Friday, November 23, 2007

Season Summaries--4. Chelsea

4. Chelsea (My preseason prediction: 2nd)

After José Mourinho's abrupt departure from Stamford Bridge on September 20, many people were skeptical about Avram Grant and how he would manage a team comprised largely of players brought in by Mourinho and who loved playing for him. Chelsea has played 12 games in all competitions since Mourinho left and have only beaten once; a 2-0 loss at Manchester United just three days after Grant took over a team that was still reeling from Mourinho's exit by "mutual consent". In those 12 games Chelsea emerged victorious eight times, including the 6-0 thrashing of Manchester City. They've advanced to the quarterfinals of the Carling Cup where they'll host fellow title contender Liverpool, they've pretty much sealed their place in the knockout Round of 16 in the Champions League, and have kept their home unbeaten streak alive and kicking at 69 matches.

Basically, my point is that Chelsea have done just fine under Avram Grant, they don't seem to have missed a beat; in fact, you could argue they're playing better soccer than they were when Mourinho was at the helm. Yes, a 0-0 draw at home against Fulham and a 1-0 win at Bolton may be cause for concern, but those games were early in Grant's tenure at Chelsea and I'm sure he was still getting used to his side and tactical decisions and everything that comes with being a manager instead of a coach. With games against Derby, West Ham, and Sunderland coming up in the Premiership, Grant will have a chance to rest a few players for Chelsea's two remaining group matches in the Champions League and for the clash against Liverpool in the Carling Cup.

Didier Drogba is carrying the scoring load once again (as expected) for Chelsea with 5 goals in 9 starts, and Frank Lampard has banged 4 in as well. Chelsea will never be mistaken for a club who's going to score a lot of goals; their 6-0 win over Manchester City was more of an anomaly and the Blues are more like the side who won at Wigan and Middlesbrough 2-0. I can nitpick and say their road record is a bit of a concern as they've already lost twice away from Stamford Bridge, but then again those defeats were at Manchester United and Aston Villa and there's nothing shameful about that. Chelsea also really need to do better at home; yes, they are obviously unbeaten but it's with three wins and three draws. Manchester United and Arsenal have both won 6 games out of 7 at their respective stadiums and Manchester City has won all seven of their home fixtures (though City won't be ahead of Chelsea for much longer, or of Liverpool for that matter).

No comments: