Winner, winner, FA Cup dinner! Chelsea won the battle of the buses as Conte’s armour-plated Volvo out-parked Mourinho’s middling Scania in one of the most attritional and boring FA Cup finals in recent memory. Still, a win is a win and we’re all in. Or something to that effect.
Here are the talking points from a 1-0 victory over Manchester United, and possibly Conte’s last Chelsea game.
#1 Man With a Plan
Everyone expected this game to be dull, with both sides trying their best to cancel each other out. And they were right. Conte set his Chelsea team up in a variant of the 3-5-2, which meant Hazard playing behind Giroud. You could be bold and call it a 3-5-1-1 too, if that’s your thing. With Christensen carrying a back injury, Rudiger, Cahill and Azpilicueta were the three centre-backs. Courtois started in goal instead of the eccentric Caballero, who had been performing the duties of Chelsea’s cup ‘keeper this season. Bakayoko, Kante and Fabregas manned the midfield, hoping to match their opponents in the middle of the park. And they did too. Fabregas, despite a rather unimpressive showing, managed to last the entire 90 minutes. Kante was his usual imperious self, scuttling United attacks with ease and making Pogba look like an overpriced Danny Drinkwater. But the main man was the other Frenchman in Chelsea’s midfield.
#2 Guess Who’s Bak?
Yes, him again. After a shaky start to his Chelsea career, Tiemoue Bakayoko has been steadily improving in the final phase of this season. Against Liverpool, he put in a commanding performance and shut up many of his haters. But he saved his best performance of this season for the last game of the season. Bakayoko showed he can go toe to toe with one of the most powerful midfields in the league. His performance certainly stopped a large section of United fans crowing about Matic. And yet, we know this is not his true level. This is not even the level he was at, when he was playing for Monaco. And this can only mean one thing – he will be an absolute beast next season. Watch out for this guy, he might be the new Yaya Toure.
#3 Rud Awakening
Antonio Rudiger is well on his way to becoming a cult hero at Stamford Bridge. He was absolutely brilliant in defence, and even better in the post-match celebrations. It was his first senior trophy, and getting awarded the Man Of The Match was just the icing on the cake. Undoubtedly, he is the signing of the season for Chelsea.
#4 Hazardous Intent
Eden Hazard turned up for the biggest game of this season, and how! Phil Jones won’t be forgetting this day in a hurry. The English centre-back was repeatedly burned by the Belgian, even after he’d clumsily fouled Hazard to concede a penalty. As if he had ice in his veins, Hazard superbly slotted away the penalty which turned out to be the winner. Let’s hope we sign someone to take the creative burden off him in the summer, and get him to sign a new contract.
#5 What Next?
Antonio Conte certainly appears to be on his way out. He should be joined by Willian, who let the mask slip by posting an image where he hid Conte behind three trophy emojis. Whatever you think of Conte, this was utterly unprofessional behaviour from the Brazilian. This is the summer to clear the deadwood and the troublemakers from this club. Willian ought to be the first name on that list now. Or better still, make an example out of him and let him rot in the reserves. No United move for you, my friend.
That’s it for this season. There’s plenty of upheaval in the works, with possibly a new manager. The FA Cup might not be enough to keep Conte in a job, but it certainly did his CV no harm. Let’s hope it gets better from here on. Onwards and upwards!