Another enthralling and football packed Premier League season is about to end as teams gear up to kick start the new season which is due to start from August. Teams have already begun their preparations for the new season as they will look to rectify the mistakes and work on new signings while also look to have a solid pre-season to gear themselves up for another grueling schedule next season.
Chelsea have a big summer coming up as they will have Mauricio Pochettino at the helm as the Argentine is expected to take over the reigns at Stamford Bridge. This season has been one to forget for the Blues faithful as their side are destined to finish in the bottom half of the table outside the top 10 with 2 more games to go. With many Chelsea fans frustrated with how things have panned out for their side, the summer will be an opportunity for the club to review their decisions and plan for the new season along with Pochettino.
One of the biggest reasons behind the Blues’ downfall this season has been the bloated squad which has 31 first team players something Graham Potter struggled to cope with. Coaching such a huge squad is a difficult task for any manager and caused plenty of dressing room drama as players had to be left out of training sessions and matchday squads due to the size of the squad. The likes of Hakim Ziyech, Cesar Azpilicueta, Pierre Aubameyang etc. were all victims of being omitted from the match day squad in order to accommodate the 12 new signings the Blues made throughout the season.
The newly appointed directors Christopher Vivell and Paul Winstanley have been tasked with trimming the squad in the summer as Pochettino is said to have demanded a 20-25 man squad for next season and will want to offload the unwanted players. Chelsea also have another problem to deal with as their 600 million pounds worth of transfers during the two transfer windows has seen them fall prey to potential Financial Fair Play breaches as they have to offload players to balance their books of accounts to save themselves from a stern penalty by the UEFA. This makes the summer clear out even more necessary and important for the Blues.
Let’s take a look at who the Blues should buy/sell/loan this summer to cut down the size of the squad and also maintain a competitive squad ahead of next season under the new man in charge Mauricio Pochettino.
This season has been another testimony as to the usual problem Chelsea has been facing over the last 5 years or so which is GOALS. The Blues have failed to find a reliable goal scoring striker for themselves with Diego Costa being the last Chelsea striker to have netted 20+ goals in a single Premier League season back in the 2016/2017 season. Since the Spaniard’s departure, the Blues have spent millions on possible replacements who have all failed to replicate Costa’s prolific nature in front of goal and the list of strikers who were purchased include star names like Alvaro Morata, Gonzalo Higuain and Pierre Emerick Aubameyang.
Chelsea signed Romelu Lukaku last summer for a record 97.5 million pounds from Inter Milan in a deal which was seen as Thomas Tuchel’s final piece to the jigsaw as the Belgian was making a return to his boyhood club having netted 40+ goals in all competitions the season prior. The Belgian managed to score 15 goals in all competitions for the Blues last season making him the top scorer for his side but he had a major fallout with the then manager Thomas Tuchel which led to the 30 year old’s departure in the summer back to Inter Milan.
According to sources close to the club, Mauricio Pochettino will hold talks with Lukaku and give him an opportunity to restart his career at the club though it looks highly unlikely the player will want to come back. A list of potential targets for the Blues include Victor Osimhen, Ivan Toney, Rasmus Hojland, Harry Kane and Lautaro Martinez. Amongst the lot, Kane and Hojland look like the most realistic option for the Blues as the former looks likely to leave Spurs in the summer and the latter is the most pocket-friendly option amongst all while also being a young talent who Pochettino could nurture.
Another position which the Blues will have to desperately address is the midfield as they are falling short of options in the middle of the park. In the summer, there is expected to be a major revamp in the middle of the park as Mateo Kovacic looks set to leave permanently, Mason Mount is yet to renew his contract, Dennis Zakaria will return back to Juventus after the end of his loan spell, Ruben Loftus Cheek is in advanced talks with AC Milan and Carney Chukwuemeka is expected to be loaned out in search of more first team minutes. This leaves only Enzo Fernandez, Conor Gallagher and N’golo Kante as the only remaining midfielders who look likely to stay next season.
Chelsea will have January signing Andrey Santos eligible to play next season as the teenager will be cleared to play for the Blues. Despite having a solid option of 4 midfielders to choose from, Pochettino would want to have a reliable no.6 who can sit back and anchor the midfield giving Enzo Fernandez more freedom to advance ahead and contribute in the attack. N’golo Kante no longer can play this role as the Frenchman has outgrown the position and has found his feet playing in a more advanced role for the Blues.
