Florent Malouda: Frenchman’s Chelsea stint ends with a whimper

After a very hit and miss six years in West London, Florent Malouda is heading to pastures new at Turkish club Trabzonspor. Here’s a look back at his largely mixed fortunes at Stamford Bridge.

Malouda joined the Blues in July 2007 after having enjoyed four impressive seasons at Olympique Lyonnais, in which he won Ligue 1 four times, reached the Champions League quarter finals three times and won the prestigious Ligue 1 player of the season award in 2006-07. Such an impressive season meant a whole heap of the wealthiest and best European clubs would be willing to sign Malouda. Chelsea, who had narrowly missed out on a third successive Premier League title the season before, ended up winning the race, and Malouda signed for a rumoured £13 million.

There was added pressure on Malouda due to the departure of Arjen Robben a few weeks after Malouda signed, with Chelsea desperately needing some creativity and goals from a winger or attacking midfielder to compete with rivals Manchester United’s Cristiano Ronaldo, who came into his own the year before. Damien Duff and Arjen Robben had been a major factor in Chelsea’s 2004-05 title win, but with both now gone, Malouda and Joe Cole were required to do something similar.

Malouda started excellently for Chelsea, with goals against Manchester United in the Community Shield, and against newly promoted Birmingham City on the Premier league’s opening day. The good start slowly began to fade away however, as Malouda struggled to hold down a place, and when Jose Mourinho left in September, new manager Avram Grant changed things, with Kalou and Cole regularly being selected ahead of Malouda.

A bit part role followed Malouda throughout most of the season, with Malouda not really fitting into Grant’s plans of supporting strikers that played more centrally. Because of this, Malouda was mostly utilised a substitute whenever Chelsea needed more width. The form of Joe Cole also cost Malouda, while the versatile Michael Essien and the almost ever present Frank Lampard, restricted him to only being considered or needed as an option on the wide left.

Incredibly, Malouda didn’t score again in the premier league until the season’s penultimate game, a 2-0 away win over Newcastle United. Just the 2 goals in 26 league appearances at Chelsea compared poorly to his 10 goals in 35 games at Lyon.

The 2008-09 season saw the arrival of Luis Felipe Scolari at Chelsea after Avram Grant was dismissed in the aftermath of Chelsea’s heartbreaking penalty shootout loss to Manchester United in the Champions League final in Moscow, a game in which Malouda somewhat surprisingly started. The season began well for Malouda, as he played with confidence and comfort ability, looking far from out of place in the team.

However, it wasn’t until the dismissal of Scolari in February due to Chelsea trailing behind Manchester United and Liverpool in the title race, that Malouda really began to come into his own, under interim boss Guus Hiddink.

Swiftly, Malouda was becoming one of Chelsea’s key players, scoring the Blues’ first in a 2-1 FA Cup semi -final win over London rivals Arsenal. Malouda started in Chelsea’s extremely controversial Champions League semi-final 1-1 draw and therefore elimination against Barcelona in May, where he was at the centre of an unsuccessful penalty claim, after Barca’s Brazilian full-back Dani Alves appeared to have blocked him off. Chelsea’s season again ended in Champions League heartbreak, but this time Malouda was beginning to show his true creative quality.

The summer of 2009 saw quite the overhaul at Stamford Bridge under new manager Carlo Ancelotti, particularly tactically. The old Chelsea had a reputation of being slightly too defensive, and at times boring. The Italian changed all this, with Chelsea becoming more rampant and energetic, and Malouda playing more centrally in an attacking diamond formation. Heavy score lines including 7-2 and 7-1 wins for Chelsea against Sunderland and Aston Villa respectively, games in which Malouda scored in was a sign of this.

Despite being eliminated in the Champions League’s round of 16 by eventual winners Inter Milan, Chelsea had a tremendous season, in which they achieved their first ever domestic double of the League and FA Cup. Malouda’s excellent link-up play with Didier Drogba, Frank Lampard, Nicolas Anelka, Salomon Kalou, Joe Cole and Ashley Cole, who began to attack more from his left back position, was a major part of this. The Frenchman ended his most successful season in a blue shirt with 15 goals in 51 games, yet more impressively, with 15 assists.

Carlo Ancelotti’s second and final season at the helm was one that bought no trophies, but Malouda was still a key member of the squad. His stats weren’t quite as good, with just the 5 assists and 14 goals in 50 games, but Chelsea were still rampant and free flowing at times, with early season wins against West Bromwich Albion, Wigan and Blackpool springing to mind.

However, Malouda’s form was somewhat of a microcosm of Chelsea’s, thriving at the start, worryingly bad at times in the winter, but with an impressive and confident end. Malouda scored Chelsea’s third in a 3-0 home win over West Ham in April, a rocket into the top corner from just outside the penalty box. There was definitely still superb ability there, but it wasn’t quite shown regularly enough.

Andre Villas-Boas was determined to oversee change at Chelsea, and Malouda never really looked like fitting into that change. The young manager bought in creative attacker Juan Mata, who impressed from the start, despite Malouda’s goal in Chelsea’s first home game of the season against West Brom.

He appeared in a weakened Chelsea team that was knocked out of the League Cup by eventual winners Liverpool, interestingly in a 4-3-3 in the midfield. Malouda was unable to power forward and looked unsure of how to play in a way that would give balance and creativity to the team.

Even after the arrival of Roberto Di Matteo to replace Villas-Boas, Malouda didn’t appear much for the Blues, other than in matches with less importance towards the end of the season. A contract dispute meant a year in the reserves for Malouda, a year that is now up and Malouda is at Trabzonspor.

After a shaky start, Malouda did show the Chelsea faithful his best at times and his key role in the Blues’ first and only ever (to date) domestic double, will never be forgotten.

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