Chelsea lost 2-0 to Liverpool at Stamford Bridge yesterday, and in the process were knocked out of the Carling Cup. I missed the match, because I was on a train that was travelling through time to 1400 BC and thus understandably had neither internet nor a top speed exceeding that of a slightly gimpy horse, but it doesn't sound like I missed a particularly good performance.
Normally, that would be something of an annoyance. It's never fun to see Chelsea playing poorly, even if it is in the Carling Cup, especially with the club mired in a trophy 'drought' that's now extended to eighteen whole months. However, with everyone clamouring for Andre Villas-Boas to play the kids... well, he played the kids. Oriol Romeu started. Ryan Bertrand started. Romelu Lukaku started. Josh McEachran started. And we lost, and now people are complaining about that.
What do we even want? Do we want to win or do we want to integrate the younger players? The fact that we have to ask that question of, say, Lukaku and not Daniel Sturridge is because one comes at the expense of the other - the team is worse when we field a very young lineup, and so won't win as many games. Obviously, that's counterbalanced by the fact that getting the youngster's some playing time will help the team win down the road, but this is a situation where doing one comes at the expense of another.
And that's why nobody is ever happy. If Villas-Boas plays his strongest team and wins, people wonder about where the kids are. If he plays the kids and loses, people complain that we've lost momentum. I'm pretty sure that they aren't the same people, but I wouldn't be surprised. And yes, we might have won with the youth playing, but banking on that seems pretty silly to me.
The simple fact of the matter is that Chelsea are in a situation where people are going to be unhappy no matter what. The club needs to rebuild while winning, and that puts us in a potentially disastrous situation. We've been borrowing from the future to win trophies for years now, and while nobody wants to see a season where we just scrape by, sacrifices will need to be made in order to ensure that the club maintains its status as a top side well into the next decade.
Making those sacrifices will make for some cranky people. Not making those sacrifices will make for some cranky people. No matter what happens, barring some sort of weird miracle, some folks just aren't going to be happy. I only hope that Roman Abramovich and company are amongst those who realise that things need to chance, no matter how painful the transition might be.
And I think they are, because otherwise hiring Villas-Boas was completely nonsensical.