The wonderful Becca aka @thisiscivicx on twitter, puts it all in nutshell when it comes to following Chelsea this season under Maurizio Sarri…
Following Chelsea is hard work sometimes. They make it incredibly difficult for us to love them. For people who are more casual supporters or don’t regularly attend games, they don’t understand why we get so invested in following Chelsea up and down the country. It’s been my life now for over five years, some people are impressed, others astounded and a guy who did my nails once ranted to me for a good half hour about how ‘if I was his daughter, I’d not be going anywhere’ Okay hun.
Every season starts off the same though, with a blind hope that this season will be the season where things are different. Things will change at Chelsea both on and off the pitch and we will all be in Baku in May watching Cahill Azpilicueta lifting the Europa League for a second time. But this is Chelsea.
2018/2019 has been the most turbulent and bipolar season that the club has had for many years now with scandals both on and off the pitch. When Conte was given his marching orders last summer, it was Sarri who was heavily favoured to be the one taking over, and I didn’t hold a very strong opinion either way. He was probably going to be in the job for a few months and by Christmas, maybe February at a push, Guus Hiddink would be back to darken our door once again when we’ve been knocked out of Europa by a team of farmers from Bulgaria. I also didn’t hold that much of a strong opinion because I don’t mind going outside and engaging with other people rather than watching Napoli versus Cagliari on a Tuesday evening.
First game of the season rolls around and the Premier League – for what feels like the first and last time this season – have treated us to an away game in the glorious town of Huddersfield with a 3pm kick off. My god, they know how to spoil us. The season starts off well with a comfortable 3-0 win then a 3-2 win against Arsenal, 2-1 win against Newcastle and so on. Sarri looked quite comfortable in charge, it’s a huge step for someone whose only notable career highlight so far was Napoli but he seemed to be taking it all in his stride. This is good, I’m enjoying the football so maybe I’d been a little hasty. I wasn’t concerned that we were held to a draw at United and Liverpool either but the one game of the season where it mattered, Sarri messed things up spectacularly. Spurs away was not a good day. Nonetheless, just a few weeks later, we beat City 2-0 and I can still remember losing my mind over it. We’d beaten the best team in the league and done it with conviction. Swivel Sarriball haters, he might be a fag eating tramp, but he knows what he’s doing! PEP IS BALD.
2019 opens with a 0-0 draw against Southampton and then a nervy 2-1 win against Newcastle but then the wheels really started to come off when we lost 2-0 to Arsenal and by the following week, the trolley didn’t have any wheels, just sparks flying all over the place when we lost 4-0 away to Bournemouth. Social media became a cauldron of toxicity and everybody was becoming increasingly deflated about the prospect of struggling to finish inside the top four.
For me, my turning point was City away. I have never seen Chelsea win in Manchester and I was naïve enough to think that because we had beaten them in the December that maybe, just maybe, we would fluke another win or even a draw. It took all of twenty-three minutes before I was marching out of the Etihad seething ranting to my friend about what we’d just witnessed. Four goals in twenty-three minutes, that’s insane by anybody’s standards. I know City are good, but they made us look like a pub team. Every player on that pitch was responsible for one of the worst defeats in Chelsea’s premier league history and the manager, especially, was in the firing line. How he lasted beyond that game, I will never know.
Some say that once you’ve hit rock bottom, the only way is up but since that crushing defeat, we have: crashed out of the FA Cup, lost the Carabao Cup final, had a transfer ban slapped on us for two windows (probably) and didn’t save the world by beating Liverpool away.
Trophies are not everything when it comes to following this team, I’m a big girl and I know that football isn’t always sunshine and rainbows. We can’t always win the league away at West Brom on a Friday night and it’s not every day that you see your team become the first team in London to win the European Cup. That being said, the one thing that I do expect week in, week out is a bit of fight. It is true that we are the ones who choose to throw our money at the club, we have to take the rough with the smooth but right now, I feel so disassociated from the majority of the players and coaching staff right now. I look forward to games to see my friends but for the most part, the football is ruining a good day out. I don’t get fiery whenever someone dares to tell me we are playing rubbish because we are. What it all boils down too on the pitch is that Sarri is wanting to play certain players in positions that they are not comfortable in. Alonso, for example, he should be playing in more of a wing back position and Kante should be playing deeper defensively. This allows Alonso to make the runs that he is good at down the wing but if things change quickly, Kante is there to defend. Not playing a striker against Liverpool was ridiculous too, Giroud isn’t the best striker we’ve ever had by a mile but he’s a damn sight better than Higuain or Morata. We cannot rely on Hazard to continuously bail us out of trouble because when he inevitably goes back to Spain, we are MONUMENTALLY screwed especially if the transfer ban is upheld. If Sarri wants to continue being Chelsea’s manager next season (stranger things have happened) then he must adapt his tactics from this season, learn from critical mistakes that were made this season and ultimately, figure out a better starting eleven where players are comfortable. Ruben Loftus-Cheek is ready for first team football so call him up on a regular basis, he was one of the few players at Liverpool away that put in a decent shift.
With just a few weeks left until the end of the season, there is time to turn things around if Sarri wants to. We’ve still got top four to fight for and also a place in Baku with the option of being Champions of Europa. If it was any other manager with any other team, I would say we would have this in the bag but it’s Chelsea.
Will I be back next season to have my heart broken and hopes dashed all over again though? Absolutely.