Branislav Ivanovic needs to change role on return from injury

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At the beginning of the season, few predicted the disintegration of last season's runaway champions.

The team lost only three games in the league last season and have already lost four games in their opening eight league fixtures. The team has been lacking at both ends of the pitch, but it is the defence that has come under the most scrutiny.

One name that has taken a particular hammering from fans and pundits alike is that of Branislav Ivanovic.


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The Chelsea stalwart has been a consistent performer in his time at Chelsea, winning two league titles, three FA Cups, a League Cup, a Europa League and of course, the famous Champions League. Strong and reliable the Serb has rarely had a bad game prior to the start of the new season. Since then his form has declined dramatically. Opposition teams have targeted the full-back, causing Chelsea all sorts of problems down their right-hand side.

This began on the opening day of the season when Swansea winger Jefferson Montero ran Ivanovic ragged for 90 minutes. The result of this has been that other teams have followed suit with even League One Walsall targeting the right back as an area of weakness in an underperforming Chelsea back line.

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His most recent display in a home defeat to Southampton, although not the only liability on the day, has done little to quell the theory that he may be finished at Chelsea. This is not necessarily the case.

This year it would appear the Serbian has lost a yard of pace. At 31-years-old, Ivanovic can expect his physical ability to diminish naturally, however for it to happen this rapidly would suggest underlying issues exist.

As an established right back in the Chelsea team for seven years, Ivanovic has rarely missed a game. This has caused him to look physically and mentally exhausted on the pitch.

As non-professionals, we often find it difficult to accept the notation of tiredness in footballers who we perceive to work 1-2 days a week, for only 90 minutes. However, the evidence is clear that footballers, who in reality are training for hours (both on the pitch and in the gym) most days of a week, do experience fatigue.

Ivanovic looks not only bereft of pace, but also shot of confidence. His persistence to back away from wingers, in order to try and avoid being beaten on the dribble, has left space in and around the Chelsea defence all season.

So, when on international duty Branislav Ivanovic pulled up with a muscular injury, many Chelsea fans breathed a sigh of relief, some even celebrated. This is unfair on Ivanovic who has given his all for Chelsea Football Club for seven years and won most of the game's prestigious club competitions.

However, it could be a blessing in disguise for Ivanovic. Such is his character that Ivanovic would, no doubt, rather be on the pitch proving his doubters wrong. Unfortunately, the truth is that this is unlikely to improve his form, he needs this rest.

This will allow him to concentrate on mentally and physically refreshing before returning to the side return and fighting for his place. Personally, I see his future lying at the heart of the defence. His leadership potential and character has seen Mourinho hand him the responsibility of being Chelsea vice-captain. It is for this reason that he seems the most capable player to step into the shoes of John Terry, who's long-term future remains unclear due to his own faltering form.

Steely, determined, good in the air and in the tackle, Ivanovic was born a centre-half and has done a remarkable job in transforming himself into one of Europe's best right-backs over the last few years. However, in the modern game, I do not believe Ivanovic has the technical ability to supply crosses to Chelsea's frontmen in the way that a Baba Rahman or Azpilicueta could do.

Ivanovic's time at Chelsea is far from over. Fans love to see new players, especially young players, but the experience and character of senior players such as Ivanovic cannot be underestimated.

He is still a massive player for Chelsea. Hopefully, this enforced break can allow him to capture the form that has made him so formidable.

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