The Turbulent Life of a Blue
I don’t ever recall being this optimistic as a Chelsea fan. Even at the height of our all our achievements, we still had uncertainties lingering over our head. There was this impending sense of doom looming around the next turn. I would like to point out that even when Chelsea lifted the Champions League title in 2012, we had domestic woes, finishing in 8th place behind Newcastle. Our aging legends, Ashley Cole, Super Frank Lampard, Drogba, and our captain John Terry, were all on the decline losing the inevitable battle to old age. How were we going progress and evolve as a club?
After winning the Champions League in 2012, we crashed out of the same competition the next year in the group stage. We fire the Chelsea Legend, Roberto Di Mateo, and in a controversial move, Chelsea’s board hired Rafa Benetiz (former Liverpool manager) as our interim manager. He leads us to Europa League glory defeating Benfica in the finals. Rafa was never accepted by the Chelsea faithful because of his past association with our nemeses Liverpool and our tense history with Rafa and Liverpool during his time at that club. An entire year elapsed since Chelsea won the Champions League and for a week, we had the Champion’s League title as well as the Europa League title… an interesting fact that is somewhat embarrassing for our club (our ambitions are loftier than the Europa League). Rafa did well for Chelsea and he never really received the gratitude he deserved. He took the job knowing it was temporary and worked tirelessly to make sure we finished top four and won silverware. Rafa you did right by us, respect.
At this point we could have moved forward with the Club and hired any one of the many up and coming managers that would have hopped at the opportunity to manage Chelsea. Instead of moving forward, the club decided to go back to our Ex-manager Jose Mourinho. This is another life mirroring football situation; José Mourinho was like our high school sweetheart, the one who taught us how to love and what it means to be Chelsea. He is our gold standard for a manager, kind of like we all have that one past lover that we measure all other relationships against... We as a club were lost and had no direction and longed for a time period when we had solid leadership – a leader with direction, who could get us back on top. The only problem is nobody thought about all the negative reasons why we broke up with José in the first place. The annoying habits Mourinho exhibited in his first stay had been amplified during his time at Real Madrid and now he was back in charge at Stamford Bridge. He created the media stirs weekly, he was constantly bringing unnecessary drama to the club, causing public conflict with Eva Carneiro (Chelsea’s first team doctor) resulting in her quitting and suing the club, and having shoving matches with Arsene Wenger (just highlight a few of Mou’s mishaps).
Things went exactly as expected. His first season in charge was marked by improvement and optimism, but no trophies. His second season in 2014-15 Jose lead Chelsea back to the promise land, we won a double: the Premier League and the League Cup, before disaster struck year 3 and Mourinho was sacked as Chelsea sat 17th in the table, one spot above relegation. Why did the club go back to Mourinho? Was there that much doubt and insecurity around the aging club that they thought Mourinho was the only way forward? These are questions I find myself asking, but the one thing that was painstakingly obvious was Chelsea needed a new direction.
In steps Antonio Conte, the man who has inspired Chelsea to their current run of form. Conte has created an environment at Cobham that breeds winners. We have beat to death how great his new 3-4-3 system is, tactically speaking it’s damn near flawless. Players are now judged on their merit instead of how much their transfer fee was. Victor Moses was used frequently by Rafa and then dismissed until Conte’s arrival. How could such a talent be overlooked multiple times? Conte sees things in players that others miss. He sees qualities that he likes and then he finds a place for them in his squad. Conte made a reference to himself being a tailor and his players being the fabric. He literally patches the squad together by working with what he has. At Juventus, his system was more of a 3-5-2 because the players at his disposal were more suited to having 2 central strikers. Conte observed his abundance of technically gifted players, Eden Hazard, Pedro, Willian, Oscar, and Moses, that could slot in behind Diego Costa in the front 3. The fluidity and movement between our front three has been remarkable. I have never seen anything like it in the Premier League.. The only club that has that much fluidity, interchangeability and creativity up front is Barcelona.
Conte has revitalized our club. He has been able to revive our star players while phasing the old guard out. We are no longer reliant on John Terry every week to stabilize our defense. Ivanović has found himself only being used as a sub and is being linked with a January transfer. It is sad to see my childhood heroes leave the club – I will always love and respect them for their service to the Chels – but I no longer fear that our club will fall off into bleak irrelevance the second they leave. We have this grit and determination where we win ugly and fight until the final whistle. We no longer have the loser mentality that hung above us last season like a black cloud. Conte has our team believing and we have this confident swagger that I’ve never dreamed of.
Chelsea survived when Frank Lampard left. It sucked when Ashley Cole left. Petr Cech too. But we survived and evolved. Because life often mirrors football and Chelsea has learned to evolve – we are now among the fittest. I can’t wait until next year when we can really flex our strength in the Champions League. Remember, Conte’s biggest criticism from his time at Juventus was his lack of European success… Conte will have a chip on his shoulder and is eager to prove his doubters wrong; I just can’t wait to be there to see it.
As always Up The Chels!!