Chelsea’s Dying Breed
January 5, 2011 2 Comments
For a moment, it was the revival. Finally shaken back into life after a long winter hibernation, and led by their inspirational captain, the Blues were back. When John Terry seemingly secured a comeback reminiscent of the Mourinho epoch against Aston Villa on Sunday, from 2-1 down to 3-2 up in a matter of moments, the natural order had been restored.
But, just as natural selection dictates the survival of the fittest, this Chelsea side were again proved to be a dying breed. Another defining blow to the weakening dynasty was, fittingly, landed by one of the Premier League’s new kids on the block. Ciaran Clark stole in with a late header, securing a deserved point for a tenacious Aston Villa side.
After a flying start saw them open a five point lead at the top of the table after ten games, this looked like being another successful season. Since 2004, a team held together by a stable foundation of Lampard, Terry, Drogba, Cech has won ten trophies, including three league titles.
But a less endearing number ten now hangs over a once great side. That’s the number of points it has secured from the last ten league games, the worst run since 1999. A run that suggests this is not just a blip. This is the beginning of the end for a team with an average age of over 28.5. And my, how quickly the end seems to be coming.
The idea has always been that Ambramovich’s Chelsea would initially buy success before seeking to become self-sufficient through the recruitment of the world’s most talented young players. The arrival of a Director of Football, in the shape of Frank Arnesen, is testament to the long-term vision.
Now that the blockbuster generation is ageing, the time has come for Chelsea’s young guns to take over the front. This has clearly been Ancelloti’s plan (or perhaps his orders) as Chelsea have signed just 4 senior players under his management, whilst waving good bye to 21. But if the new generation is waiting in the wings then it is doing a fine job of missing its cues.
Josh McEachran is undoubtedly an immense talent, as, allegedly, is Gael Kakuta. But where are the rest? Daniel Sturridge is certainly not resembling a world-beater. Perhaps it is still too soon. But Abramovich has had seven years to implement his vision, and the lack of promising talent suggests that the youth setup has, as yet, simply failed to produce. More tellingly though, as the Chelsea pensioners labour on down the slippery slope from the premier league summit, is that Ancelotti does not appear to have the reserves, or at least any faith in them, to halt the slide.
Any doubt that this Chelsea team is lacking motivation and energy should by now have been dismissed. Back to full strength and yet still unable to produce a convincing performance against an Aston Villa team engaged in its own skydive from the top 6. A team that hit 8 goals in a game four times last season now looks like it would be content with grinding out a few nervy one-nils.
The problem for this set of players is that they have already won everything they can realistically hope to do. Any idea of securing the Champions League, their last remaining dream, is significantly dented by what appears to be the insurmountable challenge of Barcelona lying in wait for any side with its eyes on the prize. The greater problem for Ancelotti is that the young pretenders, due to arrive around about about now, are nowhere in sight. Clearly alarmed by this situation, Ancelotti has started to backtrack from his oft-repeated promise that Chelsea would not be signing any players in the January transfer window, conceding after Sunday’s game that “we need some players”.
There are many similarities between the Chelsea and Aston Villa sides that played out a 3-3 draw at the weekend: two clubs tightening their belts; two teams enduring a fall from success; two organisations determined to shift the focus from external investment to the organic nurturing of young players. The difference is that on Sunday, one of Villa’s youngsters was ready to step up. Chelsea, meanwhile, only had the same familiar faces to call upon, wearing an increasingly familiar expression of dejection at the final whistle.
by Ben Williams