Needless to say, as a Chelsea fan it has been a dreary November and a bleak December. We won a couple in there somewhere to mitigate all of the potential ill-will that might have otherwise been felt by the spell of losses, which obviously included the CL exit and loss of our beloved club hero Robbie. Personally I am not one to rue the past, but admittedly even I was a little miffed at our venture capitalist owner extraordinaire Abramovich after that particular decision of his, though I saw many possible justifiable reasons behind the decision(particularly in the long-run if he plans to attempt to persuade either Guardiola or Mourinho to the club in the summer...i.e. any further success by di Matteo would only make it harder for the fans to wish to part with him the longer he had stayed with us). However, the past is the past and we are now where we are: the Europa league, 3rd place in the PL and still eligible for four trophies this season. More importantly than the trophies at this point, in my opinion, given FFP and Graham's article on the upcoming outward attempt to level the financial playing field in the EPL, is the amount of revenue Chelsea can make this season to get us as close to level with ManU in terms of profit. Obviously this is a long-run concern and winning trophies in the here and now is welcomed by me the same as anyone, however I think it is one worth consideration given everything mentioned above.
It is easy as a sports fan to be subjective when it comes to the decisions that one's own team makes, or the decisions that one would like their team to make, but far more difficult to really step back and decide objectively what is best for one's team moving forward. In our case, I think it is especially difficult given the tumultuous manner in which Mr. Abramovich likes to handle his affairs. Nonetheless, in my relatively objective opinion, I believe that we do not stand a chance at winning the EPL title this season, without doing a bit of well-informed upgrading in the upcoming transfer window. With Sturridge looking likely to leave, we will be left with one true striker on our roster, if we still consider him as such, in Fernando Torres. Even if we were to recall Lukaku, and purchase some two-bit striker like Bony, we would not have enough to seriously compete for the crown. If you look at any of the top teams in the world, they all have an overabundance of talent to be sure, but most importantly, an overabundance of striking talents, as depicted below:
As you can see, each club possesses at least 3 out and out striking options. For how much we spend as a club, and given our successes over the last decade and our roster, I believe that we can consider ourselves minimally in the top 10 clubs in the world, but hopefully in the top 5 at least. Thus, for our roster to look as follows in terms of striking options, it is a bit lacking in relation to our fellow top tier competitors:
As stated above, I think in order to remain in the upper echelon of teams in the years to come, we need to ensure our revenue that we bring in, is as high as the revenue we put out. However, as the old saying goes, 'You've gotta spend money to make money.' Thus, I think it is in our best interests to spend wisely in the upcoming transfer window to give us a legitimate chance at snatching the EPL title out of Manchester this season.
Being realistic we have one truly sufficient holding midfielder at this point, John Obi Mikel. While Romeu may turn out to be truly great, until he is given enough of a chance to prove himself and stays healthy, we cannot take that as a foregone conclusion. Lampard, undeniably a legend, is aging nonetheless. Even in the game against Leeds, we could see that while his prolific shot may well be in tact, his speed is not. It is rumored he may well be in his last year at the club, but even if he were not, the only way he will see any amount of minutes in seasons to come will be if he has great holding midfielders beside him. Ramires occupies basically a similar role, while a better defender than Lampard, we are only stifling his natural abilities by putting him into a position that is overly defensive, though, being the adaptable player he is, he manages to do just about anything as well as anyone else could. Personally, I think the Bison's best years are behind him, and I do not believe he will ever return to the club to serve any pragmatic purpose, though I would love to be wrong here, I just don't see it happening. In my opinion, McEachran has a similar role as Romeu for now, in the sense that we believe he may become a great double pivot midfielder one day, but until he is given that opportunity, we cannot sit around waiting and taking it as a foregone conclusion. I do not believe that Oscar from everything I have watched of him in Brazil, on Brazil's national team and on our team, is best served as a double pivot midfielder, unless we were to give him lots of liberty to roam the pitch and link up with our attacking midfielders and go into the attack himself, which I think would put him as a defensive liability either way. I see him as a deep-lying attacking midfielder for our club going forward.
Now I know Graham highlighted in his article that we could solve many problems by obtaining Fellaini for all of these reasons and more, and if we were to go and get him I would be absolutely thrilled, but I think, with the primary transfer prize in my eyes being Falcao, it is unlikely we can secure both of their services in any financially feasible way without a yardsale and tremendous domestic success(which we cannot take for granted). Thus I believe the best solution would be to purchase a center back. This would allow us the options of Terry, Cahill, Ivanovic, and X to play CB for us. Azpi at RB, with Ivanovic as his backup. Cole at LB with Bertrand alternating. Thus liberating Luiz to play with John Obi Mikel in the double pivot. Luiz's pass to Hazard against Leeds was a microcosm of the vision he has demonstrated throughout his time at Chelsea and if Mikel relieved him of some of his normally monstrous defensive responsibilities he has to take on in the back four, then he would be all the more freed up for some gallanting runs forward, in addition to passes over the top to spring a striker(say, Falcao) or incisive Modric-like through balls to send any of our speedy midfielders on into space. He could play the holding role in January until Mikel got back and then would act as an even more defensively abled option when paired with Mikel for games when we really needed to shut down the central midfield(as opposed to replacing one of our talented attacking wingers with Bertrand as our only option).
This makes sense for many reasons - the best holding midfielders, i.e. Fellaini that we could get, would cost us far more than the best CB's we could find. Just look at Cahill's purchase last year, and now this year we consider him a reliable starter. There is an abundance of talent at the CB position because it is more straightforward than a midfield or attacking position. Therefore the talent costs far less. So we save money, kill two birds with one stone(center back and defensive midfielder) and allow money to be spent where we really need it, on our attack.
I think to realistically compete we need to purchase Falcao and at least one more bonafide striking option. I would be relieved if we somehow managed to offload Torres in this process, although I find it unlikely. Because what having multiple options does for a team's strikers is that it makes them compete, and in a Darwinian manner the cream rises to the top and we create a positive cycle of talent pushing talent to be better. As a team we can only reap the benefits. It is precisely why all of the other top teams in the world have such an overabundance of striking talent - because it is the only area where one can't afford to have production. Defense may win championships, but you don't get there without scoring goals.
Admittedly I cannot say logistically who we could afford in addition to Falcao. I've looked it over and we can afford Falcao with the expected player sales this summer fairly easily, presuming we make the CL next year, which, in my opinion given the league's weak 4-6 teams this season, should be simply straightforward. But financing an additional sufficient striking option to spell Falcao is where I personally do not know who would be the best suited to that role, or financially affordable. I for one, do not believe it is in Lukaku's best interests to return until the Summer. He will develop much better by staying where he is this season, he has a long career ahead of him to do great things for us, but he will never get there if he doesn't get to hone his game with playing time at this level such as that which he is currently enjoying.
I welcome any suggestions as to who we might purchase for center back, additional striker besides Falcao, or just overall comments about my first post on WAGNH!
p.s. going to London for my first time in my life from Jan 15 - 22nd 2013 and if anyone wanted to meet up to get drinks before the Arsenal game(which will be my first ever Chelsea game at the Bridge) I'd love to - Cheers!