OK, after a few days of contemplation, I believe I'm ready to discuss this debacle.
Out-thought, out-played, out-managed and simply outclassed, Chelsea relinquished its hold on the Carling Cup on Sunday. Tottenham dealt their London rivals a hammer blow, exiting New Wembley worthy 2-1 victors in extra time. Ledley King hoisted Spurs' first piece of silverware since the 1999 League Cup final -- leaving Chelsea on its hands and knees looking for answers.
Take nothing from Spurs, they were clearly the better side on the day and were derserved winners. Still, I can begin to explain my disappointment in Chelsea's performance. Not only did Avram Grant display his tactical and managerial ineptness, the players failed to deliver until it was simply too late. Nearly all of them appeared to think this would be a walk in the park, as if arrogance was the word of the day.
But really, I think Grant has to assume responsiblity for the result. Opting for Terry and Lampard over the worthy Alex and Ballack was a mistake, plain and simple. Yeah, Terry was solid (Lampard not so much), but these guys had earned their spots. Perhaps more importanly, they had gelled with much of the other guys over the injury crisis period. That chemistry instantly disappeared when Terry and Lampard were selected.
If that wasn't enough, Grant decided to replace Joey Cole with Anelka. What? Yeah, I want to see Anelka and Drogba play together too, just not with one on the flank. Anelka's ineffectiveness was immediately apparent. He was nowhere to be found, but Grant refused to budge on the formation until, what, the 105 minute? Inexcusable.
Ramos improved his side with substitutions like Huddlestone, a creative-esque midfielder, coming on for a defender like Chimbonda early in the second half. Those kind of moves were common place under Mourinho, now the tactical cluelessness of Grant has the side looking more and more ordinary as the days pass.
Another problem with Grant: Before extra time, it was Steve Clarke and Terry, not Grant, providing the rallying call for the Blues. He's not an energetic guy (I know, shocking). Grant simply doesn't provide the charisma or fire of a Ferguson, Wenger or Mourinho. And you need that to be successful.
Yeah, this is turning into a Grant bashing (rightfully so). However, I do believe the players should shoulder some of the burden, mainly for coasting through the first half and change. Despite grabbing the lead, we never looked strong -- in fact, we looked much like we have over the past several weeks. Only this time we came up short.
The only thing left to do now is to, as Joe Cole put it, move on. We're still active in three competitions, all of which we could possibly win. Here's to learning from the loss, and becoming a better side because of it (I hope).