Let’s assume for a moment that Manchester United sweep all before them this season. Not too difficult to imagine, what with them romping away in the league, yet to have the now-famous blip, and still in the latter stages of major cup competitions. Let’s also assume that Chelsea win nothing. A little harder to imagine with the current resurgence well under way, but still the opinion of a very significant proportion of Chelsea fans until so recently.
What do you think the newspapers will make of United’s dominance this season? That one’s easy to work out, they’ve written most of the headlines already, so many in fact that they’re surely in danger of running out of superlatives before the season’s over in May.
What do you think the statistics will show? What will be the true outcome – the bottom line if you will – if we win nothing? I’ll tell you. It’s this: Chelsea made a massive cock-up of the best opportunity to break the red dominance of domestic football in this country of any team for the last 20 years. It will also show that Chelsea were lucky to win two league titles because United were then in a period of rebuilding and transition, much like Arsenal are reaching the end of now. The statistics will show that the much-feted Jose Mourinho just happened to be in the right place at the right time. Before you don your armour and go into full keyboard warrior mode, consider this: stats are all that people care about. In ten years time, people will talk only about the stats. That’s the way it is.
Having watched Claudio Ranieri spend vast amounts money and build one of the best football squads I’ve ever had the pleasure to see in football supporting life, never mind at Chelsea, and then see Jose Mourinho inherit that squad and add the polish required to make the final touches to make a winning team, we’ve since had to endure almost constant speculation about who’s running the damn team. More to the point, it was a team that was good for six or seven years because it was young and incredibly gifted. It’s also my opinion that we wouldn’t have to enter the realms of fantasy football to imagine that team winning not two, but four titles in recent years.
It hasn’t worked out like that though, has it Roman? I blame you for this. Chelsea has contrived, once again, to snatch defeat from the jaws of a glorious victory, something many of us have seen often over the years. Frankly, I couldn’t care less who’s manager of Chelsea, but what does bother me is not seeing a manager get a fair crack of the whip, as it were. Had you left Ranieri in charge, I’ve no doubt he would have won the league at some point. Had you left Mourinho in charge, I’ve no doubt the Holy Grail of the quadruple may well have been within his grasp. But no, since Ranieri we’re now into the fourth manager – five if you count Ray Wilkins’s single match tenure. Bit rubbish really, don’t you think?
Here’s the problem: that expensively assembled squad, the one you quite rightly refused to bolster recently; it’s peaked. Some of the players in that team peaked two seasons ago, some are at their peak right now. Yet once more you have a short-term manager in place. Here’s a thought for you: I well remember the speculation surrounding your personal first choice as Chelsea manager. It was Guus Hiddink, wasn’t it? Assuming that is the case, what do you suppose would have happened had you gone with your gut instinct and stuck with it? Quite, we’d need a bigger trophy cabinet wouldn’t we?. Hiddink’s already starting to show that he’s capable of managing the players at Chelsea, no small feat in itself if newspaper speculation is to be believed, and he’s also showing the world that he has the tactical nous required at this level. Granted there are bigger tests to come for Hiddink, but right at this moment I can’t think of a better man to be at the helm. Can you? Trouble is, Hiddink’s a good few years older now and not getting any younger. Perhaps, like some of the team he’s now so ably managing, he’s peaked. Regardless, he’s made a point of reiterating the fact that he’s here until the end of the season. That barely even warrants being labelled as short-term.
So what happens now? Well, I reckon there’s another season in this squad, but surely now is the time to start rebuilding and thinking of the long-term future of Chelsea’s success? For that, you’re going to have to think about giving someone a chance to at least try and realise their vision – and hopefully yours, you know the one we were told about so soon after you took over – but to do that you’re going to have to demonstrate more patience. Perhaps even stop listening to those around you who know nothing about football and go with your gut instinct. Probably both, actually.
Whoever you decide to put in place as the next Chelsea manager, please give him a chance to build some momentum. It’s key, the statistics prove it.