Chelsea

Charlie Colkett: How a move to Holland may be the making of the Chelsea midfielder

A Chelsea youth product signing a season-long loan deal at feeder club Vitesse Arnhem is nothing new, but the Dutch club being the making of one of those players just might be.

The love-in between the current Premier League champions and Vitesse of Holland has always been a contentious one, not least because it practically never leads to Chelsea promoting any of the loaned-out kids to the first-team fold.

What Vitesse have managed to do, however, is be the first step, at least, to a more successful career, more often than not, away from Stamford Bridge.

Nemanja Matic, who was one of the first to move to Arnhem in 2010 when the link was first born, is the most, and arguably only notable success of those that remain in west London, but even he was sold to Benfica, and then bought back a few years later.

Patrick van Aanholt have all gone on to establish decent career for himself at the likes of Sunderland and Crystal Palace while Christian Atsu and Bertrand Traore have departed this summer after different successful loan spells at Newcastle and Ajax.

Even Dominic Solanke, who had a decent spell at Vitesse two seasons ago (scoring seven goals in 25 games) got sick of being patient and declined a new contract at Chelsea to move to Premier League rivals Liverpool for a fee pending tribunal.

He wasted no time in showing Chelsea what they might end up missing, as he was named the best player at this summer’s Under-20 World Cup, which England won.

Meanwhile, Charlie Colkett, who captained Chelsea to back-to-back UEFA Youth Leagues (the under-19 Champions League) and back-to-back FA Youth Cups, is already in the process of having to rebuild his career somewhat, at the tender age of 20, after two loan spells in England’s third tier that left an awful lot to be desired.

A loan move to Bristol Rovers did not go quite as planned, with Colkett struggling to really set fire to the Gas, who Colkett admits never suited his playing style anyway. So much so that Chelsea recalled him in January and immediately sent him back out on loan, to West Country rivals Swindon.

Swindon over the past few seasons have garnered a reputation for a passing style of play, or a “footballing background” which Colkett says attracted him to the Robins, but with Town in a perilous position, easing their way down into League Two, Colkett was on a hiding to nothing through little fault of his own.

Irate fans are not going to take easily to a Fancy Dan trickster while getting out-fought and out-thought by Scunthorpe.

However, with Vitesse being a good standard of side – they qualified for the Europa League last season, it should give Colkett more freedom to be, Charlie Colkett.

Off the pitch, in interviews at least, Colkett is painfully shy and rarely answers a question with more than one sentence, but when on grass, all that fades away and, to use a well-worn cliche, he lets his football do the talking.

Even when not having the best of times at Bristol Rovers and Swindon that was more than apparent, with a couple of flicks against MK Dons and Coventry soon lashed into ‘Best Skills’ compilation videos.

In a league such as the Eredivisie, which has always favoured the flashy and the flamboyant, a player such as Colkett should thrive, much like fellow English midfielder Lewis Baker did last season, as he netted 15 goals in all competitions, which made him their second-top scorer last campaign.

Realistically, Colkett will never make the grade at Chelsea but if and when he is sold on for a healthy profit like so many more before him, he could well be looking back at his year in the Netherlands more favourably than the English lower tiers.

Is The Special One’s Football Dull? No way, Jose

“Ironic cry of boring, boring Chelsea as RAMIRES CLINCHES THE POINTS! The title is almost theirs!” That was the line of commentary when the Brazilian box-to-box midfielder rifled home the third in a 3-1 win over Leic that secured the Blues’ 24th win of the 2014-15 season from just 34 league matches and simultaneously left Jose Mourinho’s side just one win away from clinching the Premier League title for the fourth time.

Chelsea fans have had to put up with their beloved club being labelled boring over the last decade or so which offends the older generation of supporter who grew up in the swinging sixties with the west Londoners being the great entertainers of attacking flair in the age of the football maverick when Tommy Docherty’s men were dubbed ‘the Kings of King’s Road.’

Back then they boasted the names of Ron “Chopper” Harris, Peter “the Cat” Bonetti and the King of Stamford Bridge that was Peter “Ossie” Osgood and a later breed of Chelsea fan were captivated by such names as Roberto Di Matteo, Ruud Gullit as well as a certain Italian who goes by the name of Gianfranco Zola.

When Roman Abravomich invested his Russian billions into Chelsea though Mourinho soon followed off the back of the biggest shock in European football since Louis van Gaal guided a once-in-a-lifetime group of players that made Ajax European champions for the first time in 22 years.

