Chelsea have recently been linked with Alvaro Pereira, a versatile left-sided player from FC Porto. He is certainly talented, as evidenced by his productive showings in the 2010 World Cup with Uruguay. He has shown the ability to play either left wing back or on the left wing, meaning he would provide great cover for our left-sided players.
There is a major problem with Pereira, though: he fits a role almost identical to that of the recently departed Yuri Zhirkov. Both are around 6 feet tall (1.84 m), both are strong, powerful players with the ball, and both are flexible enough to play up and down the left flank. Zhirkov was sold to Anzhi Makhachkala on August 6 for an undisclosed fee (rumored to be in the £13 million range).
The only noticeable differences between Pereira and Zhirkov are that Pereira is three years younger at 25, and Pereira seems to be less injury prone than Zhirkov.
Given these similarities, along with the enormous price tag associated with Pereira (who has a €30 million release clause in his contract), one would wonder why exactly Andre Villas-Boas seems set to meet his release clause in order to bring him to Chelsea.
Pereira is a talented player, but he is not good enough to dislodge Cole from his left back position. He would need to improve greatly to compete with either Malouda or Mata on the left wing, and the only player in the supposed starting line-up that Pereira would have a chance to replace would be Sturridge, another talented, young, left-footed wide-player.
In Chelsea’s current line-up, Pereira would provide excellent, flexible cover for Chelsea’s left flank in case of injury. But if this was the reason for Villas-Boas wanting to sign Pereira, why would he not have kept Zhirkov, an eerily similar player with a proven ability to provide quality backup for Chelsea’s left-sided players? And would Villas-Boas really spend €30 million for a backup?
This leads me to believe that Villas-Boas has some more consequential changes in mind than are being discussed by much of the media. I believe that if Chelsea sign Pereira, Chelsea’s attacking formation will be altered dramatically.
I can picture a formation with Pereira on the left side of the attack, Daniel Sturridge on the right, Fernando Torres in the middle and Juan Mata playing more of a floating role in the middle. The formation would bump Frank Lampard back in the midfield to partner Ramires as a deep-seated player, and it would also mean that Chelsea’s attack would be much more free-flowing and interchangeable than it has been since the days of Damien Duff and Arjen Robben.
All of the attackers would have the flexibility to play all of the attacking positions effectively, which would allow Villas-Boas to make many alterations and tactical changes on the fly without having to spend substitutions.
Looking at the transfer this way, Pereira might be worth the €30 million Porto are asking for him. It all depends on what exactly Villas-Boas has in mind, and that is anybody’s guess.