Why defending champions Chelsea's season isn't over yet
While their run of two wins on the trot may have alleviated some concerns regarding Chelsea’s fortunes, it still doesn’t hide the fact that Chelsea have been woeful in their early season. Chelsea fans around the world have been left standing aghast at the frailties in the heart of their defence and their mediocre efforts while pushing forwards on many occasions.
This is then coupled with the ineffectual attempts to sign an established leader to shepherd Chelsea’s hapless, crumbling defence. If that wasn’t all, the fact that Jose Mourinho has managed to elude the prospect of giving the Chelsea faithful any concrete reason for their shoddy work on the pitch has left them standing on pins and needles – worrying about the future of the club they love.
Chelsea are now eight points behind table-toppers City and languish a scarcely believable 13th in the Premier League standings. Countless people have written off the likelihood of Chelsea securing a Champions League berth let alone actually challenging for the title this year, and given the recent signs, it’s more than a fair assumption. However, here are a few reasons why you may want to hold out on writing the boys from Stamford Bridge off just yet.
It’s still early in the season
“In football, the good thing is things can change in a second” – Didier Drogba
While the signs after five games are far from promising, it’s worth keeping in mind that we are still only six games into the season. Chelsea still have 32 game weeks to go. A lot can happen in that amount of time – we could make contact with alien life, we could find a cure for cancer, or, to the delight of Chelsea fans all over, The Blues may just sort out their defensive problems and manage to open up the floodgates at the other end of the pitch. They could go on to replicate the clinical form they were in last year.
The signs are promising for the Blues. Firstly, they managed to win their most recent games at home without conceding. While critics may add that in the game against the Gunners, the Blues were facing a team with only 10 men and in Maccabi, they were facing an opposition which isn’t of the highest quality, it still denotes a welcome change in Chelsea’s fortunes.
Even in their most recent away game against Everton – possibly their most daunting task of the season after their game against the Citizens, The Blues showed signs of a club on the rise. They have managed to trump them on nearly every other statistic apart from the all-important one – goals. Still, it represents an improvement on the earlier games wherein they were beaten on attempts, possession and corners in addition to all important category of goals.
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Another factor that Chelsea fans can take solace in is that nobody has ever won trophies based on their standing at the start of the year. I’m in no way saying that a strong start isn’t beneficial. On the contrary, a strong start is a perfect base for a title winning season – it gives you confidence, boosts morale and creates an aura of invulnerability that manages to pervade opposition teams throughout the year.
However, a commendable start isn’t the be-all, end-all factor to a successful season and I’m quite certain Jose Mourinho is well aware of this. Also with City’s recent loss at the hands of West Ham on the weekend, it goes to show that nobody is safe this year in Premier League and anybody is as susceptible to a sudden loss in form as Chelsea have been at the start of the year.
The new boys haven’t had a chance yet
Chelsea’s new boys Papy Djilobodji and Baba Rahman were brought in to sure up The Blues’ shaky defence this year. They are now 5 games into the season. However neither of them have made an appearance in the starting XI.
Mourinho ostensibly prefers familiarity in his back 4 of Ivanovic, Terry, Cahill and Azpilicueta which is completely logical as they have all played together before and share a good understanding of each other – exemplified by their exploits in their title-winning season last year.
By now, given the defensive displays shown in the last few games, Mourinho has no option but to give the new boys a chance to show their worth and establish themselves as starters in Chelsea’s first XI. There’s no denying that the two are blessed with immense talent or the Portuguese boss wouldn’t have brought them to the club in the first place.
The question now lies in whether they can demonstrate that defensive know-how on the pitch. If the two manage to impress when given the opportunity and sure up the creaky defence, the grass at Stamford Bridge will look a whole lot greener in the coming months.
Mourinho is synonymous with the word defence
Even though the performances this season may lead younger fans to scarcely believe it, Mourinho is synonymous with the word defending. He was in charge of the Chelsea side that conceded a scarcely believable 15 goals across the whole of the 2004/05 season – a record that still stands today.
Mourinho has in fact, been criticised for being too defensive by fellow managers on many occasions and has also ostracised players who he deemed as not contributing enough defensively, case in point – Juan Mata. All this stands as a testament to the importance the man puts on his team’s defensive duties.
His defensive prowess isn’t limited to his stints at Chelsea, he managed to create a rock solid defence at Inter with Lucio and Walter Samuel at the helm – leading them to their historic treble in the 2009/10 season. Even in his first big managerial stint at Porto, Mourinho managed to win the Champions League in 2004 primarily down to contributions of fellow Portuguese centre-back Ricardo Carvalho at the heart of the defence.
It’s clear that defending champions have had a terrible start to the season and most of it can be attributed to their woeful defending. Mourinho’s usually airtight defensive tactics have proven to be ineffectual this year and he has no option but to go back to the drawing board and restructure that luckless backline.
Given his previous exploits in redeveloping the art of defending across the years, Chelsea fans can rest assured that their boss will sort out those inefficiencies at the back in no time.
They’ve achieved far more inconceivable feats before
"Only true champions come out and show their worth after defeat." – Sir Alex Ferguson
It’s a well known, and often at times, oversaturated fact that a team’s true mettle is tested only when their backs are firmly against the wall. Given their form this season so far, Chelsea’s back may just be inside that proverbial wall.
Chelsea have always had that uncanny knack of exceeding people’s expectations when they least expect it. Their Champions League winning run during the 2011-12 season is a perfect illustration of this exact unwavering determination that they possess.
They were having a poor campaign that year- much akin to their exploits so far this season and yet managed to beat the defending champions - a virtually impregnable Barcelona side in the semi-finals before trouncing Bayern at home in an enthralling final that left everyone waiting with bated breath until Didier Drogba finally smashed home from 12 yards out to cement his place in Chelsea folklore.
They managed all of this under the command of a manager who had never managed a Champions League side before. It was the stuff fairy tales were made of – nothing less than a miracle.
Forgive me for the use of another hackneyed term but – great teams make their own luck. If Chelsea manage to pull off finishing this season on a positive note, naysayers will plainly attribute it to luck but in all honesty if they manage to pull off this rescue act, they will establish themselves as a great side rather than just a winning one; and given Chelsea’s past heroics when the odds are against them, I wouldn’t bet against it actually happening.
Chelsea’s abysmal start to their campaign as defending champions could be the perfect platform for them to show the world that they are in fact worthy of wearing that golden-infused Premier League badge on their arms. There’s no doubt that the Stamford Bridge outfit have the pedigree to carry this task out and get back to winning ways – one mustn’t forget that they are defending champions after all.
Taking all these factors in, Chelsea fans all over needn’t pack up their flags and banners and vacate The Shed – there’s still so much to play for this year. While a successful title defence may seem a little too utopian, putting up a solid fight before relinquishing that crown is certainly on the cards.
So keep that blue flag flying high o’ loyal Chelsea fans, the season isn’t over just yet.