Mourinho’s plucky Porto will never be remembered for being easy-on-the-eye either but it is forgotten that this team of then unknowns got a draw at Santiago Bernabeu, home of Real Madrid who had won ‘Ol Big Ears’ just tournaments previously, and featured the footballing artist Zinedine Zidane as well as Roberto Carlos, Luis Figo and Ronaldo among others. It was not down to sheer defensive solidity either, Porto matched them for goals and outdid the Spanish giants for total shots 8-11.

The Round of 16 would introduce Mourinho to the world. First the Portuguese would guide his domestic champions to a 2-1 home win against Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United and the friendliest of rivalries was born. In the second-leg the Blue and Whites snatched aggregate victory with a last-gasp away goal after again dominating one of the world’s best teams. United had three shots to Porto’s nine and the game ended with the first iconic Mourinho image – the touchline run.

Lyon and Deportivo La Coruna were dispatched in the quarter and semi-final respectively and although they may sound easy on paper Lyon were the French champions who had Juninho and Karim Benzema while Deportivo had earlier eliminated holders AC Milan 5-4 on aggregate after losing 4-1 at the San Siro in the first-leg. Porto would then dismantle an AS Monaco side that had knocked-out Real Madrid and Chelsea. Winning a Champions League final 3-0 is only boring to those who want some sort of contest, but viewers got that too as Porto only went 2-0 up in minute 71 and four minutes later it was three. Porto also won the Primeira Liga and scored 63 goals, more than any other side.

Chelsea was next and the ‘boring’ jibes truly began. Mourinho batted the accusation away like only he can.

“Tell me”, he started, musing on a public put down as his famous long-standing feud with Arsene Wenger started to take shape. “In England, which team plays better than Chelsea? Arsenal?”

ITV reporter Gabriel Clarke, already hesitant under the brunt of the enigmatic, brash, arrogant but assured Mourinho hesitantly came back with: “They might get more critical acclaim sometimes.”

Mourinho interrupted: “Better than us, yeah? Yeah. Ten points behind. Ten points behind.”

Chelsea were dominant over Arsenal and every other English club that year by quite a distance, winning the league by 12 points, but contrary to many’s belief it was by style as well as substance. Yes, Chelsea was built on a rock-solid defence of Paulo Ferreira, Ricardo Carvalho, John Terry and William Gallas with Claude Makelele in the holding role as well as one of the world’s best goalkeepers Petr Cech behind them and they only conceded 15 league goals all season but on the attack they were fierce, deadly and never hesitated in wiping out the opposition.

They had Frank Lampard in his peak who was joint fourth top scorer in the Premier League with 13 goals from midfield, they had lightning quick wingers in Arjen Robben, Damien Duff and Joe Cole who would kill teams on the counter attack and they had Eidur Gudjohnsen and Didier Drogba who scored 12 and ten goals respectively. Chelsea scored 72 Premier League goals in 2004-05, one more than the ‘Great Entertainers’ that were the Arsenal Invincibles team of the previous season and just seven fewer than the equally famous treble winning Manchester United side that had one of the best striking duos in footballing history – Dwight Yorke and Andy Cole.

The Champions League was no different. Ask any Chelsea, or football fan, if they were bored when the Blues raced into a 20-minute 3-0 lead against Barcelona, a Barcelona even back then with Carlos Puyol and Andres Iniesta as well as Samuel Eto’o, a developing Lionel Messi and Ronaldinho the year he won his solitary Ballon d’Or – Chelsea would end up winning 4-2.

Bayern Munich were on the wrong end of the same score at the same ground in the next round, the quarter-finals, and Mourinho’s men were just as rampant domestically.

After five of Chelsea’s first six league wins were decided by one-goal Blackburn Rovers and West Brom were both hit for four in consecutive weeks as were Fulham a fortnight later, and Charlton a further two weeks after, and Newcastle the following Saturday and Norwich were a further two games in the future. 2005-06 was not much different; you only need to watch the game that wrapped up a second title on the bounce – a 3-0 win over Manchester United who finished second that season, eight points behind the champions.

Both of his two years at Inter Milan, which ended with Scudettos, they were top scorers in Serie A and I Nerazurri scored three or more goals on eight occasions during the 2008-09 campaign and the following year, in a treble winning season, Internazionale netted at least three in seven of their 38 league matches as well as triumphing 3-1 over Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona.

