Ever since that fateful evening in Munich in 2012, it seems that Chelsea are always a tiny step behind the three triquetras, Real Madrid, Barcelona, and Bayern Munich, in terms of challenging for the coveted cup. The year after the wonderful win, Chelsea were knocked out somewhat embarrassingly in the group stages, leading to Di Matteo’s eventual sacking.
In 2013-2014, Mourinho’s first attempt in his second stint at the holy-grail, was quashed by a surging Atletico Madrid, who always seemed to have control of the game at Stamford Bridge, even after they were pegged back by a marvelous Fernando Torres goal. This season, Chelsea were knocked out by an injury cursed PSG, conceding 2 home goals against a team playing with 10 men.
All these are signs that Chelsea don’t seem to have that extra oomph! factor that the other three in Europe seem almost blessed with. Barcelona, Real and Bayern almost place themselves in the semi-finals of the competition even before it begins, year after year. They do well in their group stages, even when given a tough group, and gracefully go about the competition.
However, they did have bumps on the road this year. The game Bayern had against Porto away showed that this cup is never to be taken lightly, losing 3-1. The German superpower quickly turned the score around, displaying no mercy and winning 6-1 at the Allianz Arena against a very poor Porto. The win was a matter of squad strength, discipline, and tactics deployed.
Chelsea were asked to do an easier task, albeit against a much more difficult opponent, but lacked one of these things. That game showed us, what makes Chelsea so much different than the teams like Bayern and Barcelona. Chelsea have a quality side. There’s no doubt about that. In fact, in England, Chelsea have scored the second most amount of goals and conceded the least. The squad has 6 players in the PFA team of the year 2014-15. Yet, only some players like Hazard, Matic, or Fabregas are truly world-class. Chelsea have been disciplined in defense, but obviously not as sharp in front of the goal.
Barcelona and Real have reputation of being able to buy any player on their wish list, allowing them to improve the squad without any limitations. What Chelsea need to do is no longer look for players that could sit on the bench for players in our squad, but rather look for players that could exponentially improve the squad, slotting straight in.
We could also save the sentimental feelings and maybe look to improve on players that we could maybe do without, a la Ramires and Mikel. It’s understood that Mourinho and fans alike love these players for their roles on the squad and their history with the club, but it is clear that they don’t provide much end product and they are similar to fitting a square peg in a circular hole. This doesn’t mean we need to emulate Real Madrid, a club which spends money on players simply because they are available, but we need to continue spending smart.
Mourinho is spending money very wisely, turning profits and buying quality players. But we need only world-class players at this point. Mourinho, as a manager, is as good or even better than the managers at Real and Bayern. Barcelona are simply propelled by Lionel Messi’s genius year after year. Mourinho’s record against top teams across different leagues, his trophy collection in the last 11 years and his so called “mind games”, put him as one of the top three managers in the world.
Former players such as Zlatan Ibrahimović speak highly of him and it is known his man-management and motivation skills stand second to none in the world of football. Mourinho is not what keeping us from European glory. If anything, he is doing his best to push us toward that level. Could we have advanced to semi-finals of Champions League without him last year? Overall, we aren’t far from where we need to be. We have won the double this year after a trophyless 2013-14 season.
We are being pushed by a top manager to achieve success in Europe. But we lack talent. Talents like Eden Hazard. We are very close. It is just up to us how much we need to improve to up our chances of lifting the glorious trophy again.