There’s plenty to talk about with Chelsea, especially with their recent loss to Bradford City. It was a pretty ridiculous failure, one that came after the league leaders took a 2-0 lead over a League One side. As Jose Mourinho said, it was embarrassing and shameful. He also apparently didn’t say a word to the players after the game. He gave them the freeze ray rather than the hair dryer. He made nine changes to the side that drew with Liverpool, and you can tell now why he’s kept the same lineup so consistently.
That’s not to say the bench isn’t quality. Ramires, Drogba, Salah and Remy are all quality players. Perhaps it’s because they don’t get as many minutes, or because they aren’t as locked-in as the starting 11. Maybe they saw the 2-nil scoreline and figured they’d stroll through, score a few more goals and earn a start against Liverpool in midweek. There’s no blaming Mourinho here — you just don’t play the strongest side you have against a lower team sandwiched between games against a solid team.
Anyway. I said there’s lots to say and I went off on a bit of a rant… Let’s talk about Chelsea’s transfer thoughts instead.
It appears likely that Chelsea won’t bring in any players this January. They’ve been consistently linked with Fiorentina and Colombia winger Juan Cuadrado. This past summer, he was consistently tied to Barcelona and City, but the Serie A side slapped a massive price tag (reportedly over €50 million+) on him that it scared off the big boys. In my opinion, it was terrible business by Fiorentina. It was unlikely that the Colombian’s stock would be higher given his performance in the ’13-’14 Italian campaign and in the World Cup. He averages a goal every 3 games or so, a fairly strong return for a winger. But Chelsea have Hazard, whose position in the side is untouchable, and Willian. The Brazilian has been decent for the team, consistently starting. But the links with Cuadrado show that perhaps Mou doesn’t have a ton of faith or interest in keeping him there consistently. He isn’t a strong goalscorer by any means, but he’s quick and skillful. Tough to say.
There’s also the problem of Ramires and Salah. The former can play basically any position in the midfield. His engine is tremendous: he is a true box-to-box midfielder who can score and defend. He’s also a loyal servant to Chelsea, and prior to this year, was an integral part of the Blues. However, he only has 16 appearances so far. He isn’t much of a creator, which has been Chelsea’s problem in years past. Fabregas, Willian, Hazard and Oscar can all create. Tough to put in Ramires when he can’t provide that. However, he is more tactically and defensively capable than Fabregas, so he may be a solid backup or sub.
From what I can tell, he isn’t linked with a move away. Like I said, he’s loyal, and I imagine Mourinho likes him. There just isn’t room for him, particularly if Chelsea sign Cuadrado. That effectively rules him out of contention to play on the wings, so he’ll have to battle for a spot in the hole. In any case, I don’t expect Ramires to move in the five days. I’m not sure he’ll leave any time soon, but we’ll see how the second half of the season goes. He would certainly get snapped up by a number of sides.
As for Salah, he is likely going to leave the Bridge. He’s reportedly in talks with Roma, either as a loanee or a permanent move. The latter seems more likely, as he’s still young and a recent transfer to the London club. But he was poor in the loss to Bradford City, which was likely his last chance to impress Mourinho this year. It’s entirely possible he goes to Roma and is successful. I mean, look at Gervinho. Whether he’ll ever make it back to the Bridge is tough to say. According to SB Nation’s Chelsea blog, it’ll cost Roma €18 million to make the deal permanent (if he is indeed heading there). Personally, I think he should go, particularly if Cuadrado joins.
As for other players who should or could leave in January or this coming summer: John Obi Mikel should be looking at other pastures. He has just 17 apps and isn’t even close to the level of Matic or Fabregas. I’d also say he’s worse than Ramires, although they play different levels. There are also excellent youth players coming up behind him. We’ll see, but I fear his time at Stamford Bridge is running out. He won’t leave in January, and may not leave for a while, like Ramires. He’s been at Chelsea for years now, but his playing time will likely only decrease as the season his crunch time. Unless, of course, Matic gets injured, which is a nightmare scenario for Chelsea.
