Winning is everything
As the season comes to an end I find myself in a sour mood and I suspect many Chelsea fans are in a similar mood. It is by realist standards rather irrational though however when was being a sports fan ever rational? When Red Sanders and the immortal Vince Lombardi uttered these iconic words they knew what they were saying; " winning isn`t everything..it is the only thing!!!"
It is incredible because at seasons start if anyone bothers to look at the predictions we made For Chelsea FC this season I was clear that I didn`t expect us to win the BPL or the Champions league. I did however fully expect/hope that we would win something; i hoped for one of 3 other possibilities at the least and maybe even 2 of the other three trophies we had up for grabs namely the European Super Cup, the FA cup and the Capitol one/Carling cup.
The truth from a realist, pragmatic view is that our club has clearly improved this season compared to the last..we have clearly moved forward and the future if bright with reasonable basis to expect much better next season however it does not remove the gnawing sensation of unrest and disquiet that I feel. This sentiment is shared by many if not all of our players and David Luiz expressed this feeling vocally by his verdict calling this season a ……( you can look up the word he used because it would be censored here anyway) season. One might say he is being petulant to say this but I agree with him. Maybe Chelsea FC ; our players , our owners , us the fans and the entire organization have become so used to winning something virtually every season that we have started to take it for granted, maybe we have become too greedy and ungrateful for the success we have enjoyed in yesteryears.
That is one way to look at this disquiet I feel about what is now virtually certainly a trpophyless season. One in which despite all the progress we have made we will end up winning nothing. There is however another way to look at this disquiet and that is the way I choose to look at it. We as a team, as an organization, as a club and as a fan base have made winning a habit, a standard by which the barest minimum of success and achievement in a season is measured and by so doing we necessarily now view any season where we don`t win anything as a failure with the consequence that there ought to be an inquest and subsequent steely resolve to ensure that the mistakes made are fixed and that the season that follows we ensure we get back to our norm, our standard of winning something, even if only one trophy..i could care less which one. This habit of winning, understanding the sacrifice and hard work and effort and team spirit it takes to win must be deeply ingrained into the psyche of every fiber of Chelsea FC. In our ownership (which it obviously is) into our players (this is critical with the changing guard) into our fans (even if that makes other fan bases jealously term us as plastics and glory seeking) and into our managerial staff (which it obviously is). This is because this winning mentality is infectious and self propagating; those who have it tend to grow it and expand it while those who lack it, the longer they go without it, the harder it gets from them to ever get it back. Winning induces a positive reinforcing cycle of recurrence as does failure.
It is interesting that Jose in responding to Luis`s comments while saying the politically correct thing that the season isn`t a failure then went to great lengths to point out that this season is the first he has had since leaving Chelsea where he has gone a full season without winning one trophy. This is a guy who has made a habit of winning. You can bet your bottom dollar beneath the civil veneer he is seething that we have no silverware to show for this season and I expect nothing less from him. That is the level of ambition and drive we must demand of our manager, of our ownership and of our team players.
Matic wont say it but I am sure he is hurting that he missed out on winning a Portuguese title (and maybe even a Europa league title to boot) with Benfica while joining us and winning nothing this season. I don`t mean he is regretting joining Chelsea I mean he is regretting not winning anything. Luiz and several others on the team wont say it out loud but as poor as our season was last year it can be argued that it was a more fulfilling season because we won something, even if it was the Europa league for which the players got no bonuses. The issue here is winning and when it is achieved it gives such a high emotionally and psychologically. That high cannot be duplicated by anything else. As bad as the gunners season has gone after leading the BPL for longer than any other club this year , they could argue that despite finishing behind us they have had a better season than we have if they secure that FA cup trophy. That win would also provide them the opportunity come the beginning of next season to win some more by offering the chance to compete for the community shield. Many have rightly questioned the psyche of Arsene Wenger and the Gunners for years. A psyche that had become content with a top 4 finish in the BPL as the pinnacle and goal to shoot for season after season. They may finally this year once again savor what it means to actually win.
