The fairytale come back didn’t happen. Of course, it was too much to even have expected that. Because a fairytale come back needs fairytale players. It needs players that can bring about a moment of magic, especially when odds are stacked against them. When things go our way, this is an amazing Chelsea team to watch. When things don’t, it’s almost painful to watch.
We’ve said too often that this Chelsea team lacks leaders and leadership. There was once a time when the Chelsea team was full of leaders – you see players like Cech, Terry, Drogba, Ballack, Cole – all at the same time on the pitch. By leaders I mean players who can lift our spirits with their passion and performance, players who give so much that they put their colleagues to shame, players who demand a lot from themselves and from their colleagues and players whose shoulders don’t drop, no matter what adversities they face. We surely lack those type of characters now.
It’s not really a bad thing. This is just the current state. This is still a very young team. Most of our players are under 25. Most of these players are new to the premier league. Most of these players have started playing together only from this season. In a short period, they have seem a manager being sacked, interim manager being appointed, winning the fa cup and champions league, signing top players, making the interim manager permanent, the John Terry – Ferdinand saga, the Clattenburg issue, sacking of the manager again and going out of champions league group stage – just how many milestones have they come by in their so far short stay at the club?
This group still needs to gel. There still needs to this chemistry that makes communication redundant. There needs to be a harmony about the approach and objective with which the whole team operates. And it takes time. Oscar gets some stick. The kid is 20 and this is his first season in a new country, new climate, new league, new set of players and a new set of managers too. Give him a break. So many Brazilian players have had a tough first season in the premier league. It’s not easy. At 20, if he’s the first choice central midfielder for Brazil national team that would host the next world cup, then he’s already arrived. There’s no need to doubt him. Just allow some time for him to settle down.
This season was never, at least in my mind, meant to be the season where it all clicks. If there ever was a transitional season, this is it. New players, new playing system, new playing style, inconclusiveness on the manager – all these tell you what to expect this season. At the beginning of the season I thought, if we finish top four and pick up a domestic cup, I’d be happy this season. And next season, we will be a real force to reckon with. We’re on course for the same. Top four is our realistic and achievable target now. There’s one trophy left – FA Cup.
All I’m trying to say is this is expected of this Chelsea team. It’s unfair to expect this Chelsea team in this season to produce those fairytales that we are so used with this generation of Chelsea teams. At the risk of sounding like an Arsenal or a Liverpool fan, I’d really say that the next season must belong to us.
The way Swansea saw us through showed what a collection of average footballers can do as a team against a team with very highly talented individuals who still don’t play a completely cohesive unit. We have some way to go. We should not be fooled by the bright individual players we have on our side. To make all these talents come together is the job of the manager. That’s where the stability factor comes in. The earlier lot of Chelsea players who were nurtured and superstared by Jose Mourinho were already seasoned and matured when he left. They could deal with managerial instability and other such club crises and still win trophies. The current lot is not even a patch on that bunch on maturity and experience. Managerial stability matters more for a younger squad than a squad that we had in say, 2007.
While my head knew that this was all going wrong, my heart was hopeful of a memorable comeback that we can talka about for years to come. As we drew closer to the final whistle, I must say I wasn’t too surprised at the outcome but I was very disappointed about the manner in which we let Swansea progress. We did not offer enough fight. I even think that we surprised Swansea players by not bothering them as much as they would have expected us to.
That’s why I’d place a lot of blame on Rafa Benitez this time. He’s surely responsible for the efforts of the players. The results of course would depend on a number of factors. But how can there be such lack of effort and lack of fight from Chelsea players? I hoped we’d storm at them and score an early goal or two. Didn’t happen. At least after half time, I expected us to go gung ho. Didn’t happen. Finally towards the last 15 mins, I hoped that we’d at least knock in a goal somehow. Didn’t happen. We didn’t even look to play for pride. The away support was great but our performance was dire. Can’t believe we couldn’t muster a goal at Liberty stadium when we are gunning for a goal. Rafa Benitez – Please put your hand up and say you couldn’t motivate this Chelsea team to score two goals at the Liberty stadium for a place in the League Cup final against Bradford City at Wembley.
