Chelsea FC: The Blues' 2013-14 Campaign in Review

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Chelsea FC: The Blues' 2013-14 Campaign in Review
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Was he holding back tears?

Was he trying to disappear?

Was he praying to the football gods?

Whatever Chelsea's captain was going through during that moment of anguish, were it possible to dig his way to China—or anywhere else but Selhurst Park—he would have surely done it.

The aftermath of John Terry's own goal vs. Crystal Palace epitomised the Blues in 2013-14: A team on the cusp of breaking free but inexplicably powerless to navigate the definitive hurdle—more often than not by their own hand. For better or worse, this season brought many "flying the blue flag" back down to earth.

Recapping Chelsea's most recent campaign is difficult, but the one word which best describes the club over the last 10 months—or the past 10 years, more like—would be "pampered."

Michael Regan/Getty Images
"Chelsea FC" is not etched on to major trophies in the pre-season—they must be earned.

Chelsea Football Club has been spoiled by its own success. The Blues' supporters have become accustomed to trophy-laden seasons, and their recent glory means future teams are burdened with the almost impossible goal of replicating feats which seemed unachievable just a dozen years ago.

It is pressure the club and supporters alike welcome, as converse expectations would be starkly melancholic, but one must realise not all seasons are meant to have glorious endings. In fact—as history would attempt to prove—most seasons are unfortunately trophy less.

What made this campaign especially frustrating, though, was was the tantalising proximity Chelsea had to silverware, yet failed to lift any.

 

Pre-season International Champions Cup: Lost in final (Real Madrid)

UEFA Super Cup: Lost on penalties (Bayern Munich)

Capital One Cup: Eliminated in quarter-final (Sunderland)

FA Cup: Eliminated in fifth round (Manchester City)

UEFA Champions League: Eliminated in semi-final (Atletico Madrid)

Barclay's Premier League: Third place, four points behind the champions (Manchester City)

 

It makes for rather depressing reading.

Mike Hewitt/Getty Images
Having won the Champions League in 2012, Chelsea should always be in the hunt for another.
Outside of England, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Atletico Madrid are arguably the best trio of clubs in Europe, and losing trophies to clubs of that stature can be seen as a marked improvement from the lacklustre performance Chelsea offered two seasons prior.

Winning the 2012-13 Europa League served as consolation to missing the Champions League group stage, but Chelsea—with all due respect—are not a Europa League side. When an owner pumps billions of pounds into a football infrastructure, the least to be expected is reaching the knockout rounds of Europe's biggest club competition.

So, regarding the continent, seeds of improvement have been laid.

Domestically, Chelsea were football's equivalent of Robert Louis Stevenson's Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Jose Mourinho was exceedingly clear about his sides ambitions for the 2013-14 Premier League season. Many suspect the Portuguese attempts to play "mind games" with the press, supporters, the opposition and his players, but oft we confuse bluntness and honesty for duplicity.

Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
Branislav Ivanovic's goal beat Manchester City 1-0; most thought the tides had turned—one major exception being Jose Mourinho.

The west London outfit were capable of remaining undefeated in six matches vs. Manchester City, Liverpool and Arsenal but were somehow inept at dismantling Crystal Palace, Aston Villa and Sunderland. It became something of a mystery.

You would like to think Mourinho was in complete control, but he was more operating a roller coaster than conducting a train—something the Portuguese was attempting to convey ad nauseam.

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Chelsea's boss routinely downplayed his outfit's credentials in the Premier League title race, adopting a one-game-at-time mentality. When the Blues were resting atop the Premier League table, Mourinho told anyone who would listen that the EPL standings were "fake," culminating with his tour de force about a "little horse" following Chelsea's 1-0 victory at Manchester City in February.

The "mind games" tag was securely fitted to Mourinho's comments once again, but could it be Chelsea's manager knew his team's proclivity for instability better than anyone?

Like Chelsea, Mourinho has been spoiled by former success. Expectations reach absurd levels when your CV is riddled with silverware from across Europe.

Although Mourinho is an eminent manager, he cannot lay hands on Fernando Torres and make the Spaniard produce 35 goals in a season. Likewise, Mourinho cannot take a team that had no true identity under Andre Villas-Boas, Roberto Di Matteo or Rafa Benitez and revamp them into treble winners over just 10 months.

Clive Rose/Getty Images
Could Jose Mourinho heal leprosy or give sight to the blind, we would know it by now—he is a football manager, not a miracle worker.

In a transformational bid, last summer saw Marco van Ginkel, Andre Schurrle, Willian and Samuel Eto'o acquired, while Paulo Ferreira and Florent Malouda served as the only departures of note.

The January transfer window saw Kevin De Bruyne, Michael Essien and Juan Mata leave Stamford Bridge, while Nemanja Matic, Mohamed Salah and Kurt Zouma were procured in moves that clearly signal Mourinho's intention to create a younger, faster and balanced unit.

Chelsea may very well have conceded silverware this season, but they were concessions anyone paying attention to a Mourinho press conference might have expected.

Yet, however frustrating the Pensioners were in 2013-14, everything is not lost.

After one year, Mourinho improved a 75-point Premier League side by seven. More impressive, the Portuguese had last year's underachieving Europa League champions within 54 minutes of the 2014 Champions League final.

While the Blues and their supporters have been spoiled by yesteryear's triumphs, this rendition of Chelsea Football Club has left something which cannot possibly be quantified: that something being hope.

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