If the build-up to tonight's Europa League Final in Baku between Chelsea and Arsenal was controversial, the game itself did a decent job of adding to the general sense of negativity with its sky-scraping camera angles, a poorly conditioned pitch, large swathes of empty seats around the stadium, and the fairly forgettable action between the two teams in the first half. Thankfully things picked up with a spate of second-half goals seeing Chelsea run out comfortable 4-1 winners.
Much of the focus before kick-off was around the absence of Arsenal's Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who opted to give the UEFA showpiece a miss on account of the potential dangers of being an Armenian in Azerbaijan. But there was another absentee from the Chelsea squad who seems to have slipped under most people's radar.
Spare a thought for poor Danny Drinkwater, the forgotten man of English football.
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) May 29, 2019
The man who was at the heart of Leicester City's Premier League winning midfield only three years ago, has endured a bit of a nightmare since joining Chelsea for £35 million in 2017.
He failed to establish himself during Antonio Conte's final season at Stamford Bridge, only making 12 Premier League appearances. If he thought that the change of manager last summer might work in his favour, that optimism was quickly squashed by Maurizio Sarri who told Drinkwater in August that he wouldn't be part of his plans.
The Italian has been true to his word, with Danny Drinkwater's half hour in the Community Shield against Man City being the only game time he has gotten all season, despite being contracted with the club until 2022. The disappointment of his season on the field was compounded by a drink-driving charge earlier in the year, that sent the social media world into a fairly predictable pun-frenzy.
The final insult came this evening as he was excluded from Chelsea's match-day squad for the final, despite them having named 11 subs on the bench, along with Arsenal's 12.
Drinkwater didn’t travel despite Chelsea only having three fully fit senior midfielders & 11 of a possible 12 substitutes. I know he hasn’t played all season but that’s still remarkable #cfc
— Liam Twomey (@liam_twomey) May 29, 2019
This is an 11 man bench that included a number of midfield youngsters like Ethan Ampadu, George McEachran and Conor Gallagher. Drinkwater is registered in Chelsea's European squad for this season, so a place on the bench for the final wouldn't have been out of the question, regardless of how far down the pecking order he has fallen.
Despite a very respectable 3rd place in the league and a European trophy to add, Sarri has long been touted for the exit door, with the vacancy at Juventus now being a possible destination. If there is any optimism to be found for Danny Drinkwater's future career prospects at Chelsea, it will surely have to see Sarri exit the club this summer.
Though to be fair, considering the travel woes of Arsenal and Chelsea supporters making the arduous journey to Baku, maybe being left at home wasn't the worst deal Drinkwater could have hoped for.