There are few sicker sights I’ve seen in football than that of Chelsea’s Champions League celebrations last night. They are the first London team to bring home the European Cup.
It should have been us. We are London’s biggest club. Chelsea were nothing before 2005 when Roman Abramovich’s millions and Jose Mourinho’s dull, defensive football won them only their second ever title. This, inconveniently, came at a time when Arsenal were in better shape than Manchester United and probably would have gone on to dominate English football for a few years. I guess it’s pointless to think about now – we all know what happened: Chelsea’s money made it harder for us to compete and we have developed a small club mentality ever since – we don’t buy big, we don’t aim high. Third place this season was met with wild celebration.
Chelsea being the first team to bring the Champions League to London doesn’t make them bigger than us, but we have to start acting like the capital’s biggest team again. Even Spurs are catching up with us. We have lived off our reputation for too long now and need some more modern history to boast. We haven’t won a trophy for seven years, for crying out loud! If we go another seven years without one, you’d be right to start asking questions about exactly how big a club we are.
I don’t necessarily believe we have to sell out all our principles to win trophies. We don’t have to go down the Chelsea route, buying the most expensive players and pay them to sit in their own half for an entire game, but we do need a more ruthless approach. We need players who can keep their nerve, and who are happy to work hard and fight to get the ball back. Too much emphasis has been placed on technical ability, but this season alone we have seen the value of having an Arteta over a Fabregas. To put it simply – we need winners. Football is about entertainment, of course, but it’s also about results.
If there is any positive to take from tonight, it is that you don’t have to be the best team to win this competition. Chelsea finished sixth in the league and were outplayed in the vast majority of their Champions League games this season, including their final three games when Barca were all over them in both legs of the semi-final and Bayern outplayed them in the final. I hope I never see Arsenal resort to such negative tactics, but with a bit more mental strength and, hell, a bit more luck, we could do better in this competition. This is a timely reminder that, being a cup competition, you can fluke your way to success through away goals and penalty shoot-outs. Smaller clubs, such as Aston Villa and Nottingham Forest have won it before us as well, so let’s hope Chelsea end up where those two are sometime soon.
Another positive, of course, is that Spurs not making the Champions League puts their immediate future into some doubt. They will certainly struggle to keep their best players and attract better ones with only Europa League football to offer. Given that Chelsea will almost certainly improve next season, I’d welcome less competition and it would be nice not to have to worry about Spurs.
Still, it is a sad reality that we have allowed Spurs to get so close to us. They don’t have the financial backing of Chelsea or Man City, but they have made some good signings and shown real ambition to climb up the table, while we have been content with 3rd or 4th for far too long.
Seeing this crappy Chelsea team celebrate tonight should make our players annoyed and determined to improve. They are not doing themselves or this great club justice.