Resurrection – the mark of prophets and fabled kings. Only the figures of myth and the nearest and dearest to religious fervour carry the ability to claw back life from the hands of death. So many films have a similar story-line – the hero looks defeated only to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
The teams of footballing legend have the same ability. Manchester City’s 2012 title-winning campaign showed all the signs of it, and Manchester United’s 1999 Champions League triumph lives long in the memory too. There’s just nothing like coming back from behind.
And it’s a skill. For years Manchester United used to win games in ‘Fergie time’, but Arsenal, Man City and Chelsea have done it plenty of times too. Partly it’s the confidence gained from doing it in the past – if you’ve come back from behind before, or if you’ve scored a last-minute winner before, then you know you can do it again. But it’s also partly because of the never-say-die nature of the best teams and the ruthlessness they possess.
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This weekend, Chelsea showed that, even though they’ve started terribly, they still have this quality.
It was another awful result and another dismal day for Chelsea. They went 2-0 down to worryingly winless Newcastle.
And although they came back into it and salvaged a point, they had a good chance towards the end of the game to snatch a late win.
Jose Mourinho lamented their start of the game afterwards, telling us that you don’t have to play well for 90 minutes in order to win a game, but you can’t play badly for 45 and expect to win it.
He’s right, of course, but he knows as well as anyone else that you’ll have good days and bad days, and the trick is to limit your losses on the bad ones.
And even if the weekend’s result looks bad, that’s why Chelsea can take heart – they limited their losses to two points rather than three. It may be crucial at the end of the season, or it may be irrelevant, but what is relevant for the moment is the fact that Chelsea have shown that they still have the special ability that the best teams need to have.
Even though they didn’t win the game, they did manage something. And if they were managed by Brendan Rodgers, we’d have heard the words ‘great’ and ‘character’ used lavishly in the post-match interviews.
So although they didn’t win the game, and although they were back to ‘crisis Chelsea’ in the first half, when they were shocking defensively, the spirit in the squad was good enough to claw back a point, and the confidence from beating Maccabi Tel-Aviv and Arsenal in back to back games was enough to keep the mini unbeaten run going to four games in all competitions since they lost to Everton.
But title-winning teams don’t just have the spirit to come back from behind because of form and confidence. They also have a swashbuckling nature, they take you on right up until the end and never give in. And it’s because teams like Chelsea are like wild predatory animals.
They have a ruthlessness to them that most teams don’t have. When most teams go a goal up they lack the killer instinct to take the life out of the game. So when a team like Newcastle goes two goals up against Chelsea, Mourinho knows that Newcastle might not be able to show the killer instinct needed to win the game. But when the chance is presented to Chelsea, on the other hand, they take it without needing to be asked.
Chelsea may have had a bad weekend, and even though they seemed to be back to something approaching good form, they still have serious defensive problems to sort out. However, despite all of this Chelsea have positives to take. They may not yet be back from the dead after their awful start to the season, but they have shown that they do at least have that ability.
If they do mount a successful title defence this season after such a bad start, it’ll be close to a miracle. But that’s what the best teams do.