Wednesday, May 02, 2007


Abramovich's Holy Grail

So much for Chelsea's quadruple.

Jose Mourinho may carp and belittle, but in truth, Chelsea hardly deserved to go through after failing to go for the throat at Stamford Bridge. A week ago, they seemed certain that 1-0 at home would be enough.

To my mind, it is indeed the "just enough" style of the current Chelsea side that makes them unworthy of lifting the European Cup. Although Mourinho has gone close now on two occasions, he has been, not so much out-generalled, but matched by Rafa Benitez's Liverpool (as opposed to 2006, when Chelsea were simply beaten by a better side).

Although Chelsea have been able to capture a disproportionate number of the world's top players thanks to Abramovich's bottomless pockets, they don't have the sort of player capable of regularly producing game-turning surprises. I suggested as much here, and I'm even more convinced of it now (OK, I was wrong about Barca).

It amazes me that Frank Lampard is still rated so highly after a wretched World Cup and a relatively indifferent season for Chelsea. In terms of general (an apt word, that) involvement, his international colleague Steven Gerrard regularly puts him to shame.

There are some players at Chelsea who are deserving of sympathy. Not least Didier Drogba, who has had a superb season, and on whom so much of the attacking burden is placed. Claude Makelele is another; after an uncertain start in English football, he has added some bite and physicality to his game, and his positioning and short passing remain exemplary.

But if Abramovich is to finally obtain his Holy Grail, he might just have to shell out for a player who rises above the prosaic - and, perhaps, a manager willing to entrust the creative duties to such a specimen.

I couldn't agree more. The only thing thought I have to add is that Chelsea do have one of the greats of world football, perhaps the greatest player ever to play in his position in Claude Makelele. A big wrap I know but witness the way Real Madrid’s defence fell apart the second he left the club. Pavon and Helguera were at one time considered the best defenders in the world. Then look at the improvement in Chelsea’s defence with his arrival. John Terry was never considered world class until he had Makelele shielding him and the massive improvement in Frank Lampard’s game coincides with the point in time when Makelele started doing all of his work in midfield. Now Makelele is ageing Lampard is expected to actually do things in midfield instead of just shooting from range and his lack of versatility is showing. Also the revival of France in the lead up to the world cup owed as much to the return of Makelele as it did to the return of Zidane. I think one of the reasons that Chelsea has had so much success in the league and so little in the knockout stages of the Champions League is that the star player of the team is a defensive midfielder, which says a lot about the attitude of the club and Mourinho in particular.
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