With Chelsea being linked to a slew of players in the last few days, it has become very difficult to ascertain who their real targets are. We here, at TheHardTackle, try to analyse their interest in two of the players they have been linked with.
There was a time, under Carlo Ancelotti, when Chelsea didn’t even have a solitary player who could play in the hole and make the charming Italian’s favorite formation work. From Frank Lampard to Nicolas Anelka – many players were auditioned for the role, but no one was able to stake a claim and make the position his own. The Chelsea blueprint of the last decade, legend of the 4-3-3, didn’t require such a player; it didn’t require a creative, centrally-positioned, attacking midfielder.
Out went Carlo, in came Andre – and, with him a certain Juan Mata. The petite Spaniard immediately endeared himself to the terraces at Stamford Bridge with his flair, skills, creativity, and his affable smile. Suddenly, the West London club had a type of player people weren’t accustomed to seeing in the blue of Chelsea; at least not since the departure of Gianfranco Zola.
That seems a long time ago. Today, apart from Juan Mata, Chelsea have Eden Hazard and Marko Marin; players capable of playing across the third band, behind the centre forward.
So, why would Chelsea be interested in bringing another central attacking midfielder – 20 year old Brazilian Oscar – by paying upwards of £20m to Internacional? Things don’t add up, do they?
They do, because Oscar isn’t another central-attacking midfielder who can play or the wings, or a winger who can double up centrally. He promises more. Much more, in fact.
He can play in a wide position, but isn’t known for his speed. He can play centrally behind the striker, but his strength is neither his finishing nor is he a flamboyant showman determined to mesmerize the world with his skills and trickery. He, on the other hand, is a simple footballer who shows maturity beyond his tender years, and is considered to be fundamentally and technically most complete player to emerge from Brazil.
After analyzing his performances for the Brazilian team and thoroughly reading a gem of an article, it’s clear why Chelsea would be so interested in adding him to the roaster. 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. It’s not that he can’t deliver a magical through ball or take opponents out by virtue of a measured long ball; there’s enough proof that he can, but he prefers to keep things simple. His off the ball movement, a willingness to track back and win the ball back to build attacks from deeper positions and help the defense by closing down opponents add to the belief that he’s capable of controlling games from midfield.
The fact that Chelsea are willing to invest heavily in him today indicates that the club hierarchy considers him to be a younger and cheaper alternative to Luka Modic; well, the promise is certainly there. Although it’s true that Oscar has predominantly featured further up the pitch in his short career thus far, the skill-set that he brings to the table can see him settle into the role of a deep-lying playmaker or a central midfielder by the time he reaches the peak of his career in five years time.
His addition to the team would mean that another midfielder won’t arrive at Stamford Bridge this summer in all likelihood, but that’d still leave a couple of areas on the pitch which need reinforcement. One of them being the position of a right-back. With that, we come to the second question.
Who is Cesar Azpilicueta?
Cesar is a 23-year old right-back who play for Marseille, having signed for the Ligue 1 side from Osasuna in 2010.
With Jose Bosingwa released and with Paulo Ferreira not being a dependable-enough back-up for the only right-back in the team, Branislav Ivanovic, who incidently is also 4th choice centre-back at Chelsea, it’s all but certain that Roberto di Matteo will add a right-back to the squad.
Chelsea were in the running for Maicon, who would have been an astute purchase had it gone through, but apparently there was a disagreement regarding the tenure of the Brazilian’s contract which didn’t let the deal materialize. Now, it is believed that Cesar is a £7m target for the Blues.
Presently, the available options for right-back in the market are very limited; other players being Mathieu Debuchy of Lille, Lukasz Piszczek of Borussia Dortmund and Gregory van der Wiel of Ajax. Out of them, only Piszczek is definitely a better player than the Marseille man. However, the 27 year-old Polish right-back is in the prime of his career and wouldn’t be too keen in spending any time on the bench, which is most likely to be the case in the presence of Ivanovic. Moreover, unless Chelsea put in a substantial bid, Dortmund aren’t likely to part ways with their player who was a vital part of their league winning side last season.
After evaluating all aspects, Azpilicueta looks to be the best option for Chelsea.
At 23 years of age, he is yet to reach his peak and for £7m, the signing wouldn’t be too much of a gamble for the club. If he fails, the club can cut their losses and sell him for a slightly lesser fee. If he succeeds, he anyway has more than one contract in him.
Cesar is fairly solid defensively. He averaged 2.4 tackles, 2.7 interceptions and 2.9 clearances per game last season. He is good positionally, but there’s still some scope of improvement as far as interceptions are concerned, but his tackling is quite impressive. Offensively, he is quite fast with an enviable engine. The best aspect of his game is, however, his passing. The fact that he started off as a midfielder at Osasuna may have played a defining role here. His crosses are better than Bosingwa’s, but that wouldn’t be a good enough yardstick to measure his ability, would it? Anyway, on the whole, Azpilicueta looks like a good buy for Chelsea.
The addition of a younger right-back in Cesar may, however, make the Chelsea fans uncomfortable because of the presence of Todd Kane, a top prospect to have come out of the academy. But, what they must understand is that between the 28-year old Ivanovic and the 18-year old Kane, a 23-year old Azpilicueta is required to ease the transition.