After a disappointingly uneventful transfer window in which we did very little in the way of improving the squad, I’m going to cast my eyes forward 7 months to the start of next season. There’s not much left to salvage from this fiasco of a campaign, so why not look to the future?
Rafael Benitez, thankfully, shouldn’t be remaining at Stamford Bridge for too long. His contract is up in the summer, and there is no shortage of candidates, despite some labelling the Chelsea hot seat as a poisoned chalice. There are still plenty of options for Abramovich.
Another young, up-and-coming manager. Jurgen Klopp fits the bill nicely, but he’s staying at Dortmund. Joachim Low wouldn’t be too bad either, but he’s got a World Cup to build for and he won’t leave Germany till after it. Roberto Martinez and Michael Laudrup have also been mentioned, but neither would appear to be a big enough name for Abramovich, and they are untested in Europe.
A player-manager. We’ve had a couple of these in the not-too-distant past, and if John Terry or Frank Lampard (the only realistic possibilities) were to take over the reins it would certainly be a popular move from Uncle Roman. However this also looks very risky and I can’t see Abramovich trying it.
A fan’s favourite. Someone we appreciate, and know, and like. Just like Di Matteo. Sadly, the prospect of a heroic return for Robbie seems outlandish. Zola, Clarke and Poyet are all doing well with Watford, West Brom and Brighton, and are all viable options. The most likely of the three looks like Poyet, after Coral slashed the odds on him being Chelsea’s next gaffer from 25-1 to 3-1, then suspended betting.
A returning hero. There are two options of this nature; Guus Hiddink and Jose Mourinho. While some reports have claimed Hiddink is ready to return to Stamford Bridge to replace Benitez, he himself has stated he will retire at the end of this season with Anzhi Makhachkala. The prospect of Hiddink can’t be entirely ruled out, bud I’d class it as “highly unlikely”. Leaving Jose Mourinho. He hasn’t had the happiest of seasons at Real Madrid, it is fair to say, but his managerial skills remain beyond question. He has the credentials, the personality, the profile, everything. He is a perfect fit, but that’s another article altogether. Interestingly, I came across a poll yesterday asking who Chelsea fans want as their next permanent manager, and Mourinho took 75% of the vote. Joachim Low was in 2nd place with 7%. Clearly I’m not in the minority.
The Playing Staff
Petr Cech, Asmir Begovic, Jamal Blackman
Cesar Azpilicueta, Branislav Ivanovic, Jeffrey Bruma, John Terry, Gary Cahill, Ashley Cole, Ryan Bertrand, Luke Shaw
Oriol Romeu, Nathaniel Chalobah, Josh McEachran, John Obi Mikel, Michael Essien, Frank Lampard, David Luiz, Ramires
Oscar, Juan Mata, Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard, Marouane Fellaini, Isco, Lucas Piazon, Gael Kakuta, Victor Moses
Demba Ba, Radamel Falcao, Andre Schurrle, Romelu Lukaku
Ross Turnbull, Henrique Hilario, Paulo Ferreira, Yossi Benayoun, Florent Malouda, Marko Marin, Fernando Torres.
I don’t think I’ve surprised anyone here. Turnbull, Hilario, Ferreira, Benayoun and Malouda are all out of contract in the summer, and there seems to be no good reason for Chelsea to keep any of them. It seems highly unlikely that any of those 5 players will ever see any significant game-time at Chelsea, and in any case they don’t really deserve it.
Meanwhile, Marin and Torres both look like two of the biggest wastes of money I’ve ever seen. Marin hasn’t had much of an opportunity to shine, but when he has, we’ve seen nothing of note other than the attempted murder of Stephane Mbia against QPR. I envisage him going back to Germany in a player-plus-cash deal for Schurrle.
Fernando Torres, on the other hand, has had far too many opportunities. He ran out of last chances a long time ago. And I am sure that Mourinho can see that Torres is damaged goods, and he won’t make Torres’s excuses like a certain corpulent Spaniard has been doing. He’ll be on his way, either to a nouveau riche team like Zenit, Anzhi or PSG, or as I think will be the case, back to Atletico in part exchange for Radamel Falcao.
Asmir Begovic, Luke Shaw, Marouane Fellaini, Isco, Andre Schurrle, Radamel Falcao.
