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Predicting Chelsea's Starting Line-Up at the Beginning of the 2014/15 Season

Chelsea players line up for a team photo prior to the Champions League group E soccer match between FC Schalke 04 and Chelsea FC in Gelsenkirchen       , Germany, Tuesday, Oct.22,2013. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)
Martin Meissner/Associated Press
Garry HayesFeatured ColumnistMay 3, 2014

"The only thing I can say is that the market is closed. It opens in the summer," Jose Mourinho explained when pressed on his potential summer transfer dealings this week, per ChelseaFC.com

"Chelsea will be quiet and calm in that period, we are not going to be the noisy team buying and selling, we won't be that kind of club."

It was the biggest indication yet that Mourinho, despite criticising his players at various stages this season, remains largely content with what he has at his disposal.

Save for a few tweaks to fine tune things, there isn't much work needed with this Chelsea team—a squad that has challenged for the Premier League title all season and reached the Champions League semi-final in the process.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 15:  David Luiz and  Petr Cech of Chelsea during the FA Cup Fifth Round match sponsored by Budweiser between Manchester City and Chelsea at Etihad Stadium on February 15, 2014 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Clive Brunski
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Petr Cech remains a world-class option in goal, being named in the PFA Team of the Year alongside defender Gary Cahill.

John Terry himself has enjoyed a renaissance and will surely sign a new contract, while Branislav Ivanovic and Cesar Azpilicueta have been excellent on the flanks.

Indeed, if we're to see any changes at Stamford Bridge for next season at least, it will be further forward where Mourinho will look to introduce new faces.

The Chelsea boss has been clever during the two transfer windows since his return.

Last summer saw him add Marco van Ginkel, Andre Schurrle, Willian and Samuel Eto'o to his ranks, while Nemanja Matic and Mohamed Salah arrived and the signature of highly rated French U21 defender Kurt Zouma was secured in January.

The biggest casualties were Kevin de Bruyne, Juan Mata and Michael Essien, players sold for a combined total of £55 million.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 22:  Andre Schurrle of Chelsea celebrates scoring his second goal with,  David Luiz, Samuel Eto'o, Oscar, Branislav Ivanovic of Chelsea during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Arsenal at Stamford Bridge on Marc
Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

By using the winter window so effectively, Mourinho is almost ahead of himself as he plans for next season.

Matic will be his first choice in defensive midfield for 2014/15, while Salah has had half a season to settle and get to grips with the Premier League.

In fact, Matic's signing has highlighted the Blues' biggest problem outside of their strikers.

They now have the world-class defensive midfielder Mourinho craved, yet it's become clear since January the Serbian needs a dynamic player alongside him to help move the ball forward far quicker than Chelsea have been.

Chelsea can still keep the 4-2-3-1 formation that has served them so well, but when in possession, switch to a more fluent 4-1-3-1-1 to punish teams, with Matic's partner advancing to join those ahead of him.

How a 4-1-3-1-1 might work for Chelsea in attack next season
How a 4-1-3-1-1 might work for Chelsea in attack next seasonPicth graphic: EPL Index

Ramires lacks the finesse to be that man, often guilty of keeping possession too long, making passes at the wrong time. The Brazilian would need to transform his game if he were to become the dynamic player Chelsea need.

In Van Ginkel, the Blues have a promising young star, and had injury not decimated his season he may well have stepped up to the mantle to become a key figure alongside Matic.

Let's not forget David Luiz, whose displays in the pivot have arguably been his best this season. Mourinho has often cited that he sees him as a defender, but with his range of passing and vision, could he develop in that role?

What's clear is that Mourinho will target that midfield area to ensure his team becomes as effective on the counter as the Atletico Madrid side that dumped his side out of the Champions League on Wednesday.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - APRIL 27:  Nemanja Matic of Chelsea and Joe Allen of Liverpool compete for the ball during the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and Chelsea at Anfield on April 27, 2014 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Should Chelsea fail to address that, it could prove as costly as not signing a goalscorer last summer.

From Eden Hazard, Oscar, Willian, Andre Schurrle and Salah, Mourinho has a wealth of talent from which to pick in attacking midfield. It's a position where Ramires can also operate, perhaps more effectively, too.

It's getting the ball to those players quick enough to punish teams that has been the problem at times this season.

We've seen Sunderland, Crystal Palace and Aston Villa all beat Chelsea recently, and damage their title credentials in the process.

Why? Because of Chelsea's failure to break beyond their deep back line and stretch them defensively. They haven't been dynamic enough and Mourinho knows that next season the same tactics will be deployed by teams content with at least a draw against his team.

LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 30: Branislav Ivanovic and John Terry of Chelsea confront Diego Costa of Club Atletico de Madrid after he delayed his penalty kick during the UEFA Champions League semi-final second leg match between Chelsea and Club Atletico de Ma
Clive Rose/Getty Images

Of course, the lack of a poacher in front of goal throughout the entire campaign has been a major headache. Above all else Chelsea need a striker that can guarantee 25 goals.

They shouldn't be looking to their midfielders to be the match winners every week and Mourinho has bemoaned that fact since the season kicked-off in August.

The latest is that Diego Costa will be that man, per Metro, while Romelu Lukaku is set to return from another season-long loan. Add Fernando Torres—whose midweek strike against Atleti reminds us of the threat he can pose—and the Blues suddenly look a different prospect altogether.

Chelsea's line-up for 2014-15?
Chelsea's line-up for 2014-15?Pitch graphic: EPL Index

Torres will have to accept he is no longer first-choice with Diego Costa on the scene, but it shouldn't mean he cannot perform a job for Chelsea.

With the pressure off him and the spotlight focused on Chelsea's new striker—be it Diego Costa or another big name—it could even unleash him.

Torres isn't done yet and still has a role to play in Chelsea's future.

With experienced stars such as Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole potentially available, not to mention a host a young talent coming through, next season has the potential to be the year Mourinho tops everything he has achieved at Stamford Bridge thus far.

 

Garry Hayes is Bleacher Report's lead Chelsea correspondent and will be following the club from a London base throughout the 2013-14 season. Follow him on Twitter @garryhayes

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