Ryan Arif looks back on a season of what-ifs at the Bridge…
How has this term compared to pre-season expectation?
Pre season expectation was much higher than what the team has achieved. I base that largely on our performance in the Premier League and Champions League. With the money invested in the summer, finishing 14 points behind the leaders is still too far away. The Europa League was a nice addition (and a cracking trip might I add), although it is hard to ignore the fact we had chance of SEVEN trophies at the start of the campaign and ended up with one.
Thoughts on Rafa?
Tough one. We were 4 points behind United when Rafa took over and ended up battling for 4th place with the title decided weeks beforehand. For me there are just too many occasions where Rafa was found tactically inept. Dropped points after leading games was a familiar pattern under Rafa.
Having said that our form towards the end of the season was promising and I think his rant at Middlesbrough, although ill advised, was a huge turning point in our season and he really got the players onside more than anything.
I respect him for what he has done under difficult conditions (not going to get into the abuse he did/didn’t deserve), although won’t miss some of his baffling tactical decisions and substitutions.
So thanks Rafa, but on your way.
What would you have done different if installed in the dug-out after Di Matteo?
Given Daniel Sturridge a genuine run of games as the lone striker. Torres’s form immediately after Di Matteo’s dismissal was horrendous and I really feel the club has missed a trick in Sturridge. Although selfish I really think he had something to offer the team this season and his early displays at Liverpool are proving we had a solution to our striker problem under our noses.
Who has been the stand-out performer?
Juan Mata. He just gets better and better and is so integral to the way we are trying to play. His intelligence and composure was evident last season, and he has added more goals and assists this season. Deservedly voted our Player of the Season for the second consecutive season.
Mentions also go to Cesar ‘Dave’ Azpilicueta who has settled in very well and looks like the best right back we have had in a while. Also to Petr Cech who I think was dead unlucky to be voted behind David De Gea in the team of the season. Incredibly consistent and back to his best.
Anyone you’d happily show the exit door to after this season’s showings?
Marko Marin has been hugely disappointing and everyone expected much more from the labelled ‘German Messi’. Can’t fault his work rate but it looks like the Premier League is a step above him.
What’s been your own personal highlight?
Wins at Arsenal, Spurs, Everton & United have been very enjoyable, although only frustrate you further when you look at our final league position.
So I will go for the win at Villa. Not just because of the importance in terms of Champions League football, but finally seeing Frank Lampard break Bobby Tambling’s record. Outstanding achievement and a legend at the club.
Your biggest disappointment?
Di Matteo sacking. As a Chelsea fan I have come used to seeing decent managers come and go, but even by Roman’s standards this was shocking. Our early season form was fantastic and were it not for a ‘hugely controversial’ defeat to United at home we would have been well clear by the end of November. It is no secret that RDM was not Roman’s first choice, but why give the guy a 2 year contract when you plan on terminating it after a few bad results. I genuinely feel RDM could have turned things round and its hard to argue we would have finished off any worse than we did in terms of league position and honours.
To what degree would Europa success make up for falling away in the league?
Very little. The Europa League was a great trip for the fans to Amsterdam and put the club into the history books as being one of an elite few to win every major UEFA club competition.
I don’t think many Chelsea fans were actually expecting us to win the league, but we should have put up much more of a fight than we did, especially after the first 10 games.
The Europa League win made the disappointment somewhat merrier.
Bring on next season and the return of The Special One.
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