When Branislav Ivanovic first arrived at Chelsea from Lokomotiv Moscow in 2008, the image that preceded his arrival was one of a steely, no nonsense defender in the mould of compatriot Nemanja Vidic.
Over six feet of hulking Serbian muscle offered the impression that Ivanovic was a player who directly contrasted the attack-minded style of Glen Johnson. That may have been the case then, when Avram Grant was the man in the Chelsea dugout, but it’s certainly not the case any longer.
Good form continues
Another eye-catching performance during today’s draw with Burnley further reinforced the idea - if it needed reinforcing - that the 30-year-old has become an invaluable member of Jose Mourinho’s league-topping squad, and his goal, which ultimately earned Chelsea a point, was the cherry on the cake.
It was a striker’s finish from Ivanovic as he swept home after Eden Hazard had served a ball to the six-yard line on a silver platter, but his all round involvement - save perhaps for the booking he picked up for literally trying to prevent the red card being shown to Nemanja Matic - was first-class.
There was a strong shout for a penalty when his shot from outside the area struck the arm of Burnley’s Michael Kightly in the first-half, and more than once he whipped dangerous balls into the box only for his teammates to fail to capitalise.
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Epitomised by a Gary Neville-style approach to his game, Ivanovic is probably the least flashiest member of Chelsea’s setup. It’s rare to see him jinxing about the opponent's area, and yet he manages to find himself in key positions time and again, as was evidenced so perfectly by his equaliser against PSG mid-week.
That’s not to say he’s lost any of his defensive diligence. Far from it. Serving on the right-hand side of a water-tight Chelsea back-line he’s proven to be a formidable asset, and as a result there can be little debate as to whether or not Mourinho might consider perhaps moving him inside to a central position when John Terry eventually steps down from playing duties.
To boast such a player lends the Blues a huge advantage when they face sides who excel in areas out wide, and Ivanovic’s consistency means that there’s rarely an off-day to worry about. The fixture against Burnley today may leave Chelsea players with a bitter-taste in their mouths, but the man in question can keep his head held high.
During Mourinho’s first stint in charge he reinforced the right-back position by purchasing Paulo Ferreira. It’s safe to assume the man he inherited this time around will forego the necessity for a repeat dip into the market for a good while yet.