The Italian invasion of West London was greeted with a great deal of expectancy. After the Brazilian fiasco followed by the Dutch revival of last season, Stamford Bridge was buoyant after the appointment of one of the foremost tacticians of Italian football. The summer was relatively quiet with the only big money signing being Yuri Zhirkov, and Daniel Sturridge and Ross Turnbull bolstering the English options.
Chelsea started off with a win in the Charity shield over Manchester United on penalties. Carlo’s diamond was unleashed on an unsuspecting premier league and Chelsea romped their way past teams in the early part of the season with hardly a hiccup. The group stages of the Champions league too seemed a breeze with 4 wins and 2 draws in the group stages. They looked unbeatable at times and were ruthless in attack and miserly in defence.
Then came the proverbial “blip” with inconsistency raising its head. Unexpected draws at Everton, West ham, Birmingham and Hull. The turn of the year saw Chelsea sitting atop the premier league perch and looking good for their first title post Mourinho. January and then Februaury rolled on with a few mixed results but Chelsea still held the edge. Then came the heartbreak. Carlo was out thought by his former cross-town Milan rival, and predecessor, The special one. Another year gone, another year Roman has to wait for his elusive Champions League.
The season has almost ended and Chelsea are in it for two major titles; They currently hold a single point advantage over Manchester United going into the last day of the season and they play Portsmouth in the FA Cup final. The double is very much on the cards.
Carlo Ancelotti’s diamond was the story of the first half of the season when it cut through all in its path but as the season progressed, loss of form and fatigue soon caught up with the ageing Chelsea squad and led to inconsistency. Going into the business end of the season, Chelsea look to be in a fantastic position with most of their players peaking. Drogba is the joint top scorer in the league and “Super Frank” has just had another 20 goal season. Yet, Chelsea’s main man this season has been Flourent Malouda. At the beginning of the season, many were questioning the Frenchman’s value to the team and there was even the talk of an exit at the end of this season. Employed by Ancelotti in both a wide position and in a more central role, he has reveled and has contributed not just to the scoring charts but in the assists column as well. The return of Joe Cole too bolstered the options but Essien has been a big miss with everyone else who has occupied his position struggling to show any sort of consistency.
With both Bosingwa and Ashley Cole out for long periods, Ivanovic has stepped up to the plate and has established himself as first choice. John Terry has not been at his usual brilliant best, off field problems and losing the England captaincy might be the contributors there, but has done well enough to steer the Chelsea ship through.
Two games left in the season now. One’s a cup final and the other may well be called a ‘League final’. Carlo’s team have to now show that they do indeed possess the nerves of steel and the suave that have made them the top scorers in the league. It may not have been a vintage season in terms of consistency but come the end of the season, they are exactly where they wanted to be; challenging for trophies.