Chelsea: Why Ivanovic Should Probably Be Our Next Club Captain
Football is a game of opinions. That's what makes it so great. Some are ones you agree with others are not. There are however those opinions that are outright wrong. For example, Gerrard deserves a Premier League title. Fernando Torres is worth £50 million. Sepp Blatter should be FIFA president. You get the drift.
Now not to name and shame, because unless you're making fun of Arsenal and their nine year wait for the prestigious FA Cup, that's mean. However should you happen to be perusing Metro and stumble upon an opinion piece stating Branislav Ivanovic no longer has a place at Chelsea, anyone with a footballing brain, let alone a Chelsea one will tell you that is utterly misguided and quite frankly wrong.
Had said author put even a Valbuena sized amount of thought in to his opinion, he would backtrack quicker than Liverpool’s deposit holder for that open topped bus back in April.
Let's get right to it. Which of the many points to begin with when doing the equivalent of what Germany managed to do to Brazil with this article is a tough one because let's face it there are a fair few, but you have to start somewhere.
Just because it puts 50 million smiles on the faces of Chelsea fans, we shall begin with David Luiz. Or indeed the lack of him. ‘Losing’ or indeed conning PSG into buying Luiz this summer leaves a vacant spot in the heart of the Chelsea defence.
Now whilst last season and the up and coming one will go with the John Terry / Gary Cahill combo (rightly) we all know that will not last forever.
Ivanovic is versatile enough to slot right in at the back and do a stellar job. Injuries and suspensions hamper a season and Mourinho is known for demanding two world class players for each position. Therefore that means four centre backs.
Terry, Cahill, Ivanovic and potentially Raphael Varane. The Blues of course have Kurt Zouma but anyone who has watched the boy’s pre-season efforts will testify to the fact he is a long way off a finished article.
One of the young stars such as Tomas Kalas or the highly promising Andreas Christensen may yet make it into the first team but that is not going to be for at last another couple of seasons at best. Even then, a young star will need an experienced defender alongside them.
In a similar vein we have ‘Philanderer, National Disgrace and Shameful Human Being’ otherwise known to the Bridge faithful as ‘Captain, Leader, Legend’ John Terry.
The skipper is on his last legs and both he and Mourinho know it. This may well be his last season at the top before his body gives out through the injuries that have taken their toll at only 33. Would Mourinho really want a future without Ivanovic when that happens? Doubtful at best.
Chelsea may have failed in getting a two for one from Atletico Madrid but here is one for free. Azpilicueta and Filipe Luis were also cited as reasons Ivanovic's Chelsea career is dwindling to an end.
On the surface, if you feel only one player is needed per position and they will play every game of every season, fair enough. However if you have a footballing brain equitable to or better than the average fan, you will know this can never be the case – especially under someone as tactically aware as Mourinho.
Azpilicueta is a right back by trade, the fans darling and a Mourinho untouchable. It is understandable to think that eventually, he will move to his natural right sided slot with new boy Filipe Luis coming in as the left back.
According to Mourinho, for the next decade, Chelsea aim to be dominating on four fronts, thus need a squad big enough and crucially, good enough to do this. One left back, a left/right back and three centre backs who are all top quality is stretching it thin enough – let alone suggesting cutting Ivanovic.
The issue said misguided individual seems to be focusing on during his assassination of Ivanovic is that Azpilicueta ‘deserves’ his slot at right back due to his enhanced ability up the field – not to mention the fact that Ivanovic ‘isn’t a natural right-back who cannot deliver when he joins the attack.’
This seems to completely fail to grasp, well, just about everything. Ivanovic does not waste the possession he is afforded, he delivers big goals on big occasions - as Liverpool will testify. The writer generously admits that come set-pieces, Ivanovic is useful but is ‘otherwise limited’. Perhaps re-watching the wonderstrike against City from last season may be useful?
It also writes his Chelsea career off because he may not start at right back come the next few seasons. That may be the case, but anyone who understands Mourinho has to recognise that his long term plan for Ivanovic is at the heart of the Chelsea defence – where he will be perfectly placed to use his so called ‘limited’ skills from set plays and add to his goal tally.
In fact, the tone of the article should have been about the new future the Serbian will have come the next couple of seasons playing as a centre back. Not how he is a ‘utility player who is not a starter.’ Versatility should not be confused with utility – Wesley Brown is utility. Ivanovic is versatility.
Ivanovic is a complete player. He is not a spring chicken who needs hatching, he is close to the finished article, and someone who can be at the heart of the Chelsea defence for seasons to come, no matter what the formation, including when Mourinho decides to go three at the back – not shipped out somewhere else. His physicality, passion, ability and goals all mark him out as the perfect central defender.
Come this time next year, in all probability, the Blues will be looking for a new skipper. There are a few candidates and Mourinho may surprise us all with a shock selection but he could do far worse than hand the armband to Ivanovic and he knows it too.
If nothing else, given the new UEFA mandate abolishing the yellow card rule after the quarter finals of the Champions League, Chelsea fans would keep Ivanovic around forever until he got the opportunity to say to Geoff Shreeves ‘I got a yellow during the semi Geoff. And you know I can still play the final don’t you.’
Who do you agree with? Is Ivanovic simply a utility player and not a starter or will he be at the heart of Chelsea’s defence for seasons to come? Let us know your thoughts below.