End of any unbeaten run carries a deep sense of loss

End of any unbeaten run carries a deep sense of loss
(From left) Chelsea’s John Terry, Cesc Fabregas and Eden Hazard show their dejection after the 1-2 loss at Newcastle on Saturday. The end of the 14-game EPL winning streak was a psychological blow for the Blues.

SINGAPORE - I have been lucky enough to play for good football clubs, win S-League titles and enjoy a few long unbeaten runs.

During my stints with Geylang United, Singapore Armed Forces FC and Tampines Rovers, there were times when we went more than 10 games without losing. The team was really on fire but I can assure you, the atmosphere was very different inside the dressing room.

You are always mindful of the unbeaten streak, yet not a word about it is spoken in the dressing room. The coaches do not talk about it and neither do the players.

It is all very intense and we all feel the pressure. Deep inside, there is always this fear of losing. You want to stay unbeaten for as long as possible but the sides that do not lose are always prominent targets for the chasing clubs.

Chelsea started the English Premier League season superbly. They were unbeaten in their first 14 matches and many have likened them to the Arsenal team, dubbed the "Invincibles", that went through the entire 2003-04 season without a single defeat.

But they finally lost on Saturday, going down 1-2 at Newcastle.

It may seem like a big blow, losing the chance to repeat what the Gunners did and earn a place in football history. But I am sure inside the Chelsea dressing room, Jose Mourinho and his players are more sore that they had lost three points.

That was how I felt when my teams' unbeaten streaks came to an end. I was unhappy that we could not even save one point.

The unbeaten record is nice to have but after losing to Newcastle, the Blues are just three points ahead of Manchester City. It is the dropped points that hurt.

It is always a dangerous moment when you suffer a psychological blow like that. The air of invincibility is gone and the world knows that you can be beaten.

Arsenal's Invincibles eventually went 49 games without losing but when they finally lost at Manchester United, it exposed their

vulnerability to teams that are more aggressive and this is a situation that still haunts them today.

Incidentally, the Gunners have not won the EPL title since that defeat by the Red Devils.

But I believe Chelsea are capable of handling this setback. The defeat at Newcastle was just one of those days, a mini crisis. I cannot see them collapsing after this.

Mourinho has a big enough squad. He has enough quality in every position on the pitch. He has hungry young players like Eden Hazard and Oscar backed up by the experienced Didier Drogba and John Terry.

We are entering the crucial winter period. The Blues have six more league and cup games to play this month.

Chelsea have already qualified for the round of 16 in the Champions League. They can afford to relax more while City are still battling to survive their group in Europe.

The Blues should be able to hold on to their top spot in the table through this tough month. This defeat will wake them up, rather than demoralise them.

But Newcastle's performance has also shown Man City that Chelsea are not so invincible. If anything, this season's title race had just become more interesting.


This article was first published on December 9, 2014.
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