Former Chelsea favourite Branislav Ivanovic thinks the Blues need owner Roman Abramovich back at Stamford Bridge if they are to return to the top of the game.The 35-year-old, now playing in Russia with Zenit St Petersburg, won three Premier League titles and the Champions League among numerous other honours in a nine-year spell in west London.Formerly a fixture in the Blues’ hospitality box, Abramovich has been conspicuous by his absence in recent months due to an ongoing visa row with the UK government. Article continues below Editors’ Picks Ox-rated! Dream night in Genk for Liverpool ace after injury nightmare Messi a man for all Champions League seasons – but will this really be Barcelona’s? Are Chelsea this season’s Ajax? Super-subs Batshuayi & Pulisic show Blues can dare to dream Time for another transfer? Giroud’s Chelsea spell set to end like his Arsenal career “This is a new Chelsea team,” Ivanovic told FourFourTwo. “The club didn’t have the perfect season last year, but still finished third.“Chelsea need Roman Abramovich back. That’s the most important thing for all the fans. We want to see him at Stamford Bridge, then Chelsea will be among the best teams in Europe once again.“He’s been one of the most important people in my career, and I appreciate everything he’s done for me. Whenever I had a difficult moment at Chelsea, he always believed in me. I owe him a lot.”Ivanovic made close to 400 appearances for Chelsea in all competitions, including more than 250 in the Premier League.His former manager Jose Mourinho later referred to him as one of the club’s best ever signings, a compliment he took with pleasure.“When the greatest manager in Chelsea history, and one of the best managers ever, says that, it means a lot,” he added. “I’m lucky I had the opportunity to work with him.“Chelsea was the best part of my career and a massive part of my life. I was so happy in London and am proud to have been there for such a long time.”Chelsea have had a mixed start to life under Ivanovic’s former team-mate Frank Lampard, following a similarly up-and-down time last season under Maurizio Sarri.While the Italian delivered a third-place finish, two cup finals and a European trophy, many fans were unsatisfied by his style of football and put out by his notoriously stubborn personality.Ivanovic understood his struggles – and thinks the culture shock played a part in the frosty relationship between manager and fanbase.”I’m not saying he struggled because he was a new manager in a new country, but it’s so difficult to learn, adapt and understand English football,” he said.“Everyone who comes to England has difficulties at the start. It’s hard for the players to adapt and react to a new coach, too.” Check out Goal’s Premier League 2019-20 fantasy football podcast for game tips, debate and rivalries.
Since the moment American soccer was shaken to its core on that wet field in Trinidad & Tobago, the fear had been that the U.S. men’s national team had stagnated. A once-proud program, a team that went toe-to-toe with Spain and Germany in their primes, felt like it stopped getting better despite a growing domestic league, a flourishing youth program and millions in investment.It has now become abundantly clear that the program has not stagnated. There’s no denying it anymore, the USMNT has taken one massive step back that they’re nowhere near ready to recover from.The USMNT continued to break records of the wrong kind on Tuesday, as Gregg Berhalter’s side lost 2-0 to Canada. It was their first loss to their neighbors in 34 years. Article continues below Editors’ Picks Ox-rated! Dream night in Genk for Liverpool ace after injury nightmare Messi a man for all Champions League seasons – but will this really be Barcelona’s? Are Chelsea this season’s Ajax? Super-subs Batshuayi & Pulisic show Blues can dare to dream Time for another transfer? Giroud’s Chelsea spell set to end like his Arsenal career Perhaps the scariest part of Tuesday’s defeat at BMO Field was that it was an entirely deserved one, and the U.S. is, quite frankly, fortunate that it wasn’t worse. An amateurish giveaway from Cristian Roldan could have resulted in a first-half goal if not for Zack Steffen, and the goalkeeper bailed out his teammates on another lazy back pass later in the second half. It could have easily been a lopsided win for Canada, and it would have been fully deserved.Even Canada’s opener was an example of just how poor the U.S. can be on any given night. A bad giveaway at the back, Aaron Long and DeAndre Yedlin failing to cover the back post and, ultimately, a tap-in for Alphonso Davies, who was far and away the most dynamic player on the night. The basics done wrong.But, as poor and error-prone as the backline was, it was the attack that was most disappointing. Christian Pulisic was largely on an island, secluded from any teammate and devoid of any options when on the ball. He completed just 11 passes, the worst performance of his USMNT career. Josh Sargent was marooned on some other island somewhere way on the other side of the field, completely isolated from whatever it was the U.S. was attempting to do in attack.The lasting image of this match will be Pulisic, a frustrated figure already due to his difficulties with Chelsea on the club level. In a match where he was offered little support, Pulisic was taken out in the 60th minute and was visibly upset about it. Half angry, half tearful, Pulisic looked inconsolable on the bench following his substitution, another example of his national team doing him few favors when it comes to building him up to where he needs to be.Roughly one year into the Berhalter era, the U.S. still seemingly lacks an identity. For years, the USMNT was a counter-attacking, physical team that would out-effort you if they had to. Since Berhalter took over, the focus has been on calm and composed possession, responding to pressure with tranquility. The issue is that the U.S. doesn’t look like a calm team, but rather a team without urgency and, ultimately, without a plan.It’s become something of a theme this year. The U.S. is capable of putting together solid games, and as we saw again Tuesday, they are capable of putting together woefully ineffective performances. But downright good ones? Performances to be proud of? We haven’t seen that yet.Now, there are reasons Canada had the urgency in their favor on Tuesday. With a potential spot in the Hexagonal on the line, Canada had every reason to turn up the heat. Canada looked like a team that wanted to prove they belonged with Concacaf’s elite, and the U.S. looked like a team that no longer belongs among them. At the end of the day, this game meant very little for the USMNT in some ways but, in others, it was a match that was quite indicative of just how far this team is from playing at the level expected of teams in years past.With World Cup qualifying around the corner, that’s a reason for concern. In one year under Berhalter, the U.S. has gotten no better and taken no steps forward. No new players have truly snatched a role. No new system has appeared and no result has stood out as an “a-ha” moment. That is concerning, and that concern would turn up the heat on Berhalter in just about any other nation on this planet.There may be a plan in place and that plan may take time to develop. Unfortunately, the clock is ticking for the USMNT. There will need to be improvements across the board, and fast, if the U.S. hopes to return to where they once were, let alone push forward.Missing a World Cup is supposed to inspire you, but the most disheartening thing is that it appears the U.S. has done everything but learn from their mistakes. Tuesday night may not have been worse than that night in Trinidad, but it wasn’t far off.