Leave it to football fans and the media to once again make the biggest mountain out of a tiny molehill.
Thursday's Sun back page:— Nick Sutton (@suttonnick) March 9, 2016
Shirt hits the fan#tomorrowspaperstoday #bbcpapers pic.twitter.com/Yg5LUNgWJd
In case you haven't heard, Eden Hazard swapped shirts with Angel Di Maria at half-time of our match yesterday, a match that Chelsea ended up losing and thus ended up saying goodbye to the Champions League for at least the next 18 months! Off with his head! (What about Di Maria's head?)
Nowadays, shirt swaps happen all the time (e.g.: Paulo Ferreira swapping with Ronaldinho in 2005), but this one happened within view of the cameras, so now we get to hear and talk about it. Even Guus Hiddink was quizzed on it, and while he agreed that it shouldn't happen — no doubt so that he doesn't have waste his time on such nonsense questions — the Chelsea manager couldn't really care one jot. And neither should you. Chelsea have far bigger issues to worry about, both in the short-term and the long-term.
"I haven't seen it but I'm aware. Yeah, it should not be done but in some countries it's usual you do it, and not after the game. In some countries and some clubs it's in their culture. Maybe they are both used to doing that."
"It's not a big issue for me or for them. In other countries they swap shirts at half-time rather than afterwards as it can leave them half naked on the pitch and they're not beautiful paintings. I don't think it was done with any bad intentions."
-Guus Hiddink; source: Express
Of course, it adds to it that Chelsea lost, that Eden Hazard's having a bad season, and that there's a heavy air of disillusionment hanging around Stamford Bridge that's showing no real signs of dissipating anytime soon, no matter how many matches in a row we go without a loss in domestic competitions. Knock it all down. Start again.
And that's the real issue that's been exposed and exposed repeatedly this season. It would appear that Chelsea were a one-season wonder. We had hoped that this team would be the start of a new era, just like a decade ago. But we were wrong. We miscalculated somewhere along the line. These aren't the plucky heroes, we aren't the evil empire, and this is not the grand arena.
Or perhaps they are, and we are, and this whole season is just a massive blip that needs to be forgotten as quickly as it's over. Chelsea still have a tremendous core of young players, still have a (very good) chance of winning the FA Cup, and with 9 games to go, a top 6 finish should not be ruled out. Regardless of shirt swaps or whatever other sideshow silliness, we need these players right now to lead the team to these readily achievable goals. In the short-term, little else matters.
After the season, in the long-term, hard choices will have to be made. Key players have had spectacular falls from grace. Others are showing zero signs of expected progress. There will be a new manager, perhaps some new ideas, and lots of unknowns. Rebuilding, if we truly need one again, is equally exciting and scary. We tried to turn back the clocks to 2004 a couple years ago. Now we'll have to try something brand new.