There's been heaps of talk lately about just this fact, most of us have written off winning anything more than a trophy (I'd personally prefer the Europa League over the FA Cup - which would give us another crack at the UEFA Super Cup - but I know I'm in the minority there) and securing a Champions League spot for next year from this season, so much of the focus has been down the line, to what will make us more (much more) competitive in the 2013-14 season.
As many of you know, I can write a bit (and I intend to do so here) I don't expect necessarily anyone to read my analysis however - this is very much an open thread, the only question I'm asking is - what do we need to win next season?
Whose out; Henrique Hilário, Florent Malouda, Ross Turnbull, Paulo Ferreira, Frank Lampard, Yossi Benayoun and Fernando Torres (probably a few of the less impressive youth players as well but we won’t recoup any funds from their release). How much are we likely to get for the 6 who go – nothing for Lampard, Hilário, Turnbull, Ferreira and likely very little for Benayoun, certainly no more than £1m. Torres is the only one whose worth anything and we all know he’s worth not much I’d agree that £15m is probably the best we’ll do for him, unless we can flog him in Asia – Guangzhou Evergrande would probably go to £25m for him as a marquee signing.
I think there is also a very real chance that Torres will stay in the summer, Abramovich remains a very big fan of his by all accounts, ala Shevchenko, I doubt a loan would be an option like it was with Shevchenko – perhaps to Anzhi Makhachkala, Guangzhou Evergrande, or maybe to Atletico Madrid (Man City, PSG, Liverpool and AS Monaco are outside chances as well but with an emphasis on the ‘outside’). That of course doesn’t mean a new striker won’t arrive though.
Realistically therefore we’re looking at no more than say £16m in funds from the sale of players. I have seen higher valuations but I don't think they're justifiable.
More importantly those guys will need replacing;
Considering them individually:
HENRIQUE HILARIO + ROSS TURNBULL – what should we do about reserve keepers?
Thibault Courtois is Petr Cech’s successor (quite possibly quite a bit sooner than many might have thought too), but I doubt it will be in the 2013-14 Season, though that may be the Czech star’s swansong. Jamal Blackman and Matej Delac could step into the Hilário/Turnbull role, though I think it’s unlikely either will, we do not want to hinder their development; reserve keeper is such a difficult role in a team, it’s one you really want to give to promising youngsters. Ideally you want an ageing star, unfortunately such options seem a bit thin on the ground at present. The alternative is to pick a young player at a big club with plenty of keepers in front of them whose chances are very limited there – we can’t offer many more options to them, but a few games for a club like Chelsea might help them on their next move. I think I’ve spied a good option for this role; Alphonse Aréola from PSG, he’s behind Nicolas Douchez and Salvatore Sirigu so he’s unlikely to see too much game time and has 17 year old star Mike Maignan from French Guiana breathing down his neck – but he’s still a France U20 representative star and could potentially provide some competition for Courtois/Blackman/Delac/Beeney/Killip/Collins in the future. Young Bayern Munich keeper Leopold Zingerle (18) is in a similar boat.
There have been additional names thrown into the discussion around a new reserve keeper recently; Asmir Begovic and Alex McCarthy, both of whom are strong candidates for the role. McCarthy in particular would be a good fit, Begovic is likely to be bid for by a number of large clubs (Liverpool, Arsenal, Man U are all said to hold some interest in him), McCarthy could likely be bought relatively cheaply. Alternatively we could continue on the Alphonse Aréola/Leopold Zingerle theme and look at young keepers locked out of opportunities at their (major European) clubs; Stuttgart’s young German-Greek star Odisseas Vlachodimos (18) he’s behind Manuel Neuer, Bernd Leno, Timo Horn and Marc-Andre ter-Stegen for Germany long term, but is the current Germany U19 No.1, and with Sven Ulreich in front of him at Stuttgart and Kenan Mujezinovic and Marius Funk coming through behind him he may be quite receptive to a Chelsea move. Young Le Mans keeper Quentin Beunardeau (18) and AZ keeper Hobie Verhulst are in similar situations.
I’d like to get Jamal Blackman some loan experience in the Championship/League One so a new keeper would also be needed for the U21’s – there are a few good options; Wolverhampton U21 and Slovenia U19 keeper Aljaz Cotman (18), Aston Villa U21 and Scotland U19’s Calum Barrett, Tottenham U21’s Anglo-Chilean star Lawrence Vigouroux and Southampton U21 and Northern Ireland U19 Chris Johns - I'd go with Lawrence Vigouroux after his wonderful performance in a recent penalty shoot out in the Next Gen Series.
PAULO FERREIRA – who is likely to step up and take on Paulo versatile RB/CB/even occasional DM role?
Paulo Ferreira; last of Mourinho’s old Portuguese contingent – we can recruit internally for Ferreira’s position. Among the youth ranks in central defence we have – Jeffrey Bruma, Tomas Kalas, Andreas Christensen, Jordan Houghton, Nathan Aké, Fankarty Dabo, Danny Pappoe, George Brady, Dion Conroy, Jonathan Muleba, Archange Nkumu, Kyle Scott, Jay Dasilva, Ali Suljic and Alex Davey – and that’s excluding Chalobah who for now I’ll add to the David Luiz CB/DM list (containing at this point David Luiz and Nathaniel Chalobah). (Now I’m not for a moment suggesting that all these lads will make it at Chelsea, even if they had the ability to do so there are simply too many of them.)
I can see issues but also promise with Jeffrey Bruma, he’s only sometimes employed in his regular CB role for Hamburg, Heiko Westerman and Michael Mancienne mainly employed at CB with Bruma and Paul Scharner sharing the remainder of the work load. Bruma mainly works as a DM, along with Milan Badelj and Tomás Rincón, his role here has been even more important given Petr Jiracek recent injury woes. This means he’s a value add player of course, but probably means we should move him out of the dedicated CB category and into the same category as David Luiz (no issue there). Nathan Aké may also be in this position, though again this is not necessarily a bad thing. The real issue with Bruma is that Hamburg want to keep him permanently (as they've again recently noted) and he’s also a target for PSV Eindhoven, the question is would we be better holing onto him and playing him in Paulo’s role – or cashing in, he’d likely raise a reasonable sum (£3-4m in all likelihood).
