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An Airing of Grievances

I've got a lot of problems with you people.

Lintao Zhang

With the clarity of a thousand tremendous hangovers, I say this shit has got to stop. Oh, I'm sorry, was that a bad word? Rest assured, I was actually holding back. You see, I'm not very happy. Although, upon reading the following words back to myself, I fear I have not portrayed my anger-level accurately enough; so you'll have just to take me at my initial word.

Chelsea have now played in three "Cup finals" this season and however meaningless the "competitions" or exhibitions themselves were, they've lost them all. Three times they've taken the pitch with a chance to win silverware for 90 (or 120) minutes of effort - perhaps not even real silver, but polishable just the same - and they've proceeded to display about as much enthusiasm and intensity as I have for shoveling coal or filling out a time card. This isn't so much embarrassing as it is aggravating. While I couldn't care less how this looks in the public opinion or how rival fans are reacting to it, I do care about how personally infuriating it has become.

I do not care anymore that these are "meaningless" trophies. Taken individually, they perhaps are. But taken in context and in summary, they are anything but. Especially if you factor in those absolutely abject performances that the team put in after the opening pre-season friendly in Seattle as well as the subpar Champions League campaign.

Trophies from the Community Shield or the League Cup or the Super Cup or the Club World Cup are not trophies to hold up at the end of the season to validate the success and the quality of the team. They are trophies to hold up right now to validate the progress and the growth of the team. They are trophies that speak to the mentality, the culture of the team. Sure, everybody wants to win the big ones - the Champions League, the Premier League, the FA Cup. But nobody on the team should be "ok" with losing any of these other "meaningless" trophies, and they all need to have that mentality in place before the match, not just in the 80th minute of a losing encounter. Again, that's before the match, not after letting Falcao romp all over their sorry asses. Before the match, not after clowning their way to losing scorelines versus Manchester City and, most damningly, Corinthians (ironic Chelsea-esque game plan for the Brazilians aside).

When Jose Mourinho lost to Liverpool in the 2006-07 Community Shield, he told the BBC that "Liverpool had more intensity and pace, qualities that make a team better. They had that and we didn't." It was the only meaningless trophy that Mourinho did not win. By which of course I do not mean that Chelsea won every single available trophy during his reign. But when his team did make it to a cup final, however meaningless, more often than not, they ensured victory for themselves and us fans. They played with enough motivation, intensity, and winning mentality to ensure that having been given a chance to walk off the pitch with a trophy, they would do just that.

The culture of Chelsea again needs to be that of 04-07 Mourinho - three meaningless trophies from four tries - not the 07-08 Mourinho/Grant - zero meaningless trophies from two tries. The culture of Chelsea needs to be Carlo Ancelotti's first season (two of two) and not Ancelotti's second. Even Andre Villas-Boas managed a meaningless notch on his belt - the same notch that was the very first meaningless notch in the Roman Era.

This isn't about priorities or emphasizing one competition over the other. If they want to not care about the League Cup, for example, that's perfectly fine. The competition itself is of dubious value. But if the team does make it to the final, I expect victory. Anything less is unacceptable. Enough is enough. The constant losing at the final hurdle, the lack of a winning mentality - from the manager on down to the players - that shit has got to stop.

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