Roman Abramovich didn’t grow up a football fan; he was converted by one enthralling game.
Manchester United versus Real Madrid. Old Trafford. Champions League quarter-finals, 2003.
The match is one of the greatest of the 21st century. A wild back-and-forth contest which saw seven goals, Ronaldo – original, not Cristiano – net a stunning hat-trick, and an ultimately unsuccessful comeback from Sir Alex Ferguson’s side: they won the game 4-3 but lost the tie 6-5.
Abramovich was sold. A month later, so were Chelsea. The Russian paid £140million for the club and transformed it into a trophy-winning juggernaut.
That juggernaut is now guided by Frank Lampard. And while it continues to roll on, it is far less formidable. Key parts have aged and been changed for good, but not yet great, replacements.
It’s why Chelsea, the 2019/20 vintage, is the most inconsistent, unreliable, and sometimes infuriating of the Abramovich era. Yet it may, somewhat perversely, produce the closest iteration of the football the billionaire fell in love with.
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Chelsea games this season have often been thrilling, anarchic even. No matter the score, no matter the risk, the Blues have piled forward in search of goals and left themselves vulnerable in defence.
It’s why in the Premier League, 12 of Chelsea’s 32 games have seen more than four goals scored. And their goals per match average in the top-flight is 3.16 – only Manchester City have a higher figure and that is enhanced by 8-0 and 6-1 wins over Watford and Aston Villa.
Lampard’s side have tended to come out on top – or at least claimed a draw – from these games. But while they’re great fun, especially for the neutral, they’re not the mark of a title challenger.
Chelsea have conceded 44 goals in the Premier League this term. Champions Liverpool, meanwhile, have been breached on only 25 occasions,…