Having won the Barclays Premier League with considerable dominance, no one could have envisaged nor expected the frightful decline that Chelsea has endured. A team, which at the heights of their powers played with vim, purpose and an unrivaled authority, have undergone a dramatic demise. Several factors – both on-field an off-field issues – have entwined, which accordingly concluded Mourinho’s second reign as Chelsea manager.
In an attempt to regain balance, normality and a degree of support from Chelsea’s infuriated faithful, the board opted to appoint the popular Guus Hiddink. The consensus was that the experienced Dutchman was the appropriate candidate to engender the club’s resurgence during a period of vastly woeful form and frustrating irregularities.
Under the 69-year-old's knowledgeable guidance, Chelsea has registered a reputable record of a victory and two draws – well, reputable by the standard set this season, at least – yet the club should look at the forthcoming fixture against Scunthorpe United and regard it as one of the most crucial games of the season. It is especially uncommon that such emphasis should be placed on the third-round of the FA Cup, but this season, winning it is a necessity.
Association football’s oldest competition represents Chelsea’s best and most rational opportunity of earning silverware. Despite proceeding to the latter stages of the Champions League, triumphing in Europe’s foremost competition will be substantially harder.
The FA cup and its magic empowers the underdog with the ability to reign victorious over accomplished opponents – as witnessed at Stamford Bridge last season in Chelsea’s 2-4 defeat to Bradford City. In addition to the chance to earn absolution for getting conquered by third-tier opposition, Scunthorpe should be the first step towards ending the club's FA Cup drought – the Blues have failed to succeed since their triumph over Liverpool in 2012. Although the game has not been extensively broadcasted as a do-or-die fixture, the importance of this weekend’s tie cannot be stressed sufficiently.
Firstly, the FA Cup provides the Blues with their most credible method of certifying European Football for the 2016-17 season, albeit only for the Europa League. In the league, Hiddink’s men are currently situated in 14th place, thirteen points adrift of fourth place. If Chelsea are to reduce that gap in any meaningful way, they must register a series of consecutive victories, and begin registering them soon. Considering the unforeseeable and inconsistent performances this season, it is difficult to state with any amount of certainty that the club will make such an ascent.
The absence of European football would make the task of acquiring transfer targets and managerial candidates alike, tougher. The promise of the Champions League seems to be the most alluring and captivating factor for signing the most prestigious players. If Chelsea intends to retain the ability of attracting these distinguished talents, then Champions League involvement is a necessity. The Europa League is a poor substitute, but a substitute nonetheless rather than nothing at all.
FA Cup glory would also continue to validate Chelsea’s global status as a member of Europe’s elite teams. If Chelsea manages to flourish in the club’s most severe season under Abramovich’s ownership, it would certify that despite performing far from the team’s capacity they remain competitive and auspicious. If the club’s revival isn’t consolidated by the presence of a trophy, then one could argue that the season was entirely wasteful. Football, in its entirety, is a game defined by success and a season devoid of a single trophy and mid-table anonymity would be incredibly detrimental.
From the late nineties to the present day, Chelsea have undertook a progression from a distinctly modest side to one of the biggest names in world football, with Abramovich and his wealth a catalyst in the process. A trophy-less season would indicate a debilitated Chelsea side, who could potentially suffer a demise indistinguishable from that of Manchester United, who have failed to win a trophy for three years running. Although that scenario may well be extreme, it remains a credible possibility.
Lastly, and perhaps most significantly, if Chelsea fail to win a competition this season, it would testify that the club have taken three steps backwards. When Jose Mourinho was appointed in charge of Chelsea Football Club for the second time, the supporters were presented with a vision endowed with a sense of longevity, that the Special One would establish a dynasty. Chelsea seemed preordained to conquer the word. The optimism that the 2013-14 season provided – with the club almost securing a historic league and Champions League double – reaffirmed the feasibility of this vision. This was further supported by the domestic triumph achieved in the 2014-15 season, but as has been characteristic of the board’s impatient and impulsive essence, the most successful manager in the history of Chelsea Football Club was sacked during his third season at the helm. This impetuous act directly contradicted Mourinho’s purpose, and has endangered the club of negating the development achieved during the transition period and consequently conceding any hope of managerial stability.
If Chelsea is to fail in their quest of achieving silverware, then the decision to sack the club’s greatest manager would be invalidated further, potentially exacerbating the board’s already sensitive relationship with the fans.
Certainly, if Chelsea does succeed in winning the FA Cup it doesn’t necessarily mean that the club will return to its previous distinction but it would establish a premise which would enable the club to re-build and mount a genuine title challenge.
On numerous occasions this season, Chelsea have been incredibly unfortunate whether it was contentious officiating or the absence of a clinical edge. Yet, misfortune alone can’t be the only reason for the abysmal performances supporters have excruciatingly witnessed this season. In the sagacious words of the late Ted Drake, "Don't sit around moping and waiting for your luck to come back. Go out and fight for it. It will soon be back." It’s about time the players oblige.