After our fourth defeat in five league games, Chelsea went full melt-down yesterday but it’s a shame those shouting the loudest couldn’t find their voices during the game. Frank Lampard very generously accepted the (dis)quiet was down to a lack of entertainment but whether football or theatre’s your bag, a bit of encouragement and appreciation is generally welcomed.
I struggle with certain elements of the Chelsea ‘support’ that’s crept in over the last couple of seasons. Sarri’s tenure brought about a real split and the hangover from his departure has seen the emergence of a strange breed of supporter, who’d happily see Frank Lampard fail to prove their point. Every game they offer up their opinion on social media accounts with bio’s claiming undying loyalty, and berating alternative opinions because let’s face it, the only reason they’re not Premier League managers themselves is because they’re clearly over-qualified. Every one of those would apparently come into the Premier League as a manager and overcome 5 or 6 players out injured, our best player having just left for Spain and a transfer ban that doesn’t allow any of those gaps to be plugged. If only they’d applied instead of the man who hasn’t shown his loyalty through shelling out for a season ticket for the last however many years (but technically hasn’t needed one because he was giving his heart and soul on the pitch every week in the name of entertainment).
As for the players, how can they possibly forget how to be good overnight? There were no expectations at the start of the season, or at least none that a top ten finish and maybe a cup run wouldn’t satisfy, right? A dodgy game against United tested that theory a little, but that hiccup aside, they were entertaining to watch, they were growing in confidence and they were winning games – or at least they were until City – and then the hope was dampened down a bit. Nothing major, a few moans and groans maybe – it was City after all and we weren’t really expected to win– just enough mumbling and muttering to dig out the players that didn’t do quite enough to beat the current Premier League Champions, because we like to keep it real at Chelsea.
A draw against Valencia didn’t appear to satisfy anyone and then the world literally stopped spinning. West Ham came to Stamford Bridge in a game we were now expected to win – after all, we’d strung together a nice little run of wins in the league before City, and that defeat (and the subsequent questions) won’t have affected the players at all – but they hadn’t read the script because after failing to convert a couple of chances early on, dropped all 3 points. Then, in the middle of wins against Villa in the league and Lille in the Champions League, we had Everton away. Not a game I’ve ever considered an easy win but what do I know because it seems we were again expected to take the points. No pressure then, but probably just as well we were away because those players wouldn’t want to lose in front of the home crowd again would they? Only, they clearly hadn’t learned their lines again, because just 4 short days after getting into the last 16 in the Champions League, they fluffed them against Bournemouth.
Of course, a defeat to Bournemouth was tough to take but I’d already hinted in yesterday’s preview that all the predictions pointing to an easy win for us were probably a bit off balance and not because, as I keep reading, if you’re in a run of poor form Chelsea are the most benevolent side you’ll ever play. Bournemouth didn’t make yesterday their FA Cup either, they didn’t have to – and that’s the point – they didn’t carry that weight of expectation, our players did. Just like they did against West Ham, and like they did against Everton (albeit away from home) – and when that expectation wasn’t met, the warm glow that’d wrapped itself around Stamford Bridge from those early season performances turned into a sharp frost with even sharper tongues (or tweets, whatever their weapon of choice happens to be). So, I think it’s more accurate to say, if you’re on a run of bad form, Stamford Bridge will give you your best chance of a win.
Patience was called for at the start of the season – but that patience wasn’t tested until now. Frank Lampard has tried to warn against complacency and against getting carried away with those few good performances. Nothing has changed. Frank and Jody won’t always get it right but then, if Romulus and Remus had been attacked instead of supported by the wolf, Rome might not have been built at all.