What would I do if I was given £100 million this summer to strengthen the Chelsea squad?
Well first of all, I'm of the opinion that our youth products (Piazon, McEachran, Chalobah, etc.) are not quite ready for the big time just yet. They are close, maybe a season or two, but not quite there yet. Therefore I personally would send them all out on loan again & therefore won't be mentioning them in the following.
Keeper seems as good a position as any, to start with. Cech is a world class goalkeeper, so no need to replace him just yet; for this reason I'd send Courtois out on loan again. A slight issue arises in who will act as backup for Cech now that Hilario & Ross Turnbull have left as their contracts have expired. However, we do have a capable young keeper in Matej Delac. He has been constantly loaned to various clubs since we bought him in 2010 due to the fact that he does is from Croatia & does not have a work permit. However, as of the 1st of July Croatia is joining the EU so the need for a work permit will be negated & he will be free to feature for Chelsea. It is worth saying that Delac is not a premier league standard keeper but he is only meant to be acting as backup for Cech (& probably Courtois in a season or two). He is also young (20) so there is much room for development. The only thing that slightly put me off selecting him is that due to the constant loaning, he now won't be classified as a home-grown player which is a shame as we could use a couple of those for both the premier league & champions league. I have also selected Jamal Blackman as the third choice keeper, ironically, because he is a home-grown player.
Right-back is a position we currently have fairly well covered by Ivanovic & Azpilicueta, even with Ferreira leaving on a free this summer. However, Ivanovic is 30 in February & I was not entirely convinced by Azpilicueta this season. While he has good pace going forward down the right flank, defensively he has a tendency to be caught out of position & he also just can't compete in the air with a lot of players. For this reason I would start Ivanovic ahead of him at right back. I also believe right back is actually Ivanovic's best position, as he has a decent right foot for both crossing & the occasional long shot & he's no slouch & is very skilled at picking the right time to stay forward, in addition to all the defensive qualities that make him a good centre back. I would suggest a little more cover for the RB position and ideally someone that can play, much like Ivanovic, both centrally and at right back. I would suggest that David Luiz could be deployed as an emergency right back but realistically I think he is more suited to a defensive midfield role & can be more effective for us there. Instead I would suggest Roma centre back Marquinhos. He is a very highly rated young (19) central defender who is amazingly composed on the ball, has decent pace, incredible reading of the game for someone of his age, & can actually time tackles. The only things working against him are his height (only 5'9) and his club, Roma have apparently rejected a €20 million bid from Real Madrid for him; however I would suggest a £42.5 million double bid for Marquinhos & another Roma player, which I will get to later; may persuade Roma to sell. I am not sure whether Marquinhos would necessarily start but he would be very close & would provide great support, not to mention likely increase in value as he matures. Here's a quick look at Marquinhos, & I know that watching defenders' highlights can be a little misleading as you remove all the mistakes, but if you just focus on the way he reads the game & his general composure once he has the ball, those are more reflective of how he operates.
CLIP MARQUINHOS (Roma Channel) (via asroma)
Central defenders. This is a position where we sorely need reinforcements, John Terry is getting older & (even) slower, though can still organise a defence & deal with anything aerial like no-one else, just ensure he's paired with someone quick to cover his weaknesses. Gary Cahill has been average, at best for Chelsea but has not had the impact he or we initially hoped he would, & unfortunately he's not really quick enough to effectively work with Terry any more. As I previously mentioned I think Ivanovic works best out on the right & finally, David Luiz has effectively been moved into the defensive midfield role (finally). This leaves us with very little first team talent or general cover. To solve this problem I would suggest buying two players, one we are already being heavily linked to, Eliaquim Mangala; and the other is a bit of a long shot, Raphael Varane. Mangala first; he is very good in the air (being 6'2 helps I think), he is strong and could out-muscle most premier league opposition he is likely to come up against & compete with, if not neutralise, teams playing a target man, read West Ham & Stoke. He is also amazingly dexterous & surprisingly quick for a defender his size making him quite hard to turn and beat for the more technical players. Though for me the clinching factor is that Arsene Wenger was interested in him but failed to follow through. This means he will join the illustrious ranks of: Phil Jones, Joe Hart, Yaya Toure, Vincent Kompany, Juan Mata, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Didier Drogba & of course Cristiano Ronaldo. What more