Steps were taken in this season’s January transfer window to ensure the Blues squad would not be as thin as it appeared during their winter woes, when a mid-season struggle in which just ten points over a miserable 11-game stretch, saw young, but untested talent forced onto the pitch and substitutes’ bench to compensate for injury and the absence of established first-team players. To combat this, David Luiz (£21m from Benfica) and Fernando Torres (£50m from Liverpool) were big-money acquisitions in the New Year, symbols that the Blues were back in the market for high-profile signings after relying less on splashing large sums in recent seasons. An overhaul in the upcoming off-season to the extent of last summer, when five experienced stars of the newly appointed Premier League champions’ squad left Stamford Bridge, is unlikely as Chelsea should seek continuity over revolution this time around.
Firstly, the Blues may decide to upgrade at right-back, a position of little consistency this season. Portuguese pair Jose Bosingwa (13 starts) and Paulo Ferreira (12 starts) have split the role of starter in league games, with Branislav Ivanovic filling in from centre-back on other occasions, a role neither suited nor preferred by the Serbian’s own admission, as he can give away fouls in dangerous positions and pick up bookings when confronted by pacy opposing wingers. At 32, Ferreira has struggled with pace too this season while Bosingwa does not seem the same player since suffering a year-long absence due to injury from which he only returned last October, particularly appearing less threatening going forward and both have been linked with exits to pastures new. Ajax’s Gregory van der Wiel has long been identified as the type of player who would suit Chelsea’s style and at 23, could be a perfect replacement, though the Dutch international is one of the most sought after defenders in Europe and would certainly be in demand of a large transfer fee.
In midfield, the Blues were hit earlier in the season with Frank Lampard’s prolonged four-month absence, a vital attacking component missing which has only just been resolved with his recent revival in form. Michael Essien, like Bosingwa has struggled to recover from two serious injuries in three seasons and has looked well below his potential, while John Obi Mikel is yet to mature into an impacting midfield substitute for the irreplaceable Claude Makelele. With the talented Josh McEachran hopefully waiting in the wings to make the leap from reserve to first-team play, a star of Wesley Sneijder’s profile could fit the Chelsea bill perfectly, working alongside Lampard and assisting McEachran’s development initially, yet still young enough at 26 to replace soon to be 31-year-old Lampard when he is absent. Reportedly, he is happy to remain at current club Inter Milan, but the lure of the Premier League could be too much to refuse if a club of Chelsea’s stature made a move.
Meanwhile, up front decisions need to be made on the futures of Nicolas Anelka and Didier Drogba, while loanee at Bolton Daniel Sturridge would appear poised for a renewed effort at a place in the first-team after enjoying success at the Reebok, but a summer move for 19-year-old Brazilian star in the making Neymar has always remained on the cards after the Blues’ pursuit of the Santos forward last summer. Concerns remain over the youngster’s rawness and the possibility of it being too soon for him to leave Brazil and make the move to London, but 62 goals in 121 appearances for Santos and a goal-a-game ratio in his three caps for his country suggest this young striker is more than capable of hitting the net be it in England or South America.