After a torrential downpour of heavy criticism on Chelsea’s defensive and ‘boring’ tactics in the Champions League final, there has been many a claim citing that Chelsea did not deserve the trophy and are not worthy winners. But wait and ponder. What really is beautiful football?
”Chelsea winning the CL-final is a defeat for proper football. I’d rather not win it, than to have played this way”. – Johan Cruyff
Is beautiful football merely keeping on passing and then trying to slither your way past the opponent without scoring shots and taking risks? Or is beautiful football only about scoring finesse-filled chips and lobs or incredibly powerful shots? Can beautiful football be defined as having one incredibly outstanding player who dazzles all while the rest of the team stay and do the dirty work? I bet many of you would agree with at least one of the above. Now, we arrive at the point: why is defensive football not beautiful?
It is a rare sight in modern football to see a defender winning a coveted accolade or Player of the Season, mainly owing to the fact that ‘beautiful football’ is apparently played only the by midfielders and forwards with their silky smooth ball control and their perfect, svelte finishing. Why is it that at the end of the match, no one remembers the ground-breaking, adventurous tackles, last-gasp clearances and lunging headers made by the defenders? As the saying goes, ‘Strikers win games; defenders win championships’ and it was proved to be extremely true by Chelsea.
Chelsea’s most reliable players have been at the back this season in the form of Petr Cech, Ashley Cole and Branislav Ivanovic. John Terry, Gary Cahill and David Luiz have been great in action for the rearguard too. For any team, it is best to rely on the already proven performers and this fact, however many times it has been argued over, does not change. Hence, it is perfectly alright that Chelsea decided to rely on their rearguard and played to their strengths by playing defensively.
In football, there can only be one winner at the end. And maybe Bayern played the better, more ‘beautiful’ football, but the hallmark of all champions is that they take their opportunities with both hands. Bayern had near 35 chances on goal and one penalty, and managed to score one goal. Chelsea on the other hand had 6 chances on goal and scored 1. In the end, there are no trophies in football for playing the better football. If there should be, then maybe FIFA should consider a rule in which, if there is a draw at the end of 90 minutes, the team that had more chances on goal, more possession and less tackles should win?
Chelsea missed the first penalty and came back to win 4-3. Is that not the sign of champions? All the talk about ‘luck’ being with the London side is not substantial at all. If Bayern missed their chances, blame the inability of their forwards and not luck or chance. As for the penalties, Petr Cech guessed right for every single penalty, including Robben’s kick in extra time. He saved Robben’s and Olic’s and tipped Schweinsteiger’s onto the post. Furthermore, it was increasingly evident that as the game progressed, the Bavarian side were getting more tired as Chelsea seemed to thrive as the clock ticked. Last year, Man United had 3 shots and only one on target. On Saturday, Chelsea had 6 shots and 3 on target.
Chelsea taught Manchester City how to overcome Napoli. They taught Manchester United how to beat Benfica. They showed the whole wide world how to beat possibly the best team in the world and how to keep the current best player quiet. And then they announced their arrival on the biggest stage by beating a German team on penalties on home soil amidst a red-hot atmosphere. What more do we need to prove that they deserve the trophy?
We live in a time where we criticize Arsenal for playing what we deem to be ‘beautiful’ football but winning absolutely zilch but on the other hand, tear Chelsea to bits over playing defensively but winning the most coveted trophy in Europe. Ironical, nay?
In the end, there is no definition to ‘beautiful’ football, because in my opinion, football itself, wherever, whenever and however, is beautiful. Barcelona of the pre-Cruyff era themselves did not play ‘beautiful’ football and neither did Real Madrid in a few of their eras. Man United have always played a brand of football which exemplified determination and confidence rather than style and finesse. Therefore, it would be wrong to deem Chelsea as ‘undeserving’ and playing a ‘bad style’ of football. Because in football, there is no ‘lucky’ winner.
Only the deserving persevere till the end.
Only the determined emerge triumphant.