The good folks at SB Nation’s Manchester United blog, The Busby Babe, wondered if maybe we could play a 5-a-side tournament to decide the season, and came up with their ultimate team(s).
With Chelsea having fielded such a variety of match-changing talents — from pitch-eating defensive midfielders to diminutive dribbling machines to players with the vision to count the craters on the moon while blindfolded — we couldn’t pass up the chance to dream up the five-a-side teams we’d like to watch/defend Chelsea’s honor.
Business in the Front, Party in the Back (Dávid Pásztor)
Petar Borota, David Luiz, Ricardo Carvalho, Gianfranco Zola, Didier Drogba
Every team, no matter how big or small, needs certain characteristics. We need talent of course. Determination. Clear eyes, full hearts, the lot. Players who are worth twice their opposite number. But we also need a wild card or two, especially when the pitch shrinks and individual actions matter more than stringent tactics. That said, I’m a firm believer of a 2-2 setup for five-a-side with an actual goalkeeper.
To that effect, we have to start with Gianfranco Zola, the most skillful player in Chelsea history. And while I was tempted to pair him with Eden Hazard, a close second in that regard, it’s probably better to go with a more balanced approach. Didier Drogba was not the most prolific Chelsea striker ever, but he was The Man For The Big Occasion, a true force of nature, able to occupy and beat several defenders at once.
At the back, we have the best center back in Chelsea history and the biggest wildcard in Chelsea history. And we also have David Luiz, who had the capacity to be both. Ricardo Carvalho’s reading of the game was unparalleled and he was no stranger to a foray forward. Many teams make the mistake of playing an outfield player in goal. Instead, I just called on a prime Petar Borota, legendary swashbuckler between the posts (but usually well outside the area).
The Real Pensioners (Jimmy Funnell)
Marcel Desailly, Dennis Wise, Gianfranco Zola, Gianluca Vialli, Bobby Tambling
This legendary 5-a-side Chelsea ensemble would hold their own against any opponent. You’ve got a World Cup winner — and one of John Terry’s mentors — in Marcel Desailly, a defender with heaps of experience and the kind of ruthlessness that makes modern players quake in their boots. Dennis Wise is another who’d give no quarter and hold the midfield together on his own, giving it his all with every crunching tackle. Football was a bit different back then, and any opposition would get a (literal) crash course in just how different after mere seconds of battling these two.
But for those who need a little flair, do not fear, Gianfranco Zola is here! The little magician was lighting up the pitch long before scrubs like Lionel Messi, and Zola has the goals to back up his inclusion among any of today’s greats, just ask Norwich City.
Up top we have one of the deadliest striking duos the 20th century would have ever seen, had they lived at the same time. Chelsea’s second all-time highest scorer, Bobby Tambling, and player-manager Gianluca Vialli were ripping it up before the lifetimes of most of us, but their records speak for themselves. And if the lads were to ever need a kick in the a*se, well, Vialli could step in as manager and provide the requisite fire and brimstone.
The Stamford Fortress (Fellipe Miranda)
Marcel Desailly, Michael Ballack, N’Golo Kanté, Michael Essien, Eden Hazard
There are a lot of people who associate only flair with fun in football. But do you know what is most fun, not just in the sport, but life in general? WINNING!
Hence, The Stamford Fortress.
A team that will laugh at your puny attempts to break through an impenetrable barrier, complete with heat-seeking missiles, yet still enough technique to put Arsenal’s entire current squad to shame. And just like Terminators (in the good films), they will never get tired of chasing the ball, and you, down.
And assuming this is the best, hungriest version of Eden Hazard — as in the one who had yet to achieve anything in his Chelsea career — motivation will be high enough for him to solve matches all by himself. He will of course get some help from thunderous Essien and Ballack strikes, while Kanté will deal with anything any other club can throw at us.
Get on board! Hop on the sure-title train and congratulate the 2019-20 Premier League Champions!
KTBFFH AND CHOO-CHOOOOOO!
Wizards of SW6 (André Carlisle)
N’Golo Kanté, Eden Hazard, Oscar, Gianfranco Zola, Hernàn Crespo
Let’s get the obvious parts out of the way: there’s no goalkeeper, my squad has a bit of a height problem, and N’Golo Kanté is included in a team named after wizards. To address the latter, allow me to remind you that someone needs to get the ball back to my coven — and in the history of midfields there’s no better man for the job — and that if nutmegging three Spurs with one strike isn’t wizardry then nothing is.
The rest however is best explained by what I want my team to do. Which is to embarrass, torment, trick, mystify and remove the souls of anyone unlucky enough to be on the pitch at the same time as them. I want the GIFs to loop in a Guggenheim and the furious sharing of video clips to start a fire in Twitter’s servers.
