I think maybe it’s time to discuss some revised expectations/hopes for the season. 10 games in now (starting with City in the community shield), and we have had plenty of opportunities to see the team play, and to see how they fare against a variety of opponents. Furthermore, we have witnessed every player feature for the first team at least once, and a variety of different combinations in regards to this. We are now capable of producing some more realistic targets for Chelsea to meet this season.
Over the last several months, I feel like our expectations have evolved a great deal. Let’s start back in the weeks before the Champions league final. I always had that belief that we would win. If anything, I was overconfident (everything seemed to point our way!) but there was always that thought in the back of the mind that wondered: “Oh man, what way is the club going to go if we lose to Bayern and find ourselves without Champions league football?” At this point, before the season even ended, I would have asked, nay, begged for a top four finish this season. I was just scared that we would go the way of Leeds or Liverpool
As we approached the season, things had changed a great deal. We had won the Champions League, and therefore had managed to retain our place in the competition. Di Matteo was now the permanent boss. We had signed a variety of attacking talent, and allowed some players, who were maybe not up to scratch, to leave (I find it hard to talk this way of them after their heroics in Europe, but it’s true). The club had gone under an incredible transformation, one that would not have taken place were it not for our win in Munich (praise the Lord). Despite this though, my expectations were not very high. I still would have been happy with a top four finish, maybe with a couple of long Cup runs added to the mix, but my hopes had not changed a great deal. There were various reasons for why I felt this way:
- 6th place to higher than 4th in the league is a mighty fine jump, I would be interested to know if it has ever been done before?
- We hadn’t seen how well this new collection of players would gel (I don’t like to look too much into pre-season).
- We had lost Drogba, *gulp*. We also had only two natural strikers at the club.
- I still thought, and please do not fall off your chair when I say this, that Di Matteo had not completely proved himself as tactically strong enough to manage Chelsea.
- Finally, other teams that we compete with had also noticeably strengthened. United: Kagawa, RVP; Arsenal: Carzola, Podolski, Giroud; Tottenham hadn’t changed a lot at this point, but AVB becoming their manager worried me. Newcastle: kept all their players and added some depth. Man City: signed nobody at this point, but then they hardly needed to.
Now, however, I feel a great deal more optimistic. Different teams have demonstrated to us a variety of positives and negatives. Stoke showed us that we are capable of grinding out a win. Reading showed us that we can pick ourselves up after being knocked down. Finally, Newcastle showed us that we are able to raise our performances for the must-win games.
Di Matteo is proving himself more and more as the season progresses, and I am now 100% confident in his abilities as manager. Most importantly, the team too is 100% confident in his abilities, and you see that when they come out to play for him. The relationship he has with them is fantastic. I think our loss to Athletico Madrid was down to tactical errors that he made, not just the woeful performance of the team on an individual level, but that is just one blip in a season in which his brave team selections have impressed me immensely. He isn’t scared to make the big decisions, which is good because there will be a lot of them to come.
Our new recruits have hit the ground running, yet another cause for my optimism. Oscar and Hazard have been especially impressive. It wouldn’t surprise me, sadly, if Madrid and Barcelona
come calling in the next couple of years. Torres is bagging a goal every other game, and improving all the time, and so far, I am pleased from what I have seen from him. Whether he is the man to take the club forward is a discussion for another day. Mata is back to his old self, Moses seems to fit into the team nicely, and I could go on and on about every player, but I won’t. What I will say is that we seem to have a collection of players that have a very good chemistry together, and that allow us to approach each opponent differently.
I thought I’d wait until after the Arsenal game to write this, because that was our first big domestic test. You could make an argument that Newcastle was, but ultimately that was a home game against a team that hadn’t come out of second gear yet. Arsenal away however? Well they were firmly in fifth gear, and the match came at a time when Chelsea seemed ready to face this kind of challenge. We beat them at their own game, and in their own back yard, even if the match was a little scrappy at times. The fact that we were able to win is what has got me wondering what else we are capable of. Poor results and performances against the big teams is where we let ourselves down last year, but if we can turn this around, as we did on Saturday, then we could be in for an exciting season!
My revised hopes/expectations are now that we shall challenge for the title up until late in the season. I’m still not convinced we can win, but we won’t be a million miles away, if I go by how things look at the moment. I don’t say this because we are top of the league, I don’t take that into account at all. I say it because of the previous reasons I have given and because, well, United and City don’t look amazing at the moment. Whilst they are picking up results, neither are playing well. I would be wary of Arsenal though. We may have just beat them but I fully expect them to be up there with us come May. I guess I’ll finish with a quote from Mourinho in 2005: “Chelsea will win something.”
Published with permission from CHELSEADAFT - A Chelsea fans blog..