I don’t know about anyone else but I’m still finding it hard to get my head around last Sunday’s game. Eight nil to secure the league? Did that really happen? It’s the kind of result that would ordinarily only be seen on your Playstation or, for the older generation, the pages of Roy of the Rovers. It’s still quite baffling to be honest. Then again, I think it’s pretty obvious that this is no ordinary team and these kind of make believe results have been made possible under Carlo’s reign. Winning the title in such emphatic fashion is the stuff of dreams and great credit most go to the players, owner and coaching staff.
Also give yourself a pat on the pack. It’s worth mentioning the fans, who were amazing. Even before kickoff I think everyone was channelling their nervous energy into vocal support and the team responded better than any of us could have hoped. It was an incredible atmosphere to be part of, all four sides of the ground were bouncing in absolute delight as the goals kept coming. Let’s not only carry that support on into the cup final but try to make it a more regular feature at the Bridge next season too. Before the game we called for an early goal to calm the nerves and then to keep on attacking until the score line was comfortable. We forgot to say they could stop but apart from that it’s fair to say the tactics might just have worked.
Not that the press have taken too much notice. It seemed it was only after we’d clinched the title that we were considered worthy and deserving winners. Whereas Arsenal received praise for much of the season for their passing game, and they ran out of superlatives for Rooney and United’s spirit, Chelsea were often portrayed as flawed. Lampard, Terry, Cech and Anelka amongst others all had their form harshly criticised at times, we couldn’t defend corners and the squad was passed it. Even when we end up breaking the goal scoring records for the title the praise has been through gritted teeth. It goes to show some things are unlikely to change in a hurry.
Particularly galling has been comments on how the league has been so much weaker this season, pointing to the Champions League exits as substantial evidence. This is nonsense. United were unlucky not to defeat Bayern and have an easy run to the final. Arsenal were unlucky to draw a Barcelona side at their very best, Lyon fortunate to be drawn against against Bordeaux. Even a below par Liverpool were moments away from qualifying from their group. In case the English press forgot two of the favourites for the tournament meet in the second round, something had to give and sadly it was us. The fact that this season more of the big teams have dropped points across the league just shows how strong a division it is and what an achievement it has been to win it. La Liga’s two horse precession and mounting points totals is my idea of a weaker league this season. Given that Fulham finished mid table but successfully reached the Europa league final should tell you everything about the Premiership. It’ll take more than tired comments from so called experts to take the gloss off this one.
So onto Saturday and what could be part two of the greatest season ever. The one word we need to be wary of is complacency. Portsmouth has been relegated for weeks with nothing but a fairytale cup final to focus on. It offers themselves and their fans a chance of redemption and we’ll need to match their effort from the kick off before the quality has a chance to shine through. In the first half against Wigan our passing was disjointed too often and we need to start the game as we finished the last one. Slick passing and using the width of the Wembley pitch can tire opponents out, a strong start and the first goal could really deflate Portsmouth. They were excellent on the break against Spurs in the semi and the full backs will have to work overtime to make sure we’re not vulnerable. Carlo has few line-up concerns with only Joe Cole’s superb display from the bench giving him food for thought. Kalou deserves a start for his fine form but Cole’s industry could also make a big difference in the match. Fingers crossed we can make history but another performance like the last three games and it would difficult to see it being anything other than Chelsea’s year.