Search Menu

From Ukraine with Blues – Why Shevchenko should remain at Chelsea

Share

With the recent appointment of Carlo Ancelotti as the new Chelsea manager and the recent announcement that Andriy Shevchenko will be coming back to the Bridge now that his one-year loan deal with AC Milan has expired, there are questions being asked of what Ancelotti / Chelsea will do with the 32-year-old striker.

While Shevchenko and many Chelsea fans are not optimistic about his future at the Bridge, Sheva still has great potential to finish his career in style and justify the money that was spent on him. The article discusses the following points:

  1. Why Shevchnko did not live up to his potential at Chelsea
  2. How Chelsea could have made better use of the Ukrainian international
  3. Why Shevchenko deserves one more season as a Chelsea starter under Ancelotti.

The time was fall of 1997 and the place was one that has become extremely familiar to Chelsea fans recently – the 98,000 capacity stadium in Barcelona – Camp Nou. The Spanish champions were taking on the 5 time Ukrainian Champions Dinamo Kiev in the Champions League group stage. After losing 3-0 to Dinamo in their hometown, Barcelona, led by Van Gaal, was looking to bounce back from their shocking defeat.

However, Barcelona had their hopes demolished by half-time after a hat trick from a phenomenal young Ukrainian – his name was Andrei Shevchenko. Would any blue-blooded Chelsea fan seriously say that they would not have wanted that Shevchenko to have played on the starting squad against Barcelona in this year’s semi-final?

Ever since Andrei Shevchenko joined Chelsea for a record transfer fee of 30 million pounds in the summer of 2006, it appeared inevitable that with such a star studded team; Chelsea would reign supreme over England and Europe. After nearly three years have passed, various pundits, analysts, and Chelsea mangers from Jose Mourinho to Felipe Scolari have leveled severe criticism about my hometown hero’s lackluster performance. However, those former Chelsea managers never used Sheva properly as they did not understand him.

First of all, in order to understand how Shevchenko operates, you must first understand Valeriy Lobanovsky, the old Dinamo Kiev manager whose unique philosophy made him the star that he eventually became. Shevchenko has stated on many occasions that he owes all of his success to his deceased old manager and he went as far as leaving his Champions League medal on his grave.

In a nutshell, Lobanovsky (a plumber by trade) was a pioneer in football theory when he became the first Soviet Manager in the 1960’s to request a computer to be used by his football club. The theory he developed was dubbed “scientific football” in which certain numerical values were assigned to each “action” in the game such as tackles, passes, and shots. (Foer 159, “How Soccer Explains the World”) and the computer would calculate each player’s “intensively” (tackles and goal shots), “activity” (tackles and passes), “error rate” (unsuccessful actions), and “effectively” (tackles, goals, assists, passes).

Lobanovsky considered the football team to be a collective (not unlike the Borg) and judged how each individual contributed to the team’s overall performance without specific positions for players. While this led to a focus on defense, it created highly disciplined teams and largely kept egos in place. He saw pace and cohesion as the keys to victory. Not only were his teams much fitter than opposing sides, the players also seemed to have a near-telepathic understanding of each other. A result perhaps of one of his favourite drills: blindfolded five-a-side matches.

When Lobanovsky took over the struggling Dinamo again in the fall of 1996, he implemented the system once again and stated that the team is a collective and not centered on individuals. Hence, the victory over the individual focused Barcelona a year later was not only due to Shevchenko’s brilliance, but each player doing their part in making the defense, the midfield, and the strikers effective.

After Shevchenko joined AC Milan in ‘99, the team, under Carlo Ancelotti (2001-2009) eventually adapted somewhat to Shevchenko’s collectively oriented style by having the team work together in an almost Christmas tree formation to get the maximum number of goals to Shevchenko and his partner up front Inzaghi. The Balon d’Or and the CL goal scoring records set by Shevchenko overlooked the fact that AC Milan, similar to Dinamo Kiev in the 1990’s was a well oiled machine that worked tirelessly on all parts of the pitch to make the team succeed. Shevchenko was simply performing his role to his best ability.

Since Roman Abramovich acquired Chelsea in 2003, his eyes were set on the brilliant striker. However, the owner of Milan, Silvio Berlusconi, who became Shevchenko’s Godfather, did everything possible to hold on to his “son” until Roman finally made the offer Silvio could not refuse – the record breaking £30.8 million pound transfer in May of 2006. At this point Roman was becoming very impatient with Mourinho’s Chelsea coming up short of winning the Champions League and decided to “help out” Jose by acquiring Ballack , Kalou and Shevchenko against the manager’s wishes. As a result, Shevchenko was in a bad situation from the start as the Chelsea midfield became destabilized while the manager was not happy to have him.

