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Last Updated: Wednesday, 17 August 2005, 12:41 GMT 13:41 UK
The verdict on Essien
Ghana midfielder Michael Essien
Chelsea's midfielders will face even more of a struggle for a place next season now they have signed Lyon's Michael Essien for 24.4m.

Last season Essien scored five goals in 10 Champions League games, and French journalist Xavier Rivoire of L'Equipe TV says he is a versatile player.

"His preferred position is a defensive midfield, a number 6, but he can play as an attacking midfielder," he said.

"He's a very good dribbler and his crosses are very accurate."

Rivoire said he thought Chelsea would play Essien in a more defensive role.

"I think he will play Claude Makelele and Essien as defensive midfielders, with two other players as offensive midfielders," he said.

"The natural choices will be Lampard and someone else, and they will be free of all defensive duties."


Our 606 message boards have been full of opinion as to whether Essien is the right man, at the right price.

Here is a sample of what you think.

HELPING OUT FRANK LAMPARD

Adekoye expects big things from Essien.

He said: "It is unlikely he will score nearly as many goals as Frank Lampard, but I believe he will provide something which is sometimes lacking in our play.

"That is...thrust combined with power and ruthlessness in central midfield and around the opponent's box yet without overdoing our counter-attacking play.

"Just imagine Edgar Davids and Patrick Vieira in their pomp."

The imaginatively-titled Mourinho that Outiho also reckons that Essien will add a new dynamic to the Chelsea midfield.

Lampard does more defending with Gudjohnsen in the team

"When Frank Lampard has to cover defensively as well as attack he can't get forward as much.

"His critics often accuse him of going missing but with such attacking flair on the wings we can lack solidity in midfield when under pressure.

"I think it's a balance. Essien is famed for going box to box, which neither Claude Makelele or Frank Lampard particularly do.

Essien bolsters the defence and allows Lampard to push forward

"I think he will reinforce a bit more defensively, but be able to go forward as and when required."

TAKING OVER FROM MAKELELE

Many people not only rate Essien's box-to-box qualities but also his defensive skills - and believe he will eventually take Claude Makelele's place as the holding midfielder.

Villan01 said: "I think he'll be Mak's long term replacement unless a better holding midfielder comes along in the next few years.

Chelsea midfielder Claude Makelele
Makelele is Chelsea's holding player

But from what I have heard it seems Essien is just Makelele with some attacking bite anyway so he is perfect for that."

Duffer of St Patrick is not alone in expressing the belief that the arrival of Essien is not good news for Tiago and Eidur Gudjohnsen.

"I expect Essien to feature more often than as an under-study for when Lampard is given a rest.

"I think that broadly speaking he will be competition for Eidur and Tiago in midfield and will start more often than either."

NOT SO SURE

But not everyone is convinced Chelsea are doing the right thing.

Some feel that Essien is far inferior to Steven Gerrard and will struggle at the club.

Cesc_analytical_mind said: "Essien doesn't read the game well enough to be Makelele's eventual replacement - he will be Lampard's understudy.

"Playing him alongside Lampard in midfield will result in very little possession because Essien is not and never was very comfortable on the ball."

And others wonder whether Essien is good value for the price.

Robbendarichman reckons "the midfield is fine - we should have spent half that amount and bought Michael Owen.

"The striking options worry me - there is Didier Drogba and Hernan Crespo, then only Carlton Cole to call on."

AND FINALLY

Lordy, replying to a message that suggested most players look good in highlights, quipped: "And lots of them look good in fishnet tights".

While Leighton Satan sounds a word of warning: "Essien is an overpriced Eric Djemba Djemba."




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