Chelsea: Predicting 2012 at Stamford Bridge
With Carlo Ancelotti being sacked after Sunday's loss to Everton, there are many more questions than answers surrounding Stamford Bridge.
Most importantly, who will be manager next year? Which of the aging veterans will remain from the core assembled by Jose Mourinho? Are major changes on the horizon from the ruthless Russian?
Roman Abramovich still hasn't obtained his Champions League dream after heart ache in Moscow in 2008, and will stop at nothing to earn the crown, no matter how many world class managers he fires.
The Russian simply doesn't tolerate seasons without trophies, or second place finishes in the EPL.
The following are my predictions for the squad and turnover in 2011-12 in an attempt forecast the psyche of the billionaire at the Bridge.
Manager of the sqaud is still completely up in the air and purely speculation at this point. But with that said, here is the short list of potential managers in 2012:
Guus Hiddink (Still an Advisor for Abramovich, even though he left the club in 2009)
Marco Van Basten
Manuel Pellegrini (Even though he has publicly rejected Chelsea's approach)
Andre Villas Boas
The forwards were the cause of much controversy in 2010-11. Next season, there will be changes made up front, and no doubt some big names will depart in the summer.
Fernando Torres: has scored one more goal for Chelsea than I have; plus, he cost 50 million euros more than me. Those aren't good numbers from a world class striker, especially since I'm not employed by the club. It's still too early to write him off, though; he may turn it around next season. He will definitely be with the Blues next season.
Salomon Kalou: The young Ivorian has struggled to get first team starts, and he's been rumored to be open to a transfer. Personally, I felt Chelsea were at there best and most formidable in 2011 with Kalou on the pitch. I'd love to see him stay, but I feel he will depart the Bridge in the summer.
Nicolas Anelka: Nico scored six goals in the EPL last season and was valuable through the injury plagued months of November and December. Ultimately, I feel he will also depart this summer for opportunities elsewhere, as Chelsea are going to welcome the change.
Didier Drogba: The Chelsea legend struggled with a bout with Malaria throughout this year's campaign and only managed to score 11 goals in the EPL. He is still world class at 33, and I believe he still has a lot left in the tank if he can remain healthy. I hope he stays, but I feel Mourinho may be interested in a shock reunion at the Spanish capital.
Daniel Sturridge: The 21-year-old played well on loan at Bolton this season, netting 12 times. He will return to the Blues this summer. Sturridge will play a vital role for the Blues most likely coming off the bench next year.
The midfield shouldn't have drastic changes for next season. Most key players are locked into contracts and are committed to the club.
Michael Essien: The Bison is indispensable. He can play four different positions for the Blues, and there's no way he'll leave the Bridge in the summer. Hopefully next season, he can avoid injuries that have plagued him for the last three seasons.
Frank Lampard: World class, not going anywhere after the Inter speculation last summer. Lamps is about to turn 33 and still has the potential to be the heart of an EPL winning side.
John Obi Mikel: The young Nigerian holding mid was once compared to Zindane. That is now a distant memory, as Mourinho molded him into a defensive player with almost no eye for goal. I'd hate to see him bail in the summer, but it wouldn't surprise me as young great defensive holding midfielders are at a premium. He is only 24, and the only other defensive mid in the premier league on his level would be Alex Song at Arsenal.
Yossi Benayoun: Only four goals in 2010-11, struggled with injuries and didn't impress in his limited oppurtunites. The ex-Liverpool man will get another shot at the Bridge next season, but I'd prefer him to transfer and clear up money for potential signings.
Florent Malouda: One of the best midfielders in the world on his day, definitely staying put at the Bridge for next year. The Frenchman led the team scoring 13 goals in the Premier League this season.
Ramires: Expect more playing time next season; the young Brazilian isn't going anywhere and is a vital part of the future for the Blues.
Josh McEachran: The 18-year-old had limited time to play this season. However, he had glimpses of brilliance. He may be loaned out so he can play more at a smaller club, but he'll be with the Blues for the long haul.
The starting back four may not change at all, but there will be inevitable departures.
David Luiz: The best defensive transfer in January in all of football. Can be brash at times, but has the quality to become world class. Plus, he won't be cup tied for Chelsea next season.
John Terry: Legend, captain, not going anywhere. Even at 30, he's still one of the most reliable defenders in the world.
Alex: At 28, he's in the prime of his career. Sometimes nagged with injuries, but Chelsea would be ridiculous to transfer a player of his quality. Great with free kicks from distance and a beast in the air. Alex will be with the Blues next season and for the foreseeable future.
Ashley Cole: Arguably the best LB in the world. Aging, but still consistent. Needs to stay out of the tabloids and quit being a distraction. He will be in the starting 11 all next season.
Branislav Ivanovic: Developing into a world class defender at 26; definitely not leaving the Bridge anytime soon.
Patrick Van Aanholt: Just signed to a four year deal. Chelsea have invested in the future with the 20- year-old Dutch international.
Paulo Ferreira: The 32-year-old Portuguese RB day's are numbered. He has been tremendous over the years, but I feel his time has come to depart in the summer.
Jose Bosingwa: Rumored that he wants to leave Stamford Bridge and head to Italy or Germany. Most likely, he will leave the Blues in the Summer.
Yuri Zhirkov: Good supplemantary player, will be needed to defend the flanks if Bosingwa and Ferreira leave. Occassionally scores and will be with the Blues in 2011-12.
Petr Cech isn't going anywhere. At 29, the 6'5" Czech is in the prime of his career. Ross Turnbull may get more opportunities next season, but Cech is still the man at the Bridge.
Chelsea will bounce back in 2011-12.
It will be their last chance at a run to the Champions League Final with the core group developed and signed by Jose Mourinho.
If they can stay healthy, they will have a good chance. The ruthless Russian won't tolerate anything but trophies next season.
Whoever is signed to manage in the coming weeks has to understand that the stakes are high, and expectations are even higher.