Real Madrid’s debut season with Mourinho would end with them losing out on the title to their fierce rivals Barcelona but the all-whites out-scored the Catalan giants, finding the back of the net 102 times compared to the latter’s 95.

Madrid would regain their status as Spain’s top club a year later but what would remain the same is that the modern Galacticos would score more goals than Guardiola’s Barca. Mourinho’s men scored a whopping 121 goals in the 2011-12 season – it remains a La Liga record.

Mourinho at Madrid where they broke a La Liga record for most team goals scored in a season. It still stands today.

Mourinho at Madrid where they broke a La Liga record for most team goals scored in a season. It still stands today.

The Special One’s much-awaited return to Chelsea did not bring about it many goals, but the team who would end up as champions for the first time in five years were back to being incredibly tough to beat. Although, when they did play in an attacking style it always seemed like they were never too far away from being punished.

This was most evident in the barnstorming 5-3 loss to a Harry Kane-inspired Tottenham Hotspur, but there was pre-warning to this before when the Blues, playing in yellow that day, conceded three to the Toffees, unfortunately for the home side however, Chelsea scored double the amount.

Because of his marmite-like qualities of a human being Jose Mourinho may not be remembered for being a man who entertained the neutral fanbases but he may be the man who defines how important it is to be well-rounded as a football manager. The builder of teams who are defensively strong and yes, when needed, dynamic in attack and superb to watch. Boring, boring Mourinho indeed.

 

John Terry: A Tribute to Mr.Chelsea

Chelsea’s 5-1 win over MK Dons in the FA Cup on Sunday was instantly forgotten about by anyone that has a connection with the team from west London as and when their club captain John Terry announced that he will leave Stamford Bridge at the end of the 2015-16 season.

MK Dons were not even in existence when Terry made his senior professional debut as a late substitute in a League Cup match against Aston Villa at the tender age of 17 in 1997. Six years later he would be appointed captain of his beloved Blues, four years after a brief loan spell at first division side Nottingham Forest.

Terry had benefited from years of tutoring from 1998 World Cup winners Marcel Desailly and Frank Lebouef who both, like Terry, were tough, combative, no-nonsense centre halves who it is evident provided the iconic defender with many of the qualities that endeared him to the Chelsea faithful.

He first wore the armband in 2001 when he was only 21 years old – showing maturity and leadership well beyond his years.

It was Desailly that Terry took over the role as captain on a permanent basis from in 2003 following the Frenchman’s retirement and the decision to name Terry as skipper was the first of many seismic impacts Jose Mourinho made at Chelsea during his first stint as manager.

Immediate success followed as Mourinho’s men won a League Cup and Premier League double with Terry leading a team that fought the league crown off Arsenal who the year before had gone through an entire season unbeaten. It was Chelsea’s first top division title in 50 years and ‘JT’ won a number of personal awards too – he was named the PFA Player of the Year, the Champions League Defender of the Year and he also earned a spot in the FIFA World Team of the Year. His finest moment on a personal point though would perhaps be his dramatic header in the topsy-turvy 4-2 Champions League win over Barcelona in the last 16 of the Champions League which, prior to 2012, was probably the finest European night in Chelsea’s history. Prior to Terry’s header Chelsea had raced into a 3-0 lead inside 20 minutes but conceded two via the enigmatic Ronaldinho and were heading out – but the skipper’s winner from a corner with just 15 minutes remaining booked a quarter-final tie against Bayern Munich.

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Bolt from the Blue: John Terry’s late header wins it for Chelsea

Domestic trophies would continue to pile up. Back-to-back league titles were secured in the 2005-06 season and, despite not being able to retain the championship for a third year, Chelsea did win the 2007 League Cup and the first FA Cup final at the newly-built Wembley Stadium with a 2-1 win over Manchester United.

Silverware eluded him in the 2007-08 campaign but his determination for more medals never wavered. In December 2007 Terry suffered three broken bones in his foot and was expected to be ruled out for three months – he captained his club in the League Cup final against Tottenham Hotspur two months later, demonstrating his commitment to any cause Chelsea were a part of as well as his own desire to win every match and trophy possible.

