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Five Chelsea players, all questioned at various stages of this campaign, have 24 FA Cup-winners’ medals between them and have produced the form to dispute the consensus that they must be culled if the team is to evolve.
Why rid the dressing room of the experience and know-how which Kenny Dalglish believes was the difference in the FA Cup final?
PETR CECH, age 29
Frank Lampard likened his save to Gordon Banks’ against Pele in 1970 and it will endure as one of the great FA Cup final saves. Luis Suarez clipped the ball to the left post and Andy Carroll connected. His header was on target but Cech somehow forced the ball on to the bar with a strong right hand. “From where I was, it was a goal, simple as that,” said Lampard. “Petr won it for us with that save alone.” Stories of shoulder problems and the rapid progress of Thibaud Courtois, on loan at Atletico Madrid, plus the fashion for keepers who operate further outside their area had conspired to suggest Cech’s time may be up. But he has been immaculate, helped by Di Matteo allowing his back-four to sit deeper. The save at Wembley came after two exceptional displays against Barcelona. “We’ve got the best keeper there is,” said John Terry.
DIDIER DROGBA, 34
Drogba’s last four goals: the opener in the 4-1 comeback against Napoli, the first in the FA Cup semi-final against Tottenham, the only goal in the first leg against Barcelona and the winner in the Cup final.
He is the definition of a big-game player, with eight goals in eight games at Wembley and the record for scoring in four FA Cup finals.
A kiss of the turf before he left on Saturday looked like a farewell to a friend. He is thought to be off to China next month but he seems irreplaceable in a team designed to counter-attack.
“I’m desperate for him to stay,” said Lampard. “He is a magnificent player and his body is a machine when you look at him stripped down. He’s lost no pace and none of his finishing instinct. There’s no-one like Didier, not with the bulldozer thing, the sublime touch and the finish.”
FRANK LAMPARD, 33
Asked to play deeper than he’d prefer and with less freedom, Lampard is proving there’s more to his game than a good engine and a clinical finish from midfield.
On Saturday, there was a feint to shoot and a perfect pass for Drogba to score and in Barcelona he showed the strength to survive the bumps in midfield before finding Ramires for the goal which turned the tie.
Maybe the spell out of favour under AVB has rammed home the logic that he cannot be the marauding Frank of old if he wants to go grey in Chelsea’s midfield.
He has won nine trophies at Chelsea and will be captain in the Champions League final. “Ten would be nice,” he said.
ASHLEY COLE, 31
“The best left back in the world for many years,” according to Terry but Cole’s standards slipped this season and he was left out in Napoli before returning to his best under Di Matteo.
He was perhaps the best player over two legs against Barcelona and silenced Craig Bellamy on Saturday as he improved the best personal FA Cup record ever.
JOHN TERRY, 31
Stupid in Barcelona and uncomfortable at times against Carroll on Saturday but the captain has been a totem of the revival. Handed a licence to marshal the defence as he sees fit, he was at his best as a leader and central defender. This despite broken ribs in the home leg against Napoli, both games against Benfica and the first Barcelona tie. He will be missed in Munich. – Daily Mail