There is a tendency, in disciplines like literary criticism, historical writing, and journalism, to look at the negative aspects of any positive act. Call it an attempt to be controversial or perhaps uncreativity or whatever you want. It is, in many respects, the propagation of the “whole is greater than the sum” argument; that beneath every triumph are a series of mistakes that had to be overcome. In the absolute, that’s true. Every triumph results from hurdling mistakes in a steady climb to the top. It’s true that if you look at Chelsea’s season, you’ll see let-downs as well as triumphs. Let the belittlers focus on the former. I’m looking at the latter.
Three times this year – indeed, three times since January – Chelsea scored 7 or more goals. Seven. They scored 103 goals and had a goal differential of 71, which speaks volumes about their offense. Offense was expected, though. Didier Drogba is a gifted striker. Nicolas Anelka, for all his sulkiness, has considerable talent. The question was defense. Everyone knows about John Terry. The former England captain is an excellent defender. The question, in my mind, was everyone else.
Way back in July 2009, Chelsea came to the United States and wowed most commentators. An excellent run of form followed through August, September, and half of October. They took both games from Arsenal and both from Manchester United. Though they lost both to Manchester City, it didn’t hurt them as much as United’s week of stumbles that began, appropriately enough, with a loss to Chelsea. But I’m rambling. Look at the defense. The back line allowed 3 or more goals in exactly two games. That’s impressive. What does it mean, though? Defending is about cooperation and, to a degree, intimacy. Familiarity allows defenders to move around and know that coverage is there. Chelsea had that this season. Following Terry, the Chelsea defenders did their jobs and allowed Drogba, et al. to do theirs. It’s a beautiful thing when a team is firing on all cylinders.
In the end, Chelsea played well enough to win. It is my opinion that they were better than 86 points and that United was lucky to hang around until the final day of the season. Although Ancelotti sees flaws – apparently on the right side – and really, really, really wants Alexandre Pato next season, the team, as constructed has a better than decent chance to repeat next year, which is bad news for United.