Chelsea Fans: Why Marco Van Ginkel Isn't Enough
From a Chelsea perspective, signing van Ginkel has only partly filled a blatant void of quality in central midfield for their likely 4-2-3-1 formation under Jose Mourinho. His arrival isn’t enough. Following the signing of the Dutchman and loaning of Oriol Romeu to Valencia, Chelsea’s central-midfield options currently stand at: John Obi Mikel, David Luiz, Michael Essien, Ramires, Frank Lampard, van Ginkel, Kevin de Bruyne and Oscar. Sounds fine, doesn’t it?
Well, I have listed those who can play in a midfield-two rather than just those who regularly do. I mentioned a couple of players whose predominant position will most likely lie elsewhere – David Luiz at centre-back and de Bruyne & Oscar in the triumvirate – but who could, in theory, be used in central-midfield.
Let’s rattle through my list of nine, exposing the misleading nature of the list at first glance. Mikel looks set to join Galatasaray for around £15m if reports are true. He has been a great servant to Chelsea and was integral to their past decade of success under Abramovich but it seems to be the correct time for him to move on. He may benefit from a fresh start elsewhere: a new challenge with new motivations. After all, he has won every trophy he realistically can in west London – the UEFA Super Cup still evades so he may not mind leaving after the Blues face Bayern Munich on August 30, in hope that his set is completed.
David Luiz has always been a centre-back at heart. Although he largely impressed when he was moved into the midfield-two by Rafa Benitez last season, he has far more experience and positional understanding when at centre-half. He has an excellent centre-back partnership with Thiago Silva for Brazil and he compliments John Terry and Gary Cahill well in particular for his club. Under Mourinho, Luiz could eradicate most mistakes from his game and bring his performances onto a new level at the heart of the defence.
Essien was brought to the Bernabeu on loan last season to be reunited with The Special one, who deployed the Ghanaian mostly at right-back rather than central-midfield. This may well have been because Mourinho knows Essien is willing to play in any position for him. But it equally could have been because he realises Essien is no longer the midfield powerhouse he once was, due to knee injuries taking their toll. With back-up right-back Paulo Ferreira no longer part of the Chelsea furniture, Mourinho may make Essien his replacement.
Ramires possesses power and gives Chelsea drive in midfield, but in a midfield-two he doesn’t have frequent licence to carry the ball forward as he has defensive responsibilities. Also, his passing is consistently inconsistent (one could argue woeful) - he loses possession of the ball far too often. And when his team doesn’t have the ball, the likes of Juan Mata and Eden Hazard can’t be influential on games. Making full use of possession is the key to a successful 4-2-3-1 formation, and Ramires usually does not do that. Having said this, he could be a great squad player in the next few seasons: the proverbial impact sub who makes 25-30 starts per season.
Lampard looked likely to leave the club on a free contract at the end of last season before he put pen to a one-year contract extension in May. He is now Chelsea Football Club’s all-time top goalscorer with 203 (from midfield!) and his experience can be utilised next season; van Ginkel has already admitted that he has idolised the Englishman whilst growing up and looks forward to training with him. Lampard can pass on priceless snippets of advice and tips to van Ginkel and co to ensure he leaves a legacy that stretches beyond his individual impact.
Van Ginkel has been described as a box-to-box midfielder with an assured all-round game. He may need time to adapt to the English game but he shouldn’t have many on-field issues in the long-term because he seems to be extremely talented - and talented players have little trouble adapting to new situations. In the short-term, he needs to train hard and learn from world-class players that he can now call his colleagues in order to develop his game and hone his skills.
De Bruyne looks set to stay at his parent club rather than be sent out on loan for the second successive season but the question still remains: what is his best position? His versatility will be embraced by Mourinho - who will have several versatile players at his disposal – but the position wherein he has most experience, left-wing, is more than covered. Hazard, new boy Andre Schurrle and Victor Moses all perform best wide left, from my perspective anyway.
Therefore, ‘KDB’ may have to stamp his claim for a different spot in the first eleven – rightwing seems his best bet. Oscar is probably more likely to be considered in the roster of central-midfielders than de Bruyne by Mourinho. The Brazilian maestro has the passing range, vision, tactical awareness and stamina to play in the midfield-two; Benitez moved him in there a few times last season when Chelsea were chasing a goal in the second half and it seemed to work well. He at least provides an option worth pondering, especially when he has shown how much technical quality he has.
Chelsea’s central-midfield options currently stand at:
• Mikel (most likely leaving on a permanent basis)
• David Luiz (very likely to be used at centre-back)
• Essien (probably will be regarded as back-up right-back more than central-midfield option)
• Ramires (doesn't possess the attributes to be consistently great in a midfield-two)
• Lampard (still fit as a fiddle but no spring chicken at 34)
• Van Ginkel (new to the Premier League and only 20)
• De Bruyne (may play in a different position) and;
• Oscar (may play in a different position).
Sounds a little less fine when you dissect it, doesn’t it?
Realistically, the explicit central-midfielders for the upcoming season will be Ramires, Lampard, van Ginkel and a new signing. And when Chelsea are behind in matches or looking to get a goal, they hold the versatility to move de Bruyne or Oscar back into central-midfield as deep-lying playmakers, allowing Mourinho to withdraw a more defensive midfielder, e.g. Ramires.
In my opinion, Chelsea need to buy either Daniele de Rossi – who would cost circa £11m – or Marouane Fellaini – who reportedly has a price tag of approximately £25m. After Mikel and Romeu depart, they will be lacking a proper no.6. Without the big presence of Mikel and still void of Meireles’ ability to do the idiomatic “donkey work”, Fellaini or de Rossi would add well-needed strength and tenacity to the heart of the Blues’ midfield.
Van Ginkel may turn out to be a very good signing – it’s usually a sign of a good purchase when several top European clubs were battling for the player’s signature – but he is more of a long-term buy than a short-term fix. And Chelsea have been in need of a midfield-fix for the past two years at least. Van Ginkel isn’t enough. They need a central-midfielder at the peak of their career to rejuvenate and enhance the Blues’ midfield-two.