The problem with Chelsea’s central midfield was ascertained last summer by the team management, as depicted by the  unsuccessful pursuit of Luka Modric. Tottenham rejected the last bid of £33m plus Alex and the problem remained for the whole of last season. The problem was in the transition from defence to attack, which was often slow and less purposeful. Furthermore, there were occasions such as the FA Cup final against Liverpool when the midfield failed to regain control and thwart the onslaught from the opposition in the second half. It’s a different matter that in the later stages of the competitions Chelsea won last season, the sheer determination of players saw through to the pinnacle of club football.

After some heavy spending in the recently concluded transfer window, many will feel that Chelsea have again failed to address this issue. Moreover, by loaning Michael Essien and selling Raul Meireles, they haven’t helped matters either. The Blues are left with Lampard, Mikel, Ramires, Romeu and Oscar to feature in the double pivot of the 4-2-3-1 formation or in the three-man midfield in case the 4-3-3 system makes a comeback. Ergo, a central midfield addition seems likely in the January transfer window; if not, then certainly next summer. However, the next purchase will depend on three players presently on Chelsea’s payroll – Oscar dos Santos, Oriol Romeu Vidal and Joshua McEachran.

How Oscar Adjusts

After signing from  Internacional for over £20m, Oscar has featured for Chelsea as a substitute in most matches leading up to now. He has featured in the third band of attack, but when Roberto di Matteo found his team trailing against Reading, he moved the Brazilian to a deep midfield position in the double-pivot. Glimpses of his promise and vast potential have been witnessed when he has exchanged passes with Hazard and Mata in the final third or when he has dropped deeper to retrieve the ball. Yet, he has appeared nervous occasionally, often giving away the ball to opponents.

Soon I will adapt, start playing well and I will conquer my space naturally. I’m sure of that. It was well at Inter and Chelsea will be too. It will not take much in a month will be adjusted and will play as a starter. I’m big on stage, I’m fine. You can see by training. Against Wigan – even entering the second half, playing 30 minutes, it was good. Of course it’s very strong competition, but I also show my football. It would be in the position of Lampard. Di Matteo spoke and said that one of my strengths will be playing there. But playing in the position of Mata also open game, he knows it. It’s a smart coach. Chelsea have not only I, but other versatile players“, said Oscar.

Oscar is a two-footed player whose strength primarily lies in his unbelievable passing range. He keeps his head up at all times, evaluates all possible options, before delivering a pass that is most likely to be completed or that will result in a better opportunity for a team-mate. His off the ball movement, a willingness to track back and win the ball back to build attacks from deeper positions and help the defence by closing down opponents add to the belief that he’s capable of controlling games from midfield.

The fact that Chelsea were willing to invest heavily in him today indicated that the club hierarchy considered him to be a younger and cheaper alternative to Luka Modic. It will be interesting to keep an eye on him from here on; how he plays, how well he adjusts to life in English football and where the manager plays him. Frankly speaking, di Matteo doesn’t really have too many options but to play Oscar whenever he decides to leave out Lampard from the starting line-up.

How Much Romeu Plays

Andre Villas-Boas isn’t remembered fondly for most of the things he did at Chelsea during his reign last season. However, one act of his certainly has the potential to become one of the best bits of business done by the club in the Roman Abramovich era. The Portuguese manager wanted to sign Oriol Romeu for Porto but couldn’t, so when the opportunity to bring the young Spaniard presented itself last summer, he wasted no time in bringing the defensive midfielder to Stamford Bridge from Barcelona for around £4m.

Oriol is solidario. He never abandons his team-mates. He reaches every corner and covers every gap. He gives balance in the middle, allowing the rest to construct with freedom, and he goes into challenges strongly and decisively. He enjoys winning the ball back and pressuring the opposition. Sometimes, though, he is hasty in the transition of the ball“, said Martí Perarnau, a keen observer of La Masia and its graduates.

