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13 June 2009

Chelsea squad review 08/09: Part I

For all the talk of finances, managers and formations, football basically boils down to eleven men (uniformly dressed in a shade you'd never choose to wear in public) frantically shuffling a ball towards a net suspended between two posts and a bar.  The quality of these eleven players determines how frantically and with what frequency the ball is shuffled over the line.

Long-winded way of saying that football is about players.  So, as part of the series of posts looking back at the 08/09 season, here's the first part of bridgeviews' squad review - a focus on the defence.

Man Utd's impressive new record for most consecutive clean sheets, and the subsequent Van der Saar love-in, contrived to deflect from the fact that Chelsea's defence was the joint-best in the league.

Chelsea's defence was blighted by injury for the third season in a row, depriving us of any consistency at the back, and making the number of goals conceded all the more impressive.  The season also saw the sad departure of Wayne Bridge, the renaissance of Ashley Cole, and the emergence of Alex, alongside different but equally impressive contributions from Bosingwa and Ivanovic.  Terry, who has set such high standards, had his best season since Chelsea last won the league. 

Here's a brief look at each player in turn.

Cech: consistently high performer, a mid to late season blip caused undue scrutiny of his form.  It's difficult to imagine a signing Chelsea could make that would put his place in the side under threat.

Cole: best season in blue by a margin, defensively excellent and back to his attacking best under both Scolari and Hiddink.  With Wayne Bridge's departure his upcoming contract extension becomes all the more important.

John-terry-300x400 Terry: some question marks were raised about Terry's performances last season as he lost some of the composure that had made him one of the best in the world.  Back to his combative best, a handful of his performances single-handedly kept Chelsea in games that we might have otherwise have lost.

Alex: while sometimes guilty of suspect judgement, Alex has been the biggest surprise in the defence this season.  Excellent in the air, a wicked shot, and his reading of the game is much improved.  A good bet to be first choice as Terry's partner in 09/10.

Carvalho: undoubted quality - on his day the best defender at the club.  Injuries have severely blighted his season however, and when coupled with Alex's improvement he must be a candidate for the transfer list.

Bosingwa: such a shame the second half of his season didn't match the first.  Excellent attacking performances dwindled, but he still made an important contribution.  Defensively suspect at times, he's got a lot to learn in the Premier League, but it's only his first season...

Ivanovic: haven't seen much of the Serb, but his performances at right-back against Liverpool in the Champions League proved he has more than enough quality to remain an important squad player.  Versatility is a major asset.

Question marks for next season: a place in the squad for Belletti and Ferreira? Chelsea seem to be collecting right-backs and younger players need to be given an opportunity above ageing third string players.  Sad to see both leave, especially with Belletti's goals this season.  Cash in?

Look out for: Mancienne to make more appearances next season.  Could he be the next Chelsea youngster to make it through the ranks?

What do you think?  Post a comment.


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