That Chelsea FC won the 2009/2010 edition of the Premier League and came close many a time to challenging and winning Europe's premier club tournament, the Champions League, is enough for praise and adulation.
Finalists in 2008 and quarterfinalists this year, the club would feel it should have achieved more in Europe—but more importantly, they will feel that they should have achieved more domestically.
At home, title opportunities are vast—there is the Premier League, the FA Cup and the Carling Cup and all are up for grabs, yet they end this year with nothing.
To the club's defence, they can point to entities like Inter Milan and Manchester United and Bayern Munich and claim that these other clubs are adopting similar policies themselves—they can make the argument that each of these teams have succeeded in striking a balance between experience and youth.
They can claim that are on the right track with signings like David Luiz, Ramires and Fernando Torres—and they have a point.
What Chelsea FC fails to realize though is that this comparison doesn't exactly hold true.
Success is not simply about having a balance between experience and youth—it is about having the right balance in the right places.
The problem with the current Chelsea team is simply: age. Too many key positions in the Chelsea 11 are occupied by 30-plus-year-old players.
In the Premier League:
Didier Drogba—striker—age 33, scored 29 goals from 31 games last season; this season, a year later, he's only managed 11 goals from 36 games.
Nicolas Anelka—striker—age 32, scored 11 goals in 31 games last season; this season, a year later, he's only managed 6 goals from 31 games.
Florent Malouda—attacking midfielder—age 30, scored 12 goals in 26 games last season; this season, a year later, he's only managed 13 goals in 37 games.
Frank Lampard—attacking midfielder—age 32, scored 22 goals in 36 games last season; this season, a year later, he's only managed 10 goals in 23 games (Frank Lampard was injured though for a period of time this season).
These players are the ones entrusted with winning Chelsea their games; surely, because of their age, this shouldn't be the case. The average age of these four players is 32, they have scored a whopping 34 goals less this season than they did by the end of last of season, and yet, this season, they have played on average the same number of games they played last season.
The Chelsea situation though is in stark contrast to Manchester United.
In the Premier League this season:
Ryan Giggs has only played 25 games, Paul Scholes has played 21 games, Park Ji Sung has played 14 games and Rio Ferdinand has played 19 games.
In the United team, there is clearly no over dependence on the older players, but I'm not solely mentioning these players to highlight the number of games they've played; I want to highlight the positions they are playing in. Essentially, Manchester United's older players are playing in non-critical positions (i.e. positions where there is adequate cover if it is needed).
The listed Manchester United players can be replaced and have been replaced effectively this season when the need arose.
I can't say the same for Chelsea.
If you take out Drogba, who is left? If you take out Anelka and Drogba, what are the other options? If you take out Lampard, Anelka and Drogba, all in their 30s, where is the respite?
Compare this to Manchester United taking out Scholes, Giggs & Park -no problems.
In a league as competitive as the English Premier League, aging players will hamper any club's viability.
Pause for thought..
I understand Chelsea's persistence (the likes of Giggs and Scholes are wonderful examples of the blend of experience with youth), but I can't understand their insistence.
In Chelsea's case, age is not just a number, it is everything.
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