So in Avram Grant’s first major final as Chelsea manager, his side go down to Tottenham Hotspur. Beaten, playing a brand of cautious, inhibited football, that lacked passion. Lacked verve. Lacked boldness.
In taking over the reins from Jose Mourinho, Avram Grant had to tread carefully. Try too hard to be his own man and change too much too soon, then the shock could be counter-productive. Better to make small, subtle changes. A little at a time. Avam Grant negotiated that challenge well.
The absence through injury of the Untouchables, John Terry and Frank Lampard, allowed new leaders to emerge. Michael Ballack was finally given the breathing space to exert his influence on the team.
At Wembley today, Avram Grant appeared to get stage fright. That the need for a victory to prove his managerial credentials, meant that he played it safe. Back came Terry and Lampard. But this was the game for Avram Grant to show that he was his own person. Really make his mark. Signal the arrival of a new era.
Why not leave out Terry and Lampard? Use them from the bench if necessary. Give the players who had carried the team in the Untouchables absence, the chance to shine.
No wonder substitute Ballack refused to shake Avram Grant’s hand at the end of the game. In his caution, Grant had lost some of his players respect. His fear had negated his teams individual and collective experience. They had the recent memory of Cup Finals success to take this game in their stride. But all that bank of positivity was lost in the debilitating presence of fear of failure.
If Avram Grant allows his inhibited psychologies to negate his team in a big game again, then his rein as Chelsea manager, may well be short-lived.