Earlier today The Application offered up a scouting report and assessment of Chelsea’s right back options now that Marseilles and Cesar Azpilicueta have decided he’s staying put. In a comment thread on the issue over at the Facebook page Julian asked how come I wasn’t piping up about Essien or Ramires.
A few years back the Blues found themselves shorthanded at the right back and stuck Essien there as a fill-in until they got healthy. What transpired was arguably the best play we’ve seen at that position in over a decade. Essien is fast (or was back then, pre-multiple knee injuries), he’s a brutally physical defender once he catches you, and he can be extremely dangerous when he makes a high-speed dash into the attack. In fact, the further to the rear he plays, the more dangerous he gets offensively. He has never had the kind of on-the-ball skill needed to face up a defender and break him down to score or create, but he’s very good at sensing when there’s an unprotected seam in the defense. Most players are better when you can’t adequately mark them, of course, but if you aren’t prepared for Michael Essien he can positively lethal.
The issue, then, is whether he has recovered from injury sufficiently to be the right back he once was. If so, let’s do the math. Chelsea has holding midfielders like Saudi Arabia has sand. Shifting Essien to the defense could be a master stroke. If.
Ramires is another intriguing idea. He has the speed, endurance and work rate to be an outstanding right back. Fantastic defender, extremely quick. And we know from experience that he can be exceedingly dangerous venturing forward. No, he’s not the best crosser of the ball by midfielder standards, but by defender standards he ought to be terrifying.
Like Essien, he’s especially dangerous when the defense isn’t ready for him, with a knack for counter-attacking through weakened seams in the opposing defense. Now, we have seen him do this from the midfield (before invariably launching a shot into the second deck), but it’s not clear that he can find and exploit defenses the same way from the back, when there’s an extra layer of defense between him and, well, the second deck.
And maybe he doesn’t want to play right back. But if Ivanovich is hurt or suspended or has to be shifted to the center, and we’re left with a choice between Ferreira, Vanilla Hutch or one of the kids from the youth side, I’d damned sure go ask him if he’d like to give it a go, especially since Chelsea is now so loaded with more short-pass/attack-minded midfielders.
Something to think about.