For once, Jose Mourinho had refused to bow to hyperbole, simply sticking to one simple phrase when he remarked that his Inter Milan team was “the best team by far,” after its 1-0 victory over Chelsea.
On the evidence of those two matches, it would be a hard claim to dispute as Inter Milan came, saw, and conquered Chelsea with two coolly clinical displays built on the sterling defensive work of Lucio and Walter Samuel and the creative dexterity of Wesley Sneijder.
Inevitably, given the manner of the defeat, much has been written and spoken about Chelsea’s deficiencies. Yet even after the most crushing of defeats, some manner of clarity is required to enable the best conclusions be reached.
This Chelsea team was deprived of four of its probable starters in Michael Essien, Ashley Cole, Petr Cech, and Jose Bosingwa—all absentees who would affect even the best teams.
Plus, given the roughhouse nature of some of the Inter Milan marking, they could argue they were on the wrong end of some rather mystifying referee decisions for the second year running in the Champions League.
Yet to his credit, Carlo Ancelotti refused to reach for excuses and simply admitted, "Inter played a very good game with a good counter attack. We didn't play how we wanted, so Inter deserved to win. Congratulations to Inter."
Given the nature of the defeat, both in the significance and manner of it, questions have inevitably been asked about both the future of a number of Chelsea players and indeed of Ancelotti.
Despite the club remaining in pole position to secure both the FA Cup and Premier League in the next three months, speculation is rife that a sea change is coming at Stamford Bridge in the coming months.
Undoubtedly, this is a club who has relied heavily on a small number of players as the backbone of its success, and few contingencies have been put in place to ensure that this success can continue.
But whether the best course of action is for Chelsea to immediately forgo all that these players have achieved, and instead opt for a widespread purchase of players, remains highly contentious.
This is a squad which requires elements to refresh certain areas, notably in attack and midfield. However, those positions remain immensely well-equipped to succeed as they may well do later in the year.
While there may be casualties this year—most notably with the likes of Joe Cole and Michael Ballack, whose contracts are set to expire with little sign of a compromise being reached—the core of the team must remain.
Chelsea needs to look no further than its closest rivals, Manchester United, to see the way in which success can be continued despite some of its personnel continuing to age.
The likes of Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, and Gary Neville have more than done their part to ensure that Sir Alex Ferguson has been able to continue keeping Manchester United successful, whilst managing to refresh the team over time.
In an ideal world, Chelsea would wish that the likes of Didier Drogba, Frank Lampard, and John Terry could perform a similar duty, ensuring the core of the club’s successful formula is retained while purchases are made over time to refresh the squad.
While the world may talk of the likes of Fernando Torres, Angel Di Maria, and Franck Ribery arriving at Stamford Bridge as part of a wide-scale transfer spree to ensure that Chelsea can achieve its aims, a perhaps more prudent approach would be more beneficial.
For all the transfer talk surrounding Chelsea’s future, the key to ensuring it can remain successful in the future lies not in revolutionizing its squad, but rather in refreshing the elements which made them successful in the first place.
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