Since Roman Abramovich’s arrival at Chelsea cued mass spending as the club pursued Champions League success, the Blues have regularly possessed a quality left-sided player. From the early days of Damien Duff, to Arjen Robben, then Joe Cole. But the man currently occupying the position is fast emerging as the finest.
Florent Malouda is a prime example of a talented player needing time – and faith from the manager – to settle in England. Now in his fourth season at Stamford Bridge, Malouda’s Chelsea record reads of steady progression only for him to exceed expectations under current boss Carlo Ancelotti, leading to many lauding him as the Premier League’s most improved player. Now whilst some may find that demeaning towards a player that cost £13m, others will see that the progression made under the Italian has ensured Malouda has blossomed into the potent left-winger that Chelsea fans had hoped he would be.
The Frenchman’s performance in the win against Manchester United- a result which proved to be a pivotal moment in last season’s title race- epitomised how lethal the 30-year-old has learned to become. Malouda glided past two would-be challenges before searching out Cole, whose back-heel turned the ball goalwards and gave Chelsea the lead. The display was a far cry from previous inconsistencies, especially when delivering a telling final ball, yet the fulfilment of Malouda has come with a goal threat. Malouda’s 15 goals in all competitions last term provided a balance to Ancelotti’s three-man attack. Top scorer Didier Drogba triumphed at the head of the podium, whilst Nicolas Anelka and Malouda supported from the flanks to devastating effect.
And because of that form, opinions on Malouda have been turned on their head. The inconsistent, often lethargic player from seasons past has been buried by the merciless attacker that has started this season in rampant fashion. Chelsea have notched six in successive Premier League games, with Malouda helping himself to three of them. He may have enjoyed his share from the feast of goals that the Blues serve up of late but he has had to prove that he is worthy of a place at the table.
Having signed from Lyon Malouda was expected to fill the void left by Robben’s departure, but the Frenchman’s career at Stamford Bridge stalled during the transitional period that saw Avram Grant, Luiz Felipe Scolari and Guus Hiddink come and go within twelve months. During this time, Malouda drifted in and out of games, and the team, as he struggled to maintain form. Yet under Ancelotti the transformation of Malouda has been astronomical, and he now shines as bright as the rest of Chelsea’s stars.