So I've been giving £100M, the keys to Roman's yacht, Emenalo's office for a couple weeks, and Mourinho's cell phone number with a mandate to make the Chelsea Football Club better. Why on earth they picked me to give this mandate to I don't know but we'll give it our best shot.
Returning 1st Team Players
The first step in figuring out who we need to go out and get is to figure out exactly what we have returning. All of our major contributors from this past season are still under contract and so the only thing we are for sure losing is some of our squad depth (Turnbull, Hilario, Malouda, Benayoun, Ferreira, etc). So let’s look at who we have returning who made 10 or more first team appearances this past season:
Keeper: Petr Cech
The next step is to breakdown where we are currently at with regards to PL and CL roster spots. Our current roster listed above contains 18 players and none of them qualify for U21 status. Of those 18, only Terry, Cole, Bertrand, Lampard, and Moses count as homegrown. As we are limited to only 17 non-homegrown players that leaves us with four available non-homegrown spots assuming we do not sell or loan anyone from the above list. We’re also limited to 17 non-locally trained or non-association trained players for the CL and once again as long as we do not sell or loan anyone from the above list we’re limited to four international spots.
Therefore before we go into discussion regarding our loanees and potential targets, let’s look at our current roster and see if there is anyone we’re likely to loan or sell and adjust our numbers from there. One does not have to look too long at the list before seeing the albatross in the room, Marko Marin. I believe Marin has some talent, he did have a few flashes on the field this season. Few, however, is the key word there and in the few times (again few is the key word) he played he didn’t show much. I would not sell him yet unless someone was ready to offer up ~£5M for him (very unlikely), instead I would like to send him out on loan to see if he can stay healthy for a season and maybe recoup a little more of our transfer fee (9 roster spots left, 5 non-homegrown roster spots).
A brief discussion about the other albatross, Mr. Fernando Torres. I know the vast majority of us would like to see him move this summer but I’m thinking it’s far more likely that he stays for this season (I find it much more likely for him to move on after the season). For one, whatwould be willing to pay his wages (or even a large part of them) that he would actually want to play for? We’re going to expect to receive some sort of transfer fee plus the wages and I really don’t see many teams stepping up that he would want to play for at this point. Secondly, he actually has a few moments of goodplay here and there. He should no longer be a #1 striker but he’s not an awful #2 and is a decent #3. Yes I realize that most #2 and #3 strikers don’t cost as much as he does but seeing how we’re likely stuck with a majority of his wages we might as well make use of them.
Romeu – Romeu did not enjoy much playing time under RDM but was starting to get some more minutes under Benitez before going down with a knee injury. Romeu has been hampered by a lack of minutes and injury and may be in danger of having his development stalled but I think we can give him enough minutes next season for it to make sense to keep him on the roster (8 roster spots left, 4 non-homegrown roster spots).
Ake – I had a discussion with several people in St. Louis who believe that Ake will be better than Chalobah (I do not share this view) so we’re definitely dealing with a talented player here. That said, he only received five first team appearances this past season. I know he has stated that he would like to stay with the first team again next season but I think it would be much better for his development to be loaned to a Championship side and get regular minutes.
We had a lot of players on loan last season and I expect to have just as many in the coming season. I’m not going to go into detail on all of them and I’m only going to cover the players who I think would have a realistic chance of helping the first team next season. If I didn't list someone it is safe to assume I feel as if they need at least another season on loan.
Kenneth Omeruo – He was very impressive in the Africa Cup of Nations and there were whispers in January that he could be recalled but I’m not sure he’s quite ready for first team duty yet. I would like for him to go on a more aggressive loan with an eye of getting him ready to fight for minutes in 2014/2015.
Patrick van Aanholt – I must admit I’m in a bit of a quandary when it comes to what we should do with PvA. Both him and Bertrand need to continue to receive minutes to keep their development going, I just don’t see there being enough backup minutes for both of them to be on the squad next season. With Cole still around therefore he’s probably the odd man out to be loaned but I would like
Gael Kakuta – He really started to come around this past season but looking at our current attacking depth and what is in the pipeline I really don’t see him having a long-term future at Chelsea. I’m not sure how much he would sell for but if someone offered up £2M for him I would be happy.
