Raul Meireles: 5 Reasons He Flopped After Leaving Liverpool
Because recent signings from Anfield have failed spectacularly to perform at Stamford Bridge.
Yossi Benayoun’s travails could possibly be explained by his injuries and the abundance of options in his position.
The latest in the ex-Red failure series is Raul Meireles.
Here are five reasons he has flopped since leaving Liverpool, and feel free to have your say in the comments below.
As with Fernando Torres, Raul Meireles’ reputation at Liverpool might just have caused the initial over-expectation from Chelsea fans and coaching staff.
Meireles was probably Roy Hodgson’s only credible signing, yet he only truly showed impressive form under Kenny Dalglish, when he went on a remarkable scoring run and established himself as a key member of the Liverpool first team.
So prominent was his rise that he was voted as the PFA Fans’ Player of the Year in 2011—an accolade that was probably as surprising as his sudden last-minute move to Stamford Bridge that summer.
A goalscoring, assist-giving midfielder known for his creativity and workrate—what’s there not to like about Meireles?
But he was signed as an alternative to Tottenham’s Luka Modric, who Chelsea had pursued all summer.
And so his anticipated Chelsea career—to be the creative midfielder that never signed—got off to a horrible start even before he stepped onto the Stamford Bridge pitch.
Raul Meireles Is No Luka Modric
Because Raul Meireles is no Luka Modric.
In fact, as far as midfield players go, he’s probably completely opposite to Modric in terms of playing style.
Consider Modric’s role as focal point in the Tottenham midfield and attack. Modric, who has fantastic vision, prefers the ball at his feet so he can wriggle out of a tight situation and set up a teammate, or play in his forwards with a sublime pass. While he has been deployed all across the midfield by Harry Redknapp, his best role might be just behind the striker, where his ball control, dribbling and vision create chances and plenty of space for himself.
Then consider Meireles during his best period at Liverpool. Prior to Kenny Dalglish’s return, he had been used all across the midfield and had struggled to make a lasting mark on the Liverpool first team. As a midfielder whose first-touch passing and shooting are immaculate, he thrives on touch-and-go, pass-and-move play, which involves quick passing and precise movement.
Given that Meireles is at his most efficient and effective best (because he’s not a flashy player by any means) in the hole, Roy Hodgson’s attempts to use him as a deep-lying playmaker were admirable, but ultimately a waste.
So too Andre Villas-Boas’, and now Roberto Di Matteo’s.
Now we arrive at the third problem.
His playing style meant he was never the ideal substitute for Luka Modric, whose spiritual alternative is now in the form of Juan Mata.
Out of Chelsea’s midfield options, Meireles most resembles Frank Lampard.
Perhaps Meireles differs from Lampard in that the former prefers one-touch passing, while Lampard enjoys possession of the ball and long-range passing. But the contrasts stop there.
Both players are at their best behind a lone striker, and their vision enables them to set up many chances for their teammates while they ghost around the penalty area looking to snap at any loose balls. Their long-range shooting ability also works best with strikers capable of setting up chances for onrushing midfielders, and with wingers who can drag open the opposition defences.
The problem with all this, of course, is that Frank Lampard's presence is still quite considerable at Stamford Bridge.
Since Meireles has significant obstacles in his way to become Chelsea’s first-choice central attacking midfielder in Frank Lampard and Juan Mata, he’s been shifted to other positions on the field.
What’s wrong with this?
Well, just that Chelsea have a plethora of options across the midfield.
On the right, where he failed to produce much when Hodgson tried him in Dirk Kuyt’s normal position, Meireles lacks the pace, dribbling and crossing to thrive. Ramires, Daniel Sturridge, Mata and yes, even Salomon Kalou, are all better options.
As a central or defensive midfielder, he lacks the outright physicality, tackling ability and box-to-box speed that Michael Essien, Ramires, Oriol Romeu and yes, even Jon Obi Mikel, have.
Meireles’ versatility, it seems, is costing him a permanent starting place at Chelsea.
Lack of Sustained Playing Time
As a result of his lack of form, Raul Meireles has found a consistent first-team place hard to come by.
And for a non-flashy midfielder whose goalscoring and chance-creating thrives on a telepathic understanding with his colleagues on the pitch, Meireles can’t develop a connection at Chelsea like he did at Liverpool.
So it really isn’t a surprise to see him take up odd positions and his passes going astray—he simply doesn’t have much of a playing foundation to work with.
It also doesn’t help that he has increasingly had to bear the brunt of Chelsea fans for their travails.
How Do You Solve a Problem Like Meireles?
As recently as a few weeks ago, the same question was asked, only with Fernando Torres’ name instead of Chelsea’s No. 16.
Suddenly, it seems that Roberto Di Matteo has cracked the case for Torres’ salvation at Chelsea, as Torres has turned in some fine displays of late.
Torres has found more playing time and trust from the coaching staff to do his job.
If Chelsea are to turn around Raul Meireles’ performances, they will have to do the same to their ex-Liverpool man.
Otherwise, as has been suggested for Torres, Meireles might only rediscover his true form at a new club.
If you liked this article, you might also be interested in 5 Things Roberto Di Matteo Is Doing that AVB Didn’t and 5 Reasons the EPL Should Remain Chelsea’s Priority. Please also check out my writer’s profile, where you can find more of my work, and my blog, The Red Armchair, for Liverpool match reactions and opinions.