Yesterday we looked at the state of the Chelsea roster as far as goalkeepers were concerned (found here). Today, we're going to break down the current depth at the center of the defense. This has clearly been an area of concern for Chelsea this year, as highlighted by the recent purchase of Brazilian international David Luiz. Luiz is a world class center back, and should immediately step into the first team. At 23, he's likely capable of being an anchor of the Chelsea defense for the next 8-10 years, the next 5 1/2 of which he's now under contract for. His addition was a very welcome one for Chelsea.
Luiz will likely partner with John Terry regularly, as the 31 year old captain likely still has 1-2 seasons left as a first choice center back as well. He's been getting steadily more injury prone as he ages, so the backups are becoming more and more important. Alex appears to be the first choice backup when healthy (he's not right now), and at 28 should have a few seasons left as an effective player. Branislav Ivanovic is also a very capable backup, and at 26 he appears to be just reaching his prime. Either one of them provide reliable cover, and I'd be comfortable with either as a long term starter at the position.
After those four, the depth becomes a little less clear. Paulo Ferreira appears to be the current emergency plan (assuming Bruma is heading out on loan), but he seems to be just about done as far as usefulness is concerned. He was rumored to be offered to Benfica in the Luiz deal, and at 32 I'd guess he'll be leaving Chelsea in the summer window.
Jeffrey Bruma is a promising 6'1" 19 year old who the club is very high on. Prior to the season the club appeared to think he'd have a chance to become a first team regular this year. After very limited playing time, Bruma has shown that he needs more polish. He's likely to head out on loan very shortly to hopefully hone his skills with first team experience. As long as the Ivanovic contract situation goes well and we stay injury free, I'd expect Bruma to be loaned out again next season, hopefully within the premiership this time.
Michael Mancienne was the face of the Chelsea academy for quite a few years. He's currently on loan at Wolverhampton, and has been very respectable for them. At 6'0", Mancienne isn't noted as being great in the air. Largely because of this, he's been playing in the holding midfield role for Wolves quite a bit. Mancienne would fill a "homegrown" player spot and be a very serviceable squad player for the club, but I'd expect to see him sold this summer if we retain both Alex and Ivanovic. At 23, there appears little chance he'll ever develop into the player we had hoped, and he's got an opportunity to make himself a living as a regular at a smaller club.
Slobodan Rajkovic will be 22 tomorrow. He's currently out on loan at Vitesse in Holland, and has been very solid for them in his time there. He's 6'4" and very strong, but is still somewhat raw as a defender. He will not be a U21 next year if we decide to carry him, so carrying him will mean using a developed abroad slot on the roster. We aren't likely to have many of those available, Ferreira and Hilario seem the only imminent departures. Because of this, I'd expect to see him either used as a make weight in a purchase this summer or loaned to an English club next season.
On the youth front, this may be our most well stocked position. Nathaniel Chalobah will likely be a full time center back going forward, and has already dressed for the first team at the age of 15. He's got top shelf potential if he continues to develop. Danny Pappoe looks very promising, but is also extremely raw. Tomas Kalas and Nathan Ake are both promising youngsters that will be joining the youth ranks in the summer, and both are considered to have world class potential. All four of these players will rank among the most promising youngsters in England next season, so Chelsea seem well stocked with young options going forward.
If the current group stay healthy and Ivanovic officially resigns, it's unlikely that we see Chelsea linked to any center backs this summer (at least reliably). With the quality and numbers of youth we have, it seems likely that we'll be able to replace John Terry and Alex internally when they decide to hang them up (or are sold). This position went from one of questionable depth to a great strength with the Luiz signing in my opinion, let us know your thoughts on our depth in the comments section and by voting in the attached poll.