Jhon Pirez – I really feel like he could be the key to our club next season. His speed, vision, and scoring ability are second to none. Actually all of that is a lie, I just wanted to see if you were still paying attention.
Matej Delac – Started to get some games this season and from all reports it seemed like he did pretty well. That said I would rather see him get some more regular playing time then let him sit on the bench as a #2 or #3 keeper so we’ll send him back out on loan.
Lucas Piazon – Piazon played more for Malaga last season then I figured he would and if they sell Isco during the summer I think that would be a good spot for him to go back to and earn regular minutes.
Nathaniel Chalobah – Ok, now we’re starting to get into some potential impact players for next season. Chalobah was wonderful this past season and earned himself the England Youth Player of the Year. I really believe he could come in to the squad next season and not look out of place but at the same time I would prefer him to be able to get regular minutes. It’s a shame Watford didn’t get promoted as I would love him to be under Zola again but I think he’s ready for a PL loan.
Josh McEachran – McEachran started off the season extremely well for Middlesbrough but seemed to tail off at the end. I think another season on loan with a PL side that he’ll get playing time for will keep his development going nicely.
Michael Essien – The Bison of old is likely never coming back but he was still a useful squad player for Madrid last season. He’ll give us some much needed midfield depth and can provide some cover at RB as well, and besides I don’t want to take him away from his Daddy if I don’t have to (8 roster spots left, 4 non-homegrown roster spots).
Thibaut Courtois – Enjoy your last season in Madrid, we’ll be seeing you in blue (well not blue exactly but whatever hideous keeper outfit we have) next year.
Kevin de Bruyne – He is unquestionably ready to play for Chelsea this season, the question is minutes. And no, he cannot play the pivot yet (and any potential there is years down the line) so we have to look at how he would fit in with our attacking band and the answer is quite easily. At the moment he would be the 4th option in that band (replacing Moses) and can interchange with all along there. Recent reports have him staying at Chelsea this season which is a move I fully support. (7 roster spots left, 3 non-homegrown roster spots).
Romelu Lukaku – I’m not sure I can be rational about this. On one hand I recognize that he does have some more development to do and that he realizes this as well. To continue that development he needs to get regular minutes and there are questions whether or not he can get those minutes at Chelsea next season. On the other hand, among our current roster he’s probably the best striker we have. Even if you don’t think he’s a head (maybe not shoulders yet) above Torres and Ba just wait and see how good he is with another half season of steady playing time.
With Falcao and Lewandowski likely off the table at this point, Cavani is the only striker out there that I believe could come in and be the clear cut #1 (probably Mario Gomez as well but I’m not the biggest fan of his). However I’m really hesitant about spending that much money again in an FFP world (even if I do have it in the budget) and carry both his and Torres’ wages. I would offer up to £40M + Torres but I don’t expect Napoli to accept that. (U21; 7 roster spots left, 3 non-homegrown roster spots).
So now all of that is sorted out, let’s look at our player grid again and see where we are at.
Keeper: Petr Cech
Defense: Cesar Azpilicueta, Branislav Ivanovic, John Terry, David Luiz, Gary Cahill, Ashley Cole, Ryan Bertrand
Midfielders: John Obi Mikel, Ramires, Frank Lampard, Michael Essien, Oriol Romeu
Attacking Midfielders: Juan Mata, Eden Hazard, Oscar, Victor Moses, Kevin de Brunye
Strikers: Romelu Lukaku, Demba Ba, Fernando Torres
A few things jump out at this point. The first is that we obviously need a couple backup keepers in there. The second is that we could use some depth and youth in our central defense. I’m hoping Terry can use the summer to get fully back to fitness but we can’t deny the fact that he is starting to decline and did miss a large part of the season due to injuries. Our midfield depth looks pretty good but Lampard and (especially) Essien are more rotational players at this point and Romeu is coming back from knee surgery. We definitely need to bring in an additional midfielder here. Our attacking players look pretty good with the addition of de Brunye and without a Marin we should have a good five man rotation. Since we’re keeping Lukaku our strike force should be fine for now.
