Constructing Chelsea's 2014 EPL Title-Winning Squad
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I often hear about how weak Chelsea's squad was going into the start of this season, and to a certain extent I both agree and disagree.
There was an obvious lack of options and heavy reliance on Fernando Torres up front, and the deadline-day exits of Michael Essien and Raul Meireles left them a man light in midfield. Yet everywhere else the pool was strong.
True, a decent backup goalkeeper is needed, but aside from that there is plenty of cover all across the defence and in the attacking midfield trio.
I've pretty much argued myself out of this one by confirming there was a shortage in two vital areas, and that paucity has undoubtedly cost the Blues this season.
Yet going into the start of the season, Chelsea's squad wasn't as weak as it is now. Imagine how things would have looked if Chelsea had kept Romelu Lukaku, Kevin De Bruyne and Michael Essien?
Certainly Lukaku would have been a great asset if not only in pushing Torres to do more, and his form for West Brom suggests he should never have been allowed to leave––especially without a replacement.
You can also echo those sentiments about De Bruyne, who has gone on to be one of the standout players in the Bundesliga for Werder Bremen.
Essien too has performed a function in around half of Real Madrid's games this season, so again the question needs to be asked about why he couldn't have performed a similar role at the club he is contracted too?
Now, if Lukaku and De Bruyne weren't already owned by Chelsea, you could guarantee there would be transfer gossip doing the rounds claiming Roman Abramovich is planning to spend big bucks to bring them to Stamford Bridge.
Even if Chelsea didn't buy or sell anyone else, and only brought those two back into the fold for next season, the squad would have multiple more options than it has now and would fare better across the whole calender in differing competitions.
But let's not fool ourselves here. That still wouldn't be good enough to have a concerted run at the Premier League and—hopefully—the Champions League, yet I still don't think that many new recruits need to be purchased.
You have to consider that the peripherals of a very good collective are already at the club, albeit scattered around various parts of the continent.
Lucas Piazon, Tomas Kalas, Kenneth Omeruo, Nathaniel Chalobah, Patrick van Aanholt and Josh McEachran—amongst others—are all plying their trade elsewhere whilst Islam Feruz and Nathan Ake are once again making great strides in the reserve and youth teams.
Any number of those could come back into the fray and add strength and depth without the club needing to spend a penny, so who should make way, who should come in and who do Chelsea need to purchase to add gloss and quality to this very capable group?
Immediately I would wave goodbye to Paulo Ferreira, Yossi Benayoun, Florent Malouda, Hilario, Ross Turnbull and Michael Essien––all of whom are out of contract over the summer.
Essien has done a job at Madrid, but I'm not sure his knees would hold up to the rigours of English football, and he will never be the same player he was. The rest are self explanatory.
You may not be able to command a fee for these players, but when you add up their combined salary over a season, the considerable savings can be put to offsetting the cost of only a couple of players to make a difference.
It's looking increasingly likely Thibaut Courtois will extend his stay at Atletico Madrid, so a new keeper will be required with Jamal Blackman holding the fort for third choice.
I would personally go back in for Jack Butland who ticks the boxes of young, cheap, available and able, with somebody like Asmir Begovic to be considered if a deal for Butland can't come off.
In defence the combination of Cesar Azpilicueta and Branislav Ivanovic have got the right-back berth sorted, as do Ashley Cole and Ryan Bertrand on the other side.
Centrally, David Luiz, John Terry and Gary Cahill have not particularly convinced in abundance, but a lack of midfield protection ahead has contributed. If that gets sorted then that trio can still do the business, with Kalas to come back to cover right-back and centre and Chalobah also being included.
Of the other loanees neither Van Aanholt or Jeffrey Bruma have particularly impressed at Vitesse Arnhem or Hamburg respectively and now maybe the time to cash in some of the tried and failed new generation with Gael Kakuta, Amin Affane, Ulises Davila and Milan Lalkovic also unlikely to make the grade.
In midfield, it's abundantly clear an enforcer is required to add strength and steel, and top of my shopping list would be Arturo Vidal.
The 25-year-old Chilean would not come cheap; my plan dictates the need for only three signings, so I would certainly stump up whatever is required.
The purchase may be difficult to initiate but the concept remains the same and the likes of Mario Suarez, Benat, Ignacio Camacho, Cheick Tiote and Lars or Sven Bender all offer similar qualities for less money.
Add Ramires and John Obi Mikel to the mix, give Frank Lampard a 12-month contract for various reasons, bring back McEachran, Oriol Romeu will return and Ake can step up and there you have seven candidates with a compliment of skills to fill either two or three central midfield spots.
The next few months are crucial for Mikel's future at the club and although I don't think he deserves the stick he gets from many Chelsea fans and neutrals, I would like to see him step up a level or otherwise be moved on.
In what area do Chelsea most need to strengthen?
The least of Chelsea's worries come a notch ahead of that with Juan Mata, Oscar, Victor Moses and Eden Hazard all a year older and wiser with Marko Marin still around, Lucas Piazon getting game time at Malaga and let us not forget Kevin De Bruyne.
In the striking positions it is indeed time to send Torres on his way, but Demba Ba and Lukaku are both better and supplementing those is a need for a second lavish outlay.
Chelsea must have somebody to provide constant and crucial goals to accumulate plenty of points in the way Robin van Persie and Luis Suarez do for their clubs, and although it appears Radamel Falcao is the owners priority, I would take Suarez's mobility and subtlety to partner Ba and Lukaku or link up alone with the craft of the midfield floaters.
On top of that I would project Feruz into the setup as the fourth-choice striker to be used whenever and wherever to complete a striking quartet with three plus Feruz vying for either one or two forward spots.
Now looking back, that seems a lot to take in but essentially it is only one sale and three signings with plenty more to be recouped in wages from the deadwood surplus to requirements. So let me break things down.
Turnbull, Hilario, Ferreira, Essien, Malouda, Benayoun (all free), Torres (sold)
Kalas, Chalobah, McEachran, Piazon, Lukaku (loan return), Ake and Feruz (promoted), Suarez, Vidal or alternatives (bought)
Therefore, the 23-man squad—excluding under-21s—would look like this and, in my opinion, would contain the right blend of youth and experience, first-teamers and squad members, quality and quantity to have the option of playing a number of different shapes and systems and compete all year in all competitions.
Petr Cech, Butland, Blackman
Azpilicueta, Ivanovic, Terry, Cahill, Luiz, Chalobah, Kalas, Cole, Bertrand
Ramires, Frank Lampard, McEachran, Mikel, Vidal, Romeu, Ake, Hazard, Mata, Marin, Oscar, Moses, Piazon
Ba, Lukaku, Suarez, Feruz
The signatures of Vidal and Suarez may not be viable, but players of a similar stature would be. Yet the point is, Chelsea do not need a plethora of summer signings to be able to challenge for the top titles.
The nucleus is there and so are the peripheral parts, and with some forward thinking and faith in the players they've set up a scouting system to find, the vast majority of Chelsea's squad for next season is already in place.
To me, this makes economic and footballing sense but what is your opinion? How many players and in which positions do Chelsea need to strengthen and which of the young players can come in to improve the current squad?
As always, post your comments below and lets get discussing the matter.
Also, get hold of me on Twitter @bainesyDiego10, for other assorted ramblings.
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