If all’s well that end’s well, then you could suppose that how a season begins is often a reliable barometer of how the rest of the season will pan out. By that account, defending champions and double winners, Chelsea FC were on a highway to hell after their very first game. Even the biggest optimist would be hardpressed to deny Chelsea’s season ended on as depressing a note as when it had begun.

Trimming The Fat –

It’s not just national budgets with loads of pork in them, clubs have to deal with them too – in the form of has-beens, over-the-hill stars, whose contributions to the team were no longer deemed necessary. Out went 5 players – Ballack, Carvalho and Deco among them. Stamford Bridge had convinced itself, that a meaner fighting force was a step in the righter direction. It wasn’t – United’s squad size was crucial in seeing them through, in the end, while The Blues were left ruing not having had enough talent on the bench to call upon.

Exit Stage, Right

Surrendering to United And Then Some –

Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez thought he’d been targeted for a joke, when he heard United had expressed interest in him. If he needed a boost in confidence, he wouldn’t have to wait too long. He was unveiled at the Community (Charity) Shield clash against Chelsea, where he proceeded to dazzle and score the most unlikely of goals. Chelsea, on the other hand, were breathless, disjointed and still on vacation-time. The first of four losses to United this season had happened even before the Premiership kickoff.

Old Habits –

Chelsea can be relied upon to start their season in high gear, and despite the stumble to United pre-season, notched up 5 wins on the trot scoring 21 goals in the process. The imperious Cech let in just one goal, as Chelsea vaulted to the top of the league and a domestic title beckoned. The forwards were in a destructive mood, the midfielders had a spring in their step and the defenders could barely put a foot wrong. For a while, the only disconcerting note was Fergie’s constant refrain that the Blues were merely making the best of a generous roster. Then Lampard’s hernia made the headlines. He would be the first of many.

The Beginning Of The End –

Roberto Mancini, another Italian with plans of his own, has always had a soft spot for Carlo Ancelotti. Or so he’d like you to think. Mancini spent the first quarter of the season telling everyone Chelsea were going to wrap the league by Christmas. And then he knocked the Blues’ teeth out at Eastlands with a hammer-blow of a 1-0 defeat brought about by a Carlos Tevez strike. It looked like the Blues had got themselves on track, after dispatching a confident Arsenal at Stamford Bridge, but the aura was gone.

Et tu, Torres –

Chelsea’s rot had well and truly set in when the team headed to Anfield. Torres, who was at that point hell-bent on proving to Roman that he was worth breaking the bank for, single-handedly wrecked Chelsea that night. A 1-0 win over Fulham, didn’t arrest the decline as Chelsea went on their worst run in 14 years with Ray Wilkins’ sacking compounding their woes.  The club was well and truly lost, as even Sunderland ripped the Blues to shreds in a 3-0 thrashing of the champions. At Stamford Bridge, mind you. Getting the boot in the FA Cup, at the hands of Everton, only serves to heighten the sense of gloom and doom. But then Chelsea minus Lampard, Terry, Essien, Drogba, Alex with Kalou, Zhirkov and Benayoun also stretchered out, were virtually relegation material.

Gone With The Season

A Turn Around Too Late –

With David Luiz and Torres, whose presence seem to have fired Drogba into overdrive, Chelsea went on a winning spree in 2011 drawing just one game, and losing none in an 8-game stretch that reduced the gap with leaders United to just 3 points. Not that it mattered, as United thoroughly outclassed Chelsea and left no doubts as to who was top dog. There was also the small matter of United beating the Blues home and away, and bundling them out of the Champions League. Fergie 4 – 1 Carlo, read the scoreline at the end of the season. That might explain the Scotsman’s fondness for his blue counterpart.

A Decision I’d Undo –

The firing of Ray Wilkins. Ray’s departure shook the squad to its very core. And the great shame of Carlo’s departure is that despite his achievements in his maiden season, the club will recover in Carlo’s absence better than it did minus Ray.

Man Overboard –

Carlo Ancelotti, obviously. It seems harsh and counter-productive to fire your manager in his second season, just after an astounding debut season. But Carlo had played all his cards, and had come up short. The tactics were questionable, the man-management awry and the owner’s ear beyond reach. Under him, Chelsea managed just 71 points, 12 lower than their previous worst-ever performance in the Abramovich era. The Blues got shot out of the Carling Cup, the FA Cup and the Champions League at the first sign of real competition. It may not have entirely been his fault, but Carlo couldn’t honestly have expected to continue.

A Hero In Dark Times –

Petr Cech might have garnered the plaudits for singlehandedly keeping the Blues alive in the season, but there’s another oft-maligned name in the side, who had a forgettable season by his standards. And yet, his return to some semblance of his erstwhile form was what rescued Chelsea from the abyss. Didier Drogba – arguably the man of the season, for playing his part even thru malaria.

Embarrassment of the Season –

Fernando Torres. 50 million pounds. One goal. ’nuff said.

A Reason To Cheer

 

Revelation of the Season –

David Luiz, left everyone wondering what the season might have been had he been purchased in the summer. Incredible at the back, resourceful up front and a fan favorite. The sole sparkle in an awful season.

Spare Tire –

Josh McEachran, who impressed everytime he found himself on the field, was surprisingly rarely used. Even when the hapless Ramires and Mikel pencilled their own names into the starting roster, Josh was left out.

Doctor’s Orders –

Luka Modric. Chelsea have missed out on the let’s-get-ourselves-a-creative-midfielder train. Frank Lampard’s advancing age mean his intelligent positioning alone is not enough if the club is to consistently challenge for the top spot. The Blues need a small, dynamic livewire in the centre of the field.

Unintentionally Funny

Chelsea and Liverpool battling it out at Stamford Bridge, with the honors still even, when both Cech and Ivanovic scramble to get the ball. They end up getting in each other’s way with all the grace and poise of two rhinos in heat in a china shop. Ivanovic looks apologetic and sheepish at first, but Cech who gets up to his feet has an angry word or two with the Serbian. It was then Branislav’s turn to lose it, as he threateningly attempts to charge at Cech. Nothing transpired, although Carlo could be seen staring blankly from the sidelines wondering just how his season had come to this.

Most Ominous Moment

Carlo Ancelotti, in an ill-advised bid to prove he still had a say, took off the still goalless Torres. Had he whirled around immediately, he’d have seen Roman shaking his head in disagreement from the balcony. Short of hanging a banner that said “Carlo, You’re Out”, the reticent Russian had pretty much signalled his intentions. Some say they heard The Godfather soundtrack play in the background. And there are others who say the temperature even dropped a few degrees at that point. You get the drift, right?

Hypocrisy, Thy Name Is –

Didier Drogba, who spent all his playing time with Torres, pretending the Spaniard didn’t exist, lost his cool during the away game to Blackpool. The reason? Good ol’ Fernando chose to fire away, rather than pass the ball to the Ivorian. So Didier, threw his arms up in frustration, stomped away at the ground, grumbled loud enough for all to hear, and then used the next available opportunity to roll about on the grass.

A Lesson In Ethics –

Frank Lampard, for playing his part, in the Y-word campaign designed to root out anti-Semitism in the sport. It was a touch of class, from the Chelsea talisman, even if the intended benificaries were Tottenham’s Lillywhites. Of course, good deeds such as these do not deserve to go unrewarded, and so Chelsea helped themselves to two controversial goals against Redknapp’s men the next time they met.