Chelsea FC 2011-2012: Grading the Players This Season
The 2011-2012 campaign has undoubtedly been a roller-coaster ride for Chelsea FC. From sacked managers and disgruntled dressing rooms to big wins and cup finals, it has been a strange season at Stamford Bridge.
After a wonder goal from Papiss Cisse in Newcastle's big win over the Blues, fourth place and Champions League qualification seems out of Chelsea's reach this season, meaning it will be the first time they have failed to finish in the top four and qualify for the Champions League since the 2001-02 campaign.
In the eyes of many fans, this season should be regarded as a failure. However, Chelsea have managed to reach both the FA Cup final and Champions League final. If they leave both these matches victorious, failure would be a harsh word to use when discussing Chelsea's performance this year.
Through all the success and failure this year, some players have been fantastic, and some...not quite so much.
Here are the grades for each player this year.
Petr Cech: GK
The 6'5" keeper has been the main man between the posts at Stamford Bridge since 2004, winning multiple individual honors during his time with the blues.
Once considered the best goalkeeper in the world, being named to the PFA team of the year in 2005 and winning UEFA's Best Goal Keeper Award in 2005, 2006 and 2007, the big Czech has suffered a slight dip in form over the past few seasons.
Cech only has 10 clean sheets this year, five fewer than Newcastle keeper Tim Krul, and actually has fewer clean sheets than any other goalkeeper in the top half of the table.
Now, of course, clean sheets must be accounted to the play of the defense as well as the goalkeeper's performance. While Cech has had a couple of fumbles this year and not always been a solid presence, overall he has had an outstanding season.
Keeping a clean sheet against Barcelona and Lionel Messi in the Champions League first-leg matchup is an accomplishment not managed by many.
Messi has scored 68 goals this year, 212 since 2004. But in 10 meetings with Petr Cech, Messi is yet to get on the score sheet, a testimony to the level of difficulty involved in beeting the Czech Republic international.
While Cech may not be able to return to his absolute best, if Chelsea are to earn any silverware this season, they will owe a big thank you to their No. 1.
Jose Bosingwa: RB
The Portuguese right-back has had an interesting to the season at Chelsea. Being asked to fill in for the often injured or suspended Branislav Ivanovic, Bosingwa has seen a lot of game time and, over the past few games, has done the job with great professionalism.
Throughout the season, I have witnessed Chelsea fans with heads in hands when the fourth official raises the No. 17 on the substitute board.
Bosingwa has never quite lived up to fans' expectations since his arrival in England, after a superb Euro 2008 campaign.
Jose Bosingwa is one of those players who going forward seems like he could pose a threat—but then a poor delivery removes that thought before it is even processed.
Defensively, the 6'0" right-back looks a tough obstacle, but his delayed thought process seems to allow opponents all the time in the world to either pick their spot for an easy cross or turn up the pace. Bosingwa is left to witness a nice bit of trickery from the opposing winger, just like the rest of the audience.
In the game against Tottenham last month, Bosingwa was caught sleeping on multiple occasions in the first half, allowing Gareth Bale all the space in the world on the left hand side of the box. Bosingwa sliced an easy clearance straight into the feet of the Welsh international, who would have given his team an early lead if not for a superb Petr Cech save.
While his effort has not been missing this year, Bosingwa's concentration is still yet to be found, last seen wandering around the Estádio do Dragão in 2008.
John Terry: CB
John Terry has been Chelsea's skipper since the retirement of Marcel Desailly in 2003, and he has been a fan favorite and Chelsea's leader ever since.
He's a player who has always shown the kind of passion and desire that every Premier League manager looks for in their players. He's always been known to be a great leader and motivator, with a commanding presence in the air, but his lack of pace has been a worry, particularly as he is now heading towards his mid-30s.
With players like Theo Walcott, Aaron Lennon, Nani, and Hernandez in the league, Terry's capability to handle the fast-paced attack of other elite teams has been questioned multiple times.
Despite these apparent questions, with age and rusty legs, Terry's footballing mind is also developing rapidly.
