Chelsea FC: Predicting the Starting 11 for the 2012/2013 Season
Where will Chelsea be in a year's time?
Will Andre Villas-Boas completely change the side and the way they play?
Or will we see the "old guard" stay on and make the nickname "The Pensioners" more apt than ever?
Something is not quite right at the moment. This could be a transitional period, as AVB works his tactics and is sinking in to the Chelsea style of play.
What we do know is that something has to, and almost certainly will, change.
Players will be brought in, some will be shipped out, and we could even see a change of formation and shape in the team. I think that Chelsea may change to a 4-1-2-1-2 formation to get more use out of Mata's defence-splitting passes.
Here are some predictions as to how the Chelsea side may look in the 2012/1013 season.
GK: Petr Cech
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Chelsea's veteran No. 1 is part of the furniture at Stamford Bridge.
A lot has been said about his apparent dip in form, but the truth is he is still one of the best goalkeepers in the world. There are not many others I would prefer defending my team's goal, and I can't see Cech going anywhere soon.
The emergence of Thibaut Courtois will have an impact on Cech's position, as the Belgian 19-year-old has looked very impressive on loan at Atletico Madrid.
But whether he is ready to topple Cech is a different matter entirely.
RB: Branislav Ivanovic/Gregory Van Der Wiel
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The Chelsea defence has come under intense scrutiny recently. One position that has been a cause for particular concern has been right-back.
With David Luiz's injury and Alex's ban by Villas-Boas, Ivanovic has been called in to the centre-back position more frequently in recent games.
This has meant that Bosingwa and Ferreira have filled in at right-back, two players whose Chelsea careers look to be coming to an end.
With the imminent arrival of Gary Cahill, Ivanovic will almost certainly move back to the right, with him being more confident in his defensive duties than the Portuguese duo.
But he may not be in that position come next season.
Chelsea have been courting young Dutch sensation, Gregory Van Der Wiel, for a while now. Renowned across Europe for his attacking runs, he has also shown he can be solid in defence.
Well within Chelsea's price range, he looks to be a very likely signing.
CB: John Terry and Gary Cahill
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"Mr. Chelsea" has once again expressed his desire to retire as a Blue—a statement Chelsea fans will be glad to hear.
Terry has been criticised on his performances of late, but there's no doubt he is a vital part of Chelsea's squad.
A game changer and a leader, he will be in the Chelsea defence for some time yet.
With Alex set to leave the club in January, Chelsea are said to be swooping for Gary Cahill. The Bolton defender has looked impressive in his last few seasons and could be a perfect partner for Terry in the centre of defence.
If this partnership lives up to its potential, then it could provide Chelsea with some stability at the back.
LB: Ashley Cole/Ryan Bertrand
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Considered by many to be the best left-back on the planet, Ashley Cole is a class act.
But he appears to have become less effective this season, with his trademark attacking runs coming few and far between.
Still seemingly untouchable on the side, Cole's departure seems unlikely. But there is an up-and-coming talent snapping at his heels. That talent is Ryan Bertrand.
The young Englishman has looked like a young Ashley Cole at times in his reserve and first-team appearances.
He should be eased in to the first team over the next year, and we may see him becoming a regular in the starting 11 should he continue to improve.
CDM: Oriol Romeu/David Luiz
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Mikel's days are definitely numbered at Stamford Bridge. Oriol Romeu has blown him out of the water in his first season.
The young Spanish powerhouse has shown composure and passing ability, and he does not shy away from a tackle.
He appears to have made the position his own, but a certain big-haired Brazilian may be perfectly suited for this role.
David Luiz has looked shaky at times in defence, making rash decisions and silly tackles. But going forward he looks impressive, and he often plays like a sweeper.
We could see Luiz being used in defensive midfield to make use of his vision and ability to make runs that link defence to attack before the opposition can prepare.
CM: Michael Essien & Ramires
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It has been a long time since Essien has played for Chelsea, and his injury has kept him out of first-team action for the whole of the current season.
Fans are eagerly anticipating the end of January, when "The Bison" is set to return.
When fit, he is an immense presence in midfield. Super strong, technically gifted and blessed with bags of stamina, he has been integral in past seasons for Chelsea.
He should have no problem regaining his place in the side, should he play like we all know he can.
Almost a slimmed-down version of Essien, Ramires has shown vast improvement in his play this season. He is dangerous going forward and eager to go back and help in defence, and his energy is phenomenal.
With Lampard getting on in years, Ramires will be looking to cement his place on the side.
CAM: Juan Mata
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What an impact this man has made this year.
The player of the season so far, along with Daniel Sturridge, he has been a revelation since swapping his Valencia shirt for a blue one.
In the 4-1-2-1-2 formation I think Chelsea may adopt over the next year, Juan Mata will be the main creative spark on the side.
In a more central role just behind the strikers, he will be able to pull strings in midfield and create opportunities for the players in front of him.
FW: Daniel Sturridge and Hulk/Torres
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I am one of the people who believe that Fernando Torres will come good.
It has been unbelievably frustrating watching him in a Chelsea shirt, with him showing only small flashes of his best. But he is still Fernando Torres, and right now he is a man who needs confidence, a run of games and, most importantly, goals.
If he can get back to anywhere near his best, Chelsea will not want to sell their £50 million man.
Another big-money arrival that could happen is that of Hulk. Having already shown interest in reuniting with AVB, he would be a big hit in the Premier League.
With these two possibly fighting it out for a starting place, that leaves Sturridge to play alongside them.
In his first real run at a regular first-team place, he has repaid his manager's faith in him with an impressive season and goal return.
If he continues in this way, nobody will be forcing him out of this side.
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I couldn't decide on who would be the most regular starter in some positions, so this bench could include some of the players already mentioned.
Josh McEachran is possibly going on loan this transfer window, which will hopefully bring him more game time, leading to an improvement in his game. Upon his return I would expect him to be an important member of the squad, but not necessarily a starter.
Raul Meireles has been fairly impressive in his time at Chelsea, but I can't envisage him being a first-team regular in a year's time. I would think he would come on as an impact sub, using his passing ability to bring some important goals.
"The Next Drogba" hasn't quite lived up to the hype. Lukaku needs game time.
He is a talent and will certainly have a future at Chelsea, but he needs to go on loan, which is something he does not want to do. If he doesn't get some top-flight action soon, he may not be able to be a regular starter by next season.