Analysis · Football · Opinion · Sports

Drogba and Wembley, Chelsea’s man on big occasions

Didier Drogba

Didier Drogba

Everyone has been asking questions of Didier Drogba this season, but he keeps finding answers.

Oft criticised, oft written off, the Chelsea striker is now the first player to score in four FA Cup finals, the man who has struck eight goals in eight competitive games at Wembley yet he is still expected to leave Chelsea.

The club need to answer a question from their fans. Why? Why let Drogba go? The talisman with the occasional tantrum in him always has a goal in him. The player who always seems to have the final word in finals does not have the final word in his Chelsea career.

At 34, Drogba wants a two-year contract at the Bridge, which the club are loathe to offer as they seek to rejuvenate the squad. He is still a force, still a goalscoring threat, and still apparently booked on a slow boat or fast plane to China and the riches of Shanghai Shenhua.

The way he kissed a post and touched the Wembley turf amidst Chelsea’s post-match celebrations looked like a man saying his farewells to a favourite venue.

Maybe Chelsea should keep him just for Wembley. In the 2007 final, Drogba played a 1-2 with Frank Lampard and scored the only goal to beat Manchester United. Two years later, Drogba struck the equaliser in the 2-1 win over Everton (settled by Lampard). His free-kick finished off Portsmouth in 2010. On Saturday, Drogba drove in another fine goal here which proved the winner against Liverpool. No wonder he views Wembley as his “lucky stadium”.

Ever since watching pictures of Eric Cantona score against Liverpool in the 1996 FA Cup final, Drogba has been obsessed by the place.

His thoughts now turn away from Wembley. Drogba still has more to look forward to in the blue of Chelsea, a point made constantly by their fans with their chant of “que sera, sera, what ever will be, will be, we’re going to Germany”. Munich beckons. Drogba could be off with the greatest club prize of all, a winner’s medal from the Champions League final at the Allianz Arena.

After his frustration in the 2008 showdown with Manchester United, sent off in Moscow, Drogba will crave some redemption in Munich.

Drogba takes on a Bayern Munich defence shorn through suspension of that excellent centre-half, Holger Badstuber, and Gustavo, the defensive midfielder who shields the back-line so effectively. Drogba is a force against full-strength defences let alone weakened ones.

At Wembley, Drogba was up against an experienced, in-form centre-half in Martin Skrtel. Drogba’s face adorned the £10 Cup final programme, facing up to Skrtel, a duel that soon broke out here.

Within 28 seconds, Drogba was dropping off Skrtel, latching on to Lampard’s knockdown and trying his luck, sending a shot spinning over. Liverpool could not take their eyes off Chelsea’s No 11. Skrtel, probably Liverpool’s player of the season with Luis Suarez, had to be on his toes. When Drogba strode through early on, Skrtel calmly read the danger and nicked the ball.

Drogba was so obsessing Liverpool’s centre-halves, drawing Skrtel and Daniel Agger, that space opened up for Ramires to pour through for Chelsea’s 11th-minute opener. Even without direct involvement, Drogba had contributed. His work-rate was superb, his stamina exceptional.

Drogba feels so fit, smiling that he has “a few kilometres left” in him. He certainly put in the hard yards here, even chasing back to hound Craig Bellamy. Moments later, he was back upfront, linking with Juan Mata, then spreading play wide to Ramires.

Drogba kept imposing himself on all Liverpool defenders, inspecting the back-line like a particularly demanding Regimental Sergeant Major.

First Glen Johnson was worked over. Then Drogba moved across to trouble Agger. He then tested Jose Enrique.

Drogba has looked so sharp and hungry in recent semi-final weeks, bullying an array of centre-halves from Carles Puyol of Barcelona to William Gallas of Spurs. That decision to analyse the way Alan Shearer played during his Newcastle United days, muscling into centre-halves, giving them no respite, paid off.

On the eve of this final, Drogba had actually revealed that he did not enjoy playing the lone frontrunner role but he performs the duties so dynamically, so prolifically, keeping Fernando Torres kicking his expensive heels on the bench.

A beacon upfront, Drogba also proved a great “out” ball, controlling a clearance from John Obi Mikel. If Chelsea decide against keeping him, they also will miss the Ivorian’s presence at defending corners.

Just before half-time, following a Bellamy delivery, Drogba rose far more determinedly to clear the ball ahead of Skrtel. He has that strength, that determination. Up close, he is remarkably different from the battle-scarred heavyweight of popular perception. Drogba is lithe, slightly angular with an athlete’s frame rather than boxer’s. And deadly in front of goal. Seven minutes into the second half, Lampard released Drogba and he placed a low, firm shot between Skrtel’s legs and past Pepe Reina. Wembley was treated to a trademark Drogba celebration, sliding across the turf towards the Chelsea fans, arms outstretched.

If the attention then turned to the compelling Andy Carroll-Terry duel down the other end, Drogba proved once again the man for the great stage of Wembley, the man who has the answers.

Culled from UK Telegraph


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