Chelsea Offseason Review: Grading Each Player on the Blues' 28-Man Roster
With Chelsea starting its 2013-14 English Premier League in a matter of days, it is time to review the Blues' offseason thus far, and look at which players have disappointed, and which have impressed, over the course of the first month or so of preseason.
With Chelsea having completed its tour of Asia with trips to Bangkok, Malaysia and Indonesia, the Blues are now touring the States in the midst of the International Champions Cup.
While it is still preseason, and yes, the results don't necessarily matter, it is still quite impressive that Chelsea is a perfect 5-for-5 thus far in the preseason.
With the results going the way manager Jose Mourinho would like, players old and young have also undoubtedly impressed the gaffer.
With that said, here's a look at my grades for each and every player on Chelsea's roster, based on their preseason performances thus far.
Petr Cech, Goalkeeper
It's been another stellar, yet routine offseason for the Chelsea goalkeeper.
Undoubtedly the team's first-choice goalie, Petr Cech has put any doubts to whether his age will hinder his performances with solid outings thus far in the summer.
Despite giving up a late goal in the match vs. the Malaysia XI, Cech has turned in solid outings in his time against the Singha All-Stars, Inter and AC Milan.
Cech has shown that he can control the shape of his backline and have a tight command of his box. In the four games he has appeared in so far this preseason, Cech has only allowed one goal.
While it should be expected at this point in his career, Cech only seems to be getting better and better as time goes on.
Branislav Ivanovic, Defender
Coming off a 2012-13 campaign in which he scored a last-minute, game-winning goal in the Europa League final against Benfica, Branislav Ivanovic has had an equally impressive preseason this summer.
In fact, he may very well have been Chelsea's best defender through the first five games of this season.
Ivanovic can be considered a complete defender, with his combination of speed, power and skill having caused opposing strikers nightmares.
One of Ivanovic's most impressive traits, however, may be his versatility.
Ivanovic can arguably play anywhere on the backline, from right-back to center back, and on occasion, could probably even be called on to play left-back.
Ivanovic's impressive offseason was capped off by a goal-saving challenge against AC Milan, which kept the score at 0-0 in the early goings.
To sum things up, Ivanovic's season at Stamford Bridge looks to be very bright.
Ashley Cole, Defender
Widely regarded as one of the world's best left-backs, Ashely Cole has shown he still has plenty left in the tank of his Chelsea career.
While the 32-year-old has obviously lost a step or two since his prime, he has shown that he can still be a more-than-capable full-back for a top English side.
Cole offers a plethora of experience and composure to an otherwise youthful side. He has shown he can still defend one-on-one, offer exceptional distribution out of the back and join the attack when needed.
However, throughout the preseason, Cole has shown he can be beaten with pace on occasion, and can sometimes be caught out of position.
Still, Cole is the Blues' best option at left-back, and for good reason.
David Luiz, Defender
It's been quite the offseason for David Luiz.
After leading his Brazilian national team to the Confederations Cup trophy earlier this summer, Luiz has yet to play a big part in his club's preseason. Due to his participation with the national team, Luiz missed out on Chelsea's tour of Asia.
Add that to the fact that Luiz has been the talk of plenty of speculation of a transfer to Barcelona, and it's been quite the offseason for the 26-year-old.
Furthermore, Luiz has picked up a hamstring injury that leaves him out of the Chelsea lineup indefinitely.
With his only performance of the preseason coming in a cameo appearance against Inter, it is impossible to grade Luiz's offseason.
Still, the Brazilian figures to play a huge part in Mourinho's plans this season.
Michael Essien, Midfielder
When Michael Essien, once a legend in West London, went on loan to Real Madrid last season, many fans around Stamford Bridge were probably wondering what the 30-year-old would have to offer the Blues this season.
However, the Ghana international has not disappointed Chelsea fans thus far.
After following Mourinho, his manager at Madrid, back to London, Essien has proved that he can still play at a top level.
Despite not having the same flare, power and ability that he had in his previous stint with Chelsea, Essien has shown that he can still be a capable central defensive midfielder.
Most importantly, however, Essien has shown in the Blues' preseason tour that he can offer vital experience to a very inexperienced side.
Here we have arguably Chelsea's most versatile midfielder.
Ramires has continued to impress the Chelsea faithful with complete performances in the preseason thus far.
The 26-year-old Brazilian has shown that he can be both a defensive and offensive weapon for Mourinho's side.
While also giving his club a chance to breakup opposing counterattacks with stingy tackles, Ramires has also shown he can contribute on the other side of the field, as he scored a brace in Chelsea's outing against the Indonesia All-Stars.
With yet more impressive outings for Ramires, he has shown Mourinho with his preseason performances that he can be reliable for the side, wherever he is needed.
Frank Lampard, Midfielder
It's hard to grade a player when he hasn't played thus far in the preseason.
That's exactly the case for Frank Lampard.
After picking up a knock in the warm-up of Chelsea's clash with the Singha All-Stars, the Chelsea legend has struggled to gain full fitness. Thus, he hasn't featured in any of the Blues' preseason games thus far.
Fernando Torres, Striker
It's very hard to judge the very enigmatic Fernando Torres after he missed out on Chelsea's Asia tour due to his extended holiday break after competing in this summer's Confederations Cup.
However, in his cameo appearances against Inter and AC Milan, the 29-year-old Spaniard has actually looked quite impressive.
In fact, after Chelsea's 2-0 victory over AC Milan, Mourinho gave Torres' performance a thumbs up, according to the team's official website.
Fernando Torres today was fantastic and he has five days of training after the Confederations Cup. He is not fit but his attitude was amazing. I have to praise my strikers because they are working for the team.
In his limited time, Torres has seemed to relish the idea that he will have to compete for his starting spot this season. He has shown an improvement in his pace and first touch, something that wasn't quite there over the past couple of seasons.
And, of course, his work rate and effort to help out on the defensive side of the ball is still there.
While I cannot give Torres a grade due to his limited action, more performances like the ones he put in against Inter and AC Milan will award Torres a high mark.
Juan Mata, Midfielder
Like Torres, Juan Mata hasn't featured too much in Chelsea's preseason schedule thus far after being given an extended holiday due to his participation with Spain in the Confederations Cup.
Coming off the bench for Chelsea in its games with Inter and AC Milan, Mata has shown that he will undoubtedly be yet another key piece for Chelsea's puzzle this season.
The 25-year-old Spaniard will control the Chelsea midfield this season and set up goalscoring opportunities for the likes of Torres, Romelu Lukaku and Demba Ba.
Mata even found himself with a chance to get his name on the scorer's sheet against AC Milan, when he was sent in on AC Milan's Christian Abbiati via a through ball by Torres. However, Mata could only fire right into the Milan goalkeeper's hands, keeping the score at 1-0.
Again, I cannot give a grade to Mata due to his limited performances but have no fear, Chelsea fans, Mata has proved he will be Chelsea's most important player once again this year.
Despite not featuring in Chelsea's tour of Asia, Oscar has proved that he will be a vital player in the Blues' midfield once again this season.
The 21-year-old Brazilian was the only one of the six Chelsea players involved in the Confederations Cup to start the game vs. Inter, as he played in the central role right behind Romelu Lukaku.
In that game, Oscar looked like one of the Blues' best players on the pitch, despite only starting preseason training with his club a few days before.
Oscar's good work paid off in that game, with the Brazilian getting on the scoresheet with a brilliant upper-corner strike in the 13th minute.
His performance against Inter earned him yet another start against AC Milan, where he helped set up Chelsea's first goal of the match by Kevin De Bruyne.
Despite his limited action thus far in the preseason, Oscar has shown his future is quite bright at Stamford Bridge.
John Obi Mikel, Midfielder
Yet another victim of Chelsea's preseason due to his participation in the Confederations Cup, John Obi Mikel has seen very limited action with the Blues so far this summer.
Coming on in the 67th minute against Inter and in the 65th minute against AC Milan, Mikel couldn't have too much of an impact in either game.
While he hasn't seen much of the field for Chelsea so far this preseason, Mikel remains a very capable defensive midfielder for Mourinho's side.
Victor Moses, Midfielder
When Victor Moses transferred to West London from Wigan Athletic at the beginning of last season, many Chelsea fans were questioning whether the 22-year-old would be able to get into the first team.
However, the Nigerian international has shown he is more than capable of doing so.
According to Sky Sports, Mourinho has even gone as far as to praise Moses's performances thus far:
Victor has been terrific, working very hard. In his position, we have Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne and Andre Schurrle, and with Victor, we can change during a match and give new life to the team.
Moses has brought about an energy to Chelsea's squad, showing he has the skill, determination and mindset to want to take players on one-on-one. Throughout the preseason, Moses has found the net once while also setting up others to score.
Moses is yet another player who looks like he is relishing the fact that he will have to compete with superstars such as Eden Hazard and Andre Schurrle.
With the way things are looking now, Moses will see his fair share of first-team action.
Andre Schurrle, Midfielder
Yet another weapon in Chelsea's midfield arsenal, Andre Schurrle has had his share of ups and downs so far in a Chelsea shirt.
