our dearly beloved Senor Torres. I reckon that Fernando has made huge strides since his nightmare start for Chelsea, but nobody is fooling themselves that he has rediscovered his majestic form from his Kop days. Sickeningly, he played better against us than he has done for us. That is the painful truth.
Then there is Willian. He impressed when playing for Shakhtar against us, so naturally we have to sign him. He is beginning to look the part, but he didn’t exactly hit the ground running at the outset of his Chelsea career. I get tired of apologists who suggest that a player needs time to fit into a team. These guys are supposedly world-class professionals. How much time do they need to adjust?!
Last but not least, I present Samuel Eto’o. Admittedly, Jose obtained him partially because they worked together at Internazionale, but again Eto’o scored both for Inter and Barcelona against us, and he looked more sharp against Chelsea than he did playing for us, one glorious hat-trick excepted.
So what of Salah then? Well, he has given us a hard time in three or four encounters already and he gave Tottensham the runaround too. The question is: do we have a scout who has been studying him [and others] in the Swiss League week after week, or is it more probable that Salah’s credentials have been almost exclusively based upon several European appearances or so?
If this lazy form of scouting persists, where we purchase someone who has played well against us, then we might as well employ armchair scouts, who watch several Champions League matches, involving Chelsea, and reward the most impressive opponent with a Chelsea contract.
Anyhow, fingers crossed that our lazy form of scouting pays off this time and that Salah starts well and gets better and better.
Gary Watton can be stalked at http://sporthistorian.blog.com