Now that the transfer deadline has passed, our roster is set for the remaining 15 Premier League games, 7 Champions League games (fingers crossed), and remaining FA Cup run. At this point I want to break down the 25 man roster position by position to gauge where we are at for the second half of the season. I'm also going to highlight some of the more promising youngsters both training at Cobham and on loan so that we might get an idea of what we have going forward. This may help to give us some insight into future transfer windows, as the club truly seem committed at this point to trying to develop players from within.
We'll start this exercise with the most stable position in the club at the moment, the goalkeeper. An important thing to note with keepers is that they age very differently than any other player on the pitch. So much of their game is based on positioning and anticipation that it is a far more learned position than any other. Reflexes are very key, but speed and conditioning are not. Strength is also a key here, but that attribute tends to peak somewhere in a players mid 30's. Because of these factors, keepers tend to peak much later than outfield players, often around age 30. It's not unusual to see players lasting at the position until nearly the age of 40.
Petr Cech is the unquestioned number one choice here, and at age 28 should continue to be for the foreseeable future. At 6'5 1/2" with long arms, he covers a considerable amount of the goal when standing still. While he's been somewhat less aggressive since Stephen Hunt decided to demolish him, he still works very well with his defense and goes after balls they can't play. He's among the five to ten best in the world, and should continue to be for the next several years at least. As long as Cech is healthy, Chelsea are solid in goal.
Also on the 25 man roster are Henrique Hilario and Ross Turnbull. Turnbull appears to be our current #2, although he's seeing very little playing time. He's passed Hilario on the depth chart this year, having rarely dressed for the club in his first season here. At 26 and homegrown, he's a perfect fit as a squad type player. He's 6'5", and solid enough when called upon. He'll likely never be a top choice for anything other than a struggling premier league club, but as a backup with an excellent defense he can get the job done for Chelsea. I'm fine with seeing the occasional Turnbull start, but would be uncomfortable with a long spell of him in net.
Hilario is 35, and appears to have little left in the tank. At 6'2", he relied on his reflexes more than Turnbull does, and they appear to be abandoning him. He's rarely been named to the squad this year, and I'd guess it's likely that he and the club part ways at the end of the year. As mentioned elsewhere, we need to remove a player developed abroad from the squad this summer if we make any signings over the age of 21 from abroad. Hilario seems to be the odd man out, and I'd be very surprised if he makes another appearance with the club before he leaves.
We have four other keepers in the youth ranks worth a mention. Matej Delac is the most advanced of the bunch. Delac is currently on loan at Vitesse, and is struggling to get starts as he recovers form an injury. The 18 year old is 6'3" and considered one of the most promising keeper prospects in Europe. His relexes and leaping ability are second to none, and his strength is getting better as he develops. He may be the long term replacement to Cech, but likely won't have to worry about that for several years. I'd expect to see him train with the club this summer before heading back out on loan.
20 year old Rhys Taylor is on loan at Crewe Alexandria. He stands 6'2", and has been getting regular appearances. Taylor isn't generally as highly thought of as Delac, but he's more advanced at this point. Long term, he likely projects as a backup for a solid club. While not ready to be the number two right now, he's probably capable of taking over Hilario's role next season. He'd still be U21, and therefore he'd free up an extra roster spot for someone else.
19 year old Czech Jan Sebek is likely the other in house option as next years number three. He's 6'5", and likely projects as a better keeper than Taylor going forward. He's been the regular first choice in the reserve ranks this year, and has traveled with the club several times as the third choice. I'd expect him to go out on loan next year to continue to get regular starts, although he may remain with the club in the restructured youth league.
Jamal Blackman is certainly the furthest away of the bunch. Having just turned 17, he's already standing in the 6'6" range (and apparently still growing) with very long arms. He's also a very good athlete in general, and should add quite a bit of strength to his big frame. Having seen a few youth games, he's noticeably larger than Danny Pappoe who's listed at 6'4". He's pretty raw and a long ways off, but his physical gifts will make him one to watch going forward. He's the regular starter for the youth team, so if you get the chance to watch them play you'll get a good look at him. At his size, he's hard to miss. He won't factor into the squad for a few years, and will likely be playing for the youth again next year.
Over the summer, I'd look for Hilario to depart. If we don't make a signing, I think we'll be just fine in net. I think it's probably likely that we look to sign a better number two than Turnbull, pushing him to the third spot and allowing us to loan out our youngsters. With the roster rules now in place, I think it's unlikely that we carry more than one keeper developed abroad anymore, so we'll likely target a "homegrown" player. I'd look for us to be linked heavily with Asmir Begovic of Stoke, as he's likely going to be one of our primary targets this summer (he'll be profiled in detail as the window approaches). With or without a signing though, we ought to be just fine in net for the foreseeable future assuming Cech doesn't suffer a major injury.