Okay, I know a lot has been talked about our problem at the Centre-Back this season due to some obvious reasons which are; conceding frequent goals, being bullied by mid-table or even Championship teams, etc.
All those are some fair points, no doubt about that, but I won’t dwell on them in this article, rather we will try to find the root cause of what’s been going wrong for us at the back, which has left us in need of a new, younger and faster CB in the coming summer transfer window.
In this article, I will try to cover as much as I can to give you a clear view of the reasons for our recent struggles in defense and how it can be fixed. So let’s start with John Terry and Gary Cahill.
THE JOHN TERRY AND GARY CAHILL CONUNDRUM
The recent performances of Gary Cahill and John Terry at the back have left quite a few number of Chelsea fans confused. And why not? I mean, the English duo were, by far, the best in the PL in the previous season and looked to continue that form at the start of this season.
But, come December, something changed. We started conceding stupid goals and were even put to shame at the White Hart Lane. The trend continued. After going 2-0 up against a Championship team, we managed to concede four goals! And although, the future results weren’t as drastic, and we did win the Capital One Cup, our vulnerability at the back continued. Our performance against Hull City, last week just sums up our struggle at the back.
So what went wrong? Surely we didn’t turn into Arsenal in a couple of months, did we? Nope, we did not! Here are the few reasons that explain the recent struggles of the English duo:
THE LOW BLOCK
To understand it all, first, let me explain to you why Terry and Cahill were the best damn CB’s in the previous season.
When Mourinho arrived for his second stint last season, he wanted to build a dynasty. A new team that would play an aggressive, attractive brand of football, very unlike the previous Mourinho teams we all came to know and admired.
And fair enough, we started the season against Hull City and what we saw was an attacking, aggressive, high pressing Chelsea side that left the fans even the neutrals in an awe.
It was fun to watch this new looking side under our beloved Mourinho, but that didn’t last long. Soon we started conceding stupid goals and Mourinho had to revert to a low block. Words like “Inexperienced” and “Young Horses” were used by the manager, promising that the next year would be ours. So came the 2014-2015 season.
THE HIGH BLOCK
With some astute signing in the summer, the Blues started the season with a bang. Mourinho had promised before the start of our campaign about the way we were going to play:
“Because we want to do what we trained and we trained to high press this kind of team that builds from the back.”
And the Portuguese kept his word making this Chelsea team a reminiscent to the Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona. We pressed high up the pitch through our attacking players while, the defense played a high block, making this team a treat to look at, even for the neutrals. It was all rainbows and butterflies as both John Terry and Gary Cahill looked comfortable at the back, but there was a reason both the Englishmen looked so good on the pitch, and that reason was Nemanja Matic!
Yaya Toure was undeniably considered the best CM in the PL before Matic arrived on the scene. Signed in the January transfer window in Mourinho’s first season, the Serbian proved to be the signing of the season but his best was yet to come. The start of 2014-15 season saw the Serbian turning himself into the best CM in all of Europe with some amazing, perfect performances.
The Serbian’s ability to carry the ball forward while being a rock defensively, covering for Cahill, Terry even sometimes Azpilicueta on the wings made him our most important player on the team, starting every game in all competitions. But then something happened, something about which even the big Serbian couldn’t do anything; Fatigue!
We continued with our high block as the performances of Matic and others alongside him declined. Result? A 5-3 drumming at White Hart Lane where Harry Kane repeatedly destroyed our CB’s with his pace up front.
But no, the trend didn’t stop here. In fact, it continued to Bradford City, PSG, Southampton and other fixtures, most recently against Hull City.
MOST RECENT EXAMPLES AGAINST HULL CITY
Let’s look at the most recent of our fixture against Hull City. I will give you a couple of examples on our struggles at the back:
In the 5th minute of the game, look how easily Hernandez was played through as the midfielder ran behind Terry and Cahill to get his shot on goal only for Courtois to make an amazing save.
Similarly, in the 11th minute, look how easily N’Doye just ran past Gary Cahill and the Englishman had to commit a foul just outside the box to stop him going one on one with Courtois.
Conceding a couple of stupid goals aside, the game was filled with moments where Hull City just played a few balls over the top for N’Doye and Elmohamady to run onto as both of our CB’s didn’t have enough pace to stop them from going through on goal. All I can say is, if it wasn’t for Courtois, we were in for a drumming!
We might be lifting the PL trophy at the end of the campaign but, there’s no doubt that something needs to be done in the summer transfer window, if we want to dominate Europe in the next few years.
WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE
Paul Pogba is the new fever that seems to be catching up with the fans these days and although, I am sure he would be quality player for the Blues but first, there’s a bigger issue to deal with here, and that is the CB conundrum!
Kurt Zouma, with the limited start that he has got for the Blues, looks to be the real deal. The Frenchman is physical, athletic and fast, something we lack with our other options. If we want to continue playing the high block, which we will, a need for a new CB; a young, fast, experienced and of course World Class CB is the need of the hour. A CB that could slot alongside the relatively inexperienced Zouma, while we continue playing the brand of football that would leave the fans in awe and one of the names that does come to mind, and who fits and checks all those above boxes is Raphael Varane.
WHY RAPHAEL VARANE?
“It is quite impossible that Varane is just 19 and playing with such a great skill, strength and experience.”
“He is one of the best defenders to have challenged me that way in all my career and I believe he will turn a wonderful world player in the near future.” – DIDIER DROGBA
“I think he is the best young central defender in the world. Already I think he’s the best.” – JOSE MOURINHO
Just few of the quotes to go on with the hype that is Raphael Varane.
Many of the Chelsea fans haven’t seen the young Frenchman play as he currently plies his trade at Real Madrid. But let me assure you, Raphael Varane would be the perfect fit for this Chelsea side, with the system we are playing in and with manager’s previous relationship with the young superstar.
He is young, experienced, very fast, great in the air and possibly one of the best CB’s in the world right now. What more can you ask for?
Varane could easily slot in with the experienced John Terry/Gary Cahill or even with Kurt Zouma at the back as we continue playing the high block. PSG seem to have a thing with the CB pairing of the Brazilian national team, and every Chelsea fan knows what they are capable of. We could see Mourinho create the French version of the same.
The only problem that I can think of is his price tag. Real Madrid wouldn’t want to let him go for anything less than 40M pounds at least. A swap deal with Petr Cech could be a possibility and that might reduce the price tag, but still, there is no doubt that the young CB would cost us a hell lot of money for acquiring his services.
But then again, we are in a dire need of a new CB. We can’t continue like this next season and am sure Michael Emenalo and Jose Mourinho think the same way too. Raphael Varane or not, we need to strengthen our back four and summer transfer window is the time to do so!
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Edited By: Ojas Tripathi