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Despite a couple of dents to our hopes since his last column, Giles Smith retains optimism. Here he shares his thoughts as a Chelsea Cheap Soccer Jerseys
supporter, and puts those hopes in context anyway…
Not much to say, really, about last night, except for the obvious: that 1-0 would have been fine; that 1-1 would have been great; that 2-1 would have been better than 1-0; and that 3-1… well, that even that's OK, frankly.
Unless, of course, you looked at Paris St-Germain last night and thought you saw a team which couldn't possibly be beaten 2-0 at Stamford Bridge. USA Soccer Jersey
A team so awesome in every department that a 2-0 defeat in London next Tuesday night is simply unimagineable within the ordinary laws of likelihood as man understands them.
And I have to say, I didn't see that. I saw a team that scored three goals on the back of three defensive lapses and that otherwise did very little that was super-impressive, beyond standing behind the ball in two rows of four, or, more frequently, one row of four and another of five, with the 10th man in a free, roaming role between the two lines.
A team that one could very easily see getting beaten 2-0 by a side like ours - albeit when that side was playing at something close to its full ability rather than having a bit of a duff night in certain areas and making three poor defensive lapses in close succession.
So, yes: there's no question that 2-1 in Paris would have been better, and that 1-1 would have been even better still. But 3-1? Even 3-1 is OK.
Last Saturday afternoon's result at Crystal Palace was, I'm sure we all agree, a bit of a shame. Just when an away win and three points would have come in quite handy, we somehow contrived to go down 1-0 at a ground where not even Paul the Octopus, at the height of his psychic powers, with a fresh serving of fishflakes and a recently cleaned tank, would have envisaged us losing.
Paul the Octopus
This would have mattered far less if exactly the same thing hadn't happened away at Aston Villa just a fortnight ago. Clearly, when we come to do the reckonings at the end of this season, the lost points we could end up regretting most are the ones surprisingly dumped against the out-of-form teams at the unglamorous, lesser places: Villa Park, Selhurst Park and Old Trafford.
Among those, it's particularly embarrassing to recall the two points that we unaccountably shipped, right at the beginning of the season, by only drawing with Manchester United. In many ways, I wince to think about that little setback, far more than I wince to think about the little setback on Saturday, or even the one at Villa Park.
After all, Crystal Palace are a tight, well-marshalled unit who play some good, aggressive football and have an appetite for a fight. And even Aston Villa have occasionally shown a bit of direction during the current campaign, or, at the very least, some glimmers of it. (They certainly did so, unfortunately, in those last 10 minutes against us, albeit that we were unjustly down to 10 men at the time.)
That said, in fairness to our players, with regard to those two points that went down the sink at Old Trafford, it was very early on when we played United, and well before David Moyes had had the opportunity to stamp his vision upon the club. Considering that, a draw seemed a decent result back then, and I certainly don't remember anyone complaining about it too much at the time.
Anyway, who's to say that the ultimate reckoning in May will automatically be a gloomy one? There may only be six league games remaining, but you don't need to be Carol Vordermann to do the sums and realise that the title is a long way from decided.
Moreover, just to make it even less predictable, nothing can be categorically said at this stage about anyone's form. Manchester City, for instance, travelled to Arsenal last weekend and only managed a draw. A draw! This against the team that - you probably won't need reminding - we thrashed 6-0 a week earlier.
In its own way, City's 1-1 at the Emirates was a score as flaky and as careless as ours at Selhurst Park. Indeed, it's easy to envisage City looking back at the season's end and sheepishly rueing those two dropped points at Arsenal in the way that we may end up looking back with red faces at our mortifying Old Trafford slip-up.
And no one ought to be judging the strength of Liverpool's mentality on the basis of a 4-0 win against Tottenham, who showed themselves on that occasion (as indeed against us at Stamford Bridge not long ago) to be the footballing equivalent of a wet paper bag.
Except that, where Spurs were really awful against us from about 70 minutes into the match, and just averagely awful the rest of the time, they were really awful against Liverpool from the very beginning. Accordingly, if I were a Liverpool fan, I would be slightly concerned that my team had only managed to score four. I sensed some clear mental fragility there from Brendan Rodgers' side - and at just the wrong time.
Let's not forget, too, that City still have to go to Anfield, and so do we. So, really - even post-Selhurst Park - the maths are still complicated and potentially exciting.
People like to say that, of the three teams still plausibly in contention for the title, Liverpool are the most vulnerable because they don't know what it's like to be challenging at this stage of the season.
It's a theory that one is naturally drawn to, although, personally, I'm not sure that it works that way. I mean, obviously, it's true that the last time Liverpool were anywhere near being in line for the championship after the clocks had gone forward, the game was still being played under gaslight, and very few people have accurate memories going back that far, let alone the players themselves.
On the other hand, does memory and experience really count for so much at this point? Surely it's simply about being better than the teams that you are obliged to face. And that, it seems to me, rather than any complicated theory about inherited group memory, is why Liverpool are the most vulnerable of the three teams in contention.
But I guess we'll see. The outcome doesn't need to trouble us too much either way. Obviously, if the stars and the mathematics align, nobody around here will be turning their nose up at another Premier League title: those, as we know, are always nice. At the same time, though - and as the manager is constantly reminding us - winning the league was never part of this season's plan, going in.
The plan was to do some building work towards next season and, if at all possible, to provide some pleasure along the way to accompany our growing anticipation. In which case, to be in the last eight of the Champions League and only a simple 2-0 victory at home away from the last four; to have come out of our home games against Arsenal and Tottenham 10-0 up on aggregate; to have given the world a new and still more absorbing version of Eden Hazard; to have gone to Manchester City and produced the best team performance by any club, in any competition, in 2013/14; and to be still in reach of the title at this stage in such a season... well, the club has already exceeded its brief.
Where, indeed, is the irritating disruption that we might have expected during a rebuilding phase? The way I see it, it's a bit like when you get your kitchen done: you go into the project fully expecting there to be a short period of dusty chaos in which you will be required to make cups of tea on the floor in the hall and eat a lot of take-aways.
Yet at Chelsea - the occasional slip at Villa Park, Selhurst Parkand Old Trafford notwithstanding - the kitchen seems to be going up almost invisibly, with the team continuing to serve three-course meals to a gourmet standard, with plates and cutlery, on surfaces as clean as if the builders weren't even in the house.
In that context, then, with our expectations already more than met, our duty can only be to sit back and see how the rest of the season pans out - almost as disengaged spectators, really. Which is undeniably a great position to be in: safe in the knowledge that this was never intended to be our year for Premier League glory, we can be relaxed and ready to accept the eventual outcome, whoever wins it.
As long as it's not Liverpool, obviously. That would be awful.