Manuel Pellegrini: Imagining a Chelsea Team in His Image

Joe Krishnan@joekrishnanContributor IFebruary 26, 2013

Manuel Pellegrini: Imagining a Chelsea Team in His Image

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    His spell at Real Madrid in 2009 may have been one to forget, but for Chilean tactician Manuel Pellegrini, a project to work on is something that truly motivates him as a coach.

    Going back to the glory days at Villarreal, where the likes of Juan Roman Riquelme and Nilmar used to strut their stuff, Pellegrini performed extremely well, approaching his job with a style similar to David Moyes at Everton.

    There wasn't a lot of funds available, yet he got absolutely everything out of the club, earning them European football to keep the club afloat. His departure to Real Madrid, however, was disastrous.

    Now at Malaga, who just like Villarreal are cash-strapped after an initial surge in spending, Pellegrini has had to deal with several high-profile departures, including Salomon Rondon, Santi Cazorla and most recently, Nacho Monreal. 

    Yet the Andalusian club still sit in fourth spot in La Liga despite their reliance on an extremely thin squad, and credit must go to Pellegrini for the way in which he has dealt with the squad. The arrivals of Javier Saviola, Roque Santa Cruz and Lucas Piazon have been inspired transfer dealings.

    And with the 59-year-old being heavily linked with a move to Stamford Bride to replace under-fire interim boss Rafa Benitez, could he assemble a team capable of challenging for honors once again?

    Let's have a look at how Chelsea would line up under the former Chile international.

    Spoiler alert: Could include potential new signings.

GK: Petr Cech

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    Into his ninth year at the club, Petr Cech has arguably been the best signing of the Roman Abramovich era.

    As a 22-year-old young Czech Republic international at French club Rennes, Chelsea saw his potential at Euro 2004 after a superb showing and shelled out £7 million to sign him.

    Even despite a career-threatening skull injury sustained from a challenge during Chelsea's clash with Reading, Cech has never let anything get in his way of becoming one of the world's best goalkeepers.

    The former Sparta Prague man only turned 30 last year, but with Ross Turnbull and Hilario not viewed as capable backup for Cech, the club have lined up Thibaut Courtois as the man to succeed Cech when he hangs up his gloves.

    But with his form never faltering, and his popularity and presence still vital at the West London club, Pellegrini would be a fool to oust him out from between the sticks.

DR: Cesar Azpilicueta

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    It's no surprise that Spain international Cesar Azpilicueta has quickly settled into life at Chelsea, with the 23-year-old defender already playing in his third country.

    The Pamplona-born man has adapted to the fast pace and physicality of the Premier League after joining from Marseille in the summer and has forced Branislav Ivanovic either into central defence or onto the bench.

    His pace allows him to advance forward, and his crossing has been impressive, delivering four assists in his 17 Premier League appearances. His defending has also been of a decent standard, providing assistance to the center halves in the shape of David Luiz and Gary Cahill.

    Perhaps he has a tendency to get caught out, but Pellegrini's careful approach to defending would certainly aid his development and allow him to challenge for a regular role in Spain's national team.

DC: David Luiz

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    He's improved vastly this year, showing his leadership in times of need at Chelsea and, more recently, his country Brazil. But is center back Luiz's best position?

    He played in midfield for Chelsea against Monterrey in the Club World Cup and was largely impressive, but his confidence in defence can sometimes cause his club more havoc than joy.

    His passing ability is terrific, and his technical ability means that playing from the back with his vision and execution is key to the Blues' success.

    Closing down opponents is Luiz's favored style of defending, sometimes leading him to be left caught out, but it pressures the defender and is another exhibition of his confidence in his own ability.

    As a result, he'd be a surefire candidate under Pellegrini to be a regular starter.

DC: John Terry

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    The last two years have been difficult for John Terry, but if we know anything about the former England captain, it's that it takes a lot to get under his skin.

    The Anton Ferdinand racial affair certainly affected him, while other off-pitch issues and injuries have halted his career slightly.

    There's no denying the influence of Terry at Chelsea; any doubters need to be reminded of the picture which showed Terry shouting instructions from the dugout after being taken off injured for Chelsea.

    Still the club's captain, he has struggled for form, but his performances from the back usually shape Chelsea's performance, and under Pellegrini, the Chilean would be foolish to remove him from the team.

DL: Ashley Cole

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    For all of his off-field demeanours, Ashley Cole is a vital player for Chelsea, and one that even the disciplinarian Pellegrini would struggle to remove from the first team.

    With Ryan Bertrand struggling to fill the gap that will be left by Cole when he retires, Chelsea were desperate enough to keep him by offering him just a one-year extension to his current deal.

    His attacking play, even at 31 years old, is phenomenal, and his stamina is unrivaled in the Premier League.

    His positioning has been criticized in recent months, but there's no questioning Cole's place on the teamsheet. 

