It seems a certainty that Jose Mourinho will be returning to Chelsea in the coming weeks. His arrival will be one met with extreme excitement and promise, starting with his activity in the coming transfer window.
Chelsea have pretty much been linked with every world-class attacking forward in the world in recent times, whether it be Radamel Falcao, Edinson Cavani, or even in recent times, Cristiano Ronaldo. Do the Blues really need another world-class forward? I would have to say probably not.
For starters, Chelsea have Ba and Torres at their disposal, now say what you like about their form, they can both score goals, and when they are not scoring they are both very capable of providing others.
Alongside this, Chelsea have Mata, Hazard, Oscar, Lampard, Ramires and Moses, who are all undeniably capable of scoring and assisting goals and have proved this on countless occasions this season.
Chelsea were only second to Manchester United in goals scored this season, yet people persist that an out-and-out goal-scorer would be the answer to all of their problems. This is not the case, and has never been.
Torres has been subject to a vast amount of abuse for his 'below par' performances, but these have never been Chelsea's problem. They score easily enough goals, and have a world class attacking-line, one that any team in the world would be envious of, and it's absolutely ludicrous to blame them for any shortcomings of the Chelsea team. Furthermore, they are only going to get better and better, as the majority of them are not even 25.
Chelsea must persist with the rotation of these players, particularly Oscar and Moses, who have not been consistent - but have both shown flashes of brilliance throughout the season. For this reason, I believe that Chelsea's focus this transfer window should not be on signing more attacking options, as it would be a misguided use of funds.
So where should the Europa League winners strengthen? Their defensive regiment. I am not saying at all that Chelsea do not have a vast array of defensive talent, because they do, I am saying it is not utilized to its maximum potential yet.
Firstly, they are carrying some baggage that they will need to get rid of if they want to be taken seriously as contenders, both domestically and in Europe. John Obi Mikel has been turning in consistently terrible performances since I can remember. He may be a solid tackler, but the amount of fouls he commits, passes he misplaces, and times he has given the ball away in dangerous areas makes him one of the worst Blues players in the squad currently.
It amazes me how someone so bad has held a spot during a line-up such as Chelsea's for so long, but I think Rafa Benitez started to notice it, with Mikel not featuring as regularly during his tenure as manager. Similarly to Mikel, Oriol Romeu has proved himself one of the most sluggish, uninterested Chelsea players I have ever witnessed. His lethargic playing style and general ineptitude is hard to watch at times, and being only 21, perhaps he should go on loan somewhere to improve, because at present he has not.
With David Luiz, Lampard, Ramires, and more recently Nathan Ake proving themselves in this position, Mikel and Romeu may find themselves surplus to requirements next season.
Speaking of which, Frank Lampard has operated more in the defensive-midfield slot this season, and has had an impressive year to say the least. But with him only signing a one year extension, and it being very unlikely that his form this season can continue for years to come, Chelsea must look for a replacement in this area of the field. Players like Paulinho and Fellaini would make excellent long term replacements for Lampard in this area. Like Lampard, Ashley Cole has only signed a one-year agreement, and is in his 30's. Cole is arguably the best left back in the world, and his presence is truly missed when he is not on the pitch for Chelsea. This is why a long term replacement must be found. That long term replacement is not Ryan Bertrand. Bertrand is 23, and will be 24 heading into next season, and so far, he has not even been a shadow of Ashley Cole. He is a decent left back, that much cannot be denied, but he isn't, and I doubt he will ever be worthy of a permanent starting position in the Chelsea line up, if his performances so far are anything to go by.
Southampton's Luke Shaw however appears to be a more fitting long term replacement for Cole. Being only 17, and a regular starter in a Premier League side is an impressive feat. Due to his young age and immense talent, he seems like the perfect signing.
Moving on to the role of centre-back. The Stamford Bridge outfit have David Luiz, Cahill, Terry and Ivanovic, all extremely capable in the centre back role. However, it is clear that Luiz excels and thrives in the central-defensive role, he has turned in a number of amazing performances there this season. So let's assume he gets that role permanently (which he should).
