THOROUGHLY SECOND-BEST

By Rob Hobson
In News
Feb 26th, 2008

You’d think that a good 24-hour period of reflection would be needed after losing to Spurs in a competitive final but, in truth, no Chelsea fan with even an iota of self-respect can do other than hold their hands up today and acknowledge that the better team won on the day.Second in nearly every department across the park – with the notable exception of goalkeeper, and then only because Robinson was hardly called upon to hold a shot – Chelsea were harried, outpassed, and deservedly the losers on an afternoon I chose to spend next to the least gracious winner in the northern hemisphere, with the possible exception of Andy Murray. Still, it’s been a long time coming for him, so it’s hard to begrudge a bit of badinage.

Mentions in despatches for Woodgate – who was immense all afternoon – and Jenas, who dictated the pace of the midfield with far more precision than his Chelsea counterparts. The less said about the tactical decision that placed Nicolas Anelka in a wide left position the better, but it failed spectacularly, both relegating Anelka to onlooker and exposing Wayne Bridge time and time again. Gruesome to watch.

I see that the ever-churlish Daily Mail has run a piece with the warm-hearted headline “José would not have blown it”, but perhaps they’re right. What is almost certain now is a chorus of scepticism about the role of Chelsea’s manager. Another couple of results like this and it’ll be interesting to see whether Grant’s much-vaunted 4-year contract is worth the paper it’s printed on. His side was, more or less, fully fit. He chose what looks to be Chelsea’s strongest eleven, arguments about the midfield something of a matter of personal taste. But we were left with a shapeless, careless Chelsea that surrendered possession and failed to press up front until the last 20 minutes or so. With Woodgate in fine form, it was actually one of Tottenham’s more comfortable wins of the season.

There are bigger trophies to be won this season. But this observer wonders if the manner of the defeat, rather than the fact itself, might come back to haunt the team’s custodian when we reach the summer break. Because, in truth, Chelsea offered very little of note at Wembley on Sunday.

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