The decline of Branislav Ivanovic is no short-term thing, but his fall to such abysmal standard this season is still shocking. Against Porto on Tuesday night, he somehow managed to find a new low…
Any Chelsea supporter will tell you that the decline of Branislav Ivanovic is no short-term thing. For the last two years, the Serbian’s inauspicious defending has been masked by his endeavours in attacking areas. We’ve been blinded by the goals.
Even so, Ivanovic’s form this season has been nothing short of embarrassing, matched only by Jose Mourinho’s continued faith in his right-back with Cesar Azpilicueta such an obvious alternative (and Baba Rahman filling in on the left). Against Porto, Ivanovic found another new nadir.
The defender savaged across the media for a display which contained almost no reason for praise. He allowed Yacine Brahimi to dribble past him for the opening goal, and then failed to pick up his man on the second. Ivanovic retains a new-found ability to make his opposing winger look like the reincarnations of George Best and Jimmy Johnstone. This is becoming an unfunny joke.
Still, the good news is that you can still do great numbers on social media by describing just how bad Ivanovic was.
Branislav Ivanovic's game by numbers vs Porto: 10 misplaced passes 10 tackles attempted 1 tackle won 0 aerial duels won 0 crosses completed
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) September 29, 2015
‘One of the great mysteries of the season remains unsolved,’ wrote Mark Worrall for ESPN. ‘With alternative options available, why does Mourinho persist playing Ivanovic at right-back? Brahimi was the latest in a lengthening list of players to embarrass the Blues’ defender in the build-up to Porto’s first goal — who will be next?’
In the Telegraph, Matt Law focused on the fact that Ivanovic was given the captain’s armband by Mourinho against Porto: ‘What must John Terry think as he watches from the substitutes’ bench, while Ivanovic seemingly survives error after error, match after match? It was no surprise that Ivanovic was largely to blame for Porto’s opening goal.’
‘No surprise Ivanovic was largely to blame’. We’re talking about an international defender named in the PFA Team of the Year last season.
The attack goes on with Dominic Fifield in the Guardian (above), with the understandably overwhelming reaction being one of ‘Well yeah, we all saw it coming’. This is like a witch-hunt, but when the alleged witch being hunted is wearing a black hat, cackling over a cauldron and stroking a black cat.
In the Daily Mirror, Dave Kidd goes one step further, suggesting that Mourinho’s continued selection of Ivanovic is a ‘coded message’ to Roman Abramovich. Presumably that message is ‘I’ve managed to make this right-back so much worse in two years’?
Former Arsenal striker Alan Smith dedicated an entire opinion piece to Ivanovic in the Telegraph on Sunday. In a column that right savages the defender for his performances, Smith raised an interesting point about the Serbian’s lack of positioning:
Some kept their censure brief. Writing in the Daily Mail, Matt Barlow surmised that ‘nobody epitomises the Chelsea mess more than Ivanovic’. The Sun‘s match report only mentions him once, which is generous in the extreme.
Barlow is the also only one to offer any words of mild encouragement, suggesting that the defender is guilty of ‘trying too hard to make amends’.
If that is the case, he’s failing miserably. Rahman, Terry and Begovic would be forgiven for hammering on the manager’s door before Saturday’s home game against Southampton.
We’ll end with a quote from the man himself, speaking in the build-up to the game in Portugal:
The headline on that piece was ‘Ivanovic finding the right level’. Try and add a propaganda twist on this one, guys.