Sunday, November 07, 2004

Saturday - A Day to Remember

Blue is the colour, football is the game
We're all together, and winning is our aim
So cheer us on through the sun and rain
'cause Chelsea, Chelsea is our name

We are finally there where we belong. On top.

Chelsea lead the EPL.

Yippeeeee...Dunno why but I feel on top of the world.

Footie is a strange game. It was just a few weeks back, when the Arsenal juggernaut was still running, that I had asked myself serious questions whether the team I supported so passionately would ever land up with silverware during my life time. 15 years is a long time to wait and the old faithfuls have been great to rally behind their team through these difficult years. For someone who's been solidly behind them for the last 4 years, its been very annoying since Chelsea have never lacked the flair to come out trumps - rather they've been guilty of notorious inconsistency. Ever since the hey days of Vialli and then Ranieri, the fans and the Chelsea board have stood loyally behind the team willing them on at every go.

The arrival of the Russian oil tycoon Roman Abramovich, welcomed initially with great scepticism and suspicion, has heralded a radical change in Chelsea's fortunes. Huge money spent in assembling a team of stars with giant-sized egos has never brought instant success - In fact sometimes it hasn't even worked in the long run as it seems to be with Real Madrid at the moment, but Jose Mourinho at the helm has wonderfully moulded a set of hugely talented stars into an effective team that seems to be getting the job done week in week out. While the purists haven't stopped marvelling at the grace and sublime quality of the Gunners, Chelsea have quietly been making the move - eking out tough 1-0 wins against dogged opposition and then turning on the style against lesser fancied teams. The results and records speak for themselves. 9 wins, 2 draws and a single loss in 12 games with just 3 goals conceeded speaks volumes for the disciplined way this team has gone out doing its job.

While die-hard fans like me were a little wary with the rash of summer signings that Mourinho indulged in, time has proved most of his choices right. Its with grudging admiration that I admit that the man seems to know precisely what he wants. Not only is he a shrewd tactician, he has all the makings of an effective man-manager too. While Ranieri's last days were clouded by his random selection policy and absurd tinkering ways, Mourinho has been more practical in his squad rotation. His policy of having two world class players in the squad for every position has created a healthy competition for places and everyone seems to be aware that one bad performance could seal their fate. At the same time, he has also reposed his faith in youth and given time for talent to mature and unleash itself on the oppostion.

Even the harshest critics would agree that Carlo Cudicini was the best GK in England in the 2003 season. But one freak accident in pre-training has left him fighting for his place since Petr Cech, whos filled in his absence, has hadly put a foot wrong so far. The two centre backs, John Terry and Ricardo Carvalho seem to have developed incredible understanding even in their first season together and their positional play and towering presence in the air has had the pundits raving. Robert Huth still in his early 20s and learning the ropes fast can act as cover as can William Gallas. The latter is another example of how effectively Mourinho has fitted everyone into his plans since Gallas has also been successfully tried out as right back. Paulo Ferriera continues to impress as first choice for that position and has a more than suitable Glen Johnson breathing down his neck. Completing the back four, on the left flank, Chelsea have the attack minded Wayne Bridges and the dependable Celestine Babayaro.

Midfield is one area where Chelsea have an abundance of riches. In Alexei Smertin and Claudio Makelele, Chelsea have two really powerful, combative midfielders who can play the holding role with ease. Scott Parker and Geremi are both defensive by nature but can spring a surprise or two going forward. In Arjen Robben and Damien Duff, Chelsea have two of the game's most exciting wingers today. Both of them have tremendous pace, can dribble with ease and even switch flanks and play on both sides. Frank Lampard and Tiago Mendes are both excelllent creative midfielders who seldom refrain from moving forward and taking a shy at goal. Joe Cole, a versatile midfielder who can also play as support striker is a luxury very few clubs in the world can afford.

If there is one weakness in the Chelsea armour then its in their front line. While Didier Drogba seems to have good pace and a powerful strike and Eidur Gudjohnsen continues to deliver the goals, Chelsea seem to be lacking a classic goalscorer or poacher. Mateja Kezman (pronounce: Ma-ke-ya) who arrived from PSV with a tremendous reputation has been dismal so far but then Mourinho's bets have always paid off so maybe its still early days to be judgemental. The race has defintiely hotted up.

Arsenal will dearly want their recent run of bad form to come to an end. They will be hungry for success. Chelsea have a long way to go yet but something tells me, its gonna be Chelsea's year this time.

Carefree where ever you may be
We are the famous CFC
And we don't give a fuck who ever you may be
'cause we are the famous CFC

No comments: