Is Jose Mourinho’s plan to give Andriy Shevchenko a wider role up front next season likely to benefit Chelsea and Shevchenko himself? If Mourinho is hoping to see Shevchenko rediscover the goal scoring form that made him one of the world’s most feared strikers prior to his move to Stamford Bridge, deploying him in a three-pronged attack alongside Didier Drogba and Claudio Pizarro might not be such a good idea.
Last season Mourinho mostly preferred the 4-4-2 diamond midfield formation. This usually resulted in Shevchenko being asked to support what was effectively a wingless midfield. More often than not he was required to switch out wide to provide the width that was so evidently missing. The beneficiary of this was Didier Drogba, who became the first Chelsea forward since Kerry Dixon in 1984/85 to reach 30 goals in a season.
Shevchenko tried his hardest to adapt to a role foreign to him and could never be faulted for effort, but ultimately he failed to achieve what was expected of him. He still managed to score 14 goals in all competitions (51 games in total). There’s no doubt he struggled to adapt to the faster pace of the Premiership, and by all accounts he was carrying an injury, but I don’t believe these factors were solely responsible for his below par season.
All through his career Shevchenko has been a traditional centre forward, feeding off crosses from wingers and through balls from midfielders. He played this way for AC Milan for seven years and his goal scoring record there was nothing short of exceptional – 127 goals in 208 appearances. What is clear from his time in Italy is that he is not and never will be a Thierry Henry type player, capable of switching out wide and making things happen.
Forcing Shevchenko to play a wider role next season, albeit an advanced one, will only continue to nullify his talent as a natural born goal scorer. It is likely to frustrate him further and ultimately could put an end to his time at Stamford Bridge. It’s not as if Mourinho is short of attacking options in Florent Malouda, Arjen Robben, Joe Cole, Shaun Wright-Phillips, and Salomon Kalou assuming they all remain Chelsea players.
Hopefully I’m wrong. Hopefully Shevchenko will produce the goods. But the pessimist in me feels that Mourinho’s insistence on playing Shevchenko out of position will cost the Ukrainian dear. Any thoughts?