CHELSEA FINALLY WINS the cup with the big ears after beating Bayern Munich 4-3 on penalties. This game was one-sided with the German club creating majority of the chances while Chelsea defended deep in their own half. The Blues came into this game with good plans but their execution was poor. But the end of the day, the game was decided by something more complex than tactics; something that can't be understood or predicted by statistics. Something mysterious. Some call it fate or destiny. Others call it the Absurd.
It makes good sense that Roberto di Matteo went with a counter-attacking 4-2-3-1 that has worked well for Chelsea in this season's cup competitions. Chelsea needed a system with a compact defense that can deal with Bayern's attacking threats while being able to counter quickly, especially down the flanks (You can read a full argument for this system here).
The plan is to absorb Bayern's pressure with two banks of four without the ball. On the breaks, Mata will be the focal point of distribution while Drogba and the two wingers push forward to receive the pass. On normal play, the keeper and defenders will find Drogba with a direct long ball, and look to continue the attack by getting to the second ball. If executed well, Chelsea would have played as they did in the first half of the FA Cup final against Liverpool. But the execution was far from perfect.
|Picture 1. Chelsea's Defensive Shape|
Let's start with what went well. The defense. Yes, Bayern's attack pulled Chelsea's defense apart on more than one occasion (more on this later) but generally speaking, the defensive set up worked. For the majority of the normal time, Chelsea kept their shape -- two banks of four sitting deep in their half while Mata and Drogba stay up front (Drogba more forward than Mata). With the help of Bertrand, Cole probably had one of the best defensive game. So much so that most of Robben's chances came when he moved to the right side of Bayern's attack to overload on Bosingwa and Kalou.
What didn't work was Chelsea's attack. Let's start with normal play when Chelsea got to restart the game through goal kicks or when Chelsea started their build-up from defense. As planned, Cech's distribution was directed toward the target man Drogba but the Ivorian found it hard to win the ball. Tymoshchuk and Boateng performed better than what was expected of them. They usually won the ball or at least got to the second ball, and found their midfielders to restart the attack. We also expected Luiz to do more of the long passes from the back since he's very comfortable with the ball at his feet. But the Brazilian (maybe because he was still not 100% fit) seemed to not want the ball and kept tapping it back to Cech or squaring it Cahill without attempting to make a pass himself.
On the break, Mata could not play the same creative role as he didn't against Liverpool. Part of the reason was that Kroos and Schweinsteiger were having a great game with and without the ball. Additionally, Bayern fullbacks stayed rather deep in their own half, closing down passing options on the flanks to either Kalou or Bertrand. Thus, Chelsea's counter attacks kept breaking apart in the attacking half -- which put the team immediately under pressure from Bayern's counter-counter-attacks. In fact, Bayer looked more dangerous when countering Chelsea's counter attacks than they did when trying to break Chelsea down through possession and passing.
Flow is a major feature of football. There is continuity between attack and defense. If you defend poorly, it puts strain on your attack; and if you attack poorly, it put more pressure on your defense. I think Chelsea did an Okay job defensively but they got put on unnecessary pressure by their poor attacks (or counter-attacks).
I think this is as far as you can go in terms of analysis. Sure you can probably elaborate on some of the points made above, but there aren't any new topics to discuss. This is where analysis -- the process of making sense of things -- ends because there is little sense in what took place in Munich.
The ball hitting the post again! The numerous misses by one of the most lethal strikers in Europe. The equalizer from a forward who had little to do for about 88 minutes of the game. Attempted shots 43 to 1. Corner counts 20 to 1. One corner, one goal. The Robben penalty that was saved. Then, the penalty shoot out itself.
These are, as far as I'm concerned, outside of the realm of analysis, statistics or logic. The home game against Valencia. The 4-1 against Napoli. The 2-1 nail biter against Benfica. The two games against Barcelona. And now against Bayern Munich in their own stadium! This is not just a case of winning it in a penalty shoot out. This is beating against the odds again, and again, and again.
According to the laws of nature, this is a highly unlikely event -- which is the definition of a miracle. It doesn't make sense. It's absurd. And for the very reason that it is not reasonable, we are simply left in awe. There are no thoughts; only emotions. Many teams will win this cup in the future but none will do it quite the way Chelsea did.
Carefree, wherever you may be...