While it was already a bad night of football, Eden Hazard was sent off for ‘assaulting’ the ball ‘boy’. He could now miss anywhere between three to five league games. I don’t what the fuss is all about. Eden Hazard went for the ball. That ball boy, who had tweeted earlier that he would be helping in #timewasting, got the ball and rolled around refusing to give the ball. Hazard kicks the ball and gets it too. In the process, he might have got hurt but that’s not Hazard’s fault. It’s like a fair tackle that you do and win the ball but the other player is injured. Eden’s only fault there was that he should have known that he was doing something that will make it easy for people to victimise him. And with a poor referee like Chris Foy who always takes the ‘safe’ and ‘popular’ decisions in such circumstances, he had no chance. Eden Hazard is a such a well behaved player and individual as fas as we’ve followed. But this now will unnecessarily be a blot on his record.
Like I tweeted, when Messi hit out the ball hard intentionally knowing it would land at the faces of the Real Madrid fans in the closer rows, there was a bit of a quarrel, the one that you see in the el clasico these days. That’s about it. No red card. Eden Hazard didn’t do anything to deserve a red card. If anything that 17-year old boy (must be the oldest ball boy in the football league) deserves punishment. While I talked of lack of fight from this Chelsea team, that moment was one that showed that there was someone in blue who cared, who was annoyed and who was upset, disappointed and frustrated and was expressive. In a way, I liked that.
It’s no surprise that many professional footballers and players have come in support of Eden Hazard.
Michael Owen: “Not having Hazard tried to hurt him though. He just tried to toe poke it out of his grip. How people can claim Hazard assaulted a kid is embarrassing. He shouldn’t have kicked the ball out of his grasp, but he hardly booted the lad as some people were suggesting. The lad’s antics were scandalous and no wonder he isn’t taking any further action.”
Pat Nevin: “I’m very, very disappointed with how the ball boy acted. I say acted, he must have watched footballers the way he rolled around pretending to be more injured. He’s only got one job and that’s to give the ball back. What does he do? He keeps the ball. He’s 17 not 12 or 13. He should know what his actions are like in this situation.”
Robert Huth: “Ballboys staying down injured. They’ll be elbowing players off the ball next”
Gareth Bale: “Unbelievable decision by the referee to send Hazard off”
Noel Hunt: “I kick the ball from under my niece like that and she starts laughing she’s only 2!’.
Luke Shaw: “He never kicked him! He went to get the ball as I’m sure any other person in that situation would do the same thing”
Rafa Benitez: “They both recognise there was a mistake. The boy was apologising for time wasting. Hazard was frustrated and tried to get the ball. He was kicking the ball and getting the ball. We can analyse if for half an hour but we know that both are wrong. We will deal with it internally, that’s all I can say.”
Swansea City media manager: “He’s been into the Chelsea dressing room and shook hands with Hazard. John Terry and Frank Lampard were exemplary in welcoming him into the Chelsea dressing room.
My verdict is Hazard did not kick the boy and actually that boy deserved a kick. So I think Eden is such a fool for getting a red card for not kicking him. I now read that police will not be involved in this incident. Oh f***, stop the jokes now!
Benitez is not doing himself any favours with our lacklustre performances in some really key games. If he has any intentions of being appointed as a permanent coach (this term is a joke when it comes to Chelsea I know), he’s not made a good case for himself. Not at all.
One trophy left to fight for – FA Cup. We are FA Cup specialists, aren’t we or weren’t we? This weekend, Chelsea will play Brentford in the round of 32. Chelsea’s odds are 1.25 while it’s 12.00 for Brentford. I’d bet on Brentford to win. Either you get a Chelsea win or some money. Opportunistic. I’m actually not so concerned about the FA Cup. We lost a league cup that was in our grasp and FA Cup has a long way to go. Nothing has changed for me. Still top four is the top priority. Champions league football is important. Anyway, we roll on.