Chelsea don’t have problems being champions of England, the only thing they seem to have incompetency in doing right is retaining a trophy, something they last did in the first coming of Jose Mourinho to the London club. Chelsea won the league emphatically last season, blowing everyone away in Antonio Conte’s first season in charge but have lost steam, identity and ideas in the outgoing season with only the FA Cup up there as the only light in a gloomy campaign. Manchester United aren’t any better, spending so much money to bring in reinforcements everywhere except the goalkeeping department and still failing to sparkle, although their vociferous manager would argue that their total points could have been good enough to clinch the championship on another day but their often boring football and the conservative approach that earned them a shock defeat on their own turf in the hands of Sevilla epitomised the failed season they just had; the FA Cup final offers both sides a glorious ending to a turbulent campaign, but who wants it more? Both sides in this case, for Mourinho, a known serial winner, whatever method he deems fit to employ, he’s been one of the most successful managers in the history of the game, and for Conte, his job largely depends on the 90minutes (or more) at Wembley.
With no fresh injury news on either side, how will they line up? Conte will definitely be on the offensive, he’ll throw everything he has to this, but like he did at Old Trafford not too long ago, he can score first but will still concede, and not for the first time, this can go into extra time, cancelling each other out, it could go down to penalties. Man for man it’s even, the steel United has in Nemanja Matic, Chelsea has in N’golo Kante, the erratic nature of the United defence when they want to be questionable can also be found with the Chelsea we saw in the just concluded season, the fierce transition from defence to attack that United has in Lingard-Pogba-Sanchez is very much available at Chelsea with Willian-Fabregas-Hazard, the fitness of Lukaku isn’t certain for now, so is the choice of who leads the line between the often criticized Alvaro Morata and the winter acquisition, Olivier Giroud. Interestingly, Giroud and Sanchez both contributed to Arsenal’s success over Chelsea at this stage last season with a goal and assist between them, up against each other now, there can only be one winner, whose streak continues?
Elsewhere, England manager, Gareth Southgate released the list of his chosen men for the Russia 2018 world cup with notable omissions including Arsenal star Jack Wilshere who has finally gone public to vent his anger, having believed he’s in good shape to make the squad. To be honest, Jack Wilshere over the past few years has enjoyed some level of favouritism with the 3Lions especially in the build up to the last Euros when he made the squad to France under Roy Hodgson having played just four competitive matches for his north London team, then to the detriment of the likes of Mark Noble who had a bomb season with West Ham United and Danny Drinkwater who was an integral part of the title winning Leicester side. Jack Wilshere may have had a notable comeback season but is that enough to justify a place in the England squad to Russia? A player like Jonjo Shelvey has better claims, as well as Lewis Cook who were both overlooked by Southgate, leaving the team with average tacklers and little passing and pressing abilities, England won’t go far at the world cup, something the Arsenal midfielder would have a good laugh at.
In the same vein, Didier Deschamps of France named his squad to Russia and conspicuously left out Arsenal forward, Alexandre Lacazette and Manchester United forward, Anthony Martial, quite surprising for the Arsenal man who however is on the reserve list should any of the first choice suffer injury. Arsenal may have had an underwhelming season, but Lacazette justifies his price tag with a sharp return to form after recovering from injury. Jose Mourinho’s lack of belief in Martial contributed to his short numbers, but early on in the season the youngster stood and got counted, with Florian Thauvin in the team, one would argue that either of the premier league men should have gotten a nod ahead of the beaten Europa league finalist. Portugal coach, Fernando Santos named a rather surprising 23 to the world cup on Thursday, leaving out Barcelona duo of Nelson Semedo and Andre Gomes. Among the other European champions not going to the World Cup are Ricardo Carvalho, Nani and Eder, who scored the title-winning goal against the hosts in extra time. Out of form youngster who shone brightly in the Euro championship two years ago, Renato Sanches is also missing from the squad, the usual suspects made it but it still looks like a weak squad. Lightning doesn’t strike on same spot twice Fernando.
Abimbola Ramsey (@komptrolla on twitter)