Backup keepers aren’t something I that I am really knowledgeable about. I do know I want someone who is considered to be homegrown by the FA as I think it’s ridiculous to waste an international spot on a backup keeper (so no Julio Cesar or Mark Schwarzer even though I doubt he would come anyways as he’ll want starter minutes). Even though Cech is pretty durable and even though if he suffers a major injury we’re likely going to recall Courtois at the earliest possible date I still want someone who is competent. Pickings seem to be slim for backup keepers on expired contracts and I can’t imagine any good young keepers (i.e. Asmir Begovic) would want to come to be a backup. So to wrap this stupid long paragraph up our backup keeper will be:
Ross Turnbull (£5M)
Eh…why not. I considered Robert Green for no good reason but he’ll likely be the first choice next year for QPR and I’m not sure why he would trade guaranteed playing time to 3-4 matches a season. Really all we are doing here is praying that Cech doesn’t get hurt during a period we can’t bring back Courtois. Besides, Turnbull has a cute son and so that should count for something. For the third backup position we’re going to give Jamal Blackman a chance there (6 roster spots left, 3 non-homegrown roster spots)
Benat Extebarria (£17M)
Before we exercised Benat’s buyout, we did put in a £30M bid of Luka Modric which was turned down so I’m turning to the next best thing. Our recent purchases tend to be a little younger than what Benat is (26) but he is still young and likely entering his peak so I believe he'll be great value over the life of his contract. What Benat offers that is sorely lacking in our midfield is passing ability. Lampard is able to pull out some great passes on occasion but beyond him the passing ability of our midfield is not the greatest (and no, Luiz is not a midfielder and Oscar and KDB are not ready for deeper roles yet). Reports seem to indicate that he is decent enough defensively to be able to handle the pivot in a 4-2-3-1 without any issue. I know some have said that his form dropped in the second half of the season but the quality is there and the price is very reasonable (5 roster spots left, 2 non-homegrown roster spots).
Besides, he can make Torres score with minimal effort, imagine what he could do with Lukaku.
This purchase came down to three players; Marquinhos, Eliaquim Mangala, and Kyriakos Papadopoulos (they are listed in order of preference). We did check in on Varane but they laughed about as hard as we did when they called us about Mata. There are, however, real issues with purchasing any of those three. The rumors are that both Chelsea and Barcelona both lodged £25M bids in January for Marquinhos that were rejected. The question is there will Roma sell at all and how much it would cost. As for Mangala, Porto are always difficult to deal with and now they are flush in cash with the sales of Rodriguez and Moutinho so they do not have a need to sell unless someone is overpaying. Papadopoulos seems to be the most available but the fact that a highly touted young defensive player is considered available at a decent price makes me raise my eyebrows (plus he is coming off a knee injury that kept him out for most of the season. So without further ado, we’re going to buy:
Since we’re not meeting Cavani’s buyout then I’m throwing more money than I normally would to get the best available player. At this price and without European football next season, I put Roma in a situation where they have to reluctantly accept. He has all the talent in the world and once he finishes filling out physically he is going to be a beast. (U21; 5 roster spots left, 2 non-homegrown roster spots).
Aaaaand…I’m done (kinda). I know it doesn’t seem like just two players will take us over the top but I really like how this squad looks. It’s also important to remember that I’m expecting to receive large contributions from Lukaku and de Bruyne coming back from loan that negates the need of buying someone else for their positions.
Keepers: Petr Cech, Ross Turnbull, Jamal Blackman
Defenders: Cesar Azpilicueta, Branislav Ivanovic, John Terry, David Luiz, Gary Cahill, Ashley Cole, Ryan Bertrand, Marquinhos
Midfielders: John Obi Mikel, Ramires, Frank Lampard, Michael Essien, Oriol Romeu, Benat Extebarria
Attacking Midfielders: Juan Mata, Eden Hazard, Oscar, Victor Moses, Kevin de Brunye
Strikers: Romelu Lukaku, Demba Ba, Fernando Torres
I think improvement to our defense will be incremental but between Azpi, Luiz, and Marquinhos we would have a very nice foundation. Ivanoic is still very solid, Cahill is a good squad player, and while Terry has lost a step (he’s not JOHN TERRY anymore) he’s still solid. We’ll be phasing out the later three in the coming seasons but for now they can all give us significant contributions and I trust Mourinho to setup a proper rotation to get them the playing time they all deserve. Our left back situation for the future is still a question mark but this coming year we should still be fine.
