Summer's finally over and we have our Chelsea team in place for the first half of the 2011/12 season. Andre Villas-Boas has argued that the window should have closed weeks ago and he's probably right - the fact that Chelsea had to play two games without Juan Mata and three without Raul Meireles is more than a little bit weird (to say nothing of the squad overhauls elsewhere). Since we last looked at the squad, there've been several major imports and a couple of big exits. Below the jump is the senior squad I'd expect Chelsea to run with this year...
Homegrown players are marked in green (there are six), under-21s are in blue for those will be count as homegrown and red for those who will not.
Michael Essien makes the squad because Chelsea don't need to take him off it - there's nobody to replace him on the 17-man international list and on the off chance he comes back early, this way he can actually play before January*. It looks like that's a lot of forwards and relatively few midfielders, but there are a few Chelsea players who can play as both wide forwards and central midfielders, so that'll help ease the burden at least a little bit. There are still obviously too many forwards, though, but that's for another time - we'll get into position-specific breakdowns of the squad before too long.
*We're at the one in several million level at the point, but I'd take free lottery tickets if they were being offered.
Anyway, the Blues had a pretty busy summer, even if the squad's turnover wasn't quite what everyone was hoping for. Let's take a look at the ins and outs, In reverse order because I'm tricky that way.
Yuri Zhirkov (Anzhi Makhachkala; £13.2M), Slobodan Rajkovic (Hamburg; £2.0M), Michael Mancienne (Hamburg; £3.0M), Gokhan Tore (Hamburg; £1.0), Jacopo Sala (Hamburg; unknown), Jack Cork (Southhampton; £1.2M).
Chelsea lost one first teamer and a few useful players, although nobody here would have had a major impact on the Blues' hopes for a title this season. About the only player nobody was happy to see go was Slobodan Rajkovic, who headed to Hamburg after failing to secure a work permit. Had he stayed, we may well have seen Alex depart in his place. There've been several loans too - Steve's got you covered there.
Not on the list - Salomon Kalou, Nicolas Anelka, Florent Malouda, Paulo Ferreira, Jose Bosingwa, or basically anyone expect Zhirkov who was linked to the supposed grand Chelsea summer purge that was supposed to happen after Carlo Ancelotti was sacked.
Juan Mata (Valencia; £23.5M), Romelu Lukaku (Anderlecht; £20.0M*), Raul Merieles (Liverpool; £12.0M), Thibaut Courtois (Genk, £6.0M*), Oriol Romeu (Barcelona, £4.4M), Ulises Davila (Chivas de Guadalajara; £1.7M)
*Figures from TransferLeague.com - I don't necessarily think they're 100% correct, but did not use my own information for consistency's sake, instead merely marking ones that don't look right to me.
Chelsea have spent a lot of money in the summer window, but they've mostly done so on players who're here for the long haul (although both Courtois and Davila are out on loan). A spend of £32.1 on players who are under the age of 21 is pretty impressive, and at 23 years old Juan Mata isn't exactly old either. The only player who won't have significant re-sale value down the line is Raul Meireles, and nobody's contract is too high, either.
The net spend figures aren't necessarily reflective of the financial state of the club, but unfortunately they're all I have readily available. Chelsea spent a sum of nearly £50M in the summer, months after a £75M outlay on David Luiz and Fernando Torres in January. In the process, they've probably saved themselves some money by signing players to cheap contracts, but I'd expect going to see some major sales/releases in the next few windows to even everything out.
So, to sum up, we lost a constantly injured utility player, a possible 4th centre back, and a bunch of squad players, bringing in a good goalkeeping prospect, two pieces of midfield depth in Romeu and Meireles, one of the top young centre forwards in football, a brilliant left winger and whatever it is Ulises Davila turns out to be. Despite the lack of creativity, Chelsea managed tomake the team better for both this year and down the line without breaking the bank on any one player.
Oh, and I was nearly forgetting the most important part of all: Andre Villas-Boas. The new manager appears to be just the man to guide Chelsea out of the choppy seas of the win everything with the players you have era and towards a time where we actually try to build a new team. We've already seen his tactical skill, the players love him and he's been part of a management team making some pretty darn good transfers. What a fantastic pick up he's been.
Not everything is rosy. I am disappointed that the central creativity issue wasn't addressed, but at the prices the likes of Luka Modric and Javier Pastore went for, it's difficult to fault the Blues for going down a more economical path, so I'm alright with missing out on them. However, the only point of saving money is to spend it somewhere else later, and I hope that if the Blues still need help in the centre they're willing to bring in a top class distributor down the line.
All in all, though, it's been a pretty good summer. I'd happily give it a B+. What are y'all's thoughts?