Gary Neville is right. It’s not often you hear someone be that unequivocal in celebrating a pundit’s genius, but when it comes to his take on the withering criticism that has come Chelsea’s way, Neville has not put a foot wrong.
Chelsea look set to win the Premier League with 3 games to spare, with a ten point advantage, in a league that is notoriously competitive – more so than every other league, except for the latest editions of La Liga. And yet the sniping at Chelsea’s alleged boring style of football continues unabated.
What. pray tell, would make the Blues look attractive to these hard-to-please souls?
Perhaps Chelsea ought to capitulate in the manner Bayern Munich did against Borussia Dortmund in the penalty shootout that determined the winners of the DFB Pokal semi-finals. Or perhaps Chelsea ought to squander an early goal advantage and lose in a 5-3 mauling to Tottenham Hotspur. Or perhaps Chelsea ought to trade blow for blow with a notoriously profligate Manchester United side, gifting a goal for every single one they score.
The criticism of Chelsea’s boring style is driven by the fact the Blues have effectively turned one of the most competitive sporting leagues on the planet into a one-team show. This isn’t a league that’s even looking for who’s second best anymore. With that imperious gap between them and the also-rans, Chelsea deserves to grab all top four spots – with Arsenal likely finishing a creditable 5th. That would be justice.
Chelsea’s sole embarrassment this season came at the hands of Paris St Germain, during a tough time for the club racked with injuries and trying desperately to shake off the exhaustion of a winter season. Bereft of inspiration and saddled with tired legs, the Blues stumbled to give PSG a berth in the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals and its detractors a wealth of fodder.
It is boring that a single side has dominated the Premier League 2014-15 season from the start of the season. As Gary Neville points out, the blame for that should lie squarely at the feet of Manuel Pellegrini, Arsene Wenger, Louis van Gaal and Brendan Rodgers. Claiming the Blues have stymied their own creative instincts against the big sides, is the kind of absurdity to be expected from people whose attention spans can only tolerate the mindless back and forth game of volleyball the “attacking” teams seem to console themselves with.
Jose Mourinho and Chelsea deserve to be commended for the way they’ve absorbed the best attacking talent the Premier League could throw at them, and still come out standing.
Like Mohammad Ali against George Foreman, Chelsea have relied on a “rope-a-dope” strategy to keep the other big sides from inflicting too much pain. Creditable draws to high-flying Manchester City ensured Pellegrini’s men wouldn’t narrow the lead and instead fall victim to their own weaknesses against lesser opposition. A 2-0 win against Arsenal, followed by a goalless draw at the Emirates in the reverse fixture, left nobody in any doubt as to who was top dog in the Mourinho-Wenger battle of wits.
If Chelsea failed to impress against Manchester United earlier in the season, conceding a late goal in a hard-fought draw, the Blues more than made amends in the next edition beating Manchester United with less than 30% of the possession. Liverpool too fell victim to Chelsea in the Capital One Cup semi-final, in a tournament that Chelsea went on to win against a hapless Spurs side, not to mention a 2-1 defeat of the Reds at Anfield.
It would fall to reason then that the only reason Chelsea have not been entertaining enough, is because the Blues have been bored out of their skulls by what the rest of the league considers real competition. The Blues have won with one of their hands tied behind their backs, and a blindfold on for good measure as they stomped about with a cigar in their mouths, still hungover from the previous night.
This isn’t Ali v Foreman. This is Tyson wrestling one of his pet pigeons.