Defensive Midfielders at Stamford Bridge

Crystal Palace v Chelsea - Pre Season FriendlyThe defensive aspect of the game at Stamford Bridge has taken a hit in the past couple of years. Truth be told, ever since Jose Mourinho departed, Chelsea have never really coped and gone back to dominating like how they did under him. I would like to point out the defense and partially midfield.

Jose Mourinho created the meanest defense ever seen in English league, which arguably alone won him the Premier League twice. William Gallas, Ricardo Carvalho, John Terry and Del Horno leaked just 15goals in the 2005-06 season, which still remains as the Premier League record – Truly astonishing.

Under the reigns of Villas Boas and Rafa Benitez, the concern for good defensive display has lacked. Bottling a two goal lead never really seemed to be a problem for the Chelsea side regardless of the opposition. That is a major decline from where Jose Mourinho left us.

Makelele and Cech, arguably the two most important players which made it happen for Chelsea in their title winning seasons under the Portuguese sensation. With Cech still guarding the Chelsea goal, the hole of Makelele has never been filled which remains a key as of why Chelsea have struggled.

Claude Makelele spent five years at Stamford Bridge and he was an ever so reliable figure as he played around 220 games in that time span. Jose Mourinho deployed him in a very unique position which now has become a trend – Defensive midfield position. Since Makelele was the first player to get such fame as he did by playing in that position, the DM role is also known as ‘The Makelele role’.

Players like Makelele go unnoticed in the game. Now-a-days, fans are more intrigued to see flashy tricks and unimaginative number of goals being scored that they have lost the plot of how the basics of football work.

CaptureAbove is my attempt to make you aware of how the system back then was played. Makelele basically played in ‘The Hole’ – The region behind the midfield and ahead of the defense. He just used to sit there and intercept the play time and time again and then used to play incisive balls forward and when he did,well, rest is history.

Our current candidates for the pivot:

Lets be clear in the very beginning, Chelsea currently don’t have any players capable of replicating what Makelele did. It’s a matter of who can do the job the closest to that.

Lets begin with our first choice John Obi Mikel. He has been at the club for long and has time in the presence of the man himself, Makelele. Although many fans don’t entirely back him, he does get the job done. I for one believe that he is quite lazy and slow, at times which makes it difficult for us to break. Hetends to pass it sideways rather than playing a forward pass. His ability to play a through ball is non-existent and also his aerial balls. He also doesn’t provide you anything extra in terms of goals either.Unfortunately, his cons exceed his pros.

Next in line is Micheal Essien.  Ever since his injury, he hasn’t been himself. He was sent on loan to Madrid where he operated in the defense more often – That tells you about his ability to defend. Essien used to be the best interceptor of his times and his aerial balls were a joy to watch. He is certainly one of the Mourinho’s favorite and it remains to be seen whether he will be played or not. My opinion is that he still can do a decent job but his wage bill is too much for a part-timer. Better to promote youth products like Ake.

The Champions League hero, Ramires is the one we’re now talking about. He has some traits of Makelele,the stamina, the hunger, the power. Ramires for me is a definite starter in our team. He gives you the engine to run on. Recently, he has immensely improved his game in terms of passing but his first touch has always been below par. He gets you goals and he gets you versatility. I love the fact that he can operate anywhere in the midfield and on the wings.

Now, Marco van Ginkel.  From the very little we have seen thus far from him , I believe he is going to be a sensational player for Chelsea. He is extremely tidy, quick while making short passes and most of all,his vision is exceptional. He has goals in him and he can assist. Last season he has 12 odd goals and the same number of assists for Vitesse. He is a real good addition to the squad.

Van GinkelOscar is another candidate to reside in the pivot as the deep lying playmaker. Many claim that he does not have the physicality to cope but his best performance in a Blue shirt came whilst playing as a DM against Arsenal at the Emirates where he held off Arteta and Cazorla on his own. The talent is there for us to exploit but can it be done on permanent basis?

David Luiz. He always likes to make forward runs that will help the team score, which leaves a hole in front of Cech that sees us conceding a goal or two. Although Luiz was our best CB last season as he improved a lot under Rafael Benitez, but deploying him as a DM was a genius idea. An overall passing accuracy of 81% and 5.4 long balls underlined his exceptional reading of the game. When playing in the DM position, he can make his forward runs comfortably knowing that he’s being covered at the back while also being able to track back the opponent and defend. Mourinho was clear when asked about Luiz, saying that he’ll mostly play as a CB.

Then we have players like Chalobah, Nathan Ake, Oriol Romeu and Josh McEachran. They are all talented and young. As much as I like Romeu and McEachran, I believe they won’t be able to make the cut. As far as Chalobah and Ake are concerned, they will be getting their fair share of time but to make that happen,we need to load off the likes of Essien and Lampard (Yes, Lampard).

