180 minutes can be a long, long time in football. Just ask Branislav Ivanovic.
In a game where heroes can be established with one kick of the ball the amount of time that spans two whole matches allows for plenty to be digested.
In fact, it seems, 180 minutes can serve up enough evidence to call into question the ability of a player who was unquestionably fantastic across 38 Premier League games last season.
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Ivanovic past his best?
It may seem naive to peg Ivanovic as ‘past it’ just two games into the new campaign, but the recent wave of criticism levelled at his performances against Swansea City and Manchester City would infer that it’s potentially the case.
Perhaps it’s that the Serbian international is usually the most consistent player in Chelsea’s starting XI. Perhaps it’s just that he has genuinely been off the mark recently.
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In any case, the idea that 180 minutes is enough time in which to condemn him as having de-evolved as a footballer over the course of the summer is foolish, nay ludicrous.
The 31-year-old remains one of the most resolute and bullish defenders in Europe, and unless he has truly lost all sense of how to be an accomplished right-back - admittedly such a fall from grace has befallen players before - he’s sure to be the snarling bulldog on the right hand side of Mourinho’s back four very soon.
Unfortunately for Ivanovic, his so-called loss of form has coincided with the emergence of speculation over his future. Recent reports have it said that the club have yet to offer him a new deal, translated by some as being the kindling that could spark a transfer fight between a host of other clubs for his signature.
Naturally it’s pretty far from being panic mode for those who want Ivanovic to stay at the club, but whilst there remains doubt in the form of him not being tied to Chelsea past next summer - when his current contract expires - story hounds will always exploit it.
For me the matter is fairly simple; Mourinho has to offer Ivanovic a new contract soon.
The only valid reason the Special One would have for not doing so is that he potentially harbours reservations over the former Lokomotiv Moscow man’s longevity in his Chelsea side.
It’s safe to assume though that Mourinho is far too smart to be ensnared by those using Ivanovic’s two appearances thus far as proof that he should be chopped.
Of course there remains the possibility that the player will want more assurance than the club can given him at this stage. Chelsea protocol insists that those over 30 are subject to yearly renewals, and it might occur to Ivanovic that he would get more of a guarantee elsewhere.
That, however, would imply that he is something other than perfectly happy at Stamford Bridge. Last year he was arguably the unsung hero of their Premier League-winning campaign, and unless his form on the pitch continues to spiral downwards it’s safe to assume he’s content as one of the first names on Mourinho’s team-sheet.
Deal has to be done
In any case Chelsea would be fools to let the contract struggle - if indeed it can be labelled as such - play out any longer than it needs to.
There won’t be any clubs, on the European scene or otherwise, that have bought into the notion that Ivanovic is past his best after 180 minutes of post-summer-break football. If the Blues leave it too late they might end up causing themselves a multitude of problems.
Chelsea fans, should Ivanovic be offered a new deal? Do you think he’s lost ‘it’? Let us know your thoughts on the matter in the comments box below.