Like any football supporter out there, I have my opinions as to the quality of certain players. Many of those opinions are deep-seated and held very strongly. However, over the past season, being involved in this community has helped to open my eyes to deeper understandings of squad play and certain expectations that I haven't shared in before. I rarely have changed my opinions, but I've come to recognize that I may see things very differently. I've already written a whole Fan Post on my personal Summer Shopping Spree, but by the time I finished, I didn't want to bother posting it. I realize that this sort of thing isn't my strength (much as it may be hard to admit at times).
Instead, in the spirit of democracy, I wanted to attempt to let majority rule govern the spree. I thought it would be cool if I tried to make a squad that represented the most widely-shared transfer ideas of our community. A Summer Shopping Spree that is not just mine, but ours.
I wanted to photoshop "SUMMER SHOPPING SPREE" over this, but it seemed like vandalism. - via cdn1.sbnation.com
With that in mind, I've read most of the WAGNHSSS posts, I've taken a look at the recently released Player Community Ratings for the season, I've read the comments on transfer rumors, and I've considered the sentimental value of certain players (John Terry and Petr Cech mostly). All of this work combined to see the total squad you'll find below:
Almost everyone at WAGNH agrees that Chelsea would be better served by switching to another formation, and the most popular choice for the switch was the holding/attacking 4-3-3.
So, the current squad (excluding those with expiring contracts and certain loanees) can be broken down into their likely positions within that system to assess depth and strengths. I've placed each into a category based on their strongest skill set and where the community would favor them appearing,* as well as starting with the preferred starter* for each position.
GK: Cech, Courtois
LB: Cole, Bertrand, Van Aanholt
LCB: Luiz, Terry, Bruma
RCB: Ivanovic, Cahill
RB: Azpilicueta, Kalas
Holding DM: Mikel, Romeu, Ake
Box-to-Box CM: Ramires, Chalobah
Playmaker CM: Oscar, De Bruyne, Lamps
RW: Mata, Moses, Hazard (Thor)
LW: Hazard (Paradise), Marin, Piazon
ST: Lukaku, Ba, Torres
*This was fairly tricky to assess, for a number of reasons. For example, De Bruyne could potentially fit in at the Box-to-Box or Winger roles as well, or Eden Hazard and Juan Mata could switch sides. Frank Lampard has both box-to-box tendencies and playmaker distribution talents, having receded deeper in recent seasons. Also up in the air is the starting striker, and opinions seem relatively split on that. Michael Essien isn't up here because he could probably play in 4-5 positions, but shouldn't be considered starting caliber.
"Umm... Y U NO INCLUDE ME?" - via img.thesun.co.uk
Sorry, Bison. You're simply indescribable (nice save, Wheaties). Now for the assessment of weaknesses.
(A) Probably 97% of us want to see Thibaut Courtois sent back on loan for another year, so we'll need a decent backup GK.
NEED: Backup GK
(B) Cole is solid, but much to my chagrin, few seem to think Ryan Bertrand will develop into Chelsea starter caliber over the next year. Rather than risk next year hinging on Van Aanholt continuing to take leaps and bounds forward, the community seems to lean towards an insurance policy of sorts.
NEED: Future LB
(C) Despite having 6 players (or more) available for the 2 DC positions, most in the community think we need an upgrade. I have to admit I agree with them. Who's the clear replacement and who might leave the club may need some considering, however. To be continued...
NEED: Replacement CB
(D) Right back really hasn't been covered in many posts, despite only having two pure candidates for the job. Tomas Kalas was almost universally sent back out on loan, so it seems as though the community is comfortable with Branislav Ivanovic covering the slot, because there was no mention of selling him and only 3 instances of bringing in a backup RB. That's interesting because he was terribly far down in the comm ratings. Although I haven't seen much thought given to the idea, he might be worth selling because he's clearly 3rd choice CB, 2nd choice RB, and he's a 29 year-old on fairly high wages. However, for the most part, the comm loves the Bear, so the Bear stays.
(E) In my mind, Mikel is a very solid player. However, here's a reminder of the community player ratings this season:
6 - Cole, 7 - Azpi, 8 - Ba, 9 - Cahill, 10 - Moses
11 - Lamps, 12 - Ramires, 13 - Terry, 14 - Mikel, 15 - Ivanovic
16 - Sturridge, 17 - Bertrand, 18 - Torres, 19 - Marin, 20 - Benayoun
"Everybody stay cool. I got this." - via static.guim.co.uk
As you can see, Mikel doesn't make the top XI by a rather far cry, with 3 other pivot players appearing ahead of him (if you count Luiz). I've seen several posts willing to sell him, and the backlash has been surprisingly minimal. In fact, many of the most rec'd posts thus far include selling him and/or finding a top player to replace him . For this post then, a replacement is a surety, and a sale is going to be contingent upon need for funds.