There have also been suggestions that Andre Schurrle could be on the way out. He’s an excellent player, but he’s also behind Willian and Hazard. He’s gotten more time than Salah, Ramires and Obi Mikel. He’s been linked with a number of English clubs and the Bundesliga’s Wolfsburg, but Mourinho said that it would take a huge offer to pull him away from the Bridge. And if he were to leave, it would likely signal the imminent arrival of Cuadrado. Schurrle is a current and future star, so I think Chelsea would be foolish to let him leave permanently. But he also deserves many minutes. I’m not clairvoyant, so I don’t know, man. Best case scenario is that Salah leaves and the German becomes the main alternative at winger. He’s even played striker, although it isn’t the most intelligent of decisions given the depth at striker.
Moving right along, let’s chat about would-be nepotism. Thorgan Hazard, Eden’s younger brother, and his arrival at Stamford Bridge, originally looked like a ploy to pull in the superstar winger. But he’s turned into a legitimate prospect at 21. He’s been on loan since he joined three years ago, but in two years for Zulte Waregem, he had 90 appearances, 30 assists and 22 goals. That’s a crazy good return, especially given he was 19/20 at the time. He’s now at Borussia Monchengladbach (Michael Bradley’s old club!), where he’s contributed to 11 goals in 23 games. ESPNFC reported that Monchengladbach are talking to Chelsea about a permanent move for the young Belgian (who was on the reserve list for the World Cup and got his first cap against — you guessed it — the USMNT). The German club also suggested a one or two year loan deal extension may also be possible, similar to what Sevilla has done with Barcelona’s Denis Suarez. That move has worked wonderfully for all parties, and I imagine this would too. The younger Hazard has developed spectacularly, and consistent minutes for a few years in a solid league would do wonders for him. I think Chelsea would be silly to sell him off.
What about Remy, you ask? I don’t expect him to go anywhere. He’s Costa’s second, especially as Drogba will likely head elsewhere next season. The Ivorian has been linked with MLS, which will likely be a murky and frustrating transfer to a club that already has excellent players (I mean, L.A. got Steven Gerrard?). But that’s a topic for another day. Remy is an excellent player, but he’s also buried behind a club legend and arguably the best striker in the world. Tough to crack that. He’s a finesse striker, and Costa is a bruiser and a poacher. Chelsea’s style fits Costa better — they have enough ballers and creators.
It’ll be interesting to see what happens with Petr Cech. He could likely go to any team in England and, with the exception of City and United, would likely immediately grab the starting job. He’s a top five/ten keeper in the world, and I imagine there have been suitors for the Czech’s services. But there haven’t been any murmurs, to my knowledge, that he is unhappy or causing problems. He may be happy battling with the Big Belgian. If he starts in FA and Capital cup matches, that’s a fair amount of time. I admire Petr greatly, and I’ll support whatever he does. I’ll respect the hell out of him for staying and fighting, but I certainly wouldn’t blame him for looking for consistent starting minutes elsewhere.
Should Chelsea sign anybody? Good question, Seth, and it’s likely they won’t sign anyone until the summer so let’s talk about that. They’re stacked at striker, although if Drogba leaves this summer they’ll need a third choice. Tough to say if it’ll be a youth player or another striker. We’ll see, but they will need a third choice.
They’re fairly stacked across the back line, especially with a few capable defenders out on loan. Should Terry keep going strong (he’s been beyond excellent this season), then they likely won’t need any improvements there.
The midfield is similarly stacked. It may behoove them to get another creator to backup Oscar, although Fabregas or Hazard can slot into that position should they need to. It may be smart to get a backup for Matic, as Obi Mikel hasn’t shown much to challenge the big Serb. Nathan Chalobah could be that guy in a few years.
Speaking of, there are a number of excellent youth players coming up, but it may be a bit early to bring them into the fold. However, I’d expect to see Lucas Piazon (who is a midfielder, not a striker) get a crack at the first team next year. He certainly deserves it. There are others — Patrick Bamford, Chalobah, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, etc. etc. — who could challenge. But, unfortunately, it’s likely we’ll only see them in the preseason before they’re shipped off on loan to Vitesse or Middlesborough or something. Bummer. Some of them are stellar. Oh, and if I were you, I’d go look up young Kasey Palmer’s recent goals. Absolutely stunning, and he’s just 18.
Oh Chelsea. What will you do next?