The 2012/13 season was an exceptionally long and demanding experience for the Chelsea squad, and the players are only now preparing to come back for pre-season training and to begin life under Jose Mourinho. There is still huge uncertainty over which players Mourinho is likely to favour, and in what way will he choose to set up the team for the start of the new season. There have been some indications that Mourinho wishes to give younger players a chance to feature and develop during the course of the season, but one thing that won’t be changing is club captain. Mourinho has been firm on that subject – John Terry will remain our captain. The question that springs to my mind when I hear that is – what’s going to happen to Gary Cahill?
During the course of last season, Cesar Azpilicueta forced his way in to the first team at right back. This meant that Ivanovic was moved to central defence, while David Luiz and Gary Cahill were his most common partners when the former wasn’t playing defensive mid. We saw John Terry struggle for fitness, but even when he became available for selection he was frequently overlooked. The fact that he will be club captain next season implies that Mourinho will be inclined to see Terry as a starting player – and that means one of Ivanovic, Azpilicueta and Cahill will be downgraded.
Azpilicueta is a Mourinho player through and through – his fitness and work rate are exactly what Jose has always liked to see in his full backs. With David Luiz almost guaranteed to be a Mourinho favourite, Ivanovic and Cahill could well be fighting over 3rd and 4th choice. Every top club needs a squad of 1st team centre-halves to compete across a season, but if Cahill was relegated to the bench for much of the season we may struggle to keep him happy. As much as Gary wanted his big move to a big club, he didn’t do it simply to collect his salary every week. He’s in it for the football, and he can’t nail down a position in the national side when he’s not playing.
Cahill could very well start the season as first choice, but with John Terry continuing as club captain, it seems unlikely. If that is the case, we must ensure that Cahill gets enough game time for him to feel valued and motivated. Terry is Chelsea through and through, but for how long can he continue at the top? We must not let young talent slip away simply to appease a legend. If Jose wants to build a dynasty at Chelsea, he must avoid short-sighted sentimentality.
Tell us, what would you do with Gary Cahill next season?