Didier Drogba: the Premier League’s biggest misconception

Didier Drogba is just one of those guys you can’t help but like. It’s the energy, the power, the flowing locks. The way he bullied hapless defenders. The Ivorian is one of the cult heroes of English football, no doubt. “DROGBA LEGEND,” reads the famous banner at Stamford Bridge. Legend indeed. In an illustrious career at Chelsea that spanned 8 years from 2004-2012 (with one farewell season in 2014/15 ), Drogba netted some of the most crucial goals in the club’s history. One thinks of his late equalising header against Bayern Munich in the 2012 Champions League final and his winning penalty in the ensuing shootout. The FA Cup clincher in the infamously tedious 2007 final, an occasion where history would repeat itself ,three years later- this time against Portsmouth from a free-kick.

League form, however, is the greatest misconception of Dider Drogba. The Ivorian only managed 0.41 goals per game- miles below what you would expect of the typical calibre many associate him with. To put that it into perspective, Thierry Henry scored 0.68 goals per match, Alan Shearer 0.59, while Sergio Agüero currently averages 0.69. In fact, Drogba was rarely first-choice striker at Chelsea, which is staggering considering his ‘legend’ status among social media. Upon his hefty £24m price tag, many expected him to hit the ground running in West London. His first season was of profound disappointment, starting less than half of the matches and managing only 10 goals. Eidur Gudjohnsen- an attacking midfielder by trade- was the preferred option leading the lines in Mourinho’s 4-3-3 system for his link-up play and selfless runs off the ball. Drogba, on the other hand, was a more traditional number nine. He thrived on crosses in to the box and long, direct balls, where he could exercise his physicality and heading ability. However, with the likes of Thierry Henry and Wayne Rooney adding a new dimension to forward play- that is, dropping deeper to link attacks and chipping in with assists- the traditional number nine was gradually falling out of favour.

Bar a prolific 2006/07 season where he netted 20 goals, Drogba’s league-form and goal stats remained chronically underwhelming until Ancelotti’s arrival in 2009. In 05/06 he scored 12 times in 29 appearances, 07/08 saw 8 goals in 19 appearances, which then dropped even further to a mere 5 goals in 24 appearances for 08/09. In 09/10, though, Drogba fired out of the blocks- scoring 13 goals in his first 15 matches. Still though, Chelsea looked a more fluid, well-rounded unit in his absence. Nicolas Anelka, like Gudjohnsen under Mourinho, was the superior ‘team-player’ for Ancelotti despite Drogba’s magnificent individual contributions. The speedy Frenchman could link play and also run in behind, making Chelsea’s attacks more unpredictable. Drogba ended the season with another Premier League title in his hands and a first golden boot award but, once again, he had become the plan B.

Drogba was the definition of a big-game player. When the stakes were high, when the adrenaline was coursing through his veins, he came to life. It is equally notable that the style and tempo of cup matches suited the Ivorian. They have a tendency to be cagey, attritional affairs, where traditionally technical teams will be more direct- just look at Liverpool in the Champions Leage final. The game becomes a real battle, a scrap, long balls and hopeful crosses into the box suddenly of the essence. Drogba feasts on that.

To earn a spot on the pantheon of the greatest players to have played for Chelsea, to become compared in Instagram polls to the likes of Shearer, Henry and Suarez, to spark misty-eyed nostalgia years after retirement you need to put in big performances in big games. Drogba perfected this art to a tee. But one of the great ‘Premier League’ strikers of all time? Not even top 20.

Kit Review: Nottingham Forest anniversary shirt

The timeless tale of Nottingham Forest’s 1979/80 miracle men will not just forever provide the backbone of Forest folklore, but was an achievement that will never be forgotten by anybody around Europe alive to witness it. The idiosyncratic Brian Clough and his trusted adviser Peter Taylor guided outsiders Nottingham Forest to the peak of european football twice in a row- a feat only achieved by one other English club (Liverpool). Having never even seen Forest in the Premier League, the story never ceases to amaze me, something which can be said for many of the younger generation. Even after 40 years -an era of gradual decline and visceral disappointment- it’s proved the lifeline keeping the city ground afloat on the banks of the Trent. “How many European Cups have you won then ?” The ultimate silencer. Clinging on to the past ? Maybe. But why not ? It is a proud, illustrious history, and one that no doubt deserves to be celebrated.

To commemorate the 40th anniversary of the first European Cup win, Forest teamed up with Macron to produce 1979 limited-edition celebratory shirts (as we won it in 1979), each one worth £70. A hefty price tag, but, in all honesty, worth every penny. There was something almost prestigious about it, as though you were buying the European cup itself.

Arriving in an authentic red box, sleekly adorned with miracle men logos, the Forest badge and a fading, legendary photo of John Mcgovern et al crowding round round the trophy, it was the fanciest wrapping you’ll ever get for a football shirt. Ever. Inside, it got even better. A quaint little booklet containing some of the memorable photos of the cup run was perched on one side- another lovely touch- but it was the main event that really caught your eye. Concealed behind a transparent sheet of plastic was the shirt itself, the different shades of red a beautiful combination.

Though, it was not until you looked closer that the real magic of the shirt hit you. Inscribed on one of the half the shirt like Latin on some Roman colosseum were the names of everybody lucky enough to have been part of that European cup winning team. Names like John Mcgovern, Gary Birtles, Franck Clark and John Robertson particularly leaped out to me, – perpetually popping up when the older Forest fans reminisce over ‘the good old times’. Even the inside of the neck, repeatedly stamped with European Cup Winners 1979, was designed to a tee, while the back of the neck was embellished with a tiny, but somehow powerful European Cup. Macron- a company who can often over-sponsor themselves on shirts – made sure to keep it simple, and it spoke volumes of the importance of honouring the shirt and achievement. After all, only a handful of clubs get to produce European Cup-winning celebratory tops.

Comfort: 9.5

Aesthetics: 10

Uniqueness: 9.8

Rarity: 10

Retro Factor: 9.1

Overall rating: 9.8