Simon Phillips provides his assessment on Chelsea’s squad for the upcoming season.
Chelsea haven’t even sacked Antonio Conte yet, let alone replaced him with Maurizio Sarri. But it’s pretty clear that Sarri will be appointed as the new head coach at Stamford Bridge next season. He’s also set to be joined by Gianfranco Zola in the coaching team, as well as a possible new director of football, a position that Michael Ballack has frequently been linked with.
So, with vast changes expected, we are likely to see changes in personnel as well. Here is a look at the squad that I would personally like to see being led by Sarri next season. Using the Italian’s preferred 4-3-3, and using two or three players in each position.
Thibaut Courtois – I think he’ll stay, once all is clear with the management and ambitions of new players.
Reece James – Now this may raise eyebrows, but James is more than good enough to play a squad role for us next season. Also, Chelsea have the beauty of being able to play Antonio Rudiger at right back as well as Andreas Christensen. Thus, it’s an area that is densely covered if needs must. Besides, just look at Alexander Trent-Arnold at Liverpool in the same position, got given a chance last year, now in the England squad competing in Russia. James is ready. It’s worth noting he is also a great centre back.
Alex Telles – available again and has a rumoured release clause of around £35 million. He has a number of clubs after him but has been on Chelsea’s shortlist for some time now. Achievable signing and can be funded by the sale of Marcos Alonso (I’ll speak about players out further down).
Daniele Rugani – Chelsea are already rumoured to be close to agreeing on a fee for Rugani, said to be around £30 million, which we can be made up from potential sales of Gary Cahill and Kurt Zouma.
David Luiz – This was a hard choice. I wanted to include Zouma instead of Luiz. However, I’ve gone for Luiz for two reasons only. His experience, and his versatility of being able to play in midfield as well. Luiz loves the club and is one of the few leaders who we’ll have left at the here; I don’t think his blue love affair is over just yet.
Jean-Michael Seri – A primary target for Chelsea, who they’re confident of signing once Sarri is in place. Versatile quality midfielder, much-needed addition.
Tiemoue Bakayoko – Terrible first season, but not once has his attitude dipped. His confidence has been shot, but I still see something in him worth waiting for. Under a new coach, playing a new system, maybe we’ll see a breakout season from a player who is still very young.
Ross Barkley – A lot like Bakayoko, I believe that Barkley still has so much more to offer than what we have seen yet. Plagued with injuries, deserves a shot next year.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek – Must be a regular competitor in that attacking midfield role, simple as that.
Cesc Fabregas – Again, this may not be a popular inclusion, but I want Cesc to stay purely because of his quality, his experience, and the fact he will be playing in a more advanced and free role that will suit his strengths. Last season he was vulnerable in a deeper role. I wouldn’t start him, but I’d have him on the bench to come on and create that winning goal if needed. I realise he may not have the pace and legs to press under a Sarri system, but if used as mainly a substitute, he should be fine. Mason Mount was close to inclusion instead, but he needs a Premier League or Bundesliga loan first.
Leon Bailey – This will be a difficult signing to complete with so many complications, but it might be achievable. Chelsea fan as a kid? Check. Wants to leave this summer? Check. He’s an attainable acquisition for the blues.
Kenedy – I have craved to a decent left-footed winger at Chelsea again since the days of Arjen Robben. Kenedy played out of position under Conte and for me, his best position to get his full potential, would be on the right wing. He’d be dangerous cutting in and deserves a chance to play regularly in his preferred position. Sarri would love his intensity and pace in a high pressing system.
Eden Hazard – With the addition of Sarri and a few top players, I believe he’ll stay along with Courtois.
Callum Hudson-Odoi – The same as Reece James, this guy is ready. Doesn’t need an extra step, give him game time in the cups, Europe and backup Hazard/Bailey, then watch him shine. The beauty of Callum is he’s versatile as well, can play as a striker or as a number ten in behind/attacking midfielder.
Robert Lewandowski – Seems like the most un-achievable signing. However, he wants to leave, quietly fancies the premier league, and if he hands in a transfer request, Chelsea can fund it with the sale of Alvaro Morata. Other clubs are interested of course.