To elaborate, from 2004 to 2006 the Chelsea midfield had been very cohesive with the combination of Lampard and the Iceland international Eiour Godjohnsen, who was one of the most versatile players around as he had performed as a central-midfielder; as a right or left winger; as a holding-defensive midfielder or as a striker. He was replaced by the slower and older Ballack who just did not seem to give the necessary effort. Hence, the midfield feeding mechanism to the strikers such as Drogba, Shevchenko and Kalou had become weak. In addition, Shevchenko, in spite of being tired after Ukraine’s World Cup performance and having to go from a very mild Mediterranean climate in Milan to the cold and humid climate of England compounded the problem.

Despite all of this, Shevchenko scored in his Chelsea debut in the Community Shield in the 2-1 loss to Liverpool, and quickly delivered again in his first Premier League goal against Middlesborough. After this, Shevchenko’s exhaustion caught up with him and he fell into a bit of a drought. The back-to-back trophy-winning Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho blamed all of Chelsea’s problems on Shevchenko and benched him as a result. He went as far as saying that Shevchenko considered himself above the other players and was expecting preferential treatment. However, Jose was wrong to have Shevchenko take the blame as an individual for the collective lackluster performance of the team.

The breakdown of the locker room atmosphere at Chelsea has been well chronicled in Claude Makalele’s recent biography Tout Simplementu. “For two years at Chelsea we lived as a group of friends, dining together, getting drunk together, going to training together and winning matches together,” wrote the French international. The team resembled Lobonovsky’s vision of a collective. But then all of a sudden Mourinho broke the solidarity by treating certain players that he was instrumental in acquiring such as Drogba as stars.

The catalyst for this may have been Roman encouraging the team to play a more open and offensive oriented game, which Jose flatly refused to do. He began treating players that he perceived as being close to the Roman such as Shevchenko and Terry with contempt. Makelele was stunned that the “Special One” had forgotten to value the contribution of players and began taking credit for all success and blaming individual players for any failures. “He no longer believed that players were responsible for success but only his methods did.” In short, Jose’s ego was clouding his judgment.

In response, Roman, who was obviously good friends with Shevchenko due to a common language and perhaps not wanting to see his investment wasted, forced Jose to play Sheva. Andrei proved to be invaluable in the FA Cup when he scored the goal of the year on January 19th, 2007 against Tottenham by curling the ball into the Spurs net from an impossible angle. He would prove equally useful in the Champions League by scoring key equalizers against Valencia in the Group Stage and Porto in the Quarterfinals. Unfortunately, an untimely injury and the subsequent hernia operation would keep him out at the end of the season when Chelsea needed him most.

All in all, despite all of the problems, Shevchenko ended up having an adequate season with 14 goals, well short of his 24 goals for Milan in the award winning year of 2004 but by no means was a terrible performance as Jose implied. Shevchenko gave the following explanation: “The real problem is that I cannot find any continuity. I was doing well this season, scoring seven goals in my last 10 matches, but then I suffered a back injury. Before I am judged I would like to enjoy a decent run in the side now that I have adapted to English football. Italian football is about tactics and logic, whereas England is different, it is all about speed and instinct.”

During the summer, Shevchenko did everything he could to get back in shape and work on his speed after surgery, even going as far as training with an Olympic sprinter to bring himself up to form. Roman even brought in Avram Grant as Director of Football to help Andrei, which was interpreted by Jose’s as undermining his authority. However, the training would prove to be useful as Andrei scored the equalizing goal to prevent a humiliating loss to Rosenborg BK in the Champions League Group Game. Apparently, Jose could not stand Grant and Roman being right and left “by mutual consent” as a result. It appeared that now under Grant as head coach Shevchenko would finally shine. Unfortunately, Shevchenko only scored 5 goals in the Premier League that season and Grant appeared to have given up on him when he transferred in former gunner Nicholas Anelka to essentially take Shevchenko’s spot as backup striker, leaving Shevchenko on the bench once again.

When Scolari took over the Chelsea reigns in the summer of 2008, he promised to give Shevchenko a “fresh start” but later contradicted himself by playing Deco in his place in the season opener against Portsmouth. Shevchenko was sent on loan to Milan and has begun regained his form. His goal against England in the World Cup qualifier illustrated his resurgence.

