In his first spell at the club, Jose Mourinho rung the changes in almost every segment of the squad, so much so that an instant identity was formed for the team.
However, an outstanding feature the team became even more reputable for was the dogged structure of the defence.
In the 2004/2005 season, with a defence comprising of Cole, Terry, Carvalho, Johnson/Ferreira, the team set a Premier League record of conceding only 15 league goals in the entire season; a tremendous achievement for a manager staging his debut in the much heralded league. Though, the side didn’t manage to replicate that incredulous form it staged in the 2004/05 season, the side’s stout defense still stood rock solid nonetheless, conceding just 22 times in the following season, culminating in Cech being named the Premier League World’s Best Goalkeeper, 2005.
Fast-forward to 2013, years after the Special One left and the individuality he had created for the team departed with him, a new cluster of players have been signed, but led by the old hands – Terry and Cole, threatening to emerge as another staunch defensive outfit similar to the days of Carvalho & co. And as fate would have it, gratifyingly enough is that the 2004/05 defence engineer has returned with his architectural artistry. But, despite all the optimism, the question remains – Are the current crop of defenders including Terry, Luiz, Ivanovic, Azpilicueta, Cole, Cahill and Bertrand, able to live up to the seemingly unattainable heights of the 2004/05 set? Lets find out.
Who better to start with than the Club’s Captain, Leader, Legend – John Terry? The only player to have risen through the ranks in Chelsea to become captain, Terry has seen it all – the ups and downs, through the thick, and the thin.
Terry was a foremost figure in the side’s backline in the 2004/2005 season. Alongside Carvalho, they formed the backbone of the team, putting up endless efforts in shielding the defence. However, those years of toils hasn’t gone without it’s lingering scars. Terry isn’t as agile, versatile or resolute as he once was some seasons back. Last season was a case in point; in which Terry’s thinly concealed debility was spectacularly exposed in the game against Arsenal, in the 3-5 home defeat. But for the timely intervention of the back-ups, we might have seen more defensive faux pas from our skipper.
Yet, Terry has unyieldingly shown that there could still be life in the Old dog as he valiantly puts up solid efforts on occasions; redeeming himself of what the dailies paint him; scoring crucial goals in crucial games, at crucial moments; although that doubt still lingers on our minds as to his defensive abilities.
Nobody knows if Mourinho still retains trust in him but one thing is certain, Terry will be playing a pivotal role in the re-establishment of a youthful side. Onfield, if played, Terry would lead the backline instilling authority on not only the defence, but also serving as the source of motivation for the whole team. Off field also, Terry would be seen as the second-in-command, playing the fatherly, mediatory and advisory role, ensuring the boards, managers and staffs objectives/goals falls in tandem with the players, youths and also the fans.
These are obligations far superior to his onfield forays but also beyond his faltering defensive abilities. Terry, with his years of experience, would be the perfect fit for the role and I don’t think age would have any affect on him on that front.
One of the surviving players in the 2004/2005 era, Ashley Cole has been a perennial figure in the transitional years at the Bridge. He has been of immense value through the trophy-laden years, garnering 2 league trophies, 4 FA Cups, The Champions League Trophy and also last season, The Europa Cup.
With such splendid record, Cole is without doubt, one of the few accomplished players in the club. Cole would surely play his part in the evolving team but how industrious would he be compared to the zestful Cole that dominated the flanks in his early years at the Bridge?
Obviously, and naturally, Cole’s form has plummeted, markedly from the incredulous level of consistency he was notable for in his heyday. He was a constant menace when attacking and an immovable block when pestered at the back. Though, Cole’s proven central to the team’s success, making some significant clearances when the keeper was well beaten, even those epic saves pale in comparison to the young, fledgling Cole.
With Mourinho’s return however, there is the hope that a spark of life could be re-ignited in the ageing defender. Even if he is not as domineering, Cole would still be considered an asset to the team nonetheless.
When Chelsea acquired the services of Branislav Ivanovic for £9 million in 2008, it was a while before he was ushered into the team. Ivanovic never played a game for the first team during the remainder of that 2007/2008 season with the excuse of match unfitness given as the reason. Eight months after becoming a Chelsea player however, Ivanovic got his debut in a League Cup game against Portsmouth.
From thereon, Ivanovic has gone to become a key figure in the Chelsea backline, a force to be reckoned with in the league and a highly coveted player by top teams in Europe. His defending doggedness remains a persisting snag for opposing attackers. Such is the persona of the Serbian that he simply goes about his defensive duties without seemingly putting a foot wrong. Also towering in the air, Ivanovic is always a threat with set-pieces and a moment that readily comes to mind was his trophy-sealing header against Benfica in the Europa Final. Also worthy of note were the decisive headers against Liverpool in the 2008/2009 Champions League games.
Unquestionably, Ivanovic would be of utmost value in the team especially with his ability to play as a right-back and central defender. Mourinho must feel blessed to have a rare gem in the spine of the squad.
Fan favorite David Luiz has been a recurring subject to endless speculation, linking him to Barcelona, Bayern Munich and P.S.G. Sometimes you wonder why there is so much buzz for a player that’s courted enough dissension to be described as a Playstation controlled player.
Ever since David Luiz made his full debut for Chelsea in a 0-0 draw against Fulham, there’s always been a story written about him and differing impressions attached to him. Luiz instantly became a cult hero the moment he thumped home a sumptous volley against Man.Utd at the Bridge. The thrill that cascaded through the stadium when the ball was smashed in, still lingers in the memory. An underlying mutual warmth was sealed with the goal and from thereon, even with some occasional exasperating performances, the bond between the player and fans has only waxed stronger.
If reports were to be believed, Mourinho may not be swayed by the adventurous playing style of the Brazilian. If common sense were to be applied however, then you get the feel that Mourinho must have observed that Luiz has given a lot to the team and he’s quite capable of offering much more. Luiz might not be the most consistent defender, but with the master tactician at the helms, renowned for his disciplinarian and instructive approach, perhaps a fully rounded player, with the blend of a retained passionate edge plus a cultured prototypical defending attribute, could be re-modelled.
By Salako Aramide