Roman Abramovich, if anyone, means business. And for the past few years now, the owner of Chelsea Football Club has not been happy. This year, though, he might actually crack a smile.
Eight game-days into the 2009-10 Premier League Season, Chelsea look to be serious contenders for the English crown.
Yeah, okay, you hear that about every year around this time, but this time the thought has a bit more conviction.
The Blues currently sit on top of the Premier League by a point, having defeated the likes of Sunderland, Tottenham, and Liverpool, all in dominating fashion. For the first time since Jose Mourinho’s disruptive departure from Stamford Bridge two years ago, the puzzled club do not look fragmented on the pitch.
Actually, they look quite functional. Not beautiful—but functional. The Blues field a rugged, gritty-styled squad and cannot be expected to play a pretty game. They are showing, however, that they can grind out results—and, well, in pretty decent fashion.
Didier Drogba may be the biggest beneficiary of the Blues’ new groove. The Ivorian striker has been reborn and seems to have rediscovered his top form of years previous. He is effectively harassing defenses—with the help of his diving antics, though—and already has five Premier League goals to his name.
Drogba’s partner in crime, Nicholas Anelka, is also on great form, coming off his Golden Boot season in 2008-09. Likewise for Ashley Cole. Heck, even Deco doesn’t look too bad.
It’s not difficult to trace the source of the Blues’ recent success back to the man in charge, though. Carlo Anceolotti, the club’s fourth manager in two years, is bringing something to Stamford Bridge that his predecessors could not—fluidity on the pitch. For the first time in two years, Chelsea look comfortable and confident playing with each other.
Ancelotti’s good start in West London can be primarily attributed to his successful employment of the 4-1-2-1-2 with Chelsea. Unlike managers past, who tampered with 4-4-2’s and 4-3-3’s, Ancelotti has figured out the Chelsea squad and under which structure they best function. The Italian mastered the 4-1-2-1-2 formation with AC Milan and his expertise is now thriving with one of England’s most difficult teams to manage.
Ancelotti’s success, though, was not entirely unexpected. The Italian boasts an impressive resume. Many Blues faithful were confident that he was the man for the job. And while Chelsea’s Big Four rivals seemed to lose more quality than gained this summer, the West London club returned a near-identical squad to last year, bolstered by the addition of Russian back Yuri Zhirkov.
You got this sense, too, that when club captain John Terry and Chelsea reaffirmed their commitment to each other in August, it was like a commitment to success. (Terry was involved in a summer-long transfer saga with Manchester City.) Chelsea ultimately turning down great money for a dwindling player, and Terry declining a chance to redefine himself elsewhere after two below-par seasons, sent a warning to English football that Chelsea was back.
The mood in West London is clearly evident on the pitch because so far this season, Chelsea look fantastic—well, unattractively fantastic.
You see, there is nothing extravagant about this Chelsea club, but they are extremely solid. Most importantly, they know how to win. Former Blues defender Marcel Desailly said it perfectly—Under Ancelotti, the club seems “at peace.” Could this be the year Roman Abramovich finally finds his peace?
***Disclaimer: Chelsea are my least favorite team in all of sports. I write what I think, though, and try to be unbiased in doing so. So, I hope this article jinxes them.