Four of us had a little back and forth over the last week about several different topics involving CHelsea FC and this summer's transfer window. Below you'll find the three questions we pondered and our subsequent answers to those questions. So without further ado...
After last season ended, what did you think were the major areas of the squad that needed improvement?
Stephen Schmidt: I don't think there was a specific area that stood out to me, the squad on the whole was full of solid, if unspectacular, players. What I felt Chelsea really lacked were guys that other teams just couldn't take out of the game without specifically tailoring their tactics towards that particular player.
In the best days of this club we had that in Drogba, Cole, Essien, Robben, and the other Cole. Those guys each offered something that alllowed guys like Lampard, Terry, and Malouda to truly shine. This season we saw flashes of that from Drogba and loads of it from Ramires, but having several more players that provide matchup nightmares will allow guys like Luiz and Mata to up their games even further. In that regard, all of Marin, Hazard, and Hulk (assuming he signs) can absolutely punish a team that doesn't overload their area of the pitch. A return to form from Fernando Torres would help an awful in that regard lot as well.
CareFreeChronic: Drogba and Torres played their roles in the team success in the final stages of the season. But for the majority of the season, we had to rely on our midfielders and the wide forwards (especially Sturridge) to get the goals. Of course the strikers don't stand alone (could do with better service from the midfield etc) but we didn't have that go-to guy who will release the pressure off of his teammates by being totally lethal in front of the goal.
TPalmer: I immediately thought of right back. We've always had a problem there - Abramovich has spent about seventy or so million on the position yet we've never really had anyone claim the spot. I know a lot of people like Ivanovic, but I'm not convinced. I'm a big fan of having flexible options in a squad, like Manchester United do with their different wingers and strikers, which for me is absolutely key to a successful league campaign. That was hence my second thought at the end of the season - that rather than revolution, our focus should be on getting players that are different to the ones we already have. This ties into what Stephen said about a squad of solid players. For example, I'd like to see Van der Wiel come in at right back, as despite being a bit of a Bosingwa 2.0 he at least offers variety over Bran's style of playing right back. It's also a reason why I'm quite pleased with potentially signing Hulk, as he really is unique in regards to our current squad.
Graham MacAree: My main issue was at left wing. Right before he got canned, Andre Villas-Boas said that he had been trying to move Juan Mata centrally for some time but couldn't find an adequate left winger to allow Chelsea to switch to a 4-2-3-1. Granted, Roberto di Matteo used Salomon Kalou out there, but I don't think anyone's ever been that comfortable with Kalou as a first-choice starter. Other than that, there were no glaring weaknesses ignoring centre forward, which is actually slightly worrisome because it makes the squad much harder to upgrade.
TPalmer: On that point about left wing, what was good about the lack of left wingers is that it showed the amount of versatility our players have which will be really useful going forward. Sturridge, Ramires and Bertrand all played some game time out there under Di Matteo - obviously with extenuating circumstances applying for Bertrand - and while none were really outstanding, there was not really anything to suggest that all of those players couldn't continue to be an option in that position in the future.
Chelsea have made (or are on the verge of making) three first-team signings. They've also lost three players. Do you think that the new players have addressed your most concerning issues, or are there other moves to be made this window?
CareFreeChronic: I will just stay on my "need for striker improvement" line regarding these three signings. Since we didn't get a proper striker (at least not yet), I guess we are going to put a lot of faith on Torres, which I'm not that keen on. But Hulk will potentially be helpful because of his versatility to play the central role. I would like to see Sturridge get a chance down the center as well. I think I will be okay with no new striker signing but would have prefer to have someone we know we really can rely on for goals (Cavani/Falcao).
Stephen Schmidt: If the window closed with only the three signings Chelsea have reportedly made (or are making) thus far, I'd be fairly satisfied. All three players will provide serious issues for opposing defenses, Hulk with his tremendous physical gifts and the other two with their ability to blow past defenders on the dribble at top speed. While I'd still really like to see additions at right back and the central midfield, I feel like having these three guys should really open up space for Juan Mata to receive the ball and somewhat alleviate the need for a deeper lying playmaker.
While losing Bosingwa doesn't make me lose any sleep, I really think we need to focus on an attack minded right back to replace him next. We just don't have a plan B at that position at the moment, and between Bran and some of the youngsters we have I feel the defense first options should be covered internally for the foreseeable future. Van der Wiel has been a hot name in the rumor mill, and I really feel he'd be just what the doctor ordered at the position. I also wouldn't be opposed to taking a flier on a lesser known player such as Danilo or Hiroki Sakai, but between the promise shown by Todd Kane and our partial ownership of Wallace (Fluminense) we're probably in good shape at that position to take the safer route with a slightly older and more developed player.
Graham MacAree: My desire to see a centre forward come in is somehwat mitigated by the fact that Hulk and Sturridge could theoretically play there in a pinch should Fernando Torres continue to be himself, so I'm not too fussed up front. I also think Ramires can start at right back and give us basically everything Jose Bosingwa did except for emergency centre back cover, which I hope we don't have to see again. I still think Chelsea need central midfield help though - we're very, very bad at securing possession when we're under pressure, and we saw this make itself manifest against some pretty poor teams. The FA Cup final, when the midfield duo of Frank Lampard and John Obi Mikel completely failed to calm things down after Liverpool scored to narrow our lead, was a good example. So I think we need to be looking at fixing that particular problem.
Y'all know who I'd have in mind skills-wise, even if I'm not sure that he's a very good financial fit. Elsewhere... I can live with what we have.
TPalmer: I'm not that fussed at centre forward either, but I'd have to disagree with you about Ramires at right back. I think he could do a job there definitely, but that would only be if needed. We really do need a new right back, because otherwise our fourth choice centre back is going to be our first choice right back and the only other option there will be veteran Paulo Ferriera. I do agree as well about central midfield,and I wrote about it a while back. I'm leaning towards Luka Modric,but if we could get our hands on a talent in the 21-25 age bracket with a similar skill set - I'm thinking maybe Kevin Strootman - thenthat would probably be a better way to go about that issue.
In an ideal world, name the one player you'd add to the squad.
Stephen Schmidt: Ronaldo. But outside of the two best players in the world it would have to become Javi Martinez. I feel like he's capable of playing in several different places on the pitch and could be an anchor of this team for years to come. That answer was probably a lot different before we signed Eden Hazard and Marko Marin, but as we've signed them I'm looking at Martinez as the big one.
TPalmer: In an ideal world...Iniesta. I'm a huge fan. He just brings sheer quality to the table and is flexible enough to anywhere in the midfield or attack of any formation we play. If I had to plump for someone outside of Spain, Bastian Schweinsteiger would be my choice,although I'd probably have a few years taken off his age first.
CareFreeChronic: Again, I'm going to stick with my striker-theme because I'm sure everyone else will cover the ground untouched by me. Radamel Falcao.
PS: Somehow his name never crossed my mind until today for our central&;midfield option. How about Cabaye as a cheaper and reliable (both defensively and using the ball intelligently in transition and attack) CM? Sorry, If I'm going off-track with this.
Graham MacAree: In an ideal world... how about Lionel Messi? I hear he's quite good and we probably wouldn't have to worry about goals anymore. In a less-than ideal world, I'd love for Chelsea to be the ones to win the Luka Modric bidding, because we could use a player just like him and so could United, and I quite like the idea of hurting them while strengthening our centre.