Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Where Now For Chelsea and Jose?

It may seem extreme to ask such a question about a team and a project which is proceeding with economical ease to a second successive league title, but the sight of Chelsea's Champions League ambitions being ended so comfortably by Barcelona will still engender significant soul-searching within Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea's ambitions are limitless, and the prestige of the Champions League trophy is something they covet greedily. However, unlike in league football - where Chelsea's squad strength, defensive discipline and resolve make them so consistently successful - the vagaries and unpredictabilities of the knock-out stages of Europe's biggest prize have thus far proved peskily fiendish for the club.

Criticisms of Chelsea's success - putting aside those of how their financial muscle was obtained - have largely centred around the general paucity of entertainment they have provided in proportion to the cash they have spent. Those at the court of Abramovich would until now have swatted these concerns aside with the enduring argument that a league championship provides.

However, it will have been blindingly obvious to the Stamford Bridge powerbrokers that the continent's most valuable trophy has been denied them by a team whose commitment to the beautiful game is as total as their own manager's dedication to effective, no-frills football. Now that Barcelona's Cavaliers have eliminated Chelsea's Roundheads, will Jose Mourinho's bosses be as happy to accept his formidable but charmless formula?

Aside from last night's defeat, there has been a clear desire of late on the part of the club to reverse their hitherto negative PR: it seems that Chelsea just want to be loved. Deploying Peter Kenyon, hardly reknowned for his cuddliness, to achieve this daunting feat is probably only one of the flaws in this plan. However, if they do want to achieve acceptance in the football world, they will surely know that it is the universal desire to watch attractive football that sways neutrals and garners respect and 'second-team' status for the likes of Barcelona.

Jose Mourinho alluded last night to his own positive experience with the slings and arrows of knock-out football when he mentioned his Porto team's last minute triumph over Manchester United in the 2004 Champions League - a success without which he could possibly have remained in relative obscurity for a little longer at least. It's difficult to tell whether his sourness and sense of grievance since the first leg defeat masks any genuine realisation about the limitations of his style, or if, having previously been on the happy side of the fine line between success and failure, he will feel that his time - and vindication - will come again. If his superiors at Stamford Bridge regard their long term project as being endangered by their manager's methods, it could bring about the first real rumblings of discontent of Mourinho's reign.


Blogger Kieran said...

Then again, winning the premiership and the FA cup will soon obliterate that bad taste. Of course the real question is how did Bradford City fail to even compete in the Champion's League this year? Their absence probably explains how Ronaldinho was able to pip Dean Windass the post of World Player of The Year.

3:02 p.m.  

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