BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - AUGUST 12: Carlos Tevez of Manchester City is tackled by Jon Obi Mikel of Chelsea during the FA Community Shield match between Manchester City and Chelsea at Villa Park on August 12, 2012 in Birmingham, England. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Things got a little bit depressing towards the end of last season, at least when Chelsea were playing in the league. While in the very early going, it looked as though the Blues would challenge both Manchester City and Manchester United for the title, any dreams of winning the Premier League came to an abrupt halt in October. Things only got worse from there as the Andre Villas-Boas-led collapse reached rather epic proportions. By January, there were serious fears for our continued existence as a Champions League team, and when Roberto di Matteo replaced the sacked Villas-Boas in March, the priority was, apparently, to retain that top four slot.
Things didn't quite turn out that way, thanks to some absolutely heroic performances by the Blues against Barcelona and then Bayern Munich, but the message was, I think clear: We're not good enough to win the league, so let's settle for continuing to qualify for the Champions League. And frankly, that line of thinking is incredibly lame. It's the sort of thought process that sees teams like Arsenal celebrate their long run of trophiless competence as though it's some sort of badge of honour to not win anything. It's not a route I want Chelsea to go down.
Fortunately, Chelsea agree:
It hurts us that it was such a big gap [between Chelsea and the champions] last season. We spoke about it. We don't want that to repeat itself. We don't want a repeat of last season when we slipped out of the top four but, for us, the top four is not the target. The most important thing is to win the trophy. We want to regain the trophy.
This is exactly right. While we don't have the strongest squad in England -- I'd eyeball us for third, behind both Manchester teams -- Chelsea can't afford to start thinking small. They need to be competing for the Premier League title year in and year out to stay relevant. Winning enough to sustain our presence in the Champions League is not enough. The club doesn't just compete in the Premier League and in Europe for the money; they play to win the competitions themselves.
Good words, John Obi Mikel. Good words.