Best of the Blues – A squad of champions!

How often do we as Blues fans ponder amongst one another, which of our Premier League title-winning teams was truly the best?

While each team had a special something that enabled them to be the best of their respective season, speculating as to which one was the top of the crop would be impossible to objectively determine, given the differences in time, perceived quality of opposition (as well as own squad), complexity of draw, injuries incurred etc.

Although it would have been awesome to see these teams lock horns and settle the debate once and for all, what I’m particularly interested in speculating on is, which players I would choose to make the ultimate Blues squad (based on these Premier Leagye champions).

Below is the list of the players in each position that I selected as contenders based on my two decades of close scrutiny of Chelsea’s performances which has given me unquestionable footballing wisdom, (said firmly with tongue in cheek). It is worth noting that the players chosen were based on those that gave me the best moments as a fan, and who I believe would make us a truly formidable force, not necessarily who produced the best statistics while playing for the Club.

Goalkeeper

Contenders –Petr Cech, Thibaut Courtois

Conclusion – Whilst the giant Belgian played a strong role in helping the Blues secure the 2016/17 League title, given the controversy surrounding his exit, and considering the superior achievements of our hero in the head gear, there’s no disputing who the No.1, No.1 was at Stamford Bridge.

Cech mate!

Petr Cech | Source: World Soccer

Left Back 

Contenders – Marcos Alonso, Wayne Bridge, Ashley Cole, Asier Del Horno, Filipe Luís.

Conclusion – In considering the strong influence each of these players had during our winning campaigns, the main contributing factor in my decision was to consider which of these brought about the best balance in terms of offering good offensive capabilities, as well as most importantly, being able to actually defend. Given this, the clear winner was none other than Ashley Cole.

Arguably the Premier League’s best ever left-back, there’s no shame in the rest of these contenders playing second fiddle to this legendary left back. Notable mention to Filipe Luís as I believe he brought about a nice blend of attacking and defensive capability, albeit with limited chances to shine.

Ashley Cole | Credit: Getty Images

Right Back

Contenders – Branislav Ivanovic, Cesar Azpilicueta, Paulo Ferreira, Jose Bosingwa, Juliano Belletti.

Conclusion – While the selection for left-back was relatively straightforward, selecting our starting RB was quite the opposite. There are some great servants and team players in this list: some more noted for their attacking flair (Bosingwa, Belletti), whereas others were more renowned for their robust and diligent defensive capabilities (Ivanovic, Ferreira and Azpilicueta). However, in factoring the balance of the rest of the team, and considering the versatility of the person not chosen (they would definitely by on my bench), I decided to go with current Club captain Cesar ‘Dave’ Azpilicueta.

Just to be clear, choosing between Dave and Brana proved to be particularly challenging!

Cesar Azpilicueta | Credit: Getty Images

Centre Backs

Contenders – Gary Cahill, David Luiz, Alex, Ricardo Carvalho, William Gallas, John Terry, Kurt Zouma, Branislav Ivanovic.

Conclusion – While it is a given that John ‘Captain, Leader, Legend’ Terry is one of the two centre backs that make my all-star Blues team, the question I had to ponder was ‘who would partner him?’

The quality at my disposal is high. All of these would make a fine choice to stand alongside JT, I can’t look past his Portuguese partner-in-crime, Ricardo Carvalho. Again, as was the case with picking from the RBs, narrowing down our CBs was also a strenuous task given they each fought so valiantly for our Club and were pivotal members during our League triumphs.

JT & Ricardo Carvalho | Credit: https://www.footballfancast.com/premier-league/chelsea/a-slice-of-premier-league-genius-ricardo-carvalho

Defensive Midfield

Contenders – John Obi Mikel, Nemanja Matic, N’Golo Kante, Michael Essien, Claude Makelele.

Conclusion – It is no secret that the backbone of our success during our Premier League winning seasons was our defensive resilience and ability to exploit weaknesses in the opposition through lethal counter-attacks. Core to this winning mantra was the role of the defensive midfielder. They operated as both the protection for the defence, but perhaps more importantly, were the starting point for the aforementioned counter-attacks. Factoring this in, and reflecting on the player from the above that revolutionised this position, my selection is none other than Claude Makelele. If you get the role named after you, you’ve done a good job.

It’s worth noting that I had both Michael Essien and N’Golo Kante as being a close second and third respectively.

Claude Makelele | Credit: Action Images

Central Midfield

Contenders – Michael Ballack, Ramires, Cesc Fabregas, Frank Lampard

Conclusion – Chelsea have been blessed over the years with the men in the middle. Throughout the Blues’s dominant years, midfield maestros have been crucial to every success. The most impressive attribute was the way in which Chelsea would boss the midfield and ensure cohesion between our well-organised defence, and our highly-potent attack.

Among the star-studded candidates, all of which would walk into just about any team during their prime, it is pretty clear who the stand-out was – the one, the only, ‘Super’ Frank Lampard. Frank is not only Chelsea’s highest goal scorer, but was second in Premier League assists for a Blues player (interestingly, only nine short of Cesc who was second overall with 111 assists), and amassed a staggering 648 appearances for the Club.

