Football Friends Online – When 90 Mins Is Not EnoughAre Chelsea better off without John Terry? - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough Are Chelsea better off without John Terry? - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough

Are Chelsea better off without John Terry?

Off the pitch, there is not much that needs to be said on why Terry’s absence could benefit the club. Of course, he may be a quite wonderful servant for Chelsea and his rapport with the fans is second to none after Didier Drogba but his tendency to draw controversy for a myriad of reasons and continually put the club hierarchy in awkward and invidious positions means that there are surely some within the club who would prefer Roberto Di Matteo and Roman Abramovich to wash their hands of the 31-year-old.

However, what is often said is that on the pitch Terry’s continued presence is vital to the progression of the team. His defensive prowess, whole-hearted passion and commitment are said to benefit Chelsea both short and long-term in their pursuit of more honours following last season’s remarkable Champions League triumph.

But did Tuesday night’s demoralising Champions League defeat at Shakhtar Donetsk offer us an indication of just why at the highest level, Terry is now being regularly found wanting? The signs have been there for a few seasons now. Terry was never the quickest and injuries have taken their toll on his battered body but the 2010 World Cup finals when Germany’s bright and youthful attackers tore him to shreds was a clear warning.

Then came Andre Villas-Boas’ ill-fated experimentation with a high line last season with saw Terry’s declining speed ruthlessly exposed, particularly by Arsenal and Robin Van Persie, who helped himself to a hat-trick as the Gunners helped themselves to a 5-3 mauling at Stamford Bridge that effectively signalled the end of Villas-Boas’ time at Chelsea. Roberto Di Matteo’s arrival may have seen Chelsea revert to the deep-lying back four that would eventually win Chelsea the Champions League but let us not forget that victory was achieved without Terry after the Blues captain had quite stupidly got himself sent off in the Camp Nou in the semi-final with Barcelona. Without being too harsh on Terry’s abilities, would his lack of pace on the turn been more exposed by the likes of Arjen Robben, Franck Ribery and Mario Gomez than Gary Cahill and David Luiz were in the final?

Indeed, even this season Chelsea have often looked at their shakiest with Terry in the starting line-up. In what has hardly been a taxing fixture to list to date, Terry allowed Gervinho, not the most natural of finishers, far too time in the penalty box to swivel and put his Arsenal side level when the two sides clashed at the Emirates. Thankfully for Chelsea, that mistake did not prove costly. Indeed, while Terry was absent through suspension for his side’s 4-2 win at Tottenham last week, his reinsertion against Shakhtar backfired as the former England captain simply could not handle the pace and trickery of the Ukrainian side’s attacking talents.

Of course, Terry is hardly finished as a player. He does retain some tremendous defensive qualities and in a side that likes to defend deep, he remains one of the best defenders in the Premier League. However, the point is that Chelsea simply cannot defend deep anymore, not with the likes of Fernando Torres, Oscar, Eden Hazard and Juan Mata in the attacking third. Those players do not want to receive the ball on the half-way line or in their own half due to the fact that their defensive counterparts are sitting on the edge of their own penalty box to negate Terry’s declining pace. Those players want to press high up the pitch and ideally receive the ball in the opponent’s final third where they can do damage. To do so requires the entire defensive line to push up close to the half-way line, a la Villas-Boas’ Chelsea team and thus of course, quick central defenders, particularly on the turn are required for the system to work. It has been proved that Terry does fit that staple, certainly not when compared to Gary Cahill and David Luiz.

Terry’s sheer presence at Stamford Bridge means that he is unlikely to dispensed with in the near future but reports have emerged this week that the club hierarchy will not be too willing to put forward a long-term contract extension for him at Stamford Bridge. While many will point to all the controversy surrounding the Anton Ferdinand race row as the reason for this, perhaps it is just the realisation that Terry’s footballing abilities sharply contrast with the current and future philosophy of the game at Stamford Bridge.

Adam Mazrani