The newly appointed Chelsea manager and Sheva’s old AC Milan manager, Carlo Ancelotti, stated that Chelsea’s mistake was that they did not use Shevchenko properly by persistently using the one-striker system with Drogba upfront rather than being more flexible and adjusting the midfield to feed the ball to two strikers (Drogba and Sheva) upfront like Milan did. In addition, Shevchenko never prospered because he never felt welcome in London – mostly because of Jose’s arrogance. The unjustified blame game under Mourinho certainly took its toll on him and likely hurt his subsequent performance.

All in all, with Drogba facing a possible 5 match ban from the Champions League, the Boys in Blue are in dire need of a second striker besides Anelka. In my humble opinion, Shevchenko could fill this role provided that the team is willing to accept him and the midfield is willing to adjust to accommodate the two striker strategy.

Why spend another 30 million pounds on Tevez or David Villa when Chelsea already has Sheva under contract and the real problem is in the midfield? Just like a roofer would not spend money on buying a customized golden drill bit when the drill battery is dead and the power cord is broken, Chelsea must fix the truly broken part of its team (midfield) rather than spending enormous sums fixing something that is working reasonably well (offense).

Despite his age of 32 (top players like Zidane, Beckham, Pele, Maldini played well into their 30’s), Shevchenko still has the skills and now has something to prove to Chelsea fans. Under Ancelotti, who understands Sheva and how to make a team play a common strategy rather than a group of individuals, Sheva may once again become the top striker we know him to be.

Sources: How Soccer Explains the World by Franklin Foer

Additional research and reporting by Mark Gallinsky.

Comments (27)

  1. So how come he didn’t play in front of Kaka, Gattuso, Pirlo and ‘Pato’, then? He’s lost it and his legs have gone. He was too slow for the PL and wanted more time on the ball than defenders here allowed him. You seem to suggest that we need him for the CL. Would a former Footballer of the year seriously consider playing the 3 or 4 games that Drogba will miss in the CL and maybe for the African nations cup?

  2. Great topic, I hope that one day Sheva will come good!

  3. good article, but it doesn’t explain one thing

    why didn’t ancelotti play him more at AC? as i recall shev hardly got a sniff last season….

    don’t think he actualy scored any league goals so cant say he was regaining his form

  4. yes, a midfield of jcole, essien, mikel, lampard, ballack, malouda, etc. is the broken part – definitely not shevas game. ridiculous article, if he is so good, why will no other teams make a decent bid for him?

  5. Great article!! I agree with your points.

    To some of the comments – REREAD this article!! How can’t you understand? He had a good enough first season sustaining all the critique, new home, new coaches, new system! Try that yourself. Or you probably have no idea about soccer and make such judgemental calls! After the first season, hurt by injuries he was just unable to get back, and Jose wasn’t playing him! How do you get back then?

    Look at him play in FIFA World Cup qualifying today!! He scored again and what a goal.

    I hope he does great back in Chelsea! GO SHEVA!!

  6. dont forget that sheva was in milan this season and he didnt play under ancelotti

  7. Sheva is a living legend! Look at his perfomance for Ukraine`s team, he plays better than any striker in the World. Anchelotti didn`t used him this season because Milan`s players didn`t forgive Sheva his voyage to London!
    But I hope that Sheva will prove all the sceptics that he is the best! People should believe in him!

  8. Good article? Sheva is great

  9. It’s hilarious how none Ukraine people saying that Shevchenko should leave and he’s not good…But Ukrainian people saying that he should remain and play. People you saw that even Ancelotti doesn’t want him to play, so why would he give him a chance now? When we have Drogba, Anelka, Di Santo and we surely gonna get one more striker like Kun Aguero. In my opinion we should loan him out again, or sell him for about 10-15 mill to team like Zenit cos no other team wants him as we see. And for this money get someone else :) Go Chelsea..>Chelsea best…Sheva not best

  10. honest article if not for injuries and Mourinho Sheva would have been a big success, however I think maybe its just a little too late now, but give him more chances he may just be the great revelation he was.

  11. He was brilliant why can he not become his old self, he scores in every game for his country

  12. Chelsea Fan:

    Di Santo is garbage. Have you seen him play? The only good thing I’ve seen him do was leave Berbatov unmarked in the penalty box (who was then provided a great ball from Ronaldo and finished wonderfully, capping a comprehensive win over you Blues)

  13. Thanks everyone for both comments and feedback, whether positive or negative.

    At the very least, I hope I got the point accross that Sheva’s first season with Chelsea was not a terrible one by any means.

