Michael Essien hasn’t played for Chelsea since Tuesday 8th December, and it is perhaps no coincidence that Chelsea have won just 58% of their games in the three and half months’ worth of football since he tore his hamstring (he subsequently injured his knee while at the African Cup of Nations).
He has been sorely missed. Without him, an ageing team starved of energy and dynamism threw away a sizeable lead in the title race and tamely limped out of the Champions league in the second round. Michael Essien-less Chelsea managed just eight clean sheets in 22 games and conceded on average one goal each match.
It therefore should have been encouraging to read a piece on the Ghanaian’s recovery on the Chelsea website today. Reading it first time around, you could be forgiven for thinking it was a piece on how well his recovery was going. Essien admits that he had hoped to return in time for the second leg against Inter, but wasn’t ready.
In light of that revelation however, it’s astonishing that there is no mention throughout the piece of an expected return date. How could he have been hoping to be ready for that game and the club still not have an idea of a return date two weeks later?
It points to something being very wrong, either with Essien’s injury or Chelsea’s medical team’s diagnosis. Looking back over the rest of the article offers little comfort. It speaks of Essien being in a ‘positive mood as he works his way back to fitness’. Essien himself says ‘on a positive note I am feeling mentally strong and I try to stay philosophical about injuries. There are worse injuries than mine and there are people in the world suffering with far more serious problems’.
It could just be me, but they sound like the words of someone expecting – and coming to terms with – more time on the sidelines rather than focusing on an imminent return. Essien also reveals that, while the injury is ‘okay’ and he is ‘making ‘progress’, his training is still focused on healing rather than any kind of regime to build towards match fitness. With just weeks left in the season, the signs aren’t good.
Chelsea’s midfield may have been rampant against struggling Portsmouth last night, but sterner tests are to come - not least against Man Utd in little over a week’s time. Could it be that Chelsea are keeping their cards close to their chests on that one? Unlikely. It looks like Essien’s spell on the sidelines is set to continue.
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