Stephane Mbia might be a surprise target for Chelsea, but it actually makes a lot of sense. Not renowned for their ability to look to the future, Chelsea would be making a sensible choice that fulfills a need within their current roster.
With QPR reportedly set to make a move for troubled Rennes star Yann M’Vila (via The Daily Mail), it would also rank as a good career move for Mbia. Chelsea could use a battler in the middle of the park, and Mbia doesn’t exactly shy away from a tackle.
In fact, it’s Mbia’s eagerness to get stuck in that could count against him. He’s already one game away from suspension, and Rafa Benitez will need him to learn to pick his challenges better.
However, Mbia’s presence in front of the Chelsea defence automatically relieves the midfield of some defensive responsibilities and frees up the likes of Ramires to control the attack.
Benitez needs this sort of extra flair in his attack, having underwhelmed in his short tenure as Chelsea manager. Although Mbia isn’t the most glamorous of picks for a free-spending club like Chelsea, it’s a move that could pay dividends in the long term.
Of course, there’s an argument to be made that Benitez shouldn’t be making purchases that could work out over the course of a few years. He is only interim manager, after all, and buying a player who suits his scheme could end badly for both manager and player.
Benitez has to hope that Mbia slots into the side and makes an immediate impact. Comparing favourably with John Obi Mikel, Mbia gives Benitez an extra option in a rotation that is lacking in defensive midfielders.
Could Benitez have been influenced by Mbia’s strong display in the 1-0 loss to QPR? It’s possible, but the Cameroonian could certainly provide a consistent level of defensive steel in front of the defence.
The biggest stumbling block in this move comes through both Mbia and Mikel. Chelsea lose Mikel for a maximum of six weeks when the African Cup of Nations begins, and they would also lose Mbia at the same time in the future. Relying on Cameroon to shoot themselves in the foot and not qualify isn’t going to get anyone anywhere, so it should be a genuine concern for Benitez.
Bringing in Mbia to provide competition for Mikel is fine, but he also needs to provide cover in his absence. It would be difficult to lose both players at the same time every time the competition begins and automatically weakens the side.
However, if Mbia can be brought in for the rumoured £10 million asking price (via The Daily Express), it may prove too good for Benitez to resist. Mbia would have a positive effect on the team, and shoring up the midfield with such an enforcer would help to plug the leaks in the Chelsea defence.
Allowing teams like Southampton to claw their way back to 2-2 is inexcusable for a team with title aspirations as is losing at home to QPR.
Chelsea’s home form is a real worry at the moment, so fixing that should be the main priority. Mbia can do that, both now and in the future, and it must be on Benitez’s mind as he looks to bring in reinforcements.
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