Chelsea FC: Creating Jose Mourinho's 2014 Summer Blueprint
There has been no chatter of a quick-triggered decision about the Portuguese's future, suggesting Chelsea's 2014-15 outfit will have the same manager for consecutive season openers for the first time since their 2010-11 campaign.
Some people assume flying by the seat of your proverbial pants is a sign of freedom, which is correct—to a point.
However, a better situation for both employer, employees and—in this case—football supporters is knowing what the future has in store. It allows for better decisions regarding contracts and transfers, consistency also gives the actual football a better chance of improving.
For example, Chelsea sold Nemanja Matic and brought him back, they sold the rampant Daniel Sturridge and have made many questionable personnel decisions—such as firing Ray Wilkins—that might not have worked out as poorly for the Blues had one manager been in charge throughout.
All that considered, Mourinho has quite the task on his hands.
The Portuguese was honest from the start; Chelsea were in a development mode this season. Every press conference was an opportunity to take pressure from his team rather than spur them on. Next year the tides will change. You would expect the Portuguese to be more critical, demanding and forthright with his side's title credentials.
As a whole, Mourinho’s men overachieved this past season: reaching the Champions League semi-finals and earning a top-three finish in the Premier League.
Yet, nine months ago, Roman Abramovich would not have agreed to spend his millions for those aims—the Blues' owner wants trophies.
So, what do Chelsea need to do this summer in order to win the 2014-15 Barclay's Premier League crown?
Glad you asked...
Objective 1: Keep Eden Hazard
Eden Hazard seems the logical cornerstone of Jose Mourinho's second Chelsea project. The Belgian has pace, vision, skill and a penchant for scoring goals—what more could you want?
Yet, transfer speculation—as highlighted by the Daily Express' Ben Jefferson—has linked the winger with moves away from Stamford Bridge.
Mourinho—in one of his primary tasks this summer—must arrest this train of thought and get his No. 17 back on board with Chelsea's ultimate destination.
In many respects, the Blues would be foolish to sell Hazard at this stage in his career.
At 23 years of age and possessing rare talent, Hazard is more valuable to Chelsea in blue than any other colour. TransferMarkt appraises the Belgian international at £39.5 million but this figure comes nowhere close to his marketing potential and the merchandise his last name would help shift.
Roman Abramovich is not worth £8.6 billion—according to Bloomberg—by making poor business decisions. The Chelsea owner clearly knows how to make money and Hazard's presence in west London will do just that.
The Belgian's aforementioned footballing genius may seem an added benefit for Abramovich, but to Mourinho and Chelsea supporters keeping Hazard's talents are of the utmost import.
Objective 2: Retain John Terry, Ashley Cole and Frank Lampard
John Terry, Ashley Cole and Frank Lampard have a combined 1,605 appearances in Chelsea shirts—why stop the music now?
One-third of this objective has been completed.
Per Chelsea's official Twitter page, Terry has agreed terms to captain Chelsea for another 12 months—news which made supporters and management ecstatic, as the 33-year-old centre-back gave a stellar account of himself this past season.
Lampard and Cole's prospective extensions might feel driven by nostalgia, but they are more logical than one might suspect.
Mourinho has no clue how Marco van Ginkel is going to return from his season-ending knee injury, Ramires is not the most reliable name on Chelsea's team sheet, David Luiz—per the Daily Express—seems destined for Catalonia and Nemanja Matic will not have the luxury of resting Champions League matches next season.
Add the need for homegrown players—plus his resume—and the case for Frank Lampard's return is solid.
Cole's case is less strong but still serviceable.
Branislav Ivanovic is a tank at right-back, however, the Serbian can be rather wasteful in attacking areas. The inclusion of Cole allows Cesar Azpilicueta to play his preferred right-back and gives the correct balance of left and right-footed players.
Azpilicueta on the left tends to cut inside on his favoured right boot—often losing possession or adding unwanted bodies to an already congested 18-yard box. Conversely, Cole hugs the touchline—creating real estate for Chelsea's creative midfield and gives the added benefit of southpaw crosses.
If Mourinho wants a more traditional style next season—trending away from the counter-attacking ethic—Cole seems the better option than Ivanovic for another year.
The three wise men, amigos, musketeers or whichever trio you prefer all carry considerable weight in the Chelsea annals. Their wages would need reducing, minutes on the pitch likewise, but having the veteran presence of arguably the best trio at their respective positions in the Premier League era cannot be overstated.
Objective 3: Mend Bridges with Romelu Lukaku
Sourcing the alleged disconnect between Jose Mourinho and striker Romelu Lukaku is difficult.
