Chelsea's strike force is a widely debated topic around these parts and I thought, for my first FanPost on WAGNH (woo :D), I'd give my thoughts on what I feel Chelsea's ideal situation would be.
Put simply, I think come this summer, Chelsea should be looking to sign a new striker. Not just any decent Iago Aspas-calibre striker, not even a high potential option like Aubameyeng-No, the only options I want Chelsea to pursue this summer are the Big Boys: Cavani, Falcao, etc
This is not because I don't rate Romelu Lukaku or Demba Ba-on the contrary I rate them very highly-but its because, after lots of consideration and debate, I have come to the opinion that a high-calibre signing upfront could be one of the vital missing pieces in this team and would have no adverse affect on our current crop of strikers (well, apart from Fernando Torres, that is if you still consider him a valuable Chelsea striker...which is a big if).
Our Current Options:
1. Demba Ba
Our latest signing from up North has been one of the most lethal forwards in the Premier League for two seasons now and was a very astute buy by Emenalo and co. So far he's notched three goals and a couple of assists and has contributed to the team greatly, adding much sharpness to our attack. His precise forward runs, high work rate and strong aerial ability, as well as his solid finishing, team chemistry and intelligence make Demba Ba our current highest calibre striker. The Senegalese Strawberry Syrup lover will be 28 come May and is on our books for 3.5 years on a rumoured 70k a week: a total annual FFP cost of £5.64m approx. Although he has had an unfortunate history of knee problems, he has been relatively injury free for the majority of the last 2 years (touch wood). Put simply, Demba Ba offers us an elite striker with experience of the Premier League, a selfless servant of the team with a very impressive scoring record.
2. Romelu Lukaku
Romelu Lukaku-The Kraken, tormentor of Jamie Carragher's dreams. The Mighty Belgian is undoubtedly a massive part of Chelsea's future and, following a hugely successful loan spell at West Brom, is a viable candidate for a starting role at the Bridge next season. 10 goals and 2 assists in 11 starts and 13 substitute appearances have solidified young Rom's place as THE elite striking prospect in Europe and in the World. Such is the extent of his progress this season that it is easy to forget that Chelsea's much beloved Lulu is still only 19, a good 6-8 years away from his peak. The thought of what he may become is just terrifying and should be told to little kids who don't eat their veg: The Kraken is coming. However, the teenager is still very young and lacks significant polish in his game. His first touch is still lacking, as is his overall control and technique. His shooting has improved, as has his heading ability, but both are in need of significant refinement. Lukaku has shown immense improvement in the way he utilises his immense physical attributes, using his strength and speed to hold up play, power through defences, beat the off-side trap and wreck havoc to an opposition's defensive organisation. It is this combination of speed and strength that make Romelu Lukaku such an awesome athlete and prospect. If he is able to improve his technique as well as his reading of the game and add that extra layer of polish, then Frank Lampard's soon to be accomplished feat of becoming our All-time top goalscorer will inevitably be eclipsed.
3. Fernando Torres
El Nino's time at Chelsea has not been what we may have hoped for-the once heralded 'Best Striker in the World' has suffered a huge dip in form caused by a succession of injuries, confidence crises and a general malaise. However, he is still on our books for 3 and a bit years, resulting in an annual FFP hit of roughly £18.2m. The start of this season brought promise for the Spaniard as he found the net with more frequency than at any other point of his Chelsea career. However, this promise has not translated into consistency and it is hard to see Torres as anything other than the third best striker on Chelsea books. A combination of massive wages, a huge transfer fee (of which we will still owe £27.27m come the summer) and an overall inability to contribute anywhere near the level expected of an elite striker consistently, has made the Spaniard relatively unmovable. Giving him away for free, with the hope some club will be willing to pay his rumoured 175k a week wages may be our best bet, but even then we'd take a huge £27.27m one time loss (this will however be partly offset by the fact we won't be paying his wages anymore and should equalise over a full, 3 year FFP monitoring period). But for now, Torres remains a Chelsea player.
So, currently Chelsea possess 1 elite, senior striker, 1 raw, high potential beast of a player and 1...um...Fernando Torres. This may appear enough to challenge for the title on the face of it-and with a competent manager and some midfield additions very well may be-however, I still fervently believe that, by buying a new elite Striker, Chelsea will be making the ideal decision. Time to evaluate the Pros and Cons:
1) We would have a World Class Striker:
The first pro of signing a new striker is also the most obvious: We would finally have a World Class player leading our line, something we haven't had since the heydays of one Didier Drogba. One only has to look at Manchester United (ugh) to see what a striker of RVP's quality does for a team. Closer to home, it is undeniable that Didier Drogba's immense displays in last year's UCL helped us to the biggest trophy of all. A World Class striker will also benefit our other players, in particular our creative talents, as not only will he be able to latch on to ever more ambitious passes AND finish them with consistency, the intelligent movement of a World Class Striker will open up more space for our attacking midfielders. This combination of scoring and creating (chances and space) with consistency will lift the entire team.
