The word 'transition period' has been thrown around a lot over the last few years, only to be followed with a shortened period of 'interim', but it would look at the moment that it is third time lucky, after the so deemed 'failures' of AVB and RDM, and the highly documented regime of Rafa Benitez. Not known for developing prolonged periods of stability, it would appear that Jose Mourinho is jumping ship, and has been given the reigns to develop his own team over a prolonged period for the first time in the 'Abromovich Era'. Over the 2013-14 season we saw this begin to take shape, with the 'Little Horse' sustaining a hefty challenge on a number of fronts, only to fall at the final hurdles, highlighting the need for sustained development for the first time in over a decade at Chelsea. With the summer transfer window approaching, we can expect to see a number of changes over the summer, both with regards to new arrivals and inevitable departures. It is these issues that I will discuss over the course of this piece.
The Youth Team
A lot of fuss has been made over the youth system at Chelsea; so much that it may require another blog post in the future. What is certainly clear however is the abundance of young talent available; talent that we can expect to use, but inevitably waste (al la Josh McEachran). Nevertheless, the following players currently within the youth system I would expect may experience some attention this summer.
Lewis Baker – The star of the youth team this season, as Lucas Piazon was last year, and I would expect we will see a similar approach to his development. Whilst ideally I would keep him around the club and be used sparingly (I feel that he is that good to warrant a small role in the first team), I would expect him to be loaned out – preferably to a club in England, probably championship level.
Nathan Ake – Current under 21 captain, Ake has been hyped since he was signed in 2011, and has remained at the club since. Much like Baker, I would expect a loan this year for Ake. Again, he could play a role at the club, with the potential departures I will discuss later, but I forsee a trip to vitnesse for Nathan, at least until January.
Andreas Christensen – Has developed massively this year, and in my eyes is first name on the teamsheet for both the U18 and the U21 sides, deservedly so after his stalwart performences at both levels. Competition is fierce at the back for the first team, especially with the arrival of Zouma and the resurgence of Kalas, and so I again would expect a loan here, again probably Vitnesse, and perhaps depending on how well Kalas does next year, and whether JT can continue, we may see him play more of a role next year.
Other notable figures:
Ruben Loftus Cheek, John Swift, Jamal Blackman, Charly Musonda - I would expect all of these players to simply remain at Chelsea, depending on whether clubs come in for a loan opportunity. I would also expect Jamal to perhaps be pushed forward to have a more prominent first team plastic cone roll, similar to Hilario if he finally decides to move on, perhaps behind (we hope) Courtious and Cech.
The On Loan Army
The number of players we have on loan at the minute has again been well documented, and there is certainly a wealth of talent here. Mostly here I would expect another loan at a mediocre side for much of the talent, however there are a few players that may have the potential for something more.
Nathaniel Chalobah – Played excellently well for Watford last year, but has fallen off the place slightly at Middlesborough this year. Some have been calling for his return and an attempt at the first team, and whilst I would like this very much, I can’t see this happening. I can certainly see a lower level premier league side trying to pick him up though, there is certainly a lot of potential in this lad, and his age is certainly on his side.
Romelu Lukaku – Ah, the much debated big rom. In my eyes, although I don’t think he will ever be good enough to lead the line for us, I can’t see us moving him on, and would expect him to form part of our strike force.
Thibaut Courtious – We would all love him to come back and battle it out with Cech. And at this point, I am starting to think he will come back and be the first choice; his competition for the role though is more in doubt – we will get onto this later.
Kurt Zouma – Not seen much of this lad, but he certainly looks talented. I would expect another loan abroad.
To Be Sold: Romeu, Moses, Marin, Bertrand, Wallace, Atsu, Kakuta
Key players to remain on loan: McEachran (Is he really still a key player? I think this is more just be wanting him to make it, rather than him being good enough), Piazon, Traore, Omuero, T.Hazard, Pasalic
The First Team Squad
This is where we reach the main part of the puzzle. As I have mentioned above, as much as I would like us to, I don’t expect any of the youth to get a real shot this year. Infact, I see this year being a year where we spend near on 100 million, whilst getting rid of a lot of dead weight, and further developing our attempts at buying for the future.