He's always been able to read the game, but this season he has really showcased his ability to see the game a few steps ahead of his opponents. He is ready to intercept passes as soon as they're made, and he makes clearances off the line as if he already knows where the ball's going to be.
His vision has saved games for Chelsea this year multiple times, most noticeably in Chelsea's first matchup with Spurs. In the dying seconds, Emmanuel Adebayor was through one-on-one with the keeper when John Terry came out of nowhere to block the ball off the line, leaving the Blues with a great result away from home.
JT has had his troubles in the media in recent times, first being charged with racial abuse, and then more recently being sent off in the Champions League semifinal against Barcelona, due to a ridiculous off-the-ball clash with Alexis Sanchez.
These lapses in character has given Terry a bad reputation with fans around the league. some even accuse him of abandoning his team in the semifinal.
These negative aspects of Terry's season are undeniable, and they have somewhat tainted what has otherwise been a solid season for JT, coming up big when needed, both defensively and offensively, with five goals in the Premier League this year.
Putting all of Terry's antics aside, he has led his team through a rocky patch, taking the team to two finals, and being the leader Chelsea needed when everything else was going wrong.
David Luiz: CB
David Luiz is a quick and powerful defender, with flair unmatched by any other in his position, but he has not settled into Premier League football quite as quickly as he might have envisioned.
He became an immediate fan favorite upon his arrival at Stamford Bridge due to his unusual defensive style, looking to attack and push the ball forward with pace, with a hint of Brazilian flair along the way.
This season he has only played in 20 league games, and his focus and positioning has been called into question on multiple occasions. An injury then sidelined him for the latter part of the season.
He's had his moments where he looks to be an elite central defender, but too often this is followed by a dangerous pass, giving away possession and putting Chelsea in a vulnerable position.
Near the end of the season, Luiz has listened to criticism and taken it upon himself to adopt the English way of thinking of fellow center back John Terry: "If in doubt, get it out."
This has led to fewer turnovers by Luiz, but this is not to say that this new way of thinking has totally corrupted his passionate flair. He will still look to lead the counter, with killer passes and cross-field balls.
He has not been fit the whole season, but after a rocky start and frustrating the Chelsea faithful, Luiz has showed promise and improved greatly as the season went on. With that said, he is still a liability at times, and his rash decisions can lead to fouls in dangerous areas.
Branislav Ivanovic: CB/RB
Branislav Ivanovic couldn't be more different than the defender reviewed on the previous slide. The Serbian is a traditional, no-nonsense center-back. Big headers, big tackles and a big presence sum up Ivanovic to a tee.
He is a player who will give 100 percent every game and is happy with every role he is given. This is why it was such a heartbreaking moment to see Geoff Shreeves reveal that the yellow card Ivanovic gained in the second leg at the Nou Camp means he will be suspended for the Champions League final.
Ivanovic was totally solid against Barcelona and was one of the core reasons for Chelsea's success. He has been solid all year long defensively, and like John Terry, he has made up for his lack of pace by bringing something else to the table.
Ivanovic is an absolute beat in the air, challenging everything, making every opponent aware of his presence. He has also learned a lot from his defensive partner, John Terry. He now has the ability to read the game, and as a result, his positioning has improved massively.
Offensively the big Serb has managed to grab a couple of important goals this year. However, for someone who plays right-back regularly, he only has one assist all season.
This statistic is a testimony to his poor crossing ability. Far too often he just launches the ball into the back of the challenging defender. Not only is this a waste of possession, but it also is a waste of energy.
In a season where Chelsea have ventured deep into multiple tournaments, bombing up the line to just gift possession back to the opponent is an inefficient use of energy.
That being said, he adds a lot with his deep throw ins and aerial threat.
It's been a solid year for Ivanovic, and he will hope his good play can continue at the Bridge for seasons to come.
Ashley Cole: LB
The England full-back has gone quietly about his business this year, managing to stay out of the spotlight while producing some of his best football to date, and he's showing no signs of slowing up.
The pacy left-back has had his fair share of criticism over the years, but this season errors have been scarce. He has provided a real attacking threat up the left flank of an otherwise narrow team.
