The inaugural season of the Chelsea revolution/evolution Villas-Boas promised when he arrived has not gone as smoothly as some had hoped. Currently tied for fourth place in the league and out of Champions League next season on goal differential has placed the manager on the hot seat.
For all the questioning of Villas-Boas’ tactics, he has stood fast by them and insists that some variation of a dynamic 4-3-3 will be his formation of choice. It is quite obvious that the current crop of stars will never be able to enact his vision, which brought him great success at Porto.
Here is a list of five big names that will be better fit for the system Villas-Boas imagines.
Like always, I speculate while keeping one foot in reality, so don’t expect to see Messi, Ronaldo, Hulk or any of the like here.
If you have been wondering why you have not heard the name of the Spanish international in quite some time, that’s because he has been sidelined with a broken leg since December.
In that time, Barcelona has managed to get by with the machine that is the Catalan club producing suitable replacements in Alexis Sanchez and Cesc Fabregas.
The once-star that led them to La Liga and Champions League titles in his first season is looking more and more like extra fat.
With an even larger sample size now to suggest that Torres will never live up to his billing, the intrigue of Villa comes back.
He is the exact kind of player Villas-Boas wants in his forward—a pure striker who makes himself available to run on to balls. Quick feet and impeccable timing had him as one of the most feared strikers when he was playing.
At age 30, he is not the ideal candidate to build a team around. At best, he only has around three to four years of top footballing left. But if had for the right price, he could be a perfect addition in a super-sub type role.
And there is no reason to think that price would be too high. As it is, Barcelona will need to let go of someone, and odds are they will not axe two players under the age of 25.
Furthermore, he will most likely now be deemed “injury-prone,” but a broken bone is nothing to be concerned out for the future. Once it heals, it heals. It is not like ligament damage or structural issues, which can arise again. His risk is the same as many others.
All of this could be negotiating chips that Chelsea could use to bring him in for a reasonable fee, probably one that would be close to matching Drogba’s, as he would probably be sacrificed for this to go through.
The much-maligned midfield of Chelsea has been under as much scrutiny as Villas-Boas.
Once-untouchable legends like Frank Lampard and Michael Essien are being thrown under the bus for inept play when in truth it is the manager’s responsibility to put them in a position where they can best use their talents.
This is something Villas-Boas has refused to do.
The way he wants his midfield to play is the exact way Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Luka Modric does.
The Croatian has the vision and profundity in his game to make the players around him better.
He eases and slows the pace by being very deliberate in his control of the ball and incisive when he delivers it into a threatening position.
The club went after him this summer in a highly publicized way, which had management at White Hart Lane calling foul and Roman Abramovich sending yachts to the Adriatic. But the price was too high for a deal to be done, as it was rumored to have reached £40 million.
However, with things not quite coming together in the middle of the pitch the way Villas-Boas had hoped, that price is starting to look a bit more reasonable.
Chelsea are in desperate need of a supplier of the ball who can play in this sort of system. You can pretty much track all issues Villas-Boas has had on and off the field to the middle third, which is not getting it done the way he would like.
This is by far the most unrealistic name that will be mentioned on this list. For a team that has been one of the top spenders in transfer windows and is already fearing Financial Fair Play litigation before it even begins, it is difficult to justify what will surely be the most expensive move all summer.
However, Modric has that rare ability to raise the game of the entire squad, making everyone’s value increase and potentially saving money in other positions.
Right now the biggest problem may not be the money—it could be prying him away from Manchester United. It was recently rumored that Modric had “turned his back on Chelsea” and was more interested in a move to Old Trafford.
If Chelsea are not able to secure a Champions League spot, there is probably nothing they could do to bring him west London, as both United and Spurs can offer similar money but have the European glory to go with it.
For fans who were wary about bringing in a 24-year-old Slovakian to bolster the attack, they were shown why a week ago, as Marek Hamsik was as impressive a player as any in Chelsea’s 3-1 defeat to Napoli.
Though Hemsik did not get on the score sheet, his 76-percent passing accuracy was best of the forward three, and with only one turnover, he is sure-footed with the ball.
Chelsea have been extremely lacking on the wings all season. Juan Mata has done a decent job on the left but is better in the middle, and Daniel Sturridge has been awful by a winger’s standard on the right. In this 4-3-3 system Villas-Boas wants to run, it wholly depends on wing play to create chances.
