With Cesc Fabregas suspended against Hull City due to the accumulation of 5 yellow cards this season, a spot beside Nemanja Matic in the centre of the midfield has opened up.
With this position needing a player with good passing and defensive abilities simultaneously, let us look at the possible defensive midfield partners of Matic against Hull City.
John Obi Mikel
John Obi Mikel seems the most likely candidate for the spot alongside Matic. With decent performances against Newcastle United and Sporting CP most recently, Mikel seems to have increased his chances of starting against Hull City. Apart from his good defensive covering in midfield, Mikel also scored a rare goal against Sporting CP last Wednesday, an achievement for him, considering the almost non-existent scoring record in his 8 year Chelsea career. With only 4 starts and 8 appearances from the bench, in all competitions this season, Mikel will be looking to impress if he is given another rare start.
Last week, Mikel looked very comfortable in possession, not giving the ball away under pressure, even taking on a few players to advance on a few occasions. He has not looked nervous while being pressed by opposition forwards. In fact, in his 212 minutes of Premier League football this season, Mikel has an average passing accuracy of 93.1%, with an average of 36 passes per match, which is quite fantastic. Defensively too, Mikel has been satisfactory. His average of 0.6 interceptions per game is fair enough, considering he has played only 212 minutes of Premier League football. He may not have the attacking intuition of Fabregas, but he can certainly do the job for a day.
Ramires too has not been getting into the first team as much as he would have liked, although he has made the most of his chances. Whenever he has been used this season, it has been in an attacking role, mostly on the right wing, from where he has scored twice and assisted thrice. However, he was used as a deep-lying central midfielder by Jose Mourinho last season, and also by Andre Villas Boas and Carlo Ancelotti previously. Earlier Ramires has played in this position alongside Mikel, Frank Lampard and at times even Matic last season.
With his incredible work rate, Ramires has the ability to go forward even from the deep lying positions, making late runs into the box, and scoring the odd goal or track-back immediately if possession changes hands. One can easily recall his fantastic chip over Victor Valdes in Nou Camp two years ago, was actually from a run made from the right back position, where he was deputising after John Terry was sent off and Bosingwa had to play as centre-half. Even while playing on the right wing this season, Ramires has averaged 1 clearance per match while a passing accuracy of 84.4% is impressive.
Oscar is the most unlikely candidate amongst the above-mentioned players, to start in the centre of the pitch alongside Matic. While Oscar’s main position is the playmaker position, just behind the striker, Oscar has been used in the centre in previous seasons, most notably in a Capital One Cup match Manchester United, under Roberto Di Matteo, a match that Chelsea won 5-4. If Oscar is to play a deep-lying role, Willian could take his place as playmaker while Schurrle would come into the right wing. Oscar does have the ability to play as a deep-lying central midfielder. His work rate this season has been truly amazing.
Especially when Arsenal visited Stamford bridge this season, Oscar ran his feet off the ground to make vital tackles, blocks, interceptions and even niggling fouls effectively to stop the flow of the game, whenever Arsenal looked to up the ante. With an average passing accuracy of 85.2%, distributing the ball from midfield would not be a problem. His 2.5 successful tackles per match too is impressive by any standards.
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Edited By: Vikram Vadiganeni