    Even an attempt to bring Eliseu from Malaga would not dislodge Cole from his left back position.

MC: Ramires

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    The South American connection between Pellegrini and Ramires would play nicely into the hands of the former Cruzeiro midfielder. He does, however, need to improve his performances.

    He's a shadow of the player who scored a crucial Champions League semi-final goal against Barcelona at the Camp Nou and also in the FA Cup Final against Liverpool.

    His pace and energy in midfield is unquestionable, but his ability for a Brazilian footballer is not at the required standard.

    His performance against Manchester City provided much promise, but his discipline has been way below par, something perfectionist Pellegrini could manage well if he took the reins at Stamford Bridge.

MC: Arturo Vidal (Juventus)

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    It would be an ambitious move, but a transfer to Chelsea to link up with a fellow Chilean would be a temptation too great to pass up for Arturo Vidal.

    Even though he has experienced resounding success at Juventus since joining from Bayer Leverkusen last year, the 25-year-old is known to want to try a new league at some point, although a move to Spain seems more likely.

    Nevertheless, his power and pace give him the attributes to become a midfield general for any club he joins, and his physical presence, combined with natural passing ability, would surely enable him to become an asset for any club he joins.

    No doubt, if Frank Lampard leaves this summer, if Pellegrini joins, Vidal would be the man to replace him.

AML: Eden Hazard

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    Eden Hazard is ultimately the player who can take Chelsea to new heights, but it's clear he needs an experienced and wise man to guide him through the tough times. So who better than Manuel Pellegrini?

    The "Ballboygate" scandal is now long in the past, but it won't be forgotten. Hazard has shown at times why Chelsea paid £32 million for his signature, but even the Belgian will admit he goes missing far too often during matches.

    That being said, he is only 22. He will improve, and that is the frightening part. Already considered as one of the top 50 players in the world, the former Lille winger has scored seven goals while also creating seven for his teammates in just 25 appearances for the Blues.

    His creative influence, along with Juan Mata and Frank Lampard, should not be underestimated; he is the closest Chelsea will come to having another Joe Cole among their ranks. And someone like Pellegrini or even Jose Mourinho will know how to tame such a talented young player.

AMC: Juan Mata

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    He was named as Chelsea's player of the season in his debut year at the club, and there's a reason for that. Juan Mata is quite simply a joy to behold.

    What he lacks in physical strength and bravery he compensates for with some excellent creative play. Whether it's a goal or assist, Mata is a danger in the final third every time he sets out on the pitch.

    Since his £23 million move from Valencia in June 2011, he's scored 16 Premier League goals and had a hand in delivering 28 for his teammates, an impressive return for the 24-year-old who has been at Stamford Bridge for just 18 months.

    His performances have led to comparisons to Chelsea legend Gianfranco Zola, although he has some way to emulating Zola in terms of popularity at the West London club.

    He would certainly fit into Pellegrini's style of play, with the slick passing and taking an Isco-style role for Chelsea. The Chilean would be inclined to fit all of the play around the little magician. 

AMR: Alexis Sanchez

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    He may have struggled to make an impact at Barcelona, but Alexis Sanchez is a quality player without a doubt.

    The struggle for his signature before Barcelona snapped him up for a hefty £35 million displayed his appeal, with Juventus and Manchester City both missing out the on pacy winger.

    He made a good start to his career at the Camp Nou, forming a formidable partnership in attack with Lionel Messi and David Villa, but injuries have seen him fall down the pecking order behind fellow wingers Pedro and Cristian Tello.

    Sanchez, much like Chelsea striker Fernando Torres, is solely a confidence player; face him while he's in form, and you're bound to be left wanting. But right now, his confidence is at an all-time low, and the unsettled former Colo Colo man is said to be heading towards the exit.

    While a move to Liverpool was mooted in January, their signing of Philippe Coutinho from Inter Milan has seemingly cooled their interest. And if Pellegrini took charge at Chelsea, one of his targets would surely be a player he knows much about. A loan move could be on the cards should the Malaga manager join the Blues.

FC: Edinson Cavani (Napoli)

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    Fernando Torres? Demba Ba? Something tells me that Manuel Pellegrini would not be happy with just these two strikers at Stamford Bridge...

    With Romelu Lukaku set for another season out on loan to West Brom for the next campaign, it would leave Chelsea short of striking options. And who better to sign than one of Europe's most accurate marksman?

    Cavani has hit 17 Serie A goals this season for Napoli as they search for their first Scudetto since 1990, and without the Uruguayan, the task would be much more difficult.

    The 25-year-old has experienced problems living in Naples after his wife was mugged and has moved back to Uruguay reportedly until Cavani can secure a move away.

    That may be easier said than done, with the club's president Aurelio De Laurentiis slapping a £54 million price tag above his head

    Nevertheless, if Cavani is wanted by Pellegrini, Roman Abramovich is likely to give his man what he wants.