With teammates like John Terry, Ashley Cole, David Luiz, Cesar Azpilicueta and Branislav Ivanovic well known for their defensive prowess, it’s pretty hard for Gary Cahill to get the credit he justly deserves at Chelsea.
But this should be the year the 27-year-old Englishman finally starts to receive some of the respect he’s earned and finally wins a spot in the Blues starting XI under new manager Jose Mourinho.
Usually employed at left centre-back, Cahill has had the unenviable task of being behind Chelsea legend and captain John Terry at the position on the depth chart. With the 32-year-old Terry now winding down his storied career at Stamford Bridge, now is the time for Cahill to make his mark and carry some of the load on the Europa League champions' defense.
Not that Cahill hasn’t carried a pretty big load for the Blues since coming over from Bolton Wanderers in the winter transfer period of 2012.
In all competitions last season—in which the club played a record 69 games—Cahill started 45 times and was a nice plug-in when Terry was injured and when Chelsea experimented by moving Luiz up into a surging centre-back/defensive midfield role.
Like Terry (6’2”) and the rest of the Blues defense, Cahill (6’2”) is a tall and aggressive player who can put the ball in the back of the net once in a while as he proved with his six goals in all competitions last year.
And also like Terry, Cahill is a vocal leader on the Blues back line and would actually be a decent candidate to take over the club’s captaincy when Terry decides to ride his royal-blue horse into the West London sunset, although Luiz’s name has been bandied about the most in that respect over the last eight months.
Whether Cahill ends up primarily at left centre-back or right centre-back will probably depend on how well Luiz adapts to a midfield role and how effective Ivanovic is at right centre-back, but his versatility and Mourinho’s willingness to be creative mean that Cahill will likely be used at both spots, although the vast majority of his minutes should come on the left side.
Getting credit on a team like Chelsea so loaded with stars and grizzled veterans like Terry, Cole, Frank Lampard and Petr Cech is an extremely difficult thing, but Bleacher Report scribe Sam Tighe gave Cahill his just due, ranking him 70th in his story (EPL 100: Ranking the 100 Best English Premier League Players) published Aug. 12 in which he ranked the top 100 players in England’s top flight.
So often, myopic and rabid Chelsea fans chose to pick on one or more of their club’s players, and, like John Obi Mikel, Fernando Torres, Demba Ba and Ramires, Cahill seems to be one of those Blues some have no problem slighting.
Besides being versatile in Chelsea’s back four, Cahill—who joined Aston Villa’s Academy when he was just 15 years old—is equally as deep with his skill set as any football player as he can shoot, pass, cross and fight in the air with the best of them.
With Mourinho now calling the shots at SW6, Cahill will certainly get his chance to strut his stuff and should be a solid member of the Blues' stellar defense for many seasons to come.
As well as shining in Chelsea’s first-leg 1-0 win over Barcelona in the 2012 Champions League semi-final match at Stamford Bridge, Cahill was absolutely brilliant in the Blues’ Europa League final win over Benfica where he threw his body in front of a last-second Benfiquistas attempt to help preserve the victory and the championship.
You want to know how valuable Cahill is to Chelsea? Ask goalkeeper Cech about it.
If he can remain injury free and be given the playing time he should this coming season—which begins Aug. 18 when Hull City pays a visit to Stamford Bridge (NBC Sports Network, 11 a.m. ET/8 a.m. PT)—Cahill should start getting the love he deserves and should make Terry’s imminent departure all that much more palatable for Chelsea and its fans.
Follow me on Twitter: @KevinStott11.
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