This season saw Chelsea move to a 4-2-3-1 formation for the first time in their recent history. Looking to deploy their three main creative stars together with the hope of moving towards Abramovich’s ideal playing style. Whilst many articles have explored how good the attacking midfield of Mata, Hazard and Oscar is, this article aims to see what the most effective pairing is in the engine room.
For the purpose of this article, the defensive midfielders will be: David Luiz, Lampard, Mikel, Ramires and Romeu. Meireles moved to Fenerbahçe after 3 games so I have omitted him. Romeu has played 6 league games and is returning from injury so he will be included. Only David Luiz’s five games at defensive midfield will be included for him.
I’ll do a basic ranking system after each look at the players stats, 1 being the highest and 5 being the lowest ranked.
It’s clear to see who is the favoured of the four midfielders, Ramires making more appearances both as a starter, a sub and in total of minutes played. With Lampard only coming ahead of the injured Romeu, and Mikel not far in front.
4: David Luiz
Challenge win percentage has been used as this negates the statistical effect of the players playing more or less minutes. Ramires may have had more time on the pitch to win more tackles, but by using the percentage, it is helping us make an equal comparison.
David Luiz is a centre-back so we would expect him to do well in this category, his tackle win percentage is incredibly high, his ground duel win percentage is very low and his aerial duel win percentage is average. If we think more into this, David Luiz is used to tackling players from any direction, so moving him into midfield won’t make much difference to his ability; whereas in the air, Luiz is used to being further back to deal with goal kicks etc., being able to anticipate the ball from behind the halfway line, by being further forward, his positioning will be different to what he is used to, negatively affecting his anticipation. If we look at the aerial duels, we can see how much of a disadvantage Lampard is in the air compared to the rest of the players, losing more balls than he is winning. It is also interesting to see that Ramires is doing so well in the air considering he is the shortest of the four players. But Romeu takes the number one ranking with a higher average over all of the categories.
3: David Luiz
Contesting the Ball
David Luiz and Romeu both do very well in this, averaging around 20 minutes per gain of possession. Ramires does very well until we get to the interceptions, could this show a lack of anticipation or positioning in relation to the others above him? Once again Lampard scores very poorly, with the longest time per gain of possession for every sub-category.
2: David Luiz
So far, we can see how much of a weak link Lampard is in the defensive side of the Chelsea game, whilst Ramires is consistently near the top. We can now see why Ramires has played as many minutes as he has.
We’ll now take a look at the more offensive sides of the players game, as they not only have to win the ball, but be able to use it effectively once they have gained possession. This where as a Chelsea fan I am desperately hoping for Lampard to shine!
We can see here that Mikel and Romeu are both the best passers in the team in all three categories, Romeu being particularly consistent. Surprisingly Lampard is joint bottom with David Luiz in terms of passing, we’d surely expect Lampard to be around the best as he is a more offensive player. Possible reasons for not being could include that he is trying more risky passes in an attempt to stimulate an attack, as opposed to Mikel and Romeu who are both in the same mould as the great Makélélé who passed simple yet effective.
We can also see that Mikel is the best for ball retention, losing the ball less often. This could potentially be because he doesn’t run with the ball very often, so as soon as he receives the ball, he will pass it on before he comes into danger.
Either way, we can see that Romeu and Mikel are the best in terms of keeping possession with themselves, and keeping it within the team. With Romeu just edging it due to the his ability to successfully pass in the final third.
5: David Luiz
Chances Created, Assists, Goals
This is where Lampard’s effectiveness as a goalscorer show, scoring a goal every 123 minutes he’s on the field. David Luiz and Lampard both show how good they are at creating chances, but in terms of chances which turn into goals, the only player who managed to was Ramires with a solitary one assist.
3: David Luiz
So there we have it! Quick analysis of the stats of the Chelsea defensive midfield. With a quick totting up of the rankings (worked out by adding up the player’s ranking number, lower is better):
4: David Luiz
It will be interesting to see how Romeu does when he returns from injury, as he clearly has the potential to become a great defensive midfielder for Chelsea, and suits the style with his Barcelona roots.
So from an objective view it is clear that Ramires and Romeu are the best choice for the defensive duo. From a subjective view, we’d have to look at whether it is better pairing a good passer with a good defensive player, two good passers or two good defensive players; but I will that for you two ponder. But I feel Ramires and Romeu have both proved that they are good defensively and offensively, and would work together quite well if they carry on how they have been.
Finally, I’d just like to see who you all feel is the best defensive midfielder after seeing the stats above – please vote on the poll to the right.