League of Champions
The dust surrounding Chelsea's Champions League title has finally settled but the ramifications have not. The manner in which the Cup was won made many believe in football all over again. It was almost magical. After Drogba evened the score with Bayern with a bullet header, he tripped Ribery in the penalty box to gift Bayern a penalty kick. However, Robben was indecisive and Cech was supremely confident and as a result, Cech stopped Robben's penalty kick. With the game still in balance, Drogba came back to score the winning penalty and etched his name firmly in the history of Chelsea.
Chelsea's story is not one of a supremely talented squad that clawed past Barcelona to reach the final. It is not about fretting over missed chances and blaming stoic defense of the opposition. Chelsea's win is a testament to the age old virtues of the sport. It is about courage, valour and the willingness to overcome every obstacle put in your way. Beating Barcelona was the biggest obstacle of them all.
Bayern had enough problems of their own. They should spend some time reflecting on why they were unable to outscore an ultra defensive Chelsea. Post match comments from a few Bayern greats and players left a sour taste in the mouth of many fans. It is one thing to condemn the opposition for its turgid display but it's another to ignore your own deficiencies. Robben was a one trick pony, trying to cut in and shoot the net off of Cech's goal everytime he had the ball. Muller's substitution after he scored hinted at Bayern's arrogance.
As for Chelsea players, it was a dream come true. It was obvious that Drogba would leave after the season. Chelsea fans will remember Didier Drogba for the wonderful centre forward that he was during his time at Chelsea. Petr Cech has been known to be a goalkeeper that spends a lot of time introspecting his performances and thinking of ways to enhance them and he couldn't have chosen a better occasion to exhibit his mastery over the art of goalkeeping.
Overall, this season will be remembered as a season of inconsistencies but a spirit of togetherness that yieled the FA Cup at first, followed by the biggest prize of them all.
For many Chelsea fans, it has remained a sensitive topic. Few venture beyond admitting that there is a need to overhaul the squad and the exit of Drogba, Kalou, Bosingwa and possibly Malouda confirm the same. Owner Roman Abramovich got the trophy he craves the most this year but it was a difficult journey. It is certainly not the winning way he had in mind. This is not to say, he would not appreciate what Chelsea has done this season.
Many fans are frustrated at the inability of the club to lock in a manager before signings are made and wonder if such a thing would happen with Alex Ferguson in charge at Manchester United or even at Arsenal under Arsene Wenger. Football today is as much about business as it is about trophies. Fans do not care much for shareholders getting dividends, as long as their team wins trophies on the pitch.
For a team like Arsenal to have fantastic financial statements that have not translated into trophies is dissappointing and has contributed to players such as Nasri and Fabregas leaving the club.
Meanwhile, Di Matteo's short managerial reign has been about results. No one can ever doubt that. But Chelsea's league form was patchy during this period. His decision to play Kalou instead of Sturridge was perplexing. Kalou will be a free agent come summer, and the idea of playing him to increase his value does not mean much. Besides, Sturridge was a bright spot in André Villas-Boas' reign. He is often selfish and looks to score but he is a central striker and that is how they seek to benefit the team. Villa-Boas' could very well have drilled it into his head that team always comes first. He was inserted as the interim coach in March to steady the ship and has done that beautifully.
But changes are required. Lampard is getting old and with Drogba gone, Chelsea may have to alter its philosophy for a new group of players. Eden Hazard is a brilliant young footballer and rumours suggest he is coming to Chelsea. With Kevin De Bruyne and Marko Marin added at competitive prices, Chelsea could now have the much needed width on the flanks. 25-year old Brazilian forward Hulk has also been positively linked to a move to Stamford Bridge. The prospect of an attacking line up of Mata, Hazard, Hulk and Torres certainly excites Chelsea fans.
Ultimately, Chelsea needs a coach who can stamp his authority over the locker room. Di Matteo's management style has been subtle and at times placatory but when you replace legends at the club, confrontations will happen. That is the real test to ascertain whether Di Matteo has it in him to manage long term.
It has to be said that the next season looks exciting for Chelsea, as new players arrive and olders leave. New players are hungry, eager to prove themselves and going to Stamford Bridge, which owns the most recent Champions League title is the place to do it.