We signed Oscar earlier today, giving us an even greater embarrassment of riches as far as world class young talent is concerned. That news broke as I was watching the opening round of women's soccer at this year's Olympic games. Combine those 2 things and it got me thinking, if Chelsea were to be eligible for the Olympic games, how would their squad stack up to the rest of the teams in the 2012 games?
First of all, the Olympics have their own set of rules. Each country has to name an 18 man squad prior to the tournament. The Olympics are a U23, tournament, but each nation is allowed to name 3 members of the squad that don't qualify anymore as U23 players. This has led to some very, very good squads being assembled for the games and the knockout rounds should be absolutely fantastic*. I've looked over all the squad sheets closely, and after the jump I've assembled a Chelsea U23 team that I think would have to be considered among the favorites.
*Links to every squad for the tournament can be found here
Here's the squad I've decided to go with. I'm going to go with a base 4-3-3, although my starting 11 could just as easily play a 4-2-3-1 without too much difficulty if you prefer. My backups have all been highlighted in italics.
Thibaut Courtois - Easy choice here. Courtois would immediately join David De Gea as by far the best keepers in the Olympic games.
Jamal Blackman - Tough call for me between Delac and Blackman, but I've seen more of Blackman so he wins by default. It probably doesn't matter, because Courtois is ridiculous and will play every minute.
David Luiz - Luiz will be the first of my 3 overage players. I considered using Terry here, but couldn't in good conscious assemble a team without Luiz.
Jeffrey Bruma - Bruma easily did enough in his time on loan to earn the starting nod next to Luiz. This central pairing probably rival Thiago Silva and whomever he's paired with as the best in the tournament.
Ryan Bertrand - Easy, easy call here. Bert may not be of the Alba/Marcelo caliber yet, but he's head and shoulders above every other left back in the games.
Branislav Ivanovic - Bran will immediately be the best right back in the tournament, and he's also getting the armband for our Chelsea U23 squad. This rounds out what should be the best defensive unit in the games, although the Brazil squad is pretty damn fantastic as well. If Chelsea were to sign Cesar Azpilicueta later today, I'd have to do some roster shuffling (hello Juan Mata).
Sam Hutchinson - Hutch is solid if unspectacular as well as being able to play several roles, and he'll have a spot on my bench because of it.
Tomas Kalas - As a third choice center back, Kalas is more than serviceable. He's also decent cover for both fullback spots. I considered Kenneth Omeruo here as well, but in the end took the longer track record of Kalas.
Nathaniel Chalobah - I've listed Chalobah as a defender, but he's quality cover in the midfield as well. His versatility is the reason he got the nod over some of the other options.
Oscar - Easy choice here as well. Everything I've seen of Oscar screams future superstar. He's pretty damn good at present as well.
Oriol Romeu - Romeu is capable in the pivot or as a lone holder. If Javi Martinez is used as a center back (it appears he will be), Romeu and Sandro become the best defensive mids in the games.
Ramires - He and Mata were Chelsea's best players last season. His workrate is unrivaled, and his versatility makes it very easy to change tactics mid-game. That's all 3 overage players used. I'm also pretty confident that this midfield unit stronger than any other midfield we'll be seeing at the games.
Josh McEachran - We're all familiar with Josh at this point, and he probably would have been in the Britain squad if he had found the pitch at Swansea. He's a great addition to the bench.
Daniel Sturridge - Danny is getting his shot at center forward for me, but the big puppy will see time as well. Cavani is hands down the best center forward here, but Sturridge should easily make the discussion for next in line.
Eden Hazard - Hazard will certainly be in any discussion of the best players in the tournament, and he's an easy choice starting on one of my wings. Once again, he's versatile and could be plugged into several roles.
Marko Marin - We've all gotten a look at what Marin can bring to the table now, and I think it's safe to say that we're all very aware of what a game changer he can be. Marin qualifies as U23 still, so he's got a spot on this squad for Chelsea. The fact that Marin was still U23 was the deciding factor in leaving out Juan Mata. Uruguay will certainly run out a stronger attack and Brazil is probably a bit stronger as well, but this group doesn't lag that far behind.
Romelu Lukaku - I was tempted to start beast mode over Danny, but in the end I opted for track record. He'll see time, and he'd see time for any other squad out there as well.
Kevin De Bruyne - He may well have been starting had I passed on Mata, and he's one of the best bench parts in the tournament. He's also capable of backing up the midfield.
In the end, this probably doesn't mean all that much since Chelsea are obviously not eligible for the Olympic games. It's fun to think about though, and we could certainly put together a team that could give the Spanish, Uruguayans, British, and Brazilians a run for their money (and I believe we would probably be favored to beat them all). Think there are any other clubs out there that could put up a better U23 team? Would you make any changes to my squad? Vote in the poll and discuss away...