While he's enjoyed a love/hate reception from some Chelsea fans, Kalou has come for a lot of criticism since he joined the club in 2006. The frustration largely comes from the widely held perception that he hasn't delivered on early promise. That perception is probably true - to an extent.
He certainly hasn't come on in leaps and bounds in the last few years. Kalou is still inconsistent in front of goal, has an alarming tendency to drift offside and is prone to poor decision making. After a promising start at Chelsea, his lack of clear improvement suggests that Kalou is never going to be a world beater - a Messi he will never be.
But oddly, not being Messi - or rather not being world class - is actually the criticism most frequently levelled at him. It is as if Chelsea fans are only prepared to accept a player if he is one of the best five players on the planet. There are exceptions to this - Joe Cole has enjoyed almost universal support, as has Beletti, who has now reached almost cult status.
But any team's squad - whether you're Chelsea or Barcelona - can't consist entirely of world class players. Squads also need stand-ins who, in addition to being of a certain quality or offering something different to the starting eleven, are prepared to take their chances from the bench.
Kalou does all of those things.
His scoring record isn't bad. Aided by the hat-trick at the weekend, Kalou has now scored eleven goals this year (only Drogba, Lampard, Anelka and Malouda have scored more). These goals include four in the Premier League, three in the Champions League, one in the FA Cup and three in the League Cup. He has also made five assists.
Kalou is happy to sit on the bench, too. After the Stoke game, the Ivorian reiterated that he was happy to play his part from the bench, acknowledged that was his role but suggested that it was an important role. Top class football is in an age of the big squad, and arguably it is the quality of the deputies - and a club's' ability to keep them happy - that most determines success.
You can't fault Kalou's attitude, either. He is tireless in attack, never refusing to take responsibility to take the game forwards. Relentlessly positive, ready to attack the box or take a man on. With Joe Cole not in the side, Kalou's character traits are pretty unique at Chelsea.
And while he's not a world beater, he's not bad, either. He has genuine pace and trickery, and adds a youthful exuberance that Chelsea sometimes lack. I have often got the impression that he is only a hair's width away from away from making a genuine impact in the bigger games. Against Inter, when the team was flagging and making no impression on a resilient Inter defence, Kalou's impact as a second half substitute was instant. Chelsea immediately looked more threatening for having real pace and the will to try something.
Essentially, Kalou's critics are judging Kalou using the wrong yardstick. Yes, he isn't among the best in the world and yes, he can be frustrating. But he is a willing, able and positive deputy for first teamers, and part of a Chelsea second string that is probably superior to that of the club's closest rivals. Chelsea fans should set their expectations right - and let Kalou get on with his job. He has earned that.
What do you think - do you disagree and think Kalou should be sold in the summer? Post a comment...
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