I read with interest a post on thechelseablog.org yesterday that argued Chelsea aren’t getting the credit they deserve. Looking back over Sunday’s papers and football TV shows, I think their argument might just have hit the nail on the head. Sadly however, it is nothing new.
The back pages of at least half the broadsheets and tabloids were full of either stories of Gianfranco Zola’s potential exit from West Ham or Man Utd’s all too easy victory over Bolton (certainly made easier by another own goal and Vidic’s overlooked elbow). The casual shopper scouring the newsagent paper rack could very easily have assumed the stand-out performance of the weekend – and potentially the season – occurred nowhere near SW6.
Sky Sports’ Soccer Supplement – usually relatively entertaining on a Sunday morning – was worse. Chelsea’s demolition of Aston Villa received no mention at all, save from the Times’ Patrick Barclay using the game as an opportunity to brand Chelsea as a ‘disgrace’, apparently for showing ‘no consistency whatsoever’ and not winning the title. As he continued to pile his unforgiving criticism onto the club (pausing only to inwardly reflect on the beauty of his own voice), Barclay’s anti-Chelsea tirade seemed increasingly out of keeping with the previous day’s results.
Barclay certainly didn’t recognise that Chelsea had scored seven goals in one game for the second time in the season. He also didn’t note that it was against the team that, at the start of the day, had the joint-best defence in the league and had defeated Chelsea comfortably at Villa Park. Although on a flat vein of form, Martin O’Neil’s men were enjoying a comfortable position in the table and were still talking of a potential challenge for the fourth spot.
Barclay didn’t seem to have a grasp of reality on the consistency point, either. Chelsea can only have been just as consistent as Utd and Arsenal (who have lost more games than Chelsea this season), hence the league table. He seemed to assume that Chelsea have some god-given duty to be top of the table because of its squad, neatly forgetting that investment in that ageing squad has certainly been matched – or exceeded – by Man Utd in recent years. Finally – and in such a contrast to the previous criticism Chelsea have endured for playing boring football at the hands of journalists such as Barclay – Ancelotti’s team have scored more goals than any other team in the league. And that was the case even before the game against Villa.
Bearing all that in mind, surely Chelsea’s 7-1 victory (and strong response to disappointments against Inter and Blackburn) would be worth at least a short mention?
But no. Barclay and his esteemed colleagues – including Martin Samuel, who usually talks a huge amount of sense in my opinion – used the opportunity to talk about Man Utd’s greatness at huge length, particularly as they had achieved a 4-0 win against Bolton (yes, Bolton) without either Rooney or Ferdinand. At that point, surely someone would mention that Drogba didn’t feature against Villa? Or Essien? Or Bosingwa? Or Ashley Cole? Or Ivanovic? Or Carvalho? All starting XI players. No, that was forgotten too.
And after jointly rejoicing in Man Utd’s brilliance, it was Arsenal’s turn. They play wonderful football, the way a club should be run, etc. You get the idea. This after a rather disappointing result against Birmingham. No discussion of the Villa game. No mention of Lampard’s achievements.
I sound bitter. I understand journalists aren’t duty bound to talk about Chelsea, and even less so to be positive. But we should expect some degree of objectivity and balance. Where Chelsea are concerned, that balance is sometimes missing.
Of course no-one can deny that Chelsea have actively contributed to that lack of balance over the last few years. Roman’s huge investment, player scandals, tapping-up stories, haranguing of referees, Kakuta-gate and a generally arrogant demeanour at all levels of the club have unsurprisingly made Chelsea’s positives very easy to overlook and created a media with a hostile position by default. You also get the sense though that this is a media populated with men brought up on the successes of Man Utd, Arsenal and Liverpool and more prone to these occasional bouts of selective amnesia.
If Chelsea beat Utd on Saturday however – obviously far from a given – even Barclay may need to readjust his position. Fingers crossed.
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