You don’t know what you have until you lose it.

September, 2010: Away at Manchester City, a 23-year old new signing was dismissed as a failure even before the player had learned to speak a complete sentence in English, not to mention settling in England. In the Chelsea midfield, a diminutive Brazilian was no match for a monster in the form of Yaya Toure, who pushed, shoved, and brushed off the young midfielder from his way, before feeding the ball to Carlos Tevez for the only goal of the game. As evinced in that incident and the match, the player continued to struggle to adapt to the physical nature of the Premier League. The media’s proclamations of doom notwithstanding, unimpressed fans didn’t mince any words either in branding him a mistake – and an A?18 million one at that.

January, 2012: Today, that all seems a long, long time ago. Between then and now, that player, Ramires, has not only settled in England but is what makes the Chelsea midfield tick.

Who, or rather what, is Ramires?

Football is full ofAi??uncertainties; and, that’s what makes it such a joyful ride. However, there remain certain things on which you can bet your life on. One of them is that Ramires will keep on running until the final whistle, that Ramires will not stop until the game eventually has to.Ai??There’s something endearing about players who just don’t give up and whose commitment is absolutely unquestionable.Ai??The Blue Kenyan, as he is fondly called, is one such player.

There was a time when Michael Essien was that player for Chelsea. In his prime, there could be no better. However, as injuries began to torment him and his notorious knees began to give way, there was an urgent need to replace him. When Ramires was signed from Benfica in the summer of 2010, manyAi??mistakenlyAi??believed that he was brought in to compete with John Obi Mikel for the holding midfielder’s role. That role was fulfilled when Oriol Romeu was signed a year later from Barcelona.Ai??Ramires was most definitely Essien’s replacement.

There was a time when it was said, “Out of all Brazilians out there, Chelsea have signed the least talented of the lot!“. Yes, he isn’t flamboyant . Yes, he isn’t the best passer of the football. Yes, he isn’t the most skillful of players. Yes, his finishing needs further work. But, there’s a reason why he is one of the mainstays of the present Brazilian National Team.Ai??Ramires, today,Ai??epitomizesAi??a true box-to-box midfielder. He runs. He defends. He tackles. He intercepts. He scores.Ai??

Run Ramires, Run!

Had Ramires not been as effective as he has been offensively, he would still have been a valuable asset to the team. However, his pace, balance, lung-busting runs into the opposition box, and goals have been one of the few reasons why Chelsea have held onto that fourth position despite being as inconsistent as they could have possibly been.

For a player of his size, he offers a deceptively strong presence in the Chelsea midfield; tough on the tackle andAi??frustratingly persistent inAi??pursuit.Ai??On the pitch, he has played in three roles primarily – on the right side of the three-man midfield, ahead of the holding player; as part of the double-pivot behind a creative player such as Juan Mata, and on the right side of the traditional 4-4-2 formation. Although he isn’t as versatile as Essien to play as a right-back, he is good enough to be deployed in multiple midfield roles.

Now, he’s injured.

Chelsea had to pay a steep price in securing their FA Cup fourth round win over Queens Park Rangers at Loftus Road; Ramires had to beAi??stretcheredAi??off in the second half after suffering a medical knee ligament injury. Early prognosis hasAi??revealedAi??that the tireless midfielder may be out for up to four weeks, thereby missing Premier League games against Swansea, Manchester United, Everton and Bolton Wanderers, in addition to the Champions League round-of-16 first leg, away at Napoli.

His absence would surely be felt; there’s no doubt about that.

How can the fallout be minimized?


Reinforcement

31st January is 2 days away, and we all know what Chelsea did on this day, last year. Ai??However, as this is a short-term problem, Chelsea will not spend big. Further, the possibility of a like-for-like replacement is near to impossible. Therefore, what Villas-Boas needs to do is that sign a player who can be deployed on the right flank – either as a right-sided midfielder in a 4-4-2 formation or as a right forward in a three-pronged attack. This is where the latest player to be linked with Chelsea comes in. If reports are to be believed, there’s an interest in signing the unsettled Englishman Adam Johnson from Manchester City. Johnson is a good player, but hardly gets to play for City, with Silva, Milner and Nasri ahead of him in the pecking order.

A bid in the region ofAi??A?15 million may interest City, only if there’s a feeling at The Etihad that Chelsea are incapable of launching a title onslaught this season. Otherwise, it’s really difficult to see Mancini letting his player leave for West London.

Anyway, if such a player is signed, it will give the manager more options to play with.

Tactics

Rather than merely a second half tactic, Villas-Boas should consider starting with Mata in a central position. Presently, there’s an obstacle in this scenario; Florent Malouda isn’t good enough to start for Chelsea, on the left wing. If the left wing problem is somehow addressed, then this becomes a tempting possibility. This will invert the midfield triangle, creating a need for a two-man pivot in central midfield; Mikel/Romeu to be paired with Lampard/Meireles/Essien, behind Juan Mata.

Michael Essien

Generally, whenever a player of the stature of Michael Essien makes a long-overdue return, it’s greeted with relief and happiness in equal measure. However, this time, the return was also met with skepticism. There’s a definite reason behind this; twice before the Ghanaian has made his comeback after 6 or more months on the sidelines, and twice his knees have failed him. Further, when a fully-fit Essien last played, he looked a shadow of his former imperious self. He has missed more 18 months of football in the last 3 years or so. Quite frankly, no one’s sure of what to expect from him.

This will be a good test for him, though. In Ramires’ absence, even if he can do two-thirds of what he was capable of a couple of years ago, Chelsea may sail through these rough waters with minimal damage.

Irrespective of how Chelsea fare in the next month and what Villas-Boas does to counter his absence, Ramires is integral to the club’s plan and will be dearly missed. He has it in him to form the spine of the next batch, in a manner similar to how Essien powered the league-winning Chelsea teams of the past. By virtue of his never-say-die spirit and his admirable work ethic, he has forced his way into the hearts of the Chelsea faithful. And, the beautiful thing is that this story is closer to the beginning than to the end. He remains Chelsea’s unsung hero.

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2 Responses to “Chelsea’s Corner: An Injury To Ramires – What The Blues Stand To Lose”

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  1. Harry says:

    Just to clarify karan, i don think chelsea will miss him as a DM, he has several weaknesses, he cannot tackle that well. Romeu/ Essien are there. Ramires will be missed in that RM role of his out wide , further up. His pace will be missed there .. surely

  2. Brad says:

    I’m curious to your meaning of deploying Mata in a centre role? I agree at the moment he’s the only option as a winger we have on either side. Sturridge just doesn’t provide enough service to his teammates and quality passing that position requires. But are you talking of moving Mata to the centre striker position?? If so, why? He’s clearly a playmaker and while he does have class when going for goal his real quality is his creativity and passing ability. To me, he would be better suited in the center of the pitch, but not as a striker but as a second striker or centre attacking midfielder. But maybe that is what you meant. More of a CAM. Bc I think the entire chelsea offense would open up with everything going through him and allowing him to use both right or left. Instead of him being secluded to just the left or just the right. I feel this also suits Torres better if You look how Gerrard served him at Liverpool. Torres is world class, but even world class players work in certain kinds of tactics and at Chelsea he hasn’t been in a formation or style that he’s used to. This is my opinion of course. But world class players in their 20s don’t lose their quality nor ability as in my eyes Torres has looked fine. I just believe they bought Torres for a change in style, but I’ve yet to really see a change in style since he’s arrived. He’s not a Drogba replacement. He’s a different kind of world class striker and moving Mata to the middle and/or the purchase of another true winger would allow Chelsea to be better than just above average. Great article btw