Anthony Martial – If Manchester United want Willian that badly, I can certainly see some kind of swap deal happening here. Martial reportedly keen on Chelsea also. He can be a winger or a striker, another tremendous versatile choice to have in the squad.
Olivier Giroud – Have him there for his influence, experience and as a plan b, or if we wanted to switch to using two strikers.
Reasons for the player sales
Victor Moses – Don’t get me wrong, I do rate Moses and appreciate his work rate. But with Chelsea switching to a back four under Sarri, I don’t think he’s a good enough winger or right back to be in that squad. Sell while we can still get a decent fee.
Marcos Alonso – Great footballer, technically competent and an asset to any squad. But for me, he doesn’t bring enough to the role of left-back. He’s too slow and doesn’t get up and back quick enough or hit the by-line, which is what Sarri will want from his full backs. He’s had reported interest from Spain and has murmured that he could be interested in a move, so let’s cash in now while the stakes are hot.
Gary Cahill – I’m a Cahill fan, absolutely. Loved his time at Chelsea and will be forever thankful for that. But his time is up for me now, I don’t think he is good enough to compete with the rest of the centre-backs mentioned above, and for me, it’s as simple as that. Yes, we could keep him in for his experience, but we have others to do that role. No longer needed in my opinion, sell for a bit of cash.
Kurt Zouma – I’d love to keep him in the squad as pre-mentioned, and I’m still 50/50 with him and Luiz. But if he’d go on another premier league loan for one more year, that might just be enough for him to convince me and others that he’s good enough. But understandably he may not be willing to do that, so we could earn some pretty solid profit on him which might be wise to do so. The jury remains out for me with Zouma.
Davide Zappacosta – Off to Inter Milan by the looks of things, and I’m not at all disappointed. Never really rated him, did the basics but that’s about it. Get a bit more cash in for him.
Danny Drinkwater – I wasn’t as angry as most when we signed him, thought it was a sensible squad purchase. Perhaps didn’t get rewarded with enough game time, but as there is interest coming in, we might as well get some cash in for him as well and give Loftus-Cheek his deserved position in the squad.
Pedro – Has done many great things during his time at Chelsea, but doesn’t offer anything extra any more. Got the legs, puts the effort in and runs a lot, but lacks to quality that we need to progress. Let’s make a bit of cash on him.
Willian – His inconsistency has finally become too frustrating to continue to bear for me. Class player on his day, no question. But unfortunately, his day hasn’t arrived often enough for Chelsea. He concedes possession frequently, and he tends to hit a poor cross or disrupts our counter-attack. We need to step up the quality in that position now, so let’s cash in on him and bring in a younger and better talent from our rivals in the shape of Martial.
Michy Batshuayi – Like Zouma, I’d like to see him on another loan, but understandably he’ll want his next move to be permanent. Again, great player, a great goalscorer and a top striker. But he still hasn’t quite shown me enough to be able to put my full faith in him, and as we face the prospect of a potential two more forwards arriving, I think they will provide us with better options, it really is as simple as that.
Alvaro Morata – If you asked me a few months back, I’d have said stick with him, it’s unfair to write him off after just one season. I still stick to those morals. But here is my problem, his attitude was terrible all season, and now his eyes are entirely focused elsewhere, he reportedly wants to move from Chelsea this summer. So, for me, that is enough to say OK then, lets cash in on him and use that money to bring a world class proven replacement like Lewandowski. We have to think of the now; we can’t keep a handful of players in the squad who ‘might get better’ next year, it’s just not good enough.
Finally, I’d want Premier League, Championship or Bundesliga loans for Ethan Ampadu, Trevoh Chalobah, Dujon Sterling and Kyle Scott – who were all very close to being included in that squad, and I’d not be the slightest bit concerned if any of them were. Top talents there who all have an excellent chance of making it at Chelsea.
With the stated ins and outs, we would be reasonably close to breaking even, perhaps going a little into the negative. But I really don’t think we’d be spending any more than £50 – £80 million of our transfer budget when taken into account player sales/swaps.
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