December’s traditionally a bad month for Chelsea, but we might have outdone ourselves this year. Jorginho’s tragic error leading to Manchester United’s equalizer in that 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge on November 28 was just a preview.
Chelsea have won just four of nine games in all competitions this month (three of seven in the league), and while we’ve lost only once, we’ve given up countless leads not to mention points from winning positions, which have made it feel a lot worse. And draws are nearly as bad as losses when it comes to title-challenges, especially with Manchester City in rampant, invincible form (just the ten wins in a row, and counting).
Off the pitch, the constant stream of (key) injuries have not let up, fatigue and overload and COVID cases have hit hard but not hard enough for the Premier League Match Postponement Wheel Of Fortune’s liking, the annual rumblings about the manager’s future have begun, and record signing Romelu Lukaku, the prodigal son, topped it all off with a bombshell of an interview, which, while maybe not as dramatic as the coverage makes it out to be, is at the very least a distraction almost as massive as this run-on sentence.
And things aren’t about to get any easier just because the calendar’s about to start reading 2022, with Liverpool coming up on Sunday, Manchester City coming up in a couple weeks, and a two-legged League Cup semifinal against Spurs all to follow in January — while goalkeeper Édouard Mendy’s off to Cameroon for the Africa Cup of Nations (after the Liverpool game).
It’s almost enough to make you want to pack it up and mail it in for the rest of the season, which of course would be a big mistake. We are, after all, just halfway through, and even if the league title’s practically gone, we have four trophies still to fight for (League Cup, FA Cup, Club World Cup, and the Champions League). In every measurable way, we’re better off than this time last year.
If there’s ever a time to take a moment to reflect on what has gone and what is to come, it’s the last day of the old year. Thomas Tuchel doesn’t have that luxury too often, but he sees us still on the right path.
“We are a very disappointed team in the dressing room, angry. Myself also upset, angry about the situation and the results, the referee decisions. We have the feeling we invest a lot. We have the feeling that we squeeze the lemon and squeeze the lemon but it’s like squeezing the same lemon over and over again and we expect to always get fresh juice out of it and it’s hard.
“We are so ambitious because it’s hard for the team to take these results and stay positive because we know what we can deliver and we know we can play better. Everybody is fully aware but everybody is trying hard.
“[But] it’s not the first time in my career and maybe not the first time in the players’ careers to have days like this when things feel a bit more heavy than on other days. It’s sometimes good to make the focus wider, look at the bigger picture, look at what we did in 2021 and accept we are still in the right direction and still in development. We have to learn to improve quickly but this seems to be a bump in a development still going in the right direction.”
So, begone 2021. You were great, you were tragic, you were enamoring, you were disheartening. You were.
Here’s to 2022, and to all the great, tragic, amazing, terrible things you will bring.
And who knows, nothing’s over until it’s over.
“I would say we never give up nothing. Why should we stop a race in the middle of a race?”
-Thomas Tuchel; source: Football.London
Happy New Year!