Football: Chelsea's rota system frustrates Laudrup

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The Independent Online
BRIAN LAUDRUP yesterday highlighted the frustrations of Chelsea's squad rotation system, 24 hours before the opening game in their defence of the European Cup-Winners' Cup.

The Danish international has made one start for Chelsea this season, and only came on as an 89th-minute substitute during the 2-1 win over Nottingham Forest on Saturday.

After only five weeks at the club, Laudrup, signed on a free transfer from Rangers this summer, has made his feelings known to the player-manager, Gianluca Vialli.

Vialli has the task of keeping Gianfranco Zola, Pierluigi Casiraghi, Tore Andre Flo, himself and Laudrup happy while telling them nobody's place in the starting line-up is secure.

It is a problem that Vialli was on the receiving end of himself when Ruud Gullit was coach.

"I have been to a meeting with Vialli and the other forwards at the club," Laudrup said as Chelsea prepared to entertain the Swedish side, Helsingborg, tonight. "Vialli said that he regards us all as stars and that we actually each of us should play every single time, but he would not give any guarantees to any of us.

"His message was that none of us can feel secure of a spot in the starting line-up and of course that's a new situation for me that I have to get used to.

"I didn't like the same system at Milan, and the big danger is that some players might never find the right rhythm."

Indeed, Chelsea have so far failed to find the rhythm that took them to two cup triumphs last year. Laudrup puts that down to a lack of playing time for the team to gel together and is desperate to get as much match practice as possible to prove his worth.

"I need all the playing time that I can possibly get right now because it was a big problem in my league debut that my team-mates didn't know me and I didn't know them," he said. "I was criticised for my debut but please notice I played in a strange role in right midfield which is not my favourite space at all.

"I think that Vialli has already seen that the best space for me is as the free runner behind the forwards like I played for Rangers and Denmark.

"Physically I am fit but I lack a bit in timing and only playing big matches will help me now."

Vialli has an almost full squad to choose from, with only Dan Petrescu missing through suspension. The captain, Dennis Wise, is available again after his three-match ban following his dismissal against Atletico Madrid in a pre-season tournament.

Though Chelsea should have little problem squeezing past the Swedish part-timers, they have been taking no chances for tonight's first leg, spending Tuesday after training studying videos of the Swedish side

"When you don't know one player from the other team you have to be careful," Marcel Desailly, another of Chelsea's foreign summer signings, said yesterday. "Sometimes they have surprises."