Now it looks like you have free rein to shape your squad, I've been thinking about how your remoulding will continue into next season? For what it's worth, here are my thoughts based on:
- having a league winning squad with minimum net outlay (due to FFP)
- offloading the obvious "surplus to requirements" loanees and bench-warmers
- using the money to fill the two gaping holes we have,
- bringing on some of the youngsters
So here goes...
Goalkeeper: this is decision time for you. Do you stick with the ever reliable Petr Cech (who will only be 32 at the start of next season) and risk losing Courtois who is good for another 12 years at the top? Maybe they could have a job share as first choice. Whatever happens you will have a solid keeper between the sticks, so this is one of the areas of least worry. Keep Mark Schwartzer as cover. Let Hilario go. You need to address the issue of why there are 4 keepers in a 26 man first team squad this year. It would take a bubonic plague epidemic in Cobham for Jamal Blackman to get a game so why is he there as fourth choice?
Left Back: Chelsea definitely got the best of the William Gallas/Ashley Cole exchange but I think after years of solid service you will let Crashley move on without the offer of an extension. The fact that you prefer Dave Azpilicueta even out of position speaks volumes. It's probably time for Ryan Bertrand to start calling the estate agents as well. You don't need a crystal ball to see a summer move for Luke Shaw and I think he'll come if he's guaranteed a shot at the starting line up. You can also bring back one of your multitude of left backs from loan as cover, maybe van Aanholt, or use Nathan Ake who you have currently training with the first team squad.
Centre Back: With Kurt Zouma being signed, the centre back pairing for next season looks like any two from Gary Cahill, John Terry and Zouma with cover from Tomas Kalas and Kenneth Omeruo. This means only disappointment for supporters of Sideshow Bob as you probably won't start him at defensive midfield either so I predict that David Luiz is on his way to Barca for a fat fee in the summer. You have shown that you are happy to dispense with a crowd pleaser if you think it's the right move. David...it's been fun.
Right back: With Branko Ivanovic doing a great impression of Robocop patrolling the right of defence and Dave Azpilicueta available as cover maybe you can promote Sam Hutchinson to close this one off, if his knees are ok. I see you have him back training with the first team.
Defensive midfield: If you persist with 4-2-3-1 then this position is any two from Ramires, Nemanja Matic, Frank Lampard, Marco van Ginkel and John Mikel Obi with at least three of these also able to play in a more attacking role. It's a shame but I don't think there is room for Josh McEachran. I think you should sell on Oriol Romeu, probably to Valencia if Barca don’t exercise their right to rebuy – which they won’t.
Attacking midfield: You have an embarrassment of riches in this position. With Oscar, Eden Hazard, Willian, Andre Schurrle and Mohamed Salah in place. Maybe you should give some first team experience to Lucas Piazon and Bertrand Traore, both of whom caught the eye in pre-season this year. Marko Marin and Victor Moses are surplus and should be moved out.
Striker: Just as it was all going so well, we come to your problem child. You obviously need to buy someone and have been linked with everyone. Who knows who you will end up with, but you have to buy. So, buy Mister X, keep Fernando Torres, bring back Romelu Lukaku and give Patrick Bamford some experience with the big boys.
There you have it. Next season's squad of 29 is:
Keeper: Cech, Courtois, Schwartzer
Defence: Azpilicuelta, Shaw, Ivanovic, Terry, Zouma, Cahill, Kalas, Omeruo, Hutchinson, Ake,
Defensive Midfield: Ramires, Matic, Lampard, van Ginkel, Mikel
Attacking midfield: Oscar, Hazard, Willian, Schurrle, Salah, Piazon, Traore
Striker: Mister X, Torres, Lukaku, Bamford
That's 25 plus a sprinkling of under 21s in the squad. Hopefully it passes the home-grown test.
This means a proper clean out, selling or releasing: Hilario, Blackman, Cole, Bertrand, Luiz, Romeu, Marin, Moses, Eto'o, Ba and with the money raised buying Luke Shaw and a striker and reducing the price of season tickets in the West Stand Lower.
These are my thoughts, but I'm sure there will be some feedback from the experts at WAGNH.
The West Stand Weasel