FanPost

Chelsea is loaded: a detailed review of the roster and the talent "pipeline"


There has recently been (and I suspect there always will be) quite a bit of discussion on WAGNH around three big topics. The first is what exactly Chelsea should be doing in any particular transfer window, including who should be bought or sold. The second topic relates to our formation, particularly what formation is best for the team now and moving forward and what players should play what positions. The third topic is the youth team, and how/when young players should be brought into the first team. These seem to have been a lot more top of mind in the last 6-9 months or so after the fall of AVB and his "project", the "new Chelsea" and the arrival of Hazard, Oscar and others, not to mention all the debates about Torres and Sturridge (and now even Mikel).

The more I see on these topics, the more I am convinced that they are inter-related and impossible to discuss without a comprehensive look at the entire roster, from the youth team, to loaned players and the current first team. The WAGNH team does a fabulous job of publishing articles on all of these topics (and a lot of others!) and really hitting the specifics, and a lot of fanposts and comments have been made on the subject, but to help organize my thinking I started putting together a global analysis of the current Chelsea team and the talent "pipeline" moving forward, which is something I haven't really seen all pulled together. The more I worked on it the more it started to really snowball into a bigger overall project, so I decided to share. My main purposes in publishing is that I think it is helpful in giving a sense of how our players cover the two main potential formations (4-2-3-1 and 4-3-3), it helps analyze/understand our needs in the transfer market. It especially helps to show potential areas for improvement and more importantly, the timing of those potential improvements and finally, it really shows how well we are prepared for the future. For example, we are absolutely stacked in the attacking midfield, but we may need to reinforce the central defense down the road (most people seem to intuitively know/understand this, but it is helpful to see the current players and the prospects to really understand how many players we will need, when we will need them and whether they should be starters or rotation players). Most importantly, it shows how amazingly good a player is going to have to be to break into the first team, whether the player is purchased, coming back from a loan or coming up from the youth team

So, to try to understand the current roster and the projected roster over the next few years, I have created a matrix with each Chelsea player under the age of 26 that is either (i) currently in the first team, (ii) out on loan or (iii) listed on the U-21 roster (any younger, U-18, U-16, is too hard to realistically project as almost none of those players will impact the first team in the next five years; in my opinion the only ones who have even an outside chance are on the U-21 roster anyway). For each player, I have listed his position, age, three and five year projections / expectations and a rating of their maximum potential (i.e., if all goes well, how good could this player be - it is absolutely not a measure of how good any single player is right now). The ratings are on a 1-10 scale similar to the per game ratings (10 is the best of the best, 6 is an EPL starter). I have also included a simple explanation of my rating and the expectations for each player where possible (all of which are my opinions only).

Before we go further, I want to acknowledge that I have not watched nearly enough of the loaned players or the youth team to really nail down these ratings, so there is definitely room for disagreement, and I would love for others with better knowledge to weigh in. However, I think they are pretty close for the older prospects. The interesting part is though, that we have so many talented young players in the pipeline that the rating for any individual player doesn't matter. Some highly-rated prospects are going to miss, but some lower-rated prospects will come out of nowhere to be stars. It also shows how strong the team could/should become. More importantly, the matrix shows how many young and incredibly talented players are already playing in our first team. For example, Oscar, Hazard and Mata will be are so young and already look set to hold positions in the band of 3 for years. It is going to take an incredible player to get playing time at that position. So, there will be some fantastic players on our current roster that will have long and very good careers but won't get near our first team. There is also room to disagree on the projections/explanations, and I think I could write a lot of separate fanposts on some of them (for example, how to best integrate Tomas Kalas into the first team, will Josh McEachran break through and if so when, would a pivot of Romeu and Mikel work now or in the future?), and this post is long enough already, so I am leaving those for another time.

With all that said, the matrix of players is below. Each player is listed in their primary position since it is too hard/complicated to show all of their secondary roles (Ramires at RW, Hazard at the #10). One of the things this takes away though is how flexible are attackers and central midfielders are though (almost all of them, including the prospects, can move around a fluid front and play multiple positions). I also tended to favor the more flexible players in moving them into the first team and making projections, so that is something to keep in mind as well in reviewing the expectations and the pipeline.

No.

