Continuing our series breaking down the Chelsea roster (GK, LB, RB, CB, CF, RW) we're going to move on to the left wing today. Chelsea have played quite a few different systems this season for spells, but one thing all of them have had in common is attacking players on the left. The primary starter for us has been Florent Malouda, who turns 31 over the summer. Malouda has been with the club since 2007, and was one of the most important pieces of our run to the double last season. He's been less effective this season, however, although that's likely due at least in part to being run out for nearly every start at the age of 30. There is no doubt Malouda could still be a valuable asset to this team, but I'd expect to hear rumors that he's available for the right price.
Yuri Zhirkov is our primary backup to Malouda. Zhirkov will turn 28 this August, and is entering the final year of his contract with the club. Zhirkov has struggled to stay healthy in his time here, and largely due to that has struggled to break into the first team. He's also expressed some unhappiness with the lack of starts he gets at Chelsea. With the development of several young left sided players, I'd fully expect Zhirkov to be sold this summer. If Malouda is sold, however, I could see the club allowing Yuri to play out his contract and fight for a starting job.
Nicolas Anelka (32) played on the left for quite a few games last season. While he's featured mainly on the right hand side this season, it's worth remembering that he's probably more comfortable on the left than the right. Like Malouda and Zhirkov, his future with the team is probably somewhat up in the air after the season. His versatility is a valuable asset though, as he really does leave us free to explore any avenues that open up this summer.
Gael Kakuta is a wild card in this discussion. He's been used primarily as a left winger for the club so far, but has had very limited opportunities. I'm of the opinion that his best position will likely not be as a left wing, but I got much deeper into that in a separate post. He's one of the most talented players we've had come through the academy in years, and now that he's on loan to Fulham has a brilliant opportunity to impress. Mark Hughes hasn't been playing him much however, although it's unclear if he hasn't impressed in training or if Hughes is simply relying on his experienced players as the club tries to stay clear of the relegation zone. He was unable to be named to the squad against Chelsea and he was cup-tied for the FA Cup game, so that has been a factor as well. He just extended his contract with the club, so it appears he still figures into our future plans.
Milan Lalkovic is another interesting name to be watching in this discussion. He's probably not close to factoring into the discussion as anything other than depth at this point, but his improvement this season has certainly put him into the discussion. As a true speedster, he'll be able to provide the type of runs that will always cause problems on the flanks. He's a more traditional left wing than Kakuta, but he's still got an eye for goal. I'd expect him to be loaned out at some point next season to gain some experience against higher level competition.
Unfortunately, that is pretty much the extent of our depth on the left wing. We are well covered for the first team, and will be next year as well if we don't move any players. Our top depth is all likely in the last year or two of their Chelsea careers, however, so we'll likely be connected reliably with some left sided players. Neymar and De Bruyne are the first two names that come to mind when looking at potential targets. We were very close to signing Neymar last summer, and he's done nothing to dissuade us from targeting him this summer as well. He actually really appears to like London, and has made it clear he prefers a transfer to one of the world's top clubs. Unfortunately for us, I'd guess his fantastic form lately has probably greatly increased his price. While the De Bruyne signing turned out to be bogus, we've been scouting him for a while and he would certainly fit in with the club's recent moves. Look for both to be fairly heavily linked to the club this summer.
What are your feelings about the depth here? Should we be content on the left this summer, or should we be targeting a left winger? Feel free to vote and have at it in the comments section.