Despite the fact that we beat Man City twice this season in the BPL and went further than they in the champions league when the curtain closes on the season especially if they win those their final home games they will be the most successful club in the BPL this year by winning both the Capitol one cup and the BPL title. It is all about winning. If city win the BPL while Liverpool will talk about the moral victory of challenging for the title to the last day everyone will know who has won and who has just been an also ran. Folks it is all about winning and that is what Diego Simeone so eloquently said in response to Critics of Jose`s tactics. Winning justifies the means and so when nothing is won it does leave a very bitter taste.
Let us take a quick look across Europe as the seasons of the major leagues draw to a close; In France PSG despite the disappointment we handed them in the champions league PSG can reasonably smile at seasons end and consider themselves winners as they are Ligue A champs and also winners of the Coupe de la Ligue. In Italy as bad as it has been for Juve they can still consider themselves winners as they are defacto Serie- A champs and our old "interim` Boss Rafa can still consider the season a success by winning the Coppa De Italia with Napoli. I can assure you players like Higuan, Callejon etc who made the move to Naples will also be reveling in this success even after leaving the glamor of Real Madrid. In Germany as bad as it has been recently for Pep Guardiola and Bayern Munich he will still retain his job for one more year because of the Bundesliga title he won (never mind that his team could essentially have won that with no coach at all given the gulf in talent and depth between them and everyone else in the Bundesliga). For Borussia Dortmund their worst season in the last 5 yrs or so where they were ravaged with injuries to almost apocalyptic levels not to mention the dual body blows of losing Goetze and then the prospect of Lewandowski following can still call the season a success because they won the German super cup at season`s start by beating Bayern and can deny the same reeling Bayern a domestic double by beating them again in the upcoming DFB Pokal. As bad as their season has been that magjc of winning trophies will change perceptions profoundly.
Let us journey to spain where there is incredible drama for once in a very long time. Poor Sevilla who haven`t won a thing in years could be able to call this season a success if they can manage to beat Benfica for the europa league title. For the first time in over a decade Barca look set to end the season with out a single piece of Silver ware and the mood in Catalonia is dark with everyone looking for some heads to roll as a consequence. Gerardo Martino will be the obvious first fall guy but there may be others. For the first time since he arrived there as a 12 yr old there are rumors of Messi being sellable, serious questions are being asked about the whole Neymar purchase and players like danny alves and Fabregas are now seriously thinking it may be time to get out of dodge before Ichabod (the final departure of glory) takes place. On the other hand the city of Madrid is in 7th heaven. Real already have won something; the copa Del Rey and with just that win alone especially since it came at the expense of barca and occurred despite CR7 not being available to play, Carlo Ancelloti has secured his job safety for one more year at least. The real story in Madrid though is Atletico and Diego Simeone who may pull of an incredible league and champions league double this year and so cap one of the most incredible campaigns of any club with such limited resources in living memory. Much as i despise the administrators of Atletico for the devious way they handled the matter of courtois playing against us in the champions league essentially for free despite a clearly stated contractural agreement, i cannot but wish their team and Diego Simeone well. They remind me of Jose`s Chelsea during his first coming; a well oiled disciplined machine that get results by any means necessary within the rules and make no pretensions about placing entertaining the so called neutrals and pundits as a goal worth any consideration. Atletico just win and I hope they take that mentality to a La Liga and champions league double at Real`s expense.
