Branislav Ivanovic has become a mainstay for Chelsea since his move from Lokomotiv Moscow in 2008. The right-back has gained a reputation for consistently solid performances throughout his Blues career and in the process has become known as one of the most reliable players in Jose Mourinho’s squad.
However, in recent weeks the Serbian defender has been criticised for his part in poor Chelsea performances; following Chelsea’s tense draw with West Brom, Ivanovic was cited as a weak link in the side, adding more fuel to the claims which had arisen after the Blues’ 2-0 loss to Newcastle a week previously.
Against West Brom, Ivanovic’s crossing was of a poor quality. His balls into the penalty area were all hit some way off the byline – the Serbian opted to cross from a relatively deep position, making it hard for Chelsea’s strikers to properly attack the ball and giving the likes of Gareth McAuley an easy job.
What’s more, the Serbian could not seem to find a blue shirt. Only two of his nine crosses were met by a Chelsea player’s head, arguably due to the deep position which they were delivered from, and as such Mourinho’s men found themselves lacking a dimension in attack.
The defender, this season, has given the ball away in a fashion far dissimilar to that which we have become accustomed to. Against Newcastle, he completed a weak 79% of his passes – however, this actually increased his average for the season from 75% to 76%. This shows that Ivanovic has given the ball away far too often for Chelsea this season and, coupled with the tendency to get caught in possession which the Serbian has seemingly developed, is fuel for Chelsea fans' calls for him to be dropped.
Despite this, in defence Ivanovic has retained his usual strength. This season, the Serbian has failed with just three of his attempted tackles and won a stunning 89% of them, suggesting that his ability to provide Petr Cech and Chelsea's right flank with excellent cover has not waned. Defensively, at least, Ivanovic does not show any signs that he should be dropped from Mourinho's starting 11.
Furthermore, the Serbian has made 66 clearances and 14 interceptions for his Chelsea side this season. This has solidified Mourinho's back four and often relieved pressure upon his team's defence, and is likely to be the evidence which Ivanovic supporters will use when claiming that the right-back should not be relieved of his position in Chelsea's defence.
There are arguments for and against Ivanovic's continued selection by Mourinho. Whilst he is undoubtedly a fantastic defender, the times when the Serbian gives away possession put unnecessary pressure on his team and shows that perhaps he should be given a rest from the Chelsea starting line-up.