It is often stated that the game is won and lost in the middle of the pitch. I wholeheartedly agree with this assessment. Just take one look at the best clubs in the world. Bayern have Martinez, Schweinsteiger, Kroos, and now Goetze. Barcelona have their classic trio of Busquets, Xavi, and Iniesta. Real Madrid have found themselves quite successful with Alonso, Modric, and recently due to an injured Khedira, Di Maria. Manchester City use a rare two man midfield, although they switch to three sometimes, that includes Fernandinho and Yaya Toure with David Silva sometimes playing as playmaker. Needless to say, World class midfields with quality wing play and a good striker or two will win trophies. Let's take a look at what makes a midfield so important.
The key to a world class midfield is the balancing of key roles within the midfield. The first and most overlooked but absolutely necessary duty is protecting and providing cover for the defense. In the case of Chelsea, Nemanja Matic fulfills this role extraordinarily well. He just may be the best midfield tackler in Chelsea's squad as he constantly finds a way to win the ball back for Chelsea. Matic is also extremely aware tactically while on the pitch and is particularly positionally sound which is all excellent attributes to have for a holding midfielder. The classic holding midfielder on the squad is John Obi Mikel.
The next role to fill is that of actually winning the ball. This can be fulfilled by the entire midfield or even the team. It can be one particular player who presses hard and tackles hard. Arturo Vidal comes to mind with this kind of play. I personally believe Ramires would be good for a role like this but unfortunately, Ramires has often had to play the holding midfield role which merely highlights all of his weakness. Like stated before though, a manager like Mou likes the whole team actively participating in winning the ball and that is how I believe Chelsea will cover this role.
Another not so glorious role in the midfield is linking up play and providing support off the ball. There needs to be a player who makes runs off the ball in the midfield to provide options going forward and possibly linking the midfield to the attack. This midfielder can also make decoy runs to create space for the play maker or any other runs. Also, with regards to link up play, the player should provide close support to the ball carrier sometimes, especially when the ball carrier is pressed by opposition. The key to this role though is movement, surging runs forward can create space and also give the on ball midfielder options going forward as well as being a link up option. Honestly, this role is your classic box to box midfielder. Frank Lampard made his entire career off of this kind of play and his arriving late into the box. I think Ramires would be great for this as well with his blistering pace.
The final role that I will discuss that is the one that everyone is clamoring about lately is the playmaker. This role needs someone creative who makes solid on ball runs and has an eye for a pass. Not only does this player need an eye for a pass but they must have excellent passing technique. This player needs to see the goal before the goal actually happens. This role is most responsible for creating chances and linking the midfield to the attack with the occasional goal being extremely helpful. Currently, Chelsea are missing quality players for this role, they did have a great one in Juan Mata but his lack of defensive skills eventually saw him sold. The next player you would think would be Oscar but he is more focused on beating his man and putting a shot in. Because of a lack of this role in the team, it hinders the attack. This role can be filled in the attacking midfield or it can be covered in the deep midfield. Lately, the deep midfield has seen this role in top teams due to allowing dribblers in the hole to do their work. Unfortunately, playing in the deep midfield requires helping to protect the defense and this is why players like Cesc Fabregas don't really fit there.
Now having a midfield triangle which exist in both a 4-3-3 and a 4-2-3-1 helps cover all of these roles more than say a 4-4-2. It also gives you numerical superiority in the center of the pitch which is all the rage these days. Interestingly enough, I think Matic is so successful because he plays the holding midfield so well and he has some quality ball winning attributes. He essentially covers two key roles in one player. So now we need a player to provide link up play and off ball runs to open up space or even receive a pass onto goal. I personally think Ramires is perfect for this role. Paul Pogba would be amazing in this role but I've concluded he just is not coming to Chelsea. The playmaking role needs more than Oscar. I love the man to death but we need a playmaker more concerned with creating more chances than scoring. Oscar actually would be excellent for the off ball runs or on ball runs that create space and the link up play role. Back to the playmaker though. Luka Modric is an amazing example of a playmaker. Andrea Pirlo is the quintessential deep lying playmaker. I personally do not have recommendations for who to get in this role. Josh McEachran, if he develops would be a great deep lying playmaker.
When the team has all these roles covered with world class players, that is when we will see Chelsea dominant again with attacking flair. If I were Mou, I would have Matic as the holder/ball winner, Oscar as the link up play and off ball run midfielder who scores goals, and then buy a deep lying playmaker. If there are more advanced playmakers with an excellent pass, then I would have to bench oscar to fulfill that role. Of course Ramires could be used in the link up play role and Oscar be given instructions to focus on creating chances and improve his pass in training.
Either way, Chelsea's midfield is incomplete and needs balancing. It seems to be their intention to find another world class midfielder so they plan to complete the midfield. Here's to hoping they find that playmaker wherever he may sit in the formation.