It was a Saturday. Just another Saturday teatime kickoff at Stamford Bridge. Second in the league Chelsea were hosting third from the bottom Blackburn Rovers. Eidur Gudjohnsen already had a hat-trick by the time the 62nd minute rolled around and a young, balding, funny-looking Dutchman stepped onto the pitch. His name was Arjen Robben and he was about to spark our season truly into life.
While results were good, Jose Mourinho's first few games established a narrative that would persist to this very day. Slow, strong, compact, tight - boring, boring Chelsea we were. José's first nine league matches in charge saw four 1-0 victories, two 0-0 draws, a 2-0, a 2-1, and finally a surprise defeat (the one and only league defeat that season) away to a pre-riches Manchester City. Lots of points but really not much inspiration.
That all changed the day Robben arrived. In between his season-starting and season-ending injuries, inclusive from Blackburn (H) to Blackburn (A) in the league, Chelsea would net 41 goals in just 14 matches. In the remaining 24, they'd score just 31. His absence from the Champions League semifinal matchup versus Liverpool is still arguably that season's greatest regret.
He wasn't involved in all those goals personally, nor did he score all that many, but he injected danger, pace, trickery, and fun into the Chelsea attack. He was often unplayable (even at just the tender age of 20) and when opponents did manage to shackle him a bit, he made others around him better. He was arguably the biggest catalyst for what proved to be a dominant league campaign, which saw Chelsea win the Premiership by 12 points and with a record points haul.
Ignoring the Champions League for a moment and if you squint a little bit, this year's results mirror that season's semi-closely so far. We've had a 2-0 and a 2-1 already, followed by a 0-0 and that classic 1-0 away shock defeat. But I'm not sure we can afford or even bear to wait until the end of October to sparkle into life. So who's going to step up and be this squad's Arjen Robben?
Is it going to be Willian? A summer signing for quite a bit of money, pacey, tricksy, most at home out wide, cutting in. Is it going to be Juan Mata? Struck down by injury in a preseason match, he should now be ready to dazzle us while slaying the enemy. Or perhaps it will be somebody completely out of left field, or perhaps right back?
Either way, I need a hero. I'm holding out for one. He's gotta be strong. He's gotta be fast. He's gotta be ready for the fight. Any takers?