Lost amid all the hemming and hawing over the logjam in the attacking midfield spots has been the rather interesting development in the heart of defense, which has seen John Terry vault back into undisputed first choice status, right alongside our favorite big-haired Brazilian (sorry, Willian).
Since that fateful knee-jerk night in Barcelona, Terry has fallen on interesting times. Even by his own standards. He won the FA Cup, became an Internet meme, went to trial over a charge of using racist language, was cleared by the Crown Prosecution of a charge of using racist language, was suspended by the FA for using racist language, got hurt, tried to come back, got hurt again, and eventually lost all of semblance of form and ability. Or so it seemed.
After appearing in just 14 Premier League matches last season (fewest ever as a full-fledged Chelsea senior squad member) and 27 matches overall (second fewest ever as a full-fledged Chelsea senior squad member), Terry looked ready to fast-track his retirement and Chelsea pension plan. He was being routinely outpaced by herds of turtles, while his turning radius had deteriorated beyond that of a decommissioned battlecruiser. It was not pretty.
But then, along came José Mourinho, with his snake oils and youth potions, and suddenly, Terry was JT once again. Chelsea's brave. He has started and finished every single Premier League match so far. He anchored the unexpectedly crucial 4-0 away to Steaua Bucharest and was used as defensive reinforcement in both the League Cup and the UEFA Super Cup (although with dissimilar outcomes). Basically, Terry is back to being Terry.
"He had a very good pre-season and put himself in a good condition to start the season. Now we don't put him under pressure to play five or six consecutive matches. It's better to play two in a row and get really fit, then be ready physically to cope with the sequence of matches."
"In this moment he is fine. It doesn't mean that he will always be first choice for me, and he knows that, but he also knows that I trust him and I am happy with the way he is performing. The situation for him now is good."
-José Mourinho; source: chelseafc.com
Meanwhile, as John Terry resumes being John Terry, David Luiz continues to be David Luiz. I know, I know, I'm impressed by that sentence as well.
"David is a fantastic player, but you know that he might make one mistake. He is playing very well in my opinion, though, with clean sheets in terms of mistakes so I'm happy to give him this stability to them."
-José Mourinho; source: Daily Star
And so, England's Brave Gary Cahill is left on the bench, solidly third choice. Does this say more about the quality of center backs at Chelsea or the (lack of) quality of center backs for the England national team?
"I trust Gary and I like him very much. I don't like to leave players on the bench that are good players and good professionals. I want to help him and I don't want to make his life difficult."
"I would never do something that would jeopardise his selection for the national team. There's no doubt he is going to play a lot. Who knows, in a couple of weeks I will change my mind because of performances and he becomes again my first option."
"Gary is a very good player and he has to play, so I can say three very good central defenders for two positions. From match to match I will read the game and try to make the best option for the team."
"The whole squad is full of good players. I will never leave somebody out for four or five matches in a row. I will make rotations and everybody will have chances to play. In the case of Gary I have to make him happy, I have to make him play and then he will go to the national team happy."
-José Mourinho; source: chelseafc.com
I'm glad that Mourinho has confidence in Cahill, for that means that in case we do get an injury or two (not an uncommon thing amongst our center backs if the last two years are an indication), we have good cover for a crucial position.
Personally, I don't think Cahill is all that great - his penchant for last ditch tackling and blocking both a boon and a curse - but ever since his arrival, he's filled in admirably when called upon despite not always playing up to the promise of his strength and size. That being said, I hope he gets his ticket to Brazil with England and hopefully Mourinho will make sure to give him enough playing time to accomplish just that.