Many a football fan has asked this season; “who is Chelsea’s most important player?”
Names like Fabregas and Costa are the normal responses. However, Chelsea is a team and you can’t have win matches without a great defensive unit at the back, so which player in the Chelsea defensive set up is the most important?
Now, during the summer a common topic was who was going to be between the sticks for Chelsea for the upcoming season - Petr Cech or Thibaut Courtois. That question now has a clear answer with the winner of the battle between the world-class keepers being Courtois, who has played in every Premier league game this season.
Now on to his performances. In seven Premier League games he has achieved an average rating of 6.7 so far this season on WhoScored.com, which signifies that although he has been performing at a good level, he is not at a great level this season. However, on the other hand Courtois has offered unrivalled help to his defenders when defending crosses, where he has achieved an astounding 100% avg. claim success. (Via Squawka.com).
Yet, again another stat lets him down with Courtois only making 1.17 saves per goal, which is reasonably poor for a goalkeeper of his calibre. So, Courtois can be put out of the equation for most important Chelsea defender, but not so much due to a lack in his form, but because of the great form of others.
Cesar Azpilicueta has begun where he left off last season, only this time he is keeping arguably the most complete left back in Europe out of the team in Felipe Luis. He has astounding defensive prowess yet again this season winning 60% of his tackles and 55% of his aerial duels, both great stats for the Spaniard who is constantly under pressure from some of the best wingers in the country.
Yet, it is his lack of defensive errors which forms his key stat, as he also shows great consistency through the fact that he is yet to make a single defensive error throughout this entire season.
Next, is Branislav Ivanovic who has surprised many by hugely stepping up his attacking success this season, with him already having scored two goals, making him the joint 2nd highest Chelsea PL scorer this season and also creating 11 key passes this season already. Combine this with his similarly impressive defensive statistics where he has a 72% avg. tackle success rate and a 63% avg. headed duel success rate. He also has made zero defensive errors, meaning he meets and outperforms Azpilicueta in basically all departments. Meaning Ivanovic wins the battle of the full backs.
Now onto Gary Cahill in central defence whose partnership with John Terry was almost impenetrable last season. He has received an average rating of 6.98 throughout this season, representing a very healthy start to the 2014-15 season. His defensive statistics are mostly impressive as he has won 60% of his aerial duels this season and also not made any defensive errors.
Yet, Cahill’s downfall is his extremely poor tackling success rate of just 35%, suggesting that Cahill’s decision making on whether or not to tackle has been poor so far this season.
Finally it is the legend himself, John Terry, who has been the centre piece in the Blues defence for a number of years now. However, his average rating of 6.87 is 0.12 lower than Cahill, which could suggest that Cahill has been playing better than Terry so far this season.
In contrast to this Terry has actually had the better defensive display as has achieved a tackle rate of 69% and an aerial duel win rate of 68%, implying that Terry has made better decisions than Cahill on which situations he should try and turnover possession in. Yet, if you delve further into the statistics you will find that Terry has surprisingly made two defensive errors this season, which both led to attempts on goal. This shows that while Terry has been mainly consistent this season, he is prone to a few lapses in concentration, as he is the only defender to have made any defensive errors this season, let alone two.
The best Chelsea defender so far
And the winner is… Branislav Ivanovic! He has incorporated an attacking element into his game, scoring two goals already this season, while also maintaining his natural prowess in defence at the same time. Ivanovic has made zero defensive errors this season, which was a big factor in not making John Terry number 1.
If Ivanovic can keep up this sort of form for the entirety of the season, then we could well be seeing Branislav in the BPL team of the season come the end of the sporting year.