Jose Mourinho faces a dilemma over his forward options this summer, as he mulls over potential incomings, outgoings and returns ahead of a new Premier League season.
While Diego Costa is the undisputed star man at Chelsea, the fact that Didier Drogba has appeared in more Premier League fixtures (25) this year (24) underlines the importance of having an effective backup to the injury-prone forward.
Loic Remy has scored goals when called upon, however he is not without his own injury problems; unfortunately for Chelsea, these have often occurred while Costa has been on the sidelines as well, leaving Drogba as the only fit centre forward.
It is unclear whether Chelsea will offer the 37-year-old another one-year extension this summer, or if Drogba even wants to put his body through another gruelling Premier League season.
Should he no longer be a Blues player next year, he will leave a complicated hole to fill: a third-choice striker under a manager who seldom wavers from playing with one, yet who may be required to shoulder the goalscoring burden of a title-winning side for long periods of the season.
The Blues continue to be linked with an array of striking talent, from Japanese starlet Muto to Manchester United flop Radamel Falcao; however, given the outlay on Costa and Remy last summer and the club’s desire to comply with Financial Fair Play restrictions, it seems unlikely that significant funds will be made available to bolster this area.
Mourinho will see his currently exhausted midfield as a more pressing area for improvement.
Chelsea have led the movement towards buying players early and then loaning them out to gain playing experience, much to the chagrin of other clubs. One such player, Patrick Bamford, has just won the Championship Player of the Year with Middlesbrough after scoring 17 goals during their campaign.
Despite fans’ eagerness to see the youngster given a chance, his odds of displacing Costa or Remy are slim, and a season of Capital One Cup appearances would hinder his development at a crucial age. If second-placed Middlesbrough are promoted, Mourinho may well loan him back to his friend Aitor Karanka and judge him in the Premier League before bringing him back.
Dominic Solanke and Tammy Abraham, fresh from winning the FA Youth Cup Final, are exciting prospects currently in the Chelsea setup, with Solanke coming off the bench in the Champions League and a frequent substitute in the Premier League.
However, for all Mourinho’s claims of prioritising youth and his responsibility to ensure their transition to the senior squad (and even the national team), he has been unwilling to place any responsibility on the likes of Solanke, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Nathan Ake this season.
If the Chelsea manager does go with a striker old or new in the summer, it will provide further evidence that this current crop may never make their mark on the senior squad.
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