After losing Sunday’s top-four six-pointer against Spurs, we find ourselves eight points out of fourth place and starring into the soulless depths of next season’s Europa League. Unless a late Easter miracle happens and Chelsea’s top-four hopes are somehow resurrected, we will be playing in the group stages of Europe’s second-rate competition for the first time in club history. We may be all about making history and not reliving it, but that doesn’t sound all that exciting — sure, the idea of giving youngsters some proper minutes in those games is a potential silver lining, but there’s no guarantee of that happening, regardless of who the manager may be next season.
But before we get to all that, we have the rest of the this season to complete. Chelsea have seven games left in the Premier League plus at least one in the FA Cup. Can Chelsea make up the gap to Spurs and/or Liverpool? Unlikely, but stranger things have happened. Manchester City, for example, made up eight points in six games to win the 2012 Premier League title, overhauling Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United, a side that no one in their right mind expected to collapse in such a spectacular fashion.
We should not expect that to happen, but like City in 2012, Chelsea now have nothing to lose. There’s no pressure, and often that can be liberating. Can Chelsea win our remaining seven games? Certainly. Will we? Probably not. Our longest win-streak this season is a paltry four. Should we give up? Definitely not. Marcos Alonso isn’t.
“We have to stand up now and fight until the end. We are all disappointed, but we have to fight until the end of the season. Winning all seven games has to be the target and then we have to wait for other teams to lose. It’s not going to be easy but it’s what we have to do.”
Memories of last season’s 13-match win streak have long faded, but perhaps can rediscover some semblance of that drive and determination here in the final two months of the season. Even if we don’t complete the unlikely top-four recovery, this attitude would serve us well in the FA Cup and next season as well. The former would not make up for missing the Champions League, but a trophy is still a trophy, especially for a young squad who are in serious need of improvement (especially in terms of mentality and concentration and commitment).
“I think as in every game we just need to focus and concentrate for the 90 minutes because we were playing a good game, we were controlling, and then we conceded three goals. So it is hard to take.”
-Marcos Alonso; source: Chelsea FC
Alonso blames “luck”, other teams’ improvements, and Chelsea’s own lack of consistency for this season’s predicament. He’s probably not wrong but improvements are clearly needed across the board. It’s hard to even know where to truly begin. But for the players, the job is clear. Seven games left, seven wins needed. And, for good measure, two left in the FA Cup, two wins needed.