As much as winning is such an intoxicant, the sudden drop to a status of no wins when this has become the norm can be a terribly jarring experience for a club. Ask Barca and their fans, ask ManU and their fans..ask Chelsea and our fellow fans. At least one thing I have discovered in this situation is how misery simply loves company. I would be lying if I said I have not derived a perverse pleasure from seeing ManU fail spectacularly. Every time Barca have dropped points this year in La Liga has made smile with glee and to see them facing a trophyless season is absolute joy to me. That we may be the single reason Liverpool don`t win the BPL after all the machinations of the FA and referees is a badge of honor for Chelsea despite all our other failings this season. It is for this reason I still hold out hope that Hull City can somehow defeat the gunners in the FA cup final and so ensure they continue their winless streak since we aren`t winning anything this season ourselves. It is the reason I will personally shed no tears for Norwich should be beat them silly tomorrow and so confirm their relegation. I would instead celebrate with our old boy Gus Poyet in pulling of a miracle of Houdini level proportions in helping sunderland escape and at least revel in the fact that unlike last season we didn`t lose to any of the three teams that got relegated this season. Wanting others to share in our misery is why I don`t want Real winning anything else this season and certainly not winning this Decima that the madridistas always talk about as though it were their birthright. Wanting others to share our misery is why I hope Dortmund lay a major beating on Bayern in the DFB pokal and so ensure their only trophy this season is the bundesliga which they could have won blind and crippled anyway. Yes indeed misery does love company.
Finally it is important that for us as a club we need to get back to the business and habit of winning next season. To enable this we need to do a ruthless inquest into why we did not win this season. Maybe this is why for me this hurts so much. As I go over it all in my mind I realize that we did not win not because we were poor, ungifted, untalented or without a decent chance at winning but rather because of small details. When i think of the number of times we were handed golden chalices to seize the BPL and run with it into the summer only for us to hand it back it rankles me badly. little mistakes made at critical points in this season torpedoed our many chances of winning something; - anything. As flawed and unbalanced as our team has been this season, despite the several weak links, we did not lose because of any of these but because of little things that a change of mindset can fix. We have discussed ad nauseam why we will not win the BPL. Had it been a 10 team league we would have had this thing wrapped up weeks ago. We have been that good against the top 7 clubs. A thorough inquest needs to go into what happened regarding those precious points we dropped at the likes of Westham, West Brom , Aston Villa, Crystal palace, Sunderland, Stoke etc. Sam Eto O needs to remember the chances he fluffed in the Capitol one tie against Sunderland that finally came back to bite us and saw us exit there allowing city claim that trophy. Jose needs to recollect the absolute mess he made of the line up and tactics he made of that third game we played against City in the FA cup. We beat them twice in the BPL but that singular loss to them in the FA cup placed the gunners in the position to now claim that trophy rather than us. Romelu Lukaku needs to recollect the brain fart he had in the Super cup encounter that allowed Javier Martinez ghost into the box unimpeded in the very last minute of extra time in that encounter. Cech needs to remember how in that setting as in several others this season he got beat at his near post (and by a DM to boot) to let in a goal with virtually the last kick of the ball in regulatin time, Lukaku needs to remember the timid effort he shot right into neuer's hands on that fateful day while another youngster like him Shaqiri (though not a striker) took his PK with far greater conviction and scored for his side. Eden Hazard needs to remember the brain farts he had that essentially gifted Atletico their 1st and third goals at Stamford Bridge while Eto O again needs to remember that his ill timed challenge in the same match handed them the unassailable advantage in that match. The list could go on an on of small mental lapses and mistakes that have brought us to where we find ourselves today as the season wraps up. Every member of our team both the players and the management staff need moments of introspection individually and as a collective to recollect by discussion, by video study and review the little mistakes, lapses in concentration, judgement and execution that ended up costing us the chance to win anything this season. Ruthlessly acknowledging these lapses and resolving to ensure they are not repeated next season is crucial to changing our fortunes next season. Making concrete steps in terms of preparation, practice of fundamentals, squad strengthening and tactics revision to ensure that come next season we win something by any means neccesary. Restoring that winning edge to Chelsea FC is a critical piece of what must happen this off season.
So as the season draws to a close and the footie world`s attention shifts to the arena of international football and the global spectacle of the world cup this has to be the topmost agenda for Chelsea FC this post season. We need to get back to that habit of winning. Even one season without it has put me and I hope our entire club in a state of withdrawal that must be fixed ASAP. As those great managers of eras past have said; Winning isn`t everything; it is the only thing!!! KTBFFH.