I've had a thought for most of the summer. Well, for the last few years I suppose, but it's been drifting forward in my mind until I had to sit down and write about it, try to get my thoughts on paper. I keep hearing that Modric is the best central midfielder in the League, that Chelsea have plenty of good midfield options, that we do and don't need more midfielders. Now Sahin is apparently being contested between Arsenal and United, and clubs are looking for that quality midfielder to take their team forward. But...where have all the quality midfields gone*?
*I'm referring, in general to the more central players than wingers.I started thinking back on Chelsea first. The 05-06 season with Makelele, Lampard and Essien. The next year we added Ballack into the mix. A brutally efficient, strong, lethal midfield with some of the best players in the game. A man who so dominated a position that it's often named for him now, a Ballon D'or runner up, one of the best all around players in the game in Essien, and Ballack's enforcer like game. Flash forward seven years and look at a midfield that might have Essien and Lampard side by side again. Only the one hasn't been fit in years, and the other is 34 and a shadow of his former self. We've added players, sure. Ramires is brilliant, only he's being pushed to the wing, Oscar is a great signing but an unknown and Mikel, while solid isn't the world class player we'd hoped for.
We're not the only top club of the last decade to have slipped. Liverpool have perhaps fallen the farthest. Once boasting a midfield of Gerrard, Mascherano and Alonso, Liverpool have now got the duo of Charlie Adam and Jordan Henderson feeding balls forward to Kuyt, Downing, Suarez and Carroll. I'd make a joke about this, but I'll see it dozens of times this coming season and I want to keep it fresh.
Arsenal had the likes of Viera and Gilberto, Nasri, Fabregas and Wilshere. Last season saw them running out Song, Arteta and Ramsey. I actually liked this midfield quite a lot for Arsenal, and a healthy Wilshere should make it a lot better, but it's still a far cry from previous days.
United had Butt, Keane and Scholes and spent heavily on Veron and Hargreaves and developed Fletcher. A decade later Paul Scholes came out of retirement to play alongside Ryan Giggs and Carrick and and a cavalcade of wingers.
City meanwhile have an absolutely loathsome team that I still found myself rooting for, simply because they didn't wear red. But Toure, Nasri, Milner, Barry and De Jong, with Silva up top make up a pretty damn good midfield. And without reinforcements, I don't see how Chelsea are going to compete in this portion of the pitch.
Why aren't the big teams scratching and clawing for top class midfield additions? How did Ozil and Sahin go so cheaply? Just a few years ago, Chelsea defeated Liverpool in the Champions League quarterfinals as Manchester United went past Arsenal to lose to Barca. Some of the players involved were Ballack, Essien, Lampard, Fabregas, Nasri, Song, Alonso, Mascherano, Gerrard, Lucas, Iniesta, Busquets, Xavi, Carrick, Fletcher, Giggs. Excellent midfields on every single team mentioned. And it's all gone now, at least for the English teams.
And for the english teams, nearly every one of those players is gone, or a shadow of their former self. English teams went from favorites nearly every season to being underdogs to the likes of Bayern Munich with Kroos and Schweingsteiger, and Madrid and Barca's gorgeous midfields where players like Sahin can't even get on the pitch.
Where has all the world class talent gone? How did it get this bad? What are Chelsea going to do about it?