The mess in the Chelsea midfield and how to solve it

The mess in the Chelsea midfield and how to solve it
The mess in the Chelsea midfield and how to solve it

Throughout this fiasco of a season, Chelsea has had problem after problem, both on and off the pitch, culminating in suspensions, fines, blown leads, draws with Brentford and defeats to QPR, West Ham and Corinthians, among others. The main on-pitch problems seem to have been:

  • Impotency up front
  • Lack of control in midfield
  • Poor support to the fullbacks

Fernando Torres has been vilified continually by most football fans for the last 2 years. While much of the criticism has been justified, until this season Torres was not automatic first choice and the team didn’t play to his strengths. But the total disinterest showed in many matches cannot be excused, not even by FSW.

Torres excels (or excelled) in 1-on-1 situations that were usually from through balls slipped in by Steven Gerrard, playing just off Torres. This indicated that someone similar was required. Instead, Plan A was for Drogba do give him flick-ons, and with Joe Cole and Lampard in the team there was always creativity. A crisis of confidence, injuries and an alien system were all cited as causes, but the simple truth was that to get the best out of Torres we need a trequartista who specialised in delivering through balls. We’ve got some of them now, but we still don’t see through balls being slipped through. Because our pivot players overload the attack, there is never any space for them to operate in when our opponents use a block defence. This could be solved by having a disciplined midfielder who can accurately deliver long passes and switch the point of attack i.e. a regista. Andrea Poli or Marco Verratti would be good options.
Our current pivot options are Lampard, Ramires and Mikel. All are good players in their own right, but what none of them is dictate the tempo of the game from deep and control the match. Oriol Romeu, Oscar and Josh McEachran can all do this to an extent, but none are elite (yet). This means that when we are defending a lead and the opponents are frantically trying to get back into the game, Chelsea don’t have anyone that can just slow the pace of the game down and keep possession. Again, a regista is needed.

The other big weakness that Chelsea had earlier in the season was the lack of defensive support for the fullbacks. Mazacar was to blame for this, because Hazard and Mata, whilst being world-class creators, gave Cole and Ivanovic basically no help at all, meaning our fullbacks were frequently exposed 2-on-1 because Chelsea could never dominate possession and see the game out. This is still a problem now, and is showing when we throw away leads against West Ham, Saints, Reading and Newcastle. Games that we should certainly have won. A more disciplined, hardworking winger like Victor Moses or Antonio Valencia would have been very useful, but again the root cause of the problem is the centre of midfield, not controlling the play and keeping the opposition pinned back in their own half. With a good regista, we could have just kept possession and driven our opponents deeper and deeper.

Clearly, a regista is what we need. Unfortunately, a good regista is quite rare. Some of the best are Gerrard, Alonso, Pirlo and Xavi, but none of them are on the market, and all are on high wages and are past their peak.

We could try to make one of our own, and McEachran fits the bill nicely. I’m just not quite sure he has the required ability. Romeu, Oscar and De Bruyne are very good in their own right, but aren’t really registas. That’s not to say they couldn’t be converted.
We could look for a very young, talented regista with lots of potential, but these are very rare. The only name that springs to mind is Marco Verratti, and he would be very difficult to prise away from PSG.

Alternatively we could try to get the very best, fully developed, fully priced option. This would be Sergio Busquets or Javi Martinez, who are exceptional players and would solve a lot of problems. They both have age on their side as well, but would be very expensive, at least £30m for either.

So we could just look for the best value for money. The two best options look like Andrea Poli and Nuri Sahin, but they have complications. Poli has a co-ownership agreement between Sampdoria and Juventus, while Sahin is on loan from Real Madrid to Borussia Dortmund until summer 2014.

On balance, I’d go for Verratti, though he wouldn’t come cheap. A bid of £20m might do it, but that’s not too extortionate.
Do you think a regista is the answer to our midfield difficulties, and who is needed? Can Lampard perform the role, should we develop our youngsters or dip into the transfer market? And who should we get.

  1. drogba says

    de bruyne y josh son la solucion ya veran

  2. Shaurya CFC says

    Brilliant write up mate!

