The Jose Mourinho flashback that has ensured Chelsea’s status in Europe is forever cemented


Just over a week has passed since Cesar Azpilicueta lifted the European Cup alongside his teammates and in front of an adoring 6,000 Chelsea supporters in Porto.

I still can’t quite believe it and it hasn’t really sunk in yet that the Blues are two-time champions of Europe. What a way to end this most improbable of seasons for Chelsea, even by their standards of unpredictability.

Hopes were high at the start of the campaign. Frank Lampard’s side, laced with young talent from the academy, had done well to finish fourth in the Premier League in 2019/20 and a season in the Champions League was eagerly anticipated.

However, given the way Bayern Munich had disposed of Lampard’s side in the delayed Champions League Round of 16 second leg last August, just a few weeks before the start of the new season, not many Chelsea supporters expected a successful European campaign ahead.


Video Loading

Video Unavailable

Lampard commented that the team was just not ready to compete with the likes of Bayern Munich, who went on to win the Champions League. It was hard to disagree with him.

Expectations grew with the arrivals of Ben Chilwell, Thiago Silva, Edouard Mendy and Kai Havertz to add to the earlier signings of Hakim Ziyech and Timo Werner. Chelsea had, it seemed more than replaced the likes of Willian and Pedro and strengthened the defence, especially in terms of leadership with the shrewd signing of Silva.

It was all going well and Chelsea were on top of the Premier League table after beating Leeds United 3-1 at home on December 5; the first match to allow a limited number of supporters in Stamford Bridge since the lockdown in March. The next game, a 0-0 draw at home to Krasnador, was the 17th unbeaten since Chelsea lost 2-0 at home to Liverpool on September 20.

Chelsea had breezed through their Champions League group, finishing top and were drawn against Atletico Madrid, La Liga leaders and tough opposition. There were not many Chelsea supporters who rated Chelsea’s chances of getting past the Round of 16 for the first time in seven years.

Confidence was further shaken by a terrible dip in form which saw defeats to Everton, Wolves, Arsenal, Man City and Leicester in the space of five weeks. Chelsea slumped to eighth in the Premier League.

Rumblings that Lampard’s job was in jeopardy were waved off by many supporters. After all, was it really his fault the expensive signings of Havertz and Werner had failed to impress? Werner had struck only one goal in 15 games and that was against League Two side Morecambe in the FA Cup.

But this is Chelsea, a club devoid of sentiment and drunk with the expectation of success and a place in the top four. Champions’ League football is imperative.

To the surprise of few and the despair of many, Lampard was sacked after Chelsea’s 3-1 FA Cup fourth round victory over Luton Town.

Not for the first time in recent history, a head coach was dismissed at the first whiff of the Blues missing out on a top-four finish.

Lampard was replaced by former PSG and Borussia Dortmund manager Thomas Tuchel. To say tht his impact was monumental would be an understatement.

He returned a pragmatism and steeliness to Chelsea, something often absent under Lampard. He promised that no one would want to play against the Blues and he was right. Tuchel’s side quickly became feared and tough to beat. Oh how the supporters loved it.



Chelsea head coach Thomas Tuchel. (Image: Michael Regan - The FA/The FA via Getty Images).
Chelsea head coach Thomas Tuchel. (Image: Michael Regan – The FA/The FA via Getty Images).

The best was saved for the Champions League as first Atletico Madrid, then Porto and finally Real Madrid were brushed aside with astute game management and rapier-like counter-attacking football. Improbably, Chelsea reached their third Champions League final.

Many supporters were pinching themselves. The Blues had not looked anything like a side capable of reaching the showpiece game in European football, let alone winning it, for over seven years. Yet in a little over three months, Tuchel had transformed the side from one that meekly and naively lost 3-1 to both Man City and Arsenal to one that we all felt had a chance of beating that very same City side out in Porto.

But, of course, being Chelsea, the two weeks leading up to the final were replete with the kind of glorious unpredictability that is clearly infused in their DNA.

Chelsea lost 1-0 at home to one of the worst Arsenal sides in a generation in the Premier League and were then beaten in the FA Cup final by underdogs Leicester City.

Chelsea were also fighting with the Foxes to finish in the top four and the Blues’ task appeared easier after beating their FA Cup victors three days later in the Premier League. Victory on the final day of the league season against Aston Villa would guarantee a top-four finish.

