Chelsea: Premier League years Fantasy XI
For this series of Premier League Years XIs, I will be putting together Fantasy XIs for each club. The simple rule is that the players will be judged only on their performances for their club during the Premier League years, so if their best football came before the competition they will not be considered.
Chelsea have had two distinct phases to their Premier League history; pre and post-Abramovich. I have tried to blend a little of each to reflect their journey.
Cech was brought to the club in Jose Mourinho’s first season and has proven to be the best value for money signing of the Abramovich era. Arriving for just £7m from Rennes, Cech has gone on to win 3 Premier Leagues and a Champions League. For the first few years of his time at Chelsea, he was arguably the best goal keeper in the world, and one of the most consistent in the history of the league. In his first season, Chelsea conceded a ridiculously tiny 15 goals in the league, a record low.
Right back has been a position of flux at Chelsea so Petrescu’s 4 seasons as first choice are impressive. Petrescu came to Chelsea after impressing at Sheffield Wednesday and won 4 cups with Chelsea including the 1997 FA Cup. Petrescu brought boundless energy and enthusiasm to his flank and gave Chelsea both solid defensive service and some attacking threat.
Carvalho followed Mourinho from Porto in 2004 and was the rock in the heart of the defence that conceded just 15 goals in his first season. It was alongside Carvalho that John Terry developed his game. Carvalho wasn’t the quickest but he was rugged, tough and very intelligent. He was the organiser of that vice-like defence which led Chelsea to back-to-back titles. It is testament to his influence that since he was sold the Chelsea defence hasn’t racked up clean sheets in the way they once did.
Desailly was one of the most important signings of the pre-Abramovich years. When he joined the club in 1998 he arrived not only from a dominant AC Milan side, but having just won the World Cup with France. His signing gave the club legitimacy. They went from being a stylish but flawed top 6 type team to one that could win a Champions League place. He was a key leader in the team that won the critical 4th place when Abramovich was looking for a team to buy. When he moved to the club in his prime it helped to facilitate the signings that followed his lead as Chelsea assembled the squad which got them in to the Champions League for the first time in 2000. He only won the 2000 FA Cup but his importance in Chelsea’s modern history cannot be overstated.
Graeme Le Saux
I know you’re probably thinking, ‘erm…Ashley Cole?’ and it’s easy to think of Le Saux only as John Motson’s nodding dog when he moved in to the commentary box. Le Saux moved to Chelsea for £5m in 1997, which was the record for a British defender at the time. He won 4 major trophies at Chelsea and his purchase from then champions Blackburn was an important statement of intent.
A man so vital that he had a position named after him. Makelele arrived, under-appreciated, from Real Madrid in 2003 and immediately stood out. However, when Mourinho arrived in 2004 he really emerged as the best player of his type in the world. Anchoring the midfield and always providing an outlet, he introduced a new style of play to the wider English consciousness. He showed that you didn’t have to play 442 with 2 bits and bobs central midfielders. Chelsea were tactical innovators under Mourinho and he was the main piece in that.
Obviously. It’s strange to think that when Chelsea paid £11m for Lampard in 2001 it was thought to be an overpay. He came as a goal grabbing midfielder who scored at 1 goal every 4 games at West Ham but since then he has scored at near enough a goal every two games, an extraordinary rate for a midfielder. His consecutive double figure goal totals are evidence of incredible consistency and fitness. It’s not just the weight of his goals but the importance of them that has marked him out. He scored the winner at Bolton to wrap up their first title, perhaps the most important goal in club history. The only Chelsea player who deserves to be called: ‘Captain, Leader, Legend’.
For a 3 season span after he first arrived in 2005, Essien was the best box to box midfielder in the world. His partnership with Lampard was as good as any club could boast. With an almost machine like relentlessness, Essien covered the pitch every game he played, taking the ball away from opponents and driving the team on and on. Even with the big names he was surrounded by, in those first few years he was often head and shoulders above every one else on the pitch.
Poyet arrived at the time that Chelsea were making their first move towards being taken seriously and he helped to confirm it. His telepathic understanding with Zola created many spectacular goals, including this against Sunderland. He was Frank Lampard, before Frank Lampard. He brought goals, creativity and surging runs to a vibrant Chelsea side. He brought a professional and more importantly, winning attitude.
The man who set it all in motion. Chelsea signed him from Parma when they were a mid table side and they haven’t looked back since. His impact on the Premier League as a whole was just as profound. He showed that little, technical, overseas players could thrive in the Premier League. He operated in the number 10 role and supplied a number of striker partners who will thank him for helping to make their name. Zola won 5 trophies at Chelsea and won over the hearts of the fans. He was a catalyst in where they are today. Although Desailly and then Mourinho were key landmarks in what they’ve become, it was the little Italian who started it.
Drogba was one of the most dominant forces in the history of the Premier League. His combination of size, strength, pace and goals was irresistible and he owns the most iconic moment in Chelsea history. For all of his impact when he first arrived he will forever be remembered for pretty much dragging Chelsea to Champions League glory in Munich last year. That he scored the winning penalty in his last game was a suitably poetic ending.
Subs: Cudicini, Gallas, Terry, Robben, Hasselbaink, Di Matteo, Wise