The best 25-man squad of the Roman Abramovich era – Part 2

Which defenders make up the impenetrable back four?

By Terry Sazio

In the first part of this feature series, we revealed Petr Čech to be our number one goalkeeper and with that, he became the first member of starting line-up in this all-star, 25-man squad.

Now it’s time to find out which defenders make up the ‘back four’ in my squad and in yours.

I will reveal who makes it at Left-Back and at Right-Back. In regards to the Centre-Back choice(s), for both squads, the first and second choices will make up the Centre-Back partnership.

Just as a reminder, you will see the player that I chose for each position and the player that you chose via the polls.

The starting line-up will hypothetically be playing in a 4-3-3 formation, as that has been the most used formation in this era. You will also see a substitutes’ bench consisting of seven players, along with seven more who didn’t make the bench but help to complete the squad(s).

In regards to what I mentioned in part one about the structure of my squad (how many players in each part of the team – GK/DF/MD/FW), my amount for each part will slightly vary to what you, the readers, will have in yours.

My squad will consist of three goalkeepers, seven defenders (4 centre-backs and 3 full-backs), eight midfielders and seven forwards (3 strikers and 4 wingers).

Your squad, on the other hand, will include three goalkeepers, eight defenders (4 centre-backs and 4 full-backs), eight midfielders and six forwards (2 strikers and 4 wingers). That way, you’ll have the traditional ‘two players for every position’ situation in play.

One more thing to mention – you will see one player overlap in two different positions/polls as they warranted the right to do so due to meeting the criteria that we revealed in part one.

41 defenders have played for Chelsea in the Roman Abramovich era. Some good, some bad (Shivers at remembering Papy Djilobodji playing one minute – too long in my opinion).

The following defenders however, you could always count on them to become part of the ‘immovable object’.

Let’s get into it. We begin with…

Nine players have take up the right-back berth at Stamford Bridge under the ownership of our Russian billionaire.

All of them have contributed in their own way towards historical moments. But these four just left a little bit more than the others…

CÉSAR AZPILICUETA

Photo Source: @ChelseaFC

Joined – August 2012
Signed from – Marseille (£7m)
Appearances – 323 (Currently)
Goals – 8 (Currently)
Assists – 41 (Currently)

Mr. Consistent. A man for every role. Or simply just…’Dave’.

Cesar Azpilicueta is a managers dream when it comes to wanting a defender who is asked to do one thing… defend. Over the near seven years at the club, Azpilicueta has played in every single role in the back four (or three) and has never let the team down.

Mentioned by many of his team-mates as the ‘perfect professional’, the Spaniard has always given it’s absolute all in every single game he has played for the Blues.

“I think a team with 11 Azpilicuetas could probably win the competition.”

– Jose Mourinho on César Azpilicueta

Best Moment – vs Leicester City (League Cup 3rd Round), Sept 2016

Whilst he has chipped in with the odd goal here or there down the years, no goal has come close to his exquisite volley against Leicester City in the League Cup. Beautifully struck.

Honours
Premier League – 2014-15, 16-17
FA Cup – 2018
League Cup – 2014-15
UEFA Europa League – 2012-13
Chelsea Players’ Player of the Year – 2014

JULIANO BELLETTI

Photo Source: Evening Standard

Joined – August 2007
Signed from – Barcelona (£5.5m)
Appearances – 94
Goals – 5
Assists – 6

Underrated, almost under-appreciated even… Juliano Belletti was one of the shrewdest signings the club has made under the Roman Abramovich tenure.

Able to play in multiple positions, technically sound and an eye for goal – Belletti always added something valuable to every game he played in a Chelsea shirt.

Best Moment – vs Wigan Athletic (Premier League), Nov 2007

A solo run from inside his own half, Belletti went past the Wigan players with ease before hitting a bullet shot from 25 yards out. The goal pretty much summed up what Belletti offered to Chelsea.

Honours
Premier League – 2009-10
FA Cup – 2009, 2010
FA Community Shield – 2009

PAULO FERREIRA

Photo Source: Independent

Joined – June 2004
Signed from – Porto (£13.2m)
Appearances – 217
Goals – 2
Assists – 7

As much as Azpilicueta is Mr. Consistent, Paulo Ferreira was Mr. Dependent.

Never did you see him ever have a bad game. The saying during his time at the club was that he always – at the very least – a 7/10 in every game he played game. That says a lot about Ferreira’s defensive talents.

As much as Mourinho felt he would loved to have 11 Azpilicuetas during his second spell in charge, he would have undoubtedly felt the same way about Ferreira during his first.

Best Moment – vs Man Utd (FA Cup Final), May 2007

No goals or one-off defensive moment to mention here, but his overall performance in the 2007 FA Cup Final showcased what Ferreira gave in a Chelsea shirt, each and every game.

