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17 June 2009

Chelsea squad review 08/09: Part II - the midfield

Following swiftly on from Saturday's first part of bridgeviews' squad review, here's a look at Chelsea's engine room: the midfield.

But has it been the engine room? Chelsea's midfield - from left to right - has for the past couple of seasons been a little bipolar: at once the team’s strongest suit and its Achilles heal.

Lampard Defensively, the central midfield is arguably second-to-none in world football - borne out by the low number of goals conceded in the league and the technical excellence displayed in stifling Barcelona for 184 minutes. It majors in controlling games, dominating possession and disrupting all-comers. In contrast however, has been its form going forward, perhaps partly due to Ballack's stuttering form, Deco's failure and Essien's injury. All-to-often it felt like Lampard was the only attack-minded player willing or able to attempt something different from the centre to try and unlock opposition defences, and free-flowing football has been rare.

Wide of the centre is a similar story. The sale of Arjen Robben and failure to sign Robinho, despite their questionable injury record and temperament respectively, have been the single most damaging developments to Chelsea's challenge for major trophies this year and last. Who can say how the season may have panned out had Malouda turned up between August 2008 and February 2009 or Joe Cole had played ten more games (Joe Cole’s injury against Southend was one of bridgeviews’ five most disappointing moments of 08/09)? Aside from perhaps Liverpool, Chelsea have the weakest wide players of any of England’s big four, and they don’t contribute enough goals. Despite Malouda’s renaissance and the return of Joe Cole for next season, the number one priority for the summer must be the signing of a creative player who can play off the wing, cross the ball, take a man on and shoot straight. Here’s a look at each of Chelsea’s midfield players 08/09 in turn.

Lampard – no real need to write anything new here: simply Chelsea’s most influential player with consistently excellent all-round performances. It’s easy to forget how close he came to signing for Inter – who can say where Chelsea would have finished if he hadn’t signed a new contract.

Essien – we almost forgot how important the Bison is to the team during his lengthy lay-off. Yes, after a 2-3 game burst of impeccable form following his return he did seem to suffer from a lack of sharpness, but his energy and dynamism is invaluable. His goal against Barcelona was worthy of winning any Champions League semi final.

Ballack – an excellent footballer who didn’t hit top form this season. Too often looked a yard short and sloppy in possession. Having signed a new one year deal, fingers crossed the big German’s form last season was more a blip than the impact of age.

Mikel – vastly underrated. At his age he has no right to play with the maturity and quality he has shown in the holding role this season. One of the best players in the squad for the first half of 08/09, his form improved again in the last month following a brief spell on the bench. His distribution could be better (not just sideways please, Obi), but towards the close of the season he started to show potential as a more distinguished passer of the ball. He was expensive, but has been one of the only young players bought by the club to have made it in recent years.

Malouda – you can read what we think of Malouda in-depth here, but suffice to say his renaissance during the latter half of the season was one of the more remarkable developments of the season. New attitude; new player – so that’s why Jose bought him. More of the same next season please, Florent.

Joe Cole – a genuinely massive loss to the side when injured against Huddersfield. A one-of-a-kind player in the squad, the variation he can add to Chelsea’s play really helps the midfield tick. Look forward to seeing him back next season.

For the transfer list – Deco. After a few good performances early in the season, he very soon descended into a period of dire form that saw him all but disappear from the Stamford Bridge scene. Look forward to seeing him play in blue and black stripes next season. Mineiro – who we perhaps saw 20 minutes from – should be shuffled off the wage bill too.

Look out for – Stoch next season. Small and quick, here’s hoping he gets more of a chance to show what he’s made of next year. Who can say if he’s good enough, but his showing against Stoke alone suggests he’s worth another shout. Apparently Katuka’s not had a bad season in the reserves either…

Disagree with any of the above? Post a comment.


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Joe Cole was injured against Huddersfield? Whay year was this?

I think if everyone can stay relatively healthy they should be fine next year; there's enough world class talent there (even if they are a year older) to make strong pushes in multiple competitions. It seems like the past couple years they've faded in that November-January range of the EPL...hopefully that changes this year.

Austin - god knows what I was thinking there. He was of course injured against Southend...

On your point Pete, I think you're right. The squad is good and is capable of challenging, but my views is that one or two strong additions - preferably someone who can add that vital creative spark - is what the club really needs to push on. Check out an earlier post from last week to see bridgeviews' perspective on Chelsea's transfer policy...

I'd agree another signing or two for a bit of flair would be great, provided they don't break the bank to do it.

It's been exciting to read this thread. Cannot agree more with the review ( in depth review probably).

In the case of new signing(s), can anybody suggest players that capable of providing the additional spark or flair mentioned?

P/S: I'm new here, and not very fluent in English. Pardon me for any mistakes. Thanks.

Fadzil - thanks for your comment. Your English is good!

For me, I'd like to see us take Aguero, though I'm concerned about the money it would probably take to do it. Other than that though, I'd like to see the club try and unearth some lesser known players. Take a look at an earlier post I made a week or so ago on Chelsea's transfer policy for more on this...

Believe me, my English is not that good. :)
Thanks anyway Russell.

Sergio Aguero I reckon will be a very good signing, with a very different style of play in comparison with Drog or Anelka.

How about Pato then? He's very keen in joining Chelsea + a chance to reunite with his boss. That could be a very good factor since he'll show everything he got to prove himself.

I'm a little worried about rumours that Tevez is among Chelsea's shortlisted. I think Tevez and Drogba are much alike, therefore there's no need to have him in this squad. Not saying he's not good, he is, but it's a waste to spend on something similar that you already got.

I'm not sure about Pato - but only because I haven't really seen him play. From what I've read he's a very bright prospect. But I'm not convinced about the success rate of Brazilians in the Premier League.

Re. Tevez - to be honest, I wouldn't worry about him being too similar to Drogba, they have a lot of different characteristics. But I'd be worried about us signing him too - I don't think he offers the one thing we really need - that spark of extra creativity.

I think he's going to Man City anyway...

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