Tomas Kalas has been playing a lot at RB, this really presents another issue itself,with Branislav Ivanovic, Cesar Azpilicueta, Wallace, Todd Kane, Kenneth Omeruo, Joshua Debayo Temitayo-Olaoluwe Aina [Josh Aina], Nortei Nortey and Samuel Bangura I struggle to see any real need for any right backs (again not all of them will necessarily make it but I like what I’m seeing from Josh Aina and Todd Kane and there are big wraps on Wallace…I think Azpilicueta will come good too when he gets some more game time), where he eventually ends up playing will be interesting. Kalas seems the logical choice if we sell Bruma. With Ivanovic still around, Azpilicueta coming on well, Wallace, Todd Kane and Josh Aina, I think we can safely get rid of Nortei Nortey and Samuel Bangura. One player I would consider adding to the right to replace Nortey/Bangura; Real Madrid youth star Francisco José Rodríguez.
On the left, We’ve currently got Ashley Cole, Ryan Bertrand, Patrick van Anholt, Aziz Deen-Conteh and George Saville (who can also play as a defensive mid) on the left, (and 40% of Ronan at Fluminense), we’ll only need a new player should Cole move, or if Bertrand continues to be used further up field, I have concerns about whether van Anholt, Deen-Conteh and Saville are going to make the grade – undoubtedly all fine young players, van Anholt in particular we should be confident in, while Deen-Conteh and Saville have both been solid if unspectacular recently, while Adam Nditi has shown himself reasonably proficient playing at left back as well as left mid, behind Cole, Bertrand and potentially van Anholt we’re looking a bit thin.
Age is also an issue, currently Cole is 31, Bertrand is 23 and the rest of the cohort; van Anholt, Deen-Conteh, Saville, Nditi and Ronan are younger still (22, 19, 19, 19 and 17 respectively), there’s a big age gap there (particularly as Bertrand only recently turned 23). If Cole was to take the one year on offer and then leave at the end of the 2013-14 season, he’d be 33, with two years, assuming he saw out his contract he’d be 34, certainly getting up in years. If we need a new player it should be David Alaba and if we can’t get him it should be Luke Shaw. The other Alaba/Shaw alternatives are Werder Bremen and Germany U20 star Florian Hartherz, who at least in physical stature is very close to the Ashley Cole mold and Lazio's Senad Lulic, known as 'The Train' for his hard running.
In the youth ranks we should look at Real Madrid Castilla’s Juan José Manresa and Javier García-Noblejas Hernanz, Barca’s Alejandro Grimaldo, Manchester City’s Ashley Smith-Brown (nicked Frédéric Veseli style from our Northern rivals), or we could try a similar trick with Arsenal young gun Brandon Ormonde-Ottewill (double barreled surnames seem popular among young left backs).
Andreas Christensen looks like he’ll be a good solid CB, while Jordan Houghton seems reasonable as well, though his youth representative England career may stalling, Alex Davey probably falls somewhere between those two. I have less confidence in Fankarty Dabo, though both may prove me wrong, Danny Pappoe probably hasn’t played enough to really say much (same situation with Dion Conroy, Jonathan Muleba and Archange Nkumu) which in many ways says a lot. George Brady is too young to say too much about at this stage but he does come with great expectations about his abilities. These lads are not options at the moment, but if we sign a new CB we need to consider them in light of the impact that it may have on their fledgling careers.
Being brutal on that basis we have John Terry (32, getting on), David Luiz (26, who can also play LB and DM, potentially CM and RB as well), Gary Cahill (27), Branislav Ivanovic (28, RB and sometime CB) – plus – Andreas Christensen (16), Jeffrey Bruma (21, DM and sometime CB), Nathan Aké (17, DM and sometime CB) and Nathaniel Chalobah (18, DM and sometime CB, and for Watford sometime attacking mid); not enough, and while it does display we have a lot of young and versatile lads doing the rounds – we are perhaps lacking specialist CBs; now perhaps only Terry, Cahill and Christensen.
There is also an alternative argument – one that considers us a CB short as it stands now, loosing Ferreira would therefore put us two short. Venturing into the market for one (or two) new CB’s wouldn’t be a huge issue; there are plenty of capable options out there, but relatively few truly world and Chelsea class ones. Seeking out some fresh legs might also be a good idea when it is considered that John Terry is getting on and getting injured more often of late; Branislav Ivanovic is no spring chicken either, though he’s younger and fitter than JT.
Mats Hummels (24) and Nicolas N’Koulou (22), are both superb young CB’s, I’m a particular fan of Hummels, I think he has all the qualities we’re looking for a in a central defender. Unfortunately we’re not alone in our admiration of either of these lads, while I think we’d be a decent show of signing N’Koulou, given competition from Man Utd, Man City, Barcelona and undoubtedly PSG (and perhaps Real Madrid as well) we need to consider options beyond our first option. Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa (23), could be a Winter 2014 target if all goes well at Newcastle; it really depends on whether we feel we need a new CB in the Summer or next January.
Recently (according to the paper talk at least) we’ve been following Stefan de Vrij (20), he has the makings of an impressive option but he’s not ready to be playing at the level of a Hummels/Yanga-Mbiwa. Similarly Chilean-Polish starlet Igor Lichinovsky (18) and Slovenian stars Emir Dautović (17) and Damjan Vuklisevic (17) have been a targets for some time now, but again they’re still kids, learning the game. I’m a big fan of Lichinovsky and Dautovic – both of whom the club has been following for some time now. Though both would make valuable additions – neither is at a point in their respective careers to replace Ferreira or take some of the burden off JT/Luiz/Cahill.
