FanPost

It Takes Two to Pivot - (Facial Hair included)

What follows is a simple breakdown of the options we've seen for everyone's favorite debate topic, the 4-2-3-1 pivot.

Piven?

Entourage_shooting_new_episode_queens_new_8xw4uji9k1ql_medium

via www1.pictures.fp.zimbio.com

No, pivot. Look, we all know that Mourinho is a genius. Yet, as Aristotle said, "there is never a genius without a tincture of madness." So he's a bit of a mad scientist in a way. Here's what another quasi-famous guy said about genius:

"Talent hits a target no one else can hit. Genius hits a target no one else can see.

- Arthur Schopenhauer, a crazy brilliant German philosopher

What can we take from these? I point you to an age-old adage: "though this be madness, yet there is method in't."

That's Shakespeare, mother truckers!

What I mean to convey with all of this heavy-handed, tongue-in-cheek name-dropping, is that although we may trust in Mourinho's genius, it can appear insane at times. For example, I noticed that the Villa game's "initial reaction" thread had a great many comments bemoaning the starts for the oft played pivot duo of Lampard and Ramires. Rather than utilize my literary wit to excoriate the Lamps-bashers out there, I felt that a more productive route would be to examine the options in the center of the park and break down some strengths and weaknesses, then pros and cons for the pairings. Perhaps then we might see the method in the Mou madness.

Let's start with the youngest and move to the old folks.

Marco Van Ginkel

Marco_van_ginkel_chelsea_v_indonesia_stars_ipvr1ubqtrvl_medium

via www2.pictures.zimbio.com

Age: 20

Years in EPL: 0

Preferred role: Box to box

Strengths:

- Passing

- Tackling

- Movement

Weaknesses:

- Decisiveness

Conclusions:

While his only significant weakness is the inexperience at this level of play, Dutch Bieber's true strength is that he can play defensively, and contribute to attacking and creating without letting either suffer. His indecision can be costly when running a counter attack, and his inexperience may be an issue in big matches.

Ramires

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via www.chelseafc.com

Age: 26

Years in EPL: 3

Preferred role: Box to box

Strengths:

- Pace

- Tackling

- Stamina

- Drawing Fouls (see: Pace)

Weaknesses:

- Crossing/Long Passing

- Distance Shooting

- Committing Fouls

- Focus

Conclusions:

Ramires is clearly a fantastic runner, and when he's on his game, he can win matches for the Blues single-handedly. On the merit of his tireless pressing and endless attacking runs alone, Ramires is almost too big of a weapon to sit. On the other hand, when he loses focus, he can make costly mistakes; he occasionally mishandles dangerous passes and too often draws reds or enough yellows to merit suspension (the tragedy of missing the 2012 UCL Final). Most of these negative traits have been practically non-existent under Mourinho, and his possession retention has improved noticeably.

John Obi Mikel

56_obi_1588539a_medium

via soccerlens.com

Age: 26

Years in EPL: 7

Preferred role: Holding/Defensive

Strengths:

- Aerial Duels

- Positioning

- Ball Retention

- Passing

- Concentration

Weaknesses:

- Shooting

- Vision

Conclusions:

Although Mikel's long or incisive passes are infrequent enough to do nothing to silence his detractors, those that pay attention know he has the ability to spread the ball around when given license to do so. Since he may never be a goal threat and is often unable to see the quick pass, Mikel's place is certainly in the back, shielding the back four. While his presence there strengthens the defense immensely, it also rather defeats the purpose of the pivot. Since Mikel is sure to remain behind when the ball is moved forward, the formation merely becomes a 4-1-4-1, and the rigidity in the midfield turns a lethal attack into a rather toothless one. Of course, when those 4 behind the striker are creative talents like those on our squad list, even a gummy bite has the potential to cut through.

Michael Essien

Michael_essien_498092a_medium

via www.fabafriq.com

Age: 30

Years in EPL: 7 (not counting last year's loan, obviously)

Preferred role: Holding/Box to Box

Strengths:

- Passing

- Positioning

- Ball Retention

- Drawing Fouls

Weaknesses:

- Pace

- Tackling

Conclusions:

Not the Bison he used to be, Essien has fewer talents to impress, but his calm composure and sharp passing was a welcome sight in the preseason. He is the Gary Cahill of defensive midfielders, more likely to be making a flying block or stretching interception than a strong tackle. While his ball retention skills and steady approach could be the key to holding on from winning positions, one wonders what the Ghanaian offers anymore in terms of gaining the advantage, rather than merely keeping it.

