Chelsea Football Club secured its fifth English league title on Sunday after a hard-fought win at home to Crystal Palace.
Jose Mourinho’s men made a positive start and took the lead just before half-time when PFA’s Player of the Year, Eden Hazard, headed in from his penalty rebound.
The Blues dominated proceedings and registered 17 shots at goal in their quest to secure their first Premier League title in five years. Their second half display reflected their dogged determination in defence and boasted a disciplined back four that snuffed out Palace’s attempts going forward.
It’s this focus on the defensive side of their game in the last month that has garnered criticism, most notably Arsenal fans’ chants of “Boring, boring Chelsea” towards the Blues during the 0-0 draw at the Emirates Stadium two weeks ago.
In typical fashion, Chelsea’s Portuguese manager José Mourinho responded: “I think boring is a team that plays at home and cannot score a goal,” he said. “There is not a home fan in any club in the world who goes to the stadium and expects his team not to score or win. If any team was boring, they were boring because [our goalkeeper] made zero saves. Boring is 10 years without a title. Maybe Arsenal’s fans were not singing to us.”
Chelsea has undoubtedly been the strongest and most entertaining footballing side over the course of the season. Six Chelsea players were included in PFA’s prestigious Team of the Year, including the solid English defensive duo John Terry and Gary Cahill, goal-happy Diego Costa and young Belgian superstar Eden Hazard, whose trickery and pace has lit up pitches across the country.
But my player of the year by far has been Cesc Fàbregas, who the Premier League missed so dearly when he was playing in Spain for three years. I was so glad to see him back, especially in a Chelsea shirt. He has had pundits and fans alike gushing with a range of inventive passes, deft touches and cheeky lobs and has dictated games from his position in midfield like a Queen on a chessboard.
The media likened his on-field relationship with striker Diego Costa to that of Lennon and McCartney, drawing similarities between both partnerships’ seemingly telepathic links that produce something joyous. Surely if Costa is the bullish, acerbic, no-nonsense Lennon, Fabregas is McCartney – the thoughtful pretty boy, seen by some as the true brains behind the operation.
These are players who have helped form a well-balanced, perfectly crafted Chelsea squad where each individual has excelled in their prescribed role. That’s what’s sometimes so great about a title winning squad – each player has individual traits and personality that form a memorable all-star cast. PFA could have picked 11 Chelsea players without many complaints.
Granted, Chelsea has played with more of an emphasis on defence in the last four or five matches, but we must remember that it was this time last year that the Blues carelessly threw the title away, conceding clumsily at Crystal Palace and squandering a lead at home to Sunderland.
José Mourinho is a tactical mastermind and would not make the same mistake twice. He established a 10-point lead thanks to some fine football, and cemented their status as champions in the last few weeks with these defensive displays. Grinding out points and avoiding defeats was the most important objective for Chelsea. Mourinho’s men did just that, and the Chelsea fans (myself included) are happier for it.
We can only listen to the chants from Arsenal fans and raise a smile. We know most of them would swap Arsene Wenger for Mourinho in a flash. At the end of the day, Arsenal don’t score enough goals, can’t defend and don’t win titles. And yet their fans are happy to cough up for the most expensive football tickets in the country.
But enough Arsenal bashing. I’m not saying Chelsea is perfect. Their billionaire owner still has work to do in other areas, and I hope he’ll begin to realise the importance of club identity and bringing players from the club’s youth academy into the first team. An invigorating collection of under-21s last week won Chelsea their third FA Youth Cup in four years, and this surely suggests these players should be utilised by Mourinho next season.
Youngsters who have been at the club since childhood such as Izzy Brown, Charlie Colkett and Dion Conroy need nurturing and the next step in their career, and Chelsea Football Club means more to them than some random South American who wants a lucrative contact and immediate induction into a group of fellow superstars.
Most promising of all is young Patrick Bamford, a charismatic centre-forward who has scored 17 goals this season on-loan at Middlesborough in the Championship. I hope to see him bang in the goals when Chelsea take on Sydney FC at the Allianz Stadium on June 2.
Perhaps I sound naïve, but I like to think that youth academies exist not just to make a profit– snapping them up while they’re young and selling them on years down the line without offering them a sniff of first team action.
Don’t think I’m not overjoyed by Chelsea’s league success or out of love with their current squad. It’s just that there are other footballing values that are overlooked in favour of trophy-winning hysteria and the media’s obsession over where the next record-breaking transfer will come from.