Player

Age

Position

Potential Rating

3 Year Expectation

5 Year Expectation

Verdict/Explanation

29

Thibaut Courtois

20

GK

10

Chelsea Starter

Chelsea Starter

Has everything he needs to be the best keeper in the world

Matej Delač

20

GK

7

On Loan

Sold / Moved

Unlikely to get past Courtois & Blackman

Sam Walker

20

GK

7

On Loan

Sold / Moved

Unlikely to get past Courtois & Blackman

46

Jamal Blackman

18

GK

9

Chelsea Backup

On Loan

Can be special, but very unlikely to get past Courtois

Mitchell Beeney

16

GK

U-21

On Loan

Looks to be a longer-term developmental prospect

4

David Luiz

25

CB

9

Chelsea Starter

Chelsea Starter

Already a superstar, should continue to improve

24

Gary Cahill

26

CB

7

Chelsea Backup

Chelsea Backup

Excellent third-starter / rotational CB

27

Sam Hutchinson

23

CB

6

Sold / Moved

Sold / Moved

Inspiring story, but don't see him ever making it at Chelsea

43

Jeffrey Bruma

20

CB

7

Chelsea Backup or Sold/Moved

Sold/Moved

Has the talent to be an EPL player, but not more than cover for Chelsea

Kenneth Omeruo

19

CB

9

On Loan

Chelsea Starter

Has the talent to be a star, but needs time to develop

Nathan Aké

17

CB

6

On Loan

On Loan

Looks to be a longer-term developmental prospect

Adam Nditi

17

CB

6

On Loan

On Loan

Looks to be a longer-term developmental prospect

57

Archange Nkumu

18

CB

6

On Loan

On Loan

Looks to be a longer-term developmental prospect

58

Daniel Pappoe

18

CB

6

On Loan

On Loan

Unlikely to crack the Chelsea first team

Alex Davey

17

CB

7

On Loan

On Loan

Looks to be a longer-term developmental prospect

49

Aziz Deen-Conteh

19

FB

On Loan

Sold / Moved

Hard to see him moving past the other young LBs

34

Ryan Bertrand

23

LB

7

Chelsea Starter

Chelsea Starter

Looks to be rounding into a solid starter. I could see the team buying a replacement for Ashley Cole though (an elite LB is so important to how we play) and using Bertrand in his current role (LB cover, defensive winger). Either way, he will be at Chelsea for the long-term.

38

Patrick van Aanholt

22

LB

7

Chelsea Backup

Chelsea Backup

Should round into a solid EPL backup LB. He may move to be a starter somewhere eventually, but should be fairly easily replaced.

28

César Azpilicueta

23

RB

8

Chelsea Starter

Chelsea Starter

Looks like he has the ability to be a very good long-term starter. His role will depend on what we do with Kalas though.

Tomas Kalas

19

RB

9

Chelsea Starter

Chelsea Starter

Has all the tools to be a superstar. Looks like he will be in the mix at Chelsea as soon as next season. What position is most interesting though. He has been a very sold CB, but has shifted to RB this season, which looks to be his best long-term position. I could see him coming back to Chelsea next season at RB, then shifting inside to replace Terry when he retires (which would give us Luiz, Cahill and Kalas as the primary CBs). He could be cover at RB as well. Then when Omeru (or a new CB arrives) he could push out to RB as the full-time starter.

54

Todd Kane

18

RB

7

Chelsea Backup

Chelsea Backup

Looks to be a solid backup at Chelsea. His role will likely depend on Kalas though. If Kalas is a CB, Kane will likely be the primary backup RB. If Kalas is a RB, I don't see him getting past Kalas and Azpilicueta

Ben Gordon

21

LB

5

On Loan

Sold / Moved

Hard to see him moving past the other young LBs

6

Oriol Romeu

20

DM

9

Chelsea Starter

Chelsea Starter

Already a very good player, will be able to play in the pivot or at the base of a 3 man midfield. Should be an excellent player for a long-time.

12

Mikel

25

DM

7

Chelsea Backup

Chelsea Backup

Very solid starter, excellent cover. Will fill the role for a long-time unless he wants to leave.

45

Nathaniel Chalobah

17

DM

9

Chelsea Backup

Chelsea Starter

Has always been an elite prospect. Should develop into a superstar.

7

Ramires

25

CM

8

Chelsea Backup

Chelsea Backup

Backup, starter, jack of all trades. Irreplaceable no matter what we call him. Will be a key player all over the pitch for a long-time.

11

Oscar

20

CM

10

Chelsea Starter

Chelsea Starter

Already excellent, will grow into one of the best in the world. Franchise type player.

14

Kevin De Bruyne

21

CM

9

Chelsea Starter

Chelsea Starter

Looks to be developing into an excellent player. To me, the biggest question is finding his best position. It seems he will be primarily a central midfielder in the long-term though.

