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Chelsea star Didier Drogba must stop being selfish and look at big picture - Martin Samuel

01 Mar 2011 01:34:20

Chelsea star Didier Drogba must stop being selfish and look at big picture - Martin Samuel

Didier Drogba has always been a curious contradiction: a player who works hard for the team without giving any indication of being a true team player. At his best he is unstoppable, a battering ram of a centre forward, doubly blessed with the most delightful light touch and skill. Yet at times - too many times, some would say - he can be a horror; petulant, play-acting, self-absorbed. It is the reason he will not be greatly missed from our game when finally he departs. And a player of his talent should be missed. Trouble ahead: Drogba could cause a great deal of damage at Chelsea So it really should not come as a shock that the fact Chelsea appear to have clicked without him provokes an ear-splitting snit, rather than the desire to contribute in any way he can as the fight begins to salvage the season. Will Drogba see the bigger picture here? Evidence suggest he rarely does. His greatest flaw as a player is his incapacity to put the needs of the team ahead of his personal feelings. Managers beg players to stay focused on big occasions, to always think of the collective good. Drogba is selfless in the way he works for the team, but selfish in the way he reacts to specific events. Chelsea desperately need Fernando Torres and Nicolas Anelka to come good against Manchester United on Tuesday, but it remains to be seen whether Drogba will recognise this, or see only the effect their partnership is having on him. Experience says there may be trouble ahead. With four minutes to go until a penalty shoot-out in the Champions League final in 2008, Drogba became involved in a pointless spat over the way the ball had been reintroduced to play after injury, and ended up cuffing Manchester United defender Nemanja Vidic. He was shown a red card and the rest is history. If Drogba had taken a penalty, as he surely would have done, would the ultimate responsibility have fallen to John Terry and would Chelsea not have been the 2008 European champions? Who knows? Seeing red: Drogba was sent off late on in the 2008 European Cup final in Moscow A similar situation unfolded when Chelsea were denied by poor refereeing against Barcelona in the semi-final, second leg, in 2009. It was Drogba, mainly, who compounded a bad situation with his reaction, which earned a lengthy ban the following season, and further soured Chelsea's already fractious relationship with UEFA. There are bigger tests than FC Copenhagen ahead for Chelsea now but the partnership of Anelka and Torres showed great promise in Denmark last week, and produced two goals, thrusting the club towards the Champions League quarter-finals. If Torres and Anelka click, there may yet be a thrilling end to a season teetering on the edge. Yet, already there are reports that Drogba is unhappy and considering his future. Both sides are playing this down, but the potential for confrontation remains. A big personality in the dressing room and an influential figure beyond it - his disaffection with former Chelsea coach Luiz Felipe Scolari was clearly a factor in the Brazilian's departure - Drogba could have a hugely negative impact on the season if he reacts badly to his changing circumstances. Would anyone be surprised if Drogba's final months were marked by rancour? What are the chances of him taking this well? Compare his demeanour to that of, say, England's rugby fly-half Jonny Wilkinson. Once the hero of a nation, Wilkinson has lately been reduced to deputising for Toby Flood. He gets on with his job, however, never complains, and receives the biggest cheer of the afternoon from the Twickenham crowd. Brilliant at his best: Drogba fires home against Tottenham earlier this season The same could be true of Drogba at Chelsea. What more imposing figure is there to come off the bench? Neither of the goalscorers in Manchester United's first Champions League triumph under Sir Alex Ferguson started the game, nor did three of their six successful penalty shootout takers in 2008. Drogba could still be the man to score a winning goal at Wembley to bring the curtain down on Chelsea's season, just as he won the FA Cup final in 2007. Has he cause for complaint? Hardly. It is not as if he was denied a chance. When Torres arrived, Carlo Ancelotti's first thought was to partner the pair against Liverpool, with Anelka behind. He also started Drogba with Salomon Kalou against Everton in the FA Cup. It didn't work. Indeed, Drogba has been desperately out of sorts since being diagnosed with malaria in November. He may have been carrying the debilitating disease for months. That is why Chelsea broke the bank for Torres. Fast approaching 33, it may be that Drogba never regains