Unlike this past season, next season we should actually have some midfield depth. Benat wouldn’t be a true heir to Lampard (and really that player probably doesn’t exist) but he should be able absorb most of Lampard’s minutes. I think with proper rest and rotation Lampard could have a solid year with limited minutes and Essien is a solid backup. We know what we’re getting with Ramires and Mikel and Romeu is still going to be the question mark coming back from injury. This still may be the weak point on the squad but with reinforcements coming right around the corner I’m not overly worried.
Our attacking midfield is going to be sick. Mata is already awesome, Hazard is already awesome and still has a lot of room to improve, and Oscar has awesome moments and just some incremental improvements (and/or just some rest) will make him awesome all the time. A de Brunye & Moses combo for backup is light years ahead of the Moses & Marin/Benayoun combo from this past season. And just think, these guys are only going to get better.
And as we all know, Lukaku is a beast and him behind Mazacar should have everyone in the EPL crapping themselves.
Seeing as I still have £43M left to spend, let’s spend it!
Luke Shaw (£10)
I think Bertrand is a solid backup for us but I’m not really sure he’ll be a long-term starter for us. I really haven’t seen PvA play to give a good comment about him but from what I have read he’s probably at the same level as Bertrand, maybe a little better. Therefore this takes us to Shaw. The obvious appeal is that Shaw is young, English, somewhat reasonably priced, has expressed interest in Chelsea, and pretty good at this moment. The question is how much he improves from pretty good. Right now he might be at the level of Bertrand, maybe a half of tick below. Give him another year or two of development and I think he’ll surpass where Bertrand will be which makes the outlay worth it. Buy him, send him back to Southampton on loan, and how ready he is next season.
Lazar Markovic (£10)
His name is Lazar for Zola’s-sake. The idea of a Lazar Hazard (or even a Hazard Lazar) attacking combo is just too cool not to want. I know recent reports have him going to Benfica but he’s not there yet so I’m still going to grab him if I can.
Marco van Ginkel (£10)
First of all he has another awesome name. Second of all I didn’t really know about him before Stephen’s post a couple weeks ago. Third of all, after some investigation…..me want, me want a lot. There isn’t a ton of video out there I could find on him but I did see this on a Dutch football site:
"van Ginkel is a prime example of a modern midfielder; pace, strength, and stamina. When bursting through the midfield, he has spatial awareness, great passing, precise and hard shot and a strong header to cause havoc to the enemy defensive line."
Yes please! Like Chalobah I think he could probably step on the team and play quite well next season but I think I would like to see him go on loan so he gets consistent game time and come back in full force during the 14/15 season.
I love the first goal in the video:
Total Spend: £87
I know the players I have picked are not the most imaginative and are basically the same names that we have all been discussing for awhile now. However I view them as probably the best available fits to what we are working on for this season and beyond. I really view this as our final season for the transition/rebuilding that was started two summers ago. Look at the key players that have been brought in since 2011; Luiz, Mata, Romeu, Courtois, Lukaku, de Bruyne, Hazard, Oscar, Azpi, and Moses. That is one excellent core that at this stage just needs tweaking rather than continued overhauling and that's what I tried to do here.
Hedonism means the pursuit or devotion to pleasure, especially pleasure to the senses. I called this WAGNHSSS the Hedinistic View not only as a play off my username but also in very short time this team is going to be very pleasurable to watch. I'll leave you with a couple looks at how the team may look in a couple years once the old guard has been phased out. It's hard to predict how players will continue developing and what injuries they may have to overcome but if everything goes like we all think and hope it will this is going to be a fun team.