Chelsea Focus - Team cohesion will help align expectation with reality
There's a poignant scene in the romantic comedy (500) Days of Summer - stick with me here - in which the film's loved-up protagonist, Tom Hansen, is invited to his ex-girlfriend's house for a party some time after breaking up with her.
Armed with flamboyant visions of rekindling the relationship, he arrives in buoyant mood. But the reality fails to live up to those expectations, as he endures a dismal evening which culminates in him receiving a confidence-draining reality check.
If we overlook the immediate and considerable loss of man points for this correspondent, the last week at Stamford Bridge can be aligned with this concept of expectations versus reality. Jose Mourinho's Chelsea had a schedule which couldn't get much tougher - Manchester United at Old Trafford on Monday followed by European juggernauts Bayern Munich in the Super Cup.
Gentle optimism preceded Chelsea's trip to the North West for David Moyes' first home game. But the Blues never really got going; their build-up play was cumbersome and languid while clear-cut chances were at a premium. All in all, it was a flat performance, and not the dangerous counter-attacking style of play which was mooted beforehand.
As a result, Chelsea's prospects of a victory against the European champions four days later were rather small. After all, Bayern had added former Barcelona supremo Pep Guardiola as their coach, too - Mourinho's great nemesis.
Last year's Europa League winners were excellent, though, and it took a late, late Javi Martinez goal deep into added time in extra time to deny the 10 men of Chelsea what would have been a fantastic result. Ultimately, it was not to be as Romelu Lukaku fluffed his spot kick to gift the Germans their first ever Super Cup - an unfitting end to a polished and mature Blues show.
In both of these games, the expectations of Chelsea fans hardly matched what turned out to manifest itself as reality. This is the hallmark of an improving side and illustrates that, while the early signs are promising, Mourinho's team are still very much a work-in-progress. There will be fluctuations in performance levels as the players work on becoming cohesive as a team.
With Samuel Eto'o and Willian through the front door at Stamford Bridge, that's the club's summer shopping apparently done with. The slamming shut of the transfer window on Monday will be a useful tool for Chelsea, with the players still on their books by then knowing that they will be in west London for the foreseeable future.
That will mean those linked with moves away - the likes of Juan Mata, John Obi Mikel and Demba Ba - can relax, knowing that they are still a part of Mourinho's master plan. If they weren't, they'd have been shown the door already.
A vote of confidence to individual players will help Chelsea become more consistent as time progresses. Consistency will, in turn, align expectations with reality.
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