There’s plenty of other good options out there; Benedikt Höwedes (German team partner of Hummels), Cheikhou Kouyaté (another CB/DM and a great player, I’m a big fan of his), Andrea Ranocchia (would be hard to get from Inter but no harder than Hummels from Dortmund), Neven Subotic (Hummels partner in crime at Dortmund – we couldn’t get both but if not Hummels then maybe Subotic), Matthias Ginter, Lasse Sobiech, Philipp Wollscheid, Jan Kirchhoff (four young and upcoming German defenders – will all find it hard to get round Hummels/ Höwedes), Samuel Umtiti (another CB/DM, young big things expected of him by Lyon), Marquinhos (has impressed at Roma, Barcelona are apparently very interested in him as a potential alternative to Mats Hummels), Dedé (a big star at Vasco da Gama, wanted by a number of big European clubs), Raphael Varane (who Mourinho, who will hopefully be manager next season - should bring back with him from Real Madrid) and Aleksandar Dragović (a target all over Europe).
Attacking Japanese centre back and recent Man Utd target Hideto Takahashi might also be a good addition, he’s a pretty good player and would be no weight to carry (probably wouldn’t line him up in a Champions League semi-final though) and would really help our merchandising in Asia. For the same reason we should keep a watchful eye on QPR’s new signing Yun Suk-Young.
Sticking with internal recruitment and instead signing some additional youth players to replace those being promoted is the third option. Jonathan Tah (16) a Germany U17 international, is considered one of the brightest prospects in the Bundesliga ans is being scouted by Man U he’d make a good addition. Kurt Zouma (18) from Saint Etienne and also a France U19 international could be another strong option. Younger but also impressive is 16 year old Ajax defender Riechedly Bazoer, who has attracted the interest of Man City. If we were to get Mourinho back he could potentially look at bringing 19 year-old France and Real Madrid defender Raphaël Varane with him. Finally, we could look at Standard Leige’s Dino Arslanagic and Corentin Fiore, FC Nürnberg’s Noah Korczowski, Genoa’s Luka Krajnc and Sporting Lisbon and England U19 star Eric Dier.
The ideal line up for Season 2013-14 would be; Terry, Cahill, Hummels, Takahashi as genuine CBs with Luiz, Bruma and say Kouyaté as versatile CBs/DMs and potentially RB/LB and CMs, with Dragovic, Christensen, Aké, Kalas, Brady, Davey, Conroy, Dabo, Houghton, Nkumu, Muleba and Chalobah all on loan/in the youth set up, would provide both greater depth plus greater versatility for the 1st team and ensure opportunities for the youth players to develop further. In reality though I’d be more than happy to settle with Bruma coming back and Höwedes being brought in.
FRANK LAMPARD – which Frank Lampard do we want to replace?
the sad fact that Frank really isn’t at his best anymore and it is questionable how long he’ll be able to effectively compete at the highest level. The Lampard era is almost at an end, now the question must be how to we replace such an influential member of our team.
I have often questioned who exactly in the modern game most effectively resembles an earlier Frank Lampard – not the guy we have out there today – a great player and legend, but the younger more dynamic Lampard, the attacking star not the pseudo-defensive midfielder of today.
I now however realise I was perhaps asking the wrong question, we shouldn’t be looking for the most Lampard-esque player out there in order to maintain a certain degree of continuity. The team it has to be remembered (and I forgot) plays a style of football now which has probably not been conducive to getting the best out of Lampard, the way that the 4-5-1 we used to play did. Lampard may have originally been a fine attacking midfielder but he was never particularly creative in the way a traditional trequartista would be considered, he was more a kind of centre forward who sat amongst the midfield and did a bit more defence than the No.9.
So who then is the best option to replace Frank Lampard? Josh MacEachran isn’t it, I see him in a distributive role in the centre of midfield, in behind where the the Lampard of old played and playing differentl to the Lampard of today. The two other players we have now who deserve consideration are Juan Mata and Oscar, who both have substantial potential in the more conventional understanding of a trequartista’s role. But I like Mata on the wing causing havoc and Oscar, though utterly necessary in our squad, inhabits a role Frank never really has, I don’t see him so much as a replacement for a Lampard type player, but more as a tactical alternative.
Alan Dzagoev and Miralem Pjanic are still attractive options and I can’t see much changing that, though both have some liabilities. Dzagoev seems to be quite moody (not in an attitude sense, rather in a form sense) and he’s rather slight, though he’s also really a complete package with all Lampard’s skills, and he’s a Chelsea and Lampard fan, which is a bonus. Pjanic is a strong contender, but he’s not particularly good in the air and he’s a weaker defender than Lampard. Roma will drive a hard bargain to keep him and there’s been suggestions recently that he’s attracting the attention of Barcelona as well, so there’ll be competition for his signature. AZ Alkmaar’s Markus Henriksen is a fine player and could be very ably put in Frank’s role – but is he special enough for Chelsea? Similarly there’s Josip Ilicic who is also a previous target – but again is he really quite good enough to cut it at Chelsea?
If Javier Pastore is really unhappy at PSG he could be another option, he was Ancelotti’s choice way back when we were outbid by PSG, he offers something quite similar to what we already have in the Mazacar (Mazacarre anyone?). Rising OL star Clément Grenier could be another option (and probably the one who most resembles Frank in terms of physical stature – Mézacar anyone?). Biram Kayal is a fine talent – he,s not good enough to be a 1st choice, but could be a very fine back up (Mazacka anyone?).
Perhaps again though, I’m looking too much for a player like the old Frank Lampard when what we need is somebody who fits into our new structure, the role that the present day Frank Lampard plays – a role in the Defensive/Central Midfield.
By comparison with the centre of defence, I believe we’re much, much weaker in the centre of midfield. I thought we were a bit underdone with Michael Essien, Raul Meireles, Oriol Romeu, Josh MacEachran, Ramires and Jon Obi Mikel – Romeu’s out for 6 months, Essien’s gone(-ish), Meireles (gone), Mikel (going to ACON) and MacEachran (somewhat indisposed at present in the North). While Frank Lampard (old), Paulo Ferreira (old), Ryan Bertrand (a wingback), David Luiz (great) and perhaps Marko Marin (small) can chip in, we’re really lacking in the central/defensive midfield area – and in deep trouble because of it. We need midfielders almost as badly as we need striker(s).
I don't know what to do about the Bison, Michael Essien has been pretty good when he's played for Real Madrid, but in Spain, much like in England he's had a problem with injuries, and each time he bounces back from a major injury, he's just that little bit less the Bison of old. I'd personally love to have him back, he's a club great and would still be useful to have, but bringing the Bison back should not interfere with the signing of further (younger) players to strengthen that part of the park. We let Claude Makélelé go at the right time, he is still remembered today as a legend at the club, virtually defining the role of the modern defensive midfielder, perhaps it's time we afforded the Bison the same courtesy.
The situation would probably right itself naturally eventually, there are heaps of central midfielders in the youth ranks; Lamisha Musonda, Tika Musonda, John Swift, Lewis Baker, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Victorien Angban, Anjur Osmanovic and Isak Ssewankambo, Billy Clifford, and Danny Stenning but no real defensive mids, save perhaps for Chalobah, Aké and Bruma playing in their secondary role (well debatable for Chalobah as to whether this is his primary or secondary role, but anyway).
Again, considering them individually, first the Musonda’s, I know Tika and Lamisha were only really bought to ensure we landed younger brother Charly, but they’re not bad players, Lamisha represented Belgium U21 in October for the fifth time (remembering that getting in a Belgian youth team is not easy at the moment, they have a lot of good players coming through the ranks – indeed there are some others who I’d be quite keen to add to the squad as well), whilst Tika has over 20 caps at different age levels for Belgium, do they have a great Chelsea…maybe it’s hard to say at this point, but both of the older Musonda brothers definitely deserve more of a chance than they’re getting at present, and I expect that if Charly continues his current developmental trajectory he’ll be a very fine asset.
I’m a big John Swift fan, he’s current England U18 captain and I can see him perhaps captaining Chelsea one day (as others have noted Nathaniel Chalobah as well but i digress) . Baker and Loftus-Cheek are both more attacking players but do occasionally play more of a pivot type role, I expect big things from both of them…probably not in this role though.
Victorien Angban is another one to watch, though again probably more of an attacking midfielder than a central/defensive one. The two Swedes, Anjur Osmanovic and Isak Ssewankambo are interesting both show promise but behind the existing English prospects (MacEachran, Chalobah, Swift, Baker, Loftus-Cheek) and Angban plus a not too old Romeu, Ramires and Mikel (and hopefully at least one more CM/DM signed and arriving soon) I struggle to see them cracking the 1st team (though again they could surprise, particularly Ssewankambo, he’s the best chance of this lesser group to make it in my opinion). Billy Clifford I don’t see too many chances for or for that matter George Cole or Tom Howard. Ruben Sammut and Jesse Starkey are unknown quantities.
Just on Defensive Midfielders read these articles, they really exposure the necessity of having plenty of good ones…Defensive Midfielders essential for success;http://footballspeak.com/…07/31/Essential-For-Success.aspx Before I go on, an interesting article about defensive midfielders (well another one), I particularly like ‘the defensive midfield position evolved, incorporating both ‘destroyers’ and ‘registas’ or deep-lying playmakers.
A strong, modern regista requires many of the attributes previously described for a good libero: some defensive awareness, good reading of the game, a large range of passing and the ability to dictate play’;http://www.sabotagetimes.com/…e-rise-of-the-modern-libero/ So who can fix this issue…
First off – I like the idea of considering guys who compliment Romeu – he’s the lad we already have here for the future (along with MacEachran and Luiz, Bruma, Aké, Chalobah part time – and Mikel he’s still only 25). So we’re after ball winners – destroyers, preferably of a physically imposing stature and young (-ish). So who can fix this issue…well there are a range of options – Moussa Sissoko; now at Newcastle so he won’t be available until January 2014, but that may actually be a good thing for us – he can mature and adapt to the league before moving to Chelsea ala Demba Ba. Etienne Capoue; (still for the moment at least at Toulouse). Both Tolouse lads (one former now but anyway) I’m a big fan of, big, strong, fast, both have a good stamina, though Sissoko probably wins in that department, both are good on the ball, though Capoue probably wins in that department.
Part of Toulouse’s success so far this season has been the attacking capabilities that both players have demonstrated, everyone knew Sissoko was tireless, he’s now also shown quite an impressive running game, particularly in wide areas, while Capoue should now really be considered a goal scoring defensive midfielder (as should Sissoko after the game at Newcastle this weekend). Both players are probably better described as box-to-box midfielder in the Yaya Toure mold. They have the muscle to replicate Lampard’s defensive performances, but greater stamina, and they have shown that they possess the necessary attacking prowess to be a real asset in midfield. They’d certainly add the requisite muscle and they’d also be good at getting the ball going forward and could handle the high intensity of playing in the Premier League (as Sissoko showed this week in Newcastle, we didn’t sign him this window because why…?).
There are plenty of others apart from Sissoko, Capoue and the two Benders who are worthy of wearing Chelsea blue. Arturo Vidal and Claudio Marchisio are the first two which spring to mind, they represent polished versions of Sissoko and Capoue’s uncut gems, this of course means that Juventus are likely to be unwilling to part with them, and if they are to leave Turin, they will be very expensive. Add Kwadwo Asamoah and Paul Pogba from Juventus and you get a midfield that’s all real tyros, very much Chelsea of old actually (Essien, Ballack, Mikel etc).
Another player who I think would make an ideal addition would be David Alaba. Though often employed as a LB he’s equally adept a player as a DM (and having him in the squad I’d be more comfortable with only having Ryan Bertrand and Patrick van Anholt on the left next season). Bayern have apparently signalled they’re not keen on selling any players in January, and given they view Alaba as an integral future part of their set up – we will definitely pay to get him. The same can be said for another high quality option, the Jewel in La Masia’s Crown, Thiago Alcantara. He’s doubtful to leave the Camp Nou – unless of course the Spanish economy tanks further and the dodgy support the Catalonia gives the Blaugranes becomes untenable – he’s awesome prospect we’ve had our eyes on for years, played with Romeu for Barcelona B so there’s even some familiarity with current members of our squad.
From our favoured talent repository, Brazil, there are a number of good options. Fernando Lucas (20) of Gremio, Felipe Anderson (19) of Santos, Paulinho (24) of Corinthians and Jean (26) of Fluminense represent the key Brazil based options. Fernando Lucas and Felipe Anderson are both huge talents, with Brazil age representation and should be considered for long term roles, but are both a bit young and inexperienced at this stage to mix it at the highest level. Paulinho would be ideal, again he’s big, strong and fast and we saw his ability at the Club World Cup – competition from the Milanese clubs and Man City is the big hurdle. Jean is a bit older but has been a star at Fluminense over the last 12 months and recently earned his first cap for Brazil, he might be more of a gamble than Paulinho, but he’s got the form on the board over the last year. There is also Sao Paulo star Casemiro (20) I wouldn’t gamble on at this point, his form has come off recently -and he’s now on loan at Real Madrid.
In Europe the talented Brazilian options are Fernandinho (27), Rômulo Borges (22), Giuliano (22) and Fernando Reges (25). We all saw Fernandinho’s abilities for Shaktar, he’s looking for a move westwards and though he’s tweeted about playing in Manchester, a move further south would be good, he bring experience and determination. Fernandinho is really the heart of Shaktar’s midfield, playing both a defensive and distributive role. He is a midfielder in the Brazilian national team (the workmanlike Dunga era is over, Joga Bonito is [allegedly] back, so he knows how to attack). His age is a negative, but he should otherwise not be discounted, he has the talent to do the job and is already well known by much of the team (Luiz, Ramires, Oscar etc).
Rômulo and Giuliano are both regular (well over the past 6 months or so) starters for the Brazilian national team and are performing comfortably in their current competitions, the EPL and Chelsea would help them further their careers and would provide us with intelligent, young liberos. Porto star Fernando Reges is on the other hand, a destroyer, adept at recovering the ball from the opposition – he’d be ideal to pair with a flairier libero like Romulo or Giuliano (or in the future MacEachran, Romeu or Swift), Inter Milan are after him so we’ll have to move quick if we want him. It is unfortunate that he currently plays for Porto – cause they’re always so easy to deal with in transfer negotiations [massive sarcasm], it is even more unfortunate then, that two further options, Joao Moutinho and Steven Defour are also currently turning out at the Estádio do Dragão.
The man I’ve yet to mention is Everton’s star DM/CM/trequartista/false nine; Marouane Fellaini. There’s little I can add to Graham’s article from not too long ago, he’s an ideal fit, though I’d say he should really be played further forward alongside Oscar and Hazard, not Mikel and Romeu. There are other Belgian options that occupy the central position; Radja Nainggolan, Moussa Dembele, Vadis Odjidja-Ofoe and the aforementioned Steven Defour, Spurs are unlikely to want to part with Dembele (their best player at the moment), Odjidja-Ofoe looks set to replace Fellaini in Everton’s DM set up at the moment (which will potentially set him up for a move to a big club like Chelsea a few years down the line) and Nainggolan, despite the talk around his talent, I don’t see him at Chelsea. Beñat, though Spanish, I’ve added here to ensure he makes the cut, and with his thundering free kicks and clever attacking play, he'd be a wonderful Lampard analogue (but as wonderful as Miralem Pjanic?).
Luka Modric is neither Belgian nor Spanish, he is however a very good player and one who the club has wanted for a while, again should Jose Mourinho return, alongside Raphael Varane and the young stars (Juan José Manresa, Javier García-Noblejas Hernanz and Francisco José Rodríguez) already mentioned, Modric should be a high priority player to bring back to Chelsea - possibly involving a part exchange for Michael Essien.
YOSSI BENAYOUN – do we go with more youthful vigour for the Mazacar or an experienced head?
Age wise once we loose Lampard and Benayoun (assuming that no additional figures arrive) Mikel and Ramires become the old men of the midfield, no problem in of itself but that does show how youthful our midfield actually is once you remove the veterans.
So do we need another old wiley head or should we go full steam ahead with youth and bring more firepower into our attacking line? Who exactly might the wiley old campaigner be? There was talk about Owen Hargreaves during the early part of the African Cup of Nations – I think that while it was a discussion worth having, why would you let Lampard go and bring Hargreaves in? Kaka? Robinho? Lisandro Lopez? Ricardo Quaresma?