Frank Lampard

V2pg-72-lampard-epa_medium

via www.independent.co.uk

Age: 35

Years in EPL: 18

Preferred role: Playmaker/Box-to-box

Strengths:

- Long Passing

- Attack Positioning

- Ball Retention

- Vision

- Shooting

- Set Pieces (Penalties, Corners, AND Free Kicks)

Weaknesses:

- Tackling

- Stamina

- Pace

Conclusions:

There's no doubt that Lampard is both the oldest and the least defensive of our pivot options, and it shows. Whether by personal choice or under managerial direction, he routinely heads forward in attack, requiring a pivot partner with the discipline to remain behind. As I mentioned with Mikel, this has its benefits and deficits. Nevertheless, in a similar fashion to Ramires, the magnitude of his presence as a weapon is difficult to ignore. For a set piece, for the late run, or orchestration of a counterattack, Lampard has no equal. A glance at the weaknesses might dissuade the cautious manager, but all would be wise to remember that his goal and assist in Chelsea's first two matches were both from set pieces, and each might have been the difference between three points and one (the second assuredly was).

Pairing: Mikel and Lampard

Hi-res-144811996_display_image_medium

via cdn.bleacherreport.net

Pros:

- Experience

- Ball Retention

- Passing

Cons:

- Dynamism

- Pace

Conclusion:

Our most stalwart defender and most attacking-minded, this looks like a match made in heaven, right? Unfortunately, the two don't have much chemistry, and teams don't exactly have difficulty figuring out just what our pivot is going to do. This one is just too damn predictable. I know it won us a UCL title, but let's be honest, we can't play all our games with our backs to the wall. Look for this pairing in big games where the opposition midfield lacks playmakers.

Pairing: Mikel and Ramires

Soccer-chelsea-19_3037-crop_medium

"Ha, put him down, you're going to break him." - via static.sport360.com

Pros:

- Balance of Skills

- Defensive Strengths

Cons:

- Contrasting Defensive Styles

- Unidimensionality

Conclusion:

Similar to the above couplet, Rambo and Mikel would be fairly predictable. Moreover, while Ramires likes to push towards defenders, Mikel prefers taking up a good position and forcing his opponent to try and beat him. These don't often work well in conjunction, as Ramires' pressing is rendered futile by lack of support from his pivot partner. However, Mourinho gives very specific instructions to his players, and usually has a strong vision of the bigger defensive picture. The thought of Mikel's long ball capabilities combining with Ramires pace in a counter is quite enticing, but may be difficult in practice, as the two have different tempos. It would take a great deal of time together and lots of intensive management to build up an effective mutual understanding.

Pairing: Van Ginkel and Ramires

Article-2377572-1afdc9e9000005dc-392_634x601_medium

Enjoy this randomly chosen photograph - via i.dailymail.co.uk

Pros:

- High Energy Pressure

- Strong Tackling

- Reasonable Attacking Prowess

Cons:

- Inexperience

- Lack of Playmaker Traits*

Conclusion:

You may have noticed that I didn't put a picture of this pairing at the head of the section. That's because I couldn't find one, which is a pretty telling hint of what Mou thinks of the duo. Frankly, I think Jose's aversion here is mostly due to the experience factor. The youngest options with the least combined experience in the Prem, this is a team of two that may need some maturing before Mou's going to run them out when it really counts. That said, if Ramires continues to improve, and Van Ginkel is as composed in season as he was on the tours, it could be a neat combination to see, and possibly the key pairing of future Chelsea sides.

*I want to clarify this because it's a tricky one. So far, these two have failed to link up with the attacking band well. While Ramires is improving this area and MVG demonstrated the qualities in the Eredivisie, it may take some time before they click with the attacking pace and style.

Pairing: Van Ginkel and Lampard

Frank-lampard_medium

via i0.mail.com

Pros:

- Passing

- Ball Retention

- Similar Styles

- Blend of Experience and Youth

Cons:

- Defensive Instability

- Heavy Responsibility on Youth

Conclusion:

It's true that Marco Van Ginkel is in some ways the successor to Lampard at Chelsea. However, he reminds one not of Super Frank in his prime, but of this later, deeper-lying Lamps. Van Ginkel has also been compared with Chelsea great Michael Ballack, and the compliment is early, but insightful. The young Dutchman has a similar physique, style, and attitude on the pitch. While his tenacity and defensive proficiency would be a great complement to the forward-venturing Lampard, I doubt very much that Mourinho wants to leave the rearguard midfield burden solely in the hands of the youngster. In my opinion, it's highly unlikely that these two will be sharing the pitch often.