of a sign could you want that Mangala is destined for greatness? He does however possess the David Luiz gene; he thinks of himself as a bit of a centre forward & has a tendency to be at the wrong end of the pitch every now and then. Like Luiz he can also play in defensive midfield, and has been deployed at left back for Porto before. Unfortunately this brings us on to the real problem, Porto have a habit of asking for ridiculous amounts of money for relatively unproven players & I doubt this will have changed having sold Hulk to Zenit for €40 million last year and Rodriguez & Moutinho to Monaco for a combined £60 million (€70 million) already this summer. I reckon that a bid of around £21.5 million might be enough to tempt them to sell this still relatively unproven centre back though. As for Varane I won't bother talking too much about his qualities as he is a fairly well known player but essentially as far as I can tell he's a world class central defender who doesn't seem to have any obvious weakness and the composure to act as a base from which his team can launch attacks. The issue arises in persuading Madrid to sell him. My main hope is that while he was supposedly dividing the dressing room at Real Madrid, Mourinho had the sense to keep Varane on his side. A not unreasonable idea as he did become a first team regular, and probably Mourinho's first choice defender, during his spell there. Mourinho does have a habit of encouraging players to come with him to different clubs. I believe this (hopefully) good relationship, in addition to a bid of about £30 million could persuade Madrid to part with him. I was also pretty impressed by Jores Okore when we played Nordsjælland in the Champions League, obviously he wouldn't be a starter straight away, but he is young (20), a Chelsea fan (always good) & available for only about £4 million. So I'd buy him to act as backup in a year or two when Terry retires, and would probably send him out on loan until then. To make room for these guys & to help fund them I would sell Cahill & hope to get around £15 million for him. Cahill has just not been consistently good enough to justify keeping him, he's scored some very good goals & that is the major part of his game we will miss, but he just isn't up to scratch defensively and I reckon it is sensible to sell him now before his age (27) starts to affect the fee we could get for him too much. Also in this position I would sell Jeffrey Bruma, simply due to the fact he seems quite intent on making his loan move permanent, and he hasn't really progressed as much as many of us hoped. Around £4 million would be fair I would say.
Onto left back, the age old question, is Ryan Bertrand good enough to replace Ashley Cole? I'd say probably at left back. However, Cole's secret is that in addition to being an excellent left full back he is also a fantastic left wing back; probably the best in the world over the last 4 or 5 years. He has pretty much run the entire left side of our team for some time now, we often don't deploy anyone playing wide on the left in attack as Cole somehow seems to simultaneously be a constant threat in attacks & still get back to defend should we lose possession and a counter occur. For this reason I think we need more of a wing back than Bertrand. I would suggest Luke Shaw for about £10 million. This has several bonuses, we secure one of the hottest talents in English football, we stop any of the other big clubs acquiring him &, assuming we don't send him out on loan, he is young enough to become a club home grown player for the Champions League, meaning we may actually be able to submit a full squad for once in the near future.
Now defensive midfield. Having been wanting to see David Luiz played somewhere other than centre back for some time, along with a fair few others I think, I am pleased that finally he has been given the opportunity & is seemingly excelling at it. I mean he does sometimes miss a pass here and there but he is becoming quite well versed in the long passing department. There is also some good young talent backing him up. As well as the previously mentioned Marquinhos & Mangala, there is also Oriol Romeu. For this reason I would probably elect to sell both John Obi Mikel & Essien, for £21.5 million & £15 million respectively. I am not selling these players because I do not rate them, they just don't fit in with the current fluid style we are trying to play and they are simply surplus to requirement. Mikel is actually a very good player and this is why I believe that a transfer fee of around £21.5 million is actually very reasonable, especially with Galatasaray reportedly interested in him. Essien was a great player, one of the best central midfielders in the world a few years ago but he has been plagued by injury & is now 30, so time to sell in my opinion. There is currently a rumour circulating that David Luiz might be off to Barcelona, now I'm not sure how much truth there is to this rumour, but it did seem fairly serious at one point. So, just in case I've planned for if we are forced into selling David Luiz (if he requests a transfer or something similar). Firstly if we did let him leave it would be for a fairly substantial fee I would imagine, I'd guess about £38.5 million. For this money we could afford not to sell Mikel & to bring in Benat for his release clause of €20 million.
