There’s something very strange happening in the world of football these days. Everybody* seems to be loving Chelsea.
Throughout our history — i.e. since 2003 — we’ve become rather used to being the Enemies of Football, be that due to our owner “buying” titles, our manager playing “anti-football” to get wins, or our highly successful and talented and players doing nefarious things, which often were not nefarious at all. (Sometimes they were nefarious, in which case, yeah, okay, it was well-deserved.) Even during the last title win, the respect given was mostly in ominous terms, as fear of the dark Chelsea cloud smothering the Premier League in acid Mourinho rain for many years to come reared its ugly head.
So I’m a bit skeptical of this sudden shift in narrative, with extreme praise heaped on the Blues. You might argue it’s deserved and long overdue, and you may be right, but to me, it’s just as hyperbolic as the negative coverage of things like #CostaCrimes. From the opposing dugout to the post-match studio to the pundits on football shows to broadsheets and blogs and anything else in-between, it’s been breathless stuff. Video game football; sewn up titles; genius this, genius that; it just goes on and on.
The set of quotes that has gotten far more coverage than I ever expected it to, including on the official Chelsea blog, has been John Motson’s gushing on the BBC. The legendary Motson, once familiar to many as the voice of EA Sports’ FIFA as well, was on Match of the Day duty for Chelsea vs. Everton, and his commentary during the highlights segment was already a fair bit over the top. Afterwards, speaking on BBC 5 Live and presumably no longer caught up in the moment, Motson doubled down and raised the stakes even higher.
“This was the best 90-minute performance I have ever seen in the Premier League. I put it above anything I saw from Arsenal when they were at their best. I put above anything I saw from Manchester United. Because this was football on another planet.”
“I mean alright people are going to say Everton bad a bad a poor night. They always say that, don’t they?”
“But I remember going back before the Premier League, in 1988 being at Liverpool when they demolished Nottingham Forest 5-0 and the late Sir Tom Finney said ‘that’s the best performance I’ve seen’ we’ll I’m now saying that about Chelsea against Everton.”
“It was incredible. If that had been a live game, we would still be talking about it in three weeks’ time. It was amazing. Chelsea’s touch play, their movement, their dominance, their finishing. There wasn’t a weakness because you saw all their strengths in that 90 minutes. They tore Everton apart, they threw them on the bonfire, if you like, on Guy Fawkes night but Chelsea were just out of this world.”
“Now I will take that point from Chris Sutton because they’ve got not European football either, and I tell you what, if Conte is working on the training ground, which he obviously is, four or five days a week, producing football like that, I’m not going to look any further for the champions.”
Motson has been doing this since 1971 for over 1500 matches; it’s certainly high praise, even though I’m not quite convinced he can remember even a tiny fraction of all those matches.
* In any case, just to bring a bit of balance to the coverage, we do have some grumbling tabloid journalists, who are finding it difficult to fill their back pages with the usual nonsense now that everyone’s trying to talk tactics instead of the usual nonsense. So sorry!
I hate it when teams play a back 3 because the post-match presser is then full of journos trying to look clever and ask tactical questions.— John Cross (@johncrossmirror) November 6, 2016
@DickinsonTimes You're excused but it'll be a strange day when I get "Poch last night roared I love a back three" on the back page...— John Cross (@johncrossmirror) November 6, 2016
Dark days indeed.
Conte made three-at-the-back fashionable again in the Premier League, and since no one can remember beyond just a few months, it’s suddenly the greatest thing since sliced bread. Other managers might be inspired by it, or they might simply be trying things they’ve tried before again, but of course it must be all down to Chelsea and Conte. Pochettino had a bit of a snide remark along these lines in his post-match presser after Spurs’ 1-1 draw at Arsenal, and while that was largely presented as Spurs vs. Chelsea thing, it’s much more of a need-to-ask-better-questions-in-press-conferences thing.
But hey, at least someone’s a bit unhappy with Chelsea, so maybe we haven’t entered some weird twilight upside-down zone after all.