Season over, now the hard work begins
Jose Mourinho was swift to praise his Chelsea side after it came from behind to beat Cardiff 2-1, but in a season where his side took maximum points from the two teams that finished above his men, a final place of third will go down as a disappointment.
“We deserved it, especially for an end-of-season game when a team is playing for nothing apart from pride,” said the Chelsea boss after the game. “It means nothing. We know we finished third, but the feeling is good.
"It's part of a process. One thing is to play clearly to win the title; another is to be in a transitional phase. If we do our work in a successful way during the summer market, which I know the club is trying to do, I will start day one by saying we are going to fight for the title.”
Mourinho signed off the season without the trophy, and after winning nothing with Real Madrid last time out, he has gone back-to-back campaigns without lifting silverware. He does, however, retain the blessing and backing of Chelsea supporters and presumably club owner Roman Abramovich.
The excuses for failure came thick and fast after the desperate defeats against Aston Villa, Crystal Palace and Sunderland. Next season, you would suspect a different story.
For the meantime, fans can look on the bright side of life and humour themselves with memories of that slip from Steven Gerrard in the barren summer months without Premier League football.
In truth, it has been an underwhelming end to the season, and the final day’s events typified this. Chelsea’s trip to Cardiff was a meaningless match, with the title long gone for Mourinho’s men and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side relegated. Even the title decider up north went off without much incident, with City cruising to the Premier League title.
Late goals from Andre Schurrle and Fernando Torres turned things around in Wales after Craig Bellamy had opened the scoring, with the Torres' strike perhaps a parting present. His exit from Stamford Bridge seems certain this summer as Mourinho looks to improve a strike-force that has so often failed to deliver.
Mourinho rang in the changes for this fixture, giving Ashley Cole a run out as skipper and fielding Tomas Kalas alongside Branislav Ivanovic in central defence. John Obi Mikel earned a recall to defensive midfield, partnering Nemanja Matic, while Oscar was deemed fit enough to start.
The Brazilian began to show glimpses of his early season form but soon enough, Chelsea were behind. Eden Hazard, recently criticised by Mourinho, was dispossessed and Bellamy ended up taking full advantage.
The goal rather summed up the season -- conceding sloppily against the run of play. It highlighted Chelsea’s shortcomings in a season where the title was there for the taking and although the Blues ran out winners in the end, it didn't matter. The 2013-14 campaign will be remembered for the failure of Mourinho’s varying teams to take their chances and ripple the opposition’s net.
There were no changes at the interval and Chelsea continued where they had left off in the first period, huffing and puffing with nothing to show for their intricate endeavour. Mo Salah looked industrious while Hazard and Oscar looked bored at times -- perhaps the World Cup was already on their minds. Schurrle eventually alleviated the dullness with his equaliser and Torres netted the winner on what may be his last appearance for the club.
As for the respective teams, Cardiff head back to where they came from with a whimper and Chelsea settled for third, with their tails between their legs.