THE REAL SEASON STARTS NOW
I have held my council since the 27th February when I posted my open letter to Peter Kenyon on this site, coming as it was after the most dismal month in Chelsea’s history in many a year. I have done so mainly because in all honesty I cannot make out what is going on at the club and cannot make heads or tails of what all the rumours we hear and more importantly, what we see on the field of play.
Just to refresh your memory, in February 2008 we played 5 matches, winning only once, 3 – 1 against Huddersfield. We lost to Spurs in the Carling Cup Final and drew three times in possibly the most turgid displays of the season to Portsmouth, Liverpool and Olimpiakos.
Since then we have played eleven games, winning 8 of them, drawing 1 and losing 2. One of those losses meant we were dumped out of the FA Cup by a lower league team for the first time in donkey’s years. The other, against Fenerabache, did not prove costly in the end, although it certainly made for an anxious home leg last Tuesday. We scored 26 and conceded 9, nearly half of them in one game against the Villa.
In the meantime we have climbed stealthily to second in the Premiership, well within striking distance of the leaders and, for the fourth time in five years, into the semi finals of the Champions League. If you think about it, the real season starts now. The Premiership and the Champions League were always the club’s main objectives and we are now were we hoped to be around this time of the season.
So what now? Is it going to be a triumphant match to the finishing post of Premiership Champions and the Holy Grail that awaits in Moscow? Or the ignominy of Premiership also rans and a third semi final exit at the hands of Liverpool.? Or indeed one of the two?
I know which of these three scenarios I dream of but, quite frankly, I haven’t got a clue which to expect.
Let’s start with the players. Three teams stand in the way of ultimate glory, United, Barca and Liverpool, in United’s case on both fronts. Man for man I feel confident against any three of the remaining antagonists. Barca are very much a shadow of the awesome side of the last few years. Liverpool are Liverpool, by which I mean that they will require an overdose of good luck, as they have had in the two previous semis, to get past us. United have got better although if we both play to our potential, it will be no less and no more than even odds to call. Yes they do have the capacity to turn it on, but they are also capable of being just as frustrating as us.
So given that we are ok on the players front, a look at what I would call the secondary factors is worth its while. In the Premiership I would say that in four of the five matches left we have a slight advantage. There is more potential for United to drop points than us. They have to play Arsenal, albeit at home, and then have to go to Blackburn before we meet at The Bridge on April 26th. We have Wigan at home and Everton away. No walk over I know but surely within our reach. If we better United’s points tally over the next 2 matches, we will go into the match against them knowing that a victory would take us clear of them to the top of the Premiership. Then destiny will be in our hands and you cannot ask for more than that with 2 matches to go till the end of the league.
As far as the Champions League is concerned, it will be third time lucky against Liverpool. All I will say is that without home advantage in the second leg it will be a different kettle of fish. Then it’s United or Barca in the final. Again a fifty fifty shot, against 2 teams we generally do well against.
What it all boils down is the simple matter of winning 7 of our last 8 games and drawing (the away leg at Anfield) the other. Sounds easy put that way doesn’t it? But that’s what it’s going to take, whether we like it or not.
So, from the exalted heights of my 15 years experience of involvement in Maltese junior water polo, here is how Avram and his band of not so merry men should set about it.
Forget the fact that most of you don’t like the coach. Just go out there, give a hundred and ten percent and you’re nearly there. Bring back the Jose’ never say die spirit into these last 8 games and your name will go down in history alongside the most successful group of players in the history of English football.
It’s dead easy Avram. If things are going well don’t change it. Freshen it up by changing like with like. If it’s not going well just take a midfielder (or a defender in desperate conditions) off and stick Anelka down the middle with Drogba, NOT ON THE EFFING WING. It’s worked the only time you did it and NEVER worked when Anelka was stuck out wide. And when you make changes don’t leave it late. Ten or fifteen minutes from the end is usually not enough to turn things round.
I have subscribed to every anti Avram Grant site on the net. I have signed petitions, written articles and prayed that he is made Prime Minister of Israel in the hope of seeing the back of him. But now it’s time to put all this aside and get behind the team. No more pro-Jose’ chanting in difficult moments of the game. No more frustrated groans, just all out, non stop vocal support. Whatever the players and fans may say, it does make a difference. Those of you who where there and remember Vicenza, Liverpool in the last game of season 2002/3 and Barca in 2005 and 2007 know what I am talking about. As do those who were in Sheffield more than 20 years ago in the League Cup. Or at the Bridge for the Liverpool FA Cup game in 1997. So yes we can make a difference. Well you can because I don’t have a hope in hell of getting a ticket to any of the remaining matches.