We’ve clearly seen against Atletico Madrid how much we’re lacking in our double pivot, from pace to creativity and even to the basics like keeping the ball with composure and playing and completing simple passes, but let’s put it all behind us and avoid getting dragged into the UEFA Super Cup fiasco, because it would need an article on its own.
First of all, the departure of Meireles obviously means Ramires’ days out on the wings are all nothing but a memory now, as he’ll be moved back into CM; his natural position. Let’s have a look at our available centre midfielders now: Lampard, Ramires, Mikel, Romeu and Oscar at times. A typical and successful double pivot consists of a deep lying playmaker and a holding defensive midfielder whose duty is to cover for the deep lying playmaker whenever he’s advanced and ultimately provide cover for the back four; also one of the roles the holding defensive midfielder has to play is being a ball winning midfielder. Mikel has been excellent in playing this role and his performances lately have been very impressing, and Romeu, who has similar attributes, will play as a back-up to him. Although the lack of pace in that role (holding defensive midfielder) is worrying, we can say we’re sorted in that position.
Now, where the main issue lies and where we’re lacking, is in the deep lying playmaker role. Lampard hasn’t impressed particularly in that position during this season due to the change of style of play that’s come with Drogba’s departure (and Torres being the main striker upfront) and the new signings; it’s, as it looks, much more fluid now and we’ve said goodbye to the old rigid style. Back to discussing the deep lying playmaker role; Lampard is a typical 4-3-3 box-to-box midfielder, as is Ramires, and the creativity of the two is in question when it comes to fulfilling that role, and they’re both too offensive-minded to be composed enough to play that role well, we’d have to see. I doubt Oscar’s ready, he’s not too solid as he still has to adapt physically both to the Premier League and that role. Meireles was also pretty much the same 4-3-3 box-to-box player as Lampard and Ramires and not seen as a deep lying playmaker in a 4-2-3-1, this argument was always there and when will it be addressed? I don’t really know, but you’d have to blame it on the rotation of managers, because each manager buys his own players to suit his own system and then gets sacked after a short spell with a new manager and a new system brought in, and again.. i.e. Ramires (bought under Ancelotti) for a 4-3-3, and notably Meireles (bought under Villas-Boas) for a 4-3-3, but then shortly after that AVB gets sacked and RDM replaces him with a new system (4-2-3-1) with the wrong type of players to fit into it, here fitting box-to-box midfielders into the double pivot (a place where they don’t belong) or, what is just as worse, out on the wings, but thankfully we’ve managed there after buying a few wingers. Torres also is an example of a player who was bought by the board and forced on Ancelotti to fit into his 4-3-3, a formation in which Torres clearly doesn’t belong, as the one he succeeds in is a 4-2-3-1. But that’s another lengthy discussion I don’t want to enter as I don’t want to stray away too much. Anyway, that’s enough introduction and I’ll enter into the main point.
We didn’t seem to be interested in or after any CMs this summer, and I always thought we probably will in January. The lack of pace in our double pivot will be and still is a huge problem which I don’t see solved until January hopefully. The CM(s) we should be after must be creative, solid and disciplined with some excellent passing and technical ability. A few of the top prospects in Europe currently are Witsel, Fellaini, Dembele, Cabaye, Martinez, M’Vila and so on. Dembele’s gone to Tottenham, Martinez is gone to Bayern Munich and Witsel is apparently on his way to Zenit, while M’Vila has always seemed to be Arsenal-bound, which leaves us with the excellent Fellaini and Cabaye who we can get at fair prices, but we’ll see who’ll appear on our radar by January as we don’t know yet and it might be someone else. But we need someone now, and looking at the date, we’re in September and obviously the transfer deadline’s passed and we can’t make any more purchases, and as a result we might be in trouble until January (a little summarised line I said in a Premier League preview). It seems to be worrying how we’ll cope against tough sides while we lack in the most crucial area of the pitch.
An excellent idea was on my mind today, which I think would be perfect; the legendary Michael Ballack. He is a free agent which surely means we can get him now regardless of the transfer window. He could be the ideal short term solution to have until January at least or the end of the season or even for the remainder of his career as he’d provide us with cover and would be a quality signing to add to our depth; his experience alone could be priceless, especially in helping out the young ones. We released him in 2010 because of his age and high wages, but of course we suffered severely after that and we still haven’t replaced his class presence in midfield. I doubt he won’t settle for much less now as he heads towards the final stages of his career, and if the rumours about Yossi Benayoun being on £92k a week before heading on loan to West Ham, then it’s a no brainer – it must be no issue. Manchester United have brought back Paul Scholes, who is 37, as they lacked cover in midfield, and he’s fulfilled that call well – Michael Ballack is currently 35; his creativity, leadership and experience could massively benefit us in the double pivot behind what is a hungry, ambitious and young four (labelled as the Eden project). He makes a perfect deep lying playmaker and had a great game against us for Bayer Leverkusen last year in the Champions League if you’d recall. He’d be ideal there, and could be seen as a brilliant short term solution, or retiring at Chelsea would be the perfect setting after a long legendary career.
Bring Ballack back home, Chelsea.