I don’t think there’s much doubt that the strength and depth of our midfield during the 2009/10 season contained an unprecedented and since unseen amount of awesomeness; all year we dominated game after game as we romped our way to our first Premier League and FA Cup double. The summer transfer window that followed however in hindsight proved to be a succession of very bad decisions. With the intention of focusing more on younger players we released Michael Ballack and Deco; Joe Cole also went to Liverpool on a free. Then in the year that followed, Michael Essien struggled in vain to find form after a long lay-off, Frank Lampard had injury problems of his own whilst new signing Yossi Benayoun’s season was over after one game (rupturing his Achilles Tendon), Ramires was struggling to settle after his move from Benfica whilst Yuri Zhirkov never really looked comfortable in a Chelsea shirt.
The results and performances soon began to reflect the poor business done by the club during this period – they also prompted seemingly every fan who owned a keyboard to exert his or her prerogative of a modern-day Chelsea fan to complain tirelessly when things go badly. Soon every blog and forum was clogging up with the same old tiresome belligerency: “We need out and out wingers”, “we need creative midfielders”, “We need playmakers”… blah blah blah. I’m not saying these arguments weren’t just, to me it seemed however that what were initially fair observations quickly turned into the mindless and dreary repetition of media buzz-words and it drove me insane!
I think this is definitely a big reason as to why I’m looking forward to the coming season so much. The work we’ve done in the last 4 transfer windows so far must have surely satisfied everybody’s concerns with the squad – who can say in all honesty that with whom we have now and who is rumoured to be coming in, that we don’t have everything that we’ve been missing in the recent past? There’s speed, there’s strength, there’s creativity a plenty, great attacking talent in every position – fans might actually have to start thinking a little bit deeper and more liberally before they start criticising the club – because for the first time in a while there is absolutely nothing wrong with the squad.
Considering the newest addition to the team, Oscar Dos Santos Emboaba Junior, this is again another reason to be very excited. From a collective view point I think he’s exactly what Chelsea could do with and from a personal viewpoint, he’s the sort of player I really love to watch – with there not being any unnecessary extravagance to his game but with their being such an obvious quality to everything he does.
An elegant, two footed midfielder, the boy has been relentlessly lauded for his intelligence by pretty much everybody who’s spoken about him to the British press. His former coach at Internacional Dorival Junior said of him, “Oscar is a modern player. He’s complete; he marks, he gets involved, he scores goals and he’s always moving. And he can get even better.” The only real quote you need to read though is this one from Mano Menezes, “He wears the No10 for Brazil and we don’t give that shirt out to just anybody”.
Zizinho, Pele, Roberto Rivelino, Zico, Ronaldinho… and now Oscar. I’m not suggesting anything with that sentence but it is very tantalizing to read.
There are some other reasons though why this is an interesting signing. Firstly, it’s an incredibly brave thing that Oscar is doing moving to a club where his visibility and first team opportunities may be harder to come by. Oscar is leaving Brazil at a time where he is ‘The Man’ and by leaving now, when staying would pretty much guarantee his place in the Selecao for the World Cup in 2014, I think he is taking a huge risk. It’s also brave considering that when you think of the majority of great South American players that have moved to Europe, they usually move to a smaller club first, before joining one of the big sides – Ronaldo to PSV and Ronaldinho to PSG, being two good examples. Oscar is throwing himself into the deep end by signing for Chelsea which to me shows he’s got some serious ambition and a lot of confidence is in own ability. I wish him all the best of luck and can’t wait to see him in a Blues’ Shirt.
Quickly now before I move on, I just feel like a massive ‘SHUT UP AND GO AWAY’ is in order to all the Manchester Utd fans I’ve encountered over the past few days, and anyone else for that matter, who feels qualified to contradict every single South American football expert and writer by telling me that Lucas Moura is a better player than Oscar. Normally I’d be happy to debate a football topic like this but when you know the extent of someone’s knowledge on a player only goes as far as an 8 minute clip on YouTube – it’s really difficult to see the point. Lucas Moura is not better than Oscar. Maybe he has more raw talent but that’s still debatable. What isn’t debatable is that Oscar is the more mature, intelligent, cerebral and complete footballer and any Utd fan who wants to argue – go away and read some books first.
A debate far more worthy of our time I feel is how we are going to deal with the excess of talent that we have in other areas of the team, namely centre half. Ever since we sold Ricardo Carvalho we haven’t looked quite as solid at the back, with John Terry unable to form such an understanding it seemed with either Alex or Branislav Ivanovic. Now though, we are in the incredibly enviable position of having 3 world class centre halves, with which one to leave out looking like it’s going to be a real conundrum for Di Matteo and his staff.
I think everyone’s accepting and happy about the fact that a lot of rotation is going to happen. I read a suggestion the other day though that seemed quite backwards to me. This person had written that he’d like to see David Luiz play against the smaller teams so he can get forward against them while Gary Cahill should play against the bigger teams as he offers solidarity – I didn’t agree with this at all.
Gary Cahill has absolutely incredible positional sense and this is what his game is based around – getting in position to make a block or an interception, he never has been a very active or particularly fantastic tackler, I think he actually made fewer tackles than any other premier league defender last season. One thing he is remarkable at though is winning off-sides. Before he left, Bolton had the best off-side trap in the division and when he arrived at Chelsea, ours improved significantly – definitely not a coincidence. This obviously makes him, to me, more suitable to defend against the smaller teams who will look to hurt us on the counter attack, rather than the bigger teams who are going to look to dominate possession.
David Luiz on the other hand is a very physical defender. Whereas Cahill is more of a reader of the game, Luiz is a reactor to the game and his reactions in my opinion are incredibly good and fast improving. Compared to Cahill, I think his tackling, man-marking and defensive headering are all superior, which makes him more suited to start against the bigger teams, especially those with prolific centre forwards.
I’ve suggested this before in the past and been shot down for it, so I’m interested to see some people’s opinions. How do you think Cahill and Luiz should be rotated, if at all? Who would be better suited to start against the bigger and the smaller teams? Let’s have another good debate.