The worst kept secret in football this season has finally been revealed. Jose Mourinho, arguably Chelsea Football Club’s most successful manager is taking the managerial hot seat for the second time. With fans already anticipating a successful first season for the Portuguese manager, they now look forward with hope for a change or addition of players as well.
Before the announcement of his appointment, a host of players have already been linked to the club. Some are were strong possibilities, others were absolutely outrageous. In his first press conference as CFC Manager, Mourinho even joked of having a squad of 60 players, taking into account all those who have been linked with Chelsea since his return was confirmed, before adding that most activity this summer would centre on young players coming back from loan transfers.
It is clear that with a strong core of youth players finally making a mark in first team football through astute loans, Mourinho would be wasting their talents sending them on loan. However, it is not certain that he will resist the urge to buy his own players. So many players, so many choices, who will Mourinho pick? Here are my thoughts on the matter.
There are a huge number of players returning on loan this season. While precocious talents such as Thibalt Courtois and Lucas Piazon have been granted extended stays on loan, other players such as Romelu Lukaku and Kevin De Bruyne return from successful spells. Lukaku for instance, has impressed many during his time at West Brom. The Belgian scored 17 goals in 35 games and showed many why he is considered one of the best young striking talents to have ever come out of Belgium. It is not hard to see why.
Lukaku is strong on and off the ball. He presents a strong aerial threat in the box and has a good finishing skills (although he has shown a tendency to be more reliant on his left than right foot). These qualities show a similar resemblance to Chelsea legend Didier Drogba, who terrorized defences with his powerful direct play. However, Lukaku has something which Drogba does not have, pace. Despite measuring nearly 2 metres and built like a tank, that boy undoubtedly has pace to burn. Throughout his games at West Brom, Lukaku has stunned and bullied unsuspecting defenders with his pace, often using it to play on the shoulder of the last defender or harass them. In a way, he is a like a tank on jet engines, a unique physical specimen that will see carve his own place within the game if given a chance.
Thankfully, Mourinho seems to have taken notice of his qualities and is ready to give Lukaku a chance in the first team next season.
On the other hand, Lukaku’s Belgian teammate Kevin De Bruyne returns from a successful spell at Werder Breman, where he shone in a midfield position. While not attracting much headlines as Lukaku, rumours linking Kevin De Bruyne to Borussia Dortmund as a replacement for Gotze speaks highly about the club’s faith in his ability and talent. De Bruyne, who made a name for himself on the left flank at former club Genk, was then known for his dribbling and long shots. However, his stint at Germany allowed others to see another side to his game, his passing and vision. Unlike the other midfielders at Chelsea, De Bruyne can pass, be it long or short. While players like Hazard Mata and Oscar prefer to dribble and create space, De Bruyne shines in his ability to conduct play from the middle of the park, a key quality which Mourinho looks for in his favoured dual midfield pivot system. While De Bruyne may falter in terms of defensive ability, the Belgian starlet works hard in the middle of the park and could flourish with a more disciplined anchor-man supporting him. Which brings us to….
Michael Essien. Like him or not, Essien is Chelsea’s most expensive African player and a Mourinho buy for a reason. Over the years, the Ghanaian footballer has made a name for himself as a defensive midfielder. Although he played mainly as a right back during his loan to Real Madrid, and as a right midfielder in his early years at Chelsea. While managers may have used him as an advanced midfielder years ago, niggling injuries and age have taken a toll of Essien’s once fearsome pace, but the Ghanaian’s defensive acumen has never wavered. When on song, Essien can be the perfect foil for any midfield. That is a reason why Mourinho was keen to gain the services of Essien at Real Madrid last season and we can expect such faith to continue when the pair is reunited for the third time. We can also expect Mourinho to play Essien over established Chelsea Defensive Midfielder Mikel, whose performances have waned towards the later part of the season.
Fernando Torres has had his chances at Chelsea, however, it may be time for the Spaniard to bid farewell to Stamford Bridge after 3 years of unfulfilled promise. Like it or not, Torres is not the same player that he was at Liverpool. While he achieved his highest scoring season in 2012/2013, most of his goals came in non-crucial games while he has struggled to perform consistently. It is clear that Mourinho is looking to sell off the Club’s most expensive player. On the other hand, new striker Demba Ba might also be shown the door. While Ba was brought in to shoulder a striking burden, he has struggled to perform consistently as well, often wasteful in front of goal despite scoring a few spectacular ones during his time at Stamford bridge.
