2011. What a year!
(of frustration, of controversies, of firings, of shootings, and of egregious errors both on and off the field)
But I have no interest in rehashing all of that. Let's remember the good times instead.
There have been signings aplenty (both young and old) as Sugar Daddy Roman opened up his purse strings once again. A revolution of sorts has been started, with a new (yet familiar), bright, young manager taking over. We've had players dressing up as superheroes (Cech) and superheroes emerging from the shadows (Sturridge, Ramires). And, of course, we had our fair share of tremendous footballing entertainment played out on the endless promise of possibilities that is the Stamford Bridge pitch.
Like some power-drunk Caesar, I've chosen 16 of the year's best and matched them up against each other a single-elimination tournament to decide a winner. However, instead of arming them with swords & harpoons, I've shackled them into a bracket and have thrown them to the mercy of the fickle crowd. It is now up to YOU to decide their fate!
Round 1 voting shall commence after the jump...
The chosen 16 have been divided into four groups of four: Signings, Results, Trends, Ephemera. Seeded in a bracket, we will first determine a winner for each group, before determining an overall winner in a Final Four (with apologies to the NCAA's March Madness for stealing their terminology):
Starting at the top left, we have the four new key signings from the calendar year of 2011:
- Fernando Torres can be none other than the first seed, having been on the lips and minds of everybody and their cousin since his arrival at Chelsea for a British record transfer fee of 50m. To say that this move has not been without drawbacks would be understatement, but it's hard to dispute the importance of it...if for none other than a very loud statement of intent by the club and it's Owner.
- The star signing of the summer was Juan Mata who became a favorite with almost his first touch. 23.5m sure seems like a bargain.
- Speaking of bargains, it may not get much better than 5m for Oriol Romeu...even if he eventually migrates back to the Barcelona hive...
- Sideshow Dave. Need I say more?
Next up, in the bottom left corner, are four of the best results from 2011.
- March 1st - The win that reignited our title ambitions for 2009/10. David Luiz's first goal for the club. Plenty of controversy and SAF even got a nice fine out of it.
- December 12th - Chelsea hand rampant Manchester City their first league defeat of the season. Lampard seals the victory with an absolute blast of a penalty.
- December 6th - Chelsea progress from the Champions League group stages (as group winners, nonetheless!) via an emphatic 3-0 win over Valencia. Drogba dominant.
- April 30th - Salomon Kalou scores a controversial (read: offside) last-minute winner to defeat Spurs. Torres & Drogba both start in a 4-3-3, but, as always, Kalou proves to be the game changer. Lampard gets his revenge for the World Cup with a phantom goal as well.
- Probably the most important trend, one that fits perfectly with the calendar year is the emergency of one Daniel Sturridge. From almost being the makeweight in a Torres deal with Liverpool, to automatic first choice with an excellent goal-scoring record (for both Chelsea and Bolton on loan), it's been a year to savor for SHOOTAH.
- Looking more towards the future, we have the renewed emphasis on youth. Names such as McEachran, Chalobah, Piazon, Courtois, Lukaku, Kalas, Feruz, Lalkovic, Kaby, Ake carry with them the promise of a brave new world of Chelsea excellence.
- A man instrumental in the impending youth revolution has been our new Technical Director / International Man/Assistant of Mystery Michael Emenalo. He exemplifies the trend of backroom excellence also practiced by heartthrobs Roberto di Matteo and Dr. Eva.
- One more player whose stock has only gone up in 2011 has been Ramires, a.k.a. the Blue Kenyan. Brazilian flair, supreme commitment, lightning speed, and stamina for days combine for the ultimate midfield dynamo. His Goal of Season effort v. Man City last season heralded his arrival; now we cannot imagine our midfield without him.
- Andre Villas-Boas. Hopefully here to stay for the next decade, at least. Chelsea fans brush up on new celebration/dance moves; pundits learn a key phrases to spout incessantly about high defensive lines.
- Petr Cech comes to within a cape's width of wearing a full-on Batman outfit in a match.
- Fernando Torres finally scores his first Chelsea goal, from a puddle of water v. West Ham. If only he had more puddles to shoot from...
- Chelsea Pitch Owners comes into the spotlight; calls the club on some bullshit. Yes, we all need a bigger stadium. No, we don't have to treat the fans with such little respect.