Changing Winds at Stamford Bridge
By Nicholas Spiller
It has been a turbulent month of highs and lows for the Chelsea faithful. They have seen their manager fired, a roaring comeback against Napoli to progress to the Champions’ League quarterfinals, and a frustrating lack of form in the Premier League that has left the Blues in 5th place with only 9 matches remaining.
What in the world has happened to this club? I feel that Chelsea lacks that frightening punch that Jose Mourinho had instilled into the team. Remember those days when Didier Drogba could pounce upon any loose ball and drill it into the net, and all the Bridge would leap up in an ear splitting roar that left visiting sides morbidly distraught as the Ivorian flexed his muscles and screamed into the camera? They used to turn games on their heads and completely take over.
Now Chelsea hangs on for dear life. Fans think about that 50 million pound transfer for Fernando Torres, which has proved to be the worst piece of business this century. They figure he ought to be given a fair chance, but then they see him flounder about lacking all that explosiveness and power that had drawn the club to him in the first place. They see that Drogba has not been the same man, he has aged; the confidence that had been placed on him was profoundly shaken by the purchase of Torres. Former team mate and striker, Nicolas Anelka, was so rattled that he took off…to China.
So what has caused this new miserable state of the Blues? I see it as a simple case of the ego. The entire squad is assembled of egos. The man who owns the team has an ego. He found a great coach in Mourinho, the self appointed “Special One.” But, I actually think the first visible mistake by owner Roman Abromovich was Mourniho’s dismissal. The man had won two Premier League titles in three seasons, and had finished 2nd in the third while winning both Carling and FA Cups.
Chelsea had broken their record of successive home victories. He had repeatedly come close to winning the Champions’ League and likely would have done it, like he has at Inter Milan, but he was sacked.
Then Abramovich lost his head. In the five years since, Chelsea has now had 7 different managers! 7! That’s greater managerial turnover than I’ve ever seen! Rarely does one last a full season, and none has surpassed two. The beautiful combination of talent has grown weary and old. It seems as if John Terry runs the show on the pitch now, and we all know how his head is screwed on amid the claims of racism and promiscuity (Terry is married).
Chelsea has been replaced by Manchester City. You can’t stay the rich squad forever, because soon enough, someone with more money and a bigger ego will show up and buy all the best young talent. So now Chelsea is stuck with their aging legends. Big heads like Terry, Drogba, Ashley Cole, and Frank Lampard moan and whine when they are placed on the bench. Stamford Bridge terrifies no one anymore.
Yes, they are in the Champions’ League quarterfinals and the FA Cup Semifinals. But who have they played? They just beat an average Italian side after topping a group of chumps in Europe. Their FA Cup run has featured a fixture against Birmingham City that had to go two legs after a draw and a thrashing of Championship side Leicester City. Fernando Torres ended his 24 hour goal scoring drought with a fantastic brace in garbage time that included a fortunate header and a misfired shot that came off the side of his heel.
They may get lucky and never have to play anyone good in the FA Cup as most the heavyweights have already lost, but in the Champions League, Barcelona or AC Milan looms ahead in the semifinals. They will face Messi and the end of the road.
So where do they go from here? I suggest a full house cleaning is in order. Some of the guys mentioned above need to go, and the club should start investing in youth. Torres has not re-found his form, and I fear that it is now a thing of the past. He needs to be shown the door as his presence on the pitch is an embarrassment. I fear the only reason he hasn’t left yet is due to the humiliation of the 2 million pounds he will be sold for (resulting in a loss of 48 million pounds + absurd wages).
Chelsea will not make the Champions’ League this year. This is a far cry from the team that was close to winning it when Mourinho was in charge. Changes will finally come about, and the checks will keep flying out of Abramovich’s hand. At some point, he will become bored of throwing his money into a soccer club, and I fully envision that within 5 years he will begin the process of selling the team.
Nicholas Spiller is a freelance soccer writer and can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.