Premier League 25 years XI: Part two
Inside Blue Wed 16 Aug 2017
On the 25th anniversary of our first Premier League fixture, attempting to select an all-time Chelsea XI from the past quarter of a century is harder than we thought...
The BBC Sport website is presenting readers with the even more arduous task of selecting an overall Premier League side, but it is from here which we can take our first cues as far as a Blues team is concerned.
In each position they offer up a selection of players, so let us start with goalkeeper, where Petr Cech must surely be a shoo-in for our side; but just below him is Thibaut Courtois. This is already a struggle...
There is no doubt in my mind that Cech would make it into an all-time Chelsea XI, but Courtois has already moved to within one Premier League title of his former team-mate's tally in the space of only three years in the Blues side and he doesn't even turn 26 until the end of the season.
Cech takes it for now, but Thibaut will be pushing him even closer for that position when we hit the 30th anniversary.
The defence, if we stick to the BBC choices, picks itself: Branislav Ivanovic and Ashley Cole flanking John Terry and Marcel Desailly.
The first three almost pick themselves, although the 12-year-old me wants me to pick Dan Petrescu even though the Romanian spent most of his Chelsea career as either a wing-back or winger. For those who weren't privileged to see Super Dan in his pomp, he'd have slotted perfectly into Antonio Conte's preferred system.
And what about Cesar Azpilicueta, who could probably stake a claim as our most consistent player of the Premier League era; even one hand will comfortably count the number of below-par performances.
For me the goals of Ivanovic just nudge him in alongside Ash and JT, both of whom would make it into just about every selection, but as imperious as Desailly was at centre-half, we're going for a man who played his part in three Premier League title wins.
Ricardo Carvalho is criminally underrated by many, perhaps because he wasn't in the mould of a typical English defender. But he read the game as well as anyone in world football, his distribution was immaculate and he was the perfect partner for JT – and that's why he makes our team.
Of course, a case could also be made for many others: the stalwart Steve Clarke, Frank Lebouef, who brought a range of passing I never knew a centre-half could be capable of, along with the versatile William Gallas and not forgetting two of our current defenders who have won the lot, Gary Cahill and David Luiz.
Moving up into midfield, the BBC offers us the following players: Eden Hazard, N'Golo Kante, Frank Lampard and Gianfranco Zola.
The surprise omission is Claude Makelele, the man so good he had a position named after him. Although Kante is perhaps an upgrade on Maka, with his boundless energy, he has only been at Chelsea for one brilliant season, so he just misses out to his compatriot on this occasion.
Alongside Makelele we can slot in Lampard. Does anything further need to be said about perhaps the greatest Blue of all time?
Hazard, named Chelsea Player of the Year on three occasions since his arrival in 2012, is a clear selection for an attacking-midfield role if Doc Brown gave us use of his time-travelling DeLorean for just one day we'd use it to bring a peak Zola back to the future to see the two of them playing alongside each other.
Zola's pass 👌— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) August 3, 2017
Poyet's finish 🔥
Is this our best ever strike from the opening day of a Premier League season? pic.twitter.com/Ns2gcypGve
Even so, we've been blessed with some wonderful midfielders during the Premier League era.
Dennis Wise was perhaps the closest to breaking into the midfield; a wonderful leader who never got enough credit for his ability.
As a nine-year-old I thought Gavin Peacock was the bees knees and I couldn't imagine a day when the man who scored the winner home and away against Man U in the same season couldn't make it into my team. Sorry, Gav.
Then there's Ruud Gullit, Robbie Di Matteo – more of a cup player, it must be said – Gus Poyet, Michael Essien, Arjen Robben, Damien Duff, Joe Cole, Willian, Ramires and so many more.
In attack, the BBC present us only with Didier Drogba – again, another undisputed selection in every Chelsea Premier League XI, and perhaps of all time.
My partner for Didier could have been Eidur Gudjohnsen or Nicolas Anelka, both of whom would have made a classy foil for the Ivorian, or for nostalgic reasons it could have been Mark Stein or John Spencer. The former, remember, still holds the Chelsea record for scoring in the most consecutive Premier League matches.
However, I'm going for a striker who gave us something we'd been missing throughout the early years of the rebranded English top flight: 20 goals a season. That's right, it's Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink.
Arguably the most explosive striker in Chelsea history, Jimmy was as explosive as centre-forwards come and he could smash them in from all angles. What a player.
🎈Wishing Chelsea legend Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink a very happy birthday! 🎉 pic.twitter.com/bGfEDBcDC0— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) 27 March 2017
That leaves my team looking a little something like this, set up in a 4-1-3-2 formation: Cech; Ivanovic, Carvalho, Terry, A Cole; Makelele; Hazard, Lampard, Zola; Drogba, Hasselbaink. Ask me again tomorrow and it would probably look vastly different.
Obviously this selection is subjective and aside from three or four players there are plenty of positions which could easily have gone to someone else. So why not get in touch with us via social media to let us know who you would pick. It's not as easy as you think...
Richard Godden, deputy editor of Chelsea magazine.