So where shall I start? As I write this after having just watched the extended highlights on Sky from our dismal display at Goodison Park this weekend, it is fair to say that things have not exactly been too positive with Chelsea recently. In a season, which back in August we thought would bring a title challenge in an exciting new era under the guidance of AVB, we now find ourselves at present lying in 5th position, trying to fight out for a top 4 finish this season.
Now if we were to rewind the clock back to the 2002/2003 season (pre- Abramovic), fighting for a top 4 finish to get into the Champions League was precisely what we were doing, and needless to say that was considered a largely successful season, and I can remember exactly how elated I felt at the full time whistle on the last day of that season! That season, we finished 4th after a dramatic last day encounter with the bin dippers to qualify for the Champions League, whilst much to our pleasure the Scousers had to settle for a place in the UEFA Cup (or Europa League as it is known as now). It was a match that marked the start of what was to become a drastic change in SW6. It was said that the club were under severe financial difficulties at the time, and had we not qualified for the Champions League that season, one can only imagine what would have become of the club we all love and adore. With that last day of the season victory against Liverpool, not only did we qualify for Europe's elite club competition for the second time in our history, after having endured a few seasons of unsuccessful spells in the UEFA cup, but it brought in the much needed added income that the club were in desperate need of at the time. For this reason, qualifying for the Champions League then was perhaps slightly more significant than our first spell in the competition under Vialli in the 1999/2000 season. Of course, it was not long after that a certain Mr Abramovic bought the club, and with his Russian Billions, started what has been the club's most successful period. But the point is, that season when we finished 4th, it was considered a successful season, where as if we come back to the present time, finishing 4th is considered a minimal requirement! No disrespect to the Europa League, but having been in the Champions League each year since 2003, it would certainly be a big blow for a club of our standing.
Fast forward back to the present and this season, it can safely be said that we have been below par and AVB has certainly not brought to Chelsea what we had hoped he would. Last Summer, when AVB was named as the successor to Ancelloti, he was dubbed as the Special One- version 2! Now we all know Mourinho was something unique, and did in fact bring something special to the club, but trying to compare anyone else to compare anyone else to Mourinho by anyone's standards was a dangerous line to take. AVB, although he did learn his trade working under Mourinho as a scout, he has been successful prior to coming to Chelsea in his own right at Porto. AVB is his own man, with his own ideas and ways of doing things. One thing that should be noted is that AVB lacks managerial experience as he hasn't been in the trade long, and at his age is in fact younger than some of our senior players. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as he is a man with hunger and drive for success. But when we look at this season so far, with way we have been playing and the results that we have been getting, one has to question who is to blame for our poor performances. Is the manager to blame, or is the players...or even both?
The reality at the moment is that we simply cannot beat anyone. We are dropping far too many points, especially at places where we should be getting all three points! At the rate we are going, the chant of 'THURSDAY NIGHTS CHANNEL 5.......THURSDAY NIGHTS CHANNEL 5!', which we have given to both Man City and Man United fans recently, may indeed come back to haunt us. Imagine this, we finish 5th, fail to qualify for the Champions League, and both sets of Manc fans as well as potentially the scum from North London (S**rs and Le Arse) have the pleasure of directing this chant back at us! The harsh reality is that this may well be the case come the start of next season. Although this is not all we have to worry about, the form we have been in of late is more resembling of a team in the bottom half of the league table, and what if we finish outside the top five, let alone the top four?! This season, aside from Man city and Man United, who are leading the chase for the title, it is quite a competitive chase for the remaining Champions League places. Aside from us, there is S**rs, Arsenal, Newcastle, and the bin dippers competing for the two remaining Champions League places, once the top two places are taken out of the equation. Now, with the fixtures remaining, and given that we still have to play Man City, Newcastle, Arsenal, Sp**rs and the Scousers, we do have the capability to finish in the top four. But the problem lies in the fact that overall there seems to be a lack of passion within the squad.
