With 37 appearances for Chelsea this season in all competitions, Branislav Ivanovic is one such player who can assure you that your backline is safe.
Besides, he is the one who can step up and score or create those crucial goals for the team on many, many occasions.
Rumour has it that the Serbian right-back can lift other players over his head in the gym. With physique and strength of a centre-back and pace of a full back, Ivanovic is the kind of player a team, which is competing for one or more titles in a season, needs. “A team is an artist like [Eden] Hazard; it is a defender like Branislav.” Jose Mourinho once quoted in a press conference.
In one of his articles, Daily Mail’s Martin Keown referred to Ivanovic as a tank, from whom the ball always bounces back and who can also shoot missiles with an equal amount of power.
As of 20th February 2015 when that DM article was published, the 31-year-old had made 202 appearances for the club. In those two hundred games, he has a fantastic record of- 423 tackles, 309 interceptions, 967 clearances, 52 blocks, and 16 assists along with 19 goals. These are insane numbers for any defender, proving that Ivan is much more than just a defender.
With his tally of 20 goals in Premier League as a Chelsea player, the full back has now matched Fernando Torres’ domestic record of the same number of goals for Chelsea. He has also spent twice as much time at the club as El Nino. Odd comparison, but the goals is what the strikers specialize in right? Try telling that to the Serb, and you will probably be the target of his next missile.
The only thing that gets a defender out of his skin is going forward with ball and Ivanovic seems to love it instead of dreading it. This attacking instinct made him the highest goal-scoring defender in Champions League since 2009, with his header in the first leg of the last 16 game against PSG.
Everyone talks about young guns Chambers, Clyne and others. People also fawn at Zabaleta, Coleman, and Rafael too. Meanwhile, Ivanovic has been playing in the Premier League for more than seven years now. He has established himself as the best right back in the league, but his amazing record has never been acknowledged much. This season too has seen Ivanovic giving some of the finest performances to rise above his underrated profile. As solid as he has been at the back, on many occasions he has been a savior on attacking fronts as well with his crucial goals. He so far has grabbed six goals, four of them coming in a recent run of six games and had four assists to his name. That’s quite Oscar-esque if you ask me.
You won’t see him dribbling or easily getting past players down the flanks, but then you won’t find him getting beaten that easily either. And it is no secret what kind of a bull Ivanovic is when he gets inside the penalty box, outmuscling the defenders and creating space. On top of that, he is unstoppable and almost impossible to man-mark during the set pieces. There may be a bit of muscular edge to his game, but more so, it’s the subtle way he goes about his business.
Along with John Terry’s fitness, Gary Cahill’s solidity, Azpilicueta’s defensive nous; it is Ivanovic’s work rate that has been the icing on the cake for Chelsea’s back four. The Chelsea defense has conceded a mere 26 times this season: the second least in the League behind Southampton’s tally of 22.
Ivanovic’s solidity at the right back position allows his attacking partner on the right to buzz freely all over the field, as is the case with Willian. But the winger has to be aware of Brana’s advanced forays so as to keep the flanks covered. Brana’s presence helps him to combine more freely with his fellow midfielders Hazard and Oscar. The team can severely overload defenders in their half and can make a move from unpredictable parts on the field, instead of just sticking to the right side of the midfield.
Above all these special qualities of a right back, the best thing about Ivanovic is that he isn’t made to fit some particular mold. The man is one of a kind. He can make runs down the flank, score goals, has a great physical advantage compared to other full backs that help him create space for himself and his teammates inside the opposition penalty box. What’s more, he rarely lets anyone past himself. All this praise may seem a bit awkward but considering the way he buccaneers his way through defenses, it is every bit well deserved.
There’s no other player in the league who can handle multi-tasking with such grace; running a whole wing by himself, acting like an extra center back on set pieces, and at times, becoming a better defensive midfielder than the guy who started the game at that position. On his day, he is everywhere. It is like consistency himself runs alongside Captain Serbia on the pitch.
So one can debate whether it is Ivanovic’s defensive contribution or his long bursting runs on the right wing that make him such an asset to any team or is it his ability to throw his body on the line when required. Perhaps it is his incredible heading abilities from set pieces that make him such a threat. Either way, only one thing is proved again and again that Ivanovic is the best and surely the most underrated right back in the League, at present. The fact that there are so many qualities he possesses that could make him the best Right Back in the league on their own is testimony enough of his ability and stature. Zabaleta, who?
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Edited By: Ojas