After first struggling a bit in his first few performances, the 22-year-old German international has seemed to find his stride with Chelsea.
While Schurrle has sometimes looked like the game is moving too fast for him, there is no doubting that he has the talent to succeed at Stamford Bridge.
Schurrle has a non-stop motor and will work just as hard on the defensive side of the ball as he will in the attacking third.
His hard work paid off in Chelsea's clash with AC Milan, after he scored on a stunning volley with just minutes remaining.
While the former Bayer Leverkusen man still has a long way to go to get into the first team at Chelsea, he's well on his way to doing so.
Kevin De Bruyne, Midfielder
Arguably Chelsea's best player thus far during the preseason, Kevin De Bruyne has shown the world what all of the hype over him was about.
With his performances, De Bruyne has shown that he can play in an advanced left, central or right midfield position. He has the ability to both take defenders on one-on-one and play simply and keep possession.
While scoring against Malaysia, De Bruyne landed awkwardly on his right leg, causing his knee to hyperextend. However, he has since recovered nicely from his injury to feature in Chelsea's International Champions Cup run.
While still extremely young, the first-year Chelsea player will undoubtedly play a big role in Chelsea's season for Mourinho and company.
Marco Van Ginkel, Midfielder
While still only 20 years old, Marco van Ginkel looks set to become a staple in Chelsea's midfield for years to come.
Van Ginkel has been quite impressive for the Blues so far this preseason, with his performances coming from the defensive midfield position in Mourinho's 4-2-3-1 formation.
He has shown an ability to tackle, maintain his defensive shape and pick the right pass to one of Chelsea's five front men, all necessities for where he plays on the pitch.
Showing plenty of maturity, the Dutchman has proved thus far that he can be counted on to play in Mourinho's pivot-man system just in front of the back four.
Only months into his Chelsea career, it looks like van Ginkel will prove to be a vital piece for Chelsea's lineup for years and years to come.
Eden Hazard, Midfielder
Simply put, Eden Hazard is one of the best footballers in the world.
Perhaps not since Gianfranco Zola have fans around Stamford Bridge witnessed a player that has the creativity and skill Hazard possesses.
Time and time again, Hazard makes defenders look like schoolboys amongst men with his one-on-one skill and quickness. At the heart of most Chelsea attacks lies some sort of brilliance from the Belgian.
And oh yeah, he can score, too.
In Chelsea's five games thus far in the preseason, Hazard has scored twice, while setting up plenty of others.
However, the majority of his play revolves around his playmaking abilities, which is second to none among the world's superstars.
To put it plainly, Chelsea is not the same team without Eden Hazard.
Romelu Lukaku, Striker
At the beginning of the summer, there were many arguing that Romelu Lukaku should spend another season on loan away from London, as he did last year with West Bromwich Albion.
However, based on his performances thus far, Lukaku has put an end to that conversation.
In his outings so far this preseason, the 20-year-old Belgian has shown to hold a deadly combination of power, speed and finesse.
Lukaku has also shown that he can find the net when asked to, something that other Chelsea strikers have struggled with. In five appearances for the Blues in the offseason, Lukaku has scored four times, an impressive ratio to say the least.
Arguably Chelsea's most complete striker currently on its roster, Lukaku will undoubtedly be playing his football in West London this season.
Demba Ba, Striker
Since Demba Ba has come to West London in the January transfer window, he hasn't looked the shadow of the player who tormented EPL defenders in his time with Newcastle United.
Unfortunately for Ba and Chelsea, that trend has continued in the first five games of the Blues' preseason.
Seemingly lacking a good first touch and change of pace, Ba has continued to look out of sorts in a Chelsea shirt. Despite a goal against the Indonesia All-Stars, Ba has failed to impress the Chelsea faithful.
With his performances thus far, Ba has cemented himself as Mourinho's third-choice striker behind Torres and Lukaku.
While the 28-year-old Senegalese striker always has a knack for scoring spectacular goals, Ba needs to first focus on the fundamentals and the basics in order to get a chance of first-team action this season.
Gary Cahill, Defender
Gary Cahill has his work cut out for him if he wants to maintain his position as one of Chelsea's two first-choice center backs.
While the 27-year-old English defender undoubtedly has a plethora of ability, size and strength, there are times at which he looks out of position and outright confused.
At points, Cahill backs away from strikers too much and allows them too much space in the attacking third. He, at points, makes a mental mistake that can prove to be costly among teams with quality.
Still, Cahill figures to be a part of Mourinho's center-back rotation, along with Ivanovic, Luiz and John Terry.
But, for him to convince his new boss that he is one of Chelsea's best defenders, he will have to improve a bit in the Blues' final preseason games.