In other areas of the team, long serving veteran Paulo Ferreira looks certain to leave this season after being told that his contract will not be renewed. The ageing right back was once indispensible for Mourinho, however, inconsistent performance and poor form have seen him relegated in favour of other right backs such as Jose Bosingwa and lately, Cesar Azipilicueta. Furthermore, Marko Marin, a recent buy from Germany may be shown the door or sent on loan after unsuccessful performances for the Blues. While talented, the German has failed to impress both Rafa Benitez and Robert Di Matteo. Hence, it is hard to see how Mourinho will grant him enough playing time and work him into his plans.
This is perhaps the part that garners the most debate. Rumours have been flying around touting tons of players linked to the club. However, only a few hold any merit to my eyes. Since this section does not deal with speculation, I can only see two rumours being true this season. Namely, Edison Cavani from Napoli and Marco Van Ginkel from Vitesse.
Marco Van Ginkel plays for Vitesse and was recently named the Netherlands’ ‘Talent of the Year’. He also followed AZ’s Adam Maher and Ajax’s Christian Eriksen in receiving the prestigious Johan Cruijff Prijs. Known by many as a powerful, box-to-box midfielder, Van Ginkel both creates goals and scores them. While he is young at only 20 years old, Van Ginkel possesses maturity beyond his years and could be a mainstay in the Chelsea team especially when Chelsea are having problems in central midfield. For all their attacking talent, Chelsea lack midfielders who can facilitate a seamless transfer between attack and defence. Ramires has been the side’s only out and out box to box midfielder but fans and pundits alike will be quick to point out his flaws this season, namely his passing and ball retention skills.
Ramires may possess tons of pace, but is usually unable to capitalize on it with his poor touch and dribbling (an irony since Brazilian players are normal known to be technically proficient). Furthermore, Ramires lacks the passing ability that other midfielders have, and that has led to the breakdown of countless promising attacks due to an oddly given ball or misplaced pass. Van Ginkel on the other hand is better technically in passing and dribbling. He also has the same explosive pace Ramires possesses.
In the striking department, Edison Cavani needs no introduction. The Napoli forward is arguably one of the world’s best center forwards. He is strong in the air and on the ball. He has a great finishing ability and works hard for the team. Countless articles can be found on the web about his achievements and Mourinho should pull all stops to get the Uruguayan at Stamford Bridge next season.
It is highly likely that Chelsea will buy a world class striker and midfielder this season. However, it is also important for the club not to turn their backs on their youth players. As it stands, this crop of youth players is arguably the greatest the club has ever produced. Their performances on loan prove that.
However, in terms of strikers, I feel that the club has to reassess what kind of striker would work and flourish around their current set of players. With the three amigos (Mata Hazard and Oscar) most likely to retain their starting spots next season, it is prerogative for Mourinho to find a striker that fits into their style of play. Mata, Hazard and Oscar are all ball playing midfielders, players who are content with passing the ball around tight spaces, finding space and unleashing a killer pass for the team’s striker. While they can also do long passes, their tendency to hold onto the ball negates a long ball play as chances that come from strikers making runs close to the offside line are transient during games.
While the club may want to go back to their tried and tested formula of a “Drogba” like forward marshalling the line, it should be noted that Drogba played best on the end of long balls and punts. He would bring the ball down and fashion chances for himself using his physicality instead of running on the end of a pass from a midfielder like forwards such as Higuain, Chicharito or Torres.
Even then, forwards like Higuain or Chicharito may not succeed in the Chelsea line up because they are not running on the end of passes, but forced to play in narrow spaces with tight passes by technically proficient midfielders like Oscar, Hazard and Mata. This is mainly the reason why Torres has struggled in the Chelsea side, the Spaniard is just not inventive or proficient enough to play on the same wavelength as his teammates.
It is funny how Chelsea bought the wrong kind of creative players needed to draw the best out of Torres. Instead, they got too many ball playing players than pass playing players.
Looking forward, Chelsea have to buy a striker that makes full use of their midfielders. That striker has to play on the same frequency as the three amigos, a striker that is comfortable of passing, moving and finishing in tight spaces. Who may that be? The answer is a false nine. While Messi is arguably the best false nine in the world, chances of Chelsea landing him are obviously none. However, I feel Stevan Jovetic represents the next best option as a false nine.
That being said, the Montenegrin is currently linked to Arsenal and seems most likely to end up playing there next season. However, I would buy Jovetic in a heartbeat if I was Mourinho. After all, Jovetic is the exact kind of striker Chelsea needs now. He is not an out and out forward, (he was firstly trained as an attacking midfielder), he is creative and proficient technically.
Jovetic is a player that can fit into the current Chelsea set up and build a strong synergy with the three amigos. Steven Jovetic, he would be my shock and dream signing for Mourinho’s Chelsea squad.
P.S: Chelsea have already completed the signing of André Schürrle from Bayer Leverkusen.