That leaves Cahill, Terry and Ivanovic. Cahill and Terry have not featured as much as I would have liked this season, clocking up 26 and 14 league appearances respectively. Terry's career has undoubtedly peaked, but he is still capable of putting in a world class performance when need be. However, Chelsea need to look for a world class replacement for him, as at 32, his time is running out. Cahill certainly looks as if he can replicate Terry's dominance as a centre-back, and Ivanovic has been one of Chelsea's only consistent perfoming defenders this season.
A Cahill/Ivanovic partnership would be no bad thing, but with Terry's decline imminent, Chelsea must look to secure another centre-back, for cover or the first team, as this could arguably make the defensive line unstoppable. There have been links in recent weeks to Sergio Ramos, and a player of his calibre would be an absolutely seismic addition to the Chelsea squad. But let's be honest, this appears unlikely.
In my opinion, Chelsea were foolish to miss out on the Brazilian centre-back Dede, who instead went to Cruzeiro. If they went to be taken seriously, another centre back will increase their defensive consistency no end. The only position in Chelsea's defense that doesn't need ramification is right back. Azpilicueta may have had a slow start to the season, but has undeniably made that position his own.
Brazilian youngster Wallace arrives at the club soon also, and will definitely be one to watch for the future. And if need be, Chelsea always have Ivanovic at their disposal to slip into right back - but this does exacerbate Chelsea's need for another centre-back, just in-case.
Petr Cech is, and has been for many years now, one of the best shot-stoppers in the world, and this season has been no exception. At the age of 31, it's hard to tell how long is left in Cech, but one would certainly hope at least a couple of seasons. It may seem controversial, but it is my belief that Thibaut Courtois is very nearly ready to be Chelsea's first-team keeper.
He has held the first-team keeping spot for two seasons running at Atletico Madrid, and demand for him is ever increasing. The Copa del Rey final saw a majestic performance from the young shot-stopper, and I believe Chelsea should do everything in their power to attain his long term services, and if that means using him over Cech, then so be it, if not this season, then definitely next. He is only 21, but he certainly appears to be the world next best keeper, looking miles ahead of the likes of De Gea.
So let's draw some conclusions here. I personally believe that Chelsea should focus their efforts on attaining another solid central-defensive-midfielder, a long term replacement at left-back, and one more centre-back, rather than just bolstering the attacking line.
Chelsea's most frustrating and important results this season have not been down to a lack of goals, it has been stupid defensive errors, that need to be corrected. 3-1 to West Ham, 3-2 to Newcastle, 2-2 against Reading, and 3-2 against Manchester United (besides the point that Chelsea finished the game with nine men, a club of Chelsea's stature should not be conceding within the first five minutes, against any opposition). Chelsea have had a ropey season due to defensive failures, not a shortage of goals, and I sincerely hope the next manager realises this. If Chelsea have to sign one attacking option this year I hope that it is Andre Schurrle, another young International. Finally, Chelsea must terminate the contracts likes of Benayoun and Malouda, who contribute nothing, but cost the club huge amounts in wages.
In conclusion, I don't think Chelsea will have to line up much different to last season in order to stake a claim for titles. I would have no qualms with the Chelsea starting XI looking like this next year, lining-up in a 4-2-3-1 formation:
GK: Thibaut Courtois
RB - Cesar Azpilicueta
CB - Gary Cahill
CB - Branislav Ivanovic
LB - Ashley Cole
CDM - David Luiz
CDM - Ramires
LAM - Eden Hazard
CAM - Juan Mata
RAM - Andre Schurrle
ST - Fernando Torres
So essentially, I think Chelsea have made enough attacking signings recently, and their policy from now on should be to bolster the defensive regiment, and have some stability as a club. They can do this in this transfer window, by getting rid of the unneeded baggage, and making three, at a push four informed signings. If this is the case, I strongly believe Chelsea will be a force to be reckoned with next season.
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