An amazing campaign but one that only really felt so good in the context of the one that preceded it – by Nanu Emannuel Ugwu – a seldom satisfied blue. Follow him on Twitter @Nanu759
Chelsea’s surprising attack on the league title left more than a few seasoned pundits bewildered. The season began with three very unconvincing domestic victories and a League Cup 2nd Round tie, which was a “reward” for Chelsea’s efforts from the previous campaign.
By the time the first round of European fixtures had been played (another reminder of the angst of the season before) and Chelsea had met Liverpool at Stamford Bridge, the seeds of doubt had already been sown. The lack of ruthlessness, communication and effort had reared its ugly head once again and many fans had already begun fearing the worst. Then came the trip to Arsenal in late September… the things we saw in that first 45… Be that as it may, the defeat was long overdue and the new Chelsea Boss Antonio Conte decided enough was enough and abandoned the outdated marking scheme.
In came a three-man defence and Chelsea swept all and sundry, embarking on a 12-match winning streak that more or less secured the team it’s fourth Premier League title. The football at times was overwhelming. None more so than on October 23rd, a day to be remembered as the one where Mourinho officially left his post as Chelsea manager. The rawness, energy and zip that befell Manchester United that day looked to signal a new Chelsea under Conte. Everton the following week had the bookies slashing odds on Chelsea, less than a month after raising them in the backdrop of the back-to-back losses to Arsenal and Liverpool.
Chelsea’s play in that great run was built primarily on the effectiveness and unpredictability of the wing-backs going forward. The much-maligned and underrated Marcos Alonso played an immeasurable part in critical games, scoring unprecedented goals and showing remarkable ability from set-pieces. Such a player would have joined Benitez’ Liverpool in their pomp as a haven for B-rated Spanish internationals. Victor Moses on the right was truly devastating in the winning run with key goals but his campaign noticeably dipped after his contract was renewed to ward off interest from (of all teams) Barcelona, who are famous for not knowing what a right back is. A word of warning.
Chelsea’s (and most successful teams) greatest strength was their ability to create and score when going forward. Diego Fraudster Costa was excellent in the opening part of the campaign until his Chinese whispers began. His subsequent displays were a reminder of the Costa we hate to love and the 80 million being quoted for him sounded like blood money. How Chelsea managed to make 50 million from selling Oscar is really a sign of love from the Divine.
Their defensive displays were also key but rather surprisingly the tightest results came in single goal wins over relatively poor opposition away from the Bridge (Boro, Stoke, West Ham, West Brom [at home as well], Sunderland). David Luiz, Cahill and Azpilicueta made an astounding backline that grew in reputation and protected Thibaut Courtois excellently. Phasing out John Terry (to correct Mourinho’s initial mistake of bringing him back) was particularly pleasing from “his time has clearly past” POV.
All in all, a wonderful year and one that Chelsea fans would gladly take if the same honours were offered in the coming campaign.
In truth, having said all this, Chelsea’s campaign in context probably only felt THIS good because of the abject disappointment of the season 15/16.
Key points of note remain and there is still an overriding feeling that:
- The squad is not good enough and enjoyed the benefits of having a relatively truncated campaign not playing in Europe
- Yet another year in which no major youth team players were fully blooded into the first team despite another excellent campaign by the kids. Not trusting youth in difficult times produces players who lack the confidence. It’s all when and fine giving Chalobah and Loftus-Cheek a run-out when the results are safe but you need to know what they are made of in difficult games. #NoteverytimeZouma
- The team was found out WAY too easily in away games vs. Tottenham, Arsenal and Man Utd. Man City hit the post twice after Cahill’s own goal before a rare second half fightback ensured the points.
- A player like Hazard while being talisman and banter chief in the dressing room does not throw his weight around in the toughest games as evidenced by defeats to all our title rivals except Man City. Dries Mertens scored 28 goals in Serie A and he doesn’t have two heads.
- A new cult is developing around the new manager which is rather troubling not out of spite but out of wonder considering what happened with the “individual”. This is self-explanatory and forgets the divine rule that all coaches are hired hands.
- The FA Cup final was good and bad in the sense that it showed the club hierarchy that team was incomplete and incapable of mounting a serious charge in the next campaign without many reinforcements but at the same time removed all remaining notions of invulnerability the team had used to win many games during the league campaign.
- A real effort MUST be made by the transfer bigwigs to sign the RIGHT players for the team over those termed as the BEST. The key blend is what makes title winning teams. Azpilicueta >>> John Stones
From not being favorites for the title at the beginning of the campaign to being overwhelming favorites for an FA Cup final in which they appeared ill-prepared, Chelsea’s predictability is as foreseeable as their complacency at times.
One can only wonder anxiously how a team despite winning the title in such convincing fashion (on paper) is looking nervously behind them to avoid being stuck in the same rut that has befallen it’s last two title winning teams. If not for the very forgotten executive producer of the hit-show that is Chelsea FC, Roman Abramovich…
PS Not mentioning N’golo Kante in this article was not an oversight but in honour of his ability to do his best work while not being noticed. N’golo Kante: LE MEILLEUR