Let’s start from the back shall we…
It has been coming, but I feel that it may finally be time for Cech to be replaced as first choice with Courtious. I feel at this point, Thibaut is the better keeper, and we’re simply keeping Cech in for the role he has played over the last decade. Don’t get me wrong, I love Big Pete, but to have the best young keeper in the world on loan is ridiculous, especially when trying to build for the future. Ideally, I would like to see Cech play as 2nd choice, helping to aide Courtious further, but I can’t see this happening. He is still a world class keeper, and I expect him to be sold for around £10 million. If this does occur, I would expect us to sign a second choice homegrown player to play as second choice, with Blackman fulfilling the role of third keeper from the plastic cone that is Hilario.
I feel that our right back and center back roles are perfectly balanced at the minute, with no real need to add any more to key areas. I would expect Ivanovic to get more of a role playing as a centre back, with Azpilicueta moving to the right. The left back position is one that has been debated, and I feel that most options that fans are suggesting are not realistic. Ashley Cole I fear is destined to leave, and whilst I would keep him, it is inevitably time to look to the future. Luke Shaw, everyones first choice is simply to expensive, and his transfer to united looks done. Suggestions of a Bertrand/Van Aanholt duo aren’t realistic either, and really I can’t see either of these players ever making it at Chelsea. In that case, we must look at other figures. Two names that are popping up are Moreno and Sandro, of Sevilla and Portro respectively. I haven’t seen either play, but have heard Moreno looks a very bright talent, and may be more achievable, perhaps with Marko Marin going the other way. Again, I don’t have much knowledge of either player, but If I had a choice, Moreno to me looks like a good choice (Besides, he’s Spanish – what could go wrong?!)
It is well documented that our defensive midfielders, mostly, aren’t defensive midfielders, and as a result this is a position that certainly needs some attention. In terms of outs, although I have rated him so much as a player, I fear that it may be time for Mikel to leave us. Never really a fan favourite, he has won everything he can and it may be time for him to move on. That leaves us with Ramires, Lampard, Matic, Marco Van Ginkel and David Luiz. I would personally expect one of Ramires and Luiz; whilst both are fantastic players, they simply don’t fit into our philosophy, and can certainly be cashed in on. Ideally, we also need to bring in a world class defensive midfielder to partner Matic, almost certainly the first name on the team sheet. Many names have been thrown around, but the target I would choose would be Javi Martinez. A post on here suggested he was unhappy, and if this is the case we should certainly pick him up. He is unquestionably one of the best players in the world at this role, and would be an excellent player to partner Matic. Other names could include Vidal and De Rossie, but I feel that Martinez is simply the best for what we need.
Attacking Midfield: This area will remain relatively untouched. We did our spending here last summer, and I would expect no transfer activity here, unless PSG come in with a ridiculous offer for either Hazard or Oscar
Striker: Here we have perhaps the most talked about area that lacks quality within the squad. I am going to keep this short and sweet; I can’t see us continuing next year with any of the current crop of strikers remaining at large. I expect Ba to be sold immiediately, and Eto’o will leave at the end of his contract. This leaves us with Torres. There has been talk of him moving to Inter or Athletico, but I cant see them being able to afford his wages, so until a team that has money comes forward we may be stuck. In terms of incomings, three names lead the line for me: Costa, Mandzukic and Lukaku. Ideally, this would be my front three, but I personally expect us to be able to recruit two of these figures. Obviously, Lukaku is already under contract, but I would certainly not be surprised if we decided to offload him in order to free up some money in the budget for one of the other targets. Personally, I see us keeping Lukaku, with torres also remaining as a third choice target. With this being the case, I would expect us to sign a top world beater to play as our first choice striker, and supposedely the deal is done. Only one target is available for the price we can afford and really I think it is inevitable: Diego Costa.
GOALKEEPERS: Courtois, (HG Second Choice), Blackman/Schwarzer
Right Back: Azpilicueta/Ivanovic
Center Back: Cahill/Terry/Ivanovic/Kalas
Left Back: Moreno/Azpilicueta
Defensive Midfield: Matic/Martinez/Ramires/Lampard/Van Ginkel
Attacking Midfield: Hazard/Oscar/Willian/Schurrle/Salah
Azpilicueta Terry Cahill Moreno
Willian Oscar Hazard
Sorry for the really long post, I got carried away. This is my first post on the site, and if this turns out to be popular, I will continue to post regularly.
TL:DR: We will buy world beaters, and sell average players.