    Regarding the Sheva being on loan in Milan and being too old, its true that he did not get too many starts or goals but he had some amazing performances for the Ukrainian national team such as against England. Yesterday’s goal against Croatia showed Sheva still has speed and agility.

    Regarding the midfield, it has certainly improved since the 2006-2007 season but some like Malouda, Ballack, and Kalou have not been contributing consistently.

    I hope Ancelotti gives Sheva a tryout by starting him in the upcoming friendly against Inter which I intend to attend and cover.

    KBTBFFH

  14. Sheva did not fit into Joses system and instigated the problems in the dressing room
    if a player doesnt fit into the system hes going to fail
    Sheva was a failure at chelsea
    Great player no doubt but failure at chelsea

  15. Sheva is great striker,and he’ll prove it very soon,just the coach needs to belive in him as Ukrain national coach dis allowing him to play with injury for first 23 mins and he proved via scoring nice goal!!!

  16. chelsea should sell him to man united so sheva can shut up all you chelsea fans(lol, just kidding). Schevchenko’s game is pretty much like van nistelroy or inzaghi, he is an in the box striker who needs good midfield play to feed him the ball. I agree that he needs to improve his game like he admitted but he is a proven goal scorer. Every game he played under chelsea was scrutinized and criticized by impatient chelsea fans but he remained professional through all of it. Unlike the egotistic drogba who missed so 3 or 4 great chances to put barcelona away, no chelsea fan criticized him but instead focussed on the ridiculous refereeing of that 2nd leg. Ancelloti should get rid of all the big egos at chelsea. Drogba and anelka are very good strikers, helping scheva get his play up to par in the premier league would even be a bigger plus for the team. And this is all coming from a united fan.

  17. Any Player purchased by the owner and not integral to a manager’s plans will fail

    He got preferential treatment from Roman who bent over backwards to try to force Jose to make him a success at the bridge when he didn’t match the system that chelsea were playing it’s that simple

    if he had matched the system he would have been a success but he doesn’t that doesn’t mean he’s not a good player it just means that he needs to be on a team that plays to his style. Worse now since he’s older and doesn’t have the time to adapt and change.

    He never truly adapted to the pl and you don’t just give away starts to an underperforming player It’s not logical but that’s what was happening

    He started back in milan and underperformed then when he was benched along with ronaldinhho the team surged and got out of the losing slump

    The fact is if a player can’t adapt to a team’s style quickly enough he’s not useful and in big teams the best team needs to be out on the pitch in almost every game so if your not the best you should be benched.

    think of shevchenko as a gear in chelseas machine thats made for arsenal (just an eg) it won’t work because it doesn’t match

  18. I’m not sure if Makelele’s autobiography is a reliable source. After all, he clearly had an axe to grind with Mourinho (and others, but mostly The Special One). Sure, calling him arrogant and egotistical is about as old of a story as the Hand of God, but to blame Mourinho for not allowing Shevchenko to get into a groove is not necessarily fair. After all, Sheva is a professional, and if you’re going to cost that much money, then you can’t really blame things like exhaustion early in the season or needing a long time to adjust to English football.

    As for Ancelotti’s move to Chelsea, I don’t see how that will help Sheva’s career. As several people have already pointed out, Sheva barely got into any matches this season with Ancelotti at the helm. I don’t see how that will necessarily change. Especially since Sheva doesn’t have the legs anymore to succeed in England.

    I’m not sure that the problem is in midfield. After all, when everyone’s healthy, they have one of the best midfields in the world. You saw what they did to Barca’s highly touted midfield. Essien can shut anyone down, Lampard is one of the best all-around players in the world, Joe Cole is a threat down the flanks, Ballack can still get the job done on both ends of the field, and Malouda looked like a star at times (especially in the FA Cup Final). Drogba (and Anelka) can succeed with those guys playing behind him but someone like Shevchenko can’t. I don’t see how that’s the midfield’s problem. It could just be that Sheva’s time as an elite forward is over.