  3. Elikem Dorbu says

    This was a good read! I think, for value’s sake, we go with conversion, rather than spending. We have the talent, we just need to work them over the summer to fit the role. DeBruyne is doing well up front, but I think that the most important thing is that we take a player with vision and get them fit for the role. I think McEachran can work, but he’s good on his feet, and I don’t really no about his passing…

  4. Cyprian iyke says

    Choose MIKEL, He have a many hidden talents dat will help this club in the near future, trust me.

    1. gdrkn says

      Mikel is more of a Destroyer

  5. Argel says

    Good article! Thumbs up for this.

  6. amrit says

    i agree. thats the main problem

  7. Vaibhav Kumble says

    A change in formation is what we need.

  8. Pat says

    It would be nice if we could get one, however I feel like we should just see who we have in house. Oscar a great midfielder but will probably develop better in another role. DeBruyne I don’t know enough about him but he seems more suited to up front. That Leaves Romeu, McEachran, and Mikel. For this season use Mikel, see how it goes. He very well may be our guy. If not next season use Romeu and McEachran see which develops better, if we get lucky one will turn into a proper defensive mid and the other into the regista.

  9. xtian says

    We r actually in a very funny situation here. Torres had the ability of a very good finisher as well as Mikel n Modric had the ability to control the midfield, slow down the tempo and deliver good long range passes. Mikel must be encouraged to give more of those long direct through balls like he did for Nigeria. I remember the pass he gave to Anelka that caught the attention of everyone but he now seems to have cooled off to focus on keeping possession n giving the ball to the attacking mid fielders.

  10. Yasho says

    What about Isco, I dont know much about him but couldn’t he be turned into a regista and play with Mikel,Ramires,Romeu in the pivot
    Or is he a box to box midfielder?

    1. brynknight says

      Isco is a BRILLIANT player but no, he couldn’t play in the pivot. Isco could only play in the band of 3, but that’s no bad thing. He has been touted as the next Andres Iniesta, and not without good reason. He has fantastic skill, flair and creativity and could be a great replacement for Hazard, Mata or Oscar. When we have been without Mata or Hazard this season we have really felt their absence; with Isco this would no longer be a problem. He’s a trequartista, not a regista or box-to-box midfielder.

      1. Yasho says

        thanks for clearing that up

      2. Nathan Smith says

        We dont need him..oscar, and josh mcceachran can undoubtedly do the job as the deep lying midfielder whilst mikel and romeu can do the defensive mid role..if we really wanna see chelsea succeed as an attacking force, we should play 4,3,3 with a midfield 3 of Oscar/Mikel/Mata or Oscar/Romeu/Mata or Lampard/Romeu/Mata and rotate between de bruyne/moses/marin/hazard/ on the wings and lukaku/ba and if worst comes to worst Torres as 3rd choice!!

      3. gdrkn says

        I agree Isco couldn’t or wouldn’t be converted to a regista. How about Oscar? He seems to have the vision and ability to read the game and use Isco as a trequartista. Another way to address this deficiancy could be Luiz as a “Volante” with Mikel

  11. Thamvir Singh says

    think Oscar is the solution of all our solutions. He can be the deep lying playmaker that wee want. But he needs to play more often there

  12. Pa J says

    U already have a player than can be your deep lying play maker but U need a supporting midfielder than can also hold the ball.Mikel is versatile enough for this.Watch him play for Nigeria and U will see.matches are available for replay on . Problem with are midfield is we have Ramires who can’t complete a pass and Lampard does not have the lungs for a CM.Get a real CM or two(or CDM) so we can block channels whenwe need to see a game out..that’s what Mancini did with that Dutch DM last season before foolishly selling him off in thesummer.Your answer is in Mikel..he has the long range passes and were utilized under Ancelotti check his passing range..he did the Pirlo thing for Nigeria at the recently concluded AfCon

  13. Anonymous says

    poli can control the midfield but with mikel next to him and i think both roles could be played by one player. that player would be coming from la liga. i’m talking about benat or banega. both those guys have great long passing skills. and they defend really well. but if we don’t wanna buy. luiz provides the exact same pack of skills. the season is already over for us so let’s use the time we have to get him to adapt to his role. rami could pair up with im until josh returns

    1. gdrkn says

      I would love to see Benat at Chelsea! I thought we had him in January.

