In his latest column for the Fancast, Dean Mears discusses our title prospects.
I’ve been struck with an ever-growing sense of de ja vu over the past couple of weeks. Something about being only a goal-scoring centre-forward away from winning the title seemed much too familiar.
And that’s because we’ve been here before. Just four short years ago, when, after beating title favourites Manchester City 1-0 in February 2014, Mourinho declared that his “little horse” could not compete in the race for the title.
“The title race is between two horses and a little horse that needs milk and needs to learn how to jump” the then Chelsea manager exclaimed.
At the time, Chelsea, having won the Champions League just two years previously, were a team in transition.
After years of having a consistent first choice striker in Didier Drogba, Chelsea started the 2013/14 season with a front three of Fernando Torres, Demba Ba and Samuel Eto’o.
Despite their fantastic start to the season, Mourinho made it clear that winning the league was not his target.
“Our objective is to build the team.
“I want to start next pre-season and say this season we are going to win the league, but this season I can’t.”
Sounds familiar? Blow me down; it’s happening again.
“I am very happy I can work with all my players for the first time tomorrow.” Said Sarri after Chelsea’s final pre-season game, just three days before their Premier League opener away to Huddersfield.
After a long drawn out summer of negotiations between Napoli and Chelsea, the Italian finally replaced his fellow countryman Antonio Conte during pre-season.
Factor in the World Cup and the involvement of critical players right to the latter stages, Sarri had just days with his full squad before competitive fixtures started.
For this reason, Sarri was urging fans to be patient, claiming it would take two or three months before people would start seeing the best of his team.
However, Chelsea have kept pace with the title favourites, winning 6 and drawing 2 of their opening eight fixtures.
And baring the last-minute Daniel Sturridge equaliser, Chelsea would sit level on points with Manchester City and above media darlings Liverpool.
It was those performances against Liverpool, in the Caraboa Cup and Premier League, that convinced him that his team are closer than he expected.
I think they [Manchester City and Liverpool] are a step forward, but I think also that we are more close than I thought one week ago,” Sarri said. “[To finish] in the first two for me it’s very difficult because City and Liverpool are a step forward to us. But I can think we can fight for the [Champions League].”
We’re having the same season over again, aren’t we? That’s almost identical.
I guess not having a proper director of football and having a footballing identity that changes with each passing manager means that we’re bound to end up in the same situation over and over again.
Jose had three strikers who weren’t at the level needed, Sarri has two who couldn’t score in a brothel. Both claim that it will take time and that perhaps the current season is the time to build.
But back in that 2013/2014 season, Chelsea should’ve won the league. They went top in April but went on to lose games against Crystal Palace and Sunderland. Then after beating Liverpool 2-0 at Anfield, drew at home to Norwich to end any hopes.
Personally, the defeats and especially the draw to Norwich were planned by Mourinho. Having been Manager before, he knew that the club wouldn’t spend the money he wanted if he won the league with the team he had.
They ended up finishing third, went out and brought Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas and won the league the following year with ease. (Despite Tottenham winning the “put the pressure on trophy”)
But Sarri’s team can go one better; teams have an inferiority complex over us. They allow us to have all the possession, which plays into our hands. Only the top teams will put us under any real pressure.
If we can keep winning games without playing the Sarri way 100%, there’s no reason we can’t challenge this season. Of course, it relies on one of our strikers finding some form, and the team getting up to speed sooner rather than later.
And there’s one more reason why Sarri’s little horse can pip the two stallions at the post.
What are your thoughts? Let us know!
Written by Dean Mears – @DeanMears