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Chelsea FC Roster Analysis: Left Back

COPENHAGEN DENMARK - FEBRUARY 08:  Ashley Cole in action during an England Training Session at the Parken Stadium on February 8 2011 in Copenhagen.  (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
COPENHAGEN DENMARK - FEBRUARY 08: Ashley Cole in action during an England Training Session at the Parken Stadium on February 8 2011 in Copenhagen. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
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Continuing the series we started last week with goalkeepers and center backs, today we're going to break down the state of the Chelsea roster at left back. With the reigning English player of the year, Chelsea appear set for the time being with probably the best left back in the world. Ashley Cole has just turned 30, however, so he's likely got only a year or two as our everyday left back remaining beyond this season. Cole's ability to defend at a top flight level as well as utilize left wing type skills on the attack present a difficult challenge for any opponent to overcome.

Beyond Cole, the current roster has three players capable of covering the position. Yuri Zhirkov is likely the natural backup to Cole. While he lacks Cole's elite defending skills, he's a natural left wing player capable of providing the same menacing runs down the left side that Cole does. He's also seemingly fairly injury prone, and is again unavailable to the team. David Luiz is naturally a center back, but his skill on the ball and passing ability allow him to play the wing back positions as well. Being left footed, he's capable of giving the back four a far more defensive look if Cole goes down, much like Ivanovich does on our right. Paulo Ferreira is also capable of playing the position adequately, but I wouldn't be very comfortable seeing him trotted out onto the pitch on a regular basis.

Aside from the players currently on the roster, we have two very promising youngsters on loan. 19 year old Patrick van Aanholt is currently on loan to championship side Leicester City where he's expected to see regular action. Van Aanholt has made first team appearances in each of the last two seasons for Chelsea, and has generally impressed while doing so. His defense is still a work in progress, but has generally gotten fairly good reviews. His main calling card are his attacking runs, as he is an exceptional passer and has good pace. He appears to be cut from the same mold as Ashley Cole, and seems likely to be the natural successor to Cole as he is phased out.

Ben Gordon is also naturally a left back. Also 19, Gordon has been loaned to championship side Scunthorpe United for the remainder of the season. While Gordon probably becomes lost in the shadow of van Aanholt, he's got first team ability as well. He also is known for his attacking runs, and has the ability to play in the midfield as well. He's one worth paying attention to, as he's likely to be excellent versatile depth for the squad going forward. While at Scunthorpe it's likely he'll be deployed in the midfield regularly, so this may be a perfect opportunity for him to add to his value.

In the youth ranks, there are several youngsters worth watching as well. Aziz Deen-Conteh and Ryan Bertrand have both played left back for the reserve team this year, with Deen-Conteh also manning the position for the youth cup run. Both are converted wingers, so both continue in the Chelsea mindset of attacking minded left backs. George Saville is a more defensive minded option in the role, but he's developing as an attacker as well. All told, this position is a very deep one in the academy ranks.

Over the summer I'd expect to lose Ferreira from the first team. I'd also expect that Yuri Zhirkov will be available for the right offer, although I doubt the club will be looking to sell while his value is at a low point. Because of that, I'd expect one of the youth to get an opportunity with the first team next year. While Ashley Cole will likely still be the regular starter next season, I'd expect him to start seeing more days off as he continues toward the end of his career. Because of that, it's probably worth keeping a very close eye on the development of van Aanholt and Gordon in the spring, as those two will likely have a great opportunity to be the primary backup next season. I'd doubt to see us connected reliably to any left backs this summer, as this may be the deepest position on the roster at the moment.

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