You know, you could quite easily forgive someone who isn’t part of our consecrated fan community, for thinking as fans and followers of Chelsea FC, we are pretty privileged people. Somebody looking in from the outside would probably see a club blessed with a fascinating history of highs and lows, and stories future fans will no doubt continue to read about with great interest for years to come. These outsiders would also no doubt see a club blessed with tremendous wealth, okay we consistently make a hefty loss but the way Roman loans us cash through a holding company means we aren’t technically in any debt (Bonus!) They would also obviously see a squad with world class players in every position, a stunning training complex and from a business point of view; they would see one of the biggest and most popular sporting franchises in the world.
They would see all this and they’d be absolutely right. How is it then, we can convince these people just how crap it is to be us on occasions? You can call me a cynic but when I look back on this period of our history, the most vivid memories will most likely be all those stinging semi-final defeats in the Champions League, those bitterly disappointing 2nd place finishes in the Premier League to Manchester United and obviously that already infamous penalty miss in Moscow. Is it me, or is the Golden Generation of a football club not meant to include such a heart-breaking collection of memories? It seems like a paradox to me, that such a glorified era can harbour so much disappointment.
I suppose the hardest thing about our failings these past few years must be the fact that none of them were really expected. Going into all those finals and semi-finals we were playing some decent football, good enough to give ourselves more than just an outside chance. For me that’s what has been most annoying about this season. As soon as we start to get a bit of rhythm going and we start to resemble the exalted ‘Chelsea of Old’, we get another humbling beat down from lesser competition and the problems we thought had been rectified, are once again visible for all to see.
Examples: Our loss to Manchester United at the start of the season was preceded by four straight victories. Before our next loss to QPR, we were unbeaten in six, likewise with that dreadful home loss to Aston Villa in December. Our 2-0 defeat to Everton also came straight after that classic 3 -3 draw with United – a game that in spite of the points thrown away, had the potential to be a real turning point in the campaign.
I feel that since Di Matteo was made caretaker manager, we’ve definitely witnessed another of these promising turn-arounds in form. The tactical switch from 4-3-3 to 4-2-3-1 has seen the improvement of several members of the squad, including Fernando Torres (at fucking last!) and Juan Mata (who was beginning to look frustratingly restricted, stuck on the left wing).
Surely the biggest rise since Di Matteo’s appointment however has to belong to Branislav Ivanovic. Having always been a relatively subdued member of a squad full of characters, Iva is finally getting his long-overdue and greatly deserved rise to prominence. 3 goals in recent games leading up to our match with Wigan (including his superbly taken winner against Napoli), in addition some typically flawless defensive performances, had seen his stock rise significantly, not only with TV pundits and journalists, but with the fans as well.
Why then, please someone explain, did he throw it all away with that Hearns-like right hand to the kidney of Shaun Maloney? Strangely, it seems to have avoided the press somewhat in the following days, but that doesn’t change the fact it was possibly the most unprofessional and stupid act committed by a Chelsea player on the pitch, for at least as long as I can remember. (Drogba’s slap to Vidic in Moscow might just edge it)
I just want to make it clear that I remain a huge fan of Ivanovic as both a player and a person. John Terry summed it up perfectly when he said Iva was “a symbol of the dedication” that Chelsea represents. He’s the sort of player that will sprint 50 yards to make sure the ball goes out for a throw-in, instead of a corner. He’s the sort of player that will score a well taken goal and then retain the focus to make a brilliant goal-line clearance seconds later. He’s the player that when Terry finally hangs up his boots, will surely be our next captain. What shape of insanity though led him to punching Maloney, remains a mystery. It was thoughtless and stupid for at least three good reasons:
1) It will severely damage his own personal and professional reputation, just as it was beginning to blossom
2) It will almost certainly stifle the team’s momentum heading into some crucial games. He must of realised how vital his performances had been of late and he must have known how important it was going to be to have him in the side, for these decisive upcoming domestic matches
3) Worst of all, at means at this critical point, we may have to turn to Jose Bosingwa. The man whom without question has been our most consistently disappointing performer. If you told me you thought Bosingwa was the worst full-back in the Premier League, I might just agree with you
As I write this I’m just finding out that Ivanovic’s appeal of his three match ban has been rejected, and that the FA have decided there was definitely ‘violent intent’. Can I just say, as a level-headed personal fan of the player… OBVIOUSLY!! He punched him hard in the kidney! In a non-martial art sport, when has that specific act ever been void of violent intent? I can’t believe we had the nerve to appeal it and I think Ivanovic should consider himself lucky the ban hasn’t been increased.
With regards to rest of our season now, Abdullah summed it up pretty perfectly in his article but for me, too many big wins are required now from a far too inconsistent team. Although I wouldn’t actually be surprised to see us pull off the big victories we need against Newcastle and Arsenal and Liverpool, but then lose to QPR and Blackburn. As a fan, I’m obviously excited about the next few weeks but in truth, I think I just want this season to end. If my hopes get built up and then destroyed once more I may just lose all hope in this team to succeed. This isn’t the first time I’ve felt like that mind you and I remain naively optimistic.
Thanks for reading. KTBFFH