  19. Shevchenko will not be a starter but will play a huge role coming of the bench for Chelsea and as someone has already pointed out in the champions league Drogba will prolly get at least a 3 game suspension so they can use someone like Sheva. The situation for Sheva is a lot clearer in Chelsea then was the case in AC Milan the past season, there is only Drogba and Anelka ahead of him, in AC there was Pato,Inzaghi, Borrielo,Ronaldinho then Sheva, Borrielo was out for most the year and Shevchenko still barely got any minutes, I think there is a reall chance for Sheva at Chelsea this time, but of course it depends a lot on Anceloti and also who leaves and comes in. The biggest problem for Shev is injuries, if he didnt get injured so much he would still be doing good.

  20. If Sheva cant make it under Ancelotti this season at Chelsea i guess we better sold him to the Dinamo as there’s no hope he will come good under another manager, expecting Ancelotti to do more than Scolari…

    I think he was great and can be part of a great Chelsea team but we need, as said in the article, to fix the midfield. At least not only for Sheva but for the team something need to be made by Ancelotti.

  21. Excellent article. To non-believers:
    How did you like Anelka before he managed to get his confidence back? He played ridiculous football, not now, now he is back and play quite well. How about Drogba with Scolary, wouldn’t you say a lame duck? But what happened after Guus took over?
    Sheva never got a chance and he deserves one, even who knows…years do take their tall. I think it was hard for Sheva to play in Milan after all what happened and his confidence is low and please remember they had Pato (I my opinion potentially the best forward in the world). It is up to a new coach to give Sheva support that he needs…and the fans, of cause…

  22. Sheva needs more time to play for good competitions,where he’ll fill his importance as for Ukrain national team in World Cup quolification games. He scored each game for national team even playing not for 30-40 mins. Show me another one striker with this performance for his National team???
    Drogba is not great player,he’s missed so many chances which more than minutes Shevchenko played on the field for Chelsea,the problem was that he squized Shevchenko off via Mourinho’s help. Chelsea’s midfield players are very good,but they need to support all strikers the same level and not only Drogba. I do believe that Anchelotti will give him a chance and Sheva will prove his importance!

  23. Just a little clarification, when I said Sheva regained his form somewhat at Milan, I meant more the international matches for the Ukrainian national team since he got little playing at Milan. But training under Ancelotti may have improved his form – which was demonstrated by his awesome goal scoring for the national team as NK so wonderfully pointed out.

  24. CK – Have you ever seen Di Santo play more than 10 matches?
    No. So you cannot judge him. You probably only seen him in one match – how can you judge a player in one match? Idiot.

    I think that Shevchenko isn’t good enough for Chelsea, I’m sorry. How can you say that Shevchenko is the greatest striker because he regularly scores for Ukraine? Surely that means that any other striker in other national teams are the greatest strikers too.

    In the PL, defenders don’t give you space – you have to work for your space and sadly, Shevchenko has lost his pace in my opinion. If you are a great player you should be able to adapt to any league in the world.

    Alex – The real problem is the midfield? HAHAHAHA. Sorry I just had to laugh. I can’t believe your a Chelsea “fan” and think our midfield is not good enough… If they weren’t good enough, how come Anelka won the PL Golden Boot this season? This also shows that Drogba isn’t the main striker in the team as we survived with him for most of the season!

    I understand you and Ukrainians have an affection for Shevchenko because he’s from Ukraine but what you lot need to do is take off the Ukraine biased glasses – Have you noticed that every non-Ukrainian said that Shevchenko isn’t good enough? Drogba, Anelka, Villa and Aguero are all miles ahead of Shevchenko. Shevchenko just isn’t good enough anymore! If he was better than all these he would have started all matches for Ancelotti.

  25. Did everybody remember the match Chelsea-Aston Villa 4-4? If he got more chances, he will be a great player! I thinks the problem is both Abramovich and Berlusconi like him so much! He is the tool of the battle between Boss and Coach. The Boss always want to see him in the matches but the Coach wants to show the Boss’s wrong decision. Some other players (from Chelsea and Milan 2008-2009) don’t pass the ball to him in the match.

  26. I think If Micheal Ballack did’t agree to play behind Lampard, he will be out of the squad. Arrival Chelsea, Shevchenko and Ballack got too high salary, other lower salary players want to make them become the dissapoint players! And then, asking for higher salary, if not, will leave Chelsea!

  27. You guys are idiots how can you go on and say that Shevchenko sucks how many achievements and titles has he won he was practically in one of the best teams in the world for so long and was their best striker and goal scorer. No one can deny hiss successes.
    And you are fight mourinho is such a stuck up idiot that he ruined a great player.
    By the way Chelsea is s***t!!!!!!!!!