After Jose Mourinho’s tactical master-class at Stamford Bridge and a draw against Blackburn, Chelsea’s season was presumed to be over. Certain sections in the media had started debating on Ancelotti’s likely replacements, while others had drawn up plans of a major reshuffle of the squad. But as it is with most premature conclusions, this one too came back to haunt its proponents.
All teams face a transition period – It has to patiently phase out its veterans and replace them with younger talent – but talks of such drastic measures midway through the season were unjustified. The critics got the best possible reply as the team from West London showed remarkable resilience, hunger and intent in its quest to win the first ever domestic double in its history.
What has brought about this turnaround? It’s the same set of players (in fact even fewer as Branislav Ivanovic and Ricardo Carvalho were also sidelined due to injury), it has the same ‘beleaguered’ coach and it was not going to win its Holy Grail either this season. What has caused this drastic change in fortunes that has left its detractors befuddled?
Well, it’s a combination of a few factors –
The UEFA Champions League Exit
After yet another unexpected end to the Champions League campaign, the supporters were heart-broken, even more so, as their erstwhile icon had brought about the end. Over the past few seasons, the failure in Europe was associated with a feeling of injustice or even fate – A ghost goal by Luis Garcia, John Terry’s slip, and Thomas Henning Ovrebo to name a few. But this time, it was different– Chelsea did not deserve to go past Inter Milan. It gave the Blues a chance to introspect, as the defeat was not hidden beneath a cloak of misfortune. That they have fewer games to play does not hurt either.
The suave Italian could not get the better of The Special One but has been carving a special place for himself in the hearts of the fans and players, ever since his appointment. After Chelsea and Jose Mourinho parted ways, Roman wanted Carlo Ancelotti to take over the reins of the London club but his immediate unavailability was one of many reasons behind the managerial instability at the Bridge. Now that he is here, patience is of paramount importance, as fans are yearning for a legacy a la Ferguson and Wenger.
Behind the Italian’s calm demeanour, there is a very astute footballing brain. He has changed his tactics depending upon the players at his disposal and the situation the team is in. He switched from the much documented ‘diamond’ formation to 4-3-2-1 and most recently to a 4-3-3, after injuries to his first choice full-backs and the Blue engine in Essien. The fact that no current Chelsea player was able to do justice to the ‘tip of the diamond’ role, also contributed to the change in tactics.
The future also looks bright for Chelsea, with no less than five reserve team players being on the fringes of the first team. Ancelotti had a part to play in this development as the consistent performers in the youth setup have been given crucial exposure with the first team.
Ever since his appointment, he has been backing his players and has provided them with unconditional support. Chelsea has a satisfied dressing room, which in itself is no mean feat, considering the temperamental nature of its stars. This season, the Blues have played against the ‘Big Four’ sides five times, and have come out on top on each occasion including a double over Man United and Arsenal. Not bad for someone who is in his first season in English football? Make no mistake about it – Carlo Ancelotti is here to stay.
The Florent Malouda story is nothing short of a zero-to-hero tale. He joined Chelsea from Lyon in the summer of 2007 and until Guus Hiddink arrived, he was just a guy who had a weird hair-cut and whose name was mentioned along with the likes of Pizzaro and Shevchenko – Another failed signing for the Blues. He showed glimpses of his talent under Guus, one notable performance being at Anfield in the Champions League quarter-final, wherein Drogba scored off an inch-perfect grounded ball by Malouda from the left.
He again had to re-establish himself in the side after the arrival of the Milan boss and the apparent discord with Lampard – as reported by the media – did not help his situation either. But, he soon delivered a public statement that he has been misquoted by the press and is willing to fight for a place in the first team, which he did.
Malouda has been named the ‘Barclays Player of the Month’ for a series of outstanding performances which have propelled the resurgent Blues. Presently, the Frenchman is in the form of his life – He is scoring goals, he is creating a plethora of opportunities for his team mates and is a constant thorn in the flesh of the opposition. His fine spell in the league began at Stamford Bridge against West Ham and his influence has only grown thereafter. He was phenomenal against Portsmouth, Aston Villa and most importantly against Manchester United. Malouda has kept the left flank on perpetual fire.
On present form, he is arguably the most improved player in world football, and such has been his transformation that the once widely-berated Frenchman is simply adored by the fans.
These three factors, along with the back-in-form Frank Lampard and back-in-reckoning Alex have been the reason for the resurgence of Chelsea. It’s no co-incidence that Lampard’s game has improved after Ancelotti switched to a 4-3-3. He has always marvelled in this formation as he gets the space to pull the strings from mid-field and make his trademark devastating runs from the deep.
