Scheduled loss?

Oliver Kay posted something on Twitter today that got me thinking… he wrote, “@OliverKayTimes: Only caught final half-hour of Newcastle 2 Chelsea 0. Best I’ve seen #nufc look for a long time. Familiar November performance from #CFC.”

Immediately, I was reminded of a very specific match from a few years back.  During the Holiday season, I was able to sneak out of work a little early, pour a stiff drink and watch Chelsea v. Arsenal.  I had high hopes for the match as Chelsea was battling to retain their EPL title and had recently slipped out of the top spot after losing 2 and drawing 3 in their last 5.  This was going to be a chance for Ancelotti to rally the troops and make a charge to the top of the table.Then, this happened:  The Blues were dominated in every way, shape and form.  It was an awful performance and it ruined my best laid plans.

This morning, again on the road, Chelsea put forth an effort that was eerily reminiscent of that match at the Emirates a few years back.  I couldn’t shake that initial feeling that the Blues played quite poorly and I’d seen this before.  As much as we all love him, Lampard was far from top form today.  It felt like his first touch was off, he wasn’t controlling the the play, and wasn’t good on the few set pieces he controlled.  Mata and Oscar never seemed to be on the same page and more often than not, seemed to be getting in each others way.  David Luiz seemed to have the right passing ideas, but almost always sent a pass that was FAR too heavy for anyone to handle.  It was a lousy performance all around… but was/is Oliver Kay right?  Is this the start of another November to forget?

I say no and not just because I want to believe that.

In the NBA there is a concept of the “Scheduled Loss.”  In essence, one can look at the schedule at the beginning of the season and say, regardless of the talent on the court, Team A will lose to Team B.  Typically it will appear during a stretch of 3 games in 4 nights or when the favorite is either coming off an emotional game or is facing on the next night.  The energy just isn’t there, they team lacks focus, and will get upset.
Just this past week, the two time defending champion Miami Heat played their first game of the season.  It was the night they received their Championship rings, raised their banner, and played one of their fiercest rivals.  In a hard fought, emotional, game the Heat won by a sizable margin proving once again they are the team to beat.  24 hours later they were playing a less talented 76ers team in Philadelphia who are more interested in gaining the #1 pick in next years draft than winning games this season.  What happened? 76ers 114 – Miami 110.  The reaction by most pundits… scheduled loss.
Taking a step back, today had all the makings for a “Scheduled Loss” for Chelsea. Independent of the crummy weather and the less appealing playing surface, I think today was more a result of the incredible run they’ve been on and less about Newcastle or any internal shortcomings.  In the month since the Basel fiasco, Chelsea has put forth some amazing efforts in the EPL (City), UCL (@Steaua Bucuresti & @ Schalke), and the Capital One Cup (@Arsenal).  Am I saying losing is acceptable, hardly… but I am saying a simple let down isn’t out of the question.
Now, if they lost to Schalke at the Bridge on Wednesday, forget I wrote any of this.

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