  14. hakinola says

    actually is a treasonable note but i still don’t believe we lack players who can supply Torres through passes remember how many one on one goal chances he has miss this season,we have players who can dictate game we just don’t know how to manage them,we have loan players doing very well where they are,why can’t we appreciate what we have and make good use of them even all this players we want to buy many of our youth are better than them.we loan lukaku,bruma,bruyne,josh,and many more are they not doing very well?let us face reality Mr Abram need to give any manager he employe time to perform excluding RAFA.

  15. hakinola says

    i don’y why mikels job is always on notice by some cfc fans,i think they just hate him

    1. gdrkn says

      Mikel is perfectly suited in the pivot as a destroyer we need a regista such as Modric or (preferably) Benat.

  16. Abishaek says

    This article is really interesting.The writer was correct at saying Torres is good at one and one situations.At Liverpool Gerrard used to pass the ball often to Torres and Torres does the rest.But at Chelsea the midfielders do not tend to pass the ball forward to the striker.Instead it’s Torres who passes the ball forward and assists goals.But I was really impressed with Azpilicueta,the way he crosses the ball inside the penalty area and he’s ball control is not bad either.Chelsea should pass the ball often to Torres and Ba to get the better out of them!!

  17. uduak says

    Good write up but this is more theoretical than practical.
    We have just 2 problems 1)Torres 2)Benitez
    Every other dept is doing quite well but for our attack so we don’t need to go on any other buying spree as it will mean causing confusion.
    Torres couldn’t have recieved better support than what he has had so far.He has been supported by Roman,coaches & staff,team mates,fans and every body yet he has failed us through and through.
    Last night,after such long years,I was humbled again watching my darling team in the second place europa league but alas Torres was on the flopping side again.Do you know that we could have won that game by at least 3 goals if only our so-called “striker” rose up to the occasion?patethic.Today in our beloved team,if a midfielder or a defender does not score then we aint gonna score.How much love,care,opportunity and chance does a true striker need?TORRES IS PAST HIS GLORY DAYS.Better still,Roman is not too late,sell him to another club and who knows he may find his furtunes there again.Look at Balotelli for an instance.Don’t break our hearts again bcos of Torres.
    Does RVP,Rooney,Ronaldo(real madrid),Muller,Aguero,Teves,Defoe,Cavani etc always wait for ever for through balls and passes b4 they score goals?Infact,Torres has had more and better chances of scoring this season and so far than any of the mentioned players yet they have scored more goals than he has this season.If only Torres scored 80% of the chances he has had,we would be atop the log or at worst 2 points behind manure and still chasing for the title.
    Note that 1)Chelsea(we) let Drogba go bcos of Torres 2)Roman hired Benitez bcos of Torres 3)during last summer,we were not very keen on buying another striker bcos of Torres 4)today chelsea is trying to adopt a particular style that should suit just one player amongs 22-TORRES!
    SHOULD WE GO ON RELEGATION BCOS OF TORRES?pls.,pls. and pls for god’s sake!
    All we need is buy 2 more strikers and add to the already good Demba and a full back to complement JT for his off days due to injuries and we are home and dry.
    Rafa?he has no clue what to do however since Roman has decided to gamble with us for the rest of the season,we need to just “watch and pray”.Needless to say,gone are days when the -BRIDGE was our fortress.We either won or drew and 90% of times we won.Today even minos beat us hands down no thanks to a clueless Rafa.
    My prescription for Rafa’s replacement is:
    First choice -Jose Mourinho
    Second Choice-Jose Mourinho
    Third choice -Jose Mourinho
    Space would permit any expatiation.

  18. Anonymous says

    Very good article, while a regista would be nice to have, i think the main problem, particularly having watched the recent game against man city, was simply the fact that they had 3 central midfielders which overloaded our 2 holding midfielders, mikel and lamptard, who aren’t exactly the most hardworking pair of players. This meant that Mata had very little chance to influence the game. I think mata, as gifted as he is, simply does not have the ability to hold the ball up well enough in the big games aginst decent holding midfielders. And does next to no work defensively which doesn’t help fat frank and mikel. so buying someone like fellaini would definitely help us to have a better chance of maintaining possession and to allow our attacking players to create more chances. I think changing the formation to 4-3-3 would be the best solution, allowing us to dominate games more effectively and would suit far better the qualities of our midfield, escpecially lampard and ramires.

Comments are closed.