Chelsea defeated Aston Villa last night and progressed to its third FA Cup final in four years where they will meet either Tottenham or Portsmouth. In the league, the Blues have opened up a two-point lead after defeating the Red Devils in Manchester and are yet to face Bolton, Tottenham, Stoke, Liverpool and Wigan – out of which two fixtures will be played at White Hart Lane and Anfield.
Chelsea is yet to win anything of note this year and the Blues will have to continue their inspired run if they are to reclaim the league trophy from United. For now, one thing is certain – Their season is not over yet .
It just gets better!
So it turns out that Black burn has burnt the Man Utd chances a bit further. I am loving it.
Wait till the blues top players return….Next season we will have
Cech, Turnbull, Hilario, Ivanovic, Bosingwa, Terry, Carvalho, Bruma, Alex, A.Cole, Zirkov, Malouda, Lampard, Ballack, Essien, Mikel, J.Cole(if he signs), Stoch, Kakuta, Mancienne, Matic, Drogba, Anelka, Sturrige, Kalou, Borini.
I expect Ferreira, Deco and Belleti to leave the squad at the end of the year and also Carvalho might also plan to moveout. I wouldnt mind Ballack as well to leave so that we can use his spot for a youngster or a midfield star from the world cup. Also I feel if J.Cole doesnt sign a contract then that place will also be up for grabs. Expecting a lot of movement in the squad this season and for exciting times ahead with youngsters.
Commendable that even without Essien and the also ran players like Ballack and Mikel, Chelsea have done remarkably well. The emergence of Malouda has been the single biggest thing for Chelsea this season. Ofcourse, there is Drogba.
A bad season for United (we are destined to have it after winning the PL for 3 years on the run), yet to come of age Arsenal and the declining fortunes (i say fortunes :)) of Liverpool have also helped Chelsea.
I haven’t followed the season too closely and I am not in a position to talk about Ancelotti’s part but winning the league the first season is great if & when it happens. What do you think about the Italian’s acumen when it comes to transfers ? He hasn’t done that in Italy where the Director of Football is the one in charge. How will he fare at SB ?
Also, Chelsea have a stable owner who has bought the club with his own money (and the Russian government’s if I am allowed to say:D)which is not the case at OT and Anfield.
malouda has indeed been a revelation this season. i would love to see Ballack, Deco, Belletti, Carvalho moving out at the season end making way for youngsters. would love to see Joey for a couple of seasons more.
Carlito does not have a good records as far as transfers are concerned, but I’m hopeful both he and Roman have learnt their lessons.
While in Italy, he never enjoyed a free rein as there was a lot of interference from other sources, some don’t even give him credit for signing Kaka and Pato.
Last summer Chelsea signed Zhirkov and Sturridge, and according to me both are good buys. While at Chelsea, the Italian has also giving oppurtunites to youngsters, which is a good sign.
I am not concerned with his signings, as gone are the days when clubs can demand insane amount of money from us, and we will make smart buys but I do want him to develop and give opportunity to the young talent at his disposal.
Watch out for Miroslav Stoch, who is at FC Twente under Steve Mclaren on a season-long loan. He has started most of the games, has scored goals and is a highly rated right winger. Him, along with Kakuta, Borini and few others make the Chelsea supporters like me hopeful for the future.
I am no expert on Chelsea and the youngsters at their disposal but from what i have heard and followed that guy MATIC the serb i guess is touted to be a real gem. Manciene is looking much better now after his shaky start with wolves. But not very sure how much first team action will these youngsters actually get if Chelsea are looking at the likes of Ribery,Pato and as heard an over haul of their aging midfield.
As per the changing fortunes of the club are concerned it was always foolish for journos to write them off especially after handing over the title in December. Nothing in the paper business has a sense of sanity about it.
Malouda as far as i know was having a brillaint season from the very begining. His form has rarely dipped this season.
Yes, Matic is good technically considering his height and has good game sense. While MM has been erratic this season with Wolves, but against Arsenal he delivered a respectable performance. But, I it would be very difficult for him to break into the first team as he is a centre-back who can play as a CDM/Right-back but we have Ivanovic, Alex, Mikel et al for the roles and they themselves are not ‘old’.
Regarding Malouda – he was in decent form when the season started but Carlito did not give him enough game time, which resulted in a temporary loss of form. This was the period when the ‘reports’ of his ‘problems’ with Frank were doing the rounds.
After he professionally handled that period, there has been no looking back.