Sunday, April 24, 2005

Chelsea an inch away

It’s been 50 years in the making and its looking a remarkable story.

Chelsea’s remarkable consistency this year has come from two areas, depth and coaching. Chelsea coach Jose Mourinho has used his deep squad liberally all season and not hesitated to play the player on merit of form and not reputation. This has yielded points all season.

The funny thing is that when former Chelsea coaches Gianluca Vialli and Claudio Ranieri adopted similar player rotations the players revolted, how is it that it is different now? The authority Mourinho brought in has stabilized the team; mainly because he is generally spot on with his moves but also because the team know he is not grinding ax’s. And when he is off, his intentions are good, such as earlier in the season when he made three substitutions at halftime. His intention was to stir the team, get the energy going but the result was a less than full strength side due to an injury, oh well.

The finest example all season of the team effect on Chelsea is Joe Cole. Notorious for self interested runs, look at the difference a clear statement from Mourinho made: sit down on the bench for a while and when you learn to play both halves of the pitch you can play again.

Chelsea got just what they needed this season: a few changes in personnel and a coach on the rise. I recall some harping earlier in the season when Chelsea weren’t scoring about selling striker Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink. I laughed because Mourinho knew Hasselbaink lacked lateral mobility and is only useful in a strait line and thru the center. If you watch the team, they play very laterally and look to stretch the opponents and use their depth and fitness to eventually grind in the result. How often have we seen Chelsea this season go a goal down and come back and win; often 4-1? That is a testament to the season long view and organization within the team.

As the Blues faithful get ready to accept their new championship in the coming days, storms seem to brew beneath this success. Chelsea needs to show the ethics of a champion and forget about hotel room meetings and pilfering from other European youth sides. There is enough resource inside Stamford Bridge to grow Chelsea past Manchester United without games.

I’ll extend my congratulations early to a deserving championship side. Chelsea have prospered in what looked to be Arsenal’s year.
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