Chelsea's All-time best Premier League XI
- A list of the 11 best players in various positions to have represented Chelsea in the Premier League era.
- One of the players in the list is still playing for the London club.
Since the beginning of the Premier League era, Chelsea have always been a force to be reckoned with. Through the 1990s, they were always in contention for European places. After the turn of the century, Roman Abramovich bought the club, and the Blues have never looked back since.
In the summer of 2004, Jose Mourinho took over the managerial reins at the club for the first time. Mourinho, along with the Russian owner's millions, ushered in a golden era at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea won the 2004-05 Premier League title - their first English top-flight title in 50 years. And since then the club has won four more Premier League titles under various managers.
On that note, let's try and put together Chelsea's best XI in the Premier League era when the club not only evolve domestically but also thrived on the European stage. The formation being used for Chelsea's all-time XI is a standard 4-3-3 which the club has successfully employed all these years.
Chelsea's Best Premier League XI:
# Goalkeeper - Petr Cech
This is a position for which there can be no real debate. Petr Cech made a mammoth 333 Premier League appearances for Chelsea during his 11-year stay at the club. He kept a record 162 clean sheets for Chelsea, enabling the London club to win four Premier League titles during this period.
Cech's numbers for the Blues are mind-boggling. The number of records that he holds is a testimony to his contribution to the club's success. He has kept the most clean sheets in club history. He also holds the record for the most clean sheets in a single season. In a stellar 2004-05 season, Cech went 1025 minutes without conceding a goal which is another Premier League record.
With Cech in the team, Chelsea fans could breathe easy knowing that they had an incredibly safe goalkeeper. He was the foundation on which Chelsea's golden era took shape at Stamford Bridge.
Notable Mention: Thibaut Courtois.
# Defenders - Branislav Ivanovic, Ricardo Carvalho, John Terry, Ashley Cole
Chelsea's initial success under Jose Mourinho was built on an ability to keep clean sheets. Score the first goal or two and then shut shop towards the end of the game. To enforce the success of this game plan, the Portuguese tactician needs a reliable backline that could defend both physically and astutely. This back four of Branislav Ivanovic, Ricardo Carvalho, John Terry and Ashley Cole were capable of doing just that and much more.
John Terry would be the first name on the sheet in any Chelsea XI. Following Marcel Dessaily's retirement, academy product Terry was handed the captaincy armband at an early age. Terry justified the club's faith in him as he led Chelsea to five Premier League titles and became the club's most successful captain ever.
With nearly 500 league appearances in twenty years and a club record 41 goals for a defender, Terry was Chelsea personified in every way possible. His leadership both on and off the field was what unified the team. Unsurprisingly, Terry would also lead this Chelsea All-time XI team as well.
To partner Terry at centre-back there have been several solid central defenders at Chelsea, many of whom have also played alongside Terry. But Terry's most successful central defensive partnership was with Carvalho who also complimented Terry the most. Carvalho's technical class, ball-playing ability and game intelligence made him an able foil for the more physical Terry. The partnership of Terry and Carvalho at the heart of Chelsea's defence lasted for six seasons during which period the club lifted three Premier League titles.
Branislav Ivanovic slots in at right-back in this all-time Chelsea XI. He was another physically strong player who also could bombard opposition flanks and keep their wingers and wing backs at bay. Ivanovic also had the knack of scoring key goals and is Chelsea's highest-scoring defender after Terry. During his nine years at the club, Ivanovic won the Premier League title thrice and was twice named in the PFA Team of the Year.
On the other wing, we have a player with a completely different style of play. Ashley Cole was an outright attacking wing-back who had the pace and technical acumen to defend as well. Cole's attacking threat on the left-wing made him one of the world's best left-backs ever. Cole's move from London rivals Arsenal to Chelsea was a much-criticised one but his performances on the pitch for Chelsea more than made up for it.
Notable Mentions: Gary Cahill, William Gallas, Marcel Desailly, Cesar Azpilicueta.
# Midfielders - Claude Makelele, N'Golo Kante, Frank Lampard
For the midfield trio, I have decided to go with a double pivot and the club's all-time leading goal-scorer. Well, you can't have anyone better for the 'Makelele Role' than the man himself. Claude Makelele made the defensive midfield role his own and is widely regarded as one of the world's best to have played in that position. His work rate, tackling, and ability to break down attacks were unmatchable. Add to that his passing and distribution skills and you have a two-time Premier League winner and a Chelsea club legend.
If one Makelele in the team was not destructive enough, imagine two of them. Slotting alongside the original would be his like to like carbon copy, N'Golo Kante. While Kante might be slightly more diminutive in size than his compatriot, he is just as industrious as Makelele.
It would be difficult to find a worthier successor for the Makelele role. Between the two, the Chelsea midfield engine would never run out of gas. It would also allow the rest of the midfield and wingers to play outright attacking football without having to worry about their defensive duties.
The playmaker's role has only name written all over it - Frank Lampard. He was one of the best box to box midfielders ever and a true Chelsea legend of his generation alongside Terry. In 13 seasons for the Blues, Lampard played a phenomenal 429 games and racked up 147 goals. Add to that the six goals he scored for Manchester City and that makes Super Frankie the only midfielder in the history of the Premier League to net over 150 goals.
The current club manager of Chelsea won 3 Premier League titles as a player and the Blues' fans would only be hoping that he adds to the tally as a manger.
Notable Mentions: Michael Essien, Dennis Wise, Juan Mata.
# Forwards - Gianfranco Zola, Eden Hazard, Didier Drogba
Chelsea's front three of Gianfranco Zola, Eden Hazard and Didier Drogba would instil fear in any opposition defence. It would also give the club's all-time XI the flexibility of changing formations at will. Drogba slots into the role of a centre-forward but there is fluidity with Zola and Hazard. Both of them can play on either wing or just behind the central striker.
Many may find Zola's inclusion in this XI to be surprising even more so since he is the only one in the XI to have never won a Premier League title at Chelsea. But consider this - in 2003 he was voted Chelsea's best player ever by a considerable margin and for the right reasons. Though not a physical presence, the Italian made up for it with his technical prowess and ability to create chances. He was extremely agile and a skilful dribbler who had a killer right foot. Zola's creativity earned him the nickname 'Magic Box', and he could bring out trick after trick.
Matching Zola for his mesmerising skill and ability to take on defenders at will, Hazard would be the Italian's perfect midfield partner. Most people would argue that the mantle of the most outstanding player on earth could fall on Hazard once Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo retire. With his incredibly low centre of gravity, Hazard can take on any defender in the world in a one-on-one situation. Chelsea's last two Premier League titles can be primarily attributed to the Belgian's skills. In 245 appearances for the club, Hazard scored 85 goals and provided 54 assists.
Chelsea fans can never forget Didier Drogba and his exploits for the club. Playing as a centre-forward, he was a force to be reckoned with. The Ivorian combined his physical strength with speed and aerial prowess to become a complete forward. In his first eight-year stint at the club, Drogba scored exactly 100 Premier League goals for Chelsea. But more important than just the numbers was his uncanny knack of scoring against stronger oppositions, which made Drogba a big-game player.
Notable Mentions: Jimmy Floyd Haaselbaink, Eidur Gudjohnsen, Willian, Diego Costa.
Few would bet against a team of this stature winning the Premier League. And if you had Jose Mourinho in his excellent managing Chelsea, this all-time XI of the club would be virtually unbeatable.