Chelsea Should Savour This Glory, But Not Rest on Their Laurels
What can you possibly say about a season such as the one that has just passed for Chelsea?
The bare facts speak volumes. Premier League and FA Cup winners. Double winners. 103 league goals in a season. Seven or more goals scored in four matches.
The most successful season in the club's history.
Manager Carlo Ancelotti has some act to follow next season. For the moment, he can sit back with his favourite glass of red wine and savour a vintage debut in English football.
A campaign that looked to be veering dangerously off course in mid-March has culminated in glory.
Blues’ fans were in dreamland for the last two months of the 2009/10 season. Victory at Old Trafford in early April was the key result as Chelsea won their first league title for three seasons...and the fourth in their history.
The defeat to Tottenham at White Hart Lane frayed the nerves of many fans, but the matches that followed brought along a sea of goals.
Seven against Stoke, two away to Liverpool, eight to wrap up the title against Wigan, and then a solitary strike against Portsmouth to win the FA Cup.
18 in four games, with none conceded.
Unfortunately for the benefit of Chelsea fan’s health, the entire season wasn’t as comfortable and goal-laden as its conclusion.
There were times when it appeared as if the club would squander the chance to pull clear of the chasing pack and secure the Premier League.
Take, for example, the start of December. Chelsea were five points clear courtesy of a 3-0 win at Arsenal. Next up was a tricky looking clash against Manchester City.
The Blues went down 2-1 and followed up this disappointing result with draws against Everton, West Ham, and Birmingham before the turn of the year.
Chelsea had countless opportunities to make life a lot easier for themselves, and for most of the season, they failed to take them.
Such qualms matter little now, as Ancelotti plots to further cement his place in Chelsea’s history.
One way to do so would be to win the one trophy that has been conspicuous by its absence in the Stamford Bridge trophy cabinet: the Champions League.
It remains the one trophy that Chelsea fans, players, and, of course, Roman Abramovich crave. The focus (some would say obsession with) old Big Ears refuses to die. Coming so close in Moscow two years ago has merely heightened the desire.
As Ancelotti gets some well-deserved rest and relaxation, he will inevitably ponder his plan for the season ahead.
Should he stick with the squad that served him so well last season? After all, no club has come closer to winning the Champions League in recent years than Chelsea.
Managers have come and gone since Jose Mourinho departed, but the make up of the squad by contrast has stayed surprisingly constant.
The players that were integral to Mourinho’s back-to-back title winning side remain just as important.
Just like Mourinho, Ancelotti relies heavily on the likes of John Terry, Frank Lampard, Didier Drogba, and Petr Cech.
However, he can’t do this forever.
Drogba and Lampard are both past 30. Terry is but a few months off. Fresh blood needs to be injected, whether that be from inside the club, or through transfers.
A few departures are expected in the summer - Deco and Juliano Beletti chief among them.
Ancelotti was famous for prolonging the careers of AC Milan’s aging superstars, but such a policy would not be sustainable in West London. Milan haven’t won a trophy for three years and finished a disappointing third in Serie A this season.
Manchester United, Chelsea’s closest domestic challengers, simply destroyed them in the Champions League this season, exposing a vast gulf in class. Such a downturn would not be tolerated by Abramovich.
The early signs of renewal are beginning to show, and are encouraging.
Five youngsters will be included in the first team squad next season: Gael Kakuta, Patrick Van Aanholt, Jeffrey Bruma, Nemanja Matic and Fabio Borini.
They will compete for a place alongside the club’s established stars, who must be realising their chance to win the Holy Grail of club football is slipping away with every passing season.
Win that next season and Ancelotti will attain the status of a deity in West London.
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