Within 7 months Chelsea have gone from being crowned Champions of Europe to one of the most ridiculed sides in recent memory. The last two months in particular has seen the Blues forfeit the summit of the Premier League table, become the first title-holder to crash out at the group stages of the Champions League and axe yet another manager. Winning Chelsea’s inaugural Champions League trophy was thought to signal the Blues' definitive arrival as one of Europe’s genuine heavyweights. However while the Champions League success has prompted Roman Abramovich to rejuvenate the squad with fresh and expensive new signings, the Blues' subsequent fortunes have been rather mixed.
The Community Shield was lost to Manchester City and a solid start into the ongoing 2012/13 Premier League season was met with a humiliating 4-1 defeat to Atletico Madrid at the European Super Cup. Though expecting the new look Chelsea to fire on all cylinders right away was unrealistic, no one expected the Blues to be so poor. After all, a Champions League winning side is held to a higher standard. For one reason or another, the European Super Cup served as an eye opener of sorts.
Atletico Madrid proved that La Liga isn’t an inferior league to the Premier League, Fernando Torres is not Didier Drogba, and his opposite number Radamel Falcao is with absolute certainty the superior striker.
Roberto Di Matteo’s sacking can be largely attributed to the Italians inability to get the very best out of El Niño. Though the exact reasons behind the appointment of Rafa Benitez remain a mystery, it’s a safe bet that his previous experience with Fernando Torres definitely factored into the decision. Chelsea’s number 9 even responded, in his last two games before the FIFA Club World Cup Torres scored 4 goals – prompting fans and pundits alike to once more declare the return of El Niño.
Nevertheless, a closer look at his recent proficiency and one is inclined to label Fernando Torres a flat-track bully. Though a Champions League team, FC Nordsjaelland were hardly a quality side whereas Sunderland under Martin O’Neil currently hover just above the relegation zone.
Against Brazilian side Corinthians at the FIFA Club World Cup Final Fernando Torres, the Chelsea FC version, has once again resurfaced.
Unfortunately, it’s just one of the many failures of his Chelsea career thus far, and one could be excused for believing it won’t be the last.
Nonetheless, Chelsea is not a one-man team and the Blues lost the FIFA Club World Cup final against the Brazilians. The 1-0 defeat to Corinthians is an appropriate end to the Blues quest for global dominance. In the past Chelsea were known for grinding out 1-0 results, a negative approach as far as international football was concerned, and got away with it. Hence it’s quite fitting that the Blues lost the FIFA Club World Cup Final in similar fashion.
Eden Hazard’s tweet “I’m signing for the Champions League winners” has now become a running gag on Twitter. One can only assume he at least expected to qualify for the group stages of the competition this time around. A more appropriate tweet would be “I have signed for the worst title-holder in Champions League history”.
If Chelsea’s unexpected Champions League glory has motivated the likes of Eden Hazard and Oscar to sign with the Blues, how must they feel now that they are part of a side that has gained infamy in said competition? After all, it’s an unprecedented feat in the history of the Champions League.
Though there’s plenty of football to be played in the ongoing 2012/13 season, it is already shaping up to be one of the worst campaigns of the Abramovich era – and it's only December. It took Chelsea almost a decade and hundreds of millions to reach the peak of European football, but less than 7 months to become the laughing stock of the continent. What’s worse, Roman Abramovich’s penchant for sacking managers has made the Chelsea job somewhat undesirable to prospective candidates. Abramovich’s no. 1 target, and football's most sought after manager, Pep Guardiola, is now said to prefer Chelsea’s rivals Arsenal, due to the more stable work environment.
The new shortlist for the Chelsea hot seat reportedly includes Atletico Madrid’s Diego Simeone as well as Borussia Dortmund’s Jürgen Klopp. Both would be good appointments but they’re both settled, and more importantly, valued at their current clubs.
Chelsea's Champions League triumph didn’t mark the beginning of a new era but signaled the definitive end of a cycle. Whether one likes to admit it or not, the Blues are a team in transition. Not to engage in hyperbole but who’s to say that Chelsea have already hit rock bottom? With Roman Abramovich as demanding and trigger happy as ever it’s unlikely the club will find any form of stability.
In a not too distant future Roman Abramovich will have hired and fired all of Europe’s managerial elite. Who in their right mind would ever return to a working environment as hostile as Chelsea’s?
To further complicate things, Manchester City Sheik Mansour is not only wealthier than Roman Abramovich, he has even displayed the one character trait that the Russian billionaire lacks, one that could land him Pep Guardiola (and possibly any other manager for that matter) – patience.
Even Silvio Berlusconi, one of football’s more erratic personalities, has given his AC Milan side three years to become a great team again. While Berlusconi’s AC Milan have achieved multiple Champions League triumphs, Roman Abramovich's Chelsea will forever hold the distinction of being the first (and probably) only Champions League winners to crash at the group stages in the subsequent season.
As is customary, finalists usually produce gear to mark the occasion of a triumph. Chelsea definitely produced FIFA Club World Cup Winners T-Shirts and Caps amongst other things. Chances are these items will be dumped in some remote part of the world where they will not be subject to photographs, or worse, videos. In a way Chelsea did contribute of improving some people’s lives. The kids at the sweatshops in a third world country earned a living producing those items, whilst some others received free clothing because of Chelsea’s failure.
Indeed, there are positives to take from defeat.
Keep the Blue Flag Flying High?
Somewhere in the world someone is keeping a flag that reads “Chelsea FC FIFA Club World Cup Winner 2012”.
Ah, wishful thinking. It just wasn’t meant to be.