Poor Chelsea, slimfast Rangers & cup-winning Oxford

Handy Read! FFT digests the best of the morning's newspaper articles for your pleasure...

Who'd be a Chelsea fan? It must be terrible being top of the league, managed by a World Cup winner and owned by someone richer than God.

However, after a blistering start to life under Scolari there are signs that the wheels might be wobbling off the wagon, with their only four wins in the last nine coming against Hull, Sunderland, Blackburn and West Brom.

So it is that The Times' Matt Hughes finds himself wondering where it's going wrong for Chelsea, and coming up with various answers. Tactical inflexibility is one, now that Rafa has pointed out how to stifle his rivals' line-up; a small squad has also been hampered by indiscipline and a lack of promising youngsters.

I didn't see that coming" 

Finding the world's best young talents and offering them up for first-team duties was supposed to be the job of Frank Arnesen, whose job is widely believed to be under threat (so it's not just impoverished workers who get laid of in a recession, then).

It's tempting to ask whether the Dane has had sufficient chance to establish anything resembling a youth system, or whether an untried tyro would have a chance of breaking into the superstar hegemony, but The Independent's Sam Wallace makes a persuasive case for Arnie being terminated.

Chelsea aren't the only big spenders who've got the blues about being in the red. With Rangers chairman David Murray (personal wealth a mere £720m) looking to sell up because he can't afford to help the club compete at continental level, boss Walter Smith is looking to tighten his belt in January by reducing the size of the playing squad.

"Well, he can go... and him..." 

Avoiding the temptation to roll out a sizeist joke or mention Hogmanay, and considering Sunderland chairman Niall Quinn has stated he expects Keano to do more selling than buying during the transfer window, could we see the return of the buyers' market, with bargains aplenty as those with liquidity snap up those foolish impulse buys made before the recession?

Also feeling bloated is Times columnist Tony Cascarino, who feels that the Champions League group stage format may be a tad boring and serve only to make money while easing the procession of the bigger clubs. Hmm.

It's tempting to wonder what reaction that realisation would get from acerbic FFT contributor Scott Murray (he who writes the Diary; he's got a great stocking-filler book out, too). Today he casts his mind back 23 years for The Guardian to look at the 1985-86 season.

A recent FFT Action Replay looked at the TV strike which blighted the first half of that tight-shorted term, but Murray widens the scope to encompass a post-Heysel season which included Oxford winning a major competition, the worst Liverpool team ever to win the league – and Chelsea playing twice in two days. See, they've never had it easy.

Any suggestions for the next round-up? Send them to FourFourTwo.com editor Gary.Parkinson@haymarket.com


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