his peak form. In the circumstances, a team player would accept this has been a difficult season, stay patient, work hard and try to make an impact where he can. Drogba must now prove this is his intention. One report suggested he regards the Manchester United match as a litmus test, however, and if excluded, will consider his future in the summer. Maybe he will be sold anyway. Chelsea need to start balancing the books for that Torres deal, and an ageing squad must be overhauled. Yet it is the damage that Drogba can do instantly that should most concern Ancelotti. At his best a devastating figure leading the line, he can be equally destructive when he does not get his own way. The Italian will need all of his famed charm to steer a way through this one.  Fergie should save some of his 'wise' words for WayneSir Alex Ferguson, the Manchester United manager, reacted as objectively as ever to the controversy around Wayne Rooney's elbow on James McCarthy of Wigan Athletic at the weekend. 'The press will raise a campaign to get him hung by Tuesday, or electrocuted,' he said. No, they won't. The press do not as a rule want players to be executed for disciplinary offences, but they are quite keen on the Football Association coming down hard on the use of the elbow, as it has the potential to cause extreme injury, such as brain damage. Who, me? Wayne Rooney protests his innocence to referee Mark Clattenburg on Saturday In the instance of Rooney, however, referee Mark Clattenburg saw the incident and gave a foul against United, but no more. Looking at the replays, he was probably right. Rooney was dashing across the field to help provide defensive cover against a Wigan attack and, seeing that, McCarthy stopped and changed direction, taking a step back to block his path. In doing so, he also raisedhis shoulder to provide more of a physical impediment and Rooney responded by giving him a clump as he went past. He used an elbow, which should have merited a booking, but did not seem to bring it back at McCarthy, more use it as payment in kind as he passed. It was not the sort of elbow incident that rearranged Gary Mabbutt's face or left Iain Hume fighting for life. These are nuances, however, and very much open to individual interpretation. The bottom line is Rooney committed an offence worthy of a yellow card, but got away with it because Clattenburg judged McCarthy to be partly responsible. Nobody needs to be hung, electrocuted or even charged but, with the season coming to the boil, a quiet word with his striker rather than the standard outbreak of baseless suspicion and falseaccusation would seem Ferguson's best course of action.   Blame obtuse Arsene for Arsenal's latest disappointmentArsene Wenger could have bought a goalkeeper in the transfer window. Instead he elected to go with Wojciech Szczesny, a decision that seemed anything but cost effective on Sunday. Szczesny, 20, is going to be a fine player, no doubt, but as the season approaches its climax huge tests await. The return leg in Barcelona, the title run-in against Manchester United and, on Sunday, the Carling Cup final, which should have provided Arsenal's first trophy in six years.It did not end happily. It's all gone wrong: Goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny can't hide his dejection after a late mix-up cost Arsenal dear in the Carling Cup final With two minutes to go Szczesny and centre back Laurent Koscielny blundered and Birmingham City won. A misunderstanding, Wenger called it, as he must, unless he is to accept that once again an obtuse refusal to look beyond Arsenal's ranks has undermined the club at a crucial time. A more experienced goalkeeper would have cleaned out the ball, Koscielny and anything else in his path at that stage in the match. Instead, uncertainty reigned and another opportunity passed. Meanwhile, at the other end, Ben Foster impressed again. Wenger will argue he is playing the long game; you know, like Tony Blair and Middle East peace.   Unfortunate incident: Chelsea star Ashley Cole Air rifles are stupid toys and, as such, often become the playthings of stupid people. That is why stupid things happen with them. The accidental shooting of work placement student Tom Cowan by Ashley Cole is a case in point. Cole stupidly took his air rifle into Chelsea's training ground, where he stupidly left it primed and pointing at bystanders because, stupidly, he did not think it was loaded. The result: one painfully wounded 21-year-old, a lot of blood and a fresh round of negative headlines for Chelsea, who bear ultimate responsibility for what happens on their premises. Clearly, Cole attracts all manner of trouble on too many occasions to be blameless, but to allow any fool to own a firearm that can blind, maim or, if the most unfortunate circumstances combine, even kill is an accident waiting to happen. There should have to be justification for possession, even for air rifles, because there are a lot of idiots out there and the less access they are given to explosive devices the better for us all.   