It’s fair to say that wing-play was a problem area for Chelsea last season. We struggled to find the right combination on the wing and would often suffer as a result of it. The wingers did manage to put up some decent performances, but consistency levels were a bit worrying.
Last season, there were 2 players in particular who were used on the right wing, with varying levels of success. Daniel Sturridge was played wide-right for most of the season, while Ramires was preferred as a winger under Roberto Di Matteo. Let’s take a quick look at how both of them fared on the wings last season.
Daniel Sturridge was AVB’s first-choice on the right-wing. AVB once described Sturridge to Porto winger Hulk, who was also converted into a winger after starting his career as a striker. While the comparison was pretty far-fetched (as was proved during the course of the season), Danny did have a decent start to the season. He seemed extremely lively on the wing, & added a level of dynamism to the attack. The fact that he’s left-footed meant that he was easily able to cut across on to his left foot & have a shot at goal. But it was his willingness to shoot that was eventually his downfall. It became a common sight to see Danny beat a couple of defenders, then cut across on his left & take the shot on, often missing by yards. The fact that there were often other players in better positions simply waiting for a pass made the whole situation even more frustrating. This led to Sturridge experiencing a dip in form & being dropped from the first XI on a regular basis.
Ramires became a regular on the right-wing under Roberto Di Matteo. Daniel Sturridge was dropped as a result of a string of poor performances. Ramires’ pace made him seem like a pretty decent replacement. He put in some impressive displays on the right-wing, most notably in the matches against Napoli & Barcelona, while also putting in a good display in the FA Cup final. His pace & acceleration proved to be critical to Chelsea’s counter-attacking style of play, & more often than not he was involved in quite a few of the goals we scored on the break. He did have his limitations on the right-wing though. While he had pace, he would become a bit isolated on the wing at times, & seemed to struggle against Premier League teams. Nevertheless, playing him as a winger proved to be a masterstroke.
It’s clear that both of them had their good & bad points playing on the right-wing. Which brings me to the question that I asked you right in the beginning… “Will Ramires & Sturridge Be Right-Wing Options Next Season?” The answer is no. Not really.
I won’t rule it out completely. There’s still a chance that both of them could be used on the wings, but it certainly won’t be on a regular basis. The signings of Marin, Hazard & more recently Oscar will see to that. But aside from the fact that we now have plenty of options, both Ramires & Sturridge on the wings had their limitations. While Sturridge’s shoot-at-sight policy made it very clear that he prefers to play as a striker, Ramires was more suited to the counter-attacking style we employed under Di Matteo, a style that I see us dropping this season.
Whatever does happen, I foresee a very exciting 2012/13 season for Chelsea. Bring it on!
By Shayne Dias