John Terry, Defender
When Jose Mourinho was appointed to come back to manage Chelsea, one of the happiest players on the team must have been John Terry.
The 32-year-old, who was named Chelsea's permanent captain by Mourinho in 2004, didn't play the prominent role he has become used to last season at Stamford Bridge.
However, that can all change with Mourinho at the helm.
Terry, while often criticized, still remains a solid center back that has enough experience and quality to captain a top English side.
While Terry has had his share of struggles thus far this offseason, he has shown enough to prove that he can handle being the Blues' first-choice center back.
His leadership and positioning out of the back could prove to be priceless for a Chelsea team that remains very young.
Cesar Azpilicueta, Defender
Another Chelsea player whose participation cost him a tour of Asia, Cesar Azpilicueta has only appeared in two of Chelsea's preseason games thus far.
Coming off the bench in the 67th minute against Inter and playing the first 45 against AC Milan, Azpilicueta is just getting back to full fitness.
While he is still young at 23 years old, Azpilicueta showed enough last season to prove he is worthy of a first-team selection at right-back.
Yes, he does commit costly mental mistakes at times. However, he has enough talent and awareness to turn into a great full-back for Chelsea.
Like the other Confederations Cup participants, however, his lack of appearances in the preseason grants his performances incomplete.
Ryan Bertrand, Defender
While Ashley Cole remains this team's first-choice left-back as long as he is healthy, Ryan Bertrand has shown enough this preseason to prove that he is a capable backup.
The 24-year-old Englishman has shown to be willing to join the attack with his pace on the wings. Furthermore, he remains an above average one-on-one defender, although he has been beaten on occasion.
While at times he can be caught out of position because of his willingness to go forward, Bertrand has put enough confidence in Mourinho to let the Portuguese manager to let Bertrand see the field in all five of Chelsea's preseason games.
Despite not showing too much of the spectacular, Bertrand remains a solid outside full-back and a good option off the bench on his day.
Mark Schwarzer, Goalkeeper
Appearing in four of Chelsea's five preseason games thus far, newcomer Mark Schwarzer has shown enough to be a more-than-capable backup for Petr Cech.
With solid leadership, distribution and shot-stopping, the 40-year-old Australian should prove to be an upgrade at the position over former Chelsea man Ross Turnbull.
However, Schwarzer did have a rough moment against AC Milan where he mistimed a cross and completely whiffed on a cross, almost leading to an easy goal for the Italians.
However, Schwarzer has only given up one goal so far this preseason, which was an own goal, and that's all that matters.
If Schwarzer can avoid the mental errors and be a calming presence in net, then he will enjoy a fine season at the Bridge.
Henrique Hilario, Goalkeeper
Henrique Hilario has yet to feature in any of Chelsea's preseason games thus far.
The 37-year-old Portuguese goalkeeper remains a solid third option for Mourinho.
Yet another Chelsea youngster who saw all of his preseason action during the tour of Asia, Wallace seemed to leave a much bigger impression than his fellow teenagers.
Earning a penalty in his first outing in a Chelsea shirt against the Singha All-Stars, the 19-year-old Brazilian helped create the Blues' only goal of the match.
While he has to improve on his defensive game, the quality and potential is there for Wallace to become a future left-back in Chelsea's first team.
Josh McEachran, Midfielder
Josh McEachran has shown enough promise over his time with Chelsea to make fans believe he has a future at Stamford Bridge.
However, the 20-year-old English midfielder has only seen action twice thus far in the preseason. McEachran has come off the bench in Chelsea's clashes with the Malaysia XI and Indonesia All-Stars.
On his day, McEachran has the ability to be a box-to-box midfielder who can play the role of a distributor as well as playmaker.
Likely to go on loan this season, McEachran hasn't had much of a chance to prove to Mourinho he can be useful with the first team this season.
Lucas Piazon, Forward
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Featuring in all of Chelsea's three games on their Asia tour, Lucas Piazon was able to give Mourinho a solid first impression.
The 19-year-old failed to get on the scoresheet, however, and will go on loan once again this season.
While he maintains the ability to create a sequence of brilliance, Piazon has a long way to go until he sees action in the first team.
Tomas Kalas, Defender
It's been an up-and-down preseason for Tomas Kalas.
After a promising debut to his Chelsea career against the Singha All-Stars, the 20-year-old Czech defender scored an own goal in Chelsea's clash against the Indonesia All-Stars.
To make matters worse, Kalas suffered a fractured fibula and will be out for about a month.
While Kalas will go on loan this season, it was an unfortunate, yet forgettable offseason for the Chelsea man.