It’s a well-known proverb that all good things must come to an end, and nowhere in the Premier League is this more evident than at Chelsea. The likes of Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Jamie Carragher have all seen their roles adapted from key first-team players, to squad men, with playing time limited, as younger stars look to break into the set-up. But Chelsea’s veterans remain unable to let go of their status in the side, holding back the development of the club.
The likes of Didier Drogba, Frank Lampard, Florent Malouda and John Terry are all now the wrong side of 30; yet remain major components in the squad. Their relationships with the club hierarchy, and major influence in the dressing room make them powerful figures around the side, a trait which Andre Villas Boas seems to be struggling with. It could be time for these men to take a back seat, allowing younger players a chance in the first 11 under the stewardship of an unopposed manager.
Take Didier Drogba for example, who is maybe the most outspoken member of this quartet. His presence in the team has limited an already low on confidence Fernando Torres’ playing time, frustrating the Spaniard and further denting his belief. It was clear when he arrived from Liverpool that he was the type of player who likes to work the front-line alone, yet due to Drogba’s status around the club it was impossible to drop him. So in a bid to keep both men happy, they were played together, where their similar styles, as lone forwards, clashed. Who would have been the better long-term bet? The ageing Ivorian? Or the striker in what should be his prime? Drogba’s role within the squad has also limited Daniel Sturridge’s playing time in his favored central role, and as a future hope for club and country, he needs all of the experience he can get. Yes Drogba is still a talented player, with an obvious role to play, but that should now be one from the bench, allowing players for the future to step up.
The same can be said for Frank Lampard. Although the Englishman has never been overly out-spoken, his omission from the starting 11 often leads to a media flurry, just look at the Napoli game this week, where AVB was much criticized for omitting the likes of Lampard. Again the 33-year-old is still a quality player, but with Chelsea needing to build for the future, the removal of the men so successful under the Jose Mourinho regime is necessary.
Terry and Malouda, both 31, have a few more years, but a slow phasing out, rather than immediate axing could prevent future issues. This would give the likes of Gary Cahill and David Luiz time to build a solid defensive partnership, while allowing youngsters such as Lucas Piazon the chance to secure first-team experience in place of Malouda.
There’s no doubt that Chelsea’s old guard still have a role to play, with their experience and know-how key in guiding young players. But, a less central role will ultimately benefit Chelsea in the long run, if they are to come out of this ’transition phase’ remaining a Premier League force.
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