Honours
Premier League – 2004-05, 05-06, 09-10
FA Cup – 2007, 2009, 2010, 2012
League Cup – 2004-05, 06-07
FA Community Shield – 2005
UEFA Champions League – 2011-12
UEFA Europa League – 2012-13

BRANISLAV IVANOVIĆ

Photo Source: Telegraph

Joined – January 2008
Signed from – Lokomotiv Moscow (£9.7m)
Appearances – 377
Goals – 34
Assists – 34

Signed in 2008 from Russian side Lokomotiv Moscow, not many of us knew that much about Branislav Ivanovic when he first joined. At with not making his Chelsea debut until eight months after signing, some worried – along with ‘Branna’ himself – that this signing was going to end up being a flop.

Later admitting that he came very close to leaving, he was encouraged and talk around to stay and fight for his chance. Thank you to those who helped convincing to do so as he went on to become not just the best Right-Back we have had in the Roman Abramovich era, but possibly in the history of our club.

Best Moment – vs Napoli (Champions League Round of 16 2nd Leg), March 2012

Whilst I could have mentioned his brilliant goal against Manchester City, I would have been foolish to not say Napoli, right?

Ivanovic’s incredible goal against the Serie A side, on our way to the promised land of Champions League success was not only his best moment but one of the best moments of Chelsea Football Club as a whole.

This goal on the night and still to this day, means so much.

Honours
Premier League – 2009-10, 14-15, 16-17
FA Cup – 2009, 2010, 2012
League Cup – 2014-15
FA Community Shield – 2009
UEFA Champions League – 2011-12
UEFA Europa League – 2013
PFA Team of the Year – 2009-10, 14-15
UEFA Champions League Team of the Season – 2014-15
UEFA Europa League Final Man of the Match – 2012-13

WHO IS THE NUMBER ONE RIGHT-BACK?

Branislav Ivanović.

Power, aggression, technical ability, immense leadership and a killer eye for goal… Ivanovic would have a been dream signing for any club. Signing for a measly £9.7m, it would cost ten times in today’s transfer market to get a player of his calibre.

And the readers’ poll winner is:

Branislav Ivanović – 66%
(Other results: César Azpilicueta – 27%, Paulo Ferreira – 6%, Juliano Belletti – 1%)

Whilst the other three are very much deserving of being having the right-back spot in the starting line-up, you can’t not have Ivanovic in that role. Brilliant in defence and in attack, he was a nightmare for the opposition and a dream for us.

Ivanovic is the first one to make the back four. Next up, we have…

In the 15+ years since Abramovich took over ownership, twelve players have claimed the left-back position their own. Some have for a few games, some have for a few seasons even.

Four players though (expect surprises here), did more than just simply play at left-back…

CÉSAR AZPILICUETA

Photo Source: Getty Images

Joined – August 2012
Signed from – Marseille (£7m)
Appearances – 322 (Currently)
Goals – 8 (Currently)
Assists – 41 (Currently)

Surprise! Dave is back. Like I mentioned earlier, Azpilicueta has played in every defensive role since joining the club from Marseille in 2012 and has never looked out of place anywhere.

Especially at Left-Back which shocked many when asked to do so initially. He done so well in that role, it convinced the then current manager Jose Mourinho to deem that Ashley Cole’s time at Stamford Bridge had come to an end.

That’s how good he performed there.

Best Moment – vs Leicester City (League Cup 3rd Round), Sept 2016

Honours
Premier League – 2014-15, 16-17
FA Cup – 2018
League Cup – 2014-15
UEFA Europa League – 2012-13
Chelsea Players’ Player of the Year – 2014

WAYNE BRIDGE

Photo Source: Getty Images

Joined – July 2003
Signed from – Southampton (£9.45m)
Appearances – 142
Goals – 4
Assists – 11

Deservedly should have played many more games for Chelsea, but he’s arguably one of the best understudies you could ever ask for.

Sound from a defensive perspective, very good going forward and technically great with pin-point crosses from the left-hand side… Bridge certainly didn’t let down the faithful at the Bridge.

Best Moment – vs Arsenal (Champions League QF 2nd Leg), April 2004

Bridge’s goal against Arsenal in the 2nd leg of the Champions League Quarter-Final was arguably the moment when Chelsea fans’ dreams of unrivalled glory and success, started to feel like reality.

Even though it lead to heartbreak against Monaco in the next round – Bridge’s goal became a catalyst of things to come.

Honours
Premier League – 2004-05
FA Cup – 2007
League Cup – 2006-07

ASHLEY COLE

Photo Source: Telegraph

Joined – August 2006
Signed from – Arsenal (£5m + William Gallas joining Arsenal)
Appearances – 338
Goals – 7
Assists – 38

Best Moment – Every time he played against Cristiano Ronaldo!

Cristiano Ronaldo’s time at Manchester United was very successful one. 99% of left-back he faced ended up having nightmares facing him.

