Can Chelsea replace the 'Old Guard' from within?
The Chelsea careers of the ‘old guard’ are coming to a close, and as sad as it will be to see them leave, I wonder what the club’s plans are for replacing them. Do we need to invest in new players for their positions, or can we dip into our youth and loanees for a replacement? I shall consider Cech, Terry, Cole and Lampard; the situation is different for each of them.
Well, starting at the base of the team’s spine, we have Cech. I’ll say now that I see his position as a bit of a non-issue for two reasons:
1) We have Courtois on loan, a man just as good, if not better than Cech. Whenever Cech’s days are numbered we can just give Atletico a shout and he’ll be on the first plane to London.
2) In the unlikely event that we do sell Courtois, as per the rumours over his future, Cech is perfectly capable of staying with us for many years to come. In a way, he shouldn’t really be included in the old guard, because at the age of 30, in goalkeeping years, he isn’t that old at all. In fact we are going to have an absolute migraine if Courtois and Cech are ever competing for a place in the starting line-up.
Cole presents the most complex situation. The two potential players that Chelsea have to replace him are Ryan Bertrand and Patrick van Aanaholt. Are either of them good enough? I would argue that Bertrand isn’t. He has been underwhelming at best this season, even if he was impressive in the run up to the Champions league final. To be fair to him, many of his performances have come on the wing which is not his natural position, but even when he has started at left-back, he’s been freaking me out a bit; I don’t feel comfortable with attacks coming down the left when he is playing.
In fact, from what I’ve seen of him I think van Aanholt is the stronger candidate. He excites me greatly and I’m a bit gutted that he hasn’t been loaned out in England this season. The problem with him though is that we haven’t seen him play in the Premier League, and so we really can’t be sure, however well he is playing for Vitesse, if he will be good enough.
We need a new signing to replace Cole because I don’t think we have a readymade replacement ready to take over the reigns at left-back. Speculate on who you want, but the only left-back we seem to have been linked to is Luke Shaw (yes please!), but even he is still in his youth. In any case, Cole will sadly be here until the end of next season. I say “sadly” with great regret, but I have been disappointed with his performances for a long time. All my respect goes out to him, shooting interns aside, and I hope he can still play a positive role with us until he leaves.
Terry is simpler because we just happen to have a lot of cover in his position. Luiz, Ivanovic and Cahill are all strong members of the squad who we can be confident of starting in his place, as we have been for most of the season. We’ve also got Nathaniel Chalobah and Tomas Kalas waiting in the wings, both of whom have been impressing on their loan spells.
I don’t see any need to sign anybody new to replace Terry, as we have adequate cover already: three quality and experienced centre backs and two promising youth prospects. Roman’s money will be better spent elsewhere.
Now, this is the guy. Lampard…. Lampard, Lampard, Lampard… I will miss him dearly, but I do believe his time has come. I doubt he will be given a new contract, and in fact, I think this would be for the best. All my respect goes out to him as well, but he isn’t really capable or good enough to be starting every game for us any more. This would not be a problem if he didn’t want to play every game, but I believe that desire is in his nature. I don’t think he would be content with the bench, and even if he was, I doubt he would sign a deal on reduced pay. If he was happy with both of these things, then he is worth keeping, but with financial fair play in effect and his determination to be playing football matches, I can’t see this scenario playing out.
So can we replace him from within? Well we have two players who are out on loan that can play the deep role he is in right now: Kevin de Bruyne and Josh McEachran. KDB will definitely be with us next season and I am excited by his imminent return, and yes, I think he is perfectly capable of replacing Lampard in that position. He has experience of playing in that deep role (even if he hasn’t played there too much this season) and is a great candidate for being the box-to-box midfield that spreads the play, sitting alongside a more defensive partner. I don’t think McEachran is ready for this yet, but he may well be one day. He’s been given the chances to play for Premier League teams, but hasn’t been able to make an impact so far in that respect. It’s hard to say whether he will get loaned out again or be in our squad next year.