In either instance, the only reason given for Lukaku's Everton loan was gaining more experience. It seems understandable. Looking at the Chelsea first team, Eden Hazard was formed in France, Oscar in Brazil, David Luiz in Portugal—Lukaku joining Chelsea at 18 meant his only experience was in the Belgian Pro League.
We could look at Roberto Soldado as an example of a rampant La Liga striker not being able to adapt to the English game. Lukaku's loan spells at West Bromwich Albion and Everton have adjusted him to the Premier League—now is time to unleash the acclimatised player.
Mourinho was not shy regarding his youthful "No. 9." As noted by the Daily Express' Tony Banks, the Chelsea boss requested Lukaku tell the whole truth behind his loan request and hinted that the Belgian was not ready to fight for his place at Chelsea and went to Merseyside for an easier selection in a first team.
Whether a mutual decision or one by the player, Lukaku's second loan spell has worked wonders. His value has increased along with his striking ability. It looks the quintessential win-win situation for the Blues.
The west London outfit's striking issues have been discussed ad nauseam. The return of Lukaku, together with the hopeful arrival and departure of other forwards, would go a long way in relieving the viewing public—in particular Chelsea supporters—of such affliction next season.
In line with this notion, The Guardian's Andy Hunter has reported—bar a substantial bid—Chelsea are willing to extend the Belgian international's stay.
The Blues should hope their young striker does not feel marginalised (a la Daniel Sturridge) and refuses to sign an extension. That said, Lukaku is a known admirer of Didier Drogba's work at Stamford Bridge—he might see the alleged extension and presumed wage hike as an opportunity to assume his idol's role.
Objective 4: Cull the Squad's Dead Weight
Henrique Hilario, Samuel Eto'o and Mark Schwarzer's contracts end on 30 June 2014.
While Hilario has been a model citizen since 2006 and Eto'o, along with Schwarzer, performed well enough this past season, adding three "older" players not named Ashley Cole, John Terry or Frank Lampard seems rather illogical.
In this context, "dead weight" refers to players who are under contract past this summer—namely Marko Marin, Gael Kakuta, Oriol Romeu, Josh McEachran, John Obi Mikel, Demba Ba and Fernando Torres.
TransferMarkt values the seven names listed above at an aggregated £60.4 million. Should interested clubs understand these players to be under Jose Mourinho's fictitious guillotine the number could fall closer to £40 million.
While £40 million seems a decent sum, when considering Torres alone cost Chelsea £50 million, you begin to realise waiting any longer would likely see the septuplet valued at around £20 million next summer.
The notion David Luiz and/or Ramires should be sold to replenish the squad is shortsighted. The constant turnover of managers has left the number of players trapped in Chelsea's football purgatory quite staggering.
Meaning, there are more than enough overstock pieces to buy the forward(s) supporters and pundits alike have clamoured.
Normally springtime is known for cleaning, but Mourinho must find his broom, mop and cleaning chemicals and get to scrubbing Stamford Bridge this summer. Keeping who he wants, shipping the rest and getting his footballing house in order for the 2014-15 campaign.
Mourinho's aspiration being to make a Chelsea squad in his image—not the muddled visions of Carlo Ancelotti, Andre Villas-Boas, Roberto Di Matteo and Rafa Benitez.
Objective 5: Procure an Enhanced Strikeforce
On 31 March, Metro's Hannah Duncan reported Chelsea were going to have a striker "clear-out" this summer, with Fernando Torres, Samuel Eto'o and Demba Ba all expected to be sold or released.
If the report is to be believed: Where do the Blues go from there?
Attempting to comply with UEFA's Financial Fair Play regulations will make a repeat of 2011's £50 million purchase of Torres rather impossible—so one replacement must be Romelu Lukaku. The Belgian is "free" in the eyes of Jose Mourinho, hence money saved.
The second option has been speculated since the January transfer window.
Atletico Madrid's Diego Costa became one of the hottest commodities in European football this season, and should rumours prove fact—as highlighted by the Daily Express' Ben Jefferson—the Brazilian-born Spanish international has been in Chelsea's pocket since January.
On 12 May, Sky Sports reported: "Chelsea have agreed a £32m deal with Atletico Madrid for striker Diego Costa." From one of England's most well-connected news outlets, it would seem Costa is indeed west London bound.
Yet, if the Duncan report still holds water, the logical combination of Lukaku and Costa needs a third wheel.
This is where Mourinho must wield his magic. Chelsea would have two very similar strikers: ball magnets attempting their best Didier Drogba impersonations. But, should the need arise, another kind of striker is required—a goal poacher.
