Chelsea was able to loan out Victor Moses right before the transfer deadline but their midfield is still overflowing with talent. It’s as if Mourinho and Abramovich are trying to monopolize the midfielder market by owning anyone relevant. Chelsea added Marco van Ginkel, Andre Schurrle, and Willian this summer to an already stacked midfield, but the good thing is that you can never have too much talent and Jose Mourinho is a guy who can make use of it.
Mourinho likes to play a 4-2-3-1, where he has one striker up top supported by three attacking midfielders/wingers who can both create chances and score goals. The two midfielders behind them play more of a central holding role and sometimes drop back to cover for the right or left backs when they go up to attack, which is often.
Lets break down the midfielders and their expected roles this season, we’ll start of with the players who play in the central part of midfield behind the three attacking midfielders.
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Chelsea’s midfield begins and ends with Lampard. He’s 35 years old but seems to have enough in the tank to contribute this year as a leader in the middle of a field. He’ll play box to box and fill in where needed. Mourinho has said that he’ll monitor Lampard’s minutes this season, but so far Lampard has started all three Premier League games and already has a goal and an assist. He takes Chelsea’s penalties and a lot of their free kicks, so his production should be as steady as anyone’s. Frankie might miss a few games in the middle of the season due to age, but he’s a safe bet to give you good fantasy points most weeks.
Ramires is the other starter at central midfield for Chelsea and has also started all three games. The Brazilian is a quick player who can make runs forward and create chances for Chelsea. He’s not as productive as Lampard in fantasy and isn’t your best option. With that being said, Ramires can still contribute to Chelsea’s team and will likely be a frequent starter this year to start next to Lampard.
Essien is a defensive midfielder who can also play right back; he is also one of Jose Mourinho’s favorite players. The two have a good connection off the field as well as on but that hasn’t translated to playing time for Essien. The Ghanaian has battled injuries in recent years but seemed to recover well last season and played 20 games under Mourinho at Real Madrid. He was left out of Chelsea’s Champions League squad, so there certainly is an issue here and Essien must be avoided in all fantasy squads.
John Obi Mikel
Obi Mikel is in a similar situation as Michael Essien. He’s a defensive midfielder who hasn’t been getting playing time because of Frank Lampard and Ramires in front of him on the depth chart. He came on as a substitute during one of Chelsea’s first three games but that isn’t fantasy friendly in any way. Obi Mikel seems to be in front of Essien on the depth chart, but that’s not good enough right now.
Marco Van Ginkel
Chelsea signed Marco Van Ginkel this summer from Vitesse Arnhem and have high hopes for him as somewhat of a replacement for Frank Lampard(as much as you can replace a legend). Van Ginkel is also a box to box player who can control the game from the back and score goals. He had 18 goals in 93 appearances for Vitesse and will look to add to that goal total at Chelsea. Van Ginkel seems to be the choice at midfield after Lampard and Ramires and he could earn some time on the pitch if Lampard or Ramires were to miss time because of injuries and suspensions. In conclusion, Van Ginkel is for the future, and shouldn’t be on your fantasy squad right now.
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Lets now move on to the attacking midfielders.
Oscar is Chelsea’s central attacking midfielder and seems to have a fairly strong hold on the position as of right now. He has started all three games in the Premier League and scored a goal against Hull City in the opener. Oscar has shown time and time again he can score fantastic goals from the edge of the box, both for Chelsea and Brazil. He can also make runs in the box and with Juan Mata and Eden Hazard giving him through balls, I can see Oscar finishing the season in the 10-15 goal range. The fact that he doesn’t take free kicks and penalties decreases his ceiling, but he can be a good fantasy option for most matchups.
Hazard has been phenomenal so far in his time with Chelsea, including the first three games this year. He creates most of Chelsea’s chances and has been robbed of an assist several times this season because of poor finishing or great goalkeeping on the other side. He will in no doubt break his drought (if you can even call it that) soon and will be a good fantasy contributor this season. There are a few small concern here regardless of his productivity. First of all, he recently suffered an Achilles injury while on international duty, and although the injury was reported to be minor and he is expected to return soon, Mourinho may be cautious this weekend and give him some rest. The other concern is that Hazard is listed as a forward, where there are numerous other great options who score a lot more often than he does. I would own Hazard if he was listed as a midfielder, but as a forward, I’d have to pass.
Mata has been voted Chelsea Player of the Year twice in a row and with good reason. He has been as important to the attack as Hazard is and led the team in assists last year. Last season, he had a fairly even distribution when it comes to where he earned his fantasy points from. The most of the points came from goals, but many came from assists, shots on target, and crosses completed. The equal distribution here makes him a safer bet on giving you a good line every single weekend. As with Hazard, there are also concerns with Juan Mata. He was dealing with an injury that caused him to miss the preseason and he has struggled to guarantee his starting spot under Mourinho. Kevin De Bruyne, who I’ll talk about next, has started two of the first three games in favor of Mata, so as of right now, he’s a risky play at fantasy. Mourinho has clearly stated he will start Mata some games, play him off the bench in others, and even keep him out of the squad for some, so unless you have confirmation of Mata starting, be careful playing him in fantasy. Mata is also listed as a striker, which decreases his appeal just like Hazard’s.
Kevin De Bruyne
Kevin De Bruyne was loaned to Werder Bremen last season and it seems the loan has paid off. De Bruyne has returned in fantastic form and as I mentioned above, he’s started two of the three games in the Premier League so far. He has an assist to his name and he has to ability to add more with ease. The problem here is the same as with Mata, Hazard, and pretty much every other midfielder on this list: Mourinho will change it up. Mourinho has said over and over again that he will rest players on consistent basis and he thinks more than one game ahead, leading him to leaving out the most in form players to keep them fresh for important games ahead. As with Mata, leave De Bruyne out of your lineup except when it’s an early Chelsea game and you can get the starting lineup before you have to finalize yours.
Willian Borges da Silva is Chelsea’s newest midfielder addition. Chelsea stole him from under Tottenham’s nose for a fee of around £30m from Anzhi Makhachkala. We have yet to see how well the Brazilian can adapt to the Premier League, since that could take some time to adjust to. Others who have come from Russia have had trouble adapting to the pace and power of English football, so until you see Willian impress on the field, keep him off your fantasy team.
Schūrrle was Mourinho’s first signing of the summer in what was a £18m deal from Bayer Leverkusen. Schūrrle is a very interesting player, as he can play as an attacking midfielder, winger, or second striker. He even started one of Chelsea’s game as the man leading the attack. He has incredible speed and work rate, and that combined with his skill and finishing ability should be able to earn him playing time in Mourinho’s system. Schūrrle will probably play in about 60-70% of Chelsea’s games this season, and I would feel comfortable playing in fantasy if I see that he’s been named a starter for a particular game.
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As you can see, the story with many of these players is “if they start, they’ll be a good fantasy pick”. Unfortunately, for many of the games we won’t know who the starters are going to be, and because of that, I’d recommend you avoid Chelsea’s midfielders. I would feel confident picking Lampard and Oscar on a weekly basi, but the rest should be avoided for now. It would help their case if all were listed as midfielders, but the fact that Mata, Hazard, and Schūrrle are listed as forwards decreases their value to the point where it’s better to pick someone from another team.