Four games into the 2015-16 season and Chelsea must be wondering when the nightmare will come to an end. If there was ever the need for the reset button, it would be battered to a pulp for the second worst start to a title defense in Premier League history. While Jose Mourinho quite nobly shared the blame between himself and his players after the City defeat putting the onus on the players to improve, last weekend’s defeat at home to Crystal Palace seemed to have finally got the manager thinking that dropping under-performing players might be the best course of action. Of those players, it’s hard to make a case against Ivanović being first on the list.
The 31 year old right-back has suffered a calamitous start to the season and this just might the beginning of the end for the Serb. From the get-go he has been subject to being turned inside out by his opposing man and things have continued in that vein ever since. From Montero to Sterling to McManaman to Bolasie, it’s become clear as day that he’s being targeted, leading to the majority of goals conceded by Chelsea coming from the right-hand side of defense.
The graphic above paints a clear picture as the majority of wide shots have come where Ivanović has been on guard. He has been dribbled past two times per game compared to Cesar Azpilicueta’s 0.5 times – a testament to the Spaniard’s defensive prowess. That particular stat isn’t something that Ivanović has been a standout in the past when compared with the best. He is a big, physical defender and often uses these attributes to his advantage with set pieces at both ends of the pitch (Unless he’s marking Kompany, of course.) and his ability going forward shown in recent times earned him a place in the team of the season. Nevertheless, he isn’t as sound at 1 v 1s although this can be attributed to his initial role as a center-back. Question marks have also been brought up regarding his positioning as he can get caught out too often while going forward. In any case, he is a good defender and by his standard, he should be grossly disappointed.
While Ivanović is the current standout weak link, there are other variables to consider. The protection that is normally provided by the Nemanja Matić – Cesc Fàbregas pairing in midfield has been woefully lacking and their ineptitude in creating chances brings no solace as Chelsea have been looking quite limp in attack. A certain Fàbregas may just be next on the chop list if things remain as is but that’s for another day.
With Ivanović entering the last year of his contract, you wouldn’t blame him for being worried about his Chelsea future. The international break could not have come any sooner as that gives the players an opportunity to refocus themselves and Jose Mourinho time to assess his options.
New signing Abdul Baba Rahman surely has to be a consideration at left-back with Azpilicueta (an eyesore going forward or, rather, trying to on his weaker side) being reinstated to this natural right-back position. Should the young Ghanaian provide the tools required to plug the hole in Chelsea’s defensive line, then it would be a win-win situation given that Chelsea will have width down both sides of the pitch introducing more dynamism to their attack. While Chelsea might lose some of what Ivanović provides going forward with him being a player Mourinho favors, in the grand scheme of things, it will be a sacrifice worth making if the move contributes to a revitalized campaign for their title defense and it deserves a shot at this point.
The ball’s in your court, Jose.