Is Chelsea a ‘Michael Essien-esque’ midfielder away from Premier League glory?
Michael Essien was one of Ghana’s most successful footballers in modern times. The former Chelsea man made over 50 appearances for the national side whilst also plying his trade for Lyon, Real Madrid and AC Milan at club level. He might not have been the most creative of players but he was one of the most energetic midfielders to grace the Premier League.
A true box-to-box midfielder, Essien – nicknamed the Bison by some in the sport – ventured forward with menace on a regular basis but goals were rare. Essien featured in 168 Premier League matches during his nine-year stint at Stamford Bridge but the Ghanaian scored just 17 top-flight goals. That strike against Arsenal will live long in the memory with the Blues faithful though.
Chelsea’s current crop of midfielders are gifted but they are lacking physicality in the middle of the park. N’Golo Kante can run all day long but he is never going to win a physical battle against a Paul Pogba or Moussa Dembele type. Meanwhile, summer signing Jorginho is of a similar mould to Kante; technically brilliant but not necessarily a player you can rely on in an aggressive away fixture.
At his peak, Essien was sensational. Capable of acting as Chelsea’s driving force in the centre of midfield, the Ghanaian started many a counter-attack and he was a pivotal figure in the 2005/06 Premier League title success. Ruben Loftus-Cheek is probably the closest player to Essien in terms of skillset and style in the current Chelsea squad. For the time being, he remains an outcast under new Blues boss Maurizio Sarri.
Given the opportunity, Loftus-Cheek could be the man to take Chelsea back to the summit of English football. As of September 6th, the Blues have a 100% winning record in 2018/19 and Chelsea are only going to get stronger as Sarri adapts to the Premier League. Football betting odds have the Blues at 10/1 for the title, a solid enough price considering their early-season exploits.
The likes of Ross Barkley and Danny Drinkwater simply aren’t good enough to cut it at this level and that makes the need to sign a central midfielder even more pressing. Solid enough at Everton and Leicester City respectively, there is greater expectation at Chelsea – and rightly so. The Blues are now one of the strongest teams in European football and getting back into the Champions League will be their top priority in 2018/19.
Chelsea are on the verge of something special – the Blues are just one or two players away from being genuine title contenders. Sarri’s men have started well but this is a 38-match campaign and topping Manchester City is going to be very difficult indeed. A Michael Essien-style player in the middle of the park could be the way to go in the January transfer window; a dominant, physical midfielder should make the world of difference in the business end of the campaign.