Personally I’d go with youth again – we’re not getting everything we could out of our current ‘extra-Mazacar’ attacking mids/wingers/trequartistas/secondary strikers – Victor Moses, Marko Marin (where the hell is Marin!?!? would somebody please tell me), Lucas Piazon (hopefully the loan spell at Malaga will do him well), Florent Malouda (I know he’s on the way out, but that doesn’t mean he couldn’t still see some action) and Yossi Benayoun (might stay given his history with FSW, never really had his chance under Ancelotti due to injuries). In the youth ranks we’ve got Islam Feruz (we can all see his class and future with the club), Lewis Baker (same as Feruz), Jeremie Boga (has been less dynamic recently when compared with the start of the season…but still a very good prospect), Joao Rodriguez, Victorien Angban (both of whom have the potential to play for Chelsea but are a bit behind Feruz, Baker and Boga), Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Charlie Colkett, Conor Hunte, John Swift, Charly Musonda (not necessarily any of their best positions – but as I’ve noted previously I see bright things for Loftus-Cheek, Swifft, Colkett, Hunte and Musonda at the club). I see less opportunities for Tom Howard, George Cole, Reece James Loudon, Ismael Seremba and Amin Affane. On loan we have Kevin de Bruyne who is going excellently in the Bundesliga, Gael Kakuta, who is going less well for Vitesse, but still has promise, Thorgan Hazard who is also going well for Zulte Waregem and Ulises Davila who is impressing at Spanish 2nd Division side Sabadell, realistically I can see Thorgan Hazard and Kevin de Bruyne playing for Chelsea – that probably isn’t true of Kakuta or Davila (a shame I’m a big fan of Davila’s too).
A new face in this part of the park; I’d go for Mario Goetze to add to Mata/E Hazard/Oscar/Marin (who I’d keep)/Piazon and T Hazard. He’s obviously highly unlikely to move, he’s happy at Dortmund and at the moment – they’re better than us, why would he move? (Having said that but imagine him alongside Mata, Oscar and Hazard – well in rotation or with Hazard as a false nine – roll on the Mazzecar!). Another awesome option is James Rodriguez who is a superstar already, and though he’d be mighty hard to take away from Porto, imagine him alongside Mata, Oscar and Hazard (roll on the Mazacarro!). he alongside André Schürrle and Antonie Greizmann would make ideal options to sign on the wing (ok we’re going a bit beyond simply replacing Benayoun now – but i happily digress). If we were to sign any other player it would be Alex Teixeira who could also double up as an extra striker. Overall Isco though is the rational choice to replace Benayoun keeping his versatility but improving on both the quality and age fronts.
It would be wonderful to be able to add others – particularly those Chelsea targets we’ve thus far either missed out on or are yet to sign; Bernard, Douglas Costa, Lucas Moura, Christian Eriksen, Inigo Ruiz de Galarreta, Alvaro Vadillo, Jese, Erik Lamela, Siebe Schrijvers, Paulo Henrique Ganso, Alen Stevanovic, Wellington Nem and Gerard Deulofeu but of course that’s rather (ridiculously) unrealistic.
Comparatively easy ; recall Romelu Lukaku unless we get the opportunity to get more than one AAA star (Falcao and Edinson Cavani for example); sell Ba if the opportunity for a superior like-for-like player becomes available.
AAA: Falcao, Edinson Cavani, Neymar, Hulk
Others: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Leandro Moura, Leandro Damião, Wilfred Bony, Seydou Doumbia, Moussa Konate, Dieumerci Mbokani, Lacina Traore, Michy Batshuayi, Cyriac Gohi Bi Zoro Sede, Nélson Oliveira, Paulo Dybala, Adryan, Viktor Fischer, Lazar Markovic, Carlos Fierro, Donis Avdijaj and Iago Aspas
SAF always tries to have 4 frontline strikers for Man U, in 2012-13 they were Rooney, Chicharito, Welbeck and Berbatov…five if you count Owen, aged 26, 24, 21, 31 and 32 respectively (you could potentially add Federico Macheda, 20 and maybe Ashley Young, 26 to that list). …and he has recently offloaded Michael Owen and Dimitar Berbatov, but he’s also brought in Robin van Persie and has got Danny Welbeck to sign a new contract he’s currently running Rooney, Chicharito, Welbeck and van Persie aged 26, 24, 21 and 29 respectively. What’s more next year (provided they’re not sold of course) there’ll be a new generation available out of Man U’s youth teams; Joshua King, William Keane, Jesse Lingard, John Cofie and Gyliano van Velzen and on loan he’s got Ángelo Henríquez at Wigan.
I recognise there's a counter point to my argument here - http://www.weaintgotnohistory.com/2013/2/28/4038114/striker-for-next-season-do-we-need-him - which, whilst I accept I also propose the counter arguments of Manchester City, Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain all of whom have at least three (if not four) effective AAA or AA strikers and still manage to find space for attacking mids/wingers/trequartistas/secondary strikers, if we want to compete in 4-7 competitions with clubs like these we will have to follow suite.
Demba Ba and Romelu Lukaku and potentially a less than useful Fernando Torres, does not an effective strike force make, even with the assortment of winger/attacking mid/(second-shadow-reserve-super sub) strikers that we’re accumulating at present (I speak of course here of Hazard, Mata, Oscar, de Bruyne, Marin), and potential back up in the form of Milan Lalkovic (19), Patrick Bamford (18), Lucas Piazon (18), Islam Feruz (16) and Ulises Davila (21).
As I’ve noted above it’s pretty clear what we need in terms of a AAA threat up front; and I’ve seen little argument other than preference regarding the validity of signing one of Falcao, Cavani, Neymar or Hulk.
I think that CasablancaBlue8 in his recent article ‘On Chelsea’s Striker Situation’ (http://www.weaintgotnohistory.com/2013/2/17/3997946/on-chelseas-striker-situation ), explored this very well I can’t really explain things any better, I suggest you read this article, it’s great. The poll however shows (at least at this stage) that fans are quite divided as to what they think the solution is.
Assuming we can sell Torres (which people seem to think is a dead cert, I’m far from convinced, the other key question is what to do with Lukaku, does he stay or is it better to send him on another loan. I can see market forces deciding this to a certain degree; should it be possible to bring in two AAAstrikers for a reasonable price, Lukaku may be set for another loan, if not then he’ll play an important if secondary role next season. Arguably it would be better for his development that he be loaned again (to someone like say Everton) to further his development, somewhere where he’d be No.1 as opposed to Stamford Bridge where to either (most likely) Falcao or Cavani he’d be No.2 at best. It’s a coin toss as to, in an ideal world you hold onto Lukaku or loan him out again.