20

Josh McEachran

19

CM

7

Chelsea Backup

Chelsea Backup

By far the hardest of our prospects to project. I hate to say it, but I don't see him ever breaking through at Chelsea. He is a central midfielder, which means there are 2-3 starting slots depending on formation. To win one he will need to get past Mikel, Ramires, Oscar, Romeu, de Bruyne and probably one of Hazard/Mata. Plus Chalobah and T. Hazard (and others) that are slightly younger will be pushing him as well. Not to mention if we buy another defensive midfielder (which I expect we may sometime during the next year).

Tika Musonda

18

DM

6

On Loan

On Loan

Hart to see him moving past the young DM/MF

10

Juan Mata

24

AM

9

Chelsea Starter

Chelsea Starter

Already a superstar, should get even better

Thorgan Hazard

19

AM

8

Chelsea Backup

Chelsea Backup

Has the potential to be very good.

Lamisha Musonda

20

AM

6

On Loan

Sold / Moved

Hard to see him breaking through with all of our young midfield talent already in the first team

Ulises Davila

21

MF

6

On Loan

Sold / Moved

Hard to see him breaking through with all of our young midfield talent already in the first team

47

Billy Clifford

19

MF

6

On Loan

Sold / Moved

Hard to see him breaking through with all of our young midfield talent already in the first team

48

Conor Clifford

20

MF

6

On Loan

Sold / Moved

Hard to see him breaking through with all of our young midfield talent already in the first team

51

Rohan Ince

19

MF

6

On Loan

Sold / Moved

Hard to see him breaking through with all of our young midfield talent already in the first team

55

James Ashton

19

MF

5

On Loan

Sold / Moved

Hard to see him breaking through with all of our young midfield talent already in the first team

56

George Saville

19

MF

6

On Loan

Sold / Moved

Hard to see him breaking through with all of our young midfield talent already in the first team

Lewis Baker

17

MF

7

U-21

On Loan

Hard to see him breaking through with all of our young midfield talent already in the first team

Danny Stenning

18

MF

6

U-21

On Loan

Hard to see him breaking through with all of our young midfield talent already in the first team

John Swift

17

MF

6

U-21

On Loan

Looks to be a longer-term developmental prospect

Ruben Loftus-Cheek

16

MF

6

U-21

On Loan

Looks to be a longer-term developmental prospect

13

Victor Moses

21

FW

9

Chelsea Starter

Chelsea Starter

Already very good, will just keep getting better

17

Eden Hazard

21

FW

10

Chelsea Starter

Chelsea Starter

Already excellent, should grow into one of the best in the world. Franchise type player.

21

Marko Marin

23

FW

8

Chelsea Backup

Chelsea Backup

Should continue to be an excellent backup/rotation player. Injuries are a concern.

35

Lucas Piazón

18

FW

8

Chelsea Backup

Chelsea Backup

Talented and versatile, fits well with current attackers. May go out on loan for a year at some point but should be a solid rotation player for a long-time.

31

Gaël Kakuta

21

FW

6

Sold / Moved

Sold / Moved

Hard to see him breaking through with all of our attacking talent

Jhon Pírez

19

FW

6

On Loan

Sold / Moved

Hard to see him breaking through with all of our attacking talent

60

Adam Phillip

21

FW

6

On Loan

Sold / Moved

Hard to see him breaking through with all of our attacking talent

Alex Kiwomya

16

FW

8

U-21

On Loan

Looks to be a longer-term developmental prospect

Ulises Davila

21

FW

5

On Loan

Sold / Moved

Hard to see him breaking through with all of our attacking talent

Amin Affane

20

FW

6

On Loan

Sold / Moved

Hard to see him breaking through with all of our attacking talent

23

Daniel Sturridge

23

ST

8

Sold / Moved

Sold / Moved

It is a real shame that he has been injured this year, because coupled with lack of playing time last season it seems he is not going to resign since he wants to start or at least play a lot. He fits in really well with the young team we have assembled, and I think he could become a superstar here (he and Lukaku would really complement each other), but sadly I expect he will sign for Liverpool/Fulham/Everton/etc. when his contract expires.

18

Romelu Lukaku

19

ST

9

Chelsea Starter

Chelsea Starter

Has all the tools to be great, and looking good at West Brom. If his touch and movement continues to develop he will be very good for a very long time.

Patrick Bamford

18

ST

7

On Loan

Sold / Moved

Looks a good prospect, and I expect him to play in the EPL for a long-time, but I don't think he is going to break through at Chelsea over Sturridge (if he does stay), Lukaku and any new strikers we sign (which I very much expect in January or the summer windows). I also expect Feruz to push him from below. I can't see him becoming a superstar, which I think the team expects at the position.

