Watching John Terry being substituted against Manchester City at half time was an unwelcome sight for most Chelsea fans. However, it was more of a shock. A defender who had been head and shoulders above any of his peers only a couple of months ago had fallen so far down.
Baba Rahman signed immediately, as Ivanovic was the more grilled player of the Chelsea veterans at fault on that day. The Serb had himself been playing out of position at right back and looked like the best in the team only last season at that position.
It was as if this was not reality anymore, instead the career mode in FIFA. How could someone become so ‘bad’ overnight from being the best in the world. It was not happening with just one but two defenders of the most formidable back four of the league last season.
As another direct consequence Chelsea became far more serious in their pursuit of a certain Evertonian. John Stones has since then gone on to submit a transfer request. Everton are still being themselves and refuse to let him leave for the reigning Champions. Chelsea are in need of a replacement, who, if not from the moment go replace the veteran captain but at least be blooded into the squad for when the moment comes to step up.
John Stones is a person who has always enjoyed a challenge, and is pretty good at what he is supposed to do. His transfer to Chelsea will in all likelihood be for a British record amount. But does the price in itself make a player that good? Though in an inflated market of English players, it would be reasonable if one can say so.
What happens when Stones sign for Chelsea though? Terry is out for three weeks. Mourinho has already termed any would be appeal to be a waste of everyone’s time as evident with Thibaut’s red card.
“Normally it’s a waste of time for us, I think we should but normally it’s a waste of time.”
So does that mean he immediately steps into the starting eleven, as suggested (more accurately: rumoured) by some. Does Mourinho start with Zouma and Cahill? Or rather he starts Baba Rahman for the first time, shifting Dave to his natural position and giving Ivanovic the nod for his own natural CB position. So many possible combinations that its baffling. Lets have a look at some numbers to decide what could be the best fit (back) line for this erroneous graph.
Before embarking on any discussion, let’s make a few things very clear. All the stats have been taken for the season gone by. The reason is simple: Three games are not enough to pass a judgement on any player, especially not the Captain, Leader, Legend.
Terry has been written off many a time before and has come back stronger every single time. It is true that his legs have aged and his speed has dwindled but for him to go from the best in the league to an ordinary bench player is not possible in such a small span of time. He may never get as good as last season, but his decline would certainly be far more gradual than this rate. It is safe to assume that this is a mere blip in a better than average season for Terry. In other words, it may be the start of the end but certainly not the end in itself. So everyone should hold there horses and watch Terry play some more football before he eventually moves on. All of this applies to Branislav Ivanovic as well.
Now, coming back to the numbers, which are on a per game basis, lets try and draw any conclusions that we can regarding where John Stones fits in the current squad. Before any performance numbers we should talk about age, experience and other such things. Zouma is the youngest of the lot, and accordingly has the least experience in the English top flight. Terry is the oldest and is the guiding light for many youngster, Cahill included.
His importance goes much farther than just being the defensive rock that he has been in Chelsea’s defense and he will have a role to play even when he is no longer being the smartest defender on the pitch or the cruelest of headers. He will be the one who guides, teaches and nurtures the likes of Zouma and his namesake Stones. Terry is essential to any defensive regeneration at Chelsea.
John Terry is 187cm, Cahill is 193 cm, Zouma stands at 190 cm and Stones is 188 cm. Guess who is his height closest to in the Chelsea defence? Yes, Terry is the answer. Anyways, Cahill and Terry were beasts in terms of aerial duels last season.
Cahill marginally pipped the captain to the top of most dominant defender in the air because, of course, he is marginally taller. Zouma is a good aerial presence too with 66% but still does not display his full potential in this deparment. Though that should improve with time. John Stones, Terry’s mooted replacement/heir (depending on which stories you believe) is the least effective of the four center backs. However, he is still better than your average Arsenal defender.
Hence, Aerial presence is not a stat that would get John Stones into the team. Zouma would be a better choice in that regard.
What does Everton do when Chelsea bid for John Stones? They try to Block the transfer. What does John Stones do? He hands in a transfer request.
Apart from that, he makes 1.09 blocks in each game. Almost 0.3 blocks more than either of Terry and Cahill. and a whopping five times better than Zouma. However one must remember that many of the Zouma minutes/moments came in defensive midfield last season.
Nevertheless, Stones is a clear winner and if a center half had to only block shots, he would walk into the Chelsea defence. But it’s not that simple, is it?
What comes after a block? Clearance! Who is the best of the four in terms of clearances made? Not Terry, not Cahill and certainly not Zouma.
Stones made 6.52 clearances in every game last season, only marginally better than Cahill and 1 more clearance per game than the Chelsea captain. Let’s just say that Zouma was still in the midfield when Terry and Cahill were making 10 clearances between them in each game (which is true to an extent).
Again, Stones comes on top in a key defensive action, which when missed leads to a goal. So he would again get the nod for the starting eleven. Hypothetically.
What shines brightest my friend? Precious (John) Stones.
John Terry made 0.84 interceptions per game. A good number for a player who is as fast as the Chelsea captain. It’s actually his ability to read the games that helps him compensate. Cahill makes 0.75 interceptions. Certainly not as good as Terry but still a complementary number.
Zouma was still young and learning, again. Young Stones here, had his own ideas and was somehow making Terry and Cahill’s combined number of interceptions all by himself. It’s quite an amazing stat for a young footballer. Hence, once again Stones proves better than any Chelsea defender. I don’t know how he is still 21 but the numbers don’t lie.
Despite his proven excellence against the top teams in England, John Stones may not immediately become a key defender at Chelsea. He still has a lot to learn from the best defender to ever play in England. However, he is the best heir without any shadow of a doubt. If you had any reservations about his price tag as of yet: Forget them, the numbers say.
Add the fact that he is very comfortable on the ball and in possession generally. He begins moves from the back and likes to dribble, you are getting a very modern defender who is comparable to some tried and tested veterans at the tender age of 21. What more could any one ask for? Nothing, absolutely a no brainer.
Mourinho may or may not chose him ahead of Terry/Cahill but one thing is for sure that if there is an Englishman deserving to be John Terry’s successor at the Bridge, it is John (Stones)!
Chelsea may have to break records to get him to the Bridge, but boy he is the to get! Hope to see you soon, John!
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