Chelsea may be frustrating, but not boring

Posted by Phil Lythell

Shaun Botterill/Getty ImagesJose Mourinho's Chelsea have been involved in many a dogfight during the current Premier League campaign.

Chelsea have always been a team that professional observers and rival fans have loved to slap a derogatory label upon.

Rewind 30 years and Chelsea were synonymous with hooliganism as far as the press were concerned. Upon Roman Abramovich's purchase of the club, the ensuing torrent of silverware snobbish Franglais put-downs such as "nouveau riche" and "arrivistes" became the fashionable way with which to disparage the club's success. Of course, there is an element of truth in all those remarks. Chelsea were plagued by a noxious violent minority within their support during the 1970s and 1980s, and not even the most blue-eyed fan will deny that Abramovich's cash injection played a pivotal role in Chelsea's rise to the top of the European game.

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The latest dismissive retort, however, is more difficult to accept: that Chelsea are boring. This blogger has heard this comment from various pundits, supposedly knowledgeable friends and, of course, the crowd at the Emirates Stadium, most of whom were clearly oblivious to the fact that the chant they were belting out just before Christmas had its origins in opposition fans deriding George Graham's turgid Gunners team of the late '80s and early '90s.

Insults in the form of "banter" is a traditional staple of the football experience and if you are prepared to dish it out, you must be prepared to withstand some coming from the other direction. The problem arises, though, when these supposed opinions are not based in fact, but in a lazy stereotype that happens to be incorrect; one which has been built purely upon the perceived ethos of Jose Mourinho. The return of the Special One has prompted everyone to start banging on about a pragmatic, powerful but uninspiring philosophy irrespective of the actual football being played by his team.

Perhaps I am a little biased, but I was utterly captivated during Chelsea's 2-1 win over title favourites Manchester City, a game in which both teams displayed positivity and skill. I was also enthralled by the recent victory over Liverpool just as I was as Chelsea over-ran Tottenham during the second half of the clash at White Hart Lane earlier in the season. If one went along with the wisdom of the crowd and the assumption that Mourinho's team are unambitious, then one would have expected Chelsea to have adopted a cagey approach in those games, though that could not have been further from the truth.

Of course, there have been some contests that will drift from the memory in years to come, notably the home match against Steaua Bucharest, the West London derby with Fulham and the recent draw at the Emirates, though no team can exhilarate every week, not even media darlings Arsenal.

What seems to have happened is that people appear to be confusing disappointing results with being boring. The 3-2 reverse to Stoke City last month was agonizing, given that Chelsea should have put the game to bed within the first half an hour yet somehow contrived to lose the match. The game had some excellent attacking football, some poor defending and kept everyone watching on the edge of their seat. The defeat at Everton was another in which the Blues peppered their opponents' goal but found themselves wanting. It was hardly dull. Wasteful? Yes. Frustrating? Absolutely. But dull? Not even slightly.

The main issue has been Chelsea's fabled inability to kill teams off and thus give the winning margin the gloss that so many hanker for. It also means that a slender lead has to be protected in the latter stages of matches, thus infusing the team and its supporters with nervousness. Had chances been taken more regularly, then Chelsea's results might have mirrored the eye-popping scorelines that Manchester City have enjoyed this campaign and perhaps any notions of boredom would have been dispelled as a consequence.

As it happens, even when Chelsea do find the back of the net on multiple occasions, they still come in for criticism, as they did when winning 4-3 at Sunderland. Rather than revel in a thrilling game of football, most observers chose the negative slant and focused on the Blues' defensive shortcomings. When Chelsea waltzed past West Ham at Upton Park there was a little more praise, though most of the attention was trained on Sam Allardyce's decision not to field a recognised striker.

On the occasions when a victory is attained with not every cylinder firing quite as it should, the situation is largely exploited by the naysayers as proof that Chelsea are fatally flawed. Never mind the fact that when Arsenal only beat Cardiff City narrowly after a dreadful display they were feted as potential champions for having the ability to win ugly (against a team the Blues dispatched 4-1 by the way). If Chelsea scrap for a win, it is looked upon scornfully.

Arsenal should indeed be applauded for their victory and it would be crazy for anyone to suddenly write them off or cast them as uninventive due to the nature of that performance. But this equally applies to Chelsea as well. It has always been fashionable to venerate Arsene Wenger's free-form football and decry Mourinho's win-at-all-costs attitude, though it would be nice if, just for once, pre-conceptions and prejudice could be put aside in favour of the real picture.

Chelsea are not perfect; they are not clinical and they might not win any silverware this season, but with the likes of David Luiz, Frank Lampard, Oscar, Willian, Ramires and Eden Hazard at their disposal, they are also certainly far from being boring.

Follow Phil Lythell on Twitter @PhilLythell


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