Tuesday, May 22, 2012
Player Ratings: Chelsea
It seemed for so long that we were witnessing the end of a glorious era at Chelsea as their fading stars staggered through the first two thirds of the season. Yet it ended in historic glory, as an FA Cup triumph was complemented by the long-awaited capture of the club's first Champions League crown.
Despite the ultimate euphoria, though, there were more than a few villains spattered around a squad over-loaded with heroes.
Didier Drogba - 9.5
When fate and destiny collided in Chelsea's second Champions League final, the goalscoring hero of the club's most successful era ensured his name will forever be etched into Stamford Bridge folklore. If his FA Cup-winning goal against Liverpool - his fourth in that prestigious Wembley fixture - was not enough to confirm his greatness, Drogba backed it up with a goal and a winning penalty in the European Cup final. The stuff of legend.
Frank Lampard - 9.5
Many have tried to belittle Lampard throughout his career and yet the reality is that this 33-year-old should be hailed as the ultimate Chelsea hero. Leading scorer once more this season and a leading light once Andre Villas-Boas was given the chop, this all-time great was given his career-defining moment as he lifted the Champions League trophy in Munich.
Petr Cech - 9.5
Were it not for Cech's world class saves in the FA Cup and Champions League finals, Sunday's open-top bus parade may never have taken place. This Czech Republic keeper silenced the critics who claimed his talents were on the wane as he returned to his brilliant best in the second half of the season.
Ashley Cole - 9
Cole has long been a vilified figure in many sections of the English media, but the sports writers have never turned against this world-class performer and he was magnificent once more in the latter stages of the Champions League run. There may not be a better full-back in world football.
Ramires - 8
A shining star of Roberto Di Matteo's stint as Chelsea boss, this Brazilian stepped out of the shadows as he burst to the forefront in a grand manner. Oozing pace and invention, his goal in the Champions League semi-final against Barcelona at Camp Nou changed the mood of that game. It was a tragedy that he missed the Munich finale due to suspension.
Juan Mata - 8
The stand-out player at the start of the Premier League season, Mata appeared to tire as he adapted to the demands of English football. His effectiveness tailed off as a result, but this should still be regarded as a solid first season for a player who will have a big role to play in Chelsea's future.
David Luiz - 7.5
Maligned for his error-prone displays in the brief and turbulent Villas-Boas era, Luiz appeared to change his approach to the game over the course of this season and ended the campaign as a centre-back to be reckoned with. Cutting out the thrills and daring meant he eliminated the risk in his game, with his new no-nonsense style impressing all observers.
Branislav Ivanovic - 7.5
That this battle-hardened defender was denied the chance to claim his slice of the glory in the Champions League final due to suspension was a cruel blow, but few will forget his contribution to the success, with his winning goal against Napoli in the last-16 tie crucial to the story. Superb in the semi-final win against Barcelona, he had some shaky moments in the Premier League, but generally did an excellent job.
Gary Cahill - 7.5
It was something of a mystery that coach Villas-Boas seemed reluctant to use Cahill following his arrival from Bolton in January, with the away game at Everton lost as a makeshift defence floundered on a night when the new boy was sitting on the bench. When he did play, aside from the horrible away game against Napoli, Cahill looked steady and did a fine job in the European Cup final.
John Terry - 7.5
Were it not for his inexplicable moment of madness in the semi-final against Barcelona as he kicked Alexis Sanchez and left his team in the lurch at Camp Nou, skipper Terry may well have been placed alongside the heroes of this Chelsea season. While he did his best to steal the limelight by lifting the Champions League trophy in Munich, that glory will always belong to others.
John Mikel Obi - 7
Chelsea supporters have been among Mikel's chief critics over the course of this season, but he eventually became a vital man in the success enjoyed by Di Matteo's side. This Nigerian has not flourished into the attacking, dynamic midfielder many suspected he might in his youth, but he won over a few doubters in the final few weeks with some defensively sound displays.
Salomon Kalou - 7
Kalou returned to the Chelsea fold once Di Matteo became interim boss, with this utility player emerging as a vital cog in the team that went onto lift the FA Cup and Champions League. A winning goal in the quarter-final tie against Benfica in Lisbon was probably Kalou's season highlight.
Jose Bosingwa - 6.5
A hero of the rearguard against Barcelona in the Champions League semi-final, he shot back to prominence once Di Matteo took the reins. At the age of 29, he may yet have a big role to play in Chelsea's future, just months after most assumed he would be one of many run out of the club by Villas-Boas.
Raul Meireles - 6
Chelsea fans have failed to warm to this dogged, if unspectacular, midfielder since his arrival from Liverpool, with many questioning quite what he brings to the team. His goal against Manchester City in December was a high, but there were too many games in which he failed to make any kind of impact and he was a bit-part player in their end-of-season heroics.
Daniel Sturridge - 6
Sturridge is clearly bursting with natural talent, but his eagerness to show moments of brilliance to sell-out crowds often gets the better of him. His notorious determination to shoot on sight rather than pass to a team-mate when the moment comes needs to change if this young Englishman is to fulfil his obvious potential.
Oriol Romeu - 6
When he played, the Spaniard looked the part in his role as a holding midfielder, but he slipped off the radar of managers Villas-Boas and Di Matteo. He will not be satisfied with another season like this, so don't be surprised if Romeu makes some noises questioning his Chelsea future this summer.
Michael Essien - 5.5
'The Bison' has lost some of his bite as injuries have taken their toll on his ability to boss the midfield as he once did. Used by Di Matteo to give first-team players a rest in the hectic end-of-season schedule, he started ten games and made four substitute appearances. They may have been among his last for Chelsea.
Florent Malouda - 5
One of the guilty men as the Chelsea team appeared to stop playing in the final weeks of the Villas-Boas reign, Malouda must have been bemused to see young Bertrand asked to play in his place in the Champions League final. Malouda wants a new contract at Stamford Bridge, but he didn't do too much this season to suggest he is worthy of one.
Ryan Bertrand - 5
Given a chance to make his Champions League debut in the final, the occasion proved a little too big for 22-year-old Bertrand, yet that was hardly surprising as he was asked to step out of his favoured full-back role and play in an advanced midfield berth. Hailed as a possible successor to Ashley Cole, it remains to be seen whether he will wait long enough at Chelsea to assume that role.
Fernando Torres - 5
There were the occasional highs for the £50 million hitman, with his equalising goal at Camp Nou the zenith, but many an afternoon was spent wondering whether the 'real' Torres would ever return. After another season of generally lacklustre performances that rarely yielded a crucial goal at a big moment in the Premier League, he may have kicked his last ball for Chelsea.
Paulo Ferreira - 4.5
Very much a fringe player in his eighth season at Chelsea, Ferreira turned in a polished performance in the emphatic FA Cup semi-final victory against Tottenham at Wembley in April. That display suggested he is still a useful option for the Blues, but few would be surprised to see this 33-year-old make his Stamford Bridge exit this summer.
Romelu Lukaku - 3
Lukaku arrived at Chelsea with a big reputation last summer and his lack of first-team chances in the season that followed served to frustrate this young striker who was hailed as 'the new Drogba' when he was snapped up from Anderlecht. Being top scorer for Chelsea's reserve team was not what he had in mind.
Nicolas Anelka - 3
Six substitute appearances and just three starts in the Premier League yielded little for Anelka at a moment in the season when new boss Villas-Boas was keen to make it clear that he was not looking to extend the careers of Chelsea's veterans. His plans to cull the club's 'old guard' failed, but Anelka was one of his victims along the way and he departed for China in January.