Oriol Romeu positional discipline and tactical awareness belies his tender years. He is fast, decisive and tackles cleanly. Romeu started quite often for Chelsea last season and was brilliant to say the least against Valencia and Manchester City. The 20-year old midfielder didn’t appear overwhelmed by the situation mostly; the only blemish on his brief Chelsea career was the game against Manchester United, wherein the club failed to protect a massive three-goal lead. Villas-Boas was soon fired by Chelsea and Romeu rarely started thereafter.

There are quite a few reasons why the former Barcelona midfielder saw so little game-time under di Matteo; the form shown by John Obi Mikel was perhaps the most crucial of them. He was injured on more than one occasion and his fitness was a concern. The game against United may have also led the manager to believe that he isn’t ready yet for bigger battles and under di Matteo, battles came thick and fast last season. There were whispers that because he was an ‘AVB signing‘, he was being ostracized by the new regime; a laughable reason if one merely considered how often Juan Mata played.

One reason, however, may be perhaps true. It is widely believed that Barcelona have a buy-back option on the midfielder for two seasons; the Catalans could have re-signed him for €10m this summer can can still sign him for €15m next year. With Mikel performing well, Chelsea may have preferred to keep Romeu under the radar, leading up to the transfer season. Barcelona did indeed sign a defensive midfielder – Alex Song from Arsenal. Hypothetical, but certainly not unbelievable.

The fact that both Meireles and Essien were allowed to leave does indicate that the management believes in Romeu. Chelsea can’t help but play him this season, albeit occasionally, as he is the only proper defensive midfielder within their ranks after Mikel and the club has to play in several competitions. It remains to be seen how often does he really feature in the blue of Chelsea.

How McEachran Develops

He was the darling of Stamford Bridge, with fans cheering on his every touch. Things looked perfect; fans hoped that after another season of playing from the bench, he’d become a starter for Chelsea. A new star has been born, they said. However, in life as in football, a downturn is just around the corner, when people least expect it.

Andre Villas-Boas replaced Carlo Ancelotti. Under him, Joshua started merely three Carling Cup matches and was substituted in each of them, in addition to two brief cameo appearances late on in the Premier League. By then, despite the less than adequate playing time, the weakness in McEachran’s game was clear. In addition to his frail built, he was poor defensively and his defensive positional sense wasn’t anything to write home about either. Just as comfortable he was in possession, equally lost he appeared to be when the opposition had the ball.

At a tender age of 18, a player is still developing howsoever highly rated he may be, so such flaws in Josh’s game were nothing to be too worried about. With the right guidance and decent playing time, they’d have been ironed out of his game. This is when Chelsea decided to ship him to Swansea for the second half of the season, to play under former academy coach Brendon Rodgers. However, the move turned out to be a disaster, as he couldn’t displace Britton, Allen and Sigurdsson from the first eleven.

After evaluating the pros and cons of another loan move, the Chelsea hierarchy decided to send him out on loan yet again – this time to Middlesbrough in the Championship, with guaranteed playing time being the definite priority. And, he has begun well. Josh has established himself as a first-choice starter for Tony Mowbray’s team, on the back of some fine performances in his first three games in the Championship. His passing has been marvellous, but that’s what we’ve come to expect from McEachran. The coaching staff at Chelsea would, however, be more interested in finding out how he does does defensively. In two of three games, he was quite disciplined and showed some good positional sense, but against Crystal Palace, he conceded a penalty and was quite average without the ball.


If Romeu doesn’t feature enough or if he doesn’t play particularly well, signing a defensive midfielder will become the priority. If Oscar takes time to settle into a deeper role or if he’s played further ahead on the pitch rather than primarily as a substitute to Lampard, the club will sign a passing central midfielder, with the ability to control the tempo of the game. However, if both the players in question, and also McEachran, do well, the club may still sign a central midfielder, but he’d be of a different breed. Maybe someone who loves playing against Manchester United and has hair to rival that of David Luiz.

  • stemao

    Fellani on ur mind

  • cfc86

    There is no doubt that Mikel’s form was good at the tail end of last season. But the formation Chelsea played, a tight defensive formation, where his teammates were all around him, made it quite easy for Mikel to pass and put in a tackle. He had teammates all around to pressure opponents and allow him to make the tackle, and to make a short pass.

