Chelsea: Jose's Side Has Fallen But Will Win Race Next Year
Jose Mourinho called it – as he often does – many months before.
He claimed Chelsea were a little horse who needed milk. Unfortunately that milk ran out against Atletico Madrid, who bare all the hallmarks of what Jose Mourinho wants his side to be. And they will.
This season was a season of transition – not to do an Arsene Wenger by pulling that word out of the bag but in all honesty that is what Chelsea are. They have no forward. Their best midfielder was cup tied and only arrived in January and most of all, they did not have their ever present goalkeeper when it mattered most this season.
They have beaten all the top sides in England and challenged for the title. They have gotten to the semi-finals of the Champions League. That is no mean feat. After all, those in England who scorn such an achievement should remember that their sides certainly failed to do so.
Mourinho claimed upon his return to Stamford Bridge that we would see Chelsea in the final at the San Siro in 2015. But as he said after their elimination, once you get to the semi-finals it is hard not to dream. Of course you dream.
Chelsea are a club who buy into the Champions League dream more than most. Mourinho may have been wide of the mark when he said the competition ‘owed’ John Terry something – the Chelsea skipper knows that his actions at the Camp Nou were his fault and his alone. It was a moment of madness.
Paul Scholes and Roy Keane missed United’s final in 1999 but are hailed as heroes for taking a card for the team knowing what it would mean – not to mention dragging their side there in the first place, especially in the case of Keane. Terry meanwhile hampered his side and will be remembered as a moron. That or a full kit w*****. Neither of which are unreasonable.
Terry – who on the field this season has been flawless – aside, Chelsea fans felt the all too familiar heartbreak at the same stage once again. This season there was a difference. Barcelona managed to go through after an late, late goal courtesy of Andres Iniesta in 2009 after the scandal of Stamford Bridge, there have been penalty shootouts and of course ‘that’ Garcia goal. Chelsea have been devastatingly unlucky.
All except this year, when even their manager will have to admit in the cold light of day, they were out Chelsea’d by a side who are very similar to them but at this minute in time, better.
Atletico Madrid have enjoyed a fine season – and Diego Simeone bares more than a passing resemblance to Mourinho in his style of management, tactics and as we saw, touchline celebrations.
They are en route to being crowned La Liga champions and are sublime. Make no mistake. People who claimed Chelsea had the easiest draw were wrong. They are also the ones who watch one La Liga game per season, call themselves experts on Spanish football and fail to even realise the game they watch is not actually called El Classico. It only has one ‘s.’
Atleti are the finished product under Simeone, who has been in the job for three seasons now – winning a trophy in each - and are getting better with each passing one. This is a side who have become used to playing with each other, know what their manager is asking of them and know that this is their season.
Their squad may well be dismantled in the summer ironically with Chelsea profiting the most. This is their time. People may put cross town neighbours Real Madrid as heavy favourites, but there has been a growing belief all season in the Atleti camp that their squad is good enough to win the Champions League.
Their manager – who has outfoxed Carlo Ancelotti in the league twice – certainly is.
Chelsea meanwhile now have time to lick their wounds and regroup. And regroup they will. A summer of recruitment will now take place and Jose Mourinho knows that next season there will be no excuses.
It is ironic that the base and the tip of the side that knocked Chelsea out this term will become their very own next. Add Courtois and Costa to the side, not to mention a couple of other players and work with what they already have and you have a special side indeed - and one that may only need to park one bus at times, not two.
Chelsea are just getting started and the little horse may have fallen at the semi-final hurdle but the danger with little horses is that they just might become thoroughbreds.