Columnist

Pat Nevin: Wembley way of winning

  • 22 May 2018

Pat Nevin was at the big match on Saturday and he watched a defender view vindicated, a game-plan replicated and a tribute opportunity missed.

It never gets boring and it never gets old, I mean of course winning major trophies.

Once again up at Wembley, Chelsea had enough quality even after what has been a difficult season to find a way to get the job done. There were probably very few ways in which we could have overcome the favourites, but Antonio found one of them and it just underlines the health of many areas in the club that we are the first to win the FA Cup, the Women’s FA Cup and the FA Youth Cup in the same season. That is a fantastic treble!
 

Part of the plan on Saturday must have been to look back at the recent home win against Liverpool and do just about exactly the same once again. We did just that and got precisely the same result, even if Man United got a chance or two more than Jurgen Klopp’s men did.

Jose Mourinho was clearly very frustrated and ventured the opinion that the better team lost but that was pure psychology trying to work on the spirits of his own players. Jose knew fine well that ironically, he had just been Mourinho-ed himself and it must have been torture for him. In secret he will probably have much admiration for tactics developed by himself being used against his side so perfectly.

It will not go down in history as a classic but when it comes to cup finals, I would rather win an average one than lose one of the greatest games in the competition’s history! I have the mental scars to prove that from the 1989 final, as I mentioned here last week.
Like everyone else, I hoped Eden Hazard would have one of his productive days and he didn't let any of us down. He was far too hot for the United defence to handle each time he managed to wriggle free of the limpet like Ander Herrera.

The goal that won the FA Cup!

There were other fine performances but for once, I totally agreed with the choice made at Wembley for Man of the Match. Antonio Rudiger has managed to stay under the radar of many Premier League watchers outside of Stamford Bridge. I was beginning to get fed up with the sneering looks I was getting from some when I said he was probably the best proponent of the art of pure defending in the Premier League at the moment. That has now changed.


The secret is now out. In short, if Rudiger is marking you then you might as well pass the ball because neither you nor anyone else is going to get past him in a one-on-one battle. It doesn't seem to matter if they try to outpace him or use outrageous skills, one after the other the top players have found out pretty quickly that it’s a bit pointless even trying. This game provided the final evidence if any was needed, Antonio Rudiger is now a cult figure with the Chelsea fans and it is almost unthinkable not starting him in any game that has meaning at all.

He joins Azpi, Eden Hazard, N'Golo Kante and Thibaut Courtois in what I hope will be the base of the team going forward for quite some time. It is the summer now and there will be changes, there always are, but as long as those five stick around it will be possible to be competitive at the highest levels.
I wouldn't insult your intelligence by ignoring the fact that there is some uncertainty in the air and who knows what will happen. I personally know absolutely nothing more than anyone else, but an FA Cup win and some world-class players must certainly give us hope for the future whichever direction it takes us in. To be fair, uncertainty is not uncommon for the modern Chelsea fan and I reckon we are all much more sanguine about it than we used to be, the trophies have generally kept rolling along with a pleasing regularity and I reckon that may continue.

I did have one gripe about the cup final. The FA surpassed itself with the fitting huge banners they produced pre-match showing the hugely missed Ray Wilkins in the red of United and the blue of Chelsea. They were even beautifully considerate asking his wife Jackie to present the trophy at the end, but it was a great shame they continued to blast that ear-splitting music over the PA system as our lads went up to collect the trophy. At that moment every Chelsea fan was singing Ray’s name in a perfect, poignant show of respect and love. The problem is that it was impossible to hear the fans over the unnecessary music. I am a fan of Iggy Pop's 'Lust for Life' as much as anyone, but it was a crass misjudgement to keep playing it just then over what should have been a defining memory of day.
 

Nonetheless, it was a very positive end to the playing season in general, or at least it is for those whose season is actually ending. There were many out on the Wembley turf whose minds would have been turning towards Russia even as they towelled off the sweat in the dressing room. Because of the World Cup and a whole variety of other reasons, this is a pivotal close season. Plenty of players will scarcely get a break and will certainly suffer at some points during the next campaign, whether that is from fatigue injuries or just fatigue itself.

What the club does over the next few months will be colossally important because of this. All you have to do is look at the effect one injury had on Manchester United. Missing Romelu Lukaku definitely blunted their attacking force and we were the beneficiaries. Jose Mourinho will not let that happen again next season, he is far too smart for that; there will be good strong cover at Manchester United. The same must be the case at Chelsea if we are going to get back in the top four and challenge for everything else, including what could be a long slog in the Europa League.

A fit-again David Luiz would offer plenty of options as he is a quality option at the back and in midfield. We will also be considering which players out on loan have shown enough to be drafted back into the squad. Even so, I suspect there will be movement and strengthening elsewhere. There are lots of questions swirling around the club, but then again when has that not been the case.

Fortunately for us, we can relax for a while and enjoy the World Cup. I’ll be there and reporting back to you here, so even I will not be getting a real break! That said that I am definitely not complaining about being there and with any luck we might just see one of our future stars shining during the tournament. I have no idea who will actually win the tournament and I like that uncertainty, I guess you have to take that attitude if you are a Chelsea fan.
 

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