Another FA Cup would follow in 2008-09 and his third Premier League medal would be hung around his neck in Carlo Ancelotti’s first year in charge at Stamford Bridge, as did FA Cup number four a year later. During the summer of 2009 Terry was constantly linked with a move to Manchester City, who had recently been taken over by the Abu Dhabi United Group, and his loyalty ‘was tested, as was the nerves of his fans, but a new deal was eventually signed, much to the relief of anyone who supported the team who dons the darker shade of blue and the legendary status of the captain and leader was only increased.

Ancelotti would be sacked just 12 months later after a trophy less campaign, but the finest accolade of Terry’s career was just around the corner.

Andre Villas-Boas’ tenure at Chelsea would be a turbulent one – and one that Terry received criticism for apparently leading a revolt against the inexperienced Portuguese coach, but the sacking of ‘AVB’ led to the hiring of Roberto di Matteo and the first ever Champions League win in Chelsea’s history, although their captain missed the final due to kneeing Alexis Sanchez in the lower back in the semi-final second-leg at the Nou Camp. That did not stop Terry donning full kit and lifting ‘Ol Big Ears’ with vice-captain Frank Lampard. Also, you guessed it; the Blues would also win another FA Cup.

Although Terry missed the Munich final, his leadership throughout the campaign was pivotal. Chelsea could have gone out in the group stages if they lost their last game against Valencia, but a win secured top spot in the group and then dramatic wins were needed in the last 16 against Napoli, Benfica and Barcelona, with Terry being a rock at the back in a tireless performance in defence in a 1-0 win over the Catalan giants in the first leg in the English capital.

The Rafa Benitez interim era was a tough one for at Chelsea. The fans hated a man who in the past had taken digs at the club for waving plastic flags at Champions League matches and John Terry especially never warmed to the Spaniard as the ex-Liverpool boss was sceptical he could play twice a week.

Someone would end up being proved wrong though, and it was not Terry. Mourinho’s return to SW6 would not end with a trophy in his first year back, but it did see the rejuvenate of Terry to the first-team fold as the captain played in 47 games and 34 out of a possible 38 of these in the Premier League.

It would be the season after though that Terry would really show Benitez what he was missing.

Chelsea romped to the Premier League title; clear of nearest rivals Manchester City by eight points, and lost only three matches and Terry played every single minute of every single game. Two games a week? Easy.

Winner: Terry's fourth and final Premier League trophy.

Winner: Terry’s fourth and final Premier League trophy.

This season has been a difficult one. Mourinho has been sacked, fans have booed their team off and the Premier League champions at the time of writing sit in 13th, making them the worst holders in recent memory, but there has been one constant in all of this – the never-say-die attitude of one John George Terry.

Terry’s goodbye at the end of the season will be a heartfelt one and one that many fans will struggle to get over. The club has lacked leadership following the departures in recent years – the likes of Petr Cech, Ashley Cole, Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba, and Terry’s contract not being renewed signals the last of the ‘old guard’ leaving.

Terry said in his leaving statement that: “The club will move on. No player is ever bigger than the club. Ideally I would have loved to stay, but the club is moving in a different direction” – maybe not a direction a lot of fans will like.

 

Paris Saint-Germain 1-1 Chelsea

Edinson Cavani’s second-half header denied Chelsea a key away win in the first-leg of their last 16 Champions League clash.

Uruguayan Cavani swept in Maxwell’s delivery from the left hand side nine minutes into the second half to ensure that PSG earned a share of the spoils.

It was his sixth goal in the Champions League this season which makes him the tournament’s third top scorer.

Branislav Ivanovic had initially given the English side the lead with a headed goal of his own 36 minutes on the clock in what was his 30th goal in Chelsea colours and his 27th since August 2010.

John Terry’s low cross was flicked on exquisitely by Gary Cahill into the path of defender number three in the move Ivanovic for the vital away goal for the Blues.

PSG were the ones who looked more likely to go into the Stamford Bridge second-leg with the advantage from the off.

Blaise Matuidi had a header palmed away by Thibaut Courtois and Zlatan Ibrahimovic was foiled seconds later, again with a headed effort.

Chelsea took the lead against the run of play, but the Parisians were not deterred, with Ibrahimovic coming close again, denied by Courtois’ feet and then Cesar Azpilicueta blocked Matuidi’s goal-bound shot.

Cavani had another go in the closing stages, but shot wide after a neat bit of footwork but this was a match with little goal-mouth action.

Jose Mourinho’s side were below par but that away goal gives them advantage for the rematch in three weeks’ time.

