Tuesday’s defeat brought into focus what has been gnawing at the edges of Chelsea’s season all along. This team, this wonderful, young, frustrating team, is not good enough.
That goes for all the young players, most of the older players, and, yes, the coaching staff as well.
That doesn’t that the only way forward is to chop and change. This isn’t the Premier League of 15 years ago, and this isn’t the Chelsea of that era either. The owner might be the same, a lot of the faces are the same as well (many just in different roles!). But the paradigm has shifted, both in terms of how the club operates and in terms of the wider league picture. (And we can say that confidently until actions by the Board prove otherwise, which hopefully won’t happen.)
“We are certainly on the same page here when I speak with the board and we have all our conversations, there is no doubt we know we are fighting for fourth place.
“It is a very dated phrase, when people say: ‘You’re Chelsea, there’s no way you should be happy with fourth’. No, the Premier League has changed. It is not like it was for Manchester United players 15 or 20 years ago, or Chelsea players when we were first or second for a period in the mid-2000s.
“It’s not like that any more and that is the reality. We do want to climb and bridge the gap and I strongly believe we will. But I am very aware of what that is. The players need to be aware of it and we are as a club.”
For Chelsea, it’s a season of learning. And as long as we hit our minimum target of Champions League qualification (i.e. top-four or top-five depending on Manchester City’s appeal of their UEFA ban), it will be a successful season of learning. Of foundation-building. Of evaluating. Of maturing. Of setting a plan in motion.
Once those are firmly in place, and only once those are firmly in place, can we start going about the business of bridging the gap — to not just the top of the Premier League, to Liverpool’s “incredible standard”, but to the European elite as well, to return Chelsea to where we all feel we need to be. Not by divine right (or Roman’s rubles), but by hard work and hard decisions — and I’d add smart work and smart decisions, most crucially.
“We have to be real, we have to be honest. We can’t pull the wool over our own eyes and think all of a sudden we have a divine right at this level to go up against Bayern Munich and beat them.
“There’s a reason why we are where we are at the moment. We have not challenged in the Premier League for a couple of years. We have to fight and work as hard as we can on the training pitch and in games to close that gap.
“Come the summer, we want to move forward and make some decisions. But the gap is there. Tuesday showed that. But that should not dishearten us — now it’s how we finish the season.”
-Frank Lampard; source: Goal
Tuesday’s defeat was followed by a bit of a frenzy in the tabloids and of course Twitter in picking out the dead men walking in Chelsea’s squad. While it’s unlikely to be as easy as waving a hand in goodbye to them, Chelsea are most certainly in need of some critical improvement, be that from within or from without.
Smart decisions, hard decisions, complicated decisions ... as long as they’re the right decisions, we will remain on the right track.