Chelsea fans, myself included, have been riding high since the beginning of the 2012 / 2013 Premier League season back in August – and why not? The team featured a “well compensated” core of new players (Hazard, Oscar) who meshed perfectly with a rotating cast of solid vets (Juan Terry, Torres, Lampard) in a diamond-like formation, which allowed them to storm out to take the top of the table through the first quarter of the season. Moreover, guys just always seemed to be in the right place at the right time: take Victor Moses, Gary Cahill or the resurrgent Juan Mata, each of whom are playing the best football of their careers. In the early going of the season, I genuinely thought they might continue to be a team of destiny; a team who got all the breaks and continued to make their way through the table (sort of like Man City last year when everything broke right for them).
Then a few weeks ago I started to get a little nervous about the team when we lost to a team with a name like Shaktar in the Champions League group stage; when the team started drawing all their Premier League games it became increasingly worrisome. For one thing: this team is too good to draw with anyone. If Chelsea has one chance this year, it is in their ability to get a result no matter what odds are stacked against them. A couple of weeks ago with the back to back against Man U, it was time for the team to show whether they could take down their primary challenger for the top spot.
Spoiler Alert: They failed.
In what might be the best game of the season, attended by my good friend @madadub Chelsea fought and scrapped to keep up with United only to lose on a goal in the closing moments by a clearly offside Javier Hernandez (3-2 United). The clubs squared off again a couple of days later with Chelsea managing to overcome a goal onslaught thanks to a late winner by Victor Moses (5-4 Chelsea).
A split with United left fans even more stumped about the team: are they an elite group of players or not? Can they come through when it matters, or will they end up a distant third to United and City when the season concludes? Then there was this weekend: United and City surging to wins again with Chelsea squeaking out another draw when three points were desperately needed. The thing with teams like Man City and Man U – they get it done, even when all the odds are stacked against them. City keeps getting last minute goals from its harem of strikers they can bring off the bench, United keeps getting timely contributions from high paid Hernandez and RVP.
Chelsea? Leader and legend John Terry gave them a brilliant goal before going off with an ugly sounding knee injury – a massive blow to a foundering club in need of a strong veterans and outright wins. If they continue to play with a trick or treat style they will surely end up on the wrong side of the top of the table. As of right now they sit third (one point behind City, three behind United) but already that gap seems vaguely insurmountable the way the team is currently playing.
Keep in the mind the season is still in its early stages, but after their hot start the Blues have cooled – right as United and City are surging. The team needs to dig deep to withstand the onslaught and keep themselves afloat long enough to make another run at being number one. Chelsea certainly has the talent to do so, and as they proved last year in the Champions League, they definitely have the moxie needed to be Champions.
For the next few weeks, they just need to show it.