The Centre-Back Conundrum

The defeat against Manchester City which was filled with controversial decisions (no comments) has shown us areas where we need to work on. One of the crucial areas is defense. Chelsea’s defense has been poor in the pre-season where we have leaked a total of 13 goals in 6 games with an average of a little over 2 goals in every game (including the three against Manchester City). Sadly, we did not put up a good show. It’s true that one cannot pass judgments based on our Pre-season performance but there is no denying the fact that we could have done better. I understand that pre-season is all about getting players back in shape and getting that sharpness back. But one cannot deny that our defenders would have hoped for a better pre-season. Di Matteo has a lot of selection headaches and has to make a lot of crucial decisions to put out the best eleven on the field. The most important (In my opinion) is the center back pairing.

Center Back Combination

This is probably one of the most difficult situations Di Matteo is facing. The right combination in this position would certainly define our  season. The fact that Ivanovic will be more useful as a Right Back leaves him out of contention for the Center Back spot. However, he is more than capable to fill in, if and when duty calls. For me (and many others) , John Terry certainly makes the cut. He has been performing on the top level for so many years for both club and country. But this is not the reason why he should be an automatic choice. The fact that I propose he should continue to play this season is because of his commanding presence and commendable leadership. His experience makes him one of our most vital assets. He will play a huge part in any success we achieve this season. There are a few John Terry critics who are against him starting for Chelsea this season but I believe he will live-up to our expectations and prove them wrong. He performed well in the Euros but had an average pre-season. Still,  a Chelsea squad without JT in defense always looks incomplete and weak.

So that leaves us with the other center back spot, which is a major problem because of the amazing options we have in the form of David Luiz and Gary Cahill. David Luiz has been a revelation ever since his big money move to Chelsea from Benfica. An instant fan favourite, his passion and love for the game combined with his attacking instinct (and famous hairstyle, kidding) makes him a serious contender for his spot in any team. He has wonderful footwork, loads of confidence and aggression which makes him deadly when he comes out from the defense to put in a perfect ball for the team spurring them to attack swiftly. The fact that he wants to take free kicks (and he has taken a few) shows how badly he wants his name on the score sheet and see his team win. His goals against the Manchester clubs in his first season are still fresh in every Chelsea fan’s memory. He has blistering speed which is envied by so many Center backs around the world. He recently demonstrated that against Manchester City in the Community Shield by beating the likes of Tevez to pace which is not an easy task. A center back with good ball control, amazing speed and the confidence to play the way he does has always been hot property in football. Fortunately for us, we saw this potential and swiftly brought him to the Bridge. He has all the qualities of a player who could do well in the midfield holding role, but Di Matteo did not try this in Pre-season and I personally feel he will not experiment this in the crucial season up ahead. It makes sense to put faith in him as a central defender, the position he is more familiar with.

However, there are a few negatives which one needs to consider before making any decision as to whether he should start, or not. David Luiz did not have the best pre-season by any means. To be fair to him, most of our defenders did not. He seems to commit his tackles too early in my opinion and made a few sloppy mistakes during the tour. Against AC Milan, his communication with John Terry wasn’t the best as there was a lot of space between the two center halves which fortunately, AC Milan failed to exploit. He was having a decent game against Manchester City in the Community Shield but he started to lose it when we were 2-1 down. His poor positioning was well exploited by Samir Nasri as he scored the third. Then came a series of reckless challenges which showed that he finds it hard to keep composure when the team is trailing. We did get one back, thanks to Ryan Bertrand but I just wonder if Gary Cahill could have done better if he was playing instead of David Luiz.

Gary Cahill was worth every penny spent last season to bring him to the Bridge from Bolton. From Relegation to being a  European Champion, he has had a wonderful time here at the bridge and he deserves every bit of it. He came in and settled well with John Terry in the defense whenever he was required and I can’t seem to remember one poor performance by him last season. He is amazing in the air which makes our defense more secure and alternatively, he is a huge threat in set-pieces and has scored a few great goals with his foot for Bolton. Very composed on the field, he hardly ever commits mistakes and his tackling is fantastic. He communicates well with John Terry and anticipates the opposition good enough to put in vital blocks. He had a roller coaster of a pre-season in which he performed very well in the first game against Seattle Sounders but looked rusty and a bit lost in other matches.

Both will definitely get loads of game time in the long season ahead of us but, “who should be the first choice center back alongside Captain Terry?”, is the burning question. The passion, aggression and the energy of David Luiz or the calmness and composure of Gary Cahill? Should we put our faith in David Luiz to maintain his composure in games? Or should we give Cahill a chance to prove himself why he is one of the most shrewd buys Chelsea has ever made. Fans will definitely have two opinions and both are probably right in their own way. Fortunately, it’s upto Robbie to make this crucial decision. My vote goes to Gary Cahill.

Udit Momaya

Bcom., MBA Aspirant, Chelsea fan - Blue to the core. Supports the Three lions. Has worked as a community manager in the social media frenzy for various IPL teams.