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Nov 13, 2008

Drogba no huge loss to Chelsea

And so the media furore begins. Didier Drogba, already nothing more than a bit-part player this season at Chelsea due to injury, looks certain to face a suspension for throwing a coin at Burnley fans during Wednesday night's Carling Cup exit.

Luckily for Chelsea it could be argued that he's hardly been missed, domestically at least, as the Blues sit at the top of the Premier League with more goals scored, 29, than any other team. Drogba's contribution to that? Zero.

It's easy to forget, as he has only really been a top player since his big money move to Stamford Bridge from Marseille four years ago, that Drogba will turn 31 this season. Injuries are a persistent problem for the Ivory Coast international. He started less than half the club's Premier League matches last season, scoring eight goals, and has started only one match this term.

No-one doubts that when Drogba is fit and on form he is an explosive forward who is capable of scoring goals of the highest quality, but the longer his injury problems go on you have to wonder if boss Luiz Felipe Scolari will consider allowing him to move away from the Bridge.

Drogba has moaned and groaned his way through four years in west London and during Avram Grant's doomed tenure it seemed almost certain he would jump ship in the summer. Injury left him tied to Chelsea as Jose Mourinho didn't come calling from Inter Milan and he could now find himself dumped on the club's terms rather than his own.

Booked by referee Keith Stroud for giving Burnley fans the finger after scoring his first goal of the season, the official appeared to miss Drogba pick up the projectile hurled at him from the visitors' section of the ground and throw it straight back.

He won't escape an Football Association charge this time. In his book Didier Drogba: The Autobiography he said about his altercation with Nemanja Vidic in the Champions League final: "If I had punched him, I would have understood. Now I wish I had." The FA decided to take no action.

This time there is a precedent. In 2002 Jamie Carragher was sent off for throwing a coin at Arsenal fans in an FA Cup tie at Highbury and received a three-match ban and a £40,000 club fine. On that occasion the FA decided not to charge the Liverpool player due to the automatic suspension and action taken by the club, as well as the player's immediate apology. Even so, it's strange (or perhaps not) that the FA did not consider the incident serious enough to at least call Carragher to Soho Square.

The police, too, handed out only a verbal warning to Carragher which doesn't even require the offender to admit responsibility. Unless a Burnley fan presses charges a similar course of action may follow.

Drogba may have issued an apology too, but will have to face the disciplinary committee to hear his fate. The striker should expect to receive the same three match ban, though we all know the powers that be seldom work logically in such matters.

Still, Chelsea don't miss Drogba right now. As long as Anelka keeps scoring there is no problem. And Drogba will be free to play in the Champions League which resumes in two weeks' time, providing Scolari with the perfect rotation policy to bring his player back to full fitness. That is, of course, if he isn't truly past it and breaks down with another twinge, whinge and a moan.

But Chelsea don't miss Drogba right now. As long as Anelka keeps scoring there is no problem. And Drogba will be free to play in the Champions League which resumes in two weeks' time, providing Scolari with the perfect rotation policy to bring his player back to full fitness. That is, of course, if he isn't truly past it and breaks down with another twinge, whinge and a moan.

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