The list of targets for this position include Declan Rice, Moises Caicedo, Manuel Ugarte and Romeo Lavia. According to sources inside the club, the Blues will sign at least 2 midfielders in the summer with 2 specific type of midfielders being looked at- a ball carrying midfielder and a defensive minded midfielder which makes Romeo Lavia and Declan Rice as the most likely signings which are the perfect player profiles for Pochettino’s style of play. Lavia will be on the market for a cut-price after Southampton’s relegation and is a young player who Pochettino would love to work with and improve given his exceptional quality to retain possession while also have an eye for a pass. Declan Rice has been linked with a return to his boyhood club for some time now though this summer it could happen as Arsenal are also interested in signing the West Ham captain. Any potential deal for the 24 year old will be in the region of 110-120 million pounds as West Ham will not entertain any offers below their valuation.
According to sources close to the club, Pochettino wants to sign a new goalkeeper in the summer as he wants to have a reliable shot stopper in between the sticks who is also good with the ball at his feet. Neither Kepa nor Mendy fulfill the above criteria as the former isn’t a great shotstopper but is good with his feet while the latter is the exact opposite. Finding a goalkeeper with such a player profile will be task for the Chelsea scouts though the likes of Mike Maignan and David Raya have been linked to the club for the summer.
It will boil down to which of the two goalkeepers will help Chelsea get a better resale value though the final decision is expected to be taken by Pochettino during the pre-season.
Pierre Emerick Aubameyang
The Gabonese striker hasn’t had the impact many expected him to have for the Blues as he has managed to score just 3 goals in all competitions. The 33 year old will be sold this summer as the Blues will welcome new signing Christopher Nkunku in their roster who will arrive from RB Leipzig in a deal worth around 60 million. Aubameyang does have suitors with AC Milan leading the race to sign the former Arsenal striker which will help Chelsea get a decent resale value.
It could be the end of the American dream for Pulisic as the USMNT captain has failed to live up to his potential with the Blues since his move to West London in 2019. The winger has consistently struggled with injuries throughout his 4 years at the club and failed to get adequate first team minutes when fit. The 24 year old has plenty of potential suitors as Juventus, AC Milan, Manchester United and Napoli all in the race for the American’s signature in the summer.
The Moroccon had a brilliant World Cup campaign with his national side in December as they reached the semi-finals of the tournament. Ziyech has been yet another signing who hasn’t lived up to the potential after his incredible performances at Ajax before moving to London in 2020. The 30 year old was on the verge of joining PSG on deadline day in the January transfer window but the move fell through after the documents weren’t exchanged between the two clubs on time. It’s time the Blues look to sell the player as he has been another player who failed to adapt to the Premier League and showed glimpses of individual brilliance but not on a consistent basis. His former coach at Ajax, Erik Ten Hag is set to be a great admirer of the player and could make a move for Ziyech as AC Milan are also said to be interested in his services.
Azpi has won it all with the Blues and looks like this season will be his last in a Blue shirt as the Spaniard looks likely to be sold in the summer. The veteran who arrived in 2013 for just 9 million pounds has served the club for over a decade and has been an ever reliable defender who has played across the backline for his side. As all things come to an end, Azpi will have to bid farewell to the Blues’ faithful this summer. An emotional one for the Blues’ faithful as he will be the next legend to leave the club after the departure of John Terry in 2017.
This one is more of an iffy pick as Havertz has had a great season specially amidst the struggles as he has scored 9 goals and is the joint top scorer alongside Raheem Sterling for the Blues. Despite this, he surely hasn’t justified his massive 80 million euros price tag since his move from Bayern Leverkusen in 2020. The German was bought by the club initially to play behind the striker as a creative outlet similar to the role he played in the Bundesliga but the struggles in the no.9 position during his tenure has meant Havertz has become Chelsea’s striker often operating in the false 9 role.
The goal in the Champions League final in the 20/21 season which won Chelsea their second Champions League has arguably been the highlight of his career in West London so far and it could be time for the club to move on and look for better players. With age on his side, Havertz remains highly rated and can help the club recoup nearly 50 million euros this summer with Bayern Munich being the most interested club. The arrival of Christopher Nkunku in the summer further puts Havertz’s role at the club in jeopardy as the duo cannot play together on the pitch as they are similar players who like to play alongside a natural striker. With the arrival of the highly rated David Datro Fofana from Molde in January, Chelsea already have Broja and Fofana waiting for their opportunity in the striker department and the sale of Havertz would help the duo get more first team minutes and develop further.
