Drogba the man to watch at Wembley?04/05/2012 - 13:45:10
Where goalscoring is concerned, Didier Drogba has had better seasons.
He has notched just 11 from 30 appearances, as opposed to 37 goals in 44 matches during the 2009-10 campaign.
Yet when Chelsea take on Liverpool at Wembley in the FA Cup final on Saturday, it is difficult to think of a striker more suited to the big occasion.
Forget, for a moment, the striker who always seems to be rolling on the pitch complaining that he has been injured, before jumping to his feet after winning yet another free-kick.
Forget the constant whingeing, the exaggerated gesticulations, the sending off in the Champions League final against Manchester United in 2008 and the annual sagas about whether he is staying or leaving Stamford Bridge.
Instead concentrate on the statistics, which reveal emphatically the value of the man from the Ivory Coast when it comes to winning major prizes.
Drogba scored for Chelsea in the 2005 League Cup final. He also scored the winning goals in the 2007 League Cup final and FA Cup final.
He won the FA Cup for the second time in 2009 against Everton, scoring the equaliser in the final, and scored the only goal in Chelsea’s victory over Portsmouth in the 2010 FA Cup final.
At 34, Drogba does not produce his most fearsome form as regularly as he did but he remains Chelsea’s most lethal weapon when it comes to getting the job done on a one-off basis.
His dubious antics designed to slow down play in the Champions League semi-final against Barcelona caught the headlines, but it was also his goal in the 1-0 defeat of the Spaniards at Stamford Bridge which saw Chelsea into the final against Bayern Munich later this month.
It is Drogba’s constant threat, allied to the all-round power of Chelsea, which makes them favourites to wrap blue ribbons around the FA Cup trophy this Saturday evening.
Let’s face it, the final pitches two sides against each other who have endured their fair share of problems this season.
Chelsea attempted a renewal project under former manager Andre Villas-Boas only to abandon it when it became clear the young boss had lost the dressing room and the respect of the senior players.
The improvement under caretaker manager Roberto Di Matteo has been extraordinary but they still look like missing out on a top-four place in the league for the first time since owner Roman Abramovich took over.
Liverpool’s season, the first full one under Dalglish since his return to the managerial chair, has been just as volatile.
The Carling Cup is in the Anfield trophy cabinet after a penalty shoot-out against Cardiff City but Liverpool languish in eighth place in the league, 34 points behind leaders Manchester City and Manchester United.
That is a huge gulf, an embarrassing one on Merseyside, one which has been masked to some extent by the side’s cup success.
It is why the stakes are so high at Wembley as Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard has intimated.
“This club is all about winning big trophies and the FA Cup certainly comes under that,” said Gerrard.
“We will assess the season after the weekend. If we can look back and say we have won two cups we will be happy.”
Perhaps. But what if Liverpool lose? What if Chelsea’s power and the energy of players such as Ramires and Juan Mata lay bare the frailties of a Liverpool side which has struggled to score goals all season?
There is no doubt Liverpool need Gerrard to produce the inspirational heroics for which he is famed. They need Luis Suarez to be at his creative best and Andy Carroll to start repaying his £35m price tag.
The smart money, however, says that Wembley is made for Drogba. The man for the big occasion.
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