If Chelsea do not win in the Munich then the hopes of Roman and his plan to dominate Europe will be distinguished there in the Allianz
In June 2003 Chelsea’s fortunes would be changed when a Russian billionaire bought the club from Ken Bates and went about seeking to make Chelsea the best side in world football. Chelsea had already qualified for the Champions League and so Roman went about buying up the best talent in world football.
If it wasn’t for a remarkable Arsenal that season Chelsea under Ranieri may well have won their first league title. As it was, Ranieri was deemed not of the calibre required for Chelsea to succeed and the Champions League winning coach Jose Mourinho was the man given the opportunity to take this club to greatness. He unquestionably delivered, two league titles put Chelsea on top in England and for a time it appeared that this side would go on to dominate world football.
However, the problems with foreign ownership was made apparent when Abramovich appeared to take matters into his own hands, the acquisition of Shevchenko, no doubt a top player, yet perhaps not what Mourinho wanted ruffled Mourinho and his lack of control on the club led to the the Special One departing. Yet his legacy has lived on at Stamford Bridge ever since.
The Old Guard - Jose's team
This weekend Chelsea will make their second appearance in a Champions League final, cruelly missing out in 2008 with a slip from John Terry on a match winning penalty. It seems fitting therefore in what is most likely the end of the Jose team which dominated England, they have a chance to win the trophy which has eluded the “Old guard” as they are referred of Cech, Cole, Terry, Lampard, Essien and Drogba. It will be their last chance to win the coveted prize that Roman seeks so much. How ironic that this is perhaps the one season where no one would have expected to see Chelsea anywhere near the Champions League final.
The sacking of Ancelotti was unnecessary and cold, very much of the attitude of a Russian who perhaps focuses too much on the present and forgets about the past and the need for a stable future. Seven managerial appointments in seven years is not the signs of a stable club and although success has come in that time, the side has not been able to evolve. A new manager is not given time to build their side and so must rely on the current lot, this is why it is very much Mourinho’s side which will take the pitch in Munich.
The new era
The arrival of Villas-Boas was supposed to signal a new era for Roman’s Chelsea, a new style, based on that of Barcelona. However, it is not as easy to instil a way of playing that is not natural for the players you have. What Villas-Boas was able to produce at Porto, was not easy to replicate when the current players are used to playing another way, the Mourinho way. Poor results led to confrontation and the departure of AVB became inevitable, Villas-Boas had focused too much on the future, naively believing that a three contract meant job security.
The problem with Chelsea is that “the old guard” wield power, yet they deserve to, they have earned the right to have an opinion, and the truth is that the “replacements” just aren’t good enough.
How have Chelsea got to the final? By playing the tactics of Jose and neglecting the total football approach sought by Roman. A smart man would realise that this squad are built to play a certain way, yet Roman still longs to see the beautiful game at Stamford Bridge. His only concern should be that if he get’s that, he won’t win anything. It would seem he cannot have it both ways.
Why are Barcelona so good at what they do? Because that is their way, each manager seeks to define the philosophy of Michels and Cryuff and so the total football philosophy is ingrained in the soil of Camp Nou and La Masia. This is simply not the case with Chelsea, where Jose built a strong and powerful side capable of dominating games. It is not that they can’t play good football, yet this is not their strength. Barcelona and Guardiola in particular were scared of Chelsea, because in affect they were the antithesis of Barca, one side was small and the other were giants. Drogba and Esien dominated the games in 2008 yet Barca somehow scraped through. It was not a reflection on the game itself and Chelsea really should have gone through that night. I am sure it was Chelsea's dominance which prompted Barca to go and buy Zlatan, yet I am sure they would have taken Drogba, and do not be surprised if they get the Ivorian this summer.
My point is that Chelsea are who they are and play the way they do, they should not seek to change that to emulate another side, as it will ultimately end in failure. I wrote before that Villas-Boas needed to be more Jose andless Pep in order to succeed at Chelsea, yet he failed and Di Matteo has done what is necessary with this side. He has brought back the best in Terry, Lampard and Drogba by playing to their strengths. This is what has got Chelsea to the final and it is this style which will be the key to their success.
The major problem for Chelsea in Munich however will be those who are not available. Ivanovic and Ramires have been arguably Chelsea’s best players this season and since Di Matteo has returned John Terry has been sublime (discounting the Liverpool game). His actions in Camp Nou were unnecessary and his absence may have a major impact on the final. I wonder how well Luiz and Cahill play together? The performance in Naples would indicate not so well, yet that was under AVB and perhaps Di Matteo can get something from them.
It will not be easy, although Bayern lack the unity of other sides in Europe, they have an excellent side, arguably the world’s best keeper, a strong defence, one of the world’s best midfielders in Schweinsteiger and an attack which is one of the best in the world. Can Bosingwa really keep hold of Ribery? Can Mikel track the runs of Kroos? Perhaps Cole can deal with Robben, yet with overlaps from Lahm it will be important the midfielders are tracking runners. Even though away from home Bayern have been poor, and their last game in the German cup against Dortmund was atrocious, at home they have been impressive, the 7-0 defeat of Basel in particular was sublime and Bayern will want to win the trophy in front of their home fans more than anything. Chelsea have a real test on their hands.
What lies ahead?
The last time Cheslea they got the final they were a penalty kick away, at that time the side were at their peak. It is not the same now and this is really the last chance for a lot of these players to go and win the Champions League. The truth is, not winning it will mean only Europa League football next season and I do have to question the future of this side. The Old guard have been derided and mocked as to their abilities this season, yet without them Chelsea would not have had any resurgence and would not have won the FA Cup and be in Munich for the final.
What then afterwards? Drogba appears set to leave and this will be a big game for a player who has personified this Chelsea side for the best part of a decade. His strength, power and skill has been overlooked at times by his flamboyance, antics and petulance, a somewhat fitting metaphor of Roman’s time at Chelsea. Yet he will be difficult to replace. As for Cole, Terry, Lampard and Essien; their careers are coming to an end and Chelsea fans must be worried about replacements like Bertrand, Cahill, Mata and Meireles, are they really worthy replacements? The 4-1 loss to Liverpool could be put down to resting players for the game in Munich, yet what it showed me was that the future of Chelsea is weak and clearly not good enough to challenge the might of Manchester. Will Chelsea be competing for the title upcoming seasons? I have my doubts.
And what about the manager? Is Di Matteo the right man to lead this team and take them forwards in their “transitional” journey, I believe he may be if the ambition is to build a new squad, he has shown he can be successful and Chelsea need to trust someone to take this team forward. A new manager may find themselves in another vicious cycle of trying to balance the old with the new. However, Chelsea may need a Capello or Deschamps to show an intent that Chelsea wish to compete with the elite of Europe.
With the new signings of Marin, De Bruyne and Romeu it would appear that the future of Chelsea is to match the small, technical players of Barcelona. Yet I question how successful this will be, in this squad I do not see the intimidation of the past players, similar to Arsenal were in 2004, a side which seemed so dominant and powerful, is to be replaced by weaker versions. And it appears Chelsea are becoming the new Arsenal, settling for top four instead of challenging for the league.
If Chelsea do not win in the Munich then the hopes of Roman and his plan to dominate Europe will be distinguished there in the Allianz, this is Chelsea’s final chance to win the trophy he covets so highly. Yet it must be done by the old ways of Jose and not with the fantasy of Barcelona.