Continuing our series of breaking down the Chelsea roster and youth ranks (GK, CB, LB, RB), today we'll focus on the center forwards. This is one of the deepest areas we currently have on the squad, but it's also one of the oldest. Between the glut of players capable of starting in the center and the lack of right sided support players, we've been facing a question of what formation to use. So far it's involved a less than impressive switch back to the 4-4-2, or playing a center forward out of position on the right wing of the 4-3-3. Whatever we decide to do formation wise going forward, We're likely going to see some changes to this area of our squad this summer.
Fernando Torres appears to be the one that will definitely be staying, as the combination of his cost, salary, recent purchase, and age would suggest he's going to be anchoring the position for the next several seasons at least. His form of late has been concerning, and with the amount of relegation threatened teams we face i the coming weeks I'd expect him to struggle to find the back of the net regularly given the liklihood that teams will be packing ten men behind the ball. Regardless of his form for the remainder of the season, I'd fully expect the offense to be reshaped this summer with Torres as the centerpiece.
There are two players sitting very squarely on the fringes of next year's squad...Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka. Both are now in their 30's, and both are likely to be facing reduced roles going forward. Drogba seems likely to depart this summer, as he and Torres seem to offer a very similar skillset. Still, Drogba has been a Chelsea favorite for years and watching him leave will hurt. We should still be able to get about 10 million pounds for Drogba, even at his advanced age. Anelka provides the ability to succeed in more of a supporting or wide role, and coupled with his recent extension I'd fully expect Anelka to survive the summer purge.
Salomon Kalou has been primarily a squad player for his time at Chelsea. He's in the prime of his career, and seems fine with his his role, so I'd fully expect us to retain Kalou as well. Like Anelka, Kalou has shown the ability to play as a support striker or wide man which should greatly benefit the squad going forward. It's also fairly nice to have a few players on the squad that are willing to accept a bench role, as they provide valuable cover without distraction. Kalou would be a regular starter on most teams in the world, we're lucky to have him. Still, I could see us parting with Kalou as a makeweight for another deal if we needed to include him.
Daniel Sturridge is currently the best hope for a future contributer at center forward we currently have. At 21, his best years are clearly ahead of him. He's been extremely impressive in his loan spell at Bolton so far, and looks like he could excell in either a support role of Torres or as fresh legs off the bench. He's also shown the ability to play on the right to some extent, so I'd fully expect him to be a regular part of the squad next year (likely at the expense of time for Anelka and Kalou). I'd think it's highly unlikely that he departs this summer unless we make a run at a top Premier League player and need Sturridge as a make weight. His English birth certainly increases his value here.
Under 21 Fabio Borini is out of contract with Chelsea in the summer, and all signs are pointing to his departure. He has enough ability to be worth watching, and he's the only natural center forward in the youth system who's made a name for himself (Milan Lalkovic will be included with the winger/support striker crop). He doesn't seem to have a chance to see much action here though, and he seems to feel that moving back to Italy will give him his best opportunity to see some regular action. I fully expect to see Borini depart this summer, likely for Parma.
I'd expect to see us linked more to support strikers and wingers this summer than center forwards given the recent purchase of Torres and the recent play of Sturridge. I'm sure you'll here us reliably linked to Romelu Lukaku, but I'm doubting whether we'd make a move for him given how poor a fit he'd likely be with Torres. I'd love to add him, but I think the focus this summer will be on right sided players. Please leave your thoughts on the squad depth at center forward in the comments section, and feel free to expand on what you think we should do going forward.