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Chelsea truly deserves to be called England's best

By Tim Keeble, Soccer Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The 2009-10 English Premiership season will be remembered as one that saw history made, for both good and bad reasons.

Chelsea set the standard for offensive potency as they tallied an eye-popping 103 goals in just 38 games, setting a Premiership record.

And then there was Portsmouth, a club that became the first to enter administration and receive a nine-point deduction along with it, dooming the club to the bottom of the table.

It saw Wigan confound us on a regular basis as the club beat both Arsenal and Chelsea, yet also suffered a pair of eight-goal defeats and managed to finish in 16th place.

But the thing that anyone remembers most about a given season is who finished on top of the table when the final ball was kicked, and that team was Chelsea.

The Blues may have scored a ton of goals this season, but they will not be remembered as one of the great teams in Premiership history when all is said and done.

In fact, their 86 points at the end of the season are the fewest by a league champion since Manchester United claimed the 2002-03 title with 83 points.

Didier Drogba captured the golden boot as England's top scorer with 29 goals.
However, the thing that makes this team special is the fact that they came through a great deal of adversity at different points of the season to finish on top, even if it was just one point ahead of United.

Unlike Jose Mourinho's title teams, which were clearly the best in the league and held the top spot for most of the season, this team had to battle for everything it got.

The title was always in doubt up until the final day, with United and Chelsea taking turns at the top while Arsenal also had a taste midway through the season.

But in the end it was Chelsea who dug down the deepest and put an end to United's three-year run of championships, despite the fact that they had every reason to implode.

It is no secret that John Terry's affair, involving former teammate Wayne Bridge's partner, dominated headlines throughout England during the month of February, and threatened to rip apart not only the national team but also Chelsea.

A media whirlwind was swirling around Stamford Bridge on a constant basis, and it couldn't have been pleasant to come to training every day having to answer questions about something your teammate did off the field.

Terry's picture was splashed all over the cover of British tabloids, and the situation came to a head at the end of February when Chelsea visited Bridge's new team, Manchester City, and was promptly beaten, 4-2.

Terry was in poor form and was stripped of his England captaincy by manager Fabio Capello, and it looked like the wheels were ready to fall off of the Chelsea wagon.

Left-back Ashley Cole also had a highly-publicized separation with his wife, and at this point, manager Carlo Ancelotti had to be feeling more like a babysitter than a soccer coach.

To make matters worse, Chelsea was bounced from the Champions League by Mourinho's Inter Milan a few weeks later, which had to be a slap in the face to Chelsea supporters everywhere.

One of the main reasons why Ancelotti was brought to Stamford Bridge was to deliver the club's first Champions League title, but now he had failed, and his team seemed vulnerable.

However, they responded like champions over the final few months of the season, taking 25 of a possible 30 points in the league while also advancing to the FA Cup final.

There were a few curious results, with a 3-1 loss to Wigan as well as a 1-1 draw with relegated Hull City, illustrating the fact that Chelsea didn't always bring a consistently high level of play to each match.

But when the stakes were highest, against teams like Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United, Chelsea showed the mark of a true champion and raised its game.

The Blues beat each team twice during the season by a combined score of 12-1, which further underlined their superiority.

Through all the tough times there was one constant on the Chelsea team, and it was Frank Lampard, who provided even more evidence that he is one of the top midfielders in Premiership history.

Lampard tallied 22 goals and assisted on 14 more from his midfield position, while starting 36 of Chelsea's 38 games. Even when Terry's form dipped, and the club was left shorthanded because of injuries, Lampard was the one constant.

Striker Didier Drogba captured the golden boot as England's top scorer, but he can often be difficult to deal with as he exhibited again on Sunday.

With Chelsea holding a 1-0 lead midway through the first half, Lampard drew a penalty kick that could put the result basically out of reach and clinch the title.

Lampard has been Chelsea's regular penalty kick man all season, but there was Drogba, pleading with Lampard to let him take the kick as it would improve his chances of winning the golden boot.

When Lampard declined and buried the kick himself, Drogba sulked, and then later admitted his mistake.

Terry may be the captain of Chelsea, but it was Lampard who provided the example of how a player should conduct himself, with dignity and class.

And after it was all over, Lampard was able to reflect on the season that was, and all that his team was able to overcome.

"This is the best team you can get in club football," he told Chelsea's official website.

"We've won the league after not winning it for three years, when Manchester United won it, and we've come back.

"It's been one of those seasons and we have worked our socks off to get where we are today.

"It's really special because there have been ups and downs this season. After the Inter Milan tie people expected us to die away and not win the league but we showed a lot of courage and a lot of quality to come through the way we did."

Usually when a title race comes down to the final day of the season it is a nervy, tense affair filled with dramatic twists and turns.

But for once, Chelsea did something the easy way, quickly taking any drama out of the title race by trouncing Wigan, 8-0, and leaving no doubt as to who should be called champions.



Comments? Criticism? Applause?
Contact Tim Keeble at tkeeble@sportsnetwork.com
Contact Brian Westfall at bwestfall@sportsnetwork.com

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