I know it’s been ages since Anelka has left us, and that there is no special occasion for me to come out and write an Appreciation Article for a player who is no longer with our squad, but I just wanted to, and if you have been an Anelka fan like I have been, well, read on, I will try my best to make this one interesting. This is just an homage for a player who was often overlooked under the shadow of our other big guns. And sometimes he was even deprived of the praise he truly deserved.
It wasn’t really hard to misunderstand the man that Nicolas was under that grumpy face which hardly sparkled a smile, and a reputation of being a ‘Wanderer’, playing with a mindgobbling 12th team this season in his 17 years of career, and more astonishing is the fact that he has played for 6 Premier League teams, West Brom being his latest one. But through this team jumping process, Nicolas was finally happy at one solitary place, you ask where? You know it, Chelsea FC!
And so the title of the article is quite appropriate as he was the Wanderer who had finally found home.
‘Had’ is an important term here, as we all know he didn’t really get to call Chelsea home for too long. In the 2011-12 season, Andre Vilas Boas turned his highly expressive stay with Chelsea miserable. Anelka found out that he wasn’t going to be utilized as much he was initially under the new boss, and thought about finally leaving Chelsea FC to find new adventures. Little must have he known that the place, wait let me emphasize here, the ‘ONLY PLACE’ he openly claimed to be happy to be at was going to be a terrible place to be at for quite some time thereafter. Vilas Boas found his transfer request offensive and banished the striker to train with the reserves, even banning him from using the First Team parking lot. I wonder how much he would had wanted to keep Chelsea FC in his good memories, rather than the ‘let-me-jump-on-and-make-a-career-without-giving-a-shit’ clubs like Man City, Liverpool or even Arsenal as a matter of fact.
“Ever since I was punished they put me with the youngsters.’I’ve got all the kit and equipment that professionals have but they put me in a separate changing room – that’s football for you.” – Nicolas Anelka (2012)
The early memories of Anelka, that I have is of the half season where I literally loathed him at times, as I wasn’t a real fan of the ‘Sharp Finisher’ type of player he was, his club jumping record, and also that regretless expression he showed off after missing the penalty in the Sudden Death round vs Man Utd in the CL final, which most people remember only for the infamous ‘John Terry Slip.’ I as a football fan knew that it’s not right to blame a player because he failed, but what gives me the creeps is when they do not show the passion that they should be.
That was until he decided to publicly open up. He quoted:
“John is a big player for Chelsea, he has already done something for the club by helping them win so many trophies. I am new so it was more difficult for me.”
“I try not to think about it, but it’s very hard. Even if I’d scored the penalty I still feel I would have something to prove.”
It all actually made sense then. There are people who can show their emotions on their face, and then there are some people who fail miserably at it. You cannot actually blame them for that, can you?
Nicolas Anelka managed to do right in the next few years that he was at the club. The next season he managed to win the golden boot, in a league where Cristiano Ronaldo was running hot on form. The next season, he changed himself for the team’s good and changed into someone who became irreplaceable in the squad in the long run. And a team who played with one front man soon started opting for the Didier Drogba-Nicolas Anelka combo, and yes, it was terrorizing defenses all over Europe. There were obvious comparisons to the other famous partnership we had in our team, the ‘Gudjohnsen-Hasselbaink’ partnership. The strength of Didier and the speed of Anelka, our opponents dreaded that for far too long. And even when we were forced to play one striker, owing to injuries, Anelka stepped up and provided us some really important goals.
“At Liverpool I was only there for six months so it is difficult to judge. At Bolton Wanderers I was playing up front alone and that is a different role to play in football. Now I like the way I am playing but I have always liked to create goals and give assists because I like to win. When you want to win, even if you don’t score you want to make someone score and this is what I did last weekend. For me when you score and when you create a goal, it is the same. When you like football, I think you must like to do both as well. I will try to score more and I will try to do more assists but as I say, the most important is to win games and I am sure even if I don’t score, even if I don’t give assists then someone else will do it. This is the power of Chelsea. We have a lot of good players and everybody is capable of giving something on the pitch.