Central midfield is another key area where I feel we are somewhat lacking. Really, Lampard is the only CM we have of real quality. I consider Ramires more of a wide midfielder & Benayoun to be an alright squad player but no real loss when he leaves on a free this summer. Lampard is also now realistically too old to be playing every week with no backup. I think his ideal use would be as an impact substitute, much like Scholes & Giggs were used by United this season. As the main centre mid I would bring in Marco Verratti from PSG. I believe we might be able to get him for around €25 million or £21.5 million. There is much comparison to Andrea Pirlo in the media (though Verratti could never pull off that beard) & they do both play as deep-lying playmakers, allowing a more stable central playmaker for the more advanced attacking midfielders to play off of. They are also both quietly skilful & have an incredible determination not to lose the ball, in the rare cases they do they will immediately do their utmost to correct the situation. This is exactly the sort of player we need & I would consider him my number one target this summer. I would also recommend Marco van Ginkel for £8 million as a decent young backup in case either gets injured. He is more of the Lampard mould of midfielder, a box-to-box mid rather than a deep-lying playmaker, but should progress nicely over the next couple of years as he is only 20.
Onto the one place where we really don't need to improve is attacking midfield. We have a wealth of talent there in Mata, Oscar and, if you pull them in off the wing, Hazard & Victor Moses.
Wingers are not really used in the present Chelsea tactics; we generally go for a rotating trio of attacking midfielders instead. Though, as I said before, with Ashley Cole in the team we really don't have great need for a left winger at least. For this reason (& his undoubtedly ridiculous transfer fee) I wouldn't go for Gareth Bale, talented as he is. If we wanted though we do have in Eden Hazard & Victor Moses two very potent threats who can operate out wide. We also have Ramires admittedly more of a wide midfielder than a true winger. Ramires however I would probably look to sell, not because I believe he is a bad player, but because he is a type of player we will soon, hopefully, no longer need. He is a player who is incredibly hard-working & competitive. He will run the entire 90 minutes & be constantly looking for the ball & trying to help out. However, his ball control is questionable, his defending inconsistent, his passing & finishing erratic & his pace, while constant, is not remarkable. I believe that with the arrival of Mourinho who will hopefully re-invigorate our team as he always seems to. This will hopefully lead to most of our players constantly moving & having the same hunger Ramires plays with week in, week out. This could have the effect of leaving Ramires behind somewhat as he does not have the technicality or skills that many of our players possess. With all this being said his stamina & dedication is second-to-none. To be honest I'm really not sure what to make of Ramires (as you may have guessed). I will therefore suggest the following, if we can get a very decent fee for him I would be tempted to sell, something in the region of £25 million plus, we should sell him providing we can use that money to finance a move for Erik Lamela of Roma. He is the additional player I was suggesting in the earlier double deal with Marquinhos. I would suggest that a bid of £42.5 million (€50 million) would be enough to capture them both, attributing about £20 million of that to Marquinhos & the rest to Lamela. If it is not possible to get the money for Ramires or Lamela at this price then I would still advocate a £20 million bid on Marquinhos & just keep Ramires. Lamela though is definitely a talent worth pursuing, last season in Serie A he scored 15 goals, had 5 assists and created 56 chances in 33 games. These might not seem like amazing statistics, and they're not but they are decent, however I believe they may not be an accurate representation. Many people have compared Lamela to Messi (mainly due to the shared Argentinian nationality I presume) however I would argue that he is more of the Ronaldo model. Being of the Ronaldo model he looks his best in open space, running at, past & through defenders. However, he plays in Serie A; where the defensive unit is very compact & therefore hard to isolate, & also is probably the league with the deepest lines in football, therefore he can't necessarily exploit his full pace even if he does manage to breach it. I would recommend buying him & then allowing him out on loan to somewhere in La Liga to see what he can really do. Also ideally if we could encourage him to improve his right foot as I think a near ambidextrous winger would be incredibly valuable to us. It is obviously a very large risk, but one I think is worth taking. Talking of gambles I'd also say it's about time we parted with a failed one, Marko Marin, admittedly he hasn't been given much game time to showcase his talents, but he never really looked like doing much when he was on the pitch & he can hardly fall back on his stature & strength if his dribbling isn't succeeding. I'd suggest that since we got him for such a small fee that we could probably sell him on for roughly the same, around £8 million.
