After crashing out of the group stages in the Champions League and subsequently failing to defend their title, coupled with a third place finish in the English Premier League, some Chelsea fans may look at the 2012-2013 season as a disappointing one. Yet, in hindsight, Chelsea fans were once again able to enjoy the sweet taste of victory! Throughout the season, the club competed for countless number of titles and played a record breaking number of matches (69). The Blues won the Europa League trophy, being the only club in history to hold the Champions League Trophy at the same time as well. Various changes are coming at Stamford Bridge and Chelsea will likely look a totally different side next season, but for now, let’s look back at the season gone-by.
An absolute thwarting at the hands of Juventus in the Champions League was followed by the sacking of Roberto di Matteo, who was replaced by Liverpool’s former manager, Rafael Benitez. Rafa was made to feel like a stranger at Chelsea from the off-set, having to endure the constant demoralizing chants made by large sections of the supporters, who made their bitterness towards him no secret. And why wouldn’t they? Especially after he had called them ‘plastic fans’ when he was in-charge of Liverpool!
Anyway, through all the controversies, he managed to help the team triumph against Benfica, procuring some much-awaited silverware. By this time, there were speculations about José Mourinho returning home. This was confirmed as he signed a four year contract with The Blues, adding a self-proclaimed title of being ‘The Happy One’.
Chelsea had been pretty active in the January transfer window, especially after the quick signing of Newcastle striker Demba Ba on January 4th for £7 million after parting ways with the England striker Daniel Sturridge on 2nd January, who joined Liverpool for £12 million. Along with this, Chelsea also had transfer dealings before the transfer window, as they had earlier announced that they would sign Fluminense right back Wallace during the window.
Chelsea’s defense was ranked as the Premier League’s third best in terms of the number of goals conceded. Ashley Cole remained a key figure, delighting supporters by signing a one year extension to his contract. Captain John Terry made just 14 appearances due to his lingering knee injury, and his impact on-the-field was minimal. Ivanovic made the most starts at center-back for the club, making a firm stake to make the position his own next season. Gary Cahill and Cesar Azpilicueta impressed, doing their job with little fuss. However, there’s absolutely no doubt in my mind that David Luiz has been the best defender this season, chipping in with some remarkable goals and ridiculous goal-line saves!
The Midfield Triumvirate!
The 2012-13 also witnessed the England International, Frank Lampard, rewrite club history yet again by surpassing Sir Bobby Tambling, and becoming the all-time leading goal scorer with 203 goals; a record that is likely to stand for years to come! The Blues have brought together probably the best attacking midfield trio – Mazacar (Juan Mata, Eden Hazard and Oscar Dos Santos), who have synchronized and blended in together beautifully. Marko Marin found the going tough,making only a handful number of appearances, and his future hangs in the balance. Lucas Piazon, who has been heralded as the next Kaka, was loaned to Malaga, with the view to developing into a world-class player. Former Wigan winger Victor Moses was a valuable squad player, often making his appearances after coming off the bench.
We finally disembark on the Blues’ biggest problem area, that of the forward. Chelsea only had two out-and-out strikers in hand throughout the season. Torres was a permanent fixture throughout the season, coupling with Sturridge till January, and Ba subsequently. Fernando Torres still leaves much to be desired, and had yet another disappointing Premier League campaign. Surprisingly, Ba was even worse than Torres. The former Newcastle hitman scored just two goals in fourteen appearances, of which three were after coming on as a substitute. Neither player did well enough to consistently hold down their spot and the starting job for next season should undoubtedly go to the 20-year old Belgium international, Romelu Lukaku, who brought back a handsome return of goals for West Brom. In hindsight, should Chelsea have had a world-class striker to call upon, they would have easily usurped Manchester City for second place, and could have even mounted a decent title challenge!
The Blues have one of the world’s best goalkeepers, the Premier League’s third best defense, a reliable defensive midfield contingent and debatably the world’s best attacking midfield triumvirate. All they really need is a prolific striker. It’s widely thought that owner Roman Abramovich will open his pockets and dig deep in order to sign a player of proven quality. However, Lukaku should really be given a chance.
Changes are certainly coming at Chelsea and the fans can rest easy, as the club will only get better next season.