The dust has settled on a disappointing – yet not unexpected – loss at Stamford Bridge. It’s a testament to the squad and how far we have come to see how much expectation there was going into this game and this was buoyed by the fact we were undefeated at the Bridge in the last 4 meetings there.
Looking at the teams on paper, particularly the ‘cost’ of some of those names, this result won’t have raised too many eyebrows. Their two best players on the day, Torres and Hazard, cost a combined total of £82 million pounds and are the two crown jewels in a squad that has had over 1 Billion pounds spent on it since some Russian with a coleslaw face and an outstanding accountant bought them. I would estimate the cost of our whole team on the day cost about half of those two alone!
I highlight the word ‘cost’ as this is completely different to ‘value’ What a player costs and what his value is depends on who you are speaking to and which day of the week it is. Unfortunately though, I can’t see Chelsea finishing below us this year. The gulf in class was evident for all to see and even though I would say we were the better team on the ball in the second half, it would be naive to think Chelsea had even pulled out of second gear being two goals up at home and against a team just back from the other side of Europe.
This isn’t just a scripture of excuses from me though, Chelsea had the quality on the day to win the 3 points, no arguments there.
I feel the top half of the table is more competitive than it was last season. Teams like Everton, Swansea and Liverpool are all going to be looking to finish above us and with us fighting on 4 fronts this season I don’t expect to see us floating round the top 4. We just don’t have the squad and this is something I find really disappointing. As well as we have done the past 3 seasons in exceeding expectations year on year, I wonder what we will class as exceeding our expectations this year with our lack of ambition in the transfer market.
I think we expect to have a decent cup run and by that I mean get to the quarter finals in some sort of cup competition and we expect to finish between 5th – 8th in the league. Can’t really see us doing any better than that, can you? To exceed expectations this year would be a cup final or a Champions League spot. Realistic expectations are for us to stay the same or to go backwards. If we aren’t ‘exceeding’ expectations this season…..will the fans be as happy?
You look at our starting XI and you would reckon we’d give anyone a game. I think we always have a strong chance of getting a result with our battling team, a positive mentality and the odd trick up our sleeves. A fully fit and sharp XI is going to be a rarity during such a demanding season in which rotation is going to be influenced by the inevitable yet unpredictable suspensions, injuries, fitness and loss of form.
We are now 3 competitive games into the season in which every single result matters. Points gained or dropped now can have such an impact at the end of things. There can literally be a point in the race for European qualification and a heavy windfall at stake. That’s why I don’t understand our preparation for this new season and why things haven’t been sorted a lot better than they could have been.
Pre-season was an absolute shambles in my opinion. It’s great we got to see how much potential Bigi, Amal and Abeid have but what we should have been doing is getting as many of our first team fit as possible. I know that a couple of the lads were given extended breaks after the internationals yet the majority started the Premier League season with no sharpness at all as our schedule was all over the place. Games were cancelled or re-arranged and this meant that time which should have been spent on the training ground integrating new signings and working on the 4-4-2 formation we have been playing was actually spent flying around Europe for hastily arranged friendlies with our reserve team playing for the majority of precious playing minutes available. It was good preparation for the second string in the EURO cup maybe yet I didn’t see too much benefit in Athens the other night and don’t see how it benefited us in preparation for a competitive start in the league.
The lack of concrete activity in the transfer market is concerning too. We have received a hefty wedge in transfer fees, TV rights, season tickets and the release of a new set of shirts at about £50 a punt. We also ‘sold’ our stadium name for no reason whatsoever other than to promote a tacky sports shop. We have shaved off decent earners in Guthers, Smudge, Loven and Besty freeing up resources to play with yet up until now, Anita is our only real strong signing who you would say could be a first teamer during this whole window. There is still time and they could still surprise us but why wait so long to strengthen in the right areas? I would have thought getting players in and settled before the season kicks off would have been the blueprint!
This isn’t your typical moan because we lost at the weekend. I’d have said the same had we beat them. We need signings and we need them now or else we face another season of mid table mediocrity and no real prospect of any silverware. European qualification via the league finish is going to be a much tougher ask when you lose more players than you bring in and have more games to contend with throughout the season.
There is a feel good factor around the club and we look solid on the pitch yet there are obvious questions regarding our ambition and whether we are just going to sit mid table until these debts have been paid or whether we are going to try and win something and/or get into Europe’s elite competition. I don’t think it’s too much to ask when you have an infrastructure and fan base like ours. Teams like Stoke are happy to sit like that and that’s because they are Stoke. They don’t have the stadium, fanbase or the city to demand success. We do.
A low risk plan without committing to large fees for top talent has been an excellent gamble over the past 2 years…where do we go now though? Finished 5th last season and qualified for Europe….the only way seems sideways or down at the minute.
A few days to go and we’ll know more about the plans of the regime…..we just have to pray that we keep this team together and hope we add some quality. Sounds too good to be true if you ask me!