Chelsea cruised past Swindon Town in the Capital One Cup last night, but picked up a number of injuries that will come as a cause for concern with two important games to play in the next seven days.
Summer signing Marco van Ginkel is set for a prolonged period on the sidelines after what looks like a serious knee injury, while Ramires, who came off the bench to replace him, also picked up a hip knock.
Despite the star-studded squad at José Mourinho’s disposal, the centre of midfield is one area that the side looks the most vulnerable. The former Real Madrid man has partnered Frank Lampard with Ramires more often than not in the boiler room in his 4-2-3-1 formation, but with the Brazilian a doubt for the Tottenham clash on Saturday, Mourinho has a decision to make.
Tottenham’s central midfield options of Paulinho, Mousa Dembélé and Sandro will look to dominate proceedings in the London derby, while a trip to Romania to face Steaua Bucharest on Tuesday night calls for strong characters in the heart of the team.
Lampard will probably play at White Hart Lane, with one of three others likely to partner him. Michael Essien is a favourite of Mourinho but his physical attributes have been diminished due to serious injuries. John Obi Mikel lacks the energy to go head-to-head with top-quality opposition and is down the manager’s pecking order. Enter David Luiz.
The Brazilian’s future at Stamford Bridge has been up in the air over the last number of months, with Barcelona thought to have been interested in the ex-Benfica man over the summer. Luiz has not been as prominent a figure at the club since Mourinho took over, and has only featured in one game in the Premier League this season.
Undoubtedly a gifted footballer, the 26-year-old has all the attributes to be a world-beater. However, lapses in concentration and moments of madness at the back have come hand-in-hand with his admirable qualities. Mourinho prefers more solid and dependable options at centre-half such as Gary Cahill and John Terry, and as such the stage is seemingly set for Luiz to assume a midfield enforcer position.
The Brazilian moved into midfield more out of a lack of options than a tactical decision following Ramires’ injury at Swindon, but he looked comfortable and able in the centre of the park.
Rafa Benítez used Luiz regularly last term as a defensive midfielder, and he is the player in the current Chelsea squad with the best attributes to act as a shield for the team’s back four. He is a tenacious tackler, hard worker and is good in the air, while if he can be taught restraint would act as a perfect foil for the forward-thinking Lampard.
His range of passing is impressive and his reading of the game as good as any, while he has proved that his shooting from distance is a real asset also. As such, playing Luiz in midfield could actually improve Chelsea and make them a more-rounded team. In the long run, when Ramires returns, the Brazilian pair are the most adept pairing in the heart of the west London team.
Mourinho pushed Pepe forward from centre back to central midfield on occasion during his time at Real Madrid, and playing Luiz in the boiler room will not only alleviate a selection headache but utilise the positive attributes of a supremely talented footballer.