For the players, it is by far not their stiffest competition. They have already proven that they can produce quality football (at times) with resounding multi-goal victories and of course their most impressive of the year against Manchester City.
For Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas it is must win. Eliminated from all competitions except this and the FA Cup, he is hoping to not be the first Chelsea manager of the Abramovich era to go trophyless in his first full season. A failure to get past Napoli would also be the first time Chelsea failed to progress past the first round in Champions League since 2006.
But sports are not played for the players or the coach, just like criminals don’t exist for the police. The police exist in a response to crime and sports exist in response to a human desire for competition and entertainment.
So it really should not matter what this game means for Villas-Boas, Drogba, Torres, Lampard, Mata, Cahill, whoever. It only matters what it means to us and that’s the question I pose.
How does this game resonate for you as a fan?
Some see it as just another stepping stone, a litmus test for the future Villas-Boas is building at Stamford Bridge.
How is Mata progressing as the main playmaker? How is Sturridge adapting to his wide role? Is the high defensive line understanding what they need to do better to prevent teams from getting behind?
These are optimists. They see the glass half full.
Others are much more cynical, thinking that this new system is plagued with poor tactics that will never work with these players. They demand results right now and know that the players the team has can produce if only given the opportunity to do so in their rightful roles.
These are the pessimists. They see the glass half empty.
Neither side is right or wrong in their evaluation of the team. It is just differing points of perspective and to someone like me who likes to comment on the team, it only creates a more active and engaging discussion.
If you follow my opinions at all, you are well aware that I belong to the latter category.
I don’t like the future I see right now. I think Villas-Boas’ attitude is the true hindrance to any kind of progression the club can make for the future. Even if he were to bring in the players he wants, his lack of experience does not afford him the knowledge of how to properly manage them.
Let’s not forget, managing is not limited to putting his players in the best positions to win the game. It also has to do with adapting, changing and recognizing inconsistencies and solving them as soon as possible. Every manager is required to make changes and those who do generally have the more successful careers.
This is nothing new which I am saying, but in the past it has brought up heated arguments by opposers who see that glass half full as being filled in time.
They react by defending the lack of time the manager has had and the fact that he is being undermined by the players he currently has. I cannot speak much to the latter as we are all unaware of what truly happens behind closed doors, but the former is something I have no answer for.
Again, it all comes down to your perspective of what’s in the glass.
You can rest assured that no matter what happens Tuesday this debate will wage on.
Should the likes of Lampard, Drogba and Malouda lead them to victory, then us pessimists will stand on our digital soap box and scorn Villas-Boas for not using them the whole season.
Should they fail, well then that’s just more ammo for those who believe in the future.
There are arguments against both sides and will be readily voiced throughout the week, as my post-game grades and articles are praised and destroyed all at the same time.
Don’t worry, I enjoy comments from all sides.
In truth this game matters little in this respect as there is no way one game that can sway beliefs which are more rooted in philosophy than reality. It will take the rest of this season and perhaps the next for this debate to finally be put to rest.
Tuesday’s match against Napoli means little to fans out there in the grand scheme. We will still be divided and the fury that invigorates both sides of the argument will flourish even greater.
In the end we are still all looking at the same glass and whether you see it as half empty or half full does not really matter.
What does matter Tuesday and what sparked this debate in the first place is the common denominator between us—we are all staring at only half of something, and as a Chelsea fan in general, that’s got to make you nervous for the match against Napoli.
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