West Ham United's attempt to claim ?6.8m in compensation for Dean Ashton, whose injury problems began with an accident in training while on international duty, is undermined by one fact. Ashton was given a new five-year contract at West Ham in June 2008 worth in the region of ?60,000 per week, almost two years after breaking an ankle in a collision with Shaun Wright-Phillips. Then there were the 40 games, the 13 goals and the international appearance against Trinidad andTobago that took place post-trauma. West Ham would be advised not to throw money away on frivolous court actions: a fine result against Liverpool on Sunday should not disguise the fact they may well need the money some day. Ashton: In action for West Ham against Portsmouth in 2008 No to phonies for 2012 Games Shana Cox is the latest American athlete to attempt to jump ship for Great Britain in time for the 2012 Olympics. She has a personal best of 50.84 in the 400 metres and is the current National Collegiate Athletic Association champion. Cox has British parents, but what she does not have is a British passport, having previously shown no interest in representing Team GB. There has been too much of this already in the build-up to the London Games. Tiffany Ofili, a hurdler who won bronze for the United States at the World Junior Championships in 2006, has already been accepted, as has Shara Proctor, who came sixth at the World Championships in Berlin in 2009, wearing the colours of Caribbean island Anguilla. What message does this send to aspiring British athletes? It is a tawdry commercial stunt, wrapping the competitor in a flag of phoney convenience and affords no credit to either side.   WHY GHANA? The Football Association appear increasingly keen to play a friendly in Ghana. Must be a few quid in it. Some are disappointed because Manchester United's visit to Stamford Bridge on Tuesday is no longer the first leg of a title decider. Chelsea are 15 points adrift, albeit with a game in hand, and even winning that and beating United home and away would still leave them six points short. Yet while Chelsea may struggle to get their own campaign back on track, they can do wonders for Arsenal. To take six points off United, or even hold them to draws, could be the break Arsene Wenger's team need. Chelsea may yet hold the key to the title, even if it is destined not to remain in west London.  FIFA trialled goal-line technology last week, with little success, as all 10 participating companies failed to meet the established criteria. An artificial pitch presented difficulties for the systems that require cables around the goal, the tight deadline in setting up the equipment also made it hard to satisfy FIFA's demand for 100 per cent accuracy relayed to officials within one second. Hawk-Eye found the project so unreasonable they didn't even bother to take part. What a strange business. A cynic would suspect the authorities actually wanted it to fail.   Andy Mangan, the Wrexham forward, was one of five players banned by the Football Association for illegal betting during his time at Bury. Mangan placed money on a match in which he was involved and now claims poor pay in the lower divisions is driving many players to explore similar gambling ruses. This recalls the headline in The Onion, a satirical magazine: Recently Divorced Man Thinks Everyone Else's Relationship Is In Trouble.  Danny Jordaan (right) won less than 10 per cent of the vote to become a member of FIFA's executive committee, despite successfully organising Africa's first World Cup. Suketu Patel of the Seychelles Football Federation was elected in his place. A minor sporting nation, needy, unsuccessful and desperate for investment. What could possibly go wrong?  This FA Cup revamp keeps getting better. The latest proposal is to have rounds three to five staged over six days, starting Friday ending Wednesday in a cavalcade of confusion that will please only the television companies. So an end to third-round Saturday, the most romantic day in football's calendar. Yes, that should kill it stone dead. Well done all.  England versus India turned out to be the sort of hot ticket for which it is well worth being bludgeoned by policemen. Just as well really.  Explore more:People: Alex Ferguson, John Terry, Danny Jordaan, Gary Mabbutt, Nemanja Vidic, Luiz Felipe Scolari, Nicolas Anelka, Ben Foster, Tony Blair, Shaun Wright-Phillips, Fernando Torres, Toby Flood, Didier Drogba, Ashley Cole, Wayne Rooney, Dean Ashton, Laurent Koscielny, Carlo Ancelotti, Jonny Wilkinson Places: Barcelona, Berlin, Liverpool, London, Denmark, Ghana, United Kingdom, India, Africa, Caribbean, Middle East Organisations: Football Association


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