Having arrived on transfer deadline day last season, Meireles enjoyed a successful debut season in London, winning both the Champions League and FA Cup.
But he has since been deemed surplus to requirements by manager Roberto Di Matteo, who clearly feels the club has sufficient strength in depth to cope with the Portuguese’s departure.
But are Chelsea really that well equipped without Meireles?
Sure, they have strength in numbers in midfield, but Meireles performed a very unique role for the Blues, in both attack and defence.
It was a role that may not be so easily replaced.
As of March 2012, his tackling success was over 72%, and his pass completion rate was over 82%. Such statistics demonstrate the fact that Meireles was indeed an all-round midfielder, capable of benefiting the team in more than one area.
Though signed, in my opinion, with the intention of providing a creative edge, it was his work-rate that really saw him shine, as he began to operate in the defensive midfield position that Paulo Bento had been employing him in for the national side.
Without the former Porto star, will Chelsea’s midfield be as strong?
Ramires can play in a similar role, and his work-rate is second to none. But much like Frank Lampard or new signing Oscar, he is perhaps more effective when going forward, as proven by his superb goal against Barcelona last season.
Will Chelsea miss Raul Meireles?
John Obi Mikel is also capable of filling in, but he does not offer the more direct and clinical passing that Meireles does; over half of the Portuguese’s open play passes went forwards.
Oriol Romeu is another who could step up, but his lack of first-team experience may prove to be a hindrance, and he may struggle with the pressure of such a key role in the Chelsea team.
Thus, the Blues are left lacking a key ingredient of the 4-2-3-1 formation that Di Matteo has adopted throughout his tenure, and the loss of Michael Essien to Real Madrid on loan represents the departure of another player able to fulfil the hybrid role of defence and attack that Chelsea require in the heart of midfield.
Perhaps we will see a slightly different style of play from Chelsea this season, as they adapt to a system without Meireles or Essien. Signing the likes of Eden Hazard, Oscar and Victor Moses would certainly suggest a more high-tempo approach is what Di Matteo has in mind.
But as far as I can see, Chelsea should have held onto Meireles; he was a rare talent in that he was competent virtually anywhere in the midfield.
The Blues now seem unbalanced in the centre of the park, with a wide array of flair players, but few who are going to track back and safeguard the already suspect Chelsea defence, which was torn apart by Radamel Falcao in the European Super Cup.
If they can sustain their impressive start to the campaign, then the loss of Meireles will hardly be noticed. But there is still a long way to go yet, and the lack of depth in the defensive midfield berth could cost Chelsea come the end of the season.
Only time will tell, but perhaps Chelsea were too hasty to cash in on one of the more unsung members of their star-studded squad.
What do you guys think, should Meireles have been retained? Or will Chelsea’s new style of play work perfectly fine without the Portuguese?
Comment below with your thoughts on this matter.