Depending on the appointment at Manchester United, Mourinho should probably ask his former boss—Louis van Gaal—for permission to talk with Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez. We can say with full confidence, the Mexican international loves scoring goals at Stamford Bridge.
Objective 6: Decide Whether Thibaut Courtois' Time Has Arrived
In the third of Jose Mourinho's Belgian quandaries, the future of Thibaut Courtois—widely considered the world's best young goalkeeper—is yet to be sorted.
The prospect of ousting Petr Cech is not an easy one. While Cardiff City's David Marshall may feel robbed, Chelsea's mainstay between the posts found his name in the 2013-14 PFA Premier League Team of the Year.
Cech's shoulder injury, suffered in the Champions League, has not helped his cause. Ironically enough, the injury occurred vs. Atletico Madrid—where Courtois is currently on loan.
BBC Sport reported Cech's surgery was successful on 7 May and the timetable for his return was 10 weeks. Should Mourinho see Courtois play to his potential in this summer's World Cup, the Czech Republic international may return from the physio table to discover he is now second choice.
Being 30-plus is not a liability for goalkeepers but failing to have full rotation in a shoulder most certainly is. When you consider the upside Courtois possesses, Mourinho has a choice to make.
The Portuguese has made similar choices with goalkeepers before.
In 2004-05 Mourinho replaced the 2002 Chelsea Player of the Year and 2002-03 ITV Premier League Goalkeeper of the Year, Carlo Cudicini, with a bargain purchase from Stade Rennais named Petr Cech.
More recently, Real Madrid captain Iker Casillas was benched by Mourinho in favour of Diego Lopez. All evidence to the point Mourinho is not opposed to replacing established talent for who he deems the better option.
The same notion could be applied in reverse, as the Chelsea boss may see Cech as the first choice for 2014-15 and once again loan, or even auction Courtois.
In an ideal world, the two keepers would strengthen each other: the heir attempting to dethrone the incumbent and the monarch striving to delay the prince's inevitable reign.
"Let iron sharpen iron," King Solomon may have advised in this situation.
Objective 7: Bring Along Chelsea's Youth Talent
Who said Chelsea failed to win silverware this season?
Chelsea's U21 squad beat Manchester United in the U21 Final at Old Trafford on 14 May. The Blues' 2014 Young Player of the Season and winner of the 2014 Chelsea Goal of the Season, Lewis Baker, netted the go-ahead goal in a 2-1 victory.
Baker made his Chelsea debut on 5 January vs. Derby County in the FA Cup, his midfield teammate John Swift made his debut against Cardiff City on the last day of the Premier League season, while Tomas Kalas had the hardest debut—helping Chelsea secure a 2-0 victory over Liverpool at Anfield on 27 April.
Nathan Ake's was called up to the first team under Rafa Benitez and was included in the 18-man squad selection for the 2013 Europa League Final.
The point being, Chelsea's youth has been rather sequestered.
Are there players who can dominate the Premier League in the youth system? Who knows?
The Chelsea Academy has suffered since the arrival of Roman Abramovich in 2003—a shame, considering the youths have shown what they are capable of producing.
On a macro level, one could make the argument the influx of foreign players at the top level has resulted in English youth academies becoming less of a priority. When you can import what you need from abroad, why develop the attributes at home?
This trend leaves more "athletes" on England's roster than technically gifted footballers. The pace of a Theo Walcott or Andros Townsend can be controlled by simple possession in most cases.
Jose Mourinho must find ways to get Chelsea's youngsters in the first team.
In his first period at Stamford Bridge, the Portuguese played very strong teams in the League Cup. It resulted in his first piece of silverware as Chelsea boss. That approach should be reversed next year.
A mix of experience and youth would help transition Chelsea from a club that are constantly active in the transfer market to one who can better internally supply their needs.
Mourinho has expressed his love for England's footballing ethic in the past; now is the time to prove it by actually developing and playing English youth.
Comments Section: What Else Needs Doing?
You would hope Jose Mourinho knows the path forward—this list highlight just a few of his possible goals—but multiple minds are better than one.
What are your thoughts on these objectives and what else is missing?
Three Talking Points
Do Chelsea really need the veteran presence of John Terry, Ashley Cole and Frank Lampard?
Petr Cech turns 32 next week—has the time come to replace him with Thibaut Courtois?
Dialogue surrounding Chelsea needing strikers has become tiresome—yet we are still writing about it. Is one-year wonder Diego Costa the forward to end all this talking?