By K’Onyango Ochieng Dennis
I am so proud of Chelsea this morning. That pride has nothing to do with the triumph over Schalke last night. It was expected. The reason I am so proud of Chelsea has everything to do with their role in the evolution of football.
There was a time that Barcelona was an all conquering juggernaut that wowed everyone with what Jurgen Klopp romanticises as the footballing orchestra. The more familiar term is the tiki taka, typified by the short triangular passes associated with Johan Cruyff and perfected by Pep Guardiola. In England, the tiki taka philosophy has been perpetuated, with lesser success by Arsenal.
It was Chelsea alone in continental Europe that stood up to Barcelona, making nonsense of Tiki taka. Guardiola confessed many times that it was Chelsea they feared to play most and indeed, Chelsea spoilt the party for Barcelona on a number of occasions with their more pragmatic catenaccio.
Soon, Real Madrid got the cue and succeeded to breach Barcelona’s long standing stranglehold in the la liga and dominance in the el classicos. Bayern Munich went one better, whitewashing the Catalan giants 7-0 over two legs in lasts season’s UCL semis! I wrote a piece that persuaded folks to agree that Chelsea deserved some plaudits for Bayern Munich’s remarkable feat .
Going into last night’s third round of the group stages encounters, no one gave Arsenal any chance of beating Borussia Dortmund. In the run up, Klopp had said that he was impressed with Wenger’s loyalty to the tiki taka philosophy, the one he called a ‘silent orchestra’ but suggested that he would not coach like that, saying he loved ‘heavy metal’.Now that is catenaccio in whatever variant. The violin, the harp, the guitar and the flutes, the string and wind instruments will be drowned any moment with the thundering drums! That is the orchestra vs the heavy metal in Klopp’s perspective. Klopp, I would suggest is a student of Mourinho and the classical Italian football typified by resolute defence and ruthless counter attacks and the hard tackling of the English.
So where does Chelsea come in this narrative?
Last night as I watched the pre match analyses, they played a clip of Arsenal as they rolled into Dortmund. Ok, I saw Sagna, Ozil, Ramsey and the others alighting from the bus but it was the bus that attracted my attention most. It was a magnificent piece of art work that bus. Big but beautiful and feminine. I told myself , ‘ they have a beautiful bus but may the massacre begin’ as I quickly surfled through the channels to SS 6 to watch the proceedings at Stamford bridge.
I was hosting an Arsenal fan and he suggested that we watch SS5 to see how his team was faring. I was surprised by their style. The magnificent bus they had come in had been literally parked at their goal mouth. Literally! I guess that surprised Dortmund who had expected their rivals to play tiki taka or whatever it is Arsenal usually plays!
Arsenal crowded the midfield. I must say I was impressed with their quick even if cautious transition at crucial moments of the game. Bits of the midfield falling back to defend with their lives, winning back the ball and and quickly transitioning into counter attacks, sometimes even from the midfield! I swear what I saw was not Arsenal playing.
It was Chelsea in every aspect but name. I felt a sense of pride well up in me because I knew Chelsea had succeeded to inspire Arsenal to evolve their game to suit the occasion, with impressive results! Lewandowski, Reus and all those other folks with difficult names, who only two weeks ago had a field day at the Emirates were all neutralised. We’ve got the last word!