NEED: Upgrade at Holding Midfielder
(F) The midfield 5 of De Bruyne, Oscar, Ramires, Lamps, and Chalobah are generally well-liked (the only truly divisive character being Ramires), yet the complaints about our midfield this season and the fact that only Oscar falls within the top 10 in the ratings* has led to several cries for another addition to the midfield. So who has the community chosen for reinforcements? Marco Van Ginkel? Thiago Alcantara? Luka Modric? Marouane Fellaini? The answer is just a small scroll away.
NEED: Added strength in Box-to-Box/Playmaker roles
*Obviously, Kevin De Bruyne and Nathaniel Chalobah were N/A for those.
(G) Once Chelsea has to rely on true wingers, we do see some squad depth issues there. Maybe the club heads knew what they were doing when they began inquiring into Andre Schurrle after all...
NEED: Winger depth
(H) The striking department needs help, since both Ba and Torres had their share of struggles this season. Almost every WAGNHSSS included the sale of one of the two and the purchase of an additional striker.
NEED: Replacement ST
To help us make our final transfer decisions in the most democratic way, I've tallied up the most popular choices for the given positions based on transfers in the WAGNHSSS posts. Here in relatively legible form are the totals, with any player who appeared less than three times not mentioned, and a few honorable mentions.* I've broken it down by position with the exception of the central midfielders, whom I didn't want to corner into any particular role if they were suited to several. I'll address each weakness, assuming that we have to address all of them.
*Honorable mentions were unpopular transfer picks that appeared to be good values which aided the squad in an area of need.
Transfer Popularity Indexes
First off, we need to settle on a #2 goalkeeper. I was worried that Asmir Begovic would sit on top the charts, because I'm certain he wouldn't choose to ride the bench at CFC as opposed to playing at any one of the number of prem clubs that will be in for him. Fortunately, the community favored another option:
Good old Robbie Green. Personally, it seems odd to trade a 28 year-old Englishman with a reputation for the occasional flub for a 33 year-old Englishman with a reputation for the occasional flub, but he was the go-to guy, and would be easy enough to acquire. The sale ought to go through for £1.5 million. Honorable mention goes to Andy Lonergan, who would be a bargain at £500,000.
Addition to the Squad: Rob Green
Transfer Funds Spent: £1.5 million
And just like that, one down. Several more to go though. Left back support was needed, and 28 of you made Luke Shaw a priority. In fact, the only other option that received enough mentions to register was Fabio Coentrao with 5. That's not even worth putting up! Shaw's come in rated £10 million in the Sun and the Mirror, so we may end up paying as much as £12.5 million for the young stud.
"Hmm... wonder what Chelsea wages would be like?" - via www.dailyecho.co.uk
Addition to the Squad: Luke Shaw
Transfer Funds Spent: £12.5 million
Total Spending: £14 million
Easy (D-)peezy lemon squeezy so far. Now, the tougher task of finding David Luiz a world class partner in defense. The posts had lots to say about this and the "votes" were pretty evenly split.
As you can see, three contenders battle it out for the top spot: Dortmund's Neven Subotic, Real Madrid's Raphael Varane, and Schalke's Kyriakos Papadopoulos. Which one of these is not like the others? Dortmund were UCL finalists this year and getting the funds for Gotze/Lewandowski will prevent any shenanigans from stealing away players they want to hold on to, loyal Subotic included. Real Madrid is made of money and the last thing they'll want to do is sell one of their brightest young stars to their recently departed and rather unpopular ex-manager. Barring a transfer request from the 19 year-old and a massive, MASSIVE bid from Chelsea, the talented young center back is going nowhere. That leaves Papa-doppa-ding-dong as the favorite. It may take quite a tempting offer though, as the Greek is under contract until 2016.
This big man is 21. - via www.madfootballer.com
Addition to the Squad: Kyriakos Papadopoulos
Transfer Funds Spent: £20 million
Total Spending: £34 million
Solid. That wraps up defense; on to the craziness that is the midfield. I've drawn up two categories: players that can play in the holding role, and those that cannot.
Well, seems like everyone has been salivating at the thought of getting "the next Xavi" on the cheap. Can't say I blame 'em; that seems like it would be the value of the decade. Considering his versatility, he could play the holding role or the playmaker. Ideally, we'd be able to grab an option for all three positions, so let's look at what that would take.
