While we are on the topic of Chelsea Football Club and their unexpected, to say the least, Premier League season, we should take a moment and marvel at the magnificence of the league itself. We should perhaps even consider ourselves fortunate to be able to watch such a brilliant story unravel in front of our very eyes. Quite how the league achieved this stupefying feat remains a topic for another day; our main subject today is the story of the former Barclays Premier League Champions.
They were unquestionably brilliant during their title-winning campaign, and with each game-day that passed, it seemed like a day that amassed heavily in the context of entertainment as such brilliance was seen rarely on a football pitch in England. That statement will, I’m sure, be subject to argument from other club’s fans, especially those that do most of their business at the upper end of the table.
Regardless, any proper football fan would’ve enjoyed seeing such an act of beauty and perfection, and enjoyment, more than anything else, during the length of the campaign, no matter what positions their respective teams lay at. Fast forward to this season, and the story’s starkly unrecognizable.
Chelsea’s games were still entertaining, no doubt about it, but they were for reasons the people associated with Chelsea Football Club, hopefully, had rued foreseeing, if they ever did foresee. There were controversies surrounding the club doctor, of all people, and Mourinho somehow managed to blame a loss on her (how on Earth he invents such unique excuses remain an unsolved mystery). Anyways, during the rest of Mourinho’s tenure, there was a tension in-between staff and players in place of the previously existent harmony and unison.
After his sacking, those tensions were released, and this was reflected in their game against Sunderland, in which they did not hesitate to snatch their freedom. I do not think that Mourinho necessarily didn’t give them the freedom before, it’s more the lack of seizure of that said freedom that cost them and the man himself very dear. Anyways, during the next two games, we saw what the Chelsea side had done to themselves after Mourinho’s departure. Mourinho’s otherwise authoritative figure was no longer there. And so the players didn’t perform like they should’ve; in unison. There was the lack of the sheer aura that is the result of a person like Mourinho’s presence.
But, that, in turn, gave them such an extensive amount of invention and creativity that Mourinho would never permit for a team under his management. It was true that they were not performing in unison, but since they were already a good team, regardless of results, in defence under the captainship of the legendary John Terry, the attacking players were all focusing more of their genius when on the ball. Though this resulted in a lackluster performance in defence from the attacking players, particularly Cesc Fàbregas, they were not paid the big money for making good tackles. However, Fàbregas did have a poor game overall and there can be no excuses for that.
And so, let’s take a look at the other players. Oscar and Willian were performing passes that they perhaps were not supposed to do under Mourinho because they were too risky. Take Willian’s finesse, rather than power, pass to Costa from the right for instance for the goal. It was a moment, for me, of absolute genius, and a moment of genius that was not sparkling due to the limitations from Mourinho, as in his rather poor attacking game-plan prowess when compared to his defensive capabilities. After all, when you are controlling a bird in shackles, you can make it do everything you want; it will walk with you, it might even fly at a set height side by side with you. But, it will not be the same as when you remove the shackles, as then it will fly to a greater height than it previously thought was achievable. Yes, there’s always the danger that it will get eaten for lunch by a Bald Eagle, but sometimes you need to take risks to explore unimaginable possibilities. It is those possibilities that Chelsea needed during this time last year when their opponents figured their game-plan out (remember the Tottenham game?).
And instead, what Mourinho did was make the shackles even smaller, so that they were even less willing to take risks than they were before. Mourinho grinded out wins, but that was all down to the player’s creativity even when they were down to such low limitations. Just imagine where, then, the players are truly capable of performing.
The win against Crystal Palace reminded us of the Chelsea that was bound by a rather loose shackle at the beginning of last season. Hiddink isn’t setting any borders. And so, they are free to fly till they reach the skies. But, bring back the old days, though, and these players might never recover from the trauma of this season.