When I first started thinking about this piece, I had many thoughts on what I could write about – Roman Abramovich’s off field issues, André Villas-Boas’ questionable tactics, the ‘old guard’ slowly fading away, or the fact that Chelsea would be fronted by Colin Murray and Stan Collymore on a miserable Thursday night on Channel Five (just for the record, I was prepared for it).
For the meantime however, I’ll try and keep it on the pitch.
After a positive pre-season, without conceding a goal in all but one game, and Fernando Torres scoring twice (once against Wycombe Wanderers and then against Aston villa to bring the Asia Trophy back to Stamford Bridge) Chelsea fans couldn’t be blamed for thinking that they wouldn’t be faring so badly, or at least seemingly so, before Christmas.
After a slow start, drawing 0-0 at Stoke, followed by three wins against West Bromwich Albion, Norwich City and Sunderland, although conceding in each game, Chelsea seemed to be getting on with their campaign quietly. After beating Bayer Leverkusen 2-0 at home thanks to goals from David Luiz and Juan Mata, there was a trip up to Manchester.
With a clean sheet lasting longer than 36 seconds, things were looking up. But after two dubious goals and a finish from close range by Wayne Rooney, things weren’t looking up. However, a tidy finish from Torres gave hope, but the astonishing miss that followed gave United a 3-1 victory. A disappointing result, but Chelsea fans could take some encouragement, namely that for the majority of the second half their team controlled the game.
Going through to the fourth round of the Carling Cup on penalties against West London rivals Fulham followed by a convincing win over Swansea got things back on track, but Salomon Kalou put all of Chelsea’s hard work aside in the Mestalla, with a ridiculous handball that gave Valencia a draw, and angered pretty much everyone. But again, any doubts that they were faltering were quashed as Chelsea went on to score 13 goals in the next three games again Bolton Wanderers, Everton and Genk.
Then Chelsea imploded. Not at the Luzhniki Stadium, White Hart Lane, The Emirates Stadium, Anfield or Old Trafford. At Loftus road. Seven bookings, two early baths and a 1-0 loss to Queens Park Rangers, who are still living off the win (a win assisted by Chris Foy). Still, have no fear, the Carling Cup campaign was still alive and kicking, beating Everton in extra-time three days after the loss to the West London rivals. But then Chelsea imploded again. At Stamford Bridge, where it never happens. Another game that London rivals can’t get over, John Terry gave Robin Van Persie a helping hand on his way to being the highest Premier League scorer in a calendar year. A freak game that could have finished a number of ways, which is unlikely to be seen again for a number of years.
Genk then decided to get involved in the act, taking a point at home in the Champions League, a result followed by a much-needed, albeit labouring, win over Blackburn Rovers. Liverpool then took it upon themselves to make Chelsea’s misery even worse, unleashing secret weapon Glen ‘Lionel Messi’ Johnson, who weaved through the defence and slotted home, and enjoying the moment a bit too much for Stamford Bridge’s liking. This, followed by letting a lead slip away to Bayer Leverkusen put everyone on André Villas-Boas’ back, giving him a certain number of days to turn things around, ‘make or break time’, etc.
A win over a lacklustre Wolverhampton Wanderers gave Chelsea momentum to push on their so far triumphant Carling Cup campaign. However, Maxi Rodriguez getting another goal in West London, in addition to the Chelsea players being put off by Andy Carroll’s ‘Bambi On Ice’ audition, put Villas-Boas back on the brink and the team was being written off for December, with many wondering whether Abramovich would have much more time for the young Portuguese manager.
With December under way, and six goals against seemingly difficult opposition that should have beaten Villas-Boas’ team, things aren’t as bad as they were. Villas-Boas’ ongoing war with the media continues to entertain, Chelsea finishing top of their Champions League group when they were in danger of Europa League games is welcome respite, and the emergence of Oriol Romeu too points to progress in the side. If Abramovich is going to get rid, give Villas-Boas until the end of the season at least, which I think he will do. I know my views with the man, and I think everyone else should hold judgement until January. With five games left this month, a lot can happen. Give the man time.
By Callum Maclean