Ashley Cole can be spotted by his stern expression and arrogant demeanor towards match officials, but he adds an attacking dynamic that not many left-backs can provide.
He runs on a different kind of battery. The 31-year-old will make endless runs up and down the pitch, from overlapping Juan Mata at left wing to making a last-ditch tackle covering Jose Bosingwa at right back.
The man never seems fatigued. He's played more games than any other Chelsea player this season, and it doesn't seem like he wants to relinquish his starting position with Blues anytime soon.
This year he's had to face the likes of Lionel Messi, Ezequiel Lavezzi, and Nicolas Gaitan, but never has he looked out of place. He can bout with the best the world has to offer, and you would struggle to find a team who would not benefit from having Ashley Cole on their team.
Raul Meireles: CM/RM
Raul Meireles is undoubtedly an extremely talented player with a fantastic work rate, but after witnessing his performances this season, he is far from perfect.
His talent has been showcased this year with an array of amazing long-range passes and a fantastic goal to finish of Benfica in the Champions League quarterfinal.
Meireles is one of those players you love to have on your team, because your opponents hate to play against him. He allows no space, and is an absolute nuisance to anyone he is defending, causing many poor passes and errors in judgement.
Despite his disruptive, aggressive nature, he does little else to hinder the performance of opponents. It often seems as if he's intentionally helping the opponents with numerous misplaced passes and outrageous shots.
When visiting Manchester City earlier in the season, Meireles appeared to make more complete passes to the feet of City players than Chelsea players, starting multiple opportunities for the home team to counterattack, leaving the Blues' defense vulnerable.
This is not to say he has not contributed to the team this year, but I believe his nonchalant approach leads to so many wasted possessions. His inability to make short passes disrupts the team's flow so much that many times AVB and Dimateo may have been better off not including him in the lineup.
Even though his shortcomings have been apparent this year, in a season where only two players really provide any thoughtful creation on the pitch (Frank Lampard and Juan Mata), Meireles has provided an occasional boost to ball movement, along with a couple of killer passes.
Frank Lampard: CM
Frank Lampard is another fan favorite who never ceases to impress, producing to a high standard year after year.
The England international fell out of favor early in the year with Andre Villas Boas and saw a lot of time on the sideline before fighting valiantly back into the starting lineup.
Reaching a double figure goal total again from midfield is a feat not matched by many. At the age of 33, Lampard has tallied at least 10 goals for nine straight seasons, pushing for 20 goals again this year.
He has also provided some creation that was lacking earlier in the year for Chelsea. Some passes he has made this year have been unbelievable.
While only tallying five assists, he has contributed to so many goals this year. In the Champions League semifinal first leg, he made a great tackle on Messi, then made an amazing no-look, diagonal cross-field pass to Ramires, who crossed the ball in to Didier Drogba for the only goal of the game.
In the second leg, super Frank looked to better himself with another inch-perfect diagonal pass into the feet of Ramires, who finished the move off with a lovely lob.
While his legs may be tiring, Lampard is still producing at an elite level and managed to put together another incredible season after a patchy start. His production only tells half the story of his season, as he took his vice-captain role seriously and helped lead the team through tough times.
His leadership will be important if a Terry-less Chelsea hope to have a chance in Munich at the end of the month.
The 25-year-old Brazilian had a decent first season at Chelsea, but only really as a role player doing his bit. This year has been an absolute breakout season for Ramires.
He has 10 goals to his name this year, five times as many as last season, to go along with five assists. The stats only tell half the story, though, as the Brazilian has an engine that never stops, with bursts of speed that at times make him look impossible to catch.
He adds so many intangible benefits to Chelsea, as a player who is both athletic enough and skilled enough to play any position on the pitch.
He also provides a speed to his game, that many other Chelsea players lack. Ramires looks to get the ball moving quickly, and once he's moved the ball on, his off-the-ball movement is just as speedy, darting into space and finding gaps in the opponent's defense.
He's not considered to have the traditional Brazilian flair, like Rivaldo and Ronaldinho, but that is due to his playing style, not because he doesn't have the technique.