I’ve saved the most controversial for last and it is none other than Frank Lampard. It’s true that he’s a legend at the club but what good is the legend when he is not delivering what he is asked of? Lets face it. Playing as a defensive players has never been Lampard’s priority. He barely intercepts the play and his old legs doesn’t allow him to track back quickly enough either. It’s a strange situation with him. The love he gets from the fans is incredible thus I like to see him stay, but not as a DM. I would rather have his as a replacement of Juan Mata, behind the striker. That works out for everyone.

The pivot needs sorting out and who better than the man himself, Jose Mourinho, to do that? It’ll be an interesting season and hopefully Chelsea stay calm and composed at the back and save us some heartaches.

Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

– Malak ( )

  1. Ken says

    Lamp is good but I don’t like him starting games..he was the reason we a bad 2nd half in our last game….

  2. Olalere kehinde says

    We should mak use of him as a substitute in most matches

  3. SunnyLAMPSY says

    Please, we shouldn’t be doing this…. We are all Blues so when we have diff opinions we should make sure it doesn’t spread insult. Its clear that Mikel is not lazy because without him we might not have won both legs against Barca on our way to Champions lg final and he also did the job in a tremendous way in the final against Bayern so that makes it clear that Mikel has contributed a lot to our success since 2006 and i still see him as the best DM in the team. Pair him with Rami and that gives our oppositions hard game.

    1. Malak Hassouna says

      Of course I agree, he had a tremendous role in our champions league campaign but he was somehow inconsistent and a bit lazy at times last season. Specially after he came back from the AFCON. I said clearly up there “at times” and he “gets the job done” but we must have better options to help us break from the back.

  4. Anonymous says

    Mikel is lazy and must go long time ago. Also, Mou must use Lampard wisely because our game was so slow because of him.

  5. Anonymous says

    mikel is the greatest DM in chelsea very good in passes strong in control of the ball..and he is very good in big games i love the way he is calm in the MD.. ask any player in MAN U they will they tell you playing with mikel in the MD is a problem

  6. Anonymous says

    the greatest mistake Chelsea will make is to sell john mikel obi

  7. Anonymous says

    i agree with the writer mikel is lazy and slow yes he gets the job done but u guys fail to look at his overall game play he gets caught on the ball to regular and he loses the ball alot also, that is not good enough for a team like chelsea, the players i would like us to use are van ginkel, essien and ramires and lampard should come on as a sub not as starter.

  8. indo blue says

    why we have mikel now 🙁 mikel is shit
    miss makelele

  9. Akinwumi Steven says

    For heaven’s sake that lazy tag on Mikel is what I dont like at all,if u don’t know what to write u’d better go and sleep.Look at the performance of Mikel at the just concluded Confed and tell me whether this guy is lazy or not!Pls don’t ever repeat that lazy tag again!

  10. kevin says

    Please guys take it him lazy if you want but calling your player shit is a very bad idea. Believe me, you will never hear a man u fan call anderson shit.

    1. mjo says

      tru dat kevin…. some cfc fans really annoys me @times…

  11. Sajere George Wealth says

    Chelsea will make a better team

  12. Anonymous says

    Mikel is not the best chelsea can have….i would never use him if in were the Manager but i believe Mou has no choice at the moment..

  13. JAYDE says

    Mikel is a midfield phenomenon. When you listen to some buddies write ups, you’l only but seem to find an ardent biased trend in their statements clearly about players they hate like Mikel. Despite his attacking talents given up for some unnoticed midfield position called DM role, from Mourinho’s experiments he has done even more than can be appreciated.

    He is the best in CFC’s central midfield. most accurate passer, and contrary to sentimental write ups as this, Mikel is a natural No. 10. I don’t sometimes expect him to do what he does for his country Nigeria to happen in Chelsea’s midfield, owing to the fact that his license to roam is limited still he plays like a old style CM and still do the DM work preciously with admiration.
    Is he lazy? answer is No. he has a style of play which made him win only 2nd to only to Messy. He reads the game with passes not with defensive attributed side and back passes that was only in the initial days of fitting in someone ( Makelelé’s) else’s position which he wasn’t use to. Mikel is not a kind of erratic midfielder that wants to do impossible things at wrong moments to impress the crowd. He knows how to dictate play… and who are those hating? cos I see them to continue to hate but they can’t tk the talent away from the dude. He’s good.

    Mikel can play as a DM, a playmaker CM and ofcrse his selling position from 2005 as a ruthless AMf. I advice Mikel’s haters to come out of their crowd of arm chair criticis and watch more closely how this young man plays his football.

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