Chelsea: Four thoughts on the Barkley-Jorginho-Willian penalty foofaraw

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 17: Ross Barkley of Chelsea (8) misses a penalty during the UEFA Champions League group H match between Chelsea FC and Valencia CF at Stamford Bridge on September 17, 2019 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 17: Ross Barkley of Chelsea (8) misses a penalty during the UEFA Champions League group H match between Chelsea FC and Valencia CF at Stamford Bridge on September 17, 2019 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images) /

Ross Barkley wishes his name was in all the headlines for a different reason, but here we are. Perhaps we can add some more considered perspectives than what you may hear elsewhere today about Chelsea’s penalty kerfuffle.

Had Ross Barkley scored on the late penalty kick, everyone would be talking about what a relief it was that Chelsea at least managed a draw and wondering why they needed a late penalty kick just to get that result. But he didn’t, so that moment overshadows the other 90+ minutes that placed such import on the kick.

1. Take Frank Lampard at his word

Frank Lampard was unequivocal in his post-match comments when inevitably asked about the apparent mix-up between Ross Barkley, Jorginho and Willian over who was the penalty taker. “Ross is the penalty taker… I don’t know what the conversation was, but Jorginho and Willian were the takers on the pitch. When Ross comes on he becomes the penalty taker.”

Lampard also noted that Barkley scored two penalty kicks in preseason. On Twitter, Grant James added that Jorginho was on the pitch for both of those kicks. Conversely, Ross Barkley was not on the pitch when Jorginho converted the game-tying penalty in the 101′ of the UEFA Super Cup.

Well, that should be that.

Particularly after a very similar issue at Manchester United earlier in the season, all teams should know with zero ambiguity the pecking order of penalty takers. If a coach wants to let the players decide based on who is feeling it, there has to be a tie-breaker. Willian apparently did not get the memo, and that will be for Lampard to hash out behind closed doors.

2. …or don’t

Frank Lampard understands strategic communications, as befits someone who learned from the master, Jose Mourinho. Lampard knows that you praise your players in public, and withhold your criticisms for private settings. You maintain the integrity of your locker room and its united front at all times, especially when speaking to the football media, the greatest enemy of locker room integrity and unity with the exception of Mino Raiola.

On that reading, this is the only thing he was ever going to say. He would never put Barkley, Willian or Jorginho on blast, leaving them and his own management open to every form of scrutiny.

Part of being a non-ideological pragmatic manager is knowing what to say when you need to say it. Lampard has won every press conference so far, and this post-game interview is no different.

3. What would Chelsea be without entertaining non-troversies?

Old and busted: Did Maurizio Sarri know Kepa Arrizabalaga was just stalling for time? Did Kepa know this was a long-planned tactical substitution given Willy Caballero’s success in penalty shoot-outs?

New hotness: Did Frank Lampard actually name Ross Barkley the penalty taker? Did Willian and Jorginho know this?

Seriously, why would you want to be a fan of any other club?

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4. Willian has an eye for this sort of thing

Three men stepped forward. Only one could remain.

Ross Barkley stood his ground as Willian and Jorginho sidled up and signaled their intention to take the kick. After a brief discussion of barely a few words, Jorginho offered Barkley a handshake and walked outside the penalty area. Willian, however, remained a few seconds longer, bent over, adjusted the ball, pulled up his socks, stood between Barkley and the ball and gave the impression to everyone that he, not Barkley, would take the kick.

If Willian had lingered any longer the referee would have had to come over and ordered one of the two out of the area in order to get on with the game.

Jasper Cillessen could not have done more to ice Barkley. Willian needed that little voice in the back of his head to interrupt his game of chicken and say “Time for some game theory.” A brief consideration of the situation would have told him that, yes, if he prevailed in the stand-off he would be taking the kick from a position of alpha confidence. But if he didn’t, for whatever reason, Barkley would be stepping up to it from reduced position of confidence. The minimum outcome was farther from the mean than the maximum outcome.

Both of our regular readers will know how rare it is for us to defend Jorginho, especially in a simple one-or-the-other situation, the kind he usually loses in these pages as regularly as on the pitch. But in this case, Jorginho was unequivocally the better man.

Whatever was going through Jorginho’s head as he prepared to walk away, even if he felt he was being usurped as the penalty taker, at the final moment he put the team first. He gave Barkley his support and moved clear. Willian, on the other hand, escalated his antics and never offered Barkley that hand up.

This incident has echoes of Willian and emojigate after the 2018 FA Cup Final. Not the worst thing in the world, but just enough to say “Why? Why, man? Why would you do that? Seriously, wtf, why?”

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Keep an eye on Willian’s Instagram today and tomorrow. Tucked into one of his trademark 52-part Stories he may have a few emojis stacked over Barkley in some pictures from the game.