As we enter a new decade, The Hard Tackle takes a look at the best players to have represented Chelsea over the past ten years.
While the recently concluded decade wasn’t as successful as the one upon the turn of the millennium, Chelsea still managed to bag quite a few honours and had some great seasons under their belt.
From their magical and against-the-odds Champions League win under Roberto Di Matteo to the dominating Premier League wins under Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte, there is quite a lot for Chelsea fans to reminisce of the decade that passed us by.
We now present to you, our opinion, on what Chelsea’s XI would look like if we were to build a Team of the Decade for the Premier League giants as we head into a new one.
GK: Thibaut Courtois
This could have been a contentious decision, with Petr Cech and Thibaut Courtois having played a similar number of seasons for Chelsea in the decade. But, Cech was a shadow of his self and was regressing while Courtois played out the seasons in prime form, which subsequently paved the way for a move to Real Madrid.
He may not be on the best of terms with Chelsea fans since he pushed for a move away from the club. But, Courtois was one of the best goalkeepers in Europe during the time he was at Chelsea and his presence between the sticks during the successful campaigns ensured his place in the Team of the Decade.
RB: Branislav Ivanovic
Quite possibly, one of the most underrated Chelsea footballers of the decade. Branislav Ivanovic laid his heart out bare on the field each time he put on the Chelsea shirt and even though, he wasn’t the most gifted technically, Ivanovic made sure he came up with crucial goals when Chelsea needed it along with filling up almost any position in the back four.
CB: John Terry
Honestly, there can never be any debate over the centre-back pairing for Chelsea for this decade. John Terry forms one half of the pairing and was influential in almost every trophy win for Chelsea during this decade before he decided to move to Aston Villa.
A true captain who led from the front, Terry personified the characteristics a leader should have and was easily the club’s best captain of the Premier League era.
CB: Gary Cahill
If Terry’s nomination is well-deserved, Cahill’s is even more imperative. Cahill achieved the same as Terry and more in this decade and if you think about it, Gary Cahill is still going strong in the Premier League, the highest competitive level in English football.
One of the best bargain deals for Chelsea at a time when the Blues were ready to splurge left, right and centre.
LB: Cesar Azpilicueta
Ideally, Azpilicueta would have been stationed as right-back. But, the current Chelsea captain was somewhat of a versatile star for the club this decade, playing all across the defence. While left-back was his preferred and more natural position, Azpilicueta revelled on the right and subsequently at centre-back under Antonio Conte.
Under Frank Lampard, he has played all three positions but seems to have returned to the left, with Reece James emerging as an option on the right. As versatile as ever, Azpilicueta deserves a spot on the Team of the Decade for his willingness to adapt and help the team out.
DM: N’Golo Kante
Ideally, there should have been 3 candidates for this position – John Obi Mikel, Nemanja Matic and N’Golo Kante. But, what the French international achieved since joining Chelsea ensured there is no doubt as to who deserved it more than others. Not only was he named the Player of the Year for the 2016-17 season for Chelsea, but also the entire Premier League.
DM: Cesc Fabregas
Oh, what a time it was for Chelsea fans when Cesc Fabregas joined. They got a chance to stick one over Arsenal fans, who considered Fabregas one of their legends up until then. But, nobody had envisaged the impact Fabregas would have at Stamford Bridge.
A league record 19 assists in the title winning season under Jose Mourinho wasn’t enough for Fabregas, who went on to provide 12 assists in the 2016-17 campaign as well. Fabregas was the ultimate quarterback for Chelsea and fed Diego Costa with sumptuous passes with the goal at his mercy. A true provider who deserves a mention in the Team of the Decade.
One of the more consistent features in the Chelsea lineup over the period of the decade. Willian was also named Chelsea Player of the Year once but what he provided as an attacking outlet is often underrated. While the Brazilian isn’t on the good books of Chelsea fans much, no one can deny his influence over the decade on Chelsea and their successes.
Even in troubled times when the likes of Eden Hazard seemed to have gone missing, it was Willian who stepped up to the plate and gave his everything on the field. A true blue warrior.
AM: Juan Mata
Despite playing for only a few seasons for Chelsea, Juan Mata is one player almost every Chelsea fan would agree they would still have. The Spaniard was named the Chelsea Player of the Year for two years in a row, finishing the 2011-12 and the 2012-13 Premier League campaigns with 13 and 17 assists, respectively.
LW: Eden Hazard
Quite possibly, a very strong candidate for Player of the Decade for Chelsea. Eden Hazard’s decision to join Chelsea over then league winners Manchester United and other top clubs changed the landscape of the Premier League. Hazard went on to be named Chelsea’s Player of the Year four times, with 110 goals and 92 assists in 352 appearances for the club.
ST: Diego Costa
Diego Costa was the light to Cesc Fabregas’s shadow. The Spaniard sprayed passes with ease, but Diego Costa made sure the wondrous passes always found him and did justice to the passes more often than not. Costa touched the 20-goal mark twice in the Premier League and was a menace for the opposition defenders to handle.
While his brazenness was a bit too much to handle for his own fans at times, it sometimes pays to have a troublemaker in the team, evidenced perfectly by Diego Costa.
12th Man: David Luiz
If not for the pairing of Gary Cahill and John Terry, David Luiz would have been one of the greats for Chelsea this decade. Luiz started the decade at Chelsea as a starter, won the Champions League with the club helping them overcome the likes of Barcelona and more with crucial plays. The Brazilian went on to PSG but returned to have another fruitful stint at the club.
Over the two stints, Luiz accumulated 248 appearances for Chelsea before leaving on a bitter note, forcing a move to Arsenal. A conniving centre-back with the technical ability of a midfielder, David Luiz was truly a spectacle on the field, often for the right reasons and sometimes for the wrong ones.
Chelsea Team of the Decade: Thibaut Courtois, Branislav Ivanovic, John Terry, Gary Cahill, Cesar Azpilicueta, N’Golo Kante, Cesc Fabregas, Willian, Juan Mata, Eden Hazard, Diego Costa