    Mikel is not consistent, two games does not make a player world class, consistency does. Mikel is the ‘Lucas’ of Chelsea. Deluded Liverpool fans praise Lucas for a few good games even though he is pretty average. It’s the same with Chelsea fans, there are deluded ones. Why do you think no club has ever come in for him? Nobody wants him.
    If you watch Mikel in matches where Chelsea play a normal attacking formation, he just slows the play down, stops any potential attack the team is trying to create and he allows the opposition to run at him and past him very easily.

    Romeu didn’t get a starting berth by accident, he proved in a couple of months that he can fill the Makelele role, something Mikel couldn’t prove in six years.

    Oscar on the other hand can play next to someone like Romeu and bring the ball from deep, like he did numerous times for Brazil in the Olympics. He has the legs, unlike Lampard, who still has alot to offer though.

    • Mac

      CFC 86. Dude I completely disagree with you. you are expected to perform in a certain way when you play as footballer. As DM , Mikel was asked to play the way he is playing. Likewise every player is assigned a role and responsibility. If everyone does their job perfectly , there is no need of panic in chelsea midlefield. Our midlefield is not synchining not because of mikel but because of many combined complex issues. Our defence, coaching policy attck. SO you cannot really complain him. He always gives his 100% and plays above average in game

    • Leo

      I think Mikel has been one of the most consistent Chelsea players. He doesnt really have much flare in his game and obviously doesnt score and I think that’s what makes people undervalue his work. I personally would like to see him go forward some times, as I was really impressed by his performance against Newcastle. But that all depends on who plays with him in the double pivot. Another thing I’ve found is that people also nitpick his game a lot looking for flaws. I can bet that if he were a goalscoring midfielder he would be appreciated more.

  • Aaron Lewis

    Good article…i agree with most of the points but you have not mentioned Ramires who could also be considered to play in his preferred natural central position for chelsea…thats where he played when he was at Benfica…he is definately an option for RDM to play alongside Mikel or Romeu…if he does get a chance the move could prove very effective for Chelsea

  • Emmanuelonwe

    Chelsea should pls give chance to players like Remou to prove themself.

  • Jimmy

    To me lampard is typical old english game player, a workholic type..sometimes doubt his technical and tactical ability…look at the supercup game he messed up the whole team…moving up to the attackin positions leaving alot space behind and di mateo never looked like he noticed that. Agree ramires can do better than lampard although di matteo seems not to like him..sabstitutes him more often..

  • Irhivboje

    i think lampard should be rested for @ least a month…he is nt performing that much

  • Emekaj1

    One thing I have found out about Mikel, is that he is a very diciplined footballer, he sticks to the instructions of the Coach. If everyone becomes that diciplined, our great club will be the best in epl.

  • Marc CFC/BKK

    Mikel is underrated and a good DM, but can sometimes be at a loss in full attacking tactics as cfc86 states. I do still rate him as starter ahead of Romeu for now, yes Romeu has the ability to become a better more rounded DM than Mikel but needs time and I agree with the suspicion that he’s being held back a bit to keep Barca’s buy back away. Ramires is top class in a 433 but needs work in the 4231 pivot next to a DM, with work though, I think he can do it. Though, I would love to see Oscar develop in that role, again with time. I think Oscar can offer so so much. All in all though, I think you’re right with the article, this group of players together with Lampard and plus Ramires will be rotated and the outcome will determine who/whether we buy further midfield additions in Jan and Josh’s development at Boro could effect that.

  • azuoma reginald chidumaga kelvin

    b4 u tlk anytin about mikel and romeu u tink about dr past games, durin the time of AVB mikel was playin 5n and chelsea wr winning nd playin 5n also at a time AVB stp playin startd wit romeu didnt u c wat happen? Chelsea startd drawing matches nd loosin like mad, hr comes RDM our seviou, mikel startd playin wat happen ask ur self question, mikel keeps ball 4 ground 4 our opponent 2 cum out k

  • Mikel is a very good and blessed player but d guy do fuck up at time with his sluggish movement,but talk of of our DM there is no better player n our squard than mikel coz he gives everythn he could and he play with all his mind4chelsea

