The final whistle blew from Chris Foy’s mouth at Wembley and it was done – a priceless moment in the history of Chelsea Football Club that took far too long to arrive to and one that has never been done before in the history of the club. Scoring more than a century of goals on the way to breaking Manchester United’s stronghold on the league is no mean feat.
The current crop of players has far exceeded the expectations of Alex Ferguson and football fans across the world.
But the shining failure from this season is easily the inability to progress any further in our journey for Champions League success. Holding aloft Big Ears has become the ought-sought Holy Grail for benefactor Roman Abramovich and the focus has already been switched in the back room of the club. But it must be said because it is truth – the magnificent eleven will not ride again any further than they did this season, and the squad players are not good enough to take the club further. The fundamentalists to our success are all ageing, and as always, all good things must come to an end. A revolution is not required, as Ancelotti proved so efficiently with his transformation of the despondent 08/09 squad into English champions 09/10. However an influx of youth and talent alike is required for any possibility to arise of inheriting the trophy from Jose Mourinho’s victorious Inter Milan, and of course any possibility of reclaiming the unprecedented double we achieved this year.
Let’s cast our eyes across the drawing board and see what needs to be changed in order for this very possible success to happen.
Firstly, the goalkeeping stocks. Petr Cech did last season and should have easily proved his presence enough to hold onto his spot as the man between the sticks. This really needs no argument. Yes the Czech Republican is prone to the odd mistake, but his confidence, reliability and consistency is something only other managers can possibly dream about (read Alex Ferguson). It’s not the regular that’s what needs looking at, it’s the backup. Against Inter Milan Cech was injured, so there came a chance for either Hilario or Turnbull to prove his salt. In the end Hilario was handed the jersey. An issue cropped up around this issue, of Hilario’s age and worth and Turnbull’s skill and substance. Put simply, as CFCnet did, are our keeper stocks really that good? Turnbull struggles even at the youth level. If Cech was to be struck once again with a long-term layoff then our usual brick wall looks much more penetrable. Also, another issue is of Cech’s competition. Heading into the twilight (and also prime) years of his career, he needs young blood with talent to match to give him runs for his money. Cast your eyes upon the pool of goalkeeping gifts in the vast ocean- see maybe Sergio Asengo, who Barcelona also has their eyes upon. See maybe Alex Smithies, a standout for minnows Huddersfield. Or maybe the answer lies in our own backyard? Matej Delac, the 16 year old Croatian who signed for us during the season gone by, is highly rated and is impressing scouts across the nation. It’s time, no matter who it is, to gain new backup for the goals.
The defence was a well oiled machine in the season 2009/2010 despite so many off-field injuries and dramas. Losing Bosingwa, Carvalho, Ashley Cole and Ivanovic at various points in the season, some for extended periods, along with the John Terry and Ashley Cole scandals did little to cause leaks in the defence. Conceding just forty-five goals is worthy of applause, but it’s time to accompany this applause with hearty goodbyes. Now at ripe old age, it’s time for Ricardo Carvalho to catch the next bus. His contribution has been invaluable, but in today’s ever increasing pace of football and the need/want for youngsters to get in on the action it’s not invalid to say that the Portugese’s number is up. There is worthy enough youth to step into the role, and of course Ivanovic is actually more of an experienced campaigner in the centre than he is on the right. Then you have Juliano Belletti and Paolo Ferriera. These are the two veterans that the club needs to see move on. Not to say they are bad players, quite the contrary, they are the model footballers that every developing player should base their off-field game on what with their ability to sit on the bench and fulfil their role when required, and to keep things calm at the bars and in their pants. However role models do not win trophies, and so I say good luck and goodbye to the pair. On the incoming should be a flood from the FA Youth Cup winning squad – after various appearances it’s time to promote the likes of Bruma, Bertrand and Van Aanholt . To provide quality developing English talent I’d bring in Everton’s Daniel Gosling, who has been a promising talent who deserves a Champions League stage.
The diamond never really worked out but the midfield still sparkled. Frank Lampard had his best season yet, Florent Malouda discovered the definition of dream form and John Obi Mikel capably covered in the absence of Michael Essien, who when he played, showed no signs of slowing down. Yuri Zhirkov too filled in superbly as left back during Cole’s extended absence. On the other hand there is a raft of departures that need to be filled. First out is Deco, who perhaps arrived at the club a few seasons too late. His departure is Brazil is, basically, not dramatically game changing at all – he went into hiding towards the business end of the season. There are two out-of-contract midfielders – Germany’s Michael Ballack and England’s Joe Cole. The versatility and skill level of the two is enough to secure them futures at the Blues. Michael Ballack demonstrates composure and experience every time he plays, and although he is not the most spectacular performer, not every player needs to put in Ronaldo-esque forty yard goals. The unseen contribution can make or break a game. With Joe Cole, you have a fan favourite with dazzling ability and breathtaking class, which has been scuppered by constant injuries. You could see the promise of a return to the form which powered him to the top of the Premier League’s elite during his appearances during the season, and his status as a fan favourite and his expertise do more than enough to lock in a new contract. Incoming personnel would most likely have to be a youngster with tons of budding potential to eventually mantle the reins of the midfield. Filter that through the best in the land and you have at the top of the pile Jack Rodwell, another Evertonian with a team’s expectation on his shoulders. Not even the best can cope with the weight of a thousand fan’s hopes, and everyone considers Champions League football as an interesting proposition. Offer this is to the defensively-minded midfielder and there’s no reason Rodwell cannot join our stocks.
In our season that garnered 103 goals in the domestic competition alone it’s surprising to say that we the strike force needs a big name. However that’s exactly what it needs. Didier Drogba was a lead light for the campaign, taking home the Golden Boot, and he’s got a few years in him yet. Nicolas Anelka, although a subdued campaign, still garners enough reputation to gain a place in the squad with his professionalism and athleticism. Salomon Kalou showed glimpses of what he is capable of towards the end of the season and probably deserves another season to prove his potential. Daniel Sturridge is still young and developing and is sure to gain a few more appearances next season. The papers have us targeting Fernando Torres, with the Liverpool striker looking for a new club after the Reds failure of a season. Despite El Nino’s record in the league, I wouldn’t bring him aboard. Simply watch the Liverpool vs Chelsea Champions League match from two seasons ago. Watch Torres expression as Ivanovic proffers a hand. A blatant rejection and textbook definition of the term “sore loser”. Instead, look at Athletico’s Sergio Aguero. His name is always around, but for good reason. He is a younger, nicer version of Torres. Same club, same position, same style. Better choice. He constantly rejects a move out of Madrid, saying he wishes to win with his boyhood heroes. Athletico’s Europa League triumph is hopefully a “win”. Now or never to sign the pocket rocket. Take a check, Roman, and give the fans the razzle-dazzle player they love.
The success of the season is great, don’t get me wrong. But to win the Holy Grail, the long-sought treasure, the pinnacle of the continent’s elite, we need to strengthen. We need to improve on what is better. Roman Abramovich, Carlo Ancelotti, fellow Chelsea fans, the incoming and current Chelsea players and the rest of the word, I can tell you this: the best is yet to come.