This was demonstrated in the Champions League semifinal. At a crucial point in the game Ramires calmly lobbed the ball over the head of Victor Valdes, leaving millions stunned, asking "Where on earth did that come from?!"
Ramires is now a key cog in Chelsea's current system, and I'm sure his absence in the Champions League final will be felt.
It's hard to truly describe how influential Ramires has been to any success Chelsea have had this year, but he just provides that little bit extra when it's really needed.
John Obi Mikel: CM
Mikel has never quite lived up to expectations in a Chelsea shirt. The 'Next Makalele" is yet to reach the standard set by the "Unsung Hero," Claude Makalele.
Mikel has failed to make an impression this year, and Roberto Di Matteo has played him sporadically. Mikel's confidence has appeared to progress in recent games, and he is slowly becoming more adventurous on the ball.
The Nigerian international has a very particular style of football, always looking to play the way he's facing and rarely passing further than 10 feet. You may argue these are positive traits, and that this just means he's playing safe. However Mikel has given the ball away in dangerous areas so many times in the past that a short pass, for him, is in fact not a safe pass.
Mikel has a tendency to make the obvious pass, meaning that when he plays a high-class opponent, they can read his every move. Against Liverpool in November, a simple Mikel error led to an easy goal for Maxi Rodriguez.
Mikel was unable to prove consistent once again, so therefore he did not deserve a regular place in the starting lineup.
Juan Mata: CAM/LM
Juan Mata has had an incredible season statistically, with 12 goals and a staggering 15 assists.
Questions were raised about Mata's size when he arrived in the league. Lots of people felt he would not be physical enough for Premier League football. His success thus far has appeared to silence critics.
He has scored some hugely important goals this year, including his strike against Napoli in a 3-1 loss, which proved to be a vital away goal.
He's also provided some much needed flair in attack, a kind of dribbling ability that has been missing since the departures of Joe Cole and Arjen Robben.
He netted an absolute wonder goal in a thrilling 3-3 draw against Manchester United and was pivotal in Chelsea's 5-1 win over Tottenham, scoring one and assisting on two more, providing the kind of football Roman Abramovich has always dreamed of.
He has seemed to tire slightly as the season has progressed, and his production has slipped during that period, but it's undeniably been an outstanding debut campaign for the little Spaniard.
Florent Malouda: LW
The signing of Juan Mata was really a sign that Malouda's days at Chelsea are numbered.
Scoring just two goals this year, the French international has struggled to really make an impact, mainly coming on off the bench.
He has provided some much needed spark from the sub bench, coming on with fresh legs to test tiring full-backs, but his delivery has been poor and his creation non-existent.
He seemed a promising signing upon his arrival at the Bridge, but ever since, he has mainly filled in as a backup. I struggle to see him becoming anything much more than that in the future.
He has not had an awful season, with few mistakes, but just never really been involved enough to make a statement and earn more playing time.
Salomon Kalou: RW/LW
Well, what to say about the Ivorian winger? Salomon Kalou managed to gain a fair amount of playing time after Roberto Di Matteo took the reigns at Chelsea, but he has never really seized the opportunity to impress.
I'm sure most Chelsea fans would be in agreement that Kalou has shown signs of his ability, with some exciting runs and neat finishes. But on the whole, Salomon Kalou is the most frustrating player to ever put on a Chelsea shirt.
Time after time, Kalou has piked up the ball and beaten maybe one or two players, but then he makes the wrong decision! This happens approximately seven out of 10 times, and of the three times he makes the right decision, the execution will only be there once.
Once he beats his man, Kalou usually freezes and passes it straight to an opponent or balloons the ball out of play.
The only thing more frustrating than watching Kalou with the ball is watching him off the ball. When he's not static, 90 percent of the time he calls for the ball he's in an offside position.
In the 2007-08 season, he claimed a record number of offsides with 107 in 30 games. Had he played more games this year, I would not be surprised to see a similar number.
Salomon Kalou is not a bad player—in fact, he is a very talented player. But until he develops his understanding of the game and begins making correct decisions, he will never be a top-tier player.
