|Chelsea’s Lack Of Depth In The Middle Of The Park Is Obvious
In recent matches, Chelsea have looked a bit sluggish on the attack despite the team featuring players like Hazard, Oscar, Mata and even Moses. Many have been quick to blame the team looking toothless on misfiring striker Fernando Torres. While the Spaniard’s recent performances in a Chelsea shirt have been nothing to write home about, I’d not blame him for the team looking sluggish. I blame Chelsea’s midfield pivot.
With Lampard out injured, Ramires had been starting every game for Chelsea. Due to fear of player burnout, Di Matteo rested him for the Capital One Cup fixture against United and also against Swansea during the weekend. While Ramires got some well-deserved rest, Chelsea most definitely struggled. With Ramires on the bench and Lampard injured, Di Matteo has played a double pivot of Jon Obi Mikel and Oriol Romeu. While both are good players in their own right, their style of play is effectively the same. Both are defensive midfielders who sit back and break up the attack of the opposition. The double pivot needs one proper defensive midfielder and one player who can provide something going forward, whether a box-to-box midfielder or a player who will constantly pass the ball to the attacking trio ahead and let them weave their magic. With the options that Chelsea have in the squad, Ramires-Mikel has been the most effective combination in the pivot. Lampard hasn’t been at his best so far this season and has lost his regular place in the starting XI he once enjoyed.
Chelsea’s recent sluggishness in midfield has proved how much we need Ramires. But it has further exposed our lack of depth and variety in the midfield department, which has in turn brought into question Chelsea’s decision to offload both Raul Meireles and Michael Essien in the summer.
Mind you, I can come up with effective arguments as to why we should have offloaded them. Essien often looked a shadow of the player he was a few years ago owing to his knee injuries. Meireles seemed like a panic buy by Andre Villas-Boas and never seemed to perform well under Di Matteo. Nevertheless, the club should have kept hold of one of the two midfielders, just in case we managed to find ourselves in the situation we are in at the moment. With Lampard out injured and Ramires our only choice for the role, it would have been nice to have either Meireles or Essien to call upon as back-up. But that’s not the case.
As such, the decision to remove both Essien and Meireles from Chelsea is a sensible one in the long run. This shows that the club is willing to give players like Josh McEachran and Kevin De Bruyne a chance very soon. However, one of either Essien or Meireles should have been kept at the club (Meireles would have been my choice) for back-up and providing Di Matteo with another option in the middle of the park. Buying another central midfielder would be a silly option as the club would then be limiting the first-team chances of McEachran and De Bruyne in the long run, something the club seemingly wants to avoid. The only real option we have is to weather this particular storm until Lampard is fit and performing again.
Hopefully, this entire situation isn’t as bad as I think it could become.