Michael Essien met the media today in Malaysia, and had comments about both his knees and his manager. First, here's what he had to say about the joints which have undergone "8 or 9" operations:
"My knees are not giving me any problems. I just have to keep myself fit and get ready to do a good job for the team. My style hasn’t changed. I’m still the same."
"When you bump into me you can tell I am still as strong and keeping fit. When you have these injuries it’s hard to get back but I go with the flow. I don’t put pressure on myself or anything. I just listen to the doctors and once I’m fit and training I give everything."
"I can’t say when I knew he was coming back, that’s between me and him. I can’t say. We understand each other very well. He’s the Special One. He knows how to talk to his players and get the best out of them and it’s always easy to work with him if you understand him. I understand him. I know what he wants and I always deliver."
Essien will be one of the more interesting players to watch as the season unfolds, as what he's going to bring to the club is still a bit unclear.Prior to the knee injuries he mentioned, he was unquestionably one of the most dominant midfielders on the planet. While it's unlikely he'll ever return to that sort of level, it's not hard to see this season being better than last, as being another year removed from major knee surgery should only help his performance on the pitch.
What Mourinho asks of him will be interesting as well, as he's probably not going to be able to cover the same sort of ground that he used to at his age and with his knees. He's still probably capable of covering some serious ground, but the way he used to endlessly run up and down the pitch was something to behold.
Last year Mourinho generally gave Essien a bit more defensive responsibility, something probably due at least in part to his injury fueled limitations. While he'll never be a dynamic distributor of the ball, he generally did very well staying at home and covering the defense.
If you take Mourinho's comment that it's "Rooney or bust" yesterday at face value, the Ghanaian's ability to remain healthy and fill that role will be crucial. If he can, Chelsea should be able to get buy without major additions in that area, and leaving the door open for a guy like Marco van Ginkel to get some minutes.
The Bison looked pretty good in the preseason opener in Thailand, and his performance in Malaysia will certainly be worth keeping an eye on. Here's hoping he continues to look good, as even 80% of the old Bison would be a welcome addition to the squad.