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Chelsea Midseason Report Card: Midfielders

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Yossi Benayoun: Benayoun impressed in his few Chelsea appearances, coming on twice as a substitute and notching a late goal in the 6-0 rout of Wigan Athletic. He was also a key factor in the 4-1 drubbing of MSK Zilina that opened Chelsea's Champions League campaign, looking for all the world as though he could play the key role of creative central midfielder, which would have been especially important with Lampard missing. Then he ruptured his already-damaged Achilles tendon in the 4-3 Carling Cup loss to Newcastle, and hasn't been anywhere near match-fit since. Early promise completely obliterated by injury. N/A

Michael Essien: Chelsea's best player has been a rock whenever he's on the field, but has had intermittent injury and disciplinary problems that have kept him out of the lineup. When Essien isn't playing, Chelsea are almost ludicrously bad - they've lost three times and drawn three times without the Ghanaian, but only have one loss and two draws with him on the team. He's been a little bit frustrating with his long-range shooting, but in general is doing a fine job controlling the centre of the pitch. Would be more effective if he was playing more often. B

Frank Lampard: Does anybody doubt how important Lampard is to the club now? He's started three games this season, and in those starts Chelsea have scored 14 goals. Outside of those matches? 17 goals in 14 games. Yikes. A groin injury kept Lampard out of action for more than three months, and he made his first appearance since August against Tottenham Hotspur earlier this month. Hopefully the England midfielder's return galvanises the squad, as they're been desperately lacking a creative presence in his absence. Excellent when playing, hasn't played. N/A

Josh McEachran: The 17 year-old is turning into a phenomenal talent before our very eyes. Already the best passer on the team, McEachran's vision and technical ability are outstanding. He's impressed in almost every game he's played in, routinely out-passing the opposition's entire midfield. Needs to work on his defending and possibly his decision making - he's been unnecessarily caught on the ball a few too many times for anyone's liking. The future for England and Chelsea. A-

John Obi Mikel: You could have made a good argument that he was the Premier League's best player for the first two months of the season. Mikel's been a defensive rock for the Blues, but he seems to wander in and out of games and his famed passing ability has been deserting him as the team struggles. He's making major improvements in his distribution as well - no longer does he simply play the ball sideways or behind him after winning a challenge, instead opting for long-range, incisive passes to launch the attack. Inconsistent but solid, needs to maintain focus even when the rest of the team does not. B

Ramires: Chelsea's £18M import from Benfica was thrust into the limelight too early with the loss of Frank Lampard. Appears unaccustomed to the pace of the Premier League and makes sloppy physical mistakes too often, especially in basic ball-handling. Excellent attitude towards the game and clearly has the skills to succeed, but awful play in important game situations really hurt his stock. Been improving as of late, but not enough. Adjusting to life in the league, but nowhere near ready yet. D

Yuri Zhirkov: Considering he started the season as the reserve left-back, Zhirkov's done exceptionally well for himself as a central midfielder. Gives the team an extra dimension when fielded due to his excellent ability to link up with both Florent Malouda and Ashley Cole on the left. Has superb ability with the ball, epitomised by his brilliant goal against Spartak Moscow and then his late assist for Branislav Ivanovic against Blackburn. His style of play tends to create a large hole in the centre of the midfield, however, hugely increasing the burden on his midfield partners. Injured on national team duty. Revelation in the attack but does not have the positional discipline to be a long-term solution. B-

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