Hulk and Neymar are interesting to throw into the discussion here, I would argue there’s really nothing necessarily wrong with having Falcao and Cavani in the same team (save for the tremendous price that we would incur to secure them), but most other fans, like yourself prefer one of them, plus a ‘different’ kind of striker – Neymar or Hulk for example (there are others too; Mario Gomez, Gonzalo Higuain and Robert Lewandowski being the three most oft mentioned). I recognise the argument and I have sympathy for it, but I believe it is a bit flawed, largely because I see quite a bit of stylistic differentiation already existent between Cavani and Falcao. That is not to say that we necessarily need both nor that others wouldn’t bring something else unique; Neymar and Hulk certainly would as would the others.
This forms the basis for my consideration ‘Comparatively easy ; recall Romelu Lukaku unless we get the opportunity to get more than one AAA star (Falcao and Edinson Cavani for example); sell Ba if the opportunity for a superior like-for-like player becomes available.’
The rest of my ‘Others’ – Leandro Moura, Leandro Damião, Moussa Konate, Dieumerci Mbokani, Lacina Traore, Michy Batshuayi, Cyriac Gohi Bi Zoro Sede, Nélson Oliveira, Paulo Dybala, Adryan, Viktor Fischer, Lazar Markovic, Carlos Fierro, Donis Avdijaj and Iago Aspas, all also have compelling cases as to why they deserve some consideration (as do some others that I will come to briefly). Leandro Moura looks like Neymar, plays quite like Neymar, as he’s occasionally in fact been called (in jest) ‘I can’t believe he’s not Neymar!’ If we were to miss out on Neymar but were still after his particular brand of awesome, Leandro Moura would be our man. A man Tottenham desperately want Leandro Damião, Oscar’s former teammate at Internacional, apparently wants a Chelsea move and I’d be willing to give him it, strong and a genuine goal scoring threat, he’d also further add to our Brazilian contingent.
Moussa Konate has not been great this season for Kuban Krasnodar, but he’s an African player plying his trade in Russia (and not the comparatively cosmopolitan Moscow, we’re talking Krasnodar here) I can imagine that is affecting his form, he was barnstorming at the 2012 Olympics though. Dieumerci Mbokani, Michy Batshuayi, Cyriac Gohi Bi Zoro Sede – a trio of Drogba-esque forwards plying their trade in what is now our favourite talent pool, the Juliper League – Cyriac and Batshuayi are both potential future back up Lukaku’s whilst Mbokani might act as the superior like-for-like Demba Ba. Lacina Traore, now leading the line for Anzhi Makhachkala alongside Samuel Eto’o, Traore as I’ve previously noted would be an ideal Tore Andre Flo ‘Super Sub’ style signing, his height would also give us the edge on Stoke City’s Peter Crouch (203cm vs 202cm). Iago Aspas represents sort a ‘Best of Ba’ signing, he’s a guy who’s no incredible talent – but rather a supremely hard toiler who is getting rewards for his toil, could be a waste of money signing, or alternatively signing him could prove an inspired move.
Nélson Oliveira, Paulo Dybala, Adryan, Viktor Fischer, Lazar Markovic, Carlos Fierro, along with a few others (Samuele Longo, Ademilson, Douglas Baggio, Stephan El Shaarawy, Paco Alcácer, Shawn Parker and Luis Muriel) these lads represent the next crop of true (well largely) Centre Forwards going around. We’ve already got one of this group (Romelu Lukaku) and we need at least one more, my current guess would be Markovic will get the spot, I’d personally prefer it be Nélson Oliveira, Paulo Dybala, Adryan or Viktor Fischer.
There's a lot of debate in the fan community at the moment about exactly what we want in a striker - http://www.weaintgotnohistory.com/2013/2/28/4038114/striker-for-next-season-do-we-need-him and http://www.weaintgotnohistory.com/2013/2/17/3997946/on-chelseas-striker-situation to name just two of the most recent fanposts within the WAGNH community - I don't have the answer but I believe that more than just Falcao, Iago Aspas, Robert Lewandowski, Lazar Markovic, Edinson Cavani and Heung Min Son should be in the debate.
Building a successful youth program through signings alone would be like trying to nail custard to a wall, it wouldn't work. The club has been working extremely hard to build up the academy to the point where it's producing some genuinely classy youngsters. But there are some extraordinary individual talents that cannot be ignored, the trick is to have an academy where they can improve further, think of it as the shelf you've nailed in first before you try nailing custard to the wall. Many people tend to forget that La Masia signs youth prospects from other clubs all the time, they then train them up further and the lads become part of the La Masia family, we need to build that kind of ethos at Cobham, it's not going to happen overnight, it might take 15-20 years, but I see no reason why it can't happen, and we should start now. Building improved training facilities would play a big part in this, but as we're primarily talking about players here, who are the current crop of youth players with something to bring to the table;
Continuing the Belgian Revolution - Dennis Praet; the Jewel in the Anderlecht academies’ Crown, a player likened to Belgian legend Enzo Scifo in his style - Hannes van der Bruggen; another great prospect who can cover all positions in midfield and on whom there are great expectations - Umberto Carvalho dos Santos; Anderlecht’s other Belgian-Brazilian prodigy (the first being Man Utd’s Andreas Hoelgebaum Pereira) - Massimo Bruno; Praet’s partner in crime at Anderlecht, has shown some real skill - Laurens de Bock; the Belgian answer to Luke Shaw - Maxime Lestienne; 11 goals and eight assists in the Belgian League this season plus Europa League and National team duties - Michy Batshuayi; another Romelu Lukaku - Dino Arslanagic; the rock at the heart of Standard Liege and Belgium U21's defence - Jordan Lukaku; another pair of Belgian brothers for Chelsea? - Corentin Fiore; another rock this time at the heart of Standard Liege and Belgium U19's defence - Anthony Limbombe; the 18 year old winger lighting up the Europa League - Siebe Schrijvers; my No.2 pick after Praet, he's an awesome prospect - Frederick Spruyt and Benjamin van den Ackerveken; Belgium U17's star central defensive pairing - David Henan; Romelu Lukaku No.3 and Zakaria Bakkali; Europe's most sought after teenage striker.
