After nine months of ups and downs, highs and lows, joy and turbulence, Chelsea enter the final three games of the season with an outside chance of retaining their title as they look to overhaul Manchester United at the top of the table. Three points off the top in second place and with a possible title decider to come at Old Trafford on Sunday, the Blues have endured as eventful a season as last year when they took the domestic League and FA Cup double for the first time in their history. But who has been their Player of the Year?
Starting at the back, the Blues owe a lot to their League-best defence which has conceded the least goals this season, ever-present goalkeeper Petr Cech breached just 28 times and having kept them in games they may otherwise not have taken points from but for his intervention and the Czech international has looked at his best for most of the season, keeping 15 clean sheets. Left-back Ashley Cole overcame torment that tainted his life away from football, yet on the field he has continued to put in confident displays despite the very public breakdown of his marriage, which ended in divorce last September. In February this year, he was voted England International Player of the Year 2010 and has been a vital cog in Chelsea’s back-line as the only other player to play all 35 League games alongside Cech.
Skipper John Terry has performed well recently in particular and led his team back into the title race, despite having to handle losing long-time defensive foil Ricardo Carvalho who departed for Real Madrid last summer and regular centre-back partner Alex, sidelined for long periods of the season due to injury. Terry himself suffered injuries that saw him withdrawn from three games in November in the wake of Ray Wilkins dismissal as assistant manager, a period that saw the Blues stunned 3-0 at home by Sunderland and succumb to defeat at Birmingham. A sole point at Newcastle meant eight points were dropped from nine available in his absence – an indication of Terry’s importance to the side. He has adapted to new signing David Luiz’s defensive style and immediate impact on the side and been vital to the Blues recent resurgence in form, celebrating his 500th appearance for the club last Saturday against Tottenham.
Going forward, the Blues have struggled to be as fluid as last seasons’ goal scoring machine which hit a Premier League record 103 goals on their way to the title. This season, however, with three games remaining, Chelsea have hit the net just 66 times and failed to score in eight League games so far compared to just once last year. Didier Drogba’s production has been down after a wonderful 29 League goals last season, though his bout of malaria and having to share striking responsibility with Fernando Torres and Nicolas Anelka can explain his hitting just 11 League goals this season. Ramires has improved as the season has gone as he becomes familiar with Premier League football but Michael Essien has struggled for form in midfield, while Frank Lampard missed 20 games in a four-month lay-off due to injury between August and December.
Chelsea’s Player of the Year 2011 will be revealed in a dinner event at Stamford Bridge on May 19. Meanwhile, Blues boss Carlo Ancelotti was awarded his third Barclays Manager of the Month this season on Thursday after an impressive April for his club. Six vital games yielded 16 points for the Blues, enabling them to close the gap on league leaders Manchester United going into their vital match this Sunday.