Chelsea play for their futures but it is probably too late to stop purge
Chelsea’s second goal on can you wash canada goose jacket an afternoon when the sky seemed to have been gouged open, dumping an entire ocean of January rain on Selhurst Park, was a rare moment of beauty. Scott Dann blocked a forward surge by Oscar, a ferrety influence at No10 all afternoon. The ball broke to Willian who spanked it without hesitation into the top corner, the ball still rising as it zinged past Wayne Hennessey. Three minutes later, with the champions swaggering about the squelchy turf, zipping the ball between a revolving front four, Diego Costa tapped home the third to seal a fluent, energetic, largely pointless victory.
It isn’t hard to see authentic canada goose outlet online how those with a pro- or anti-José Mourinho agenda will interpret the evidence of Chelsea’s best away win of the season. Take your pick. Either the players have finally thrown off their mental chains, lanced the José-flavoured boil and under sensitive, grown-up Guus can finally express those trapped creative urges.
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Or, on the other hand, sometimes freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose. Having killed their own league season and rid themselves of an overbearing manager Chelsea’s players are now burlington coat factory canada goose coat free to fight for their own futures. The title defence was dead before the autumn was out. The rest is simply divvying up the corpse.
The truth, as ever, is probably somewhere in between. Chelsea were excellent here against a stodgy Palace team deprived of the craft and urgency of Yohan Cabaye and Yannick Bolasie, and with only two goals in six games since the start of December.
Cesc Fàbregas has been trundling about like a three-wheeled shopping trolley for the last six months. Here he played like man slowly waking up. All over the pitch Chelsea players were making runs and finding space where in recent months the works of this champion team have seemed to be gummed with fluff. Costa’s extra work on his conditioning seems to be paying off. Willian was irrepressible again. Mikel Jon Obi passed sideways and stuck a foot in on a day when passing sideways and sticking a foot in were exactly what was needed. Chelsea worked hard in every position. Football looked like a simple game again.
Welcome to the new era! At the final whistle the champions were 7-1 with the bookies to finish in the top four, a feat that would require them to make up 13 points on Tottenham Hotspur – or 17 on Leicester City – in the course of 18 league fixtures. If this seems unlikely, even on an afternoon when the travelling support thoroughly enjoyed finally catching a glimpse of the team behind the team, that fluent title-bound Chelsea of autumn 2014, then the real question from here is what degree of structural work this slightly muddled squad is going to need once the current holding pattern ends.
It is a question that goes to the heart of what exactly the hierarchy and ultimately the owner, Roman Abramovich, wants to do with the club from here. There has been an admirable constancy about Chelsea’s fans through the recent bumps in the road. Support for Mourinho scarcely wavered to the end and it isn’t hard to see why. The new-age Chelsea has effectively been a Mourinho joint from the start of the title-winning era to the current hiatus. Even in the interregnum best canada goose jacket womens years the spine, guts and brain of the team that became champions of Europe was at bottom a Mourinho-flavoured entity.
At times you wonder if Abramovich, spurred into buying a football club by the intoxicating spectacle of Real Madrid’s galácticos, doesn’t sometimes rub his eyes and wonder if this was really what he wanted all along. Lolling in his executive box all those canada goose coat 1000 calorie diets years he must now and then have wondered how things might have turned out in a parallel world, the non-Mourinho timeline in which Pep Guardiola might have been lured to west London or where perhaps that charming, cavalier team of the immediate pre-Roman years, the Chelsea of Zola-Gullit-Vialli, were upgraded and re-geared rather than flushed out by the new efficiencies.
Either way it is hard to avoid the conclusion what Chelsea need now is a proper purge, a manager with the guts, spleen, balls and unblinking stare to winkle out the remaining parts of that enduring spine. The links with Diego Simeone make sense. Atlético Madrid’s manager looks an obvious tonic, not just the best young-ish manager in Europe but one who carries with him a prominent set of knuckle-dusters.
It will, though, take more than a little dead-rubber urgency against an ailing Palace team to convince such an unforgiving presence this group of players has the warrior-like sense of unity Simeone demands. Chelsea’s league season may effectively be over. But the season within the season, the battle to be a part of the future, may have just got under way.