The cavalry is here. - via 3.bp.blogspot.com
Addition to the Squad: Thiago Alcantara
Transfer Funds Spent: £18 million
Total Spending: £52 million
Since the second-most popular midfield player among the WAGNHSSS posts is Marco Van Ginkel (due in part, no doubt, to the excellent write-up by WAGNH, which I would link here if I could find it). MVG can play as a box-to-box midfielder as well as a playmaker, and I've even seen comparisons of him with Chelsea hero Michael Ballack. Box-to-box seems like his best role, so we'll bring him in for that. The transfer figure has been rumored at £8 million and that sounds pretty reasonable for a young, bright, but relatively unproven talent. A good addition, but not a sure starter, which is more than okay considering KDB, Oscar, Ramires, and Thiago would all be fighting for a place in this midfield.
I see a bit of the Ballack resemblance physically. - via media.xzone.vn
Addition to the Squad: Marco Van Ginkel
Transfer Funds Spent: £8 million
Total Spending: £60 million
Taking a look at the table above, the next two midfielders in terms of popularity are Luka Modric and Lars Bender, both tied at 11 appearances. Modric is definitely a playmaker type and Lars a defensive holding midfielder in his most efficacious faculty. Modric will be uber expensive and will have to be secured from the presumably reticent Real Madrid. Bender looks much more likely to leave, and would be significantly more affordable. With that in mind, Thiago slides into the playmaker slot, and Bender replaces/reinforces John Obi Mikel in the holding midfield role.
His release clause is rumored to be in the £12-17 million range, which makes him a value signing if accurate. Rounding up the average of that range, he'd cost about half of what we'd likely have to pay for Modric, and certainly less than we'd be shelling out for Fellaini.
Remember the Champion's League? Lars does. - via www4.pictures.zimbio.com
Addition to the Squad: Lars Bender
Transfer Funds Spent: £15 million
Total Spending: £75 million
That does it for the midfield, and most excellently I should say. The middle band of three would have several talented players available, and many of them would be flexible enough to move into several different roles.
Now, with a quarter of our budget remaining, we must turn to our final two areas of weakness. The first of those to be addressed is the winger depth. Hazard and Mata were run into the ground by the end of the 12/13 campaign, and having additional backup would really help them maintain a consistently high quality of play. Almost every poster recognized this, and the desired acquisition was a landslide victor.
That's right; only three players registered enough tallies to make the list, and the overwhelming favorite was this summer's most likely arrival. Schurrle isn't my pick for a value signing with great potential, but it's an area of need, and the comm consensus was undeniable. The transfer fee seems to have been agreed, and the figure has repeatedly been cited at about £20 million.
"Surely you're not sick of puns with my name already?" - via cdn.bleacherreport.net
Addition to the Squad: Andre Schurrle
Transfer Funds Spent: £20 million
Total Spending: £95 million
Oh boy. So we've come to the signing that tends to make the biggest splash: the center forward. With just £5 million left in the war chest, we'll either have to squeak by with a low cost transfer, or we'll have to start selling players. Let's take a look at the popularity index.
Well, crap. The top two on the list are big money targets, and Yilmaz wouldn't exactly be a bargain buy coming off a great season with noveau rich Galatasary. If it were me, I'd look down the list to eager and able Wilfried Bony, who'd be certain to cost a fraction what of the high profile players would, but it's not me, it's us. So let's try and make it work.
Who are we willing to sell? The two most common sales have been Jeffrey Bruma and Marko Marin to Bundesliga clubs. Their combined fees will garner no more than £8 million, and even that might be generous. That leaves us with £13 million for a striker, and I can guarantee we'll need more for the likes of Cavani/Lewandowski. The next most likely to be sold was either Fernando Torres or Demba Ba, with Torres just edging Ba out by a couple posts. I don't know if giving up his global name/brand makes the most sense, and I can't see him being worth all that much more than Ba because of the wages he'll be on. Nevertheless, I'm committed to democracy, so the majority rule will see Fernando sent to Atletico Madrid to fill in for Falcao, whose enormous transfer gives them the money to bring in their hometown hero for a generous sum of £15 million (hilariously enough, this is £10 million less than Transfermarkt thinks he's worth). I guess I'm okay with that; Nando's never been true Blue and it's annoying to have so much of Chelsea talk revolve around him, his struggles, and his mentality. EDIT: Maybe Barcelona really want him, and that happens instead. Still, can't imagine we'd get more than £15 million for him.
