No doubt exactly as he designed, master of the Machiavellian Jose Mourinho sparked an avalanche of media speculation regarding the demise of his captain John Terry in substituting him halfway through Chelsea’s 3-0 loss at Manchester City.
Apparently not quick enough to safeguard against counter attacks, Terry was hooked in favour of the younger, fleeter Kurt Zouma, who marshalled a defence that leaked double the number of goals it did with Terry at the heart of it.
However, it isn’t furore-igniting substitutions, but the arrival of Spanish winger Pedro that’s pushed the Blues legend’s stay in west London to the brink of extinction.
Purchased from Barcelona in a £21m deal, the World Cup winner’s acquisition hints at a tactical change at Stamford Bridge that will leave key weaknesses in Terry’s game prone to exploitation.
Chelsea negotiators must’ve brandished some strong assurances regarding Pedro’s first-team role in order to prise him out of the Camp Nou, though owing to a lack of versatility, he can only be deployed on the right of a front three.
This is territory patrolled predominantly by Willian.
His lockdown of the wide right berth is not down to his attacking contribution, as one league goal and three assists last term will attest, but for his workmanlike qualities.
The Brazilian’s willingness to perform the agricultural duties of the winger counterbalances left-sided Eden Hazard’s disinterest in this aspect of the game.
Pedro’s primary focus and greatest asset is goalscoring; tasking him to provide right-back protection would negate his best quality.
In order to maximise the Spaniard’s talents, he’ll have to be freed from the shackles that have had such a drastic impact on Willian’s ability to flourish in the final third.
A direct consequence of this will see the protection afforded to Blues’ backline compromised.
Terry’s lack of mobility has always been his greatest deficiency; when commanding from the centre of defence, reinforced by midfield shields, he is one of the finest stoppers in the business.
However, if drawn into the channels between centre-back and full-back, the veteran can be, and occasionally has been, made to look ordinary.
The assumed Pedro-facilitating sacrifice of Willian will see the defence stretched, as right-back Branislav Ivanovic is bereft of vital coverage from the previous season and this spells bad news for Terry.