On Saturday, Chelsea will play Manchester United in the FA Cup final. If the Blues win, it will be our eighth FA Cup trophy (good for third all-time) and a noteworthy fifth in the last twelve years.
The odds of lifting it however surely lengthened after Sunday’s listless effort against Newcastle United. Out of the fourteen players who played, only goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois had a good game in a dreadful 3-0 loss. Legitimate questions can be and should be asked about the lack of leadership in the dressing room.
Cesc Fàbregas, one of the squad’s most seasoned winners, subscribes to that narrative as well. Rather than point the finger of blame at Antonio Conte or the Board, he says that the solution to Chelsea’s problems must come from within. Within each player, that is.
“You have to feel the fire inside of you, the hunger you want to show on the pitch and this is something neither me nor the coach can bring to the players.”
“The fire - you have it or you don’t have it and on Saturday we have to make sure everyone is on top of their game.”
At St. James’ Park, as against Watford and Bournemouth, Chelsea’s players didn’t have the fire — the fire that Conte once talked about stoking into a blazing inferno. But there was no fire-start anything. All the heat was coming from the other side. They simply wanted it more.
It’s hard to pin that apparent lack of commitment on anyone but the players themselves, and they have a week to find it. Nobody’s doubting that José Mourinho, with his stellar cup final record, will deliver a team that’s ready to fight.
“It’s the first day we are back training since the Newcastle defeat, obviously we need to play much better but I’m 100 per cent sure we don’t even have to say that.”
”But, it’s a final, it’s a big game and I feel that normally in those games you shouldn’t have to motivate players to play football because we do what we love and we always have to do it 120 per cent.”
”It’s a final against United, on a big stage at Wembley, the last game of the season, you just have to go all for it.”
-Cesc Fàbregas; source: Goal
Indeed, normally we would have to say that. But after losing last year’s FA Cup final 2-1 to Arsenal, who were — much like Newcastle last weekend — an inferior team who had more fire in their belly, nobody can be quite sure which Chelsea team turn up at Wembley. The one that beat Tottenham, Manchester United, Liverpool and Atletico in Madrid? Or the one that lost 4-1 to Watford?
We sure hope for the former.