Chelsea: Could Ramires, Essien or Van Aahnholt fill the gap at right-back?
In Ashley Cole, Chelsea have one of the best left-backs in the country. Alongside him are John Terry, who is a leader of men, and the impressive Gary Cahill. All three are top class performers who give it their all once they cross on to the pitch. Unfortunately, right-back has been a cause of concern for the Blues.
Jose Bosingwa, although great at going forward, was about as use as a chocolate fireguard at the back. Thankfully for most Chelsea fans Bosingwa is on his way out of Stamford Bridge, and the forgotten man of Paolo Ferreira looks like joining him too. But who will fill his place in the long-term? Will it be Ivanovic, who has stood in admirably last season? Could Ryan Bertrand be pulled over to the right or is there somebody else who has caught Roberto Di Matteo's eye?
Squarefootball's latest recruit Brandon Stewart has come up with three alternatives who could fill the gap at right-back.
If I had to pick an athlete to play right-back likened to any other athlete in another sport what would I look for? A wide receiver in American football, a point guard in basketball, a skier, a defensive hockey player . . . I think I would pick a marathon runner. Obviously extremely fit, focused, and a fighter. Ramires has all the qualities of a marathon runner and a great fullback.
Yes there will be a slow transitional period but hasn’t his whole Chelsea career been a transitional period? A box-to-box central midfielder to right midfielder to right winger, and a few other positions sprinkled in here and there. Ramires has grown every match with Chelsea and taken on all challenges put in front of him. Other than positioning I can not think of an area Ramires would struggle with playing right back.
He obviously is a threat getting forward at RM/RW which would not change if he were moved to full back. If you doubt it review the goal he scored to send Chelsea to the Champions League final. In that game he knew he had just been booked to prevent him from playing in the final, so what did he do, the unthinkable, get up in advance of the striker while playing right-back to score the goal of the tournament knowing he wouldn’t see the final.
Fighter? Need I say anymore. He tackles, stands his man up and forces him into the corner or backwards, makes challenges in the air, recovers if ever beaten, and, maybe even more important, recovers for anyone else who was beaten.
When you train players and make them sprint you teach them to run across the line, Ramires can often be seen sprinting through the final whistle while players grip their shorts for balance and struggle to hold in a chest full of oxygen.
2. Michael Essien
Essien looks well out of his range at centre midfield. Many people will remember Essien being transitioned to right-back for big matches and during injury crisis at the back. I know Essien is not what he was in the past but keeping the game in front of him would do a lot for him. In the centre of the park he seems to be lacking offensive and defensive qualities. Pace makes up for a lot of different deficiencies in a player's game and without pace after injuries Mr Essien is being exposed. Does this sound familiar? Last season under Andre Villas–Boas Chelsea tried to press and out run their opponent but they failed miserably. Solution to this problem, sit deeper and keep the game in front of you. Even though he isn’t good enough in the centre of the park, with good positioning all of his other struggles will not be as noticeable and he could be a very good right-back.
He is decent in the air, fit enough to get up and back, passing is pretty good for a right-back, he is strong in the tackle, has good upper body strength and pretty good balance. Moving Essien to right-back could rescue his drowning career.
3. Patrick Van Aahnholt
The young left-back has impressed on loan and played centre-back in the youth and reserves teams and has already been tipped for a future with the Dutch national team. Why move him to the right? He is two footed and seems a step behind Ryan Bertrand playing on the left so learn the other side and become a more dynamic and valuable player.
He is a tall full-back and likes to get forward. By now everyone knows the term inverted winger, do you really think we are far from seeing inverted full-backs? A full-back pushing up level and getting the ball in space, able to cut inside and open up the field will soon be a trend in club football eventually moving to the national level. Ask true fans of Newcastle that watched them after the drop and they will rate Patrick. Remember his name, mention it to a few friends, fast forward to the future and insert your favorite I told you so.
Calling all Chelsea fans: Do you agree with Brandon's suggestions. Would you be happy to see Ramires or Essien pulled back to right-back? What about Van Aahnholt? Is this the most important area of the pitch Roberto Di Matteo has to plug this summer? Whatever your views, we'd love to hear from you.
Article by Brandon Stewart