It has been remarked before on this website that the turnover of players at Stamford Bridge in the last year or two has become quite heavy. For example, of the team that started the 2012 Champions League final, only 4 remain at the club and three of those are likely to be sold this summer.
Few Chelsea fans would deny that there was a pile of deadwood that had to be cleared to create room in the squad for a new team to grow. But some are expressing disquiet about the sheer number of experienced and popular players who are being allowed to walk out of the door.
In the last six months alone, Chelsea have lost the services of Juan Mata, David Luiz, Frank Lampard, Samuel Eto’o and Ashley Cole. It’s more than possible that Petr Cech, John Obi Mikel and Fernando Torres (though not the latter if the latest reports are to be believed) could be following them to the exit. That’s an awful lot of years in the game, trophies, medals and international caps to lose in what is effectively one fell swoop.
A viable argument can be raised for each departure. The money offered for Mata and Luiz, both of whom were not first choices under Mourinho, was too good not to accept. Lampard and Cole were not the players they once were, and the big salaries they were on could no longer be justified. Eto’o was only a stopgap anyway. Cech needs to make room for Courtois, Mikel’s time has gone, Torres’s time never arrived. But it’s not that any particular exit is unjustifiable. It’s the collective effect of losing all that talent and experience in one go that gives one pause to reflect.
It’s true that Chelsea have replaced, or are in the process of replacing, those players with quite an array of stars. But most of the new players are young and reaching their peak, and while that is laudable in itself, it does leave Chelsea with a problem.
It’s this – when the chips are down and the team need to call on all their determination and know-how to find a way to win, who do they turn to? It can’t be John Terry every time. Mourinho has himself acknowledged this problem, pointing out that his team was a work in progress and lacked the maturity for a title challenge last season. However, the departure of experienced players has continued unabated.
Whether the acquisition of Fabregas, and Atletico Madrid players who have the experience of winning a title and reaching a Champions League final, when added to the growing nous and grit of a team that nearly managed to go all the way last year, is enough to make up for that loss, time alone will tell.
If it doesn’t, then Chelsea may well regret the strategy that allowed so much of a winning team to leave in such a short space of time.