A loss for football – or a victory for hard work and dedication?
So much weight is given to the apparently admirable concept these days, of winning with fluent and attractive football, that in my opinion the true qualities of a great football team are becoming frustratingly overlooked. I’ve written before that I think the best thing for football is to see as many different styles and methods contrasted at the highest level, and this is because if everyone tried to emulate the likes of Barca and Bayern, then we’ll only end up seeing the best team win 99 times out of 100. This obviously makes football a lot more predictable and consequently far less exciting.
Bewilderingly though, not everyone seems to share this idea, including Matthias Sammer, the ex-Germany captain who said after Saturday’s game, “It’s unfair a team like Chelsea can win titles”. The stupidity of this statement lies not only within its bitterness but also in its ignorance of what Chelsea’s triumph represents. I’m pretty sure that soon Sammer and everyone else who shares his opinion are going to realise that what Chelsea have achieved this season is about 20% down to tactics and 80% down to the character and grit and determination of some the greatest players of the past 20 years. No matter how you line-up or approach a game, if you defeat a side with the pedigree of Bayern Munich in their home stadium, via a penalty shootout in front of their own fans – then you have achieved something very special and your methods are more than vindicated.
I’m pleased this is obviously a sentiment shared by Roberto Di Matteo, as pointed out by BC’s @roger_federer, “a German journalist took an interview from Robbie at the end. The last question was “Do you find Chelsea’s playing style beautiful?” Robbie just shook his head and walked away.” I love that for all his composure and level-headedness these past few months, he just refused to let Chelsea be insulted like that – well done Robbie.
On a less philosophical note, I feel this blog needs to make a big deal of the fact that the trophy cabinet at Stamford Bridge now contains one more major honour than the one at White Hart Lane. As if hilariously dumping them out of the Champions League wasn’t enough, we have finally ended any claim they have to being the bigger club, further evidence of which may be their inability to hold on to Gareth Bale and Luka Modric this summer. No doubt the travelling Spuds will still chant “Shit Club – No History” at the Bridge next season, I’m just looking forward to the rapidly approaching day when the irony of it becomes embarrassingly apparent on their part.
Anyway, crushing the dreams of Spurs fans may have been a delightful bonus on Saturday but personally, crushing Bayern’s felt far more satisfying. Clips and images of Bavarians celebrating like they’d won the cup before the match had started, along with the pre-match interviews of some Bayern players, just made their whole approach seem a bit amateur and obtuse to me. They had themselves convinced that this was their year and there was no way little Chelsea could obstruct them. Meanwhile, all Chelsea supporters seemed to have to say was how proud they were of their club for reaching the final and how much they wanted the likes of Drogba and Lampard and Cole to do it for themselves. I don’t think there is another squad in the world who can utilize the tag of being an ‘underdog’ as well as Chelsea, our mentality heading in to these big matches is rarely anything other than perfect, and that’s for going back a long time.
Didier Drogba and Arjen Robben are two of the greatest of their generation and both had great games on Saturaday, but ultimately I’d say this weekend summed them up as players perfectly. Robben revealed how he “still loved Chelsea”, but “was going to have to disappoint them”, then proceeded to choke when it mattered, (like he did two years ago in the UCL and World Cup finals). Drogba on the other hand only spoke about the importance of this match for the team, before going on to deliver in the final yet again, winning the trophy with possibly his last kick of the ball for Chelsea. That’s what distinguishes the best players from the all time greats. For me the way he has ended this campaign distinguishes Drogba over Weah and Milla and Eto’o as the greatest African Player of all time as well as Chelsea’s greatest ever centre forward.
Looking forward then, and trying to remain objective, I can’t imagine Roberto Di Matteo not being given the job. The work he has done tactically and motivating this group has been exemplary and given the lack of availability of anyone guaranteed to do a better job; this decision should be a no brainer for the club. Also I think the biggest thing Di Matteo has going for him is the adaptability he’s shown to work with players whom he didn’t sign, used to playing in a system he wasn’t used to coaching. This surely must give the owner and directors the confidence to stick with Di Matteo and pursue with plans and transfer targets they drew up before his promotion. That isn’t to say he shouldn’t be consulted on footballing matters, but still, the board know they won’t have to give him any more control than they feel comfortable with in order to see results.
Next season then will see Chelsea compete for the Premier League, League Cup, Community Shield, European Super Cup, FIFA Club World Cup, as well the defense our FA Cup and Champions League Titles. Hopefully with the instating of Di Matteo as permanent manager and the signing of some world-class young players, Chelsea can enter their first season as past champions of Europe, looking like a side finally devoid of the lingering influences of Jose Mourinho’s reign, and ready to build on this phenomenal achievement, creating a legacy that will sustain this club as a European powerhouse for a long long time to come.