There also some serious non-Belgian youth prospects out there at the moment; Jordy Clasie, Davy Klassen, Adam Maher and Marco van Ginkel from the Netherlands, Emre Can, Fabian Hürzeler, Leon Goretzka, İlkay Gündoğan and Moritz Leitner from Germany, Raphael Holzhauser, Florian Grillitsch and Alessandro Schöpf from Austria, Lorenzo Crisetig, Lorenzo Tassi and Roberto Soriano from Italy, Pedro Obiang, Sergi Roberto, Nono, José Rodríguez, Óliver Torres, Carlos Garcia Quesada, Pedro Chirivella from Spain, Leandro Paredes and Ezequiel Cirigliano from Argentina, and Rafinha from Brazil. I’m particularly hopeful the scouts will look at Umberto, he’s extremely impressive in attack, Hürzeler, who is highly versatile and possible very sign-able given the revolution that looks set to occur at Bayern, Grillitsch, who though admittedly is in quite a weak league (the Austrian Jugendliga) is really tearing said weak league up and Nono, Spain’s next great mentronomic passer.
Obviously this is an enormous list of talents and I’ve left quite a good young lads out; Valon Berisha, Andre Hoffmann, Fabian Schnellhardt, Max Meyer and Lucas Mugni.
There are a few other things to think about as well;
No. 1. El Economista recently ran an article on the 10 RM players ‘not for sale’ (http://translate.googleusercontent.com/…ic2MePbJv_XGIUtN0w) implying that yes, all the rest are for sale…whilst i’m rather skeptical about all this, i do like the look of Angel di Maria, Kaka, Fabio Coentrao, Luka Modric, Raphaël Varane, Álvaro Morata, Jesé, Denis Cheryshev, José Rodríguez, Álex, Javier García-Noblejas Hernanz, Juan José Manresa, Francisco José Rodríguez, Juan Narváez, Jack Harper and Pol Roige – all being up for grabs.
No.2. Since Pep announced his move to Bayern, there has been heaps of talk about who’ll be arriving with him; Neymar, Arda Turan, Sergio Busquets, Mats Hummels, Leon Goretzka, Levin Oztunali, Isco (though it seems we may have 1st option on him thanks to the Piazon loan so maybe not), Thiago Alcantara, Arturo Vidal, Beñat, Gerard Deulofeu, Luis Suarez, Stevan Jovetic, Victor Valdes, Mario Götze, Edinson Cavani, Adrian Lopez, Edin Dzeko, Michu and Angelo Ogbonna (using every penny of his alleged [and unbelievable] transfer budget of €278 million).
This could have a serious impact upon who we can and can’t go after in the summer – but it also bring with it potential opportunities to raid the Munich stables as some fall from favour (Mario Gomez, potentially Bastian Schweinsteiger, Javi Martinez and Mario Mandzukic) whilst youth stars are squeezed out by new arrivals (Oliver Markoutz, Julian Green, Nikola Jelisic, Pierre-Emile Höjbjerg, Sebastian Mrowca, Patrick Weihrauch, Dennis Chessa, Alessandro Schöpf, Fabian Hürzeler, Emre Can, Jérôme Boateng, Leopold Zingerle, Raif Husic and Leon Fischhaber).
No. 3 I know that a lot of big clubs really want a member of Japan’s ‘platinum generation’ (or alternatively a Korean, Chinese or SE Asian star) to help their merchandising arms in East Asia and South East Asia. Personally I agree with this sentiment, (I’ve already mentioned Hideto Takahasi for example), but I also believe you shouldn’t carry your Asian star, we need a Shinji Kagawa or Park Ji-Sung, not a Park Chu Young. There are quite a few of the 2011 U17 World Cup Japanese stars (Fumiya Hayakawa, Hideki Ishige, Takumi Minamino, Shoya Nakajima, Musashi Suzuki, Masaya Matsumoto, Daisuke Takagi and Hiroki Akino) now approaching the points in their respective careers that we should be taking a good look at them, but they’re all still a long way off a meaningful role for any big club they should join. I’d sign Keisuke Honda, Yuto Nagatomo or Ryo Myaichi in an instant, they appear to be the best Japanese options available at present. Other interesting options are 2012 Olympic squad members; Hiroshi Kiyotake, Takashi Usami, Hiroki Yamada a right wingback from Jubilo Iwata, Akimi Barada a midfielder from Kashiwa Reysol and Kosuke Yamamoto a midfielder from Jubilo Iwata, Kazuya Yamamura a centre back at Kashima, Takahiro Ohgihara, Kenyu Sugimoto and Keigo Higashi. South Korean stars Heung-Min Son, Kim Bo-Kyung, Koo Ja-Cheol, Yun Suk-Young and Ki Sung-Yong should be at least considered by the scouts.
No.4 Emenalo out of Barcelona and into Rome - whilst I'm a massive fan of La Masia and i still think we should chase a number of La Masia grads (Thiago Alcantara, Rafinha Alcantara, Miguel Angel Sainz Maza, Gerard Deulofeu, Jean Marie Dongou, Sergi Roberto, Sergi Samper, Luis Alberto, Pol Calvet, Alejandro Grimaldo and Juanma Garcia) but Roma and Lazio are offering a far more accessible vein of talent at the moment that we'd do well to monitor more closely - Erik Lamela, Miralem Pjanic, Marquinhos, Junior Tallo, Federico Viviani, Jose Angel, Ogenyi Onazi, Senad Lulic and Federico Barba all represent one of the two Roman clubs.