PAT NEVIN: THROUGH THE SUN AND RAIN
Nine months of competition is a lot to review in one column but former Chelsea star Pat Nevin does his best this week, as well as taking a peak into the future…
Can we all stop and take a breath for a little while now? Sixty-nine games later this incredible season has come to an end. Well almost, except for a few friendly fixtures to fulfil over in the States.
So the bare facts have us winning another European trophy and finishing third in the Premier League. There were two cup semi-finals domestically, both of which we could have won but managed to let slip through our fingers.
Had you offered that to me at the start of the season I would have bitten your hand off. Had you offered it halfway through I reckon I would have had your arm as well. Of course it was a roller coaster, what else do you expect if you are a Chelsea fan, but there were so many high points and so many positives looking to the future.
Nathan Ake's assured performance against Everton added to his other cameos underline that the youth can be developed through the club and that if they are good enough then they have got every chance. On the other end of the age scale, the evergreen Frank Lampard just went and did it with his second goal at Villa to secure Champions League football and break what seemed like an unbreakable record. For every Chelsea fan it felt like winning another trophy when we finally found out that Lamps will light up the Bridge for another season.
I got a load of personal pleasure watching both David Luiz and Fernando Torres proving the naysayers wrong after all as the season progressed. Both had dips of course but you can't score 22 goals in one season and seriously be considered a flop. David Luiz on the other hand has scored great goals and grown in stature to such a level that it is almost impossible to think of Chelsea's best team without fitting him in there and him being central to the performance.
The goals have rained in from all over the field and a very large percentage of them have been scored or made by Juan Mata. I played in a time when 'assists' weren't regularly counted, which put my nose out of joint at the time, as I always thought that it is just as important to create them as to score them. You can beat three defenders, drag another one towards you, flight a perfect through ball over the keeper for the striker to tap in at the back post and guess what, the stats generally show only who had the final touch. So let us celebrate the fact that the Mata dor scored 19 and made a further 23 by some sources, a stunning return for the man who is currently, world and European champion with Spain as well as being a Champions League and Europa League holder with Chelsea (and before you say it, yes I know Fernando has the same as well as currently also holding the 2012 Euros golden boot award).
This is before you even consider the Belgian effect on the team, particularly with Eden Hazard. If he manages to stay fit next season and play to the level he did in spurts this year, there will be few if any better players playing in the Premier League. His first season was a triumph, but I really do expect that to be little more than a curtain raiser for the real shows to come. He has also got a few of his countrymen waiting in the wings in Courtois, Lukaku and De Bruyne, so who knows what effect they will have in the coming year/years. I suspect substantial.
I had long arguments with friends of mine who support other London clubs this season and they were quick to suggest I was too positive about Chelsea, too much of a cheerleader. I continued to say that there is so much quality and entertainment there, I just can't help it. I almost don't care that it is Chelsea, I would watch any team that had Hazard, Mata and Oscar in the midfield and what's more, I would want to watch them every week for the next five years at least.
There is of course the position of manager to consider and first of all I think it would be extremely churlish not to thank Rafa Benitez for his undoubted success during his time at the club. Like many other Chelsea fans he would have been a long way from my first choice and I am aware that he will never be accepted by many, but it is almost impossible to argue that the man has done anything other than a very good job in a transitional year. On record I must say he has been better than I expected and I am big enough to admit that. He has also carried himself with the utmost dignity for just about the entirety of the time, often under severe pressure, so from me unreservedly, well done that man.
Apparently however we will be having a new manager and as ever I am simply excited to see who it is and what he will do. The first thing he will do is walk into a dressing room that is filled to bursting with quality players.Many of them are young, brilliant and willing to improve. There are others who are a tad longer in the tooth but are world class professionals to the core.
With just a modicum of intelligence and football know how, the new boss will be able to bring another season of very special football after the summer. If he turns out to be a man of special tactical genius who knows how to add the finishing touches to a squad and can get the best out of these players, then Chelsea's glory years are set fair to continue, with what in the widest sense has been barely a hiccup. We wait with expectation and baited breath for the announcement….
Last week's quiz asked you to suggest who would be Chelsea's Players Player of the Year. The vote seemed split between Frank, Eden, David and of course the eventual winner Juan Mata. About 40% of you guessed correctly but there can only be one winner in this week's final competition of the season, it is Darren Morgan from Victoria, Australia. Well done Daz, the prize is on its way.
I'm off myself for a little break now, but hopefully I will be back fairly soon on this page. I just have this sneaking suspicion that for all the stress, heartache, joy and emotional exhaustion of the season, I will give it about 10 days and we will be missing it so much we will be desperate for next season to start….actually let's call that a week. Enjoy the summer.