Pairing: Mikel and Essien

Article-1294673-0a54ad2b000005dc-588_468x351_medium

via i.dailymail.co.uk

Pros:

- Excellent Passing

- Sound Defensive Ability

- Experience

Cons:

- Dynamism

- Pace

Conclusion:

Everything I said about the Lampard-Mikel combo applies here, except that the Bison offers more in defense and much less in attack. This pairing might show up in some cup games, if MVG is unavailable or has secured a more regular spot; other than that, I wouldn't expect Mou to turn to this slow pivot, especially when Mikel-Ramires is an option. The only thing he might miss is the serious combined experience between the two.

Pairing: Essien and Ramires

Pros:

- High Energy Pressure

- Reasonable Attacking Prowess

Cons:

- No Chemistry

Conclusion:

Essien has lost a step or two over the years, but watching him at Real Madrid proved one thing to me: he is still ever the hard worker. Unfortunately, I think his days as a midfield dynamo are over, and the beast that was The Bison is all but gone. That being said, he can still pass well and press relentlessly, and if he and Rami could get a rhythm going, it might be worth a look. But realistically, Essien doesn't offer anything that MVG doesn't, except experience, and between Essien, Lamps, and Mikel, I think Michael sits comfortably in third on Mou's favorites list.

Pairing: Ramires and Lampard

Ramires-lampard_medium

via bluechampions.com

Pros:

- Attacking Force

- Dual Styles

- Reasonable Experience

Cons:

- Chemistry

Conclusion:

When it comes down to it, the defensive liabilities here result when Lamps is left to clean up and stop counters. Saddling him with the defensive responsibilities alone is dangerous, and often results in the opposition bypassing him completely. Since our centre backs haven't proven themselves to be the rocks we knew under Jose's last reign, this is a problem. However, if Lampard is always going forward, then why not have Mikel instead of Ramires to mind the rear? Here's my theory: Rambo isn't our best defender to be sure, but he's fast enough to stop most counters, and when we organize behind the ball, most teams can't break us down. The true boon of this combination lies in its dual threat nature. In essence, when we're attacking in the lower gears, building from the back, Lampard can go forward and play his part with his clever movements, sharp passes, great vision, and legendary late runs. He provides a goal threat from distance that must be marked, and a smart playmaker that can take up dangerous positions in the box, create space, and play the killer pass. As a fourth midfielder arriving from deep, he's a defender's nightmare. However, Ramires can still do his thing when it comes to quick transitions. When the ball is cleared from a corner, for example. Mata, or another one of our diminutive attackers with delectable touch, collects the ball and boots it on the the blazing Rami. Within moments he covers the length of the pitch and forces a save, nabs a goal, or wins a corner, putting us back on the offensive. I can't blame Mourinho for sticking with his two most potent threats.

The system asks that Ramires be disciplined and patient, two things that have not been shown to be his strengths in the past, but Mou can help him with that (and by the looks of it, already has). Then it's just a matter of the attacking band getting used to Lampard playing amongst them and keeping the defense stretched. This is a deadly, deadly combination that should be effective against most Premier League teams. I just wonder what he'll do when we get to Europe.

___________________________________________________

Although he hasn't been considered by Mourinho for the pivot, I thought I'd do a quick examination of the talents of Oscar, since our friend Chrome Blue did a fantastic job reminding me just how great the Brazilian genius is. I think you'll like what you see.

Oscar

1185249_2399576227529_1297511571_n_medium

I promised you beardage - Original Image via static.guim.co.uk

Age: 21

Years in EPL: 1

Preferred role: Playmaker/Box-to-box

Strengths:

- Long Passing

- Attack Positioning

- Ball Retention

- Vision

- Pressing

Weaknesses:

- Stamina

- Strength

- Experience

Conclusions:

Oscar is undoubtedly an asset in the front lines, but his combination of skills is also quite well suited for a deeper role. As we've seen already in this season, his ability to drop into the middle of the park, pick up the ball, and carry it forward to set an attack in motion is part of what we've been missing in previous seasons. He's also been much better at confronting the opposition than Lampard, and could offer a strong alternative to the Englishman in terms of ability in the attack, with vision and positioning. While the Brazilian doesn't have the physique to deal with the likes of Yaya Toure or Mohamed Diame, he would be a viable choice given his versatility and high footballing IQ. I'll be holding my breath to see him in the pivot someday, but for now, just enjoy the beardtasticness.

And as always, stay Blue.

This FanPost was contributed by a member of the community and was not subject to any sort of approval process. It does not necessarily reflect the opinions held by the editors of this site.

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