Another hefty summer outlay looks on the cards. There are serious gaps that require filling, and Jose will do it, backed by Abramovich. Just as it was in the glory days of 2004-06. I’m sounding like a Liverpool fan now.
Whatever. One problem that looks sure to arise in the summer will be the lack of cover for Cech. Turnbull and Hilario will be gone, Cech is too good not to start, Courtois is too good not to start. Therefore Courtois will be loaned once again, though it will be for the last time. Cech will stay, but it will probably be his last season. But beyond him, the backup would be Blackman, Delac and Walker. That’s even worse than what we’ve got now. We’ll need cover, and Begovic springs to mind. We tried to get Butland, but he chose Stoke. He’ll join the Potters next season, so Stoke will have a surplus. Butland will start; Begovic will still be around, as will Sorensen. Begovic is too good to sit on Stoke’s bench. Chelsea will need a keeper, Begovic will be available, he has tried to join Chelsea before, and has previously been willing to be a backup keeper. Perfect.
Luke Shaw is a player who I think will come under the Michael Emenalo category of “great prospects signed for the sake of signing them”. He is very much a Premiership-level fullback aged 17, a proud Chelsea fan, and just too good to miss out on. If Southampton are relegated, which they might well be, they’ll have to sell some of their prized assets, and Luke Shaw is one of them. His personal allegiance to Chelsea might prove vital. I think he’d benefit from a year on loan, but he’s good enough now and would probably benefit even more from a year under the tutelage of Ashley Cole.
Marouane Fellaini isn’t a player I’m totally sold on, but his departure from Everton seems like a matter of time. His technical abilities are in some doubt, but there is no doubt that his physical attributes, his tackling, stamina, strength, shooting and heading make him a terrific utility man who can play anywhere in the spine of a team. He has previously spoken of his wish to play in the Champions League; Chelsea can offer that and Everton can’t. And our Belgian army might help to convince him to come to the Bridge. I think it’s happening.
Isco is a very interesting case; Malaga need money desperately, Chelsea need cover for Mata and I’m sure there’s more to the Piazon loan than meets the eye. Regardless of whether or not we’ve secured a first refusal on him, he is a brilliant player with all the potential to be the next Andres Iniesta. If we don’t get him, Barca will, and his buyout clause is well within our financial means. I’m quietly confident of Isco, now that Willian has been snapped up by Anzhi.
Another deal I believe we will make is Lazar Markovic. Like Shaw, he a mega-talented teenager who any team would want. Like Shaw, his club might well be forced to sell quite soon. Like Shaw, he’s in the category of buying for the sake of buying. Like Shaw, he’s a self-proclaimed Chelsea fan. Like Shaw, he’d benefit from a year on loan but would also benefit from learning off the brilliant players already at Chelsea. Like Shaw, he’s already visited Chelsea but unlike Shaw he wasn’t playing against us and unlike Shaw I think he will be loaned out.
Our most obvious weakness is the strikeforce; I’ve already posted an article on this, and the one player I honestly believe we need is Neymar. Despite what I’ve said before, I’m slightly inclined to take Neymar’s word as true that he won’t leave Santos until summer of next year, which seems an awfully long time. But it is obvious that reinforcements are needed, and they will come. The Kraken will come home, whatever he’s said about staying at West Brom. Torres must leave. And the 2 deals I’ve mentioned (Torres + cash for Falcao and Marin + cash for Schurrle) just seem like common sense, both have been mentioned in the press and I think both deals would be good ones for all parties involved.
Falcao, a world-class predator + Ba, a terrific deputy + Lukaku, a young, terrifying different option + Schurrle, an exciting, versatile forward = a proper strikeforce. One that the Manchesters would fear and envy in equal measure. And that would complete a seriously good squad, as good as any which has ever been seen at Stamford Bridge and one that would be fully capable of competing for trophies on all fronts without suffering from a lack of squad depth or from AFCON. Bring on next season!
Am I wildly over-optimistic or do we have a realistic chance of assembling a squad like this? Would you even want this amount of competition in the squad, or do you think it could be bad for morale? Could we keep 4 top strikers happy, regardless of which formation we’d use? And which formation would you want? Are you totally opposed to Fellaini and Falcao and would you prefer Beñat and Neymar?