Incredibly, Chelsea’s fortunes have gone full circle. At the tail end of the 2004 season, Claudio Ranieri’s Chelsea side lost in the semi-final of the Champions League and finished the season in second place. Sound familiar?
Between 2004 and now, Chelsea has of course flourished under Mourinho by winning the Premiership title two seasons in a row. What must be most frustrating, though, is that Man United opened the door two weekends ago for Chelsea to win the title. But Chelsea was terrible against Newcastle succumbing to a passionless nil-nil draw. Even this past Saturday against Bolton, Chelsea was unable to outwit Sam Allardyce’s side.
Instead, Mourinho made six changes to his side against Bolton and sat Lampard and Cole. They used to call Ranieri The Tinkerman, but Mourinho did the same thing this past Saturday. A win against Bolton would have made the May 9th clash between Chelsea and Man United mean something. Now all that’s at stake is pride and the determination to ensure that United doesn’t lift the trophy on Chelsea’s patch.
Sure Mourinho has achieved so much more than Ranieri, but at the end of the season all that matters is the number of new trophies in your cabinet, and Mourinho has one and may end up with two by May 19. But there’s no guarantee that Chelsea will even win the FA Cup.
Sure, Chelsea has had a very difficult and trying season that was hampered by injuries. In a different scenario (one without those key injuries), things may have been different.
However, there’s no hiding from a passion to win. Even last night against Liverpool, it looked like Chelsea lacked the desire. The team was a ghost of its former past. The Blues looked dangerous on corner kicks and often booted the ball up field in hopes that Drogba could latch on to it for a fortunate strike.
For Chelsea not to score at Anfield was a travesty. One goal was all the club needed to put them into the Athens final, and they couldn’t even muster that.
Sure, Liverpool was formidable but the Reds blew their chances to make it 2-0. And Petr Cech definitely kept the Blues in the game several times with some aerobatic saves.
Liverpool’s win tonight was monumental for many reasons. One, it ends Chelsea’s chances of the Blues winning the biggest prize in European football this season. It’s the one piece of silverware that Chelsea (especially Abramovich) wanted more than anything. Two, an argument could be made now that money doesn’t guarantee success in football. Three, Chelsea are the new galacticos. Four, I believe we’ve seen Chelsea reach their peak last year and although they’ve won the Carling Cup and will refocus their energy on winning the FA Cup, I believe that last night’s defeat signals the pending departure of Jose Mourinho.
The mass of people, red shirts, scarves and flags, and the fans in the entire stadium standing up made the Anfield crowd look like terraces last night to see another historic match in the club’s history. Now let’s see whether Liverpool will face Man United or AC Milan, and that the game is hopefully more entertaining than last night’s affair.