Chelsea Squad Assessment – Midfield

Posted: July 28, 2011 by derekorourke in Andres Villas-Boas, Chelsea, English Premier League, Legends, midfield, Transfers, Youth

Part three of my Chelsea Squad Assessment sees me look at our much maligned midfield. There have been numerous press reports bemoaning our lack of creativity and pace in the central areas. Let’s take a closer look to see if these ‘experts’ are right:

Frank Lampard:

Super, super Frank; the man is a machine. Last season saw him suffer his first serious injury setback in his whole career, something which took him time to get over. He said it himself, he gets fitter and fitter the more he plays and it took him a few games to get back in the full swing. People criticised his performances last season but I am very strongly opinionated on this issue. Frank was injured for four months of the season and still managed to be the league’s 4th highest midfield goalscorer last season with 10 goals (13 in all competitions). Over the last five years Frank is the highest scoring midfielder and the second highest in the assist chart. He is a Chelsea legend who will never be replaced and he is far from past it. If he stays injury free this season (and depending on AVB’s playing style), expect 20 goals this season.

Rating: 8.5/10

Ramires:

After a relatively slow start where I admit I had him written off, he completely turned it around and was one of Chelsea’s best players later in the season. I will happily admit he made me eat humble pie, and it tasted good. Ramires has speed, strength and incredible stamina. He has become technically better than early last season where he misplaced lots of passes; which could have been down to confidence. He will go from strength to strength and could very well be a star with a year or two. I hope he plays in his natural central position this season.

Rating: 7.5/10

John Obi Mikel:

A bit of an enigma for Chelsea fans. He possesses undoubted talent, he is strong, he reads the game well and he rarely loses the ball. However, he often slows the pace of our game down too much and can dwell on the ball at times when we need to be quick. He can seem a bit lackadaisical at times but that’s just his style. He is a good player but it seems he has potential to be even better. I look forward to seeing him this year under AVB because one of his main promises is unlocking the potential of current players. Come on Obi (or Traci Chapman as his team mates call him), let this year be your year!

Rating: 6.5/10

Michael Essien:

An heroic performer in his prime. Unfortunately for Michael, I can’t see a way back after this latest injury nightmare. This season was very important for him to re-establish his best form. He was below par last season by his standards but that was understable, he needed time and we didn’t have the depth in the position to nurture him back. After serious knee injury number three, I can see it being just too much. It’s not just the physical side, it’s the mental side also. They (whoever ‘they’ are) say that they never get back to 100% after such injuries and I tend to agree. However, that Ramires based humble pie tasted so good I’d gladly have some more at the end of the season courtesy of the Bison. Get well soon Mick.

Rating: 6.5/10

Yossi Benayoun:

Yossi is effectively a new signing. He was unfortunate last season to suffer such a bad injury and I think he will turn out to be a bargain at £6m. He is extremely clever and the best word that describes his style is ‘guile’. He is underrated by the media and only Liverpool fans will know what he brings to the team. I think if he’s given an important role in the team he won’t disappoint and could well be the creative player we so badly desire. He has a great eye for a pass, but more importantly the ability to execute it. Yossi comes up with his fair share of goals also and for these reasons I do not think signing a ‘creative’ player is our biggest priority. You’ll have to check out the Forwards Assessment tomorrow to find out what I think we’re most lacking.

Rating: 7.5/10

Josh McEachran:

Deep breaths everyone… and relax. Thank you. Josh is 18 years old, just remember that. There is no doubt he’s going to be a star, no doubt at all, in fact he is probably good enough to be a regular in this team already. But…yes, there’s a but – look at any talented player who was played a lot and put through the rigours of the Premiership at an early age. Fabregas, Owen, Kewell, Dyer etc. Notice any trend? Injuries at an early age that have ruined season after season for these players. Of course there are exceptions to the rule but Josh has a lot of growing and filling out still to do and I would like to see him gradually nurtured and given the correct amount of game time over the next 2 seasons. Maybe 10 starts this season, 20 the following and so on. I would rather have him for 15 seasons at Chelsea rather than for the next 6/7 before his body collapses. An absolute gem, but lets make sure this acorn grows into the oak tree before he has to be chopped down.

Rating: 7/10

Yuri Zhirkov:

A tough one this. Yuri is a very very good player but he is always played out of position. I would like to see him deployed on the left wing. He is a great dribbler and he has a very good cross. Just what we need, someone who looks for the touchline. He can fill in at left back (not that we’re short in that position) and in midfield quite comfortably also. If he can stay injury free and is given a run of games we could see the player we all know he is. A good squad player, but I’m not sure he’s happy being that.

Rating: 6.5/10

Gael Kakuta:

When I first saw this kid I thought we had discovered the next Messi-type world star. Now don’t get me wrong, he still has the potential to be a top player but he has taken a step backwards recently. His loan to Fulham last year was iffy at best. I think another loan this season would benefit him, but it should be somewhere where he’ll play regularly. Only then can we assess him properly.

Rating: 5.5/10

Overall rating of Midfield Position: 7/10

Our midfield was not the force it always was last season. I think releasing Ballack was a mistake (and a year too early) as he was a huge presence for us. However, along with seasoned pro and man-machine Lampard, we have serious potential in Ramires and Josh in particular.

We have been heavily linked with big money moves for Pastore and Modric recently but I’m not sure that’s what we need, I would like to see us spend that money elsewhere. Benayoun provides the creativity along with Josh (and let’s not forget Frank’s stats), and Mikel will cover Essien while he’s injured. We have options to go wide with Zhirkov and Kakuta but we still need to add some more wide options, which will be further discussed in tomorrow’s Forwards Assessment.

Agree/Disagree? Please comment below or let me know @fattyfoulke

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Article by Derek O’Rourke

Follow me on Twitter: @fattyfoulke

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Comments
  1. great blog agree with everything, especially about frank and essien. we need Modric or Pastore for more creativity and Romeu will be great because its African Cup of Nations this year and if we only have mikel then we will have no cover mid-season! but overally a quality overview of the whole of our midfield!:)

  2. @fattyfoulke says:

    Great point robbo – we will need cover in the DM position in January. Lets hope Romeu is up to it.

  3. obinna says:

    This is a great assessment of the midfield, and the players rating were good. I think the midfield need a player like pastore to be groomed to take after lampard who has little playing time remaining with chelsea. Pastore would bring the flair and creativity the team needs for continued success in the midfield. Thank you

  4. I don’t see how McEachran and Benayoun, both of whom started only 1 league game, get a higher rating than Essien who started 32 games. Do you think he played that bad? I don’t mean to self promote on your blog but I have recently written about Essein (http://carefreechronicles.blogspot.com/2011/07/mike-check-one-two.html). I’m interested to see what you think.

  5. Venkat says:

    Dint you want to include Billy in this assessment?

  6. @fattyfoulke says:

    CareFreeClinic – That’s a fair point but the ratings I gave are indicative of what I believe they are currently at. While I don’t think Essien had a good season by his standards, I just feel that this latest injury will be one too many for him sadly. hence the low rating (He was a 9/10 in his prime).

    Venkat – I didin’t include billy Clifford because I don’t think he will be involved in the first team this season – maybe bar a Carling Cup game or two. Not good enough yet.

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