His consistently high-quality performances, record statistics, intelligence, professionalism and leadership saw him become an icon in world football, and secure his position as one of Chelsea’s best ever. Let’s hope he can emulate these successors now he is managing us!

Frank Lampard | Credit: Getty Images

Attacking Midfield

Contenders – Oscar, Joe Cole, Deco, Cesc Fabregas, Willian

Conclusion While Chelsea were arguably more renowned for their strength, resilience and efficiency for large parts of their successful campaigns, they had some shining stars lighting up Stamford Bridge.

These shining lights involved one of our attacking midfielders unlocking a stubborn defence with a sumptuous pass to one of our hungry strikers to finish off a swift move, or on many occasions, these talented stars would use their wizardry to stun a retreating opposition and score a jaw-dropping goal.

The difficulty in selecting our ultimate attacking midfielder is exacerbated by the fact that these players would often be able to utilise their versatility and play in either a CM role or on either side of a front three. With this in mind, and considering both the memorable moments they created, as well as their output in a Blues jersey, my starting attacking midfielder would be Cesc Fabregas.

Notwithstanding this was not his primary position for the Blues, he was a sublime passer of the ball and visionary, his unique ability to execute a perfect pass (e.g. first time to Schurrle against Burnley) is what convinced me to choose him over the other superb candidates.

Further, I believe that had they played together in their prime, the partnership between Frank and himself would have been very productive. I’ll also give notable mentions to the Brazilian Blues Willian and Oscar who produced some great numbers in this position and had a tremendous work ethic.

Cesc Fabrega | Credit: AFP

Left Wing

Contenders – Eden Hazard, Andre Schurrle, Florent Malouda, Salomon Kalou

Conclusion – Although Chelsea had some quality players in this position, each possessing their unique qualities that enabled the team to shine, including the ability to either support the target man or get on the scoresheet themselves, there is only one winner in this contest.

Here’s a clue: He individually destroyed London rivals Arsenal, Tottenham and West Ham.

Need another clue? He was the PFA Premier League Fans’ Player of the Year in 2018-19, and scored a brace in the 2019 Europa League Final victory over the Gunners.

That man, of course, was our Belgian maestro – Eden Hazard. His overall silkiness and all round ability to not only win a game on his own, but do it in a way that mesmerised millions, made him truly special.

Eden Hazard | Credit: Getty Images

Right Wing

Contenders – Arjen Robben, Damien Duff, Shaun Wright-Phillips, Willian, Joe Cole, Juan Cuadrado

Conclusion – As was the case with the left wing, our wide men have played a highly-important role in stretching our opposition, particularly on lethal counters, and either freed up our striker to take on a vulnerable, retreating defence, or used their trickery to put the ball in the old “onion bag” themselves.

Each of these players were brilliant in both aspects, and possessed speed to burn and dribbling ability that would cause headaches for any opponent they would face.

Given the profile of my team, my right wing selection would be none other than English sensation, Joe Cole. Like Hazard, Cole would provide the Chelsea faithful with memories to cherish for a lifetime, including scoring some hugely important and breathtaking goals for the Blues. Manchester United at Stamford Bridge 2006 anyone?

Cole at his best possessed all of the right attributes you want in a winger – flair, confidence and most importantly, end product. He’s a fan’s favourite and still always blatantly roots for Chelsea during his media work.

Joe Cole | Credit: AFP

Striker

Contenders – Nicholas Anelka, Diego Costa, Andriy Shevchenko, Eidur Gudjohnsen, Hernan Crespo, Didier Drogba, Loic Remy

Conclusion – The difference between winning the Premier League and not is largely attributed to having a potent attack spearheaded by a consistently effective striker.

During our successful campaigns, we have been very fortunate to have some terrific target men that have delivered tremendously for the Club. These strikers either linked up well to tee up a team mate, or, (as was more often the case) converted enough of the opportunities created by one of their team mates to ensure we would lift the crown come the end of the season.

Like with the above selections for GK, one of our CBs, CM, and LW, the ultimate Blues striker was always going to be only one person, the Ivorian King – Didier Drogba.

The man who stepped up time and time again, and especially when it mattered most. Drogba used his strong physique and wonderful striking and heading technique to score some truly remarkable goals and terrorise defenders across many years. He won everything for us and will forever be a legendary figure in English football.

Didier Drogba | Credit: Getty Images

Bench

As it takes a squad (and not a team) to succeed, the below makes up the rest of my ultimate Blues squad (again, based on those that were part of our Premier League title-winning campaigns).

  • Thibaut Courtois
  • Filipe Luís
  • Branislav Ivanovic
  • Gary Cahill
  • Michael Essien
  • Michael Ballack
  • Oscar
  • Florent Malouda
  • Diego Costa

By Ross-John (RJ) Bonaccorsi

Edited by: Rob Pratley

Sources: premierleague.com, transfermarkt.com, chelseafc.com


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