"Michael Essien might be the best overall player on Chelsea," said Leif Kothe as we sat in front of my 46 inch flat screen LCD, staring in disbelief at the replay of Michael Essien's 35 yard rocket vs. Blackburn. I heard what Leif said, and I couldn't disagree, but the words didn't really sink in until today.
At 26, Michael Kojo Essien is in the prime of his career. The Ghanaian international was signed away from Lyon by Chelsea for 24.4 million pounds in 2005, and has been a fixture in Chelsea's midfield ever since.
There aren't any weaknesses in Essien's game. He is big (5 ft. 10, 187 lbs.), more importantly strong, and deceptively fast. He is versatile and can play any one of the four positions in Chelsea's diamond midfield, which consists of a rotation betwen Deco, Lampard, Ballack, Essien, and Obi Mikel.
Essien has 12 goals in 111 appearances for Chelsea. A fair amount considering his holding/defensive role in most games. But what is truly impressive is the magnitude of most of Essien's goals, almost all of which are worth their weight in gold. His dramatic equalising goal against Arsenal was voted as Chelsea Goal of the Season for 2006–07. On August 13, 2007 Essien scored a game-winner vs. Birmingham City. The victory set an English Premier League record for most consecutive unbeaten league matches at home. His vital away goal vs. Juventus in the 08/09 Champion's League allowed Chelsea to advance past the round of 16 on aggregate 3-2. But most will agree that Essien's most spectacular goal came against Barcelona in the 08/09 Champion's League semi-finals (see bottom of article for video).
Essien's exceptional play hasn't gone unnoticed. He was twice nominated for FIFA World Player of the Year (2006/2007 - 2007/2008), finished 3rd in African Footballer of the Year voting in 2006, and was voted Chelsea player of the year in 06/07.
Essien's size, strength and speed make him a nightmare for opposing midfielders. His ability to run up and down the length of the field for 90 minutes, and his strength on the ball, make him a very rare talent. His defensive capabilities allow fellow Midfielder's Frank Lampard and Michael Ballack to get forward and participate in the attack, and his ability to score in clutch situations makes an already potent Chelsea attack even more formidable. For all these reasons and more I think its safe to say that in 2009, Michael Essien is Chelsea's best overall player.Essien's volley against Barcelona in the second leg of the 08/09 Champion's League Semi-Final electrified the crowd at Stamford Bridge. A goal in stoppage time by Barcelona's Andres Iniesta made the goal all for naught.