I have played up front, I have played on the left, I have played on the right and I have played behind the striker as well and so I like it, I like the way I am playing now. I even prefer to play on the right or on the left or behind the striker. I used to be a striker but not anymore. I want to change, I want to develop the new position I have played since I have been at Chelsea. This is why I want to play as long as I can because I have played 10 years up front, now I feel like I want to change something and with this new position I have a lot to do as well. That is why I want to play more and more and more games. Players need to change how they play in their thirties and even more so in England because it is so physical and quick with a lot of contact. You are not like you were when you were younger so you need to adapt your game – and this is exactly what I want to do.”
As a person, Anelka was still a silent man on and off the pitch. Though there were things always here and there criticizing his lifestyle, he hardly caused Chelsea any problems off the pitch, or on it. He silently let his game change people’s views about him. Often deployed on the right wing, supporting Didier, Anelka often made the most of his good pace and a new found ability to assist the front man. His vision of passing improved massively, and quite impressively he was the one who helped the struggling ‘Fernando Torres’ to mark his first goal for the club and also delivered a really delicious ball for the Torres goal against Man Utd soon after.
Even after being silent for way too long, he finally expressed his love for the club when reports started flying in about his possible departure from the club. This was what he had to say to that:
“It is the first time I have scored that many for any club but it is the first time I have spent more than two-and-a-half years at a club as well. It shows how happy I am at Chelsea. When I first signed here, I knew had arrived at a big club and I wanted to stay as long as possible. I don’t know what will happen in the future. After this season, I have one more year on my current deal and I will see what will happen because you never know. But I am very happy here and I would be glad to sign for more years”
And finally when he found signs that he wasn’t needed anymore at the bridge:
“I love playing here, Chelsea has been the best part of my career and it’s been great playing and winning with terrific guys like Didier Drogba, John Terry, Frank Lampard and Florent Malouda. I was hoping to win another league title this season with Chelsea, but now, apparently, it is not to be.”
After being labeled ‘Le Sulk’ for his sulkish nature, it wasn’t the same view that his bosses had. Here are a few quotes from his various managers:
“Sometimes I’ve asked him to play a little bit behind Didier, like against Fulham. But, normally, he doesn’t like to stay in front anyway. He likes to move left or right, so I haven’t had to change anything really. They work best like that, with Didier maintained more in front and Nicolas more behind with Deco or Joe Cole. That pairing, of Anelka and Drogba – I wouldn’t want to change them for anyone else in the division. I think they are the best in the league. Didier is strong, Anelka is quicker. They have fantastic qualities to play together.” – Carlo Ancelotti (October 2009)
“He was very much in the spotlight when he was at Arsenal the first time but then lost his way when he went out of the spotlight. He is now fulfilling the potential that he showed when he won the League as an 18 year old and he is now where everyone thought he would be.” – Arsene Wenger (2009)
“He has got everything in his game but there are times when he just needs a big hug. It is not a problem. Anelka is one of the best players in the world, but he is a man who is very quiet. He is not a man who is easily shocked and he is not very emotional. He`s a quiet man in the dressing room, in the warm-up, even in life. You never hear from Anelka. Yes, I believe Anelka can get even better. He can rise one step more while Drogba is injured. He is quick, he dribbles well, he shoots with both his left and right foot. He has good physique, good control but sometimes he needs something.” – Scolari (October 2008)
“[Le Sulk] is an image that is portrayed in the press, but I find him to be a very engaging character, a very good person and he has been great in the group here. He has come in and settled well. He is already a favourite among the players.” – Steve Clarke (2013)
Well, the point behind this freakishly long article was that I really want every Chelsea fan to recognize the good things Nico did for the club during his time here. And though he had to taste the bitter side of Chelsea during his exit, I am sure; he still holds his time at Chelsea with high regards. And in the match vs West Brom, I can just pray that no fan would boo him, and what would be even better? Him scoring a goal, yet not celebrating out of respect for Chelsea FC. (Ofcourse, Chelsea winning the game in the end, am I mad for wishing for a loss or what?)
I have encountered many fans who hate Anelka for his penalty miss, well I did too. But time changed, and he really did a hell of a job at redemption for his one failure of that big night!
To conclude, I am extremely sorry if this bored you off, I admit it was quite a long article unlike most of the one’s I am used to writing, but there were a few things I wanted to speak out, and so here they were.
Please leave your thoughts and views in the comments section below. I’d love to hear from you!
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