The shape of Chelsea’s team for next season is beginning to form. With new signings Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas all but confirmed, the main doubts are over who will fill the left-back slot and the back-up striker positions, and whether Thibaut Courtois will be hauled back from Atletico Madrid to begin his reign between the Blues’ goalposts.
Bearing those question marks in mind, the team for 2015/16 could look something like this:
Keeper – Courtois. There’s no doubt he’s ready and Jose Mourinho seems keen to install him as the number 1. Petr Cech will be recovering from surgery at the start of the season, so that will make a decision on the timing of the transition easier.
Right-back – Cesar Azpilicueta. It’s time to put him back in his rightful position. He was one of the outstanding performers last season in an unfamiliar role. It will be interesting to see how we fare with an attacking right-back who can actually cross the ball
Centre-backs – John Terry and Gary Cahill. Hard to argue really with this defensive partnership, which worked so well last season. If Chelsea buy Raphael Varane, however, he will challenging both of them hard for a starting position.
Left-back – Felipe Luis. Atletico’s no-nonsense defender is my favourite for the position here, but we have to buy him first. Patrick van Aanholt can come back to the Bridge as the back-up
Defensive midfield – Nemanja Matic. Made a huge difference to the team in the second half of last season, and can only get better
Central midfield – Cesc Fabregas. Assuming this transfer does go through, I would like to see him playing behind the attacking players, play-making and effectively running the game. He’s not a tackler, he’s a passer, so he should be given the room to show what he’s good at.
Attacking midfield – Eden Hazard, Oscar, Willian. These three link well together, they’re fast, skilful and they work hard. With Fabregas behind them directing the play, this could be a title-winning midfield
Striker – Diego Costa. We’re still waiting for the official announcement, but it seems clear that this is, as they say, a “done deal”. It would be a major surprise if it falls through. Costa’s a strong, powerful forward with a good eye for goal, and may well be better at getting into the penalty area to convert the chances the midfield are serving up than this season’s trio of strikers proved to be.
Add to this, Branislav Ivanovic as an alternative at either right-back or central defence; Ramires in midfield should we need speed or more combative approach; Schurrle and Salah in attacking midfield or wide upfront; and a couple of extra strikers – Mandzukic, say, and possibly Lukaku if he stays at the club.
How well this team could do next season is still dependent on a few factors. It would be reliant on Costa maintaining his goalscoring form from last year; Fabregas integrating into the midfield; Terry’s legs holding out for another season; and Courtois proving to be as good in England as he has been in Spain. But it’s beginning to look like a very powerful squad.