With Chelsea's season taking a few turns for the worst, we can be forgiven for looking toward the future already. With a new manager and potentially some new players, it is interesting to think about what sort of lineup we might see in August.
As far as the formation goes, it is unlikely that we will see much of a change. The Blues' strength lies in their attacking midfield flair, and the combination of Juan Mata, Eden Hazard and Oscar thrives in a 4-2-3-1. This also allows for rotating in players such as Victor Moses and Marko Marin.
The back four are also likely to be composed of players that are currently at the club. Each manager has a different style, but a more defensively-minded manager might prefer Branislav Ivanovic to Cesar Azpilicueta in the right-back position, allowing John Terry to retake his place in the heart of the defense. Another option would be Ivanovic and Terry in central defense, with Azpilicueta keeping the spot on the right.
Chelsea will probably be looking to buy a new central defensive midfielder, but it would be interesting to let David Luiz explore that role further. As much as Frank Lampard deserves a new contract, that prospect is looking less and less likely by the day. Without Lampard, Chelsea will be looking for the experience of Terry and Ashley Cole.
The biggest question mark is the one that hangs over the forward position. Will Fernando Torres still be wearing a Chelsea shirt come August? Will Demba Ba squeeze himself into the starting lineup? Most importantly, will the club be prepared to spend big on a striker once again?
Torres might not be on the way out, but it is hard to see him keeping the starting role that he has enjoyed for much of this season. Demba Ba has been slightly hit and miss so far, but a starting role might benefit everyone. An expensive outlay on someone such as Radamel Falcao might not be a wise decision for the Blues, and he may not even agree to a move to Stamford Bridge. But should the Colombian transfer to Chelsea, he would fit right in the top spot.
The start of the 2013-2014 Premier League season may be five months away, but so much will happen between now and then that it could be a year. Some or all of these predictions could be wrong, but one thing that is for certain is that the most important change that Chelsea need to make is picking a good manager. And that will be the key to success for the Blues next year.