I want Hazard’s dribbling technique with Oscar’s vision and fluidity, accompanied by Zola’s tireless running and trickery, with Crespo contorting his body to fire in a volley from any angle or height.
In short, remember how Thanos snapped and people started crumbling into nothing? I want that but from nutmegs, feints, rainbow flicks, Cruyff turns, rabonas, backheels, stepovers, elasticos, etc. etc. etc. etc. etc.
The Blue Anarchists Order (Rohaan Bhuyan)
Ricardo Carvalho, Cesc Fàbregas, Claude Makélélé, Arjen Robben, Diego Costa
Five-a-side teams are about outscoring the opposition, so there is really no point in selecting a goalkeeper when you’re going to concede anyway.
Ricardo Carvalho is the most-gifted centre back of the Abramovich era (sorry JT!). He was the most crucial piece to Chelsea’s record-setting defences, and if we are to have one pure defender in the side, then it has to be him.
It was a tough choice between Claude Makélélé and N’Golo Kanté, but I think Makélélé being more of a destroyer than an intercepting, box-to-box type (Kanté) makes Carvalho’s job easier. The man who literally defined a position would ensure enemy attacks were sufficiently stifled.
Cesc Fàbregas is arguably the most technically gifted midfielder England has seen. His partnership with Diego Costa gave Premier League defences worse nightmares than Freddie Krueger is capable of conjuring. Nemanja Matić did great work sweeping up for Cesc’s defensive deficiencies and Makélélé would be even better at it, enabling Fabregas to do what he does best:
What’s a 5-a-side team without a bit of dribbling, pace and flair? May I present you Arjen Robben, Chelsea’s second most talented winger of the Abramovich era so far (selecting Hazard seemed too cliché), who only got better after leaving the club, turning into a proper goal-scoring threat who regularly made utter idiots of opposing defenders along the way.
It’s another tough choice at striker, this time between Diego Costa and Didier Drogba. I chose to go with the more consistent of the two (not versus big teams, Didier, that’ll always be your thang!). The man whose name is synonymous with “menace” — and the one who forged a partnership with Fàbregas even more poetic than William Wordsworth’s stanzas — is the perfect one to score against our opposition’s puny men.
Smalls With Balls (Brian Yatco)
Claude Makélélé, Ashley Cole, Eden Hazard, Juan Mata, Joe Cole
It’s not the size that matters but the magic within. Football can be successfully played in myriad ways, so I’m confident my five can thrive — despite their size.
Goalkeepers? Pssh. Chelsea have fielded talls between the sticks for as long as I can remember (Kepa notwithstanding).
As for the defensive side of the game, who better to anchor a small-sided game than the legend himself, Claude Makélélé? Together with perhaps the most well-known Chelsea player with a penchant for a well timed goal-line clearance, Ashley Cole, opponents won’t stand a chance. Speed kills in this compressed game of football, and this duo will win balls and launch counters with ease.
The key to this team will be speed and technical quality. Leading the attack will be the trio of Joe Cole, Juan Mata and Eden Hazard. Mata will do what he does best, float into space to keep the ball moving — the trequartista applying his magic with each and every touch. And it’d be a dream to have prime Joe Cole shine next to Hazard, so I’m bringing it as close to reality as I can. Each with the technical abilities to dribble in and out of trouble, plus the capability to provide a finishing touch, we’d be surely unstoppable.
It’s a small(s) world after all.
Legends of the Game (Sudip Majumder)
John Terry, Frank Lampard, Cesc Fàbregas, Arjen Robben, Didier Drogba
Here it is, the team most of us were thinking. I don’t know what the other guys were doing, but this can only go one way.
It’s all here. The ball-playing no-nonsense defender John Terry keeps everything quiet at the back while providing appropriate passes to teammates after snuffing out attacks. From there our midfield maestro Cesc Fàbregas can start orchestrating swiftly and smartly.
Goalscoring midfielder Frank Lampard will combine with Cesc but also find ways and positions to find the back of the net from anywhere on the pitch. He’ll be the wild card he’s always been, the one that led to him finding the spaces to bang in a record 211 Chelsea goals.
A for the pure goalscorers, there’s ball-carrier Arjen Robben whose dribbles and guaranteed goals would make life hell for defenders but heaven for teammates. Up top roams the one and only Didier Drogba. Capable of trickery and hold-up play, Drogba is the perfect striker for this squad.
He also scores all types of goals from all sorts of premeditated or improvised strikes. Imagine a five with Lampard and Robben running around either side of Drogba with Fàbregas deep surveying the crevices to play the ball into while Terry awaits with a two-footer for anyone bold enough to try and score on us.
Lads, this is the team.
Right, there it is. Let us have it in the comments.