Defensive Midfielders at Stamford Bridge

Crystal Palace v Chelsea - Pre Season FriendlyThe defensive aspect of the game at Stamford Bridge has taken a hit in the past couple of years. Truth be told, ever since Jose Mourinho departed, Chelsea have never really coped and gone back to dominating like how they did under him. I would like to point out the defense and partially midfield.

Jose Mourinho created the meanest defense ever seen in English league, which arguably alone won him the Premier League twice. William Gallas, Ricardo Carvalho, John Terry and Del Horno leaked just 15goals in the 2005-06 season, which still remains as the Premier League record – Truly astonishing.

Under the reigns of Villas Boas and Rafa Benitez, the concern for good defensive display has lacked. Bottling a two goal lead never really seemed to be a problem for the Chelsea side regardless of the opposition. That is a major decline from where Jose Mourinho left us.

Makelele and Cech, arguably the two most important players which made it happen for Chelsea in their title winning seasons under the Portuguese sensation. With Cech still guarding the Chelsea goal, the hole of Makelele has never been filled which remains a key as of why Chelsea have struggled.

Claude Makelele spent five years at Stamford Bridge and he was an ever so reliable figure as he played around 220 games in that time span. Jose Mourinho deployed him in a very unique position which now has become a trend – Defensive midfield position. Since Makelele was the first player to get such fame as he did by playing in that position, the DM role is also known as ‘The Makelele role’.

Players like Makelele go unnoticed in the game. Now-a-days, fans are more intrigued to see flashy tricks and unimaginative number of goals being scored that they have lost the plot of how the basics of football work.

CaptureAbove is my attempt to make you aware of how the system back then was played. Makelele basically played in ‘The Hole’ – The region behind the midfield and ahead of the defense. He just used to sit there and intercept the play time and time again and then used to play incisive balls forward and when he did,well, rest is history.

Our current candidates for the pivot:

Lets be clear in the very beginning, Chelsea currently don’t have any players capable of replicating what Makelele did. It’s a matter of who can do the job the closest to that.

Lets begin with our first choice John Obi Mikel. He has been at the club for long and has time in the presence of the man himself, Makelele. Although many fans don’t entirely back him, he does get the job done. I for one believe that he is quite lazy and slow, at times which makes it difficult for us to break. Hetends to pass it sideways rather than playing a forward pass. His ability to play a through ball is non-existent and also his aerial balls. He also doesn’t provide you anything extra in terms of goals either.Unfortunately, his cons exceed his pros.

Next in line is Micheal Essien.  Ever since his injury, he hasn’t been himself. He was sent on loan to Madrid where he operated in the defense more often – That tells you about his ability to defend. Essien used to be the best interceptor of his times and his aerial balls were a joy to watch. He is certainly one of the Mourinho’s favorite and it remains to be seen whether he will be played or not. My opinion is that he still can do a decent job but his wage bill is too much for a part-timer. Better to promote youth products like Ake.

The Champions League hero, Ramires is the one we’re now talking about. He has some traits of Makelele,the stamina, the hunger, the power. Ramires for me is a definite starter in our team. He gives you the engine to run on. Recently, he has immensely improved his game in terms of passing but his first touch has always been below par. He gets you goals and he gets you versatility. I love the fact that he can operate anywhere in the midfield and on the wings.

Now, Marco van Ginkel.  From the very little we have seen thus far from him , I believe he is going to be a sensational player for Chelsea. He is extremely tidy, quick while making short passes and most of all,his vision is exceptional. He has goals in him and he can assist. Last season he has 12 odd goals and the same number of assists for Vitesse. He is a real good addition to the squad.

Van GinkelOscar is another candidate to reside in the pivot as the deep lying playmaker. Many claim that he does not have the physicality to cope but his best performance in a Blue shirt came whilst playing as a DM against Arsenal at the Emirates where he held off Arteta and Cazorla on his own. The talent is there for us to exploit but can it be done on permanent basis?

David Luiz. He always likes to make forward runs that will help the team score, which leaves a hole in front of Cech that sees us conceding a goal or two. Although Luiz was our best CB last season as he improved a lot under Rafael Benitez, but deploying him as a DM was a genius idea. An overall passing accuracy of 81% and 5.4 long balls underlined his exceptional reading of the game. When playing in the DM position, he can make his forward runs comfortably knowing that he’s being covered at the back while also being able to track back the opponent and defend. Mourinho was clear when asked about Luiz, saying that he’ll mostly play as a CB.

Then we have players like Chalobah, Nathan Ake, Oriol Romeu and Josh McEachran. They are all talented and young. As much as I like Romeu and McEachran, I believe they won’t be able to make the cut. As far as Chalobah and Ake are concerned, they will be getting their fair share of time but to make that happen,we need to load off the likes of Essien and Lampard (Yes, Lampard).

I’ve saved the most controversial for last and it is none other than Frank Lampard. It’s true that he’s a legend at the club but what good is the legend when he is not delivering what he is asked of? Lets face it. Playing as a defensive players has never been Lampard’s priority. He barely intercepts the play and his old legs doesn’t allow him to track back quickly enough either. It’s a strange situation with him. The love he gets from the fans is incredible thus I like to see him stay, but not as a DM. I would rather have his as a replacement of Juan Mata, behind the striker. That works out for everyone.

The pivot needs sorting out and who better than the man himself, Jose Mourinho, to do that? It’ll be an interesting season and hopefully Chelsea stay calm and composed at the back and save us some heartaches.

Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

– Malak ( )


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