Appearances: 42 starts (1 as substitute).
Minutes: 3,298 in Premier League; 537 in domestic cups.
Statistics (per 90 minutes, Premier League): 1.09 tackles won (54% success rate); 2.38 aerial duels won (62.1% successful challenges); 4.64 clearances.
For the first time in recent history, no member of the "Old Guard" featured regularly for Chelsea. At the start of the season, Captain John Terry and Vice-captain Branislav Ivanović were still keeping that tradition going, but after the first few weeks, they were both benched, and the armband fell to Gary Cahill, who would end up being the most experienced member of the squad on most matchdays the rest of the season.
Gary Cahill had developed a serious reputation for a certain style of defending — backing down into last ditch tackles, or, more commonly just an ineffectual attempt at a block, being its main feature — and one that did not seem to fit the ethos of Conte’s more aggressive style. A series of unfortunate events in the first few games, including back-to-back-to-back games where his errors (forced or unforced) lead directly to goals, had many predicting that we would see the back of him sooner rather than later. Instead, Conte put an arm around him, gave him the armband, and put him on the left side of the back-three where he was not the main covering player anymore. Suddenly, Gary Cahill, like many others in the squad, was a player reborn.
And that’s before we get to his often timely and crucial goals, continuing another fine tradition established by the aforementioned John Terry and Branislav Ivanović, two of the highest scoring defenders in Premier League history.
Playing left-sided centre back as a right-footed player — another echo of John Terry, in could be said — can create a few awkward situations. We might recall the own goal he scored against Manchester City, for example, where his acrobatics to clear with his right instead of a simple clearance with his left resulted in a fine shinned finish over Courtois’s head. However, by and large, Cahill took to his new role very well, provided a solid base for Marcos Alonso to venture forward and developed some great understanding with the rest of the defenders to help Chelsea to one of the best defensive records in the league.
All in all, it was a marvelous year for our (future) captain.
Ever a steady and consistent player, he was one of the few bright spots in our loss to Arsenal in the FA Cup final, where there rest of the team failed to show up, but EBGC was out there doing his level best to keep the game close.
It’s always darkest before the dawn, as they say. Cahill’s error for Arsenal’s opener in the 3-0 defeat back in September was his and Chelsea’s lowest point of the season.
Cahill giveth and Cahill then taketh away. After an unjust penalty call for a “fouling” Jonathan Walters gave Stoke their equalizer at the Britannia, EBGC scored a late winner to give Chelsea all three points. For many, including most of the squad judging by their celebrations, this was the point we started to believe in the title.
Cahill, having already done the job as a stand-in last season, is the likeliest replacement at captain for John Terry going forward. He’s now one of the most experienced players in the squad and while not quite as chest-thumping as JT, he’s got that classic never say die attitude as well. Cahill’s also very good at repeating the coach’s message in pre- and post-match interviews.
With just two years left on his contract and turning 32 in a few months, Cahill isn’t necessarily the start of a new era, but he’s a reliable member of the squad. There are youngsters (Christensen, Zouma, etc) and perhaps new signings (Van Dijk?) ready to challenge him for his job, but since his arrival in January 2012, all he’s done is win win win no matter what, and like T-Pain, he can never get enough. Betting against Cahill isn’t necessarily a smart money move at this point.
A definitive keep, especially as Chelsea continue to transition back to a European power.
What would you do with Gary Cahill next season?
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