Chelsea’s victory against Manchester United in the FA Cup last night brought up two main conclusions – (a) N’Golo Kante is brilliant and (b) the commentary left quite a lot to be desired.
The frequency with which Martin Keown seemed to baffle himself, as well as the rest of the nation, became unbearable. At one point he said ‘Chelsea are so good, they’re so ruthless.’ Well, scraping a 1-0 win at home against an already inferior team who were missing at least two of their prize assets, having played with 10 men for over an hour, is not ruthless. Quite the opposite. And for the record, I’m not a United fan.
Chelsea passed comfortably in the second half without ever really looking like finishing the game off. In truth, Kante’s goal, whilst well-placed, should have been saved. Willian, Hazard and Costa looked lively without ever really creating many clear-cut opportunities. Chelsea should have put this match out of reach. Gary Neville made this point on a recent podcast (a medium actually worth bothering with) about why Hazard isn’t quite in the same bracket as Messi and Ronaldo, i.e. a contentment at doing the bare minimum just to win. It’s an attitude which seems to have coloured the rest of the team.
The best chance of the second half actually fell to a United player in the form of Rashford, but he proceeded to find Courtois in the centre of his goal when the whole world, not least my girlfriend, yearned for a chip. On commentary following this miss, Keown said, ‘He’s so sharp Rashford. We’re looking into the future here.’ Thanks Martin, that should provide some solace to disheartened United and England fans – staring into the future of fluffing one-on-ones? The general consensus from the elite punditry team after the match? A stunning save from Courtois. Of course, Lampard agreed, gleeful in his idle bias. It was a bad miss, just call it for what it was.
The interviews following the match included the normally-capable and likeable Dan Walker grilling both Mourinho and Conte, desperate for controversial remarks about the referee. Thankfully, both managers looked uncomfortable but responded well and skilfully disguised their fury at such ridiculous questioning.
Here’s the thing, the pundits need to cool their jets – Chelsea won’t dominate the league next season. No European football and the lack of pressure based on last season’s abomination have contributed to the dominance seen this year. Things have just aligned. Next season, Conte may well not be painted as ‘charming, encouraging enthusiast’, but more ‘shouty, desperate loose cannon’ (see ‘Paulo Di Canio circa 2013’).
In football in general, the short-termism is becoming all-encompassing. It may even go some way to back up John Nicholson’s article on why so few people are watching football on the TV now. Most people watch the big games, the Sunday extravangas, in the pub. You can see the tie-clipped pundits jabbering but, on the whole, you feel relieved that it’s all interspersed with the humdrum and clinks of pint glasses, someone losing on the IT box and Ray Winstone threatening people to gamble money they don’t have.
It was Keown’s former central defensive partner, Tony Adams, who alluded to this on his Desert Island Discs episode in 2010 when asked whether he was affected by comments made about his managerial career. ‘Oh, you learn very early on to watch football without commentary. I don’t listen to any of that.’
Do yourselves a favour, try to make up your own minds.
Chris Henderson – follow me on Twitter here