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Gary Cahill is ahead of Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen in the pecking order

Ankit Agrawal
CONTRIBUTOR
Feature
4.36K   //    27 Sep 2017, 17:36 IST

Chelsea FC v Qarabag FK - UEFA Champions League
Gary Cahill has become somewhat of a hated figure amongst the Chelsea fanbase

There have been calls not only to drop him from the starting line-up, but also to be sold. It all started when he was named the successor to John Terry as Chelsea’s permanent captain.

Many fans had hoped for either Cesar Azpilicueta, David Luiz or Cesc Fabregas to become the captain after John Terry had decided to leave. Cahill certainly lacks the authority a captain should have and also isn’t one of the big name players you would look up to in the dressing room.

Additionally, people also haven’t been impressed by the new skipper’s performances on the pitch. Last season, Chelsea pretty much had the same back three throughout their title-winning run-in.

Even then, people were talking about upgrading the left-hand side of the defence. Alan Pardew, who was making an appearance on Monday Night Football towards the end of last season, said as much.

"The only real weakness is this channel down Cahill's side," he said on Sky Sports when asked about how good Chelsea's system is with the back three.
"(Cesar) Azpilicueta is a natural full-back so he can deal with things down the side of the box.
"Cahill, not so much."

When Cahill received a red card in the 16th minute of Chelsea’s Premier League opener against Burnley and received a three-game ban, Andreas Christensen and Antonio Rudiger were slotted in the next game against Tottenham Hotspur.

Both of them have had excellent performances since then. Christensen has been assuring in possession (having a pass accuracy of 95.9% across all competitions this season) and Rudiger has been solid in his no non-sense style defending.

With the positive attention brought to Rudiger and Christensen following the Burnley game, some have labelled the red card a blessing in disguise.

Whilst I myself agree that Gary Cahill, at best, should be Chelsea’s fifth choice centre-back as he isn’t adept in his passing game and playing out from the back, Antonio Conte’s team selection in Chelsea's last two Premier League games tells us a different story.

The game against Arsenal was the first game he was available for selection since his red card against Burnley. It was thought that Conte wouldn’t tinker with a winning back line of Azpilicueta-Luiz-Rudiger.

But, Rudiger was dropped for that game and Cahill came straight into the line-up. This decision surprised many because in similar circumstances last season, John Terry had lost his Chelsea place.

Stoke City v Chelsea - Premier League
Rudiger was dropped in favour of Cahill despite excellent performances

He was a starter in the beginning of the season, but with a subsequent injury and poor results, Conte changed to a back three and Terry couldn’t find his way back into the starting XI.

Many expected Chelsea to rout Arsenal, as Liverpool had done. Even Arsenal fans feared the worst as they headed to the Bridge. But, the game didn’t go as planned for Chelsea. The Blues struggled throughout the game to get a proper hold of possession or create any meaningful chances.

In fact, you would be excused to think that Chelsea were lucky to get a draw out of the game. Cahill’s inability to play out from the back was seen as the major reason why Chelsea couldn’t dominate the game.

Even to a neutral, it seems quite obvious that Cahill shouldn’t be starting the big games. But Chelsea’s lineup against Stoke City again symbolized that Antonio Conte has a very different view on Gary Cahill.

Also read: Does Cahill now belong in Chelsea's strongest line-up? 

He didn’t pick Cahill (Hazard and Fabregas were also named on the bench) against Stoke City, an apparent indication that he was being rested for Chelsea’s two upcoming big games against Atletico Madrid and Manchester City next week.

Enter cChaption
Chelsea's line-Up against Stoke City gave an indication that Gary Cahill was being rested for the midweek Champions League game against Atletico Madrid

Whatever your opinion is of Gary Cahill, whether he should be a starter or not, it’s time to accept the reality that Antonio Conte sees him at least as Chelsea’s third-best centre-back.

Expect him to not only be a regular in Chelsea’s first XI, but also to play a part against the stronger oppositions starting with Atletico Madrid in the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday.

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Ankit Agrawal
CONTRIBUTOR
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