SEASON PREVIEW: Eight into four - A case for the defence.
The Back Four . Apart from the promotion of Tomas Kalas into the first team squad after his successful loan spell last season, we have ...
The Back Four.
Apart from the promotion of Tomas Kalas into the first team squad after his successful loan spell last season, we have the same five players all competing for a first team start. However, as he established early on into pre season, Jose Mourinho has stated on record that he sees Branislav Ivanovic as a right back and in direct competition for a start with Cesar Azpilicueta. It's an interesting move and one that we will have to keep an eye on as the season progresses.
Without question in my view, Cesar Azpilicueta was one of the success stories of last season! It looks like we have finally found someone who can fill the boots of Paulo Ferreira in his first two seasons at Chelsea back in 2004-2005.
Since then and apart from Ivanovic playing there, we never had the right balance down that side with various people in that position. It was almost a case of a square peg into a round role. Azpilicueta came to the club and established himself in that position early on and never looked back.
We have to remember that it does take someone coming into the Premier League from aboard at least a season to settle down and find their feet so it will be of great interest to see how he does this term under Mourinho.
Are there any question marks about him at the moment? If anything, he lacks physical strength in the tackle but more than makes up for it with his pace which is similar to that of Ferreira in his prime. Whether or not he will remain as the number one in that position under Mourinho is yet to be seen.
The reason I am saying this of Azpilicueta is because of Mourinho's legacy at the Stamford Bridge in his previous spell as our manager. His team was based on solid foundations as we set a Premier League record for the least amount of goals conceded in a season. This is where Ivanovic comes in.
If you compare the two, you instantly see the difference between them. One is quick, nimble and agile whereas the other is of a solid frame and strong. As I said, the statement from Jose of Ivanovic gives a real indication that there is definite competition now down that right hand side.
We have all heard Ivanovic speak of that fact he prefers to play in the middle. For the most part, he has done well there but his lack of pace and mistakes caught him out on more than one occasion last season and cost Chelsea. I immediately think of Manchester United at home giving away the penalty and getting sent off and Swansea with costly mistakes at home in the League Cup Semi Final.
I think if you ask most Chelsea fans of Ivanovic, the majority will tell you he is better at right back so it comes as no surprise Jose feels the same. The fact that Jose likes to build his side on solid foundations could see Ivanovic start as number one at right back!
Gary Cahill is someone that I feel needs to work hard this season to play a part in Jose Mourinho's first team squad this season (to start with) through no fault of his own. I personally love Cahill and his desire and determination coupled with his defensive qualities. The problem he has is the unknown.
I am sure Jose has watched and studied all of Chelsea's performances last season throughout all the competitions. I am sure he is "aware" of Cahill but he would have been one of the players he would have been most interested to see train and perform in person.
His ability is immense and I feel that he has developed his game and his positional awareness since he came here. How many times have we seen Cahill make an important block or tackle when we needed someone to? For example, the Europa League final after making a tackle when on the floor, having the awareness to flick the ball away from the striker just yards from goal.
Cahill lives for keeping clean sheets and making tackles. He is "Old school" and of the same mould as your John Terry and Jamie Carragher's of this world. Whether that's enough to start with? I don't know.
The reason I have doubts about whether or not there is a place in Jose's eleven to start with is because of David Luiz. Brilliant one minute, a stupid mistake the next, you really aren't 100% certain Luiz is a centre back are you!?
However, his performances for Brazil in the Confederations Cup at the back where different class and he really stepped up his game.
If you look at the Chelsea squad, you would have to admit that Luiz is one of the best with the ball at his feet. Whether it's right or left footed, long or short passes and with the ability to hit the back of the net from distance, he is someone you simply cannot afford to overlook for a start in the side.
We have seen what he could bring to the holding role in midfield but it's interesting to hear Jose state that he is a centre back. Like I have said of Azpilicueta, Mourinho likes to build from a strong solid base and you would imagine they have already spoken of what is expected of Luiz in that position now for Chelsea.
If Jose Mourinho can calm him down at the back then we could have another Ricardo Carvalho on our hands. We all remember just how good he was at reading the game and knowing when he step forward, win the ball and release it. Whether or not Luiz does is another thing but with reported interest from Barcelona rejected out of hand by Chelsea, you can see Jose giving him a real chance.
He is back apparently! It never really quite clicked between Rafa Benitez and John Terry did it last season! despite stating that he was fit and ready to play, Benitez saw things differently and Terry never really had a settled period of time in the first team and featured in only 27 games last term.
Passed it, too slow and more is all we hear from pundits about our Captain but I still believe he is and remains the heartbeat of our back four.
No one comes close to JT as far as his defensive ability and awareness is concerned. Yes he has lost a yard of pace these days but still has a spring in his step and more than makes up for it with ability to read the game. I was talking a moment ago about Luiz and knowing when to step forward to win the ball, compare him to JT and how and when he does it.
Working once more under Mourinho, we could really see JT push himself to the level of consistent performance we used to see when he was playing week in, week out. He will be a nailed on starter for Jose if he can remain fit for the season ahead.
Ashley Cole remains the best left back in the country and for England without question. This season, working with the man who did literally anything to bring him to Chelsea in the first place, Cole will establish superiority in that position throughout the season and take his form to Rio next summer ahead of Leighton Baines.
Cole as we know is a nailed on starter and if anything, I would like to see someone else with similar ability come in and give him a real run for his first team place just to push him onto another level.
What more can you say about Ashley Cole?
If there is one position that remains a concern it is left back and it is unfortunately Ryan Bertrand. Nothing personal when I say that but does he pose Ashley Cole a real threat to his position in the starting eleven? I don't think so.
Bertrand has a huge amount of potential and has been lined up for almost three seasons now as Cole's replacement. Do we think he has done enough so far? I don't think he has and I am looking for a marked improvement as far as the defensive part of his game goes.
Again, if anyone can bring that out of him it would be Jose. Whether he works hard enough to do that isn't in question but you would imagine that out of the whole first team squad, Bertrand would have to work harder than most.
Tomas Kalas has it all to do this season to force his way into Mourinho's plans but to his credit, has done enough last season to convince Jose that he is good enough to provide competition through the middle.
Premier League football is another level and I would expect his impact to be minimal this term. His season is about bedding in with everyone, training with them every day and learning from everyone else to develop his game.
We may see Kalas if we end up with favourable draws in the FA and League Cups and that's no disrespect to him at all.
Do I see Kalas forcing his way in front of Cahill, JT and Luiz? No I don't and I don't think anyone would do at this stage. As I said, it's a season of development for Kalas and lets see where we are next term.
Carefree & KTBFFH!