Almost there, I promise. There is currently one position that Chelsea have several possible candidates for, but no natural or obvious candidate for, the trequartista forward. Now I'm not actually sure what to call this position I've heard: trequartista, inside forward, false 9, second striker & I've even heard some argue for calling it a false 10. Whatever it is, I mean the Neymar position, I don't say Messi because he doesn't play with a striker in front of him. Anyway talking of Neymar I believe he would have been perfect to have filled this role for us. However, he has unfortunately opted for Barcelona over us, so fingers crossed we just dodged another Robinho. Anyway who to get instead... The trouble is there currently is no obvious, standout candidate. With that being said I do believe that there is a player who has shown many qualities that would be ideal for a trequartista forward, Isco. Now I realise I have just said the one place on the pitch we don't need reinforcements is in attacking midfield, but Isco just has so much potential & really has the qualities to play just that bit further forward. He has the skills, the movement, the confidence, the flair & the composure necessary. He can finish pretty tidily too & I reckon with a little sprint training could match most for acceleration & speed too. I think, with a little training, he could become Neymar 2.0; watching him I really do see flashes of the Brazilian from time to time. Here's a quick video to demonstrate what I mean.
ISCO | Goals, Skills, Assists | Màlaga | 2012/2013 (HD) (via ScoutNationHD)
I reckon he'd be available for around £21.5 million. Now I would also bring in some backup for both the main striker & Isco while he is learning his new position there are two players being very heavily linked with Chelsea at the moment who fit this bill. They are Steven Jovetic & Andre Schurrle. Personally I would sway in favour of Schurrle for several reasons. Firstly, there basically seems to be a consensus in the media that this deal is going to happen, and as I said at the start I'd prefer to be s accurate to reality as possible (within reason of course). Secondly, Jovetic is fairly injury prone having already missed the entire 2010-2011 season with a cruciate ligament tear. This type of thing is fairly likely to reoccur at some point. And finally the price, while there are arguments for and against each player, most rate them as pretty even maybe with Jovetic slightly above Schurrle. However, Schurrle should be available for around €20 million (£17 million), whereas Fiorentina are demanding £25 million for Jovetic. Frankly that's just not worth it especially as we probably be using him in more of a rotational role than a first team starter. I would also invest in Santos's ‘next Neymar' (well one of them) in Neilton. Apparently his release clause is only about £4.5 million & I think that would be good business. In case you haven't noticed I do have a bit of a man crush on Neymar & am really annoyed we lost him to Barca.
Finally, the big one... What to do regarding a striker? Demba first, frankly I just don't rate Demba Ba that highly. To be fair it was good business to secure him as his release clause of £7 million was well under his value I would suggest that realistically his value was closer to £17 million. If we can get this for him I'd recommend selling him as he hasn't really proven very effective and I am slightly weary or using him as a back due to his past injury record. As for Torres, unlike Ba I think he is actually still a very good striker. Obviously his record is not as impressive as it was at Liverpool, but that is I think due more to the difference in our tactics. We play much higher up the pitch than Liverpool used to and use a large number of attacking midfielders for this reason everything becomes more congested and there is less space behind the defensive line for Torres to exploit. I also reckon this is why Torres is better in Europe; we tend to play deeper and use more counter-attacking tactics. Anyway while Torres has been slowly becoming more effective at playing in tight spaces he is still really a striker who prefers to play on the shoulder of the last man with space to run into and I really can't see Chelsea returning to that style. For this reason, and the fact he's now 28 and seems to be losing a bit of pace, I'd sell him for about £21.5 million. So who to get to replace these two? Lukaku? Maybe but I am not sure he is quite up to standard just yet another year of polishing at a decent premier league team hopefully one that plays with tactics akin to ours. This is actually quite important as another reason I wouldn't have him right now is that he is not really used to our style of play. He has generally been used more in a counter attacking system than anything else at West Brom, so should probably go and get a bit experience playing with a little less space around him. So, another year or so on loan for him. Right then, what other options do we have? While arguments can be made for using no real striker akin to Barcelona; I would prefer to have some central figure up front that will stay relatively static compared to the midfielders. The secondary strikers we have brought in can be used as backup, but the main man has got to be (and I'm sorry for being a bit predictable here) Edinson Cavani. Despite dealing with Aurelio de Laurentiis being almost as painful an experience as dealing with Porto is; I reckon €50 million (£42.5 million) would be negotiable. This would get us what could be argued as the most balanced/rounded striker in world football. He is strong, good in the air, has fantastic awareness and can actually defend remarkably well. Oh yea, I almost forgot to mention, he is possibly the most lethal striker in the world. He scored 38 goals in 43 matches this season, in Italy! Not to mention the fact that he did this with tight marking and a deep line much like he will be faced with at Chelsea. Here's a quick video of the 29 goals he scored in Serie A last year.