Unfortunately, this was another disappointing season for Salomon Kalou.
Daniel Sturridge: ST/RW/LW
After a fantastic loan spell at Bolton, Daniel Sturridge continued his good form after returning to the Blues.
Sturridge amassed 11 goals this year and really made a push at a starting position in a team stacked with attacking talent. He began to gain a first-team spot but in an unfavorable position for him, as a right-winger.
His pace and finishing ability make him a deadly threat against any defense. However, his inconsistency and immaturity are still holding him back from being great.
I'm sure everyone would agree that a striker must be slightly selfish to be successful. Yet this season, Daniel Sturridge's "me" performances have not aided Chelsea's performance as a team.
His talent means the goals will come, but Sturridge is too eager to get on the score sheet and shoots whenever he gets sight of goal. I'm not suggesting that you take that goalscorer mentality out of him, but by adding some team spirit to his focus would allow him to develop his overall game.
It's been a very good season for Sturridge, but his eagerness to take the spot as the lone striker has blurred his focus and has not allowed him to really contribute to the team, other than through his goals.
Eleven goals is impressive, but from 85 shots, we should be expecting more from him.
Fernando Torres: ST
Unless you have been living on the moon, I am sure you have enough evidence that Torres is yet to fully return to his best as a Chelsea player.
Torres has managed just six Premier League goals this year and 11 overall. It is the first time he has not managed double figures in league goals since entering competitive football in 2002.
So it is pretty obvious that Torres has not quite played up to his expectations this year, but he has still contributed to Chelsea in other areas. Despite his struggles in front of goal, he has still managed 12 assists in all competitions, an unbelievably high number for a forward.
His effort this season has also been outstanding, despite constant criticism and struggling to maintain a first-team place. Torres has always given 100 percent and chases the opposing defenders down, often winning possession back for the blues.
His poor goal-scoring record can largely be attributed to bad form early in the year and a goal drought from the team as a whole.
Towards the back end of the season, Torres' goal scoring has picked up, including his first Chelsea hat trick against QPR and an important goal to finish off Barcelona in the Champions League semifinal.
He may have hit his form at the right time of the season, and if he were to get the nod against either Bayern or Liverpool in either of the finals, it may be his chance to return to his prolific old days.
But without a doubt, he's had a disappointing season on the whole. If he is able to maintain good form into next year, an improved season is certain.
Didier Drogba: ST
Everyone in the world knows how good Didier Drogba can be, but many people this year have branded him as being past his best.
One person who certainly doesn't believe that is Drogba himself. His goal-scoring record is similar to that of Fernando Torres, with 11 goals in all competitions, but not quite so much was expected of the veteran striker.
The Ivorian has netted some crucial goals this year, just as the Chelsea faithful expects, Drogba is a big-game player. A winning goal against Barcelona and the opener against Tottenham in the FA cup semifinal just highlight Drogba's importance to Chelsea success.
Despite the influence Drogba has when he plays well, he can be inconsistent, and on some days he just doesn't look interested. He ends up throwing himself all over the place and moaning to the referee. This has happened far too much this year and shows how childish the 34-year-old can be.
He has played a significant role for Chelsea this year, but a slow start to the year and inconsistent performances in between stop it from being one of his better seasons as a Chelsea player.
Gary Cahill: CB, Ryan Bertrand: LB, Paulo Ferreira: RB, Michael Essien: CM
These players have not been involved quite so much for Chelsea this year, but they outline an important backup squad. Whether it is because they have been injured,, inexperienced or too old, each player has made an important impact.
Gary Cahill: B-
He had a rocky start but has become more comfortable in his role and put on a great display in the first leg against Barcelona.
Ryan Bertrand: B-
He has filled in as Ashley Cole looked for rest and has provided some great attacking width while staying solid at the back.
Paulo Ferreira: C
He had no real contributions in his few appearances but also no mistakes. He filled in nicely when Chelsea were thin at the back against Benfica.
Michael Essien: C+
He struggled to really make the same impact as usual but is still a powerful presence that can help solidify and strengthen the midfield when fit.