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Chelsea - Crystal Palace 4-1
Swiss banks, tele-operators’ customer service, Chelsea’s goal, these are the most protected things in the world, nobody can get through. It is almost easier to get gold by robbing Fort Knox than stealing the silverwear by scoring behind Peter Cech.
It is a sunny Saturday afternoon, I get a ball in midfield like millions of times before. This time though there are immediately two players pressuring me so I have to pass it quickly. The only options throughout the game I get is to play the ball wide, the centre is crowded like Oxford Street before Christmas. The whole game I see an opposition defending narrow, aggressive, organised and with numbers. We get it often to our wide-men, who are then battling to beat couple of the best defenders in the world. Only to get a cross in. If we manage, there are still physically massive players waiting for the ball. Sounds like a lot has to go right today. To even get a chance to try to finish against one of the best goal keepers in the world. Welcome to the Stamford Bridge.
All of our starting eleven together is worth one fifth of Drogba. So basically we equal his right leg. I could feel bit unfair that if Makelele cost fifty times more than me why are we still just one on one on the pitch. Not really, there isn’t and shouldn’t be any handicap in football. Because you don’t play with your wallet either. You have to prove your value every time. Money doesn’t guarantee the quality, but it surely is an indicator of it. Being valued Chelsea much means you are top of the range. They can afford it. Money talks. Mourinho have plenty of both – money and talking. That is not just a start of a good football team but also jealously. Apart from Chelsea supporters who wouldn’t like the idea that trophies and titles couldn’t be bought? This is what Chelsea is been accused for now.
Honestly, did you even know who were Tiago, Ricardo Carvalho, Jarosik or Paulo Ferreira before they came to Chelsea? They are all good players but not the biggest names in the football map pre-Chelsea. Instead of buying Ronaldos, Maldinis, Roberto Carlos and so on, Mourinho took fairly unknown players. He went for players that were right for his team and cause, far from creating the over stared mayhem of Real Madrid. Mourinho didn’t spend on names, he spend on team. He got it right. I don’t think Chelsea won anything this year with money, rather by good team planning.
Chelsea has a Mourinho stamp all over it. He doesn’t just do the business. He is the business. He has built a team of his kind. A winning one. Not for Spanish or Italian league. Winning team for English football. I’ve given it to Chelsea already. Since our title hopes are gone, I just don’t think anybody can catch them now. They are simply too effective and too solid defensively to blow it. The quest of finding a route through the meanest defence in the Premiership still remains. You could even think Cech could get fat and bored because the lack of job in the Chelsea goal. Unlike the previous champions this trophy is won by defending. Chelsea doesn’t play with the flair of Arsenal or the total football of Manchester United. They play it simple. They play Mourinho. He has mastered the effectiveness and defensive principles from Porto to Chelsea. The work is genius. He knows it and admits it.
How has Mourinho mastered defence so that even one of the most inventive attacking sides in the universe Barcelona run out of ideas? I would say he has made his defence disciplined, organised and physical. Can just three words be enough to change the English football! In theory yes because these are principles which prevent most of the situations leading to goals in modern football: counter attacks, mistakes and set pieces. Chelsea isn’t prone to these.
Case counter attack: Chelsea always defends with five or six men behind the ball. Makelele controls the game and Lampard or Tiago recover quickly to the shape and they always foul early if in doubt. Terry, Gallas, Carvalho and Ferreira are clever and proper athletes. You rarely have a chance to run at them, even harder is to run away from them. Or outmuscle them. If in doubt they just drop deep and narrow. Centre midfielders defend close to their back four leaving no caps between the lines or in the middle. It is like banging your head to a brick wall trying to pass through the centre, ask Barcelona. However at sides Chelsea lets you have some possession, they even let you cross the ball. In crosses and set pieces though, you still have to win your battle over Terry, Gallas and Carvalho and then beat Cech! It is better chance than getting your Italian food delivery on time, but not likely at all. Physical teams with air threat have been the most difficult ones for Chelsea so far.
Case mistakes: Quality and not trying to be too good decrease individual errors. Chelsea defenders are humble enough to clear it, foul it or even over simplify it. When there is even little doubt, they don’t try to show their value by tricks but by making the ball or man go hard, high and far.
So to score against Chelsea you have to beat a lot of quality and odds. The sole glimpses of brilliance like Ronaldinhos goal won’t ever be constant enough to give a real problem to the longer plan. Or you can just wait whole season for a miskick and tap it in like me. Either way you have only then scored a goal, not won over them. My first thought after our Saturday’s meeting was about fishing. When you have something in the hook, you have to first give some rod. The moment we thought we were in the game and attacking them by their invitation, we were suddenly dead meat in their frying pan by one counter attack. That is Mourinho written all over it. And he salutes it with smile. He has done it again.