How Chelsea Can Win the League, and Why They Probably Won’t. (Part 2)

Ye Old Chelsea

Although this pains me to say, I have to admire what Sir Alex is doing in Manchester this year. The youth movement, for better or worse, is a shift that must be made by a big club every 5-7 years.  Or, if you are Arsenal, every 2 years. Over the last few seasons Chelsea has tried to fight this philosophy with a Botox strategy – buying a few younger players to make the club look young on the surface but deep down the wrinkles are there, trust me.  Not only has Sir Alex committed to moving towards a younger squad, he is actually playing them, and I am not just talking about the Carling Cup fixtures.  Sure his hand was forced a few times due to injuries, but more often then not we have seen a young upstart in the starting 11 for United in a key fixture with a healthy Giggs or a Nani on the bench.  Such strategy is the proper way to groom your younger talent.  Conversely, I cannot remember a big game in the last three years where Chelsea gave a start to a younger player.  Don’t get me wrong, in their older age, the likes of Drogba, Anelka, and Terry are still pacey and powerful, but father time will win, and when he does I am not convinced that Chelsea will be ready for it.

Injury Bug

The number one contributing factor in a team’s success in the premier league is the health of their stars.  In this department Chelsea has been more than lucky.  Sure Essien has had his issues – so has Peter Cech, Ricky C (of Madrid fame) among others, but in last year’s campaign Chelsea remained relatively healthy in key positions.  Lampard’s Ripken-like run has been remarkable. John Terry and Didier Drogba’s have also maintained their healthy form throughout the grueling league and cup campaigns, whereas their northern competitors have had no such luck.  Last year United was forced put an ailing team on Rooney’s saddle, that is anyone that was left to play. Liverpool also played long stretches without Number 9 and several key defensive players, Skirtel and Agger among them. This left Jaime Carragher to unsuccessfully defend the kop, poor Pepe. Then there is the Arsenal, who consistently prove that they are just too fragile for this league, nothing more to it than that.  Call me a pessimist, but I am afraid to say that Chelsea’s luck in the injury department is surely to run out this year.  As a result, this will force Chelsea to play unproven quantities, which brings me to my next point.

The Great Unknown

Chelsea Executive: “Hey, lets go get Sturridge, Ramires, and almost ruin our the development of our future by getting Kakuta!”

Other Chelsea Executive: “Sure, that sounds like a great idea. What are we going to do when we get them?”

Chelsea Executive : “Nothing, let them play when we are 7-0 up against Wigan.”

This conversation, which I am sure has occurred countless times in Cobham, is the very reason why I relish every win that Chelsea gets these days. Our future is quite precarious.  How the club plans to transition into the next round of stars (please don’t tell me Kalou and Obi Mikel are stars) is beyond me.  However, a brisk walk from the Fulham Broadway Tube stop on game day will tell you that this “movement” needs to happen soon as Chelsea fans are worried. Often times fans clamour just to clamour, but what most blues supporters recognize that the window of opportunity for these youngsters to play on the same pitch with the likes of Drogba, Lampard and Terry is closing.

Can Flo Go?

In the previous post I mentioned that the key to Chelsea’s success was the scoring prowess of Drogba. While I still believe this the case, (in my mind) Chelsea’s MVP last year was Florent Malouda.  After a slow start to his Chelsea career, Malouda absolutely tore it up last year.  His 12 goals felt like 25, probably because he hit so many posts which led to clean-up goals from others.  Much of Ancelotti’s genius last year was returning Flo to form.  Early in his premiere league career Malouda had the tendency to drift far too wide leaving the winger no room to maneuver and too few touches on the ball for a player of his skill.  Malouda loves space. His driving runs are difficult to defend because of his speed and surprising strength on the ball, but like his compatriot Anelka, he can grow listless if he is not involved in the run of play.  Ancelotti recognized this early on and put the lad in the middle of the park to let him exploit the space in tandem with Ashley Cole. In one season the results devastated opponents with Malouda, and even Cole to an extent, finding the back of the net on a regular basis. So why on earth should I put this section under the reasons  “why Chelsea won’t win the league?” I am glad you asked.  With success comes a reaction from the likes of Sir Alex and Wenger.  Chelsea’s competition will adjust and game plan around Malouda.  This is a challenge that I am not convinced Malouda will overcome.  However much resolve Malouda shows this season will run hand and hand with Chelsea’s success.

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