Hamsik has all the versatility and depth you would want in a wing player. According to whoscored.com, Hamsik’s strengths are exactly in line with the kind of winger Villas-Boas is looking for—fast, short passing and always running toward goal.
Chelsea were looking at the Slovakian, who can also play midfield, this past summer for an estimated £30 million. Money and optimism were almost definitely factors in not making a deal then.
By the time winter came around, things were more bleak at Stamford Bridge, and it was obvious they needed to make some moves. Naturally, Hamsik’s name popped up again, this time courtesy of his agent, who “encouraged” Chelsea to make a bid.
But it was too little reward for both sides, as Chelsea would not want to invest that much then in a cup-tied player and Napoli would basically be selling away their secrets to the enemy, as the two were scheduled to meet in the Champions League knockout round a month and a half later.
Come summer, things will not change much on the Chelsea flanks. They will still be in desperate need of a winger who can hold his own out wide. While Hamsik will be expensive, Chelsea does have the potential advantage of offering Hamsik Champions League play.
Napoli are currently five points out of Italy’s last Champions League spot, and considering their poor performance in Serie A this year, Chelsea have the better odds of making it than the Italians.
I find it interesting that this list and nearly every other one dedicated to Chelsea transfers is primarily concerned with how they can improve their attack, while the defense has been the worst we have ever seen in the Abramovich era.
The 31 goals they have conceded is only one and two less than they did in 2009-10 and 2010-11 seasons respectfully.
And it is already more than the entire amount for any other complete season in the last decade!
They need to do something to sure up that back line.
German defender Mats Hummels may be that answer. At only 23 years old, he is by far the most highly sought-after young defender in the world.
He is a tall, physical player whose qualities would transfer over well into the demanding environment of the Premier League. He also is technically gifted with the ball, more than the average centre-back. But what is most incredible about him is how he plays the game well beyond his years.
The centre-back position is one where mistakes directly lead to losses. While a forward can give up the ball 10 times in a game with no consequence, a defender does it once and it could mean all the difference. Hummels, even at so young of an age, plays with a confidence and disposition that we assume more from veterans like John Terry.
Chelsea has quality centre-backs now in Gary Cahill, Branislav Ivanovic and David Luiz. However, all have been known to be error-prone, where their skills don’t let them down, but their positioning or awareness does. With Hummels, this is not as much of an issue.
Chelsea was rumored to be interested in Hummels over a year ago for the tune of £8 million. It may be time they reopen that prospect, as he not only represents the kind of player Villas-Boas needs in the back, he is the kind of defender that young players want to be.
Vills-Boas has obviously favored youth over experience in his transfer moves thus far.
You could really only say Raul Meireles is the only player on the latter half of his career that he has brought to Stamford Bridge thus far.
Do not expect this to change in the summer.
The youth will continue to pour into the club as the aging veterans wane out and disperse among the league and around the rest of Europe.
But if there is one youth player he should really go after, it should be 18-year-old Manchester United wunderkind Paul Pogba.
The French teen is the total package. He can play nearly anywhere in the middle of the pitch, comfortable sitting just in front of the back line and skilled enough to carry the ball into the attack. He is physically gifted with size and speed and instinctually born to play this game.
While all the other players represent talent that can help the team as soon as they arrive, Pogba is going to be a star of the future. His value and price will surely rise, and if he is not snatched up now he could become too costly in the future.
He is rumoured to have already requested a fee on £3 million for his services, which is high for a teen, but reasonable given the expectations he has. Chelsea were linked to him in the winter window, but it was nothing more than speculation.
Villas-Boas would be smart to make it reality this summer, as Pogba is the exact type of midfielder he needs to command the centre of the pitch. Pogba and Ramires running all over the field together could create an awfully efficient tandem that would make it difficult for any team to move the ball around.
Some of the names listed above are merely speculated and unsubstantiated rumours created to generate revenue.
But don't all big-name transfers start like this in some fashion or another?
In all honesty, Chelsea will probably not be able to sign more than one of these players in the summer.
They are very expensive as is and may already be too far out of their price range, with teams holding it over desperate Villas-Boas.
But thinking realistically, what big-name signings do you think Villas-Boas should make this summer? Is Edinson Cavani's price tag justified by his skill? Should they bet the far on Hulk?
As always, make your comments below, and thanks for reading!
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