Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Chelsea Retro: A Preview of May 2006

Another piece of Chelsea Retro, a preview of the last month of the 2005/2006 season, written after Chelsea had clinched the Premiership title for the second successive season. This is quite funny looking back bearing in mind the results Chelsea did (or didn't) get.

As I write this Chelsea have just wrapped up their second successive Premiership title with a 3-0 defeat of Manchester United. As we finally left the ground the talk in the media was not just about Chelsea’s back-to-back titles, but of Wayne Rooney. We all watched in deathly silence as England’s star player and great hope for the World Cup left the field, and now looking like he will miss the World Cup. No-one likes to see a player, especially such a key player and great player for England, go off with an injury like that. For me it took the gloss just a little - although only a little - off what was a great day, arguably the best atmosphere I’ve ever experienced at Stamford Bridge. We should celebrate too, back to back titles is a great achievement, only achieved by great teams – which is what we have.

This of course changes the whole complexion of May’s fixtures. We have two away fixtures, both in the first week of May, to complete our league season. The results are now academic in terms of winning the title, but if we win these two games then we will break our own record points total and achieve 97 points, two more than last season. This is from a team who apparently are worse than last season! In fact even a draw and a win would see us equal the 95 points of last season, having lost two more games. Quite an achievement if it can be done – and I believe it will be.

As for team selection for these games, well it could be interesting. We must face these fixtures without our skipper John Terry, cruelly denied the chance to play all 38 league games this season. He will be anxious to make sure he does it next season. It will be a chance for fringe players to get a run out in the first team. Jose spoke yesterday of giving players some rest, especially with the World Cup coming up for most, so expect some changes. SWP will probably play both, as will Damien Duff. Lassana Diarra could also be given some first-team experience in the Makelele role, with Maniche, Carlton Cole, Glen Johnson, Robert Huth and Carlo Cudicini likely to play some part in at least one if not both games. This will give some a perfect opportunity to stake a claim for a first team spot next season, while for others it may be their farewell appearance. The good thing is that it will keep the team hungry and players will be fresher, meaning no lack of effort or complacency. Jose and the team will want to end the season on a winning note and break that points record, which will be their goal now.

Blackburn away is the first of these games. Always a difficult fixture, Blackburn have a lot to play for, with the possibility of European football going to Ewood Park. In contrast to last year Blackburn have actually played some good football this season and deserve their league position. Craig Bellamy has proved to be a great signing and is looking back to his best. A real danger man for us and arguably Blackburn’s biggest chance of achieving a result. This will be a difficult match and therefore most likely a low scoring affair. 1-0 to Chelsea.

Newcastle away is yet again our final league match. Newcastle, who may or may not have Michael Owen available, are in good form currently and proving just how correct they were to sack Graeme Souness. From lower table they have climbed up into European contention and what with it being their final home game and a European spot up for grabs they will be very up for it. This again will be a difficult fixture for us, especially having already won the title and it being at St James’ Park, which is always a difficult atmosphere. However with a team selection which will again give opportunity for lesser used players, who are fresher and arguably hungrier to play than first team regulars now the title has been wrapped up, I believe Chelsea will record another victory. 2-1 to Chelsea.

Also this month we will begin to get the papers coming out in force with rumours and gossip about the comings and goings at Chelsea Football Club this summer. The inevitable rumours will surface about top strikers like Adriano, Shevchenko and Eto’o and numerous left-backs and centre-backs. It could also be the month when we complete the free transfer of Michael Ballack. Whatever, the rumour mill will be going into overdrive now that Chelsea’s season is effectively over.

It has been another great season. Back-to-back titles is not to be sniffed at, and we could easily beat our points total of last season. Whatever happens though we can be proud to be Chelsea supporters and enjoy this time – we are the Champions!!! Again!!

What actually happened:
Chelsea lost their last two league games away to Blackburn and Newcastle, both 1-0. In both games they fielded under-strength teams, but still involved Shaun Wright Phillips and Damien Duff in both games and Frank Lampard in one of the games. At Blackburn they had three penalties not given and created enough chances to win and against Newcastle again had chances to at least draw if not win the game but lost to a Titus Bramble goal. At the end of the month Chelsea confirmed they were signing Michael Ballack on a Bosman free transfer, and the next month Andriy Shevchenko arrived for a British record £31 million from Milan. By the end of August they had signed England left-back Ashley Cole from Arsenal as well, despite the eventually unfounded rumours of Roberto Carlos arriving from Madrid.