Unless you’re a die-hard Chelsea fan, you’d probably forgotten that Marco van Ginkel is still a Blue. The Dutchman hasn’t pulled on the shirt since September 2013, and he hasn’t even been seen on a pitch since May 2018 after suffering a serious knee injury.
However, with a spot in the Premier League squad list vacated by Cesc Fabregas, Chelsea have included the 26-year-old. Whilst he is still not near a full return – he is only expected to return to training in March – van Ginkel could be exactly what Chelsea have been missing in midfield.
A common criticism of Chelsea’s midfield trio of Jorginho, N’Golo Kante and Mateo Kovacic is that they lack goals. The fact that Kante, who is widely viewed as the world’s finest defensive midfielder, is the most potent attacking threat of the three speaks volumes of the midfield’s struggles.
The Blues need a powerful midfielder who knows how to score goals, but also knows how to put in a shift defensively. In van Ginkel, they have exactly that, and you only need to look at his form last season for the proof.
On loan with PSV Eindhoven, van Ginkel was deployed as a box-to-box midfielder who was expected to make an impact at both end of the field. He racked up a stunning 16 goals and five assists in 33 appearances as club captain, in a season which Chelsea icon Frank Lampard would have been proud of.
At times, he would be the deepest of PSV’s midfielders, using his physicality and vision to shield defenders and allow his teammates to shine. On another occasion, van Ginkel would operate as an attacking midfielder who prioritised creativity and goalscoring, and he would pass each test with flying colours.
Whilst he may not excel in one specific area, van Ginkel’s appeal is that he is an all-round talent. He is a goalscorer, he is a creator and he is a defensive force.
The fear amongst Chelsea fans is that their midfield is not an attacking threat, but instead a secondary option to complement the forwards. Defenders gift the likes of Kovacic and Kante more freedom, and instead focus their defensive efforts on Eden Hazard. With van Ginkel in the side, he would offer Chelsea a new dynamic which has not been seen in years.
Yes, the impact of this knee injury on van Ginkel’s natural game is yet to be seen, but if he can make a full recovery, he could blossom into the player Chelsea thought they were getting when they signed Ross Barkley.
It may still be a while until we see van Ginkel grace the field at Stamford Bridge, but Maurizio Sarri would be foolish to ignore his quality. The Dutchman could be the elusive “Plan B” which Sarri has been searching for, and fans should be praying for van Ginkel to make a speedy recovery.