In this age of media sensationalism, it is getting harder and harder to find insightful, unbiased match reviews that simply tell how a match has played out without any fluff to draw naive readers attention. After Chelsea's lost to Manchester United, I read match reports from a couple of different websites (e.g. BBC, ESPN and Guardian) but I did not find any of them capturing the game for what it was.
For instance, it is plain to anyone who watches the replays that United's first two goals were offside. I understand that referee won't get it right every time. But I expect those who report on the game, with the advantage of slow-motion replays like anyone else, to have mentioned it in their write up. Kevin McCarra of Guardian totally fail to mention the offside instances in his match report. The word "offside" was also missing from ESPN's match report, which describes the event of United's first goal this way:
"There was nothing special about Ashley Young's eighth minute free-kick, which was floated to the far post. But Terry found himself the only one defending as United shirts piled in, Smalling the man to make a connection to turn home his first league goal."
Phil McNulty describes the same instance in his match report for BBC:
"United have been devastating when offered opportunities this season. And so it proved when poor marking from Ashley Young's free-kick left Smalling unattended to head powerfully past Petr Cech although the visitors felt he was offside."
First of all, it WAS an offside. Video replay will prove that. It is true that Chelsea players "felt" it was offside but shouldn't the reporter, who has seen the replays, also mention that it was, in fact -- with emphasis on the word "fact" -- an offside goal? If we can settle that Smalling was offside, can we then go back and blame Chelsea players for their "poor marking"? If Smalling were marked, then he wouldn't be offside in the first place. One can criticize Chelsea's "poor marking" only if Smalling has been unmarked in an onside position and scored. The way it played out, one can only fault Chelsea for relying on linesman to get the decision, with such small margins, right.
This is exactly the point Jonathan Wilson made in his tactical review of the match, which, unlike the hollow match reports I have mentioned above, is well worth a read. It is this kind of insightful writing that I want to recommend to you this time around. Here is the list:
(1) "Chelsea's Tactical Approach Correct, But Man United's Finishing Decisive" by Jonathan Wilson: This is the aforementioned tactical review of the game by the author of "Inverting the Pyramid". As the title suggests, Wilson argues that Andre Villas-Boas's side got the tactics right but the execution was poor, while Manchester United, despite losing much of the midfield battle, won by clinical finishing. He also quotes a line by poet Robert Burns, making me love his article even more.
(2) "Ten Points on Manchester Unite 3-1 Chelsea" by Michael Cox: The editor of Zonal Marking notes that the frantic nature of this game leaves no overall pattern. Thus, in place of his usual match reviews, he shares some of the disparate observations he made on the game. One of his points is that the change in system by Villas-Boas may push Frank Lampard to adapt in order to retain his place in the team.
(3) "Frank Lampard: 10 Years On" by David Kyle: Talking of Lampard, Kyle has written a nice tribute to the Chelsea midfielder -- remembering some of the most memorable goals and performances. As we look forward to future and the possible evolution of Frank Lampard as a player, this piece reminds us of the past and what an outstanding player he has been for Chelsea.
(4) "Leboeuf: AVB Still Seeking Perfect Blend" by Mark Lomas: This article, which came out before the United game, featured an interview with the former Chelsea player Frank Leboeuf. I think he is a very intelligent person and what he said in the interview makes a lot of sense to me. Leboeuf suggests that the gap between Chelsea and Man United is not as wide as people think. He believes Chelsea are better equipped than last year to compete in all fronts and that veterans like Terry, Lampard and Drogba still have to role to play for the club.
(5) "Raul Meireles, A Better Buy Than Luka Modric?" by Mark Redford: This article came out after the transfer deadline day when Chelsea signed Meireles from Liverpool after failing to seal a move for Modric from Tottenham. The piece compares the statistics of these two players and makes the argument that Meireles was a better buy because of his relatively cheap price tag and his good productivity in terms of attacking.
Carefree, wherever you may be...