Predictably, Chelsea lost and with the kind of schadenfreude that seems to follow the club around like the sun peeking out from behind a rain cloud, their arch-rivals Spurs did them a favour by beating Leicester to ensure a fourth-place finish for the Blues.

Talk about being put through the wringer of emotions. Thankfully Chelsea supporters are used to this by now, but the best was yet to come. The Champions League final.

Everyone had written Chelsea off – swathes of the media and football pundits had already crowned Pep Guardiola and Man City Champions of Europe. The City fans in Porto spent most of the day taunting Chelsea supporters with chants that they would be “Champions of Europe”.

Chelsea and their supporters love nothing better than being written off; the underdogs ruining everyone else’s party by having a raucous one of their own.

Watching at home you could sense that something special, something miraculous was about to happen. The Chelsea fans out-sang City throughout the match – perhaps City supporters’ pre-match celebrations had been ill-timed and taken a bit out of them.

For those who were there it was a sheer release having not been able to go to a match for months and not just any match, a European away trip and a final at that. Rusty vocal cords were unleashed to the max as a result.

The 6,000 Chelsea supporters in the Estadio do Dragao were joined by thousands back home, watching on TV with fingers nervously tweeting throughout the match.

Many tweeted a single “Chelsea” repeatedly to each other and it spread among those in the know; a twitter version of the old staple chant of “Chelsea, Chelsea, Chelsea” oft-repeated for minutes on end to irritate the opposition. A defiant and indomitable rallying call as it always has been. An often fragmented group of supporters for once, when it mattered, coming together against the weight of feeling against it.

Thanks to an extraordinarily disciplined and tenacious performance, Chelsea won their second European Cup with one genuine moment of class.

How appropriate was it that it came from their Player of the Season Mason Mount, who fed a superbly weighted diagonal pass to Kai Havertz to beat Ederson one-on-one? The performance as a whole was like a flashback to the best of the first Jose Mourinho era.



Kai Havertz celebrates scoring Chelsea's winner in the Champions League final
Kai Havertz celebrates scoring Chelsea’s winner in the Champions League final

Denied the privilege of being there in person and having been unusually silent for most of the match (Havertz goal apart), I erupted in an explosion of emotion at the final whistle, running around my living room screaming my head off.

And then I slumped back onto my sofa and wept like a baby. I had cried tears of unbridled joy sitting in the top tier of the Allianz Arena after Didier Drogba’s final penalty had secured Chelsea’s first European Cup in Munich in 2012. The tears fell then as I never believed I would witness Chelsea win a European Cup.

In 2021, against Man City in Porto, the tears fell again but it felt different and perhaps even more emotional.

Over the last seven years, Chelsea seemed to be falling further and further away from a side capable of winning the Cup again, having for nearly ten years looked like they could win it every year.



In each football.london Chelsea bulletin, we’ll be bringing you the latest breaking news, transfer features and comment pieces, as well as the key talking points for fans.

You won’t miss a single thing when it comes to Chelsea.

We’ll also send special newsletters when big stories break or there’s a special event happening. And with the January transfer window now open there’s plenty of content to get your teeth into.

How do you sign up?

It’s easy and only takes seconds.

Simply type your email address into the box at the top of this article – or any article on the Chelsea section of football.london in fact – labelled ‘Get the biggest daily stories by email’ and click ‘Subscribe’.

And that’s it, you’re all set.

If you decide later that you no longer wish to receive the emails, simply follow the unsubscribe link in one of the newsletters – but we don’t think you’ll want to.

For more details, click here.

Winning it again cements the club’s place in history. They are not a happy coincidence as one-time winners often are. Chelsea now belong in the European elite as two-time Champions League winners. That one star is now joined by two. And it matters. It matters to any supporter who has a sense of football history.

Champions of Europe; we’ve done it again!

It seems only Chelsea can achieve glory on a regular basis through such a rollercoaster ride. But you know what, Chelsea supporters absolutely wouldn’t have it any other way.

Imagine not being Chelsea!

David Chidgey
@StamfordChidge

David Chidgey is on the Board of the Chelsea Supporters’ Trust and presents the award-winning Chelsea FanCast every Monday & Friday available from Acast, ITunes, Spotify or chelseafancast.com.





Source link

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on pinterest
Pinterest
Share on tumblr
Tumblr
Share on stumbleupon
StumbleUpon