  • Roy

    Mikel has had so many opportunities that better players can only dream of-he simply does bring enough to the the team in any form-all we are doing is wasting time and points by not bringing in a more allround accomplished player and Romeu is also not the answer

    • Leo

      Mikel came to Chelsea too young at 17 or so, won young player of the year in his first season. At the time he was one of the most sought after midfielders around. Unfortunately my beloved Chelsea is not know for developing youngsters & with the likes of Makalele, Ballack, Lampard, Essien & co all ahead of him there wasnt really that much opportunity. He’s also had 7 managers since he came to chelsea &for a young player I doubt if that was helpful to his game. In recent years he’s been a favorite for many managers, so he’s got to be doing something right. DM is the least of Chelsea’s problems, there are other areas that need to be looked in & not Mikel’s position. I think Romeu is also quite solid but obviously not ready for the big games as we saw in the ManU game last season, but he has the talent & can start against lesser opposition. Mikel’s used the opportunity he’s been given quite well imo, and I think he’s now beginning to shine.

  • Ignatious maturure

    Romeu is the best than Mikel.

  • hillary w

    mmmmh!not very bad indded

  • I don’t know d reason why some fans hate mikel so much. He has came under scrutiny most times unjustly. He is a loyal chelsea servant dat does anytin dat d coach wants from him. He is very pivotal in our champions league winning and Fa cup double last season. I can remember on few occassions dat both Lamps and Jt give d lad praises and saying that they (d players) know d kind of work dat he always do 4 d team. He is a complete player dat gives cover to defence. Haven’t u noticed dat chelsea dont concede much goals weneva mikel is playing. Please his critics should let d lad be and stop criticising him unjustly because its unfair. Though he has his own fault as d same with every chelsea players. Nobody is above mistake. He is a fantastic player.

  • all you talking about mikel,what about others milfield we have…….mikel is the best among them you beter dont allow mikel to go for injury and you see hell chelsea face,he know is job not like lampard that we left his position and go for goals and cause sheet for chelsea and also davidd luis am telling cahil is beter and calm

  • i believ what my chelsea need is not what he think but to keep using bethrand afront cole;let mikel stick to his role(this was part of d prob exprsd against ath.mad,bicos mikel left that place),lampard should become ‘giggs’ super sub.

  • Jason

    I think once the CM situation is sorted out, Chelsea will be very strong. To me, Lampard is the weak part of the team right now, when he starts they seem a bit disorganized. I wish he could just stop going forward so much as he is not that fast, sometimes he is even ahead of the front 3 just blocks up space. The Atletico Super cup was the worst match I’ve seen him play & hopefully Di Matteo can get this sorted out. I think he still has a lot to contribute at Chelsea with his experience & leadership qualities but definitely should not start every match. I believe Oscar is the missing puzzle. Meireles really impressed in the Newcastle match but for some reason he’s been sold & Essien is at RealMadrid. So Oscar hopefully will be paired with Mikel in the pivot & I can see a solid team. Mikel is very reliable and has been excellent, I just feel that he has been doing the work of two midfielders for the past few games as Lamps has not not been disciplined enough. A pairing of Mikel & Romeu I think will come in handy for some games too. If RDM can just find a way to manage Lampard and the rest of the midfield intelligently, we could have a really good season ahead.

  • mikel is a fine a/m player b/4 special one converted him to d/m .but have u asked ur self,why every other coach after muo always used him.because he kepted to instructions from the coachs.though he has his short comings like every other cfc86 said no club has asked after him.if chelsea put him up sale u will see his admairers.cfc86! pls give him a is d color.

  • Bafarious

    Lampard out,RDM. Fellaini in.

  • Mohd.Bello umar

    I quite agree with the analises except that not signing a world class holding midfielder is suicidal:that is clearly the case against atletico madrid!

  • Lohan

    I’ve seen a lot of people shortening words like “d” etc. Can you write properly so that people can read your comments. What’s the point writing comments that not many people especially those not from your area can understand? Thanks.

  • abaka

    u pple are missing out someone in that mildfiled and that person is kelvin de brunyen abeg make una analysize am 4 me about his role and performers