Nemanja Matic is the lynchpin of the modern Chelsea

He may not be the man who grabs all the headlines but the defeat to Newcastle proved that Chelsea do not fully tick without their dynamic Serbian.

Chelsea lost their unbeaten run that stretched back to late April, 24 games in total, in the North East on Saturday lunchtime – the only game Nemanja Matic has not featured in in that time, due to a suspension.

The absence of Matic was clear to see, Cesc Fabregas struggled to find the space to be the orchestra of Chelsea’s attack and therefore the normally prolific Diego Costa had limited chances and ultimately failed to hit the back of the net.

Matic has made 840 successful passes with an 89% completion rate, won 37 tackles, made 29 interceptions and made 44 clearances. The last three totals are the highest out of the rest of Chelsea’s regular midfield five of him, Fabregas, Eden Hazard, Willian and Oscar. *

Fabregas is the man that unlocks defences, contributing 38 key passes and 11 assists in his 15 league games this season but the physicality of Moussa Sissoko, Chieck Tiote and most notably Jack Colback stunted the Spaniard at St.James’ Park.

It was a problem Chelsea had in the Champions League last season too with Matic ineligible having already featured in the competition for Benfica.

The West Londoners needed a last minute winner to overcome Paris Saint-Germain in the Quarter Finals and played six defenders in the 1-3 defeat at home to Atletico Madrid (Branislav Ivanovic, John Terry, David Luiz, Gary Cahill, Ashley Cole and Cesar Azpilicueta).

Not a problem the Blues have had this campaign, winning three and drawing two and already securing their spot in the last 16 with one game remaining.

Chelsea’s unbeaten run may be over, but a Chelsea with Matic on the pitch remain without a loss. That may continue for a long time to come.

*All stats via Squawka

Chelsea 6-0 Maribor (Remy ’13, Drogba pen ’23, Terry ’31, Viler OG ’54, Hazard pen ’77, ’90)

Chelsea strolled to an emphatic 6-0 win over Slovenian champions Maribor to remain top of group G after three matches.

Goals from Loic Remy, John Terry, an own goal by Mitja Vila and two penalties from Didier Drogba and Eden Hazard secured the three points for the Blues at Stamford Bridge in what was a comfortable night for the Premier League leaders.

Remy opened the scoring 13 minutes in when he cut inside a Maribor defender and buried a shot into the bottom right corner past Jasmin Handanovic.

The France International had to be replaced soon after though due to an injury he suffered during the celebration of his second goal for Chelsea.

His replacement Drogba made it 2-0 to the hosts after 23 minutes with a penalty following Ales Mertelj’s handball.

It was three nine minutes later when captain Terry slid in to convert Cesc Fabregas’ low cross across the face of goal.

Number four came on 54 minutes through a Vila own goal, diverting the ball into his own net from Eden Hazard’s cutback.

The fifth was a second penalty coming 13 minutes before the end, Hazard calmly sending Handanovic the wrong way but sending his team very much the right way.

Maribor did have the opportunity for a consolation with a penalty of their own midway through the second half when Agin Ibraimi was brought down by Nemanja Matic in the box but the Maribor midfielder who took the spot kick himself was denied by the post.

Chelsea: Cech, Ivanovic, Zouma, Terry, Luis, Fabregas (Ake ’60), Matic, Oscar (Solanke ’73), Hazard, Willian, Remy (Drogba ’16)

Subs not used: Courtois, Azpilicueta, Cahill, Salah

Maribor: Handanovic, Suler, Filipovic, Mejac, Tavares (Mendy ’72), Ibraimi (Zahovic ’68), Rajcevic, Viler (Vrsic ’57), Stojanovic, Bohar, Mertelj

Subs not used: Cotman, Ndiaye, Sallalich, Arghus

Chelsea 2-0 Arsenal

Chelsea ended a high tempered London derby triumphant over Arsenal, winning 2-0 at Stamford Bridge thanks to goals from Eden Hazard and Diego Costa.

Costa sealed the three points 12 minutes before the end when he lobbed Wojciech Szczesny after being set up by a delicious Cesc Fabregas pass that beat the Arsenal defence all ends up.

Hazard opened the scoring for the West Londoners when his run where he dribbled past three despairing defenders culminated in Laurent Koscielny bringing down the Belgian in the box and the defender maybe should have been shown his marching orders.

23-year-old Hazard stepped up himself and slotted it past Szczesny with 27 minutes played.

