When 6-1 Wasn’t Enough
Well, you can’t deny we’re making history.
We were history-makers when we won the Champions League for the first time, becoming the first London club to do so, and we have now created for ourselves a new place in the books as the first holders of the trophy to get knocked out in the group stages. The good news is that we can continue to make history by adding the Europa League to our collection, and in Amsterdam too, to top it off-not a bad location for a final. ‘Champions of Europe’s not-as-elite’ may not fit as nicely in a song, and I may be acting a little overly optimistic, but stranger things have happened.
Look at it this way: if we win the Europa league, we get to play in the Super Cup again. How many teams have had that opportunity two seasons in a row? Even better, how many clubs have been able to say they have played in the Super Cup, Champions League, Club World Cup Championships, and the Europa League all in same season? I’m not sure if that should be a source of pride, but let’s just roll with it.
We all had faith and belief that maybe we would go through, but this outcome was certainly not unexpected. That of course doesn’t change the fact that it is still disappointing, still hurts. As so many have said, including Cech, that draw to Juventus at home, when we were 2-0 up, should never have ended that way. A couple away losses aren’t terrible (although this time, given the circumstances, they were), but we had to win that first game, and we didn’t. Yes, the head-to-head away goals rule is exceptionally stupid, and Shakhtar should have turned up to beat Juve. We can blame UEFA, we can blame the fact that Donetsk didn’t win at home, or say Juventus fixed the match. The bottom line is, it was out of our hands, and you never want to be in that situation.
We more than did our job on the night, but by that point it was too late. And as this case proved, sometimes you can’t leave it all to the end, or rely on a little good fortune to pull us through. Every team has some luck, or whatever you want to call it-fate, destiny, a good alignment in the stars-in their season, particularly in a cup competition. No doubt our own skills have always come into play, but when we don’t try hard enough, we cannot simply believe that we can ride that wave through. The harsh reality is that we didn’t deserve it.
In a way, perhaps it would have been more painful were we to exit the Champions League at the group stages without having won it, as was a possible scenario last year. Despite that, as the holders, it is sad that we didn’t really get a chance to defend our title, although it was through no fault but our own. We are now destined to go through the season knowing that at the end, in a matter of months, we will have to hand over our crown. Until then, however, we will enjoy it while we have it, and I am sure we will continue to boast our honour for all it is worth. (Or, at least until a couple of weeks from now, when we’ve won the Club World Cup, become Champions of the World, and we have something new to sing about).
Dropping into the Europa League definitely feels like a demotion, particularly as Champions of Europe. Who wants to be in a league that is a point of pride and success-not to mention an upgrade-for Liverpool and Spurs (who, incidentally, we sent there)? It seems as though fate wants to give us a chance to slap both of them soundly again, maybe in a semi final or final; at the very least we can knock AVB off his perch, or maybe even draw Napoli and Benfica again. There are sad moments for every team, in every season, but perhaps something good can come out of this.
The most important thing now is to take whatever positives we can from this win-and it was a great win, although against a side that did us many favours to lead us to that scoreline-and use this high to boost our confidence and take us into a tricky tie against Sunderland this weekend. As much as I think we should try to win every competition we’re in, I wouldn’t be so bothered if we put a large portion of our energies into a strong finish in the league (I think the title is a long shot, but I wouldn’t write us off, because you know what happens if you do), and maybe the FA or Capital One cups (or both).
Our Champions League win was special, almost like a once-in-a-lifetime thing (although I hope-and know-that at some point we will do it again), and I don’t know if any Chelsea supporter deep down really believed we would retain the title season. As for the Europa League, it is a good opportunity to go for another honour, while at the same time give our youth a good run-out. Under Robbie, I’d be fairly certain this would happen, that we could win the whole thing, although under the FSW I’m not entirely sure. Only time will tell.
While we’re stuck in this boat for the rest of the season, we may want to turn to Manchester United and City fans for some tips. Perhaps they can together author a manual, something along the lines of, “Survival in the Europa League-a Guide for Top Clubs to Thursday Nights on Channel Five, by all of Manchester. Note: Not guaranteed to get you to the final.”
At the end of the day, the worst bit is the changes in schedule one must make to their weekly activities to accommodate our new match days, although at least we know which days the matches will take place. For me, Thursday is normally yoga with the girls, so this is all a bit annoying, and if you’re an Eastenders fan, this might be a bit hard to swallow.
Anyway, Champions of Europe, we know what we are.