Edinson Cavani | All Goals 2012/2013 | HD (via OmranRights)
As the eagle-eyed/keen mathematicians amongst you may have noticed there is £4 million left over, and while I don't have to use this, my slight OCD won't let me leave it so I'm going to suggest something a little unorthodox. As you may know we managed to acquire part of the rights of several Fluminense players as part of the Deco deal. I am proposing we buy £2 million worth of economic rights of both Adryan Taveres & Ademilson. This will hopefully give us some leverage in potential future deals should either of them become stars, something that I think is quite possible as having watched a bit of both, they both have fantastic movement, everything else is a little rough still but the movement amazed me, especially that of Taveres. Obviously we wouldn't be able to play them at Chelsea unless we bought out the rest of their rights due to the Premier League third party ownership rules. However, due to the same rule we could ensure they don't move to any of our potential rivals. I am not sure how practical this idea would be to implement but seeing how footballers in Brazil are seemingly traded like stocks & shares, I think it's certainly a possibility.
After that jumbled mess I thought I'd clean everything up a bit for you; so in summary, these are the transfers I'm making in order of preference:
M. Verratti (£21.5M)
R. Varane (£30M)
E. Cavani (£42.5M)
E. Mangala (£21.5M)
E. Lamela (£22.5M)
A. Schurrle (£17M)
L. Shaw (£10M)
M. van Ginkel (£8M)
J. Okore (£4M)
[£2M worth of rights for Adryan Taveres]
[£2M worth of rights for Ademilson]
F. Torres (£21.5M)
D. Ba (£17M)
M. Marin (£8M)
G. Cahill (15M)
J. Bruma (£4M)
M. Essien (£15M)
J. Obi Mikel (£21.5M)
Now with the team finally assembled I can give you a brief overview of the tactics. At the moment we are known as a counter-attacking team; I don't consider this accurate in reality though. Yes, against teams like Barcelona & actually in Europe in general (presumably due to it being a knockout competition) we do tend to sit back more & therefore counter a lot. However, for most of the season, in the league, we very rarely counter. We have been trying to play this more free-flowing, fluid football. While it worked very well at the start of the season, as the opposition presumably caught on to what we were doing and it became steadily more ineffective. For this reason I've tried to create a tactic that allows us to employ several types of football at once. Depending on opposition defensive setup we can focus on one particular part to hopefully exploit any weaknesses they may have.
Here is the basic setup.
Starting I would have...
Goalkeeper: Petr Cech
Right Full Back: Branislav Ivanovic
Right Centre Back: John Terry
Left (Ball-Playing) Centre Back: Raphael Varane
Left Wing Back: Ashley Cole
Central Defensive Midfield: David Luiz
Left Centre Midfield: Marco Verratti
Centre Attacking Midfield: Juan Mata
Right Winger: Eden Hazard
Left Trequartista Forward: Isco
Striker: Edinson Cavani
This layout I hope is flexible enough to allow us to incorporate different tactics. Normally, the combination of a deep-lying playmaker in Verratti & the advanced playmaker in Mata will hopefully be able to pass their way through their defence. A la Barcelona we could push the defensive line up & overwhelm the other team while still leaving enough space in certain areas of the pitch for our faster, more agile players to exploit. Here's a quick example.
Should the opposition try our tactics against Barcelona last year, playing very deep & narrow, then we should be able to use the wing backs/wingers to get behind them down the flanks & put balls into the congested box. Failing both of these tactics we can change Cavani's role to more of a target man & replace Verratti with Lampard, using him as a box-to-box midfielder who can make runs & play off Cavani in addition to our other attacking options.
As for the squad registration I have followed the 8 home grown players rule for the Premier League, I haven't bothered with all the U21 players as that just seems too complicated so here is who I would register as I don't think we'll really need anyone else. As for the champions league, like we have done every year since the home grown rule came in we'll have to exclude someone as there are only three club home grown players I have included. I would probably say Oriol Romeu as we have a fair bit of cover for CDM now.
Final Squad (25)
GK: Petr Cech
RB: Branislav Ivanovic
BPCB: Rafael Varane
CB: John Terry (Club HG)
LWB: Ashley Cole (HG)
CDM: David Luiz
LCM: Marco Verratti
CAM: Juan Mata
RWM: Eden Hazard
ST: Edinson Cavani
Luke Shaw (HG)
F. Lampard [rotating with Oscar] (HG)
Rest of Squad
Jamal Blackman (Club HG)
Ryan Bertrand (HG)
Victor Moses (HG)
M. Lalkovic (Club HG)
That's just about it, if you managed to get through all that congratulations & sorry for getting quite so carried away. Hope you enjoyed it.