For the majority of viewers, Kevin de Bruyne’s starting place in Chelsea’s midfield in the second half of Super Sunday was a surprise given that Michael Essien, a semi-fit Juan Mata and possible attacking midfield option Andre Schurrle were left on the bench.
It was the Belgian’s first appearance in the Premiership but he looked like a veteran, especially as a part of the system Mourinho has decided to play with this season. De Bruyne constantly interchanged with Hazard and Oscar in the 4-2-3-1 formation deployed at Stamford Bridge. While it was a good team move that created the opening goal, it was De Bruyne’s incisive pass that set Oscar through to beat Allan McGregor. He looked at ease with Hazard and Oscar which formed a potent trio.
The emergence of De Bruyne, who was suspected to be loaned out before the start of the season, simply adds to the plethora of quality midfielders the Chelsea boss has to choose from. It is by far the best in the Premier League both in terms of first choice class and strength in depth.
Take the five that started on Saturday for example.
Ramires, for me, is supremely underrated. His engine is second to none and for a relatively small player, his power and drive on the ball is very impressive. He was installed in a more defensive role on Sunday and his ability to break up play and protect the back-line was revealed, an ideal fit for a holding midfielder. Although if needed he can be used out wide or in another role; a very useful utility to have.
There was much speculation over Frank Lampard’s future before Mourinho was confirmed as Chelsea manager. The ‘chosen one’ quickly persuaded Lampard to stay and, with a slightly altered role for the Englishman, seems to be a decision which has benefited his midfield selection.
In a slightly deeper position, Lampard supplied the front line and scored a typically eye-catching free-kick to round off an excellent performance. He may not start every game but the options available to replace him are excellent if need be.
De Bruyne was able to contribute well on his debut and looks like he is set to do so for the rest of the season if his performance against Hull was anything to go by.
The first season in the Premiership is notoriously difficult for foreign talents to come in and hit the ground running. Eden Hazard and Oscar are now both starting their second campaigns in England’s top flight and having impressed in patched last year, look set to light up the Premier League. Having adapted to the style of football, I can see both Hazard and Oscar supplying an excess of assists and a glut of goals.
Out with the starting line up on Sunday, Chelsea also have an abundance of options, some of which could/should be weekly starters in most Premiership teams.
Juan Mata is quite simply world class, simple as that. When fully fit he will almost certainly be in the starting 11 for Mourinho and could grace almost any team in the world.
David Luiz, while seen mainly as a central defender, can be played in a defensive midfield role. A position which, I argue, best suits his qualities. He is enigmatic and prone to mistakes at the back and leaving the defence bare when going on adventurous darts forward. As a defensive midfielder, he has a good reading of the game and can break up play effectively whilst also supplementing the attack with a decent range of passing and link up play.
Michael Essien may perhaps be past his physical peak and footballing best but he is still an extremely talented player. Set out as a right back under Mourinho at Madrid, his days of dominating midfields may be over for the most part but his power and drive is unquestionable and could certainly more than fill in given injury or suspension.
John Obi Mikel, for me, has been playing above his level for a long time. However, he is not a bad squad player to have and an extremely adequate back up for the first choice defensive midfielders.
Andre Schurrle may be mostly billed as a striker but under the 4-2-3-1 system Mourinho employs it seems he will be most utilised as an attacking midfielder with the lone striker role likely to be filled by another. It is early days yet, but 11 Bundesliga goals last year and seven in 24 appearances for Germany indicates a promising potential.
The above options don’t even take into account the talent out on loan or promising youngsters in the Chelsea academy. Twenty-year-old Marco van Ginkel came on as a substitute late on against Hull and is highly rated at Stamford Bridge. Fellow youngsters Gael Kakuta and Oriol Romeu are out on season long loans with Marco Marin also away on loan until June 2014.
With such a strong midfield in terms of quality and a vigorous strength in depth, it won’t be in midfield where Chelsea fall flat this season.
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