2) It would shore us up for years to come up front:
Buying, say Edinson Cavani, a world class striker in his mid-twenties, would ensure Chelsea are set for years to come in the Strike department. Having Cavani, Ba and Lukaku all on our books means having three brilliant strikers at various levels and ages. The fact that Ba is a senior striker with 3 years left on his contract, while Lukaku is a raw talent who ideally needs a few more seasons of development before he is wold class, is pretty much perfect. As Graham stated in his brilliant article on Lukaku a while back, Ba is an ideal stepping stone to the Romelu Lukaku era. Although many believe this to be in the sense that Ba, our current main and only elite option, will give way to Lukaku who will go on to be our main and sole elite option, I don't see this as wise. Ideally, we should have TWO elite options who rotate/split the 60 odd games Chelsea play a season. This not only guards against overkill/exhaustion, but also means we can compete on all fronts. Having Cavani and Ba next season, leading to Cavani and Lukaku-with perhaps a third striker or a versatile player like Moses/Markovic adding extra depth-the following seasons seems ideal to me. Buying a World Class striker now would allow us to have such two options without restricting Lukaku to an extended period on the bench, as many fear.
3) It would allow us to loan out Lukaku for another season:
I know a large segment of Chelsea fans don't see this as a pro at all but let me state my case. Lukaku has made massive progress out on loan this year, improving his much lacking first touch and technique overall, as well learning how to use his immense physical strengths more efficiently. However, the Kraken still lacks much polish, in particular in his first touch, shooting technique and overall composure. His decision making still needs to improve as well. By rushing him back, we not only put too much pressure on a kid still honing his skills, we also shoot ourselves in the foot if it doesn't work out. There is an argument that, being so young and confident, Lukaku will be able to deal with the pressures of playing for a club like Chelsea, and I agree this is plausible. However, I still believe that Lukaku's development will be best served in his current environment-a midtable side with no real ambitions apart from to finish in the top half (with all due respect to West Brom). There is a strong distinction between results-orientated clubs like Chelsea, Man Utd and Man City and clubs like West Brom, and I personally think that, away from the constant scrutiny and pressures at a club like Chelsea, Lukaku will be able to best improve his still very much lacking technical game.
4) It would give us an abundance of options:
Assuming Chelsea buy a new striker this summer, next season we would have: New Striker, Ba, Lukaku and Torres as our options. If we loan Lukaku out, we will be down to a workable and ideal set of two elite/World Class options and a back up for next season. Many have pointed to the future uncertainty created for Lukaku's situation if we buy a new striker, as it would be very unlikely and probably unnecessary to loan Lukaku out for a third season. 4 strikers (3 elite options) competing for 1 spot might be too much. However, I would respond to this in the following ways:
-Firstly, Chelsea do not have to play with 1 striker. Having options available is always ideal and will help a competent, flexible manager in our quest for world domination.
-Secondly, we could sell Ba after the next season. Selling Ba after 18 months at the club would make sense as we could probably recoup a decent amount of his transfer fee/wages in a sale. He, unlike one Fernando Torres, would be an attractive buy for several clubs as he'd still probably have a good 3 years left in him at that point, he's a high-quality striker and is not on overly high wages. Selling Ba would take us down to two elite options plus Torres as backup for years to come once Lukaku comes back from loan.
-Thirdly, regardless of whether Torres ever leaves before the end of his contract, relying on him as one of our primary options is not going to do us much good. Most of the uncertainty and worry experienced by Chelsea fans when considering a striker purchase tends to be on whether Lukaku's path to the first team would be blocked but this is simply not true as, regardless of what happens to our current strikers. Lulu is a better option than Torres at the moment and should be better than Ba after another season of experience. He will hence be the one to rotate with our new purchase the most and will probably be looking at 20-30 starts and several substitute appearances at the very least a season. The fact that Lukaku is so young means that, as our new purchase grows older and runs out his contract after perhaps 5 seasons, Lukaku would still only be 24 by then and would likely have overcome any new striker we buy before then as the undisputed number 1.
1) Financial Fair Play:
Of course, this all depends on what we can afford. The team has significant other holes, namely in midfield, and the opportunity cost of shelling out £15-20m in amortised costs on a new, World Class Striker, has to be taken into account. If we fill our other holes (perhaps with cheaper options such as Benat/Capoue) and still have the financial capital required to make such a move, we should do it as the Pros are huge.
Lots of people have argued that the significant risk of signing a new striker for a substantial transfer fee and exorbitant wages in a 5 year deal would be too great to consider, citing Fernando Torres as the obvious example. However, I don't know how great this factor really is. Fernando Torres was bought at a time when it was clear to the world that he was on a significant decline. He'd suffered several injuries which had wiped out his primary asset: Pace. God knows why the club failed to see this but they should have realised that the Torres of 2010/11 was a much riskier proposition than signing the Torres who moved from Atletico Madrid to Liverpool. Signing Cavani (my personal top choice) or Falcao would not be nearly as risky in this regard as neither are facing significant decline or injuries. As well as this, neither relies so heavily on one attribute. They are both versatile, dynamic and heavily-polished strikers who are unlikely to decline substantially in the next couple of years. Yes, they have never experienced the PL, but both (in particular Cavani) have the skillset to do very well here. And besides, the best players-Hazard for example-thrive even in leagues which are, on the face of it, not suited to them.
On the whole, I've tried to summarise Chelsea's current options as well as stating the Pros and Cons of purchasing a World Class Striker in the summer. What actually happens will probably be down to FFP, however with the likes of Malouda, Benayoun, Ferreira, Turnbull, Hilario and perhaps Lampard :'( all departing at the end of the season, as well as the new TV deal for the Premier League, Chelsea should be able to plug their other holes with astute buys as well as buying that elusive World Class Striker.
Over to you guys :D