Events off the pitch were the main talking points of the first half however with managers Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger engaging in a touchline spat as a result of a crunching Gary Cahill challenge on Alexis Sanchez.

Wenger was of the opinion Cahill should have seen red for his foul and, after some wind up tactics from his adversary Mourinho, pushed the Portuguese coach in the chest.

Calum Chambers was arguably fortunate to stay on the pitch as well, not picking up a second yellow card for pulling down Andre Schurrle.

Eden Hazard opens the scoring from the spot.

Eden Hazard opens the scoring from the spot.

Arsenal also had reason to feel adjudged by referee Martin Atkinson when Jack Wilshere’s shot was blocked by the hand of ex Gunner Fabregas.

Chelsea were worthy winners but an early injury to Thibaut Courtois provided a minor bleak point to their victory. He was replaced by Petr Cech 24 minutes in.

Chelsea: Courtois (Cech ’24) Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Azpilicueta, Matic, Fabregas, Schurrle (Mikel ’69), Oscar (Willian ’87), Hazard, Diego Costa

Subs not used: Zouma, Filipe Luis, Salah, Remy

Arsenal: Szczesny, Chambers, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs, Wilshere (Rosicky ’83), Flamini, Cazorla (Oxlade-Chamberlain ’69), Ozil, Alexis, Welbeck

Subs not used: Martinez, Monreal, Coquelin, Campbell, Podolski

Burnley 1-3 Chelsea

A ruthless Chelsea tore apart Burnley at Turf Moor after Scott Arfield gave Jose Mourinho’s side an early scare.

Debutant Diego Costa, World Cup winner Andre Schurrle and Branislav Ivanovic were on the score sheet for the West Londoners.

Cesc Fabregas put in a man of the match performance on his return to the Premier League, contributing two assists for his new club.

It was Burnley who took the lead though when Scott Arfield scored an exquisite volley, chesting down Matthew Taylor’s cross, letting the ball bounce and firing past Thibaut Courtois after 13 minutes.

Chelsea responded in the perfect fashion, equalizing four minutes later when Costa seized on a deflected low Ivanovic cross and smashed home first time with his weaker left foot for 1-1.

Dream debut for Diego: Costa levels in Burnley

Dream debut for Diego: Costa levels in Burnley

Schurrle completed the quick-fire comeback three minutes after when he tucked in from a tight angle after a 20 pass plus move.

The par excellence was Fabregas’ majestic pass from Ivanovic’s cross. A disguised shot that turned into a delicate assist on the volley – a real tour de force.

Ivanovic effectedly sealed the game when he broke free of his marker to turn in Fabregas’ corner ten minutes before the break.

There was one minor sour note to Chelsea’s first half of the season however, Costa recieved a booking for simulation when he went down in the box, tripping over Tom Heaton’s hand as he tried to round the former Cardiff ‘keeper.

Newly promoted side Burnley struggled to break Chelsea down in the second half, Arfield producing their best opportunity, a curler, that would have reduced the deficit if it wasn’t for a world class save by Courtois, tipping it out for a corner at full strength.

Jose Mourinho’s dominant side opted not to create any opportunities either and were content the 1-3 scoreline.

Travelling Chelsea supporters were treated to a late cameo from returning hero Didier Drogba when he replaced Eden Hazard six minutes from time.

Burnley: Heaton, Trippier, Shackell, Duff, Mee, Arfield, Jones, Marney, Taylor (Kightly ’70), Ings (Sordell ’82), Jutkiewicz (Barnes ’70)

Subs not used: Gilks, Dummigan, Long, Wallace

Chelsea: Courtois, Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Azpilicueta, Fabregas, Matic, Schurrle (Willian ’78), Oscar (Mikel ’82), Hazard (Drogba ’84) Costa

Subs not used: Cech, Zouma, Filipe Luis, Torres

Man of the match: Cesc Fabregas

Have Chelsea finally found Claude Makelele’s successor in Nemanja Matic?

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Michael Essien, John Obi Mikel, Oriol Romeu. Chelsea have tried and failed to find the man to fill Claude Makelele’s boots since his 2008 departure. While the trio have had relative success in the heart of Chelsea’s midfield, none of them have come close to having the influence Makelele did. In Nemanja Matic though, Chelsea may have found the solution.

