"Dearest Roman. This January, I would like..."
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho said in September that he would not be doing any business in the January transfer window. He told Sky Sports that he was happy with his squad, however, recent events may have caused him to have a change of heart.
The Blues have dropped to fourth in the Premier League, four points off leaders Arsenal. Although they are in a far stronger position than this time last year, some insipid team performances have led to questions about a few key players and positions.
Let’s take a look at the areas that Chelsea need to strengthen, and the players who could help them do this.
Mourinho has stuck steadfastly to the ‘Rampard’ pairing in the holding midfield role despite it yielding mixed results. Ramires has the talent and fitness to be an all-out box-to-box midfielder, but his positioning is often questionable at best. Frank Lampard is a certified legend at Stamford Bridge but at the age of 35 it is becoming clear that he struggles to play the full 90 minutes at the same level as he is used to.
Although Mourinho plans to get Lampard to adapt to the role of a deep-lying-playmaker, Chelsea are lacking cover for the back four while the player transitions.
Real Madrid midfielder Xabi Alonso was one of the few players who were sad to see Mourinho leave the Bernebau, and the Daily Mail have reported that a reunion is on the cards. The 31-year-old former Liverpool man is out of contract next summer and would be able to sign a pre-contract agreement with a non-Spanish club in January.
Alonso would be the perfect player to alternate with Lampard in the holding role. The Spaniard has more experience as a deep-lying-playmaker and will provide more defensive cover than the current ‘Rampard’ pairing.
Chelsea have been blessed with the best left-back in the world over the last seven years. Ashley Cole has been ever-present in the side and developed a reputation for always being in the right place at the right time. However, it has become clear that Chelsea need to find a long-term replacement for the England centurion.
Cesar Azpilicueta has shown his versatility by deputising at left-back while Ryan Bertrand and Cole have been injured, but there is no getting away from the fact that the Spaniard is a natural right-back.
Juan Jesus is a 22-year-old Brazilian who is equally adept at centre-half or left-back. Whoscored.com rate his tackling as his main strength, whilst his acceleration and dribbling ability make him the perfect full-back. The fact that he can also play as a centre-half is an added bonus, and if the price is right he could be the perfect purchase for the future.
Chelsea have been suffering from a lack of firepower from their frontmen since Didier Drogba’s departure in 2012. Fernando Torres had appeared rejuvenated in recent weeks, however, experience tells us that this good form could vanish at any time. Samuel Eto’o is settling into his rhythm after a slow start, but his contract is unlikely to be extended beyond the end of the season. With Romelu Lukaku out on loan until May, Chelsea could do with another world-class striker.
Mourinho made no secret of his desire to bring Wayne Rooney to Stamford Bridge in the summer. Although his quest ultimately failed, there is still hope that the England international could join the Blues in January.
Rooney has been playing in a deeper midfield role so far this season but has bagged five goals and four assists in the Premier League. He would certainly link up well with the likes of Eden Hazard and Oscar, and playing in his natural position would be excellent preparation for next summer’s World Cup.
If Mourinho decides to renew his interest in Rooney, it is almost certain that he will succeed at the second time of asking.