Islam Feruz

16

ST

10

On Loan

On Loan

Has all the tools to be a superstar. Very, very young, so hopefully he develops. May hit the first team in 4-5 years, but might take even longer

Milan Lalkovic

19

ST

8

On Loan

Sold / Moved

Hard to see him breaking through with all of our attacking talent

In connection with this matrix, and to simplify the impact on the first team, I have put together a timeline of the expected roster over the next five seasons. It has been color coded so that dark blue represents a projected Chelsea starter, light blue represents a potential Chelsea backup and yellow represents a question mark/area of opportunity. I think it really shows how talented the current team is, that most of the players will be hitting their primes in the next 2-3 years, and how hard it will be to even make the first team. It also shows how few purchases we need, but how a few selected top purchases could really make a big impact. I had to make a few guesses as to when players will transition out, but my general assumption is that most of the "older" current players (mainly Lampard, Cole and Terry) either won't be offered or won't accept new contracts. However, even if they do, the timing of the transitions will change but I still think the same younger players will move into the first team to ultimately replace them.

Some takeaways:

  • The first team is absolutely loaded with young attackers that will provide a foundation for a long time. It will be very hard for anyone to break into that lineup. When you look at how many players should be starters or key players for the next 5 years it is amazing, especially when you consider that most of them should only get better.
  • Several of the players listed as backups will be "slightly less preferred starters". We play so many fixtures that rotation, injuries and tactics mean that the primary backups in the chart like Moses, Ramires and Cahill will play as much as the starters. The ideal is really for any and all of our players to be capable of starting, so the manager can select a side for any given match based on form, fitness, injuries, tactics and importance of the match. So, I have listed a "first choice" starting lineup, but in my opinion this team has amazing depth and everyone in the flow chart will play quite a bit.
  • We are short strikers. If Sturridge leaves over a lack of playing time (or anything else), we are almost guaranteed to buy someone.
  • The team looks best suited to a 4-3-3 moving forward, but we are only marginally less suited to the 4-3-2-1. If we add a young Modric type player we should be able to play both formations equally well, and we will have tons of tactical flexibility.
  • Tomas Kalas and his future position have a big impact on the defense pipeline moving forward. If he plays as a right back, he pushes Ivanovic to center back and probably keeps Todd Kane out of the first team. If he plays at CB, it leaves more room for current players/prospects but probably keeps him out of his best position and makes Azpilicueta a long-term starter. I expect he will play on the right and we will buy a starting CB to pair with Luiz in the next 2 years.
  • LB will be interesting. It doesn't look like Cole is going to re-sign, so Bertrand has this year to prove he can be an elite starter there. If not, I think we will be purchasing a starter and keeping him in his current LB/defensive winger role.
  • I feel bad for Josh McEachran. I think he really fell behind the last two years and I don't see him catching up. The competition at his position is so tough, and I can't see him pushing past all the current first team players and holding off the prospects right behind him to nail down a starting spot. With that said, I think he will have a long and very good career in the EPL.
  • I think we will be making fewer purchases of first team starters going forward, but with our talent base I think the ones we do buy will be at big money and will be absolute superstars. I expect we will also continue to buy and develop a lot of 15-18 year old prospects to keep the pipeline full. This should keep us in excellent FFP shape and allow us to get the best players in the world when they come available. For example, with our lack of depth at striker, I fully-expect Cavani/Falcao/Lewandowski or someone similar to be purchased in one of the next two windows, even at the expected prices.
  • The board and Michael Emenalo have done a phenomenal job building a "new" team. When you look at the projected lineups over the next five years we have some amazing talent, and we also have room to supplement with true superstars. I don't think it is too optimistic to expect lots of silverware; we should be in the running for the EPL title, FA cup and Champions League for a long time to come.

Anyway, this is intended to be a global look at the state of the team, both now and over the next few years. This is an incredible community of fans and authors, with so much knowledge about the team, and football in general, that I would love to hear everyone's thoughts. I hope this is helpful and thought provoking, and that it provides a framework to look at the team over the next few seasons.

All in all, it is a great time to be a Chelsea fan. If there is one thing that has been hammered home from writing this post, it is that the team is young, exciting and incredibly talented, and only looks to be getting better. Hopefully we will get the chance to keep celebrating European Championships, as we have everything we need to keep winning!

This FanPost was contributed by a member of the community and was not subject to any sort of approval process. It does not necessarily reflect the opinions held by the editors of this site.

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