'A team in transition' is a phrase that has been used by many this season, but at what point do we stop using this as an excuse? Every manager needs time to make their mark and I agree if any manager, whether it be AVB or anyone else for that matter, needs time to build their own squad and achieve success, then indeed they should be given that time. Of course we don't want to be an Arsenal and end up with years of no success, at the expense of discovering quality young players that end up leaving for bigger clubs anyway when they reach a peak in the career. But at the same time, there is no point hanging onto any deadwood in the squad either. The backbone of the current squad has been part of the most successful squad that the club has had and years, and we are not going to deny them that, but as with all things 'all good things come to an end', and perhaps it is now time for a big shake up and a summer clear out. However, before we can even look as far as summer, there is the more pressing issue of the remainder of the season to concentrate on.
Yesterday at Goodison, it was most arguably the worst performance of our season so far. No passion, no desire and well it pretty much sums up the problematic season we are having. I won't go back and analyse the whole season so far, but looking at just the matches so far in 2012, it is clear that there is something missing. Prior to the defeat at Everton on Saturday, we were undefeated so far in 2012, however given that it is only February and also given the opponents we have had, that isn't really saying much. In January, we went away to Norwich and Swansea, both of which I was at, and from both these games, the only real positives I could draw was the support. However, on the pitch, we did not perform, and these were places where we should have bagged the points! Drawing away to Norwich and then to Swansea is not ideal, although at Swansea I was happy with the draw, given that we were only few minutes away from defeat. When you are losing, on a cold Tuesday night away from home, a late equaliser is sweet! Not saying that the late equaliser compensates for the dropped two points, but it is something we would be happy to take given our current form. After all, a draw is better than defeat right?.........er well not quite, it simply just covers the cracks that exist!
In the January transfer window, we brought in Cahill, which in my view was a good signing, especially given the departure of Alex, and the need to strengthen in defence. However, what baffles me is why AVB did not use Cahill until the Man United game, which was probably our best performance in a while....although given our bad luck and incapability to hold a lead, meant we were 3-0 up and we f****d it up!! To not play Cahill, when JT is out injured, and to use Boswinga at RB, when he could instead be using Ivanovic there with a Cahill and Luiz partnership in the centre is something that makes me think.......why!?! Aside from this, there have been a number of incidents in matches, where changes have simply just been frustrating. I'm not going to bore you all and go on and on about things that should have been different/could have been different etc, but all in all it does make you ask a few questions:
Is AVB out of his depth and is he the wrong man for the job?
Has AVB lost the dressing room?
Why are the players not performing?
Have some of the players lost the passion to play in the blue shirt?
Well, all I can say is this, we don't know the answers to these questions, but all we do know is that all is not right with Chelsea. We are not playing well and we are not getting the results that we need. Is AVB to blame for this?........maybe. Are the players to blame?......maybe - in fact some players just simply do not look cut out to play for us anymore, Malouda, Boswinga etc to name a few!
For now, all we can do is back AVB and the team 100% for the remainder of the season, and hope that fortunes change sooner rather than later. I don't think getting rid of AVB will be beneficial at all. I know that it looks like he may not be the right man, given the way things are going, but it is not all down to him. Players and AVB need to come together and save our season. I can't stress how important it is that we finish in the top four, and if we have any more performances like we did at Everton, the patience of many Chelsea faithful will be tested...but remember just keep the faith and just give your backing week in week out! Of course, there is also the scenario that we could finish 5th, but then win the Champions League and still qualify for next season a.k.a Liverpool. Although if this was to happen, I would accept being a 'Liverpool' only for this season, as long as we return to the Chelsea challenging for the title next season.
Anyway, that's enough of me going on, but just remember it may not be the best of times, but we must stick together, give our support and given all the games left still this season, there is every chance that we will finish in the top four, because WE CAN DO IT!
WIN OR LOSE ....UP THE BLUES!
'DON'T WORRY ABOUT A THING....COZ EVERY LITTLE THING IS GONNA BE ALRIGHT!'