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Don't Worry About the Preseason Too Much

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In getting through three preseason games with three wins and a combined 5-0 score, Chelsea have apparently committed a major sin. With the possible exception of the opening game against Wycombe Wanderers, a 3-0 win behind closed doors (and thus unseeable), the team has singularly failed to look good for the fans. That, to many commenting, is unacceptable.

Chelsea were indeed dire against Portsmouth a week ago and then even worse against a Malaysia XI in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday. Very few players have performed as expected and the team's been a bit of a disaster. It's starting to make people more than a little nervous, and to an extent I can sympathise with that. We've all spent a lot of time lately whatching Chelsea play poorly, and seeing that continue into the preseason is, at the very least, disconcerting.

But disconcerting, really, is all it should be.

The point of pre-season friendlies isn't to win games. The matches don't matter and poor or good performances in July will swiftly be forgotten once the real action starts in August. Chelsea are touring around and playing matches in order to shake off the rust, show the colours in Asia and to make money. Look at the Malaysia game, for example. There were 85,000 fans in the stadium watching the Blues play, which marks a new attendance record in Chelsea history. That's what the preseason is about.

Yeah, we all want to see the team firing on all cylinders, but that's not really the point. Andre Villas-Boas is seeing what he has at his disposal, getting players game time without worrying about anything but the people on the field playing 45 minutes. Would our lives have been any better had we been Manchester United fans watching our team maul the Seattle Sounders to death? No, obviously not.

There might be an argument to be made that a strong showing in preseason games impact the year, but I'd push back against that one quite vigourously. I didn't manage to do the research I wanted to here, because most clubs' records of preseason matches are incredibly spotty (seriously, teams. Get thee to the 21st century), so we'll do this by some combination of anecdote and logic.

Let's look at last year as an example of just how much of an impact preseason training has on a team. Chelsea struggled in the leadup to the season, losing four out of five matches including the Community Shield. They then started the season in absolutely blistering form, winning their first four matches by a combined score of 15-1. Andre Villas-Boas' Porto also struggled in the buildup to last year - and then went undefeated in the league and won a treble. No issues there.

Aside from the sample size issue (two games tells you not much at all), there's simply no reason to believe that what a team does before the season affects them during the season. There are different players, they're out of practice and teams are being re-shaped. Nothing, at this point, is set in stone, and the way Chelsea are playing reflects that. Looking poor in a pair of 1-0 wins now doesn't mean we'll play badly with what's essentially a completely different team come September.

So, to the people worrying about the way the team's been playing, don't. Yes, it's annoying to watch now, but all we're looking at is an extended training session. Chelsea have certain priorities with these games, and winning is very low on that list. Yes, them performing a little better would be nice, but it's also an irrelevant nicety compared to all of the other considerations they're dealing with. There's really no need at all to fret about this little run of games.

If we look bad after the Stoke match... perhaps then it's time to stress out. Until then, just relax and enjoy. It's what the players are doing.