After being in contention for seven trophies at the start of the season, namely the Community Shield, Super Cup, FA Cup, Carling Cup, Premier League, Champions League and the Club World Cup, Chelsea are now vying to win a competition which their most ardent supporters wouldn’t have imagined them participating in the first place – Europa League.
Their season has been nothing short of a disaster as they failed to put in consistent performances and often failed to turn up when it mattered – which was in stark contrast of what one witnessed towards the closing stages of last season.
The reasons for their decline are aplenty and the pensioners, given that they are backed by oil oligarch Roman Abramovich, are constantly being linked with top players such as Radamel Falcao and Andre Schurrle, who certainly won’t come cheap.
Interestingly enough, they haven’t yet been, even rumuored, to be keen on signing a playmaker or a defensive midfielder who can control the tempo of the game and who possesses immaculate ball control. This has been their Achilles Heel and often sides have run over their midfield with relative ease.
Modric would have solved the problem
It must be remembered that in the summer of 2011, Andre Villas-Boas was intent on signing Luka Modric and Chelsea did come quite close with a €40 million bid, but eventually the deal faltered as Spurs chose not to sell him at the said price.
While the Portuguese’s methods were widely criticized, he was accurate in identifying the weaknesses of this Chelsea squad as he eyed a move for the Croat.
Since then the Blues have added an array of players with the likes of Eden Hazard, Marko Marin, Oscar and Kevin De Bruyne, who was loaned back to Genk and to Werder Bremen this season. However, none of the above mentioned players are in the mould of a Modric which only goes to highlight the fact that the chink in their armour still hasn’t been dealt with.
The England international is an attacking medio known for making late runs into the box which eventually end in finding the back of the net. Sitting deep and spraying passes has never been his USP and hence is ill-fitted in the role of a playmaker.
Chelsea have used Frank Lampard in the two in front of the back four in a 4-2-3-1 formation where he has failed miserably in almost all the big games. The Super Cup tie against Atletico Madrid comes to mind where Koke, Mario Suarez and Gabi saw enough of the ball and created chances at will.
John Obi Mikel has been found wanting and looks increasingly out of depth against pace and interchanging movements by the opposition midfielders, as was well demonstrated in the FA Cup semi-final clash against Manchester City and the home tie against Juventus back in September 2012.
Ramires is one of the most hardworking midfielders and his tenacity and pace standout in the Premier League. His dribbling is second to none and is lethal on the counter. However, his passing and tackling isn’t always the best and he tends to falter against sides with a lot of strength like against City where Yaya Toure and James Milner would bulldoze past him without having to break a sweat. His performance against Corinthians in the final of the Club World Cup highlights the fact that he lacks the vision and skill to unravel the opposition when they decide to sit back and hit on the break.
And this is by no means an attempt to criticize the trio but only a reminder that they aren’t the best in the roles they have been assigned to – which is to keep the ball and dictate the play – something what Xavi Hernandez and Xabi Alonso does for Barcelona and Real Madrid respectively, what Bastian Schweinsteiger does for Bayern Munich, what Paul Scholes used to do for Manchester United and what Michael Ballack did for Chelsea in the past.
How Chelsea's current setup works...
Often it is seen that a Juan Mata or a Hazard has to drop deep and pick the ball up from their own half to launch an attack. Seldom does one see a Mikel or Lampard initiating goal scoring opportunities from their position. While Fernando Torres with his 50 million tag has been booed at the Bridge on a number of occasions, the absence of a playmaker doesn’t help his style. In the past, he starred at Liverpool with Xabi Alonso being the chief orchestrator of passes from the middle as he released the ball early as opposed to dribbling their way into the box as demonstrated by present day Chelsea.
Add to this, they decided to sell Raul Meireles and loan Michael Essien, two tough tacklers in the middle of the park just before the end of the summer transfer window.
A presence of a playmaker, someone who connects the defence with the attack and is equally adept at making short and long passes, will do a world of good to Chelsea’s cause in becoming a force in the Premier League again.
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