What an interesting week it’s been for Chelsea supporters.
First off, a Drogba-inspired Chelsea dismantle supposed title challengers Arsenal at the Emirates. Despite the home side bossing possession in the first twenty minutes of each half, Chelsea’s strength, discipline and experience gave them a cutting edge up front and a brick wall at the back. In the end, the performance was as impressive as the score line suggested.
Yesterday however was a different story. A much-changed Chelsea side travelled to Ewood Park to take on Blackburn in the quarter finals of the Carling Cup. With the score locked at two-all on ninety minutes, the game went to extra time. Two goals at either end meant the game would be decided on penalties, and it was no surprise that, once again, events didn’t go Chelsea’s way.
You could question the wisdom of Ancelotti’s decision to field a centre-half pairing of Ferreira and Ivanovic (especially bearing in mind full-backs Beletti and Zhirkov haven’t played much of late). You could also question making three substitutions at half time when Chelsea were only one nil down. Realistically though, the second half performance was much improved, Blackburn played well and Kalou’s injury – leaving Chelsea with just 10 men – was unlucky. It was a strange, end-to-end game that could have gone either way.
Disappointing as it was to go out of the Carling Cup (I’ve always maintained that it’s a good tournament to win) last night’s defeat wasn’t the end of the world. But it did get me thinking though – just how good are Chelsea?
In conversation with a friend of mine – a realistic Arsenal fan who was pretty downcast after the weekend result – he suggested that Chelsea were a good side in a league in decline. He went as far as to call the Premier League average, but his main argument was that Chelsea fall short of being a ‘great’ side.
I agree with him – partially at least. Liverpool have fallen apart and Man Utd lost Ronaldo, so the league isn’t what it was. But on the other hand Man City have become a force to be reckoned with and Spurs and Aston Villa have made great starts to the season. It is by no means an ‘average’ league, and certainly hasn’t become so over night.
And, for the moment at least, Chelsea are comfortably sitting atop that league. We’ve scored the most goals (level with Arsenal) and conceded by far the least. On current form we have the best striker in league (perhaps Europe) in Didier Drogba, who has now scored 15 goals. We’ve dispatched each of the main challengers for the title. Our second team could (and perhaps should) have beaten a solid Blackburn team last night. And the amount of points Ancelotti’s side have scored up until the end of November (36) is greater than any other side has managed over the last five seasons.
But, despite all that, Chelsea still to me don’t seem consistently spectacular. True, there have been moments of scintillating football, but principally success this season has come via moments of Mourinho-esque sledgehammer. Moving now into December, it is probably fair to say that Chelsea’s greatest strength is, by a margin, its defence.
For all the newspaper hyperbole about Chelsea now walking off into the sunset with the title, I think we all need a bit of a reality check: this Chelsea side is still short of being ‘great’. But we needn’t worry. There aren’t many ‘great’ sides out there and Chelsea have been extremely impressive under Ancelotti.
Chelsea are good enough to win the league and challenge for other trophies, and that’s more than enough for me. But if Roman wants another ‘great’ side – like the teams of 04/05 and 05/06 - that can take on any side on the world with both flair and brute strength - he will need to open chequebook in January.
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