By Nikki Davidson.
Ever since Didier Drogba and Chelsea parted ways following the 2011-2012 season and the glorious Champions League victory inspired by the man himself, a new reality set in amid the celebrations, a reality that has been nagging at everyone associated with the club: who will lead our front line?
It’s not exactly a secret that Fernando Torres didn’t quite work out as planned. Signing Demba Ba in January 2013 was a good bit of business to be sure, and based on his proficiency while at Newcastle, he should have been prolific in front of goal at Chelsea as well. But factors that combined to compound an already difficult season saw him basically rotated out of form and he consequently seemed to have lost his touch.
Come the transfer window preceding the 2013-2014 season rumours were abound as to who Chelsea was going to sign, once again to fill the glaringly lacking striker position. Numerous alleged signings we were to be making did not materialise, but we did ultimately sign a centre forward, and one proven to be among the best and most decorated in the world: Samuel Eto’o.
Whether or not Eto’o would indeed be the solution to our woes was unclear upon his signing last August. But looking back, you can say he served us quite well, even if only as a temporary fix.
How can we gauge Eto’o’s success at Chelsea? Well, in 26 starts and nine substitute appearances, his 12 goals for Chelsea include:
- His debut goal against Cardiff City, which turned the game around to a score of 2-1, having been 1-0 down, after which Chelsea went on to win the game 4-1
- Just after Christmas, he scored the winner in the 2-1 win against Liverpool at home
- His opening strikes in the 6-0 defeat of Arsenal and against Tottenham at home, as well as the penalty he won in that game, which Eden Hazard tucked neatly away to seal the win with a 4-0 scoreline.
- The hat-trick against Manchester United, which saw Chelsea win confidently with 3 goals to 1
- A brace in the Champions League group stage against Schalke secured a 3-0 win
- His fourth-minute strike (his 10th goal of the season) gave Chelsea an early lead against Galatasaray, in a match we would go on to win 2-0
It can be said that Eto’o was just lucky, taking advantage of mistakes like poor passing, the goalkeepers’ inability to control the ball in their area, tap-ins there for the taking right at the goalmouth. But perhaps the ability to do that- being in the right place at the right time, having the confidence to pounce, to attack- is the mark of a true striker. Had it been Drogba who would have capitalised on those errors, would anyone be upset or questioning his contributions? We would more likely be singing his praises. And of course, you cannot deny the quality Eto’o displayed in scoring the goals that did not come about as a result of others’ errors.
I am not saying that Eto’o was the missing piece in the puzzle; in fact he was quite far from it, particularly as far as consistency is concerned. His misses hurt us, and unfortunately, it is his last goal for Chelsea that may somewhat mirror the lasting feeling many Chelsea supporters have about Eto’o: the opening goal in the home defeat to Sunderland, a game which ultimately cost us our unimpeachable home record under José Mourinho, and more importantly, our challenge for the title.
And though he is considered one of the greatest African strikers and Cameroon’s all time top-scorer with 56 international goals, in this World Cup, which will surely be his last, Eto’o only played 1 out of 3 games (though that was in part due to injury) in the group stage for Cameroon, and that was in the defeat to Mexico.
Eto’o is not what you would call a Chelsea legend by any means, and probably doesn’t make the list of the greatest players we’ve ever had (at least in terms of the fans’ favourites). Though he seems to have left with a strong positive feeling about the club and overall maintained a decent relationship with the supporters, he, inexorably, has made remarks that have left many fans disgruntled, and still others angry.
But Eto’o has most definitely cemented himself in our history and may have even become a bit of a cult hero. His excitement at scoring each goal (it appeared to be as if it were simultaneously his first and his last), his enjoyment playing for the club and one of the world’s greatest managers, his celebrations (namely the Old Man one, of course), and his link-up play with Eden Hazard were entertaining, endearing, skillful and dynamic. While some are happy to see the back of Eto’o and feel he has been disrespectful and entitled, there are those who see it as one of football’s greatest injustices that he leaves Chelsea before Torres.
Read more from Nikki right here!