Sixty nine games. Since the reformation of the English game in 1992, no other English team has played as many games in a single season as we have this year. That’s what happens when you reach two domestic semi finals and two finals in the same year. Not bad for a transitional or rebuilding year with a manager sacking part way through and the hiring of another manager that almost all of the fans can’t stand.
Let’s look at this season as it comes to a close, and in this part, break it down into three sections:
Now, I love Bobby di Matteo. He’s a living legend, great guy, class act and so so on, but more importantly no other man in the history of my illustrious beer drinking career has
been the cause of me dropping a pint, but wait… he’s been that cause THREE TIMES! Once during the ’97 Cup Final with that goal and twice during the ’12 Champions League Final. He is now and will be forever loved by me as much a heterosexual man can love another man they have never met. But I agree with Chelsea’s often deranged boardroom that he wasn’t the right man to take Chelsea into our next generation of success. Would I have sacked him when the board did? No, I would have given him the full season and I think we could have won the FA Cup and Club World Cup, but I dread to think where we would be in the league.
Di Matteo focused on the FA Cup and Champions League at the expense of securing a top four finish and for me that’s not where Chelsea are in this day and age. When we failed to qualify for the Champions League knockout stages the board saw massive trouble ahead, fearing a failure to qualify again and let him go. In the mid 90’s? Sure, I’d rest players before cup matches. We were a mid table team with very little history of European football, but in today’s footballing climate with the new FFP rules, the Champion’s League is where the money is, and we are a club that simply cannot afford to turn profit without progressing through to the knock out stages of the Champion’s League year in, year out.
This lead us to Rafael Benitez sitting in the least comfortable seat in world football in early November. Would I have hired Rafa? No. Would any knowledgeable Chelsea fan have hired Rafa? Highly unlikely. But that’s who we got! But… has he done a good job? He’s done no worse than Bobby did and over the last couple of months we’ve shown the best form I have seen us in since Ancelotti was at the helm and he deserves praise for this. This is backed by Rafa being our first Manager of the Month since Carlo was here.
In the last couple of months Benitez has got the team gelling, conceding far fewer goals and he has got Torres back in the kind of statistical form that rivals his time at Liverpool. All with a team going through a major transition, a new guard, style of play and without the support of the fans.
It has been a purely thankless task, but I wouldn’t give him a contract if we win the Europa League and finish in the top four. I would say that’s why he was brought in and if I was there I would see him out of the door with a pat on the back and make sure that door didn’t hit him on the arse. I may never be a Rafa fan, but he has earned my respect.
So… it’s been lumpy and far from pretty, but I would hope that it has shown Roman Abramovic a little light on the topic of Chelsea fans and I hope that whoever is brought in for next season is given three or four years at a bare minimum. If only we still had Ancelotti and Wilkins!
Now, some of the RMB faithful would be more than happy to see him leave on a free transfer to Brighton and Hove Albion in June. Myself? I’m in the Pat Nevin camp and I’ll be more than happy for him to see out the remainder of his contract.
Why on earth would I say that?
He has drastically changed his game in the last few months. Yes he has always been a
hard worker and has shown a great understanding in Juan Mata’s play, but as he has said himself he has had to adapt to how the whole team plays and that is starting to show.
He has 20 goals so far this season – the benchmark of a top striker. Some people are going to say he hasn’t scored against the elite teams, but We’re a top flight team, every team we play has it in for us, no match is easy, not even an FA Cup tie away at third tier Brentford. The Premiership, Champions League, Europa, FA , League, World Club Cups and the Charity Shield. He scored in them all. No one else in the history of football has scored in SEVEN different recognised competitions, not even Senor Messi.
He has 5 Premiership assists so far this season, with an average pass rate of 18.6 per game and a key pass rate (either an assist or a pass that is part of a build up to a goal).of exactly 1 per game. Maybe that doesn’t sound productive, but let’s compare that Demba Ba who for his two league goals has avaeraged only 13.9 passes per game, has a key pass rate of 0.6 and no assists.
So, with Torres on the field just in the League, we are averaging one goal from his team work and he has knocked in 7, totalling a teamwork contribution of 35 goals from 28 games (totalling league minutes played) .
I know a lot of you aren’t fans of stats, but they don’t lie. If stats weren’t important then no one would worry about how many goals he has scored since he arrived at the club. Yes, it has taken time for him to settle in and get out of the horrid, Bin Dipping style of football and learn how to play properly. But he’s adapted and is now showing the fruits of his effort, frustration and patience.
If we do not make wholesale changes to the system or players. I believe he’ll knock in at least twenty five goals. Honestly though, I don’t think a thirty plus goal season is out of the question, nor is getting into double figures for assists. I have backed this up by betting Sam a whole pint that if he stays at the Bridge Nando will score at least twenty five next term. I just hope he doesn’t get injured and cost me!
When he gets his shooting boots back on no one except Sam will be able to complain!
We have two cup finals in the last four games. Benfica is the obvious one, who I believe we’ll beat just like did last year, and perhaps the more important match is against Spurs on Thursday. Let’s go into a game by game rundown:
8th May – Tottenham Hotspur HOME
Winning this game guarantees us Champion’s League football next year. We’re at home, in great form and are coming off a 1-0 win at Old Trafford. Gareth Bale will likely score, but if we don’t win this one I’ll eat my hat.
Prediction: Win – 2-1 with Torres to open it up and a center back to score from a corner.
11th May – Aston Villa AWAY
If we beat Spurs we could actually lose this match as Aston Villa are fighting for survival. I’ll be optimistic though and assuming we do beat Spurs I’ll give Villa a point.
Prediction: Draw 0-0. Classic hard fought top vs bottom bore draw.
15th May – Benfica AMSTERDAM
A fun fixture, this one. We should have this tie sealed by half time and if we still had Raul Meireles I would put money on it. Torres will score and we will do what no other English club have done – Complete the European treble: European Cup Winner’s Cup, European Cup (Champions League) and UEFA (Europa) Cup.
Prediction: Win 3-0 Torres double and Super Frank to seal it. Don’t count Moses out either… he’s scored in the last FOUR Europa League fixtures!
19th of May – Everton HOME
This is another tough fixture. We will have our top 4 spot tied up and we’ll be playing an Everton side who will need to win to stay above Liverpool. This comes down to sheer will power and I hope the high of winning in Europe will be enough to see us through. This is the fixture I like least. Luckily it should be academic and we’ll probably see Nathan Ake start alongside Frank Lampard if he has broken Chelsea’s all time goal scoring record… I’ll be positive again.
Prediction: Win 2-1 Hazard and Luiz, both with screamers.
Should be a good end to a shambles of a season, huh?!
In part two I will wax lyrical on our more political antics, to include a look back on John Terry’s run in with Anton Ferdinand and the FA, Chelsea’s contract policy and we’ll also glimpse at our players on loan and how they have fared away from the Bridge and Cobham.