Last summer was very different for Chelsea Football Club. The club had just won the double and Carlo Ancelotti appeared to be the man who would finally deliver stability to Abramovich’s era. I remember posing with “The Double” mural outside Stamford Bridge, my face full of joy. Ah, the good old days. Nostalgia aside, there’s one thing that has stayed the same: the desire for an “experienced right-winger.” Those were Ancelotti’s words (or rather they were the club’s words funneled through Ancelotti – Chelsea managers aren’t allowed to have opinions).
Well, the issue was seemingly settled temporarily when Chelsea signed the 30-year-old Yossi Benayoun. One ruptured Achilles later and Chelsea are again looking to fill that role. It’s no surprise that Chelsea have lodged a £22 million bid for Tottenham’s Luka Modric. Right, right, Modric isn’t an orthodox right-winger, but neither were Deco or Nicolas Anelka, both of whom have lined up as right-wingers. Despite some occasional forays into 4-4-2 territory, Chelsea have been quite determined to stick to the 4-3-3 or some slight variation of the formation: 4-2-3-1, 4-3-2-1. Because of Chelsea’s plentiful box-to-box midfield options (and because of their rigid defense structure), several managers have used the right-wing spot as a way to get some creativity through the middle while still keeping the 4-3-3 shape.
The right-wing location is essentially the only place for this type of player because Lampard always occupies the left side of midfield. Nobody gets in Lampard’s way, nobody. However, Lampard really doesn’t provide the creativity that someone like Deco or Modric could. Unless there was an injury, Deco always lined up in the right side of a 4-3-3 and operated more as a playmaker. If you guys remember, this worked well for a while, but it eventually fizzled out. Teams began to exploit the fact that Chelsea had nobody stretching the right side, primarily because Deco was tucking in and had no pace to hit the byline.
What resulted then and what continues today with Chelsea is a team completely dependent on the left side of pitch for creativity. Bosingwa, one of Chelsea’s right-backs, has never shown himself able to force his feeble body to the byline and put in a good cross. This is partly because he lacks aggression (and a brain) and because he’s had nobody else to take defenders away from the right side. In my opinion, Ivanovic, although an unnatural right-back, has had more success with this because he’s able to muscle through defenders who have never seen such a fierce Eastern European man.
That’s why Luka Modric would be perfect for Chelsea: he would decongest the left side of the pitch and reduce the load on Cole and Malouda. Modric can do what Deco did in the middle, without the inconsistencies (Deco was notorious for shutting down in the rain), and he can also beat the opposition’s fullback. Through his creativity and pace, Modric can open up space all over the field for Chelsea. I think he’d also give Ivanovic or Bosingwa a lot more space to operate. What’s more, he’ll open up the field for Ramires, who is turning out to be a brilliant player.
Some of you might be asking why Modric? is the only person who can do this for Chelsea. He might not be. For all I know, Sneijder and Pastore could play similar roles. However, there’s a lot more uncertainty with those two, both of whom have never played in England. Modric is the safest option and perhaps also the cheapest. Given he could stay in London and still play for Chelsea, it’s also arguably the best option for Modric, who revealed Friday that he wants to join Chelsea.Based on the way things are progressing, I’d say Luka Modric will be Chelsea’s #14 before the transfer window closes.