Edouard Mendy/ Kepa Arrizabalaga
Despite their struggles this season, Chelsea boast of having the third best defence in the league having conceded just 41 goals so far. It certainly is a very surprising stat given the Blues are 12th in the league(at the time of writing) but they have been decent in defence. Their goalkeeping department will need reshuffling in the summer as Edouard Mendy has lost his place as the no.1 at the club this season majorly due to an injury he picked up which meant he was ruled out for majority of the season. This was a blessing in disguise for the most expensive keeper in the world Kepa who grabbed the opportunity with both hands and deputized in goal for the Blues.
Either of the two will have to be sold in the summer as Pochettino has his eyes set on signing a new no.1 in the summer. The goalkeeping duo are under contract until 2025 but Mendy has had recent renewal talks with the club even though they have hit a dead end. The Senegalese is demanding a major bump in his contract to be at par with Kepa’s 180,000 a week contract which the club are unwilling to consider as the player will turn 32 next summer. Tottenham Hotspur and a few other European clubs are keeping tabs on the situation and could swoop in to sign the Senegalese shot stopper which will mean Kepa’s heroics in between the sticks this season salvages the Spaniard the opportunity to remain at the club.
The Englishman joined the Blues in the summer transfer window in a deal which saw the highly rated midfielder being promised a role in the first team from the get go. The managerial changes at the club and the dip in form meant Carney’s playtime has been restricted to just 250 first team minutes something which has left the player unhappy. The midfielder did push for a loan move away in the January transfer window but the club refused to let him leave. With the already stacked midfield and the potential arrival of 1-2 midfielders in the summer, Carney will definitely want a loan move to develop being a regular starter for another Premier League club next season. The Blues will have to let him leave in the summer on loan to help the Englishman regain his confidence and get regular first team minutes to showcase his talent and develop.
The Cobham graduate has been in exceptional form for the Chelsea in Premier League 2 and has also earned the captain’s armband for the youth side. With over 600 first team minutes this season, it has been quite a breakthrough season for the highly rated defender who can also play in the middle of the park. The club rates him highly and Frank Lampard persuaded Hall to forego the England call up for the U-20 World Cup by promising him first team minutes in the remaining games of the season. The defence will be restructured in the summer though Hall might find it difficult to start ahead of the likes of Ben Chilwell, Marc Cucurella and Ian Maatsen which is why a loan move to a Premier League club or a Championship looks likely to continue developing and getting regular first team action.
The Jamaican winger has been exceptional for the Blues’ youth sides and also earned his first senior team call up in January when he started the league cup clash against Manchester City. The 19 year old was signed in the summer from Arsenal by the club on the recommendation of the Cobham scouts who see Omari as a player with immense potential to be a first team regular given his impressive performances in the youth leagues. The Blues have Raheem Sterling, Noni Madueke and Mykhailo Mudryk all vying for the wing positions and Omari is still a raw talent who will need a loan spell at another Premier League club before being a Chelsea first team regular.
There is plenty of work to do for the Blues in the summer and the summer clearout is expected to begin as soon as the season ends as the Financial Fair Play deadline to close the books of accounts is 30th June before which Chelsea will have to by any means sell players to balance the books to avoid any fines. If Boehly and Co. manage to offload the above mentioned players, they will easily be able to recoup around 100 million pounds in player sales which will help them to reinvest on the new signings in the summer.
Pochettino may also look to integrate the incoming loanees with the likes of Ian Maatsen and Levi Colwill both coming back to the club having impressed in their loan spells. The duo have proven that they are ready for the first team and will also be a relief for the Blues as this will add more quality in squad depth for next season. Maatsen, who was on loan at Burnley, is a left back and will challenge Ben Chilwell for a starting spot while Colwill is the perfect replacement for the veteran Thiago Silva who is expected to retire next season.
Plenty of crucial decisions to make and the board has to be patient with the young talents in the squad. The Blues will have a considerably young squad for next season and the fans will have to be patient with Pochettino and his backroom staff as the young guns will require a lot of coaching and experience at the top to start challenging for titles. Though it has been a dull affair so far for the Blues’ faithful who were expecting a lot from the current season, the future is bright and Pochettino is the right man for the job to coach this young group of players.