It was mildly amusing to me when I found myself flying during the Carling Cup final on Sunday, missing Spurs 2-1 win over Chelsea. The last time they were in the final – the 2002 defeat to Blackburn – I also found myself 38,000 feet over ground. I’ve just booked flights to co-incide with the 2009 FA Cup and 2010 Champions League final.
My interest in the match wasn’t that high even though, of course, I wanted Spurs to win. My hopes weren’t high either: I thought Chelsea’s midfield would overrun us and Drogba/Anelka would batter us at the back.
But the reality was that whoever manages Chelsea got it all wrong: Anelka played on the left wing, Lampard selected despite being totally unfit and John Terry too busy jawing with the officials to concentrate on leading his team. There is a belief that Avram Grant has done a good job at Chelsea when, really, he hasn’t. Three defeats in thirty four games might sound like a good record but when you’re losing the games you most need to prove your mettle in (Arsenal, Man U and a cup final versus a top European manager) then there are going to be questions asked.
Roman Abramovich has spent over half a billion pounds on Chelsea and, while they have some superb players, one wonders who actually calls the shots. Is it Abramovich, who is rumoured to influence team selection and was the main mover and shaker behind the purchase of Michael Ballack and Andrei Shevchenko? Grant could be nothing more than a puppet for him, willing to make the sacrificies and selections that Jose Mourinho would not.
Perhaps it’s John Terry whose rumoured detiorating relationship with Mourinho was a contributing factor in the latter’s eventual demise. Terry may be a nice guy but he sure as hell doesn’t come across that way: arrogant, argumentative, a bad loser and wears a permanent scowl – all factors that qualify him as a future manager of Arsenal. News just out this morning that he had a blazing row before the cup final with assistant manager Henk ten Cate.
Did Frank Lampard – two goals against fourth division Huddersfield to his name last week – insist on a Wembley runout despite not being fit enough to compete against a manic Didier Zokora and energetic Jermaine Jenas? Wouldn’t Michael Ballack have been a better man to start with? It seems that Ballack believes it and rumours about today that Lampard talked his way in to the team at the expense of Ballack which has to go down, if true, as utterly unprofessional behaviour by both Lampard and Grant.
Along with the odd 4-3-3 formation (Joe Cole left on the bench for 99 minutes) it just never got started for Grant’s team and his lack of activity during extra time – where Steve Clark and John Terry seemed to take over – was noted by journalists and observers. Grant might be in his final months if he fails to get Chelsea to at least a Champions League final.