Claude Makelele arrived at Stamford Bridge in the Summer of 2003 for a fee of £16.8 million after being outcast by Real Madrid as they denied his request of a better contract and continued building their “Galacticos” squad without him. The defining mistake by Florentino Perez and possibly the main reason why Real failed to add to their ninth Champions League win in 2002 where Makelele was a regular.

We will not miss Makélelé. His technique is average, he lacks the speed and skill to take the ball past opponents, and 90% percent of his distribution either goes backwards or sideways. He wasn’t a header of the ball and he rarely passed the ball more than three metres. Younger players will arrive who will cause Makélelé to be forgotten.” – Perez (2003)

On arriving in West London, then Chelsea coach Claudio Ranieri said of Makelele that he would be “the battery” of the Chelsea side, and right he was too. Thanks to the Frenchman, and Chelsea’s other signings that year in the first season under Roman Abramovich’s era, Chelsea finished Premiership runners up and reached the Champions League semi finals for the first time ever, losing to Monaco who would go on to be beat by Jose Mourinho’s Porto in the final.

Mourinho was appointed Chelsea manager the following season of course and under him, Chelsea would transform into the European superpower we know them as today. Makelele blossomed in Mourinho’s style of play, his defensive work, along with a solid back five of Petr Cech, Paulo Ferreira, Ricardo Carvalho, John Terry and William Gallas, meant that Chelsea conceded just 15 goals all season while his passing ability allowed players such as Frank Lampard, Arjen Robben, Joe Cole, Damien Duff and Didier Drogba to attack the opposition at will. “The Makelele role”, as it would be known, was born.

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Every team across the land it seemed was after their very own Claude Makelele. Liverpool signed Javier Mascherano, Arsenal opted for Alex Song, Manchester United acquired Michael Carrick while Tottenham snapped up Didier Zokora. Although three quarters of these signings were no doubt successful (Zokora being the exception), none of them were, or are, as good as Makelele.

The role has been adapted slightly in modern times with the fancy named “Deep Lying Playmaker” or “Regista” role being the latest fashionable term. Well known “DLPs” are Cesc Fabregas, Luka Modric and Jack Wilshere while Sergio Busquets is regarded as an efficient Regista.

Makelele continued to shine in a Chelsea shirt for the next three seasons but his last game was to come, aptly in Chelsea’s first ever Champions League final, the 2008 clash with Manchester United. It would only have been more fitting if Chelsea had won that night in Moscow’s Red City, to give the mercurial Frenchman the greatest of send offs, much like Drogba’s in 2012.

Chelsea’s number four departed West London for Paris Saint Germain where he spent three seasons, won a Coupe de France in 09/10 and retired the following year to become Assistant Manager, which he remains as today.

Nemanja Matic put pen to paper on a four year deal at Chelsea in 2009 for a £1.5 million fee having spent time on trial at Middlesbrough and he was clearly signed as 2006 World Cup runner up Makelele’s long term replacement. Matic made two appearances in his first spell as a Chelsea player before joining feeder club Vitesse Arnhem on loan where he scored twice in 27 games for the Eridivisie club. Having failed to make a mark on the Premier League though he was sold to Benfica in a player plus cash deal worth £21 million plus David Luiz.

Matic announced himself onto the European stage in the Portuguese Capital, scoring six goals in 56 games over the course of three seasons, including one strike against Porto that finished second in the Puskas Award (given to the year’s best goal) of last season, losing out to Zlatan Ibrahimovich’s acrobatic effort against England before rejoining the 2012 Champions League winners for £21 million in January of this year.

Like Makelele, Matic has the ability to break down the play and slow down the midfield to tire the opposition with accurate passing to support his pinpoint tackles, and what’s more intimidating for his rivals is that Matic might even become better than his predecessor. He’s more dynamic than Makelele was and at a younger age too, and more impressively, is a larger threat going forward making him a more versatile player than his French counterpart. Already this season we’ve seen the Serbian crack the woodwork from long range against Manchester City at the Etihad and have a goal disallowed against Aston Villa for a questionable handball. Makelele only scored two goals in a Chelsea shirt, a rebounded Penalty against Charlton (which he originally had saved) and an 18 yard curler against Tottenham, which as great as it was, was his only shot of the entire season.

With Nemanja Matic the latest man being given the job of controlling the Blues’ midfield and so far looking more in control than anyone has in a good while, Chelsea seem to have finally found the man who has filled the Claude Makelele shaped void in the centre of the pitch.