The year 2012 started like any other year for Chelsea. The usual mid-season crisis, manager under pressure and staring down at an undesired spot in the league table. It was the all too familiar routine. There were no indications whatsoever that this was going to be a historic year for Chelsea. But this is Chelsea – unpredictable, totally unpredictable. While this was a roller coaster year, there were some moments or incidents that defined Chelsea’s 2012 and even beyond. Here we go!
AVB’s sacking: I really wanted AVB’s reign to be a success, probably because he was the closest we could get to Jose Mourinho. Clearly this was too big a job for him at that time and he simply wasn’t ready for this job. Roman, who was always known for his ruthless approach to managers, was in fact more kind to AVB. By his standards he allowed too much time for AVB and only when we got mauled by Napoli and our progression was unlikely, he said enough’s enough. Didn’t think Chelsea were improving under AVB and there was no promise of a better tomorrow.
Napoli at Stamford Bridge: Many say that this was the single biggest turning point for Chelsea in the season. After a thorough beating at Naples, with the manager having been sacked, Chelsea had to win big and the Italian club could even afford a defeat and progress. But Chelsea simply thumped Napoli with a majestic performance in what was an incredible game of football. This game had all the elements of the 4-2 win against Barca in 2005. This game also reminded many of us that game where we won and progressed against all the odds. That’s the Chelsea I know. Comes out roaring when the backs are to the wall.
Camp Nou game: Arsenal would tell you that a first leg win over Barcelona means nothing as they can get any result they want at camp nou. When Chelsea reached the champions league semi final, there was hope. We were superior to Barca in our champions league head to head in recent times but we were a team in crisis but all wise money was on Barca. This epic game at camp nou was the game that gave us the belief and the right to dream of a champions league trophy. It’s in this game, it became clear that it’s written in the stars and our name is already on the cup.
That night at Munich: What can I say! No matter where you were, if you were a Chelsea fan, 19th May was once in a lifetime experience. There’s never gonna be another night like that for a Chelsea fan. Such a magical night! All the pain and hurt of several seasons had to end that night. In all fairness, there were many other seasons when we were better poised to win the champions league. I don’t think any other team went through the horrible misfortunes that we had to in the champions league. So if anyone undermines Chelsea’s champions league win last season, I stick my finger up and say I never heard you say Chelsea were the most deserving to win the champions league in 04-05, 07-08, 08-09. Why talk about it after we’ve won it fair and square in 11-12?
We say it was our destiny to win it. If you had the privilege of following this great campaign, in many ways, you’d say the destiny looked to be against us. It’s almost like football Gods throwing challenge after challenger at us with a wicked smile on their faces. Even in the final, when Bayern scored in the 83rd minute, it was like ‘what are you gonna do now’. Well we equalise in the 88th min. In extra time, when Bayern got a penalty, it was like ‘you got through the regulation time, what are you gonna do now?’. Well we saved the penalty. It wasn’t to be over. We even missed our first penalty in the shoot out. It was like ‘that’s it, you’re done now and there’s no way you’re gonna get out of this now’. Well . . . the rest is history.
New signings: The arrival of Hazard, Oscar, Azpi and Moses indicated Chelsea’s importance and relevance in European football. It showed that we are not going to rest on our laurels and instead we want to go from strength to strength. These signings also underlined Roman’s continuing desire and hunger for more and more Chelsea success. It also shut people that thought Roman’s interest would start to die down now that Chelsea have won the champions league. In fact, if anything, Roman now seems to want more and that’s evident from these marquee signings.
Di Matteo sacked: As calendar year records go, Roman ended up sacking two managers in the same calendar year. RDM is a club legend. But in a club where winning trophies is an expectation and not an achievement, what he loses is always going to weigh more than what he wins. Yes he won the champions league but he also earned this dubious piece of history by not qualifying for the knockout rounds – first time ever under Roman. I don’t think Roman ever wanted to install RDM as the permanent manager. While he could have done well this season, Roman didn’t see him as someone who can take the club forward. I love the guy and I feel sorry for him but you know what you get into when you sign on the dotted line on a Chelsea contract.
Rafa’s appointment: As soon as I heard of RDM’s sacking, the first thing I did was to create a #saynotobenitez hashtag to trend it on twitter. He was one football figure I loved to hate. When Chelsea appointed him, I was quite disappointed with the club’s lack of regard for the fans’ feelings and sentiments. That was really Roman at his ruthless best – ‘I would sack the coach you love and I would appoint the coach you hate’. I’ve come to terms now. I’d never ‘love’ him like I love Jose Mourinho but when he’s working in Chelsea’s interest and for Chelsea’s benefit and improvement, I don’t see a reason not to support him. Rafa has a short term responsibility and that means Chelsea will win anyway. If he does well, he gets an extension. If he doesn’t, the ‘more permanent’ manager comes.
Looking beyond: Drogba has gone. So has Anelka, Bosingwa, Kalou etc. Lampard, Cole and Terry are rumoured to leave Chelsea. With the new core being formed with the likes of Mata, Hazard, Oscar, Azpi, Luiz etc you can only be optimistic. Remember it took a few seasons under a top manager like Jose Mourinho for the much hailed core to establish and deliver. The most important thing is ensuring the right ingredients – right kind of players with the right mentality, attitude and a love for the club. I think we got that. Only a matter of time before the new core is formed and talked alongside the likes of ‘Terry, Lampard, Drogba, Cole & Cech’.
There’s never a dull moment in Roman’s Chelsea and there will never be. Don’t mistake that for chaos. That’s a way of operating here at Chelsea. This year was such a year. A bunch of highs and lows randomly thrown at the calendar. This year was a proper Chelsea blockbuster with all your suspense, action, drama, comedy, horror and a great deal of romance.
Amidst all that what stands out is the romance. 2012 will be remembered by the Chelsea fans as the year that Chelsea Football Club made history. The world, after all, did not end in 2012. Instead, in Roman’s immortal words, “this is just the beginning”.