“A week is a long time in politics.?”
That quote from Harold Wilson ahead of the 1964 general election has been used countless times in the 55 intervening years because, as it turns out, a week is a long time in a myriad of mediums. And, unsurprisingly, sport is no exception, especially at Chelsea.
But the pace of this upcoming week for the Blues – a truly pivotal one in the tenure of Maurizio Sarri – will depend on a number of variables both in and out of the club’s control. The first hurdle is West Ham United on Monday. A breezy win?: a breezy start to the week.
Whether this is likely to be the case or not depends on your reading of the stats. On the one hand, Chelsea are unbeaten in their last 12 home clashes with the Hammers in the Premier League, winning eight and last losing in 2002. On the other, West Ham are unbeaten in their last three league games against the Blues, their best run since the turn of the century.
See what I mean?
Victory will ensure that the two following days of no-doubt pulsating Champions League drama can be enjoyed in peace. Defeat will make them gut-wrenchingly sour, the hours drooling by as the great and the good headline Tuesday and Wednesday before the perennial afterthought that is Thursday and the Europa League comes around.
But even on Thursday, the one not-so-hallowed day of the week where Europe’s lesser stage can show its ‘merit’, the competition shall remain an afterthought. For Thursday is also the scheduled date for the hearing on ?Chelsea’s appeal over the two-window transfer ban that was handed to them by FIFA.
Failure in that and, though time won’t quite stand still – the bells of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) have not yet wrung – some serious mulling will be had on the future by everyone affiliated with the club.
It comes as no surprise to say that the ruling will dramatically shape the course the club takes for the near future and beyond, not only deciding who stays, who goes and who arrives, but also why. Should the ban be upheld, and CAS fail to swoop to the rescue, the identity of the club will be irrevocably changed.
The great buyers of the ?Premier League era will be thwarted from doing so, and thus forced to lean on the great resources they have kept below deck for so long. But it will no longer be sink or swim, no, the youth will have to be nurtured, kowtowed to, allowed to make mistakes. And mistakes will be made, but none more damaging than the 29 or so made in regards to the charge that will have got them to that point.
And then, somewhere in this malaise of identity and fiscal responsibility, a football match will be played. Against Slavia Prague. Or Slavia Praha, depending on your levels of European pomposity.
[“Oh, I’ve ?been to Prague.”]
So there’s that. I mean sure, at this point the first leg of a quarter-final in a competition which almost definitely represents the club’s greatest opportunity at fulfilling their seasonal goal should probably be more extensively covered than that. Sure.
But, then again, covering the Europa League with anything other than irreverence still feels tinpot. So, let’s just say, if the club’s identity wasn’t dramatically changed earlier in the day, an unanticipated and unedifying loss in that clash could really set the ball rolling.
Blimey, this is a long week, and it’s still far from over. For nestling on the horizon, with all the hazy hark-backs of Steven Gerrard slipping and Demba Ba poaching to come, it’s Liverpool away on Sunday. ?Liverpool at Anfield. Premier League-chasing Liverpool at Anfield. Premier League-chasing Liverpool at Anfield in April.
And, ‘we don’t let this slip’ has been replaced with heavy metal screechings on the touchline, scouse renditions of French/Italian songs in the terraces, It Means More in the club shop and ?perfect Egyptian nipples on social media.
So, it’s a big week. Massive. And one which will, perhaps more than any other this season (in a campaign which has seemed to have its fair share) define the club’s future in the years to come. And there’s even time for one more event to be shoehorned into the calendar, albeit an unwelcome one – Real Madrid’s next bout of talks regarding the why-won’t-it-just-die saga revolving around ?Eden Hazard.
Will the club be Hazard-less, and therefore rudderless? Will the club be confined to Thursday mediocrity, and slowly drift to an afterthought in the city they’ve owned for the best part of this century? Will Sarri continue at Stamford Bridge, or will he himself become merely an unpleasant aftertaste of an afterthought of this hastily forgotten era?
Hell, will Liverpool win the league? All that and more could be decided this week.
We started with a Harold Wilson quote, and sustained ourselves through the Europa League section with a ‘Kicking & Screaming’ (1995!) one, so it seems only fitting that we end with Wilson once more. I’ll admit, the meaning of this quote has morphed many times over in the writing of this article, but then, that’s sort of the point, isn’t it?
“He who rejects change is the architect of decay. The only human institution which rejects progress is the cemetery.”