Chelsea's Biggest Disappointments of the 2013-14 Season
On the whole, Chelsea’s 2013-14 season was a success. Jose Mourinho has settled in and has a clearer idea of the squad he has—and the one he needs—to take the club forward. The Blues were challenging for two trophies until the last minute, and there were flashes of potential brilliance to come from both old and new players.
However, there were a few things that took the edge off what should have been a special season. Let’s have a look at the biggest disappointments for Chelsea in 2013-14
Losing the UEFA Super Cup on Penalties
Chelsea faced Bayern Munich in a rematch of the 2012 Champions League final for the UEFA Super Cup last August. A thrilling match saw the Blues go into the final minute of extra time with a narrow 2-1 advantage, until Javi Martinez equalised to take the tie to penalties.
Unlike in Munich, Bayern scored all of their spot-kicks. When Romelu Lukaku stepped up to take Chelsea’s fifth penalty to send it to sudden death, the Belgian hesitated. Manuel Neuer was able to save, and Chelsea had lost out on their first chance of silverware.
Worse still, that miss seems to have played some part in the decision to send Lukaku out on loan again, a decision which proved more ridiculous as Chelsea’s strikers continued to choke.
So much has been written about Chelsea’s dearth of goals since Didier Drogba’s departure that it feels like a bad dream to still be writing about it. Still, here we are, with another season of attacking midfielders outscoring the strikers, per WhoScored, behind us.
Quite simply, the strikers that Chelsea have had thus far have not been good enough to make the difference. This will have to change over the summer.
Selling Juan Mata
If it wasn’t for Jose Mourinho, this would have been a bigger disaster than the Roberto Di Matteo—Rafael Benitez furore. Juan Mata was the fan favourite at Chelsea, winning back-to-back Player of the Year awards and drawing comparisons with the Blues’ favourite son, Gianfranco Zola.
Alas, Mata’s sublime skills in attack could not make up for his obvious weaknesses when tracking back, and he found himself on the bench. Under pressure to make it into the Spain squad for the upcoming World Cup, Johnny Killer decided to put in a transfer request. Mourinho signed off on it, and the supporters’ favourite left for Manchester United.
Chelsea have certainly had a more successful season than United, but the joy that Mata brought to the supporters will not be easily replaced.
Oscar's Drop in Form
One of the reasons for Mata being marginalised when Mourinho returned was the fine form of Oscar in the No. 10 role. Having played a key role in Brazil’s Confederations Cup win, Oscar continued to play at his best for the opening months of the season.
Somewhere around February, per Squawka, he seemed to vanish from games that he would have taken by the scruff of the neck in September, leaving many questioning Mourinho’s decision to favour him over Mata.
This writer is firmly of the belief that Oscar’s future is alongside Nemanja Matic in a deep-lying playmaker role. His off-the-ball work and ability to track opponents, combined with his runs into space and eye for a stunning goal or two would make him the perfect player for that position, if Jose were to give it a go.
Performance at Newcastle
The 2-0 defeat to Newcastle at St. James’ Park was one of the defining matches of the season for Chelsea. Unlike the Sunderland game, or the disappointing draw with Norwich City, the loss at Newcastle did not curtail the Blues’ chances of winning the Premier League title.
What it did was ruthlessly expose their flaws as they capitulated to a wildly inferior side.
There was no coherence to the side that day, and there seemed to be little in the way of communication on the pitch. While Mourinho may have been able to put some defeats down to poor refereeing performances, this one was purely down to his own side’s shortcomings.
You can read the match report and go through the stats from this game at WhoScored.
Ashley Cole Likely to Leave
Ashley Cole has been Chelsea’s saviour numerous times since moving to Stamford Bridge in 2006. Goal-line clearances and last-ditch tackles are second nature to Cole, and he has been a model professional on the pitch.
However, Cesar Azpilicueta’s adaptability appears to have signalled the end of Cole’s Chelsea career.
Nobody can begrudge Azpilicueta for the astounding season he has had, playing out of position no less, but it is sad that this has come at the expense of such an excellent servant to the club.
Being Denied a Champions League Final Spot by Their Own Player
Chelsea faced one of their own players in the Champions League semi-final when Thibaut Courtois started in goal for Atletico Madrid. Drawing 1-1 at half-time, the tie hung precariously in the balance, and it took a spectacular save from Courtois to stop John Terry handing the advantage back to Chelsea.
That Courtois has developed so well at Atletico is undoubtedly a boost for the Blues but watching one of their own players deny them an appearance in a third consecutive European final was pretty depressing.
Jose Mourinho's Massive Fines
Love him or hate him, you have to admit that Mourinho is a master of manipulation. The British press have been falling over themselves to get the latest soundbite from the Special One, and he has duly provided. From young eggs to little horses, Mourinho has added to his collection of classic quotes over the course of the season.
He has also been fined twice by the FA, per the Evening Standard.
The “us vs. them” mentality is a cornerstone of Mourinho's management style. However, he should be careful to avoid a repeat of this disciplinary record next season, unless he fancies hopping back into the laundry basket.
A season without silverware at Stamford Bridge has become rarer than one with silverware at Arsenal. Many expected that Mourinho’s return would bring the same instant success that he brought a decade earlier.
Under-18s aside, Chelsea have failed to win anything for the first time since 2010-11.
One year without a trophy does not signal failure, far from it in fact. Chelsea are building a project to last for another decade, with Mourinho attempting to mold a team of youngsters into winners. He has spent the season fine-tuning his tactics and will continue to tinker with the squad in the summer.
All of the above is great for the future but not having an open-top bus parade to go to has still been a bit rubbish.