The rules were simple: 5 bloggers, 4 rounds, snake draft. David picked first, then Yatco, Graham, André, and Rohaan. 20 goals in total.
All goals eligible except Didier Drogba’s equalizer in the 2012 Champions League final. Too obvious.
In reverse order, these are our favorite, greatest, bestest (however each of us interpreted the rules) Chelsea goals. You will probably disagree, but you’re probably wrong.
Michael Essien vs. Arsenal, 2006
Here it is, the spark that started the big bang, the whisper that became language, the note that became music. This is why we’re here. All of this — the draft and fifteen subsequent posts — started fourteen years ago, with the outside of Michael Essien’s right boot.
The idea was to think about this goal and where it sits in the pantheon. A task that seemed simple at first: very good goal, very prominent placement. Except pesky Chelsea have not only scored many great goals, they’ve also scored a lot of goals that won decisive matches and/or delivered trophies. The ecstasy of becoming a champion spritzes an intoxicating aroma on many goals and can’t be ignored.
But one day my brain betrayed me and asked itself: What is the most beautiful goal Chelsea have ever scored? and I couldn’t answer. To me, and likely to many of you, it’s Drogba floating through the air to snap a cross through Manuel Neuer at the near post. For some of us, that’s when we knew. For the rest, it is most certainly the penalty that happened some twenty-plus minutes afterward. It was, of course and poetically, Drogba again. This time rolling the penalty into the wide-open net opposite a cascading Neuer powerless to intervene. It was the best I’ve ever felt watching a sport, how could those goals mean anything less?
Without context, though, they are just goals. The header, given Drogba’s momentum, body shape and perfectly timed snap of his neck muscles, could qualify as more than fine after a few replays, while the penalty was slow and awkward. On purely aesthetic merit, neither are worth remembering beyond an evening.
Thus the dilemma was crafted. What is Chelsea’s most beautiful goal?
Allowed to roam free, my brain made a beeline to the outside of Michael Essien’s right boot. Many things can happen on a football pitch and in a football match, some horrific, some funny, some annoying, some thrilling, some boring. We all know this, and it’s a large part of why we watch. But even the most avid football watcher would be lying if they told you that they ever expect the unboxing of a celestial gift. Though the possibility exists in every fixture, their rarity and spontaneity makes them an unreliable place to hang expectations. But when they happen — my god, when they happen.
On this day, 10 December 2006, and in this match, it happened. As most of you know, I am wont to over-describe things I love. I do this in part because I want someone to see something as I’ve seen it. The good news for me, and certainly some of you, is that this goal does all of the work for me, and exists beyond hyperbole.
Its mechanics of are simple — rather than force the ball into the box, Frank Lampard lays the ball back to his midfield compatriot for safe keeping while the team plots another route of attack. Essien, however, accepted the gently rolled back pass instead as an invitation. Cutting across the ball with his right boot, he lifted it and himself off the ground, sending the former toward goal on a trajectory that defies belief. Not hyperbole, the movement of the ball is quite literally unbelievable.
Deftness and extreme force rarely exist in such close proximity, let alone share one half second on one right foot. The ball battled space as if it had a miniature pilot sitting inside mashing buttons and white-knuckling the steering mechanism to guide the vessel safely into the side netting. Essien’s initial contact with the ball came from the other side of the goal and, until the very final minute allowable by laws of nature, appeared to be aiming for the shiny forehead of one of the spectators. In slow motion it looks an epic ride.
The only scuff on the entire experience is the Neanderthalic misogyny of Andy Gray who, ironically, displayed better awareness than the ever-polished Martin Tyler. In some fairness to Tyler, he might’ve briefly visited the afterlife after yelling “Essee-YENNNNN”. Evidence for this theory include his discombobulation upon return. As Essien is darting to the corner flag pumping his fist while Chelsea players sprint toward, catch and tackle him in elation, Tyler, begins his reset of the match (or what I have determined as his reintroduction to mortality and his responsibilities) with a clear contradiction: “They’re not over-celebrating this.”
Gray, however, refuses this heading and continues to gush over what he’d just seen. The part I like best is that the goal instantly became a dilemma of merit. Rules state that the match was now 1-1, and that if it ended like that (which it did), the spoils would be shared. After a few replays, Gray noted the supreme unfairness of this all, “This should win a game.”
And that is a summation of the ethos of this exercise. Justness is a rare thing in this world. From various cycles of life, to systems we create, imperfectness is built-in. Order, routine, cycles, rules and structures make us feel safe; a necessity given the finiteness of life. But such routes are shortcuts, they work en masse, but individually they stifle. What Essien managed to do, in a football match no less, is reveal to us another purpose of life. Perhaps creating the most beautiful thing you can comprehend is worth more than whatever the mathematical reward mechanism of a structured world can deliver. Perhaps having an expiration date isn’t so bad, so long as we endeavor to leave something beautiful.
Unstoppable. Unsaveable. Beautiful.
Michael Essien screamer against Arsenal— Old Ghana Football (@OldGhanaFootie) September 6, 2019
December 2006 pic.twitter.com/DH7EratNdi
WAGNH’s Best and Most Beautifulest Chelsea Goals Draft 2020:
No.4: Michael Essien vs. Arsenal, 2006
No.5: Eden Hazard vs. West Ham, 2019
No.6: Didier Drogba vs. Liverpool, 2006
No.7: Didier Drogba vs. Everton, 2006
No.8: Ramires vs. Barcelona, 2012
No.9: Fernando Torres vs. Barcelona, 2012
No.10: Damien Duff vs. Barcelona, 2005
No.11: Wayne Bridge vs. Arsenal, 2004
No.12: Raul Meireles vs. Benfica, 2012
No.13: Gianfranco Zola vs. Wimbledon, 1997
No.14: Arjen Robben vs. Norwich City, 2004
No.15: Claude Makélélé vs. Tottenham Hotspur, 2006
No.16: Oscar vs. Juventus, 2012
No.17: Bethany England vs. Birmingham City, 2019
No.18: Demba Ba vs. Manchester United, 2013
No.19: André Schürrle vs. Burnley, 2014
No.20: Alex vs. Liverpool, 2009