Chelsea: Players the Blues Desperately Desire for the Summer
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Everything about Chelsea appears uncertain right now. Will they qualify for the Champions League? Is Frank Lampard going to remain at Stamford Bridge beyond this season? Who will be the next permanent manager?
Indeed, they're questions very few people can answer, but one thing remains true, and that's that the club's rebuilding process will continue in earnest when the curtain falls on 2012/13.
Last summer saw the Blues bring in the likes of Eden Hazard, Oscar and Victor Moses as they looked to replace an aging squad with youthful talent and ambition. Rumours are abound as to who will be added to these names, but rather than regurgitate Chinese whispers linking the likes of Falcao and Edinson Cavani with Chelsea, Bleacher Report looks at five players who could make the Blues stronger for next year.
1. Romelu Lukaku
Lukaku joined the Blues in 2011 but has found first-team opportunities hard to come by.
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The shadow of Didier Drogba still looms large at Chelsea and while the Blues have added extra firepower to their attack with the signing of Demba Ba, the return of Romelu Lukaku in the summer from West Bromwich Albion will be a welcome addition.
The Belgian striker has grown in stature since joining the Baggies on loan, scoring nine goals in the Premier League and proving himself a fine player in the making.
Still only 19 years old, he would bring the Blues an added physical edge up front that has been noticeably absent at Chelsea this term. The Blues' attempts to evolve their style mean their reliance on a player with Lukaku's attributes is not as key as it once was, but the positive aspects of his presence cannot be denied.
Similar to his idol in Drogba, Lukaku enjoys imposing his physical prowess on defenders, but he has also demonstrated his ability to link up with teammates and bring others into play. The likes of Juan Mata and Eden Hazard would certainly appreciate playing alongside him and with more experience under his belt, he will prove a fine asset.
His return to Stamford Bridge will not see him become an instant first-choice player, but alongside Ba and Fernando Torres, should he remain in west London, Chelsea would have three formidable front men.
2. James McCarthy
James McCarthy would give Chelsea extra options in central midfield.
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Last summer saw Chelsea bring in talented flair players to add extra dynamism to the team, which they undoubtedly have. Now they need to address the growing concerns around the squad's ability to grind out results, something that was once a staple of their success.
Wigan midfielder James McCarthy brings a whole lot more than a physical approach, but that's not to suggest he wouldn't provide the Blues with added bite in midfield.
At 22, and yet to experience a taste of European football, the Irishman has a long way to go before he can be compared to some of Chelsea's great midfielders. That said, he has all the attributes to play a similar role to Claude Makelele, anchoring the midfield and releasing his more creative teammates.
Since joining Wigan from Scottish club Hamilton Academical in 2009, he has become integral at the DW Stadium. But with reports linking him with a move away (via Phillip Quinn, Daily Mail), now could be the time for the Blues to act.
Chelsea need to target players with a little more substance over style, and McCarthy could be the ideal recruit.
3. Cheick Tiote
Tiote has previously been linked with a move to Chelsea.
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Since his impressive debut season with Newcastle United in 2010/11, Cheick Tiote has been a man in demand for Premier League clubs.
As recently as December 2012, Chelsea were rumoured to be preparing a bid for the Ivorian midfielder (via Charles Perrin, The Express), and it's no wonder.
He has provided the Magpies with plenty of steel at the heart of midfield, resembling Michael Essien before two knee injuries curtailed his influence.
He is another player who would add more resilience in the middle for Chelsea and given how they have been overcome in midfield at times this season, he would be a wise signing.
Tiote is now a seasoned competitor in the Premier League and looks primed to make the step up to a club that can offer him a pursuit of major honours.
4. Victor Wanyama
Kenyan Wanyama is a man in demand at Celtic Park.
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Anybody who witnessed Celtic's historic 2-1 victory over Barcelona in the Champions League this term will testify to the talents of Victor Wanyama.
Against some of the world's finest midfielders, he not only held his own, but he stood out as one of the game's best players, casting his shadow over Xavi and Andres Iniesta.
His impact that night was considerable. He chased, he harried and even scored the opening goal to set the Scottish champions on their way.
But for Celtic fans who watch him every week, they were perplexed by the furore in the media following the game. They've been used to performances such as that since the Kenyan arrived from Belgian club Beerschot in 2011—we'd just arrived at the Wanyama party late.
In his defensive midfield role, he'd slot into Chelsea's system with ease. The only difficult part will be fighting off the rest of Europe's major clubs, who appear to be knocking on Celtic's door for his signature.
5. Mats Hummels
Borrussia Dortmund's Hummels continues to flourish with the German champions.
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With an embarrassment of riches in midfield, Chelsea have been unbalanced in defence and attack this season. Fernando Torres has been the only recognised striker for long spells while defensively, the Blues have also looked thin on the ground.
A starting back four of Branislav Ivanovic, David Luiz, John Terry and Ashley Cole is impressive enough, but with only Gary Cahill and Cesar Azpilicueta beyond that, Chelsea lack strength in depth.
Mats Hummels has enjoyed another impressive campaign with Borussia Dortmund, particularly catching the eye in the Champions League. With such experience and at a relatively youthful 24 years of age, the German would seem an ideal addition.
Terry's injury problems this season have served as a stark reminder that the Blues cannot rely upon him forever and that he will need to be replaced sooner rather than later.
Hummels has shown he has international pedigree and would bring something extra to a defence that was once the envy of Europe.