Despite the facts that the transfer window is closed, that Chelsea are rumoured to be desperately short on funds for new recruits, that new Chelsea manager Guus Hiddink has yet to take charge of his first match with the Blues, and that the Dutchman’s contract at the Bridge only stretches until the end of the season, reports are today circling that CSKA Moscow’s left winger Yuri Zhirkov is a prime target for the Pensioners in the summer.
25-year-old Zhirkov rose to prominence during Russia’s superb tournament at Euro 2008, showing himself to be one of the best left-sided players in Europe. With a sharp turn of pace, silky left-peg, and the ability to both cross and score, Zhirkov arguably lives up to the billing that Florent Malouda has consistently flattered to deceive.
There are several reasons why there may be some truth to these reports. Hiddink obviously has an intimate knowledge of Zhirkov’s talents from his time as the Russian team coach, and more importantly, all indications appears to be that the Dutchman is looking to turn Chelsea’s style into a more standardised 4-4-2 system.
While Anelka and Drogba would fulfill the roles up top, the bigger question mark about Chelsea’s deployment of 4-4-2 has always been who the four across midfield would be. Devoid of any natural width since the departures of Robben and SWP, the Blues have been hamstrung in playing with two frontmen with either Nickolas Anelka or Salomon Kalou being force out wide when Didier Drogba has been in the side. To this end, Zhirkov may prove the solution on the left-hand side.
Whether this proves to be anything more than paper-talk however remains to be seen.
Video evidence of Yuri Zhirkov can be seen here.