In the fifth edition of ‘A generation of players’ I look back at Chelsea’s greatest Defensive Midfielders over the past decade, and make a shortlist of future talents in this position. As always, there are only a select few players I can analyse but I will say a few words on those that I am most fond of.
Before I go on to analyses Chelsea defensive midfielders I just want to have a few words on some of the best defensive midfielders in the world throughout history. Most teams have now drifted away from the usual 4-4-2 formation, and they now incorporate an attacking and then a defensive midfielder in the centre of the park. Sergio Busquets, Xabi Alonso, and Bastian Schweinsteiger are without question three of the best holding midfielders that we can see on our televisions today. All have excellent positioning enabling to have an important role in both attack and defensive situations. Furthermore, they all have the ability to pick out those incredible long balls and also those simple ones that often go unnoticed. As always, Chelsea have had some great defensive minded midfielders, which has lead to great successes for us.
Claude signed for Chelsea in he summer of 2003, for a fee of £16.8 million. He was proclaimed to be the “battery” of the team, and went on to have huge success at the club. Makélelé’s importance was recognized by Mourinho, who declared him Chelsea’s “Player of the Year.”
With him playing as a deep-lying playmaker he enjoyed many triumphs at Chelsea, winning the FA Premier League: 2004–05, 2005–06; League Cup: 2004–05, 2006–07; FA Community Shield: 2005; FA Cup: 2006–07. Furthermore, he was voted in the FIFPro World XI in 2005.
Claude Makélélé is certainly one of my favourite holding midfielders that has ever played for the club. What is more, he is also one of the best holding players the world has ever seen.
Juan Sebastian Veron
I just wanted to say a quick few words on this former Chelsea Midfielder. While he only made a few appearances for the club, and was troubled with injury, I will never forget this man because of his bushy moustache and playing with him on the PS2 game: Chelsea Club Football. All jokes aside – he was a very good player.
Ballack was known for his passing range, scoring ability, ball skills, and commanding presence in the midfield. Whilst he was more of an attacking midfielder which corresponds to his goal tally, in the modern Chelsea side I can picture Ballack in one of the holding Midfielder roles.
Ballack was selected by Pelé as one of FIFA’s 100 Greatest Living Players, and as the UEFA Club Midfielder of the Year in 2002.
He was very unfortunate to be hit with an injury which dampened his true with the Blues. However, this German legend will always be remembered for his time at Chelsea and all the honours he received.
Essien is a midfielder who has often been touted as a box-to-box midfielder for his ability to exert boundless energy in supporting offensive and defensive play and for his tough tackling style which has earned him the nickname “The Bison”. Essien can also play as a defender, both on the right of defence and in the centre.
He has been an important playing throughout the Abramovich era and was awarded the Chelsea Player of the Year: 2007. Essien is certainly one of the best CDM’s in the business, and has been nominated on several occasions for the Ballon d’Or. And whilst out on loan at Real Madrid, I still believe he has a future at Chelsea.
Finally, none of us will forget his stunning left-footed volley in the second leg of the UEFA Champions League semi-final against Barcelona, 2009.
The Portuguese Midfielder joined from Liverpool in the summer of 2011. Meireles was a regular for the blues during s period when Chelsea had several injury troubles. His versatility is marked by him playing at both a deep and attacking role in the middle of the field, depending of the players available and coaches’ strategies.
Whilst only spending a year at the club, Raul Meireles was a reliable player and was useful to have in the side. None of us will forget the belter of a goal he scored in the final minutes of the Champions League quarter-finals 2–1 victory over Benfica. Moreover, I personally feel we shouldn’t have sold him especially now we are struggling with players to gain full fitness.
Considered to be one of the best English footballers of his time and one of the best midfield players of his generation, Lampard is a box-to-box midfielder known for “his work-rate, range of passing and goal scoring ability.”
As he has aged, Frank has drifted further back the pitch and now regularly starts in the holding midfielder role. However this does not stop Super Frank, the three-time Chelsea Player of the Year, from being the club’s second highest all-time goal scorer with 200 goals in all competitions. What is more, Lampard is one of seven players, and the only midfielder, to have scored 150 or more goals in the Premier League.
Frank is certainly one of the best players in the clubs history, and he has an ongoing list of honours. And whilst rumours suggest he will no longer be at Chelsea next season, Frank certainly has the ability to continue to play at top flight football.
Ramires Santos do Nascimento
Ramires is comfortable in either the centre or the right of midfield. However he has also been deployed as a defensive midfielder playing a box-to-box midfielder role because of his energy in supporting defensive and offensive play. His attacking and defensive mentality has lead to comparisons to Chelsea midfielder Michael Essien. This season Ramires has been a regular in the holding midfielder position in Chelsea’s 4-2-3-1 formation.
Ramires enjoyed many successes last season and was awarded with Chelsea Goal of the Season vs. Barcelona, 24 April 2012; and Chelsea Players’ Player of the Year 2011–2012.
Mikel John Obi
Chelsea’s leading goal scorer John Obi M… Hang on!? Mikel has yet to score for Chelsea in nearly 200 appearances, but no need to worry because this man is personally one of Chelsea more crucial players in our current squad. His consistent performances often go unnoticed and he is no doubt one of the best CDM in the world at the moment. His playing style is different to those who play around him which is what makes him so effective. He rarely opts to play a long switching ball instead he plays it simple and ensures we keep possession of the ball.
His performances have lead to many success at Chelsea which include: Premier League: 2009–10; FA Cup: 2006–07, 2008–09, 2009–10, 2011–12; League Cup: 2006–07; FA Community Shield: 2009; UEFA Champions League: 2011–12.
I’ve spoken about David Luiz in a previous edition as a Centre Back. However, he has impressed us all with his dazzling performances playing slightly higher up the field. As a deep-lying midfielder Luiz can express more of his Brazilian flair through his driving runs and pin point through balls.
I personally prefer him as a centre back due to his pace which enables him to prevent shifty strikers getting through on goal, however by playing him as a