A contribution piece from Matisse Hofer
The debate in the Chelsea community never dies, the divide within voicing strong opinions is something that will always be apparent. A passionate sport that brings out the most indescribable emotions must bring out heated arguments. It’s to be expected.
However, there’s two debates that can be perhaps looked with less passion and more observation from one another’s point of view. Indeed, I am referring to the debate of our starting center backs and starting striker for this upcoming season. Whilst I have my opinions on both these dilemmas, this preseason has highlighted the need to step back and view the other point of view.
Let’s start with the centre-backs.
The competition couldn’t be higher. Never has there been four senior players competing so aggressively for two positions. Granted Rudiger’s injury is a set back for his aspirations in staking a place, but once he returns to full fitness Frank will be eager to see what he can bring to the backline. On a lesser scale quality wise it reminds me of a time where Lampard, Ballack, Essien & Makelele competed for spots in midfield. It’s the competition that breeds good performances. So why the debate?
Well I think it comes down to two main factors. The first being subconsciously many will feel that despite having their preferred options in this debate, we somewhat know all these players aren’t the indestructible players we’ve grown accustom to. Players like John Terry & Ricardo Carvalho were never up for debate or discussion, they were simply ‘too good’. Now holes can be picked in each player’s armour. Chinks and scrapes that stop them from being at the very pinnacle of defenders in world football.
Secondly, depending on the way we all wish Chelsea to play is how we will choose our players for selection. An obvious point that isn’t made often enough. Growing up in different eras, combined with Chelsea’s ever-changing identity on the pitch will always lead to different views on how the game should be played and what aspects and attributes we value more than others. Some may prefer the passing patient possession style others lean towards a defend first mentality.
So, despite my favourites (which I won’t reveal for the purpose of this article), you can sleep with ease with whatever preference you have as all have displayed faults in their game. From Luiz’s concentration to Christensen’s physicality and mentality to come back from errors or poor form. To Zouma’s positioning and Rudiger’s passing range (granted you want to play a possession-based game. They all have their strengths but not one has provided a consistent run of form at the top level, in the same way as a John Terry, Ashley Cole or even Azpilicueta did before his decline in recent seasons.
Onto the strikers and… well, the same applies here. I’m of the opinion that during pre-season and throughout their careers none of them have particularly stood out to me as being of ‘Chelsea level’. From the eldest in Giroud who’s never been a consistent goal scorer, but does possess the technical attributes to contribute to the team. We’ve seen for France how he links up the play and works as a target man/ link up man to feed the runners of Griezmann, Mbappe and co. However, it is yet to be seen if the likes of Callum Hudson-Odoi (currently injured) and Pulisic can be those consistent goal scorers.
With Lampard favouring a pressing style it’s unlikely Giroud fits into his plan A, and may be utilised as a plan B. In terms of Tammy Abraham and Batshuayi neither possess all the attributes to make them a standout candidate for the position. Despite Tammy’s pressing he’s conversion rate for a penalty box striker has been poor in preseason, granted he gets into great positions and forces errors, but strikers will be judged on goals. With Batshuayi, his pressing and link up play let him down which is as he is a very clinical finisher with both feet.
The fanbase is completely split on both these positions and it’s easy to see why. All players involved aren’t indestructible. All raise more questions then answers and the doubts over whether any will reach the very highest level are real concerns. Despite my favourites, your favourites or Lampard’s favourites… It’s a debate that will rumble on throughout the season but one that I hope is viewed as an open discussion. Form will trump all.
Let’s see what happens.