Malouda – Player of the Year?

The Times today ran one of their regular bits, an insert into the Sports section: Fink Tank created and written by Daniel Finklestein. The Fink Tank basically pulls together information from every game played, every minute on the pitch and valuing players particularly for their ‘contribution to increasing the probability of a goal scored or defended.’ Crucially, points are not adjusted in light of minutes played, but that shouldn’t be a case against its merit. The Fink Tank’s player of the season this year for Europe is Lionel Messi, and last year’s winner for the Premier League was Didier Drogba. So it’s safe to say that this giant stat crunching machine’s picks are usually in lieu with the view of pundits. So many people will be completely surprised to hear that, from these stats, Florent Malouda is the Premier League’s player of the season. What was that? A stat crunching computer completely devoid of any bias that assesses every single minute played throws up a Chelsea player? It’s hard to believe because we of course rarely hear anything about the blues. MOTD for one is a programme far too concerned with those teams far further north than SW6, but believe it or not, there wasn’t a Man Utd player in sight in Fink Tank’s top 10. Furthermore, we have the ageing, lost half a yard in pace John Terry and perfect role model Ashley Cole in 4th and 6th place respectively.

Now before this all sounds like a bitter lament at the lack of coverage given to Chelsea in the media or particularly on programmes such as MOTD, this chunk of data, whilst a strong case for Malouda’s input this season, doesn’t show the best single player or team. We can’t argue with Ferguson’s achievements this season, nor can we argue with his player’s. They are deserved champions who have fought hard throughout a very tight and difficult season. This being said, you wouldn’t argue with Fink Tank’s top ten either. Whilst there’ll be a case for Nani, Hernandez and Berbatov, the likes of Leighton Baines, Joe Hart, Jose Reina, and Sylvain Distin are all rightfully mentioned. These are the unsung heroes of teams who have all admittedly underachieved – with the exception of Manchester City perhaps. Everton had a torrid start, but look once again like the formidable force they are every season, and are right back up there finishing (probably) 7th. Similar with laughable Liverpool, who under the transformation under Dalgish, sold their spanish sweetheart striker and put together a good string of results toward the close of the season. Too little too late perhaps, but a strong finish can only be good preparation for next year’s campaign.

But back to the blues. We started magnificently, and have finished fairly strongly, and we’ve been there and thereabouts (surprisingly when you look back to February) – but it was that awful slump in between where we won one match from a total of 8, where we lost too much ground to regain. And this all comes down to one thing in my mind, the dismissal of Ray Wilkins. When Mourinho came to the bridge, one of the things he enforced in the dressing room was that the players and staff must speak English at all times. This small but quite important rule stuck throughout his tenure, and carried on after his departure when Grant and Hiddink were in charge. Wilkins was much more than just an assistant manager, he was the Ancelotti’s communicator in many ways, bridging the gap between the players and the Italian’s poor English. He was a positive force in the dressing room with an very intelligent grasp of the beautiful game. More importantly he was a Chelsea boy through and through, a nugget of history so needed in footballs current climate.

This is now where we turn our attentions – to reports that, after tomorrow’s game against Everton, the final game of the season, Carlo Ancelotti will be shown the door. He even seems resigned to this suggestion, stating that he hopes to stay but will not fight for his job. One last attempt to salvage some pride perhaps? It seems absolutely incredible to me that this man will be sacked, just a year after he brought home the double in his first season. Granted, this year has not been good enough, but there has to be some sort of perspective surely? This relentless pursuit of immediate results, and more worryingly, the Champions League, distorts everything in the grander scheme of things. It’s the meddling from higher up, from Abramovich and the directors, their ruthless chopping and changing of key members of staff which will be the ruin of Chelsea Football Club. Jose Mourinho was sacked, with no real reasoning it seemed, after winning back to back Premier League trophies. Wilkins was then sacked in an extraordinarily bizzare twist, just at the first sight of trouble only a few matches into this years campaign.

At the risk of coming over all Ian Holloway, what sort of world do we live in where these businessmen rule these clubs purely as a business? We just need to take a look at Arsenal to see a perfect example of the faith put into their club manager. Sure, many Arsenal fans would rather not be in the position of being trophiless for 6 seasons, but a remarkable ethos has been instilled around the club by Wenger, a style of football beautiful to the eye. As a business too, they’ve been careful with their money, paying back loans taken out for it’s build with the ticket sales generated from the larger capacity provided by the extra few seats.

So i’ll leave on this note. We cannot thank Abramovich enough for the money he’s plowed into our club. We’ve enjoyed the majority of the last decades being up there as title contenders, having won multiple Premier League trophies and F.A Cups, but I fear that this ruthless and dangerous pursuit of immediate results gives no manager a chance in the modern footballing world. We need to create our own history as a football club & team, and not constantly be at the whim of the owner. Today marks 40 years since we won the European Cup Winners Cup in Athens, two years before there was a hint of a European trophy on Merseyside. Our history hasn’t necessarily been as rich as other clubs, but still, theres is one there. Abramovich needs to realise this if there’s any chance of creating more history in the years to come.

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