This face makes this face way too often for me. - via static.guim.co.uk
So here we are with £28 million, and all of the popular sales made. If we are to acquire a spectacular talent like Cavani, it's going to take a sizable amount more than that. According to my post tally, at least 30 of you favor keeping Lukaku at the club next season rather than sending him on loan. Honestly, the most responsible thing to do is make the Higuain/Bony purchase, pocket the change, and look to make any final tweaks in the winter transfer window.
But in the spirit of silly season, let's explore the less responsible route. The other semi-sensible sales that featured more than once were the offloading of Gael Kakuta, Patrick Van Aanholt/Ryan Bertrand, and John Obi Mikel. I imagine Kakuta could fetch about £4 million, and most CFC fans wouldn't be too upset with the player who has one foot out the door. One of our 2nd place left backs would also be about £4 million. I'm a fan of Bertrand, but I think Van Aanholt has more upside. However, with Luke Shaw in the squad, it's probably a moot point, and if one wanted to, one could probably sell Bertie instead for just about the same fee.
"Now... our operation is small but there is a lot of potential for aggressive expansion. So, which of you fine gentlemen would like to join our team? Oh, there's only one spot open right now so we're gonna have (*breaks pool cue, leaves sharp end on floor*) TRY-OUTS... Make it fast." - via www.theshedend.com
So take your pick there, one gets sold and the other backs up Ash (I sold PVA because he was out more frequently in the posts: 3 times to Bertie's 2). Mikel could go for £18 million (Galatasaray, anyone?), since he had a decent season for Chelsea, and a great run in the African Cup of Nations. His Transfermarkt value is indeed set right at that amount. His personality would be sorely missed, but I think the additions of Alcantara/Bender and the return from loan/injury of Essien and Romeu will ensure that the loss of his play won't be deeply felt (hopefully not even noticed). That adds up to £54 million, which looks to be just enough to pry Cavani away from Napoli.
As painful as some sales might be, it'd be nice to see this guy celebrating for us rather than against us. - via static.guim.co.uk
Addition to the Squad: Edinson Cavani
Transfer Funds Spent: £54 million (equal to his reported release clause of €63 million)
Total Spending: £149 million
Net Spending: £100 million
Remaining Transfer Funds: £0 million (My, that worked out well.)
Finally, we've reached the end of all the ins and all the outs. Let's take a look at our final creation, shall we?
Rotation bench: Van Ginkel, Ba, Lamps, Romeu, Kiwomya, Blackman - via www.footballuser.com
Van Ginkel could go on loan, but I like the idea of having him, Lamps, and Essien for reinforcements if one of the moves doesn't work out well or Romeu decides to break again. Plus, recent reports indicate he wants playing time at his senior club. We'll see... If he goes on loan (EDIT: I've changed my mind; I think he should), maybe Bayer Leverkusen would be a good place for him, since they won't have Bender in their midfield or Schurrle on the wings and may be in need of a formation/style shift. Other options are
Courtois (Atl. Madrid)
Luke Shaw (Southampton)
T. Hazard (Vitesse)
Piazon (Valencia, assuming Feghouli is sold, or Sevilla, "replacing" Navas)
Kalas (Bayer Leverkusen, replacing Carvajal)
Chalobah (Everton, assuming Fellaini is sold)
McEachran (Aston Villa or Southhampton, make or break loan, player's choice)
Ake (Vitesse or Watford, player's choice)
Van Ginkel (Bayer Leverkusen, or Parma, who will be seeing several loanees return to parent clubs, player's choice)
So there you have the WAGNH favorite side. Without selling anyone who did well in the comm ratings and wasn't mentioned in the transfer posts, we've managed to bring in every desired player with a significant showing in the posts (with the noted and understandable exclusions of Modric, Subotic, and Varane). Obviously, the midfield three could be swapped around quite a bit, but I imagine a strongest XI would arise and become the regular starters. It's a very strong side with little to no weaknesses. I'd be very pleased to have it, but I think I'd prefer to keep Mikel in lieu of going all out for Cavani. A player can only be so good, and can only score so many goals, you know?
Anyways, it's almost one in the morning here in Chicago, so I'm going to sleep and hope that when I wake up, it's a brand Mou day. I hope you all enjoyed the read, and if you didn't, you only have yourselves to blame.
This stud's for you. - via www.futboltotal.com.mx
EDIT: I've made a few changes in terms of making transfer fees more realistic and updating rumored sums out there (Cavani in particular). I've also gotten some sleep and it is indeed a brand Mou day! Bring on Asia!