Friday, March 30, 2007

Ballack's got the Blues: Not for long - Alex1981

Michael Ballack can hardly be accused of setting the Premier League alight this year. Germany's captain has looked like a foreign body in a well-oiled Chelsea team. And as would be expected from a man underperforming on a reported £130,000 a week, he has received his fair share of criticism. Alan Shearer even went as far as to claim Ballack is not showing enough effort or hunger to succeed in the Premier League.

But nothing could be further from the truth: When Ballack arrived in London, he declared his liking for fish and chips, with peas. He did not elaborate on whether he meant the mushy variety, or how the dish measured up to a currywurst even. Yet his hunger was not in question.

This stems from his appetite to succeed as a professional. A trait that first surfaced when he was a child growing up in East Germany. At the age of 16, he came out from anesthesia after an operation to smooth the cartilage in his knee only to be told he would never be able to play competitive sports again. Six months later - he did.

His determination most famously came to light, during the 2002 World Cup semi final, when Ballack was shown a yellow card that meant he would miss the final. But instead of dwelling on the incident, he burst into the box four minutes later and scored the winner.

Despite the criticism, he has shown a hunger to succeed at Chelsea too. Away from home in this season's Champions League group match against Werder Bremen, he took over penalty duties from Frank Lampard to dispatch a confident shot into the roof of the net. He has won 75 per cent of his tackles this season and is certainly in the thick of things, as he has committed the most fouls out of all Chelsea players.

The main problem is that Ballack and Lampard are like two peas in a pod: both goal-hungry central midfielders. With Lampard remaining the focal point of Chelsea play, the German has looked as out of place as fresh veg in Iceland. A point that did not pass by Germany's football Kaiser Franz Beckenbauer: "Frank Lampard is stronger and takes his [Ballack's] position. The game mostly passes him by," he noted.

Yet all the signs point to change: three weeks ago Ballack scored the winner to send Chelsea through to the quarter finals of the Champions League. He delivered a cute chipped through-ball for Didier Drogba to score in the Carling Cup Final and last week he scored against Sheffield United.

Ballack, like Drogba before him, simply needed time to adapt to the Premiership. Jose Mourinho, who has steadfastly stuck by Ballack despite his lack of form, is now beginning to see his loyalty bear fruit. And with all trophies still to play for, it would seem 'The Special One' knew all along, that when the chips are down, Ballack will show the hunger required.


Emma said...

Much as I liked Ballack('s looks) during the World Cup, when he joined Chelsea, I just noticed that he started to suck. The main problem for him is, like you said, that he and Lampard are too similar. But some of Ballack's poor performances (*that* clearance against Fulham that led to them equalising, as well as that lol-inducing performance against Liverpool @ Anfield) has turned me from him. I almost questioned God's (read: José :P) choice of naming him an "untouchable."

But recently, whilst Sheva has, he has started to find his form, and I hope to see more match-winning goals and great contributions from midfield from him.

Emma said...

And Ballack is hilarious here, as is the rest of the team:


mimi said...

Alex: I enjoyed reading this and shall direct my Chelsea fan mate Ellie to come over here and have a peruse. She knows far more about football than I do. Whether or not you meant this, but it provoked more thought in my mind about Lampard than Ballack.

guitougoal said...

Very good piece Alex ,you are right about most of the players being slow to adapt to the premiership. a. My biggest concern with Ballack is about his physical condition because he has a history of nagging problems but he should have a great end of season.

MotM said...

Ballack and Shevchenko joined double Premiership winners to improve the team. We won't know this until the Champions League is completed, but it looks unlikely that Chelsea's season will match the previous two.

As is pointed out, Ballack is like Lampard, and Frank's hardly a popular player for many reasons.

English crowds will always value passion and neither B nor S seem particularly passionate about the game. For example, the reaction to the yellow card in 2002, though wholly more constructive than Gazza's tears, just adds to the impression of a man playing for money - unfair, but that's the way it looks.

Tweet it, digg it