As for Ashley Cole however… he ended up with Ronaldo in his back-pocket.

Honours
Premier League – 2009-10
FA Cup – 2007, 2009, 2010, 2012
League Cup – 2006-07
FA Community Shield – 2009
UEFA Champions League – 2011-12
UEFA Europa League – 2012-13
Chelsea Players’ Player of the Year – 2009, 2011
Chelsea Goal of the Season – 2009-10 (vs Sunderland)
PFA Team of the Year – 2010-11
UEFA Team of the Year – 2010

WILLIAM GALLAS

Photo Source: Daily Express

Joined – May 2001
Signed from – Marseille (£6.2m)
Appearances – 221
Goals – 14
Assists – 6

As much as Cesar Azpilicueta can be applauded and appreciated for playing across the back line with consummate ease, William Gallas can easily say ‘Been there, bough the t-shirt.’

Joining the club from Marseille as a centre-back, Gallas went on to become very comfortable at both right-back and most notably, left-back also.

Just a shame that he’ll be mostly remembered for bitter departure to Arsenal.

Best Moment – vs Tottenham Hotspur (Premier League), March 2006

Scoring the winner.
At home.
In injury time.
Against Tottenham Hotspur.

It doesn’t get better than that.

Honours
Premier League – 2004-05, 05-06
League Cup – 2004-05
FA Community Shield – 2005
PFA Team of the Year – 2002-03, 05-06

WHO IS THE NUMBER ONE LEFT-BACK?

Ashley Cole.

Where do I even begin with Ashley Cole?

Whilst Azpilicueta, Bridge and Gallas all showed how comfortable they are/were playing at left-back, Cole simply was destined for the spot.

A manger’s dream, a teammates’ dream, a fan’s dream. Cole was everything you could ask for from not just a left-back, but as a defender as well.

Incredible reading of the game, heroic goal-line clearances, last-gasp tackles and also never giving every right-sided midfielder and defender a moment’s rest… Ashley Cole will never be matched or possibly will ever be replaced. He was simply that good.

And the readers’ poll winner is:

Ashley Cole – 93%
(Other results: César Azpilicueta – 5%, Wayne Bridge – 1%, William Gallas – 1%)

There was only going to be one choice in the end. Not only was he Chelsea’s best ever left-back, but he was also England’s best too.

And in my honest opinion, he is arguably the best left-back of all time, alongside the legendary greats of Paolo Maldini and Roberto Carlos.

Ashley Cole joins Ivanovic in our back four, with our full-back positions now secured. Arguably the two best we’ve ever had.

Now it’s time to find out who will become our centre-back partnership and thus complete the back four…

23 players have been asked to be the rock of our defence and lead by example in every single game in the Roman Abramovich era. Some have coped, some have faltered (Tal Ben Haim comes to mind).

The following four though, definitely did what was asked of them when called upon. And more even at times…

GARY CAHILL

Photo Source: @ChelseaFC

Joined – January 2012
Signed from – Bolton Wanderers (£7m)
Appearances – 289 (Currently)
Goals – 25 (Currently)
Assists – 7 (Currently)

Known for his technical ability, powerful heading in defence and attack, and excellent tackling… Gary Cahill has always been a more-than reliable centre-back for Chelsea since joining from Bolton over seven years ago.

The current captain can also boast of having an impressive goal-scoring record from defence, which not many can say.

Good levels of distribution, combined with good technical skills and strength to boot – Cahill has been nothing but consistent.

Honours
Premier League – 2014-15, 16-17
FA Cup – 2018
League Cup – 2014-15
UEFA Champions League – 2011-12
UEFA Europa League – 2012-13
PFA Team of the Year – 2013-14, 14-15, 16-17

Best Moment – 2012 Champions League Final (vs Bayern Munich)

Injured, nowhere near 100% fit… Cahill was pretty much wrapped in cotton wool the week leading up to the Final in Munch. But come matchday, you wouldn’t have even noticed that was the case.

Just like every other player that played that night, his performance was nothing short of heroic. Legendary even.

RICARDO CARVALHO

Photo Source: The Times

Joined – July 2004
Signed from – Porto (£20m)
Appearances – 210
Goals – 11
Assists – 6

An awesome defender. Carvalho was simply an incredible centre-back and doesn’t get even recognition and plaudits for how good he was in my opinion.

Technically as sound as other defenders mentioned here (if not more even), reading of the game was scary good and aggression that typified our infamous ‘spine’ that we had for many years, Carvalho was simply awesome to watch.

In my mind, he would be the best centre-back we ever had – if it wasn’t for a certain Englishman…

Best Moment – vs Man Utd (Premier League), April 2006

For a centre-back to have this much technical ability and composure to do this, at the other end of the pitch… says a lot about how good Carvalho simply was.

Honours
Premier League – 2004-05, 05-06, 09-10
League Cup – 2004-05, 06-07
FA Community Shield – 2005, 2009
Chelsea Players’ Player of the Year – 2008

DAVID LUIZ

Photo Source: Daily Mail

Joined – January 2011 & August 2016
Signed from – Benfica (£21.3m + Nemanja Matić joining Arsenal) & PSG (£30m)
Appearances – 235 (Currently)
Goals – 17 (Currently)
Assists – 12 (Currently)

When he joined the club first time round, you could tell we were going to be in for a ride with David Luiz. Whilst showing how incredibly gifted he is with the ball, without it he was… not so much. His performances were either world class or very average. That inconsistency would unfortunately lead to his departure to French giants PSG.

It was a surprise then to see him back at the club for a second spell. Thankfully, his second spell has been a better one. With still being technically gifted with the ball (if not even better since re-joining), his overall defending has also improved leaps and bounds.

Add of all this to his infectious personality, Luiz will always be appreciated at SW6.

Best Moment – 2012 Champions League Final (vs Bayern Munich)

Just like Cahill, Luiz’s best moment in a Chelsea shirt was stopping Bayern Munich from winning the UEFA Champions League.

In their own backyard. Don’t you just love it.

Honours
Premier League – 2016-17
FA Cup – 2012, 2018
UEFA Champions League – 2011-12
UEFA Europa League – 2012-13
PFA Team of the Season – 2016-17

JOHN TERRY

Photo Source: The Sunday Times

Joined – 1994
Signed from – Trainee
Appearances – 717 (Third on the Blues’ all-time appearance list)
Goals – 67 (Club record – most goals scored by a defender)
Assists – 29

Where do I even start with JT?

I could mention his heroic performances against Barcelona, almost giving his life against Arsenal, battles against all the greatest strikers in our generation, the never say die attitude, the passion, the absolute desire to the best there is… I could write about John for as long as his at Chelsea was.

But I’ll sum it up with this.

They say no player is ever bigger than a club. But for Terry, he was Chelsea Football Club.

Captain. Leader. Legend.

Best Moment – vs Barcelona (Champions League Round of 16, 2nd Leg), March 2005

There are so many moments I could have easily mentioned here. But I’ll give you what in my eyes – and for many others also – was his best.

Barcelona, Champions League, 2005. The goal (& performance) summed up what Chelsea meant to JT.

I still get goosebumps to this day watching this…

Honours
Premier League – 2004-05, 05-06, 09-10, 14-15, 16-17
FA Cup – 2000, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2012
League Cup – 2004-05, 06-07, 14-15
FA Community Shield – 2005, 2009
UEFA Champions League – 2011-12
UEFA Europa League – 2012-13
Alan Hardaker Trophy – 2005
Chelsea Player of the Year – 2000-01, 05-06
PFA Player’s Player of the Year – 2004-05
PFA Team of the Year – 2003-04, 04-05, 05-06, 14-15
FIFA FIFPro World XI – 2004-05, 05-06, 06-07, 07-08, 2009
UEFA Club Defender of the Year – 2005, 2008, 2009
UEFA Team of the Year – 2005, 2007, 2008, 2009
PFA Team of the Century (1907-2007) – 2007

WHO IS THE NUMBER ONE CENTRE-BACK?

John Terry.

There was only one choice. I could mention every other centre-back to have played here and all of them combined wouldn’t even come close to John Terry. He is the embodiment of Chelsea Football Club.

The greatest defender and captain to ever grace the Stamford Bridge pitch.

And the readers’ poll winner is:

John Terry – 86%
(Other results: Ricardo Carvalho – 6%, David Luiz – 6%, Gary Cahill – 2%)

Not surprised at all. JT absolutely deserves to be pick your number one centre-back.

Our best ever centre-back and captain.

For both club and country.

THE 25-MAN SQUAD & STARTING LINE-UP

Ivanovic, Carvalho, Terry, Ashley Cole. What an incredible back four that is. Not many defenders or defences are better than those four mentioned (& combined).

MY personal 25-man squad and starting line-up (so far)

As I mentioned that I would only be having seven defenders in my squad as opposed to eight in the readers’ squad, Cesar Azpilicueta would be my sole defensive substitute due to his versatility of being able to play across the back four. As for Gary Cahill and David Luiz, they would be part of making up the rest of the squad.

YOUR personal 25-man squad and starting line-up (so far)

As for the reader’s squad, both Azpilicueta and David Luiz would be on the substitutes’ bench, with both Cahill and Wayne Bridge taking up squad positions.

Join me tomorrow as I reveal who earned the three spots of the unstoppable midfield force in our squads.

• Part 1Intro/The Goalkeepers
• Part 3 – The Midfielders
• Part 4 – The Forwards
• Part 5 – The Squad/Starting Line-Up & The Manager

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