Judgment Day

If you are reading this, you haven’t been saved. Me neither. Don’t be too upset. It was a very select group. Apparently, only 3% of the world’s population were expected to experience The Rapture and be called to Heaven. The letters went out yesterday at 6pm. There is no waiting list. I am used to this sort of rejection. I got rejected at Harvard twice (both college and law school). And my odds were much better both times.

Having not been saved, I am still here for today’s end of The Barclays Premier League season. So, in the spirit of the weekend, it seems only appropriate to pass judgment on the performance of the two teams that I support, Chelsea FC and Fulham FC.

Chelsea’s season has been a great disappointment. After winning both the Premier League and the FA Cup in Carlo Ancelotti’s first year last season, we expected great things. Ancelotti was hired because of his historic success in the Champions League at AC Milan and was expected to lead us to victory in this year’s Champions League Final at Wembley. Unfortunately, we were knocked out of that competition by Manchester United in the quarter-finals. We also were knocked out of the FA Cup early and finished second to Manchester United in the Premier League. So, we end the season empty-handed. The core of the team is aging, with Didier Drogba, Frank Lampard and John Terry all past 30 years old. Both Drogba and Lampard missed significant portions of the season due to illness and injury, which resulted in a meaningful decline in goals scored. Several key players from recent seasons have left. Our youth program has not yet produced the caliber of first team players to replace them and our off-season purchases had insufficient impact. In January, we began to rectify this situation with the purchases of Fernando Torres and David Luiz, but they have taken time to settle in and proved to be too little too late to save this season. We now must look to the off-season as a period of transition with the need to bring in younger players who are capable of performing at a world-class level. In particular, the team needs speed, width and a forward to complement Torres up front.  We will also face a transition to a new manager as Ancelotti was fired shortly after Chelsea’s final game. In my view, the best teams benefit from continuity and stability over time, and we have switched managers too many times in recent years. He deserved another year.

Fulham started the season slowly after the off-season departure of their highly successful manager Roy Hodgson to Liverpool, while perhaps also suffering a bit of a hangover from last year’s glorious and historic campaign to the Europa League Finals. Once they adjusted to new manager Mark Hughes, Fulham had an excellent second half, with eight victories after Christmas and finished eighth, safely in the upper half of the table. The team continued to benefit from a solid defense led by the trio of goaltender Mark Schwarzer and central defenders Brede Hangeland and Aaron Hughes. Captain Danny Murphy has provided leadership and effective passing skill in a strong midfield. And (my favorite) American Clint Dempsey led the team in scoring with thirteen goals. So, it was a very good season at Fulham and we can look forward to another season in the Premier League next year. In the off-season, Fulham will need to add some scoring capability with a quality striker. Both Bobby Zamora and Andrew Johnson played limited minutes this season due to injury and the addition of aging Eidur Gudjohnsen is not likely to fill the hole. Also, Schwarzer, Murphy and Hughes are well-passed 30 years old and Hangeland just turned 30 this month. So, we will be needing some younger replacements for these key players as well.

So, it appears that both of my teams are getting old and are in need of some new